The Witness of Simon Peter

When the time came for Simon Peter to write his Epistle the Holy Spirit of God brought to his remembrance what he had seen and heard (John 14:26) and gave him the thoughts and the very words with which to express them. Like all the rest of Scripture what he wrote was inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16), and his words are not those which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth (1 Cor. 2:13). But what he wrote was what he had witnessed and out of his own experience. He had been one of the Lord's chief companions for more than three years, and had been impressed by the holiness of His life; this comes out in his memorable confession of the Lord, when many of the disciples forsook Him. Then he spoke out that which God had taught him: "We have believed and known that Thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69; N.Tr.). That was his confession of and to the Lord and it afterwards became a prominent part of his ministry in public preaching (Acts 2:27) and when he wrote his Epistle.

When writing of our redemption he tells us that it was by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. This is the firm foundation of all our blessing, and it has secured glory to God. A holy God could not have accepted a blemished sacrifice, nor would one of lesser worth have availed for us. Only in divine righteousness could the grace that saves reach sinful men.

He knew that the redeemed of the Lord would need an example and a Leader in whose steps they would follow; and he sets before them no less a One than Christ Himself, but he is careful to state that He "did no sin, neither was guile in His mouth."

If they were called upon to suffer, Christ Himself had suffered before them, but He suffered as the Just One for sins. That statement cannot be too often quoted, "Christ also has once suffered for sins, the Just One for the unjust that He might bring us to God."

"Without blemish and without spot"! "He did no sin, neither was guile in His mouth"! He was the "Just One for us the unjust"! This was Peter's threefold witness to the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The sinless One was a sufferer in this world of sinful men. The Spirit of Christ that was in the prophets testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ (chap. 1:11), and Peter had been a witness of these sufferings (chap. 5:1). He suffered for sins; it was for this He came into the world. "His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree … and by His stripes we are healed" (chap. 2:24). None can be a partaker of these sufferings; the cross stands alone in its mysterious darkness. No created being can fathom the depths of the woe that pressed from the soul of the suffering Saviour the unanswered cry, "Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani."

"But He was there, the Substitute
  For our offences to atone,
To Him our guilt did God impute
  And there He bore His wrath alone,
That we, forgiven and set free,
  Redeemed by His most precious blood
From sin and all iniquity,
  Might find our peace and joy in God."

But He also suffered at the hands of men; He was despised and rejected by them. They reviled Him, but He did not answer in kind; when they caused Him to suffer, He did not threaten them — He wept over them, and prayed for them, and died that they might be saved; and He suffered thus with us in view, that He might leave us an example that we should follow in His steps (chap. 2:21). It is our privilege to be partakers of these sufferings for His Name's sake (chap. 4:13).

He tells us we must not be surprised when called upon to suffer, for it is not something strange; Peter would remember the Lord's own words, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." We are to expect the suffering, and to rejoice in it, for we are to be made glad with exceeding joy when Christ's glory shall be revealed (chap. 4:13). Surely Peter had those other words of the Lord in his mind as he wrote, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you and when they shall separate you from their company, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man's sake; rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven." The reproach of Christ is greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.

Peter had also observed that it was in subjection to the will of God that the sinless One trod the path of suffering until He could say, "It is finished." Nothing could turn Him out of the path of God's will. The contradiction of sinners could not do it; the subtlety and the power of the devil could not do it; His friends could not do it, Peter on one occasion, with the boldness of ignorance, had attempted to do it, only to be sternly rebuked, because he savoured not the things of God but of men. He set His face as a flint. Peter never forgot that. He addresses his Epistle to those who had been elected and sanctified to the obedience of Jesus Christ and he calls them "children of obedience" (chap. 1:14, N.Tr.). He presses God's will upon us, as such; he tells us that it is the will of God that we should be known by well-doing; that it is better by the will of God to suffer for well-doing than for evildoing (chap 2:15); that our one aim in life is to live for the will of God (chap 4:2), and if we do suffer according to His will, we can commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well-doing as to a faithful Creator (chap. 4:19); and in this we should be following in the footsteps of Jesus, who when He suffered, committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously (chap. 2:13). Submission and not self-assertion is to be a definite feature in our lives. We are to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand (chap. 5:6); to be subject one to another (chap. 5:5) and to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake (chap. 2:13).

The transfiguration of our Lord on the holy mount, had made an indelible impression on the soul of Peter: it was the sure pledge to him of the glory that should follow, the sufferings had been a witness of the sufferings of Christ, but he had also been given a glimpse of the glory that should follow. "We were eyewitnesses of His majesty," he says, "when we were with Him in the holy mount"; for "He received from God the Father honour and glory when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (2 Peter 1:17).

