“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
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Jesus opened up Peter’s heart to the Gospel with profound emotional experiences that rocked Peter’s world. The words Jesus spoke gave Peter hope, purpose, and love. Peter knew which way to point his emotional compass and this early heartfelt devotion to Jesus was rewarded with a rich life of sacrificial service in Jesus’ footsteps. Peter first saw Jesus as the Messiah in his heart. The beginning of Peter’s faith was how he felt about Jesus.
In contrast, Jesus opened the mind of Saul of Tarsus to the Gospel by delivering the factual evidence that he was the Messiah. Though Saul of Tarsus was a giant in religious circles of his day, his expert knowledge of the Law and Jewish tradition actually imprisoned his emotional relationship with God by reducing his faith to a defined process. Saul’s supernatural encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the intervention he needed to prove to his mind that Jesus was the Messiah. Saul first saw Jesus as the Messiah in his mind’s eye. The beginning of Saul’s faith was how he thought about Jesus.
In the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul, we see two major patterns for the call of the Gospel Age Church. They represent two types of people whom Jesus’ calls, develops and sanctifies for the work of harvest. They pertain to two different pathways for the beginning of our faith in Jesus. These two pathways were personified in the temperament, call, and lifetimes of these two great men of God. These are the two sides of faith.
Have you ever wondered if your faith is genuine? Have the varied callings and life experiences of your brethren made you wonder about the authenticity of your own? Understanding the diverse callings and life experiences of Peter and Saul of Tarsus should help shield us from such unprofitable worries. We should ask our selves; “Would the Apostle Peter have chosen Saul of Tarsus?” or “Would the Apostle Paul have chosen Peter?” Just as God called and developed the faith of these two great men, we may be assured that God calls each of us and develops us for an individual purpose and with a unique plan that is customized to His will and our unique human characteristics.
Feeling and reason are the two qualities that make the human race sentient beings, the highest order of God’s earthly creation. However, as evidenced in the scriptures, our feelings for God and our reasoning about God cannot remain mutually exclusive. Both are required for a growing faith (John 15:7‑10). If God finds us in a state where we are heavily leaning toward one or the other, He will give us experiences that help us become more balanced and complete in faith. Perhaps this dynamic is what the father, whose son was healed of the foul spirit, meant when he said to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief ” (Mark 9:24). This father was hoping against hope that Jesus could heal his son, but this thoughtful response indicates that there was an area of either his heart or his mind that needed to believe more.
Jesus saw Peter casting his net for fish in the Sea of Galilee. Jesus saw Peter as a man of action, a man who was writing his own script and casting his own show. God somehow indicated to Jesus that Peter should be called. It is important for us to remember that God selects us and gives us to Jesus for the ministry (John 17:6). The Creator of the Universe saw something useful in Peter just as He saw something useful in each of us today.
Peter’s fishing trade did not allow him time to become immersed in the study of the prophetic word like Saul of Tarsus. But his skill and emotional commitment to his work confirmed to Jesus that Peter would be good ground for the Gospel seed. Jesus said, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Was it the tone of Jesus’ voice? Was it the hope of becoming a fisher of men? Was it God opening up Peter’s heart to Jesus? Was it Jesus’ physical presence that compelled Peter to leave the fishing business? It was surely all of these things that established Peter as an example of those who look to God primarily through the lens of inspiration at the beginning of our walk with Jesus.
Soon after the death and resurrection of his Lord Jesus, the Apostle Peter learned the value of a faith founded on the prophetic word. This is evidenced in Peter’s wonderful speech to an eager international multitude of Jewish believers at Pentecost. There he wove together a powerful and complicated explanation of prophecy to explain recent events. In a mere fifty days after he denied Jesus, the Savior filled Peter with the holy Spirit and thus helped his unbelief by completing his faith with knowledge. This is a wonderful template for our own development. We may petition our Lord in prayer for a similar experience if we find ourselves in a similar position. While Peter followed his heart when he began following Jesus, his love for Jesus was now grounded with knowledge. These are the two sides of faith. If we come to faith in Jesus weighted toward either love or knowledge, God will endeavor to develop the other side of our faith so that our faith might become full.
Late in his life, the Apostle Peter gave us insight into the completion of his own faith when he said, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Here the Apostle Peter compares and contrasts the value of his emotional experience of witnessing the majesty of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration with the verity of the prophetic word. When Peter was first called, his heart was deeply touched. But at this much later time in his ministry, he explained that understanding prophecies of Jesus completed his faith with knowledge.
Peter was emotionally inspired and that inspiration was the key driver in his life with Jesus. Peter’s inspiration gave him the motivation and the capacity to be courageous. For example, Peter was the first to declare that Jesus was the Christ. He was also the one who stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. What could we do if we were so inspired? Peter’s emotional engagement powered his personal walk with Jesus. When Peter faltered, Jesus went to him on the seashore to secure his emotional commitment a second time. Jesus is sure to do the same for us when we falter.
