We'll be right back. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. When sin defeats you, when trials discourage you, when it seems that you're making the same mistakes over and over, do you wonder how God can use you? If you've ever asked that question, I urge you to stay here on Grace To You. Today John's going to show you how God can work through anyone, even a man of weaknesses and faults like the apostle Peter. And as you see how God transformed Peter, you'll see that he can do the same thing for you.
The current series is titled The Master's Men. If you have your Bible nearby, turn to the Gospel of Matthew, and here's John MacArthur. The Lord recognized in Peter the right raw material for leadership. Now, we learn a little bit about him, about that raw material by considering his name. His name was Simon, very, very, very common name. He was the son of Jonas, or Jonah, or John. He was a fisherman by trade and he lived with his brother Andrew in a village called Bethsaida, and later they moved to Capernaum. He was married because the Lord healed his mother-in-law. In 1 Corinthians 9 there's a most interesting word.
Paul is saying there, he says, the apostles or the preachers have a right to lead about a sister as a wife, that is a Christian sister as a wife, even as Cephas. He was married. He was a fisherman named Simon, common name, common trade, common marital status. But the guy just had some raw material that the Lord saw. But because of his nature, he tended to be so shifty and he was vacillating.
I think the Lord changed his name to try to force into his subliminal thinking what he wanted him to be, and he turned his name into Peter, which means what? Stone. So at first it must have been kind of a contradiction. Stone? Stone, come over here. And every time he said that, he was thinking, I've got to be solid, I've got to be firm, I've got to be a stone, because that basically was not what he was. But I think the Lord gave him that name just to begin to force his thinking down a certain path.
Every time the Lord wanted to speak to him, he could designate what he wanted to say by just how he addressed him. If he said stone, Peter got one message. If he said Simon, got another message. If he said Simon Peter, Simon Stone, there was a little ambivalence. Now he's called Simon, he's called Simon Peter, and he's called Peter. And it's interesting, just as a general overview, it's not always consistent, but he's always called Simon in two cases. Number one, in the secular case, like it'll say in Mark 1, Simon's house, or in Luke 4, Simon's mother-in-law, or in Luke 5 verse 3, Simon's boat, or in Luke 5, I think it's verse 10, it says Simon's fishing partners. It also says in Acts 10 that Cornelius found his way to Simon's location. In other words, when you just want to designate him in a secular way, you just want to identify him with a boat or a house or a place or whatever, he's just Simon, and that's his earthy, secular name. Now Simon is also used when he is being reprimanded for sin.
So he is secular Simon, and he's sinful Simon. When the Lord wanted to focus on his sinfulness, for example, he was out there in the fishing boat and he was doubting the Lord and he was probably mumbling under his breath in Luke 5 saying, this is ridiculous, you know, this is ridiculous. And the Lord says, cast your net on a certain side of the boat and bring the fish in, and you can just see him mumbling, oh man, that's ridiculous.
Does he think we don't know what we're doing, we fish for a profession? He's going to tell us and he pulled in so many fish and immediately he said, Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a...what?...sinful man. The Lord unmasked his sin and called him Simon.
So he is Simon in his sinfulness, Simon in his secular identity, that's just who he was. But the Lord was going to make him stone, rock, firm, foundation, a living stone, he says he is in his own epistle, 1 Peter. Now how do you take a guy with this kind of raw material and make him a leader? First of all, you recognize that raw material, you recognize what is there and our Lord saw that in him and was willing to do what had to be done to get him where he wanted to be.
And that brings us to the second point. The Lord built a leader, number one, by choosing the right raw material and number two, by bringing about the right experiences. He brought into his life the right experiences.
You learn most of all from experience. And he allowed Peter to have some life-changing experiences. If he was going to transform the guy, he had to bring some things to pass in his life. First of all, what I call his revelation, his great revelation. The Lord gave to Peter the greatest revelation. In John chapter 6, Jesus had presented the tremendous message on himself as the bread of life up in Galilee and some people couldn't understand it all and so some of his disciples left. Some of them just walked away and followed him no more, verse 66 says. And Jesus then asked the disciples, Will you go away? And Simon Peter says, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. I think when he said that, he grabbed his mouth and said, Where did that come from?
