Peter Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: Rock
Ancestry and family life: Peter had a brother named Andrew who was also a disciple and introduced him to Jesus.
When and where he lived: Peter had the special opportunity to live at the time when Jesus came to the earth and see him face to face. Israel was subject to Rome and chaffing under its rule. There were frequent riots and uprisings. Several influential parties rose up in Israel. The Pharisees were religious conservatives and were known for their piety. The Sadducees were more liberal and worked with Rome. They also denied the resurrection. The zealots were against any cooperation with Rome and were basically terrorists. All the religious-minded in Israel were expectantly waiting for the coming of the Messiah. It would have been exciting time to live. Peter got to witness with his own eyes the Son of God incarnate, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.
Events surrounding birth: No info.
Training and occupation: Peter was a fisherman. He hadn’t received a high education or training (Acts 4:13) yet God called him to be a fisher of men (Matt 4:19). His time with Jesus transformed him from an uneducated and even fearful man into a courageous and faithful apostle who became instrumental in the establishment of the church.
Place in history: Peter was the unspoken leader of the twelve. It seems he was always the first to pipe up and answer Jesus questions or ask him questions. He was part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples who got to witness the transfiguration (Matt 17). He was singled out at the Last Supper and in the last verses of John (after Jesus’ resurrection) for special teaching. He evidently had a special position in the establishment of the church (Matt 16:18-19).
He is the most well-known of the disciples, both for some of his blunders and for his outspoken faith. Peter preached the sermon at Pentecost where three thousand believed (Acts 3). He also was instrumental in establishing the church in Samaria (Acts 8) and bringing the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11). These facts can help us to understand what it means that Peter has the “keys of heaven” (Matt 16:19).
Special traits: Outspoken, Excitable, Headstrong, “all-or nothing”, miraculous gifts
Headstrong/speaking before thinking (Mark 8:32-33, Mark 9:5) – Peter often spoke before he thought. He sometimes told Jesus what to do. Often he spoke in haste and said foolish things. He was a very outspoken person and was prone to get excited. These aren’t necessarily bad qualities and are important for a leader. Yet because of these qualities he sometimes went outside of his correct place.
Weak in the flesh (though strong with the Spirit) (Mark 14:37-42, 14:66-72) – Peter had a strong Spirit and was committed to Christ. Yet at times his weak flesh took over (then Jesus often called him Simon) and caused him to do something he later regretted. He fell asleep at the garden when Jesus asked him to pray and he denied Jesus three times. He chopped off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Much later he was afraid of the Jewish sect of believers and wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles.
Inconsistency – As Peter was growing in the Lord he was inconsistent. He would have a great success in faith or action and that would be followed by a failure. He started walking on the water to Jesus and then looked around him and sank in the water. He declared his allegiance to Christ and then denied him three times. He brought the gospel to the Gentiles and then later wouldn’t eat with them. Part of this problem was caused because he was hasty and didn’t think things through completely.
Strengths: Although Peter had some clear weaknesses, he also had many strengths.
Excited – Peter was excited about his relationship with Christ. He was excited to be able to learn from Jesus and witness what He did firsthand. Look at the example where he ran to the tomb to check if it was empty and then went inside when John just stuck his head in the door (John 20:1-9)
Committed (Mk 10:28)- Peter may have fallen at times, but he was committed to Christ. He gave up his career and his home to follow and serve Christ. He became a full-time Christian worker. Many believers today want to separate their spiritual life from their “real” or daily life. They just want a touch of Jesus. Peter wanted all of his life to be affected by Jesus (John 13:9).
Put God first (Acts 5:29) – Peter did put Jesus first in his life most of the time. He did so at the risk of his own life. He put God ahead of career.
Repentant – When Peter sinned by denying Christ he later repented of it and reaffirmed his faith in Christ three times (John 21:15-19). Peter seems to have learned from his mistakes because over time he became more and more mature and more and more courageous in His walk with the Lord and ministry for Him.
Persevered until the end of his life/transformed – Peter was transformed by his time with Jesus and especially when he was indwelled with the Holy Spirit. It is really a mark of a true believer to repent of sins, learn from mistakes, and grow throughout their life. Peter did these things. In the end he gave his life for Christ.
Important acts and events: 1. Calling of Peter (Matt 4:18-22) 2. Walking on Water (Matt 14:28-33) 3. Witnessing the Transfiguration (Matt 17) 4. Denied Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75) 5. Affirmed Jesus three times (John 21:15-19) 6. Preached at Pentecost (Acts 2) 7. Healed the Lame Man (Acts 3) 8. Stood up to the Authorities (Acts 4-5) 9. Instrumental in Bringing Gospel to Samaria and the Gentiles (Acts 8, 10-11) Also Peter’s affirmation of Jesus as Christ (Mark 8:29, Matt 16:16) and changing of his name to Peter (John 1:42) and appointing the 12 (Mark 3:13-21). Raising Dorcas (Acts 9:40)
Look at the events listed above and study what lessons you can learn from these events.
How he died: John 21:18-19 is a prophecy that Peter would die as a martyr. The Bible doesn’t specifically record this death, but tradition says that Peter died as a martyr in Rome. He refused to be crucified head up because he didn’t consider himself worthy to die like Jesus did and was crucified upside-down.
Lessons from his life:
Think before we speak. Taking a few extra seconds on the front end can save a lot of hassle and problems on the back end.
Rely on the Spirit, ground ourselves in the Word.
Put the Lord first
Look at Jesus, not at circumstances
We all have mistakes and are not perfect. Yet if spend time with Jesus, He will transform us. God will transform us through the power of Scripture and the Spirit if we are willing (Acts 4:13).
If we have a strong will to serve God and strong faith in Him, He will use us in spite of our mistakes.
Repent of and forget past mistakes and push on to the future to strive to serve God (cf. Php 3:12-14)
We need to not be afraid to take a stand for Christ before people around us. We should serve God rather than men. (Acts 4:19-20, 5:41). Peter even rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer for Christ.
Peter wasn’t afraid to go against culture when it went against the Bible (see sharing the gospel with the Gentiles and considering them clean Acts 11-12). We should examine culture in the light of the Bible.