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March 6, 2007

is a study in contrasts if ever there was.  Christ names him a "rock" (Mt 16:18), and he’s bold enough to walk on water (Mt 14:29), but just fearful enough to sink in the same verse.  Peter is given the special privilege of seeing the Transfiguration, an event of absolute wonder (Mt 17:1-8), but then refuses to see with faith the things of God (Mt 16:23).  Peter denies Christ (Mt 26:69-75), and is then lovingly reinstated and commissioned by the resurrected Christ to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19). 

In studying the interaction and relationship of Christ to Peter, the reader is witness to how Christ encouraged Peter for his faith and evaluated him for his error.  I wholeheartedly believe that this dual method and accompanying relationship were the bedrock for Peter in all of his later ministry as he remembered how Christ had refined him for service.

Only fifty days after Christ’s ascension, Peter preaches to the crowds at Pentecost offering encouragement for the hope found only in Christ, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

Likewise, Peter warns them not to ignore his message, "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." (Acts 2:40)

From that point, Acts 2-15 have numerous examples of Peter’s ministry, words both of encouragement to have saving faith in Christ and critical words of warning for remaining in sin and error. 

In the Jerusalem Council, Peter is bold to stand up for Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, exhorting the leadership to hold fast to the truth of the gospel. (Acts 15:11)  In fact, the Jerusalem Council is a great example of the visible church (at this point not only the Jews but also the early Christians) and how error, or its threat, should be evaluated–clearly against the revealed counsel of God. (Acts 15:15-18)  Interestingly enough then, that the next time Peter is mentioned is in Galatians when Paul criticizes Peter’s error of doctrinal inconsistency in regards to the Judaizers and the earlier Jerusalem Council decision. (Gal 2:11-14)

It strikes me that perhaps just a thorough reading of those passages in Acts and Galatians demonstrate my initial thesis–both encouragement and any criticism of error must have Christ as the standard of truth.  However, if you’re interested in more, read on.

In 1 Peter, the apostle’s letter to the Christians in Asia Minor is certainly one of encouragement, instruction and admonition.  Peter’s purpose was to encourage and strengthen these young believers and to feed them with the solid Word of God.  Following Christ’s earlier example of instruction, Peter does heartily encourage them for their faith (1:8), their obedience to truth (1:22), in regards to their purpose (2:5,9), their humility of suffering (2:20,4:13), and their purity and reverence of life (3:2,4:7). 

1 Peter 5 is of particular admonishment to the leadership to hold fast to the truths of the gospel in their administration of teaching to the believers. (5:2-3,6-9)  The principle of the visible church leadership to be steadfast in belief was not instituted by Peter but was definitely a significant point of his instruction to the growing body of believers.  The emphasis should not be missed that if the leadership of the church veers from truth, then certainly the flock will follow.  Believers aren’t called sheep for nothing–sheep follow.

So in 2 Peter when the apostle is quick to warn the leadership about false teachers and prophets, his emphasis is on how subtly error creeps in.

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." (2 Pet 2:1-2)

Lastly, Peter in chapter 3 clearly states his purpose, "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you.  I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles." (vs1-2)

If I had to give a reason for why I’m even writing this series, you would find it in those last cited verses of 2 Peter 3:1-2.  I am grieved to see believers of the visible church listening to and embracing "destructive heresies" and "shameful ways" without even a first glance at Christ’s standard of truth–the Scripture, the Word of God. Testing all teaching against the Word of God should be a first response and not a last ditch effort.  When I shamefully consider the errors of my own past, I shudder to think how easily I slid into morass because I didn’t "bother" with cracking open a Bible to see what God said on the matter.

Will you, will I, be stimulated to wholesome thinking that begins with a diligent search of Scripture?   Will you, will I, recall the words spoken by the prophets and the commands given by Christ?  Or will the sheep of the flock follow blindly over the cliff because popular culture’s false teachers make it sound like a nice trip?

This is part three of a series on encouragement and criticism of error.  Go here and here for the previous two.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 8, 2007 12:50 pm

    Your argument is thoroughly reasoned and utterly Scriptural. The problem is that many of us don’t want to bring our lives in line with Scripture, in obedience to God. We use our human understanding as the scales with which to determine what is balance and what is imbalance, rather than searching the Scripture as you’ve done and bringing our thoughts in line with God’s revealed truth.

    We bring a presupposition, based on human feelings and psychology. We are like our mother Eve, standing at the foot of the tree, using our own judgment as the standard of measure. If we read too many discouraging articles on Christian blogs we proclaim, “There’s too much criticism!” Or, if we read too much fluff in the Christian corner of the web we proclaim, “The Church has been over-run by feel-goodism!” Our feelings then become the compass and our true north is lost.

    We must be ever vigilant to bring our thoughts in line with the only standard of measure – God’s Word. He has condescended to reveal His very nature in His Word and He makes it abundantly clear that both critique and encouragement are the responsibility of every believer.

    Well done, Elle. Well done.


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