Because that was some statement. I believe that was a revelation from God. I believe he started to open his mouth and God just talked right through his mouth.
And he did that also again. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord said, And whom say ye that I am? And immediately Peter says, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Tremendous statement. And Jesus said to him, Flesh and blood didn't reveal that to you, My Father in heaven did. In other words, He said, That's a revelation. He was transforming this man by letting him know that God wanted to use his mouth, that God could speak through him. He gave him the experience of revelation because one day he was going to stand up on the day of Pentecost and he was going to preach the revelation of God. And one day he was going to take a pen and he was going to write the revelation of God. And Jesus prepared him with a revelatory experience, gave him the sense that God was moving and God was there. This great revelation, what an experience. And then I call it his great reward. The Lord gave him a great reward.
Tremendous promise in Matthew 16. After this confession, Jesus said in verse 18, I say unto you, You are Peter, thou art stone. But upon this bedrock...
He uses a different term there. Upon the rock of your confession, I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Now watch. And I'll give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Oh man, he says, Peter, I'm going to give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. What is that? You, my friend, are going to unlock the kingdom.
Really? Who preached the first great apostolic sermon? Peter, the day of Pentecost. To whom did he preach it? To the Jews. Who led the first Gentile to Christ?
Peter, who was it? Acts 10, Cornelius. He unlocked the Jews. He unlocked, as it were, the kingdom to the Gentiles. He was the opening of the door. And the Lord also gave that same promise, by the way, to the rest of His apostles and extended it all through the ages to all those who by the proclamation of the gospel opened the door to the kingdom. Every time I preach the gospel, I hold that key in my hand.
But Peter was the first. A great revelation and a great honor, a great reward. But you've got to see his great remission also. Same chapter in Matthew 16 verse 21, boy, Peter's feeling his oats now. Man, he's gotten revelations. When he opens his mouth, he might be speaking or God might be speaking and that's pretty exciting. Not only that, the Lord says, you've got the key, you're going to unlock it.
And he is feeling like a leader. And so from that time forth began Jesus to show His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and raised a third day. Jesus is telling them He's going to die, He's going to suffer. I like this, verse 23, then Peter took Him...now wait a minute...took Him? That's right...and began to rebuke Him. Took who?
The Lord, the Creator of the universe. He said, come with me. We've got to get you straightened out. Unbelievable. The guy was...I mean, he was feeling it, I'm the leader.
I've got the keys now, I'm going to start using them. You're first. It's always the danger in leadership, isn't it? It doesn't know where its limits are. He took Him and I don't know whether He grabbed Him by the arm and yanked Him into the bushes or what, but He said, rebuking Him, be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee.
As long as I'm in charge, it isn't going to happen and I'll promise you that. He must have, you know, sort of stuck His chest into His tunic. And the Lord looked at Him and said, Get Thee behind Me, Satan.
Wow! That is a very clear lesson. You are an offense unto Me, for you savor not the things that are of God but those that are of men. You do not know the plan of God, but you are thinking from the human viewpoint, Get behind Me, Satan. His mouth had just been used for God and now His mouth was used for Satan. And now He was doing exactly what Satan had done in the temptation.
He was trying to derail Christ from the cross and Peter was just as available to the devil as he was to God. And that is a great lesson to learn for a leader. You get yourself in a position where God can use you and the greater the potential to be used by God, the greater the potential to be used by Satan. That's a great lesson. He taught him about the revelatory capacity. He taught him about the power and the reward of having the keys. He taught him about the potential to be used by Satan.
