Thursday, February 19, 2009

What happened to Peter?

Thinking about the book of Acts, which I am, I find myself wondering what happened to Peter? In Chapters 1-5, he is the main man, then suddenly he's gone from the limelight. Stephen steps in, Philip steps in and ultimately Paul carries the weight of most of the rest of the book. OK, Peter does pop up into the story again, dealing with Simon the Sorcerer and Cornelius, etc., but his time as 'main man' seems to be over.

I wonder if Peter did something that meant he lost his place in the spotlight?

I've expressed this opinion before [here and here], but I've found myself thinking more about the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). I continue to believe that it was Peter's choice that resulted in their deaths, not God's choice. God imparted power to Peter to exercise his ministry, Peter used that power to enact judgement on Ananias & Sapphira. Thus, the decision to kill A&S was Peter's.

But what if God, as a consequence of Peter's bad choice, decided to demote Peter? Not remove him from service, but make him less of a player. Others are promoted to the main places, including the outsider, Saul.

I wonder, if Peter hadn't abused the power that God gave him in this instance, would it have been necessary to enlist Paul as the primary evangelist to the gentiles? Maybe if Peter had been a bit wiser, we would have ended up with the epistles of Peter to all the churches, and a very different book of Acts.

Of course we'll never know. As Aslan says in the Narnia books on several occasions "no-one is ever told what would have happened...". But these are the thoughts I find running through my mind every now and then.

What do you think? Is this nonsense, or is there something in there?


Anonymous said...

your mind is not an excellent place

Ricky Carvel said...

Strange thing to say. Is your mind in any way 'excellent'?

Josh W said...

My mind is in some ways, to the extent that it realises the mind of Christ!

I wouldn't conflate "spotlight" and "importance", Paul had specific advantages for the job in that he was a Roman citizen who liked to debate, and while it is true that Peter did get God-given skill to spread the gospel, perhaps it suited him better to be reaching his own people. He was also married, presumably with kids, which shifts his ease of travel a little.

Acts splits off from the Jerusalem church to follow one very productive thread of travelling, and you might note that Paul probably would have quite liked to be Apostle to the Jews too, as he saw his job partly as encouraging his people to get saved by jealousy for the blessing of God!

It's easy to say that a bit you don't like is actually against God's will, but he's generally pretty clear on this stuff; getting people who misuse his gifts told off in a public way.

I think we probably differ on how much to take on streight, particularly on the "smiting" part. My understanding is that there is a trade-off as God reveals more of himself, in that the greater knowledge of him leads to greater consequences of acting against him. Less of an ignorance excuse basically. So those who know him better are actually in more smite danger!

Except for Jesus of course, and it is the fact that this otherwise consistent mechanism failed in their case that is most surprising. Our sin is solved via him, and yet they still died because of it.

Any attempt to create a category of sin over and above normal sin is to be done very cautiously, and must have good grounds, although it's existence has already been suggested both by Jesus and John.

My understanding of this has been that it refers to defying the very mechanisms of salvation itself, the spirit who leads us to repentance and the son who was killed and hurt for us. The fact that their supposed "unconditional and complete giving" was false may be relevant here, as it is the same unconditional giving of ourself that is part of repentance.

Long post! I suppose I commented on two in a row!