The glory is to be revealed. Its revelation is our lively hope to which God, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us; and Peter cheers the suffering saints by reminding them of it. Our faith may be tried, but if so it is going into God's treasury and will be found more precious than gold that perishes; it will be to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. We look on to that day — that day of manifestation, when everything will be seen and appraised at its true value. Hope must be active as well as faith; we are not to let our lamps grow dim, but to gird up the loins of our mind, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (chap. 1:13).

Peter had not been docile and subject to his Lord like his friend John, but the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul had not let him go. We can understand his feelings as he wrote, "For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." With what grace the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul had dealt with him when he went astray; he could write, "The Lord is gracious"; he had drunk deeply of that grace. None knew it better than he. With what grace the Lord greeted him when Andrew introduced him at the first and at every crisis and turn in his chequered soul-history grace abounded to him, until fully restored to confidence in the presence of his brethren he was recommissioned by the great and chief Shepherd, and could write of "the crown of glory that fadeth not away" that He, the chief Shepherd, will give at His appearing to all who care for His flock.

Peter had suffered for his self-confidence, the root of which was pride of heart, and he desired to save the beloved saints to whom he wrote, and us, from this folly; hence his exhortation, "Be clothed with humility" (chap. 5:5). The R.V. reads, "Gird yourselves with humility, and serve one another." The New Translation reads, "And all of you bind on humility towards one another." I am sure that Peter had in his memory the unforgettable act of the Lord when on the night on which He was betrayed He rose from the supper-table and laid aside His garments and took a towel and girded Himself and began to wash His disciples' feet. Peter had resented the Lord's taking that place of lowly service to him; he did not understand then that Divine love must serve its objects as long as a need remains; and while the feet-washing was a symbolical act, and while in it there is a depth of meaning only discerned by loving hearts, we must not miss that which lies on the surface. "I have given you an example," said the Lord, that ye should do as I have done to you." Luke tells us that at that same Supper He said to them, "I am among you as He that serves." God looks for the reproduction of the features of His Son in us, and if our hearts are affected by the love of the Lord we shall gladly serve one another with humility of heart. "God resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble." And grace from above and humility within are needed for such service.

When Peter wrote, "Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you," did he remember the storm on the sea? when he and his brethren in a panic of fear awoke their sleeping Lord with the faithless cry, "Carest Thou not that we perish?" Surely never again after that experience would he doubt the care of his Lord.

Had he his former inflated thought of himself and the dire result of it in mind as three times over he exhorted his readers to be sober? Three times he had denied the Lord, he had not been sober then and he did not watch to prayer; hence the devil found him an easy prey, and would have devoured and destroyed him had it not been for the intercession and restoring grace of the Lord. But how sobered he must have been as he thought of his folly and sin, but more so, a hundredfold more so, as he contemplated the sufferings of his sinless Saviour for his fleshly self-confidence and the sins which were the fruit of it. We can only get a right estimate of our sins as we view them in the light of the cross. How deep must have been his feelings as he remembered it all and wrote, " You who are kept by the power of God" (chap. 1:5, N.Tr.); for he had been kept that his faith failed not. The devil as a roaring lion may seek to devour those who belong to Christ, but his devilish hatred of them will not avail him, nor all his subtlety and strength, for not even he can pluck them out of the Shepherd's hands, and the Father who gave them to Him is greater than all and no one can pluck them out of the Father's hand. Yet with his own experience in mind Peter warns us to be sober, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end" (chap. 1:13). "The end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober, and watch to prayer" (chap. 4:7). "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (chap. 5:8).

Three times the Lord had challenged Peter with the searching question, "Lovest thou Me?" and at least three times, four in fact, Peter urges us to love the brethren. "Unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (chap. 1:22). "Love the brotherhood" (chap. 2:17). "Love as brethren, be pitiful" (chap. 3:8). "Above all things have fervent love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins" (chap. 4:8, N.Tr.). Peter had learned from the Lord's own words that the way by which all men would know that they were His disciples would be if they had love one for another. He would remember the Lord's resurrection message, "Go to My brethren," and he did not forget that three tines over He had given them a commandment. "A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34). "This is My commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you" (chap. 15:12). "These things I command you, that you love one another" (chap. 15:17).

Finally, God is the God of all grace (chap. 5:10), and He has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, and meanwhile we stand in the true grace of God. "To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Amen.