Tremendous experiences, learning while doing. Then we come forth to what I call His great rejection. Verse 33 of Matthew 26, Peter answered and said unto him, the Lord just told about the prophecy regarding the shepherd being smitten and the sheep scattered. And he was saying that all the disciples are going to leave me and they're all going to run away. Peter answered and said, though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be.
If I'm not like all men, I'm a cut above the rest. They may all forsake you, I'll never do that. Verily I say unto thee that this night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. And Peter said unto him, though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.
I will not do that. Confidence. And I like this, likewise also said all the disciples.
Just like rubber ducks. If Peter said it, we agree. He was the leader. He was the leader. Peter's right.
We won't do that. His great, great confidence. But he rejected...he rejected and he denied Jesus. Chapter 26 verse 69, he was outside the court and a maid came to him saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee, denied it before them all, saying, I know not what Thou sayest. When he was gone out of the porch, another maid saw him and said unto him that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. After a while came unto him they that stood by and said to Peter, Surely Thou also art one of them for Thy speech betrayeth thee. And he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crowed.
And Peter remembered the words of Jesus and he went out and wept bitterly. You think that was a lesson? Oh man, was that a lesson. What a lesson.
What an experience. He had an experience of a great revelation, of a great reward, of a great remission, of a great rejection. And then ultimately he had an experience I call a great recommissioning in the 21st chapter of John, just quickly.
John 21, the Lord restored him. Do you love me? Verse 15, yes. Do you love me? Verse 16, yes.
Do you love me? Verse 17, then feed my lambs and feed my sheep and feed my sheep. And finally at the end of verse 19 he says, Follow me, Peter, follow me. And Peter did finally follow.
That was his recommissioning. And it was in a very exciting experience. Peter had gone fishing and the Lord didn't let him catch any fish and he came to the shore and the Lord gave him an experience he would never forget as long as he lived, as he confronted him with the lack of love that was demonstrated by his disobedience.
Now you can add all that together. This great revelation, his great reward, remission, rejection and recommission, all those...those were the key experiences of his life. And they led to what I like to call his great realization. He became the man God wanted him to be. He really did become that man. And those experiences were part of making him that man. But there was a third element. Jesus, to make a leader, needs the right raw material, the right experiences, and thirdly, the right lessons...the right lessons.
It wasn't just Jesus. Peter also had to be taught certain principles. Now what are the things a leader needs to know?
Well let's look at Peter and use him as our pattern. And what does a leader need to learn? You tend to be confident. You tend to be outward, overt.
You tend to be eager, aggressive. The first lesson that a leader needs to learn is submission. And so he taught Peter that. In Matthew chapter 17, the Lord said, Now Peter, you go down to fishing and you catch the fish and the first fish you bring in, you reach in his mouth and there'll be a coin there and that's so you and I can pay our taxes. Now knowing Peter, you might have assumed that Peter wouldn't pay any attention to taxation. He wouldn't pay any attention to the Roman system. He would say, Hey, we're in this kingdom business.
We're moving on a track. I don't have time to mess with my taxes. I don't have time to fool with this passing world. But Jesus taught him to be submissive to the powers that be that are ordained of God. And he learned his lesson because in 1 Peter chapter 2, he wrote this, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme or governors, unto them who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them that do well, for so is the will of God as free and not using your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness.
Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king, be subject to your masters with all fear. In other words, he learned submission. He learned that there were institutions of God that you have to submit to. It's important for leaders to learn that.
There are limits. A second lesson that a man like Peter needed to learn was restraint. He needed to learn restraint. The Lord had to put a bit in his mouth and teach him restraint because he was so unrestrained. In John 18, he's in the garden and the soldiers come to take Jesus, you remember? And Peter grabs a sword.
He's looking at 500 soldiers probably from Fort Antonia and all the servants of the high priests and he just takes a sword. And the Bible says there was a fellow there named Malchus and Peter cut off his ear, but you know as well as I do he wasn't going for his ear. I mean, he wasn't a surgeon. He wasn't going to zip his little ear off. I mean, he was going for his head. The guy had reflexes.
