by William J. Stewart
In last week’s article, we considered Peter’s fall from discipleship to despondency. We noted the overconfidence that kept him from acknowledging the real danger which the Lord warned him of. However, we would be negligent to leave Peter in despondency, for the Scriptures do not. Peter did not remain hopeless and desperate.
As well known radio personality, Paul Harvey would say, “…and now, the rest of the story…”
“…when you have returned…”
Consider that Jesus’ words, as found in Luke 22:32 suggest two things about man’s salvation. First, we can depart. One cannot return if he has not departed. Peter departed from the Lord, and his soul was in eternal jeopardy at that time. The Bible makes it clear that we are able to lose the salvation of our soul (1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 3:12-13; Hebrews 6:4-6). The apostle Paul speaks of Demas as a fellow labourer (Philemon 24), but at some later point, writes, “…Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world..” (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas returned to the world, and thus brought damnation upon his own soul.
Second, we learn from Jesus’ words that it is possible for the one who has departed from the Lord to return. Peter would depart, but the Lord acknowledged that he would also return. Again, several Bible passages discuss the fact that one who had walked with the Lord, then turned away, can turn back (Psalm 51; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19).
The Prodigal Comes Home
We are given no specifics on Peter’s return to the Lord. However, we can learn from the experience of the prodigal son (Luke 15:17-24). Notice, “…he came to himself…” He realized how far he had fallen (v 13-16). He was awaken to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13; 11:25). He understood that if there was to be a change, it was his responsibility, and that part of this change involved a confession of his sins (v 18). He took charge of his life, “…arose and went…” to his father, confessing his sins (v 20, 21). He did not attempt to justify himself, but relied upon his father’s mercy (v 21). And thus, he was restored (v 22-24).
Peter would come back to the Lord, and would be restored. After Jesus had risen, the angel commanded the women who had come to the tomb, “…go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7). Peter had a specific invitation to come back to the Lord, being mentioned by name. At this same point, he was no better than a young Jewish boy stuck in a foreign country feeding swine; but the Lord desired better for Peter. In Galilee, Peter was restored to the Lord (John 21:15-19).
“…strengthen your brethren…”
Peter’s restoration to the Lord is not the end of the story. This once despondent disciple went on to great service before God. Recall, the Lord said to Peter, “…when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). By no means did Peter have a flawless life from that point on (Acts 10:9-17; Galatians 2:11-14), but he fulfilled Jesus’ words, being a pillar in the Lord’s kingdom.
Peter became a great leader in the early church (Acts 1:15ff; 2:14; 5:1-11). We had several records of him speaking boldly the word of the Lord, and influencing people with the gospel (Acts 2; 3; 8:24; 9:32; 10:1-11:18). We have Peter’s great faith in trial to look upon and imitate (Acts 4:29; 5:41-42; 12). We have at our disposal, a continual reminder from the apostle Peter to keep us focused on heaven. Peter wrote, “…I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:12-15).
What a wonderful story is Peter’s return to the Lord. God forbid that even one of the Lord’s should fall from faithful service, but God be thanked, that He is merciful and forgiving, and desires the wayward to return. And so wonderful is that return, for the angels in heaven shall rejoice, and the brethren upon the earth likewise. And with the return of even one straying sheep, such as Peter, who knows what unmeasurable good will result in the kingdom of God.