He ducked and lost an ear. And the Lord reached over and gave him a new ear and said, put that sword away. You live by the sword, you what?
You die by the sword. You have to learn restraint. Let God's plan operate.
Let God take care of these matters. Did he learn restraint? Yes he did. In 1 Peter chapter 2 he says this, we have been called to suffer as Christ suffered, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps, who when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered, threatened not.
In other words, I saw it with Jesus. He accepted it as God's will. He restrained Himself and left His life in the care of God. I learned that lesson and I'm teaching it to you. He learned restraint. Another thing a leader needs to learn is humility. Oh, did he learn that.
I'll never leave you. All men may forsake you but I'll die before I forsake you. But he did. And he learned his lesson because he wrote in 1 Peter these words, God resists the proud but gives grace, what? To the humble.
He learned. Also, leaders sometimes need to learn the lesson of sacrifice, sacrifice. You know, he had to be told, someday Peter, John 21 verse 19, somebody's going to come and bind you and take you where you don't want to go and I'm speaking about the death you're going to die for me. You're going to be a martyr, Peter. You're going to be a martyr.
Are you ready for that? And that's when he said, well, what about John? I mean, does he get off the hook? Well, what about him? And the Lord said, none of your business. And then He used the emphatic pronoun. He said, you follow Me.
And that's the last time he ever had to say that. He learned his lesson, the lesson of sacrifice. And he learned it so well that he wrote in 1 Peter, blessed, blessed if you can imagine, happy are you who are reproached for the name of Christ.
If any man suffer as a Christian, chapter 4 verse 16, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God and let them who suffer commit themselves to God's care. He learned sacrifice. I think, too, he needed to learn love.
You see, leaders tend to be task-oriented rather than people-oriented and they can just plow people under. And he needed to learn love. Jesus said to him in John 21, do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me? That's what I want, Peter.
I want you to love Me. And I think probably that's why Jesus hooked up John with him, to teach him about that. And you remember in John 13 where the Lord is washing feet and he comes to Peter and Peter says, you will never wash my feet? The Lord says, I'm trying to teach you a lesson, Peter. You don't understand it now, but you will. And he says, I'll take a bath.
Go ahead. And afterwards the Lord said, love one another as I have loved you. He'd given him a great lesson on love and Peter got the lesson and later on in 1 Peter chapter 4, he repeats the lesson he learned, above all things have fervent love among yourselves for love shall cover a...what?...multitude of sins. He learned. I think he needed to learn courage, too. In John 21, Jesus said, you're going to follow Me, it'll cost you your life.
Are you willing? By then he learned. In Acts 4, he goes in front of the Sanhedrin and he says, I don't care what you say, I'll preach because I will obey God, not men. And they said, well, you can't preach anymore. And they went into a prayer meeting and he prayed that God would give him more boldness and they went out and preached even greater. He needed to learn submission, the Lord taught him. He needed to learn restraint, the Lord taught him. He needed to learn humility, the Lord taught him that. He needed to learn grace and sacrifice and love and courage and all of those lessons the Lord gave him. Now how does the Lord make a leader? He takes the right raw material, puts it through the right experience with the right teaching and he came out with Peter.
Oh, what a leader he was. First twelve chapters of Acts, he is the leader of the church. He is the one who makes the move to replace Judas with Matthias, chapter 1 of Acts.
He becomes the spokesman of the church on Pentecost, Acts 2. He with John healed the lame man, Acts 3. He defied the Sanhedrin, Acts 4. He dealt with the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5. He dealt with the problem of Simon the magician in Samaria, Acts 8. He healed Ananias and raised Dorcas from the dead, Acts 9. He took the gospel of the Gentiles, Acts 10 and 11, and he wrote two marvelous and glorious epistles in which he repeated all the lessons that Jesus had taught him.
He passed them on to us. What a man he was. He was a man whom God had touched with his grace, who could say with the hymn writer, oh to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be. Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the Lord, I love. Take my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. He was the wandering heart that finally the grace of God captured.
How did it end for him? Tradition says that cruelly came his way in his death, and tradition tells us that he was crucified, but before he was crucified, he was forced to watch the crucifixion of his wife. The traditionalist Eusebius, a historian writing in his ecclesiastical history, said he stood at the foot of his wife's cross and kept repeating to her, remember the Lord, remember the Lord. And after she had died, he himself was crucified and pleaded to be crucified upside down because he was unworthy to die like his Lord. He was a leader, and you and I are here today because he was faithful to his calling.
God wants to take the raw material of some of you, put it through the right experience, teach the right lessons, make the right leaders. I believe Peter's life can be summed up in the last words he ever said. They're recorded in the last verse of the last epistle that he wrote, 2 Peter 3.18. Here is his word to you, but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever.
Amen. He could tell you to grow because that's what he had to do. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, here on Grace to You with a compelling look at, well, 12 ordinary guys that God chose to be the Masters' men. That's the title of John's current study, The Masters' Men. John, you've talked in this study about the privileges the disciples had, how they received divine revelation. They wrote much of the New Testament, and they led the early church. They performed miracles, and with everything that set the disciples apart, you might assume that they were uniquely talented men, but that really isn't the case. Yeah, one of the interesting statements that Jesus made to them at the beginning of his time with them, and again at the end, is he said to them, oh, you have little faith.
It was as if they were the same after three years as they were at the beginning. So you could argue that there wasn't a whole lot of spiritual progress going on with them. You could certainly argue that if Peter was their leader and you realize that in the crux of his greatest hour of temptation, Peter was a disaster, right? He denied the Lord on three separate occasions in three separate locations in that courtyard, denying his Lord. He essentially did what Judas did, only he repented of it. So there's no question about the fact that the Lord can use flawed people. You remember after Peter had done those denials, the Lord came to him and said, when you are turned around, you're going to strengthen many brothers. It was as if the Lord needed him to go through that trial, come out the other side of it to be as useful as he could be in the future. So we don't want to ever be discouraged because we might think we're somehow under the bar of acceptability or usefulness.
That's just not true. And to show that to you, we have a new book we're excited about titled Forty Lives in Forty Days. And this is going to give you an insight into the lives of forty key figures, including disciples and others, personalities familiar to you, approachable everyday characters in the Bible that we can identify with.
And most importantly, we can learn from as we learn from their lives, both their victories and their defeats. Jonah, Sarah, Mary, Martha, Rahab, Eve, Samson, Joseph, Gideon, the prodigal son, Paul, Enoch, and others. And the book concludes with a focus on the most precious person of all in Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ. So each short chapter covers one of these memorable Bible characters.
You can read just a chapter a day, but you probably won't be able to stop doing that. Short cover, 220 pages, a great tool for your personal or family devotions. Forty Lives in Forty Days is affordably priced, and you can order today.
Yes, and if you've ever wondered if your weaknesses and past failures keep you from being used by God, you will be humbled and encouraged by John's new devotional, Forty Lives in Forty Days. To pick up a copy for yourself or for a friend, get in touch with us today. You can call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, gty.org. Forty Lives in Forty Days will help you see how ordinary people in the Bible, men and women with the same spiritual struggles you face, were used by God in extraordinary ways.
Again, to pick up a copy, call 800-55-GRACE, or go to gty.org. Also, know that we would love to hear how John's verse-by-verse teaching is encouraging you. Maybe today's lesson gave timely encouragement to stand for Christ in these spiritually dark days, or a recent message helped you apply biblical truth that you never really understood. If God has used these broadcasts in your life, let us know when you write to us at Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or you can email us at letters at gty.org. Once more, that's our email address, letters at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to join us at the same time tomorrow when John looks at how God can use you even if you've made major mistakes in the past. That lesson is a key part of John's study, The Master's Men. Don't miss the next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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