Unlike Peter, Saul of Tarsus was blinded to an emotional relationship with God. Saul was not listening to his heart and so Jesus confronted Saul’s knowledge. Jesus’ miraculous appearance on the road to Damascus gave Saul’s heart permission to believe and thus completed his faith. Saul’s conversion should be a cautionary tale to all of us who emphasize our knowledge of God in our faith. For many of us, it is easy for our knowledge to overrun our heart, especially when there is the prospect of partisan advantage. The tug of friendships and affiliations pave the road to spiritual pride. Saul of Tarsus spent the rest of his life unwinding the effects of this imbalance. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and men” (Acts 24:16). Perhaps realizing his own sin provided the wellspring for his advice: “Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Corinthians 16:14).
God saw a rugged individualism in Saul of Tarsus that would be useful for the ministry. Saul lived his life as if he had no cause for doubt. That same rugged determination that led Saul to persecute the Christians would now be bent and trained to serve the purposes of Christ, the Son of God. Saul’s calling was so unexpected by the brethren that Ananias was completely surprised when the risen Jesus said to him about Saul of Tarsus: “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). We should be not be surprised in God’s selection of us for the ministry and we should strive to allow God and Jesus Christ to complete our faith.
Two examples in the ministry of the Apostle Paul highlight his unique temperament. While we see Peter’s courage in his boldness to follow Jesus, we see the Apostle Paul’s courage in his determination in the face of opposition. What was it that prompted the Apostle Paul to get up from being stoned and left for dead and later reenter the town, possibly into the teeth of those who stoned him? (Acts 14:20). What was it that prompted the Apostle Paul to reject Barnabas’ bid to include John Mark in the second missionary journey? (Acts 15:38). It was his courage to do what he believed to be the right thing to do. Perhaps these experiences combined with his natural rugged determination helped him conclude; “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
Perhaps it was Saul’s potential for courage in the ministry that God saw and developed by correcting Saul’s understanding of the scriptures. The knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Messiah completed his faith and gave him a powerful platform for service in the ministry of the Christ. The Apostle Paul could now live truthfully and completely in his service to God and deliver the following advice to young Timothy: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Apostle Paul’s calling, conversion, and ministry is a guiding light to us. He gave us some wonderful insights into our own life in Christ. Paul reflected on the patterns of faith in the Jewish scriptures that were provided for either imitation or warning. He said, “These things were types of us, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, even as they lusted” (1 Corinthians 10:6 RVIC). We look to this scripture to authorize our use of types (prophetic teaching through prophetic pattern) in the experiences of Israel. Israel’s passing through the Red Sea, the details of their Passover, and their disobedience and punishment, provide patterns for us to believe and, in many cases, emulate. The experiences of the Jewish people are relevant to us both as individuals and to the corporate body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul also gives us specific examples of those who provided positive role models of how to serve God. In Hebrews 11:1‑ 12:1 he names individuals that we should look to as examples for our behavior during the Gospel Age. The Apostle Paul himself would become a pattern to emulate for the Church throughout the Gospel Age. Have we ever wanted a machine that would extract the value of the experiences in another person’s life and use them to build our life upon? The Apostle Paul instructs us to do just that as we learn the lessons from the lives of the faithful men and women of old, as well as from his own life.
When we compare and contrast the varied lives and experiences of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul, we gain insights into two types of people whom God calls and His manifold wisdom in doing so. Which type are we? Do we see God first through our love for Him or through our knowledge of Him? Do we then look to our brethren who seem to be more devout or more knowledgeable and feel deflated? Perhaps this is the victory of faith that the Apostle Paul achieved in the Arabian Desert before he could approach the brethren in Jerusalem. Perhaps this identity crisis and his resolve to go forward in the strength of his completed faith was the inspiration for his admonition to the Corinthian brethren: “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and [yet] true; As unknown, and [yet] well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:4‑10).
The Apostles Peter and Paul were chosen by God to accomplish a very specific work in the harvest field at the beginning of the Gospel Age. One of those works was to become new examples that Jesus’ disciples could follow during the coming centuries. Peter was an example for those of us who look to God primarily through the lens of inspiration. Saul was an example for those of us who look to God primarily through the eye of knowledge. We rarely find complete pictures in just one person. Our specific strengths, temperament, and experiences in life are usually a mixture of several Biblical characters. A study of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul will yield wonderful insights into the study of ourselves: our faith, our hope, our purpose, and our love for and knowledge of God.
Both show us two distinctly different paths to a genuine faith. God selected them both for specific purposes and placed them in the Body of Christ. This realization provides assurances to the Gospel Age Church that their faith is also authentic and genuine whether it is first developed in their heart or in their mind. We see God’s gentle touch in developing each of these Apostles according to his need and according to his unique characteristics.
The beginning of Peter’s faith was his love. But he was uncomfortable in his mind when he left the ministry after the crucifixion of Jesus. While his faith was grounded in love first, the Lord completed his faith in knowledge. The beginning of Paul’s faith was in knowledge but he was uncomfortable in his heart. While his faith was grounded in knowledge first, the Lord completed his faith in love. Honesty was the common denominator in both men. Jesus provided a path for each to complete his faith, and they followed it. So can we!
Do we have hopes and dreams for a richer, more complete faith in God that we leave unfulfilled because they seem out of reach? If so, we may find role models in the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. Like these great examples that God provided, let us act on our hopes and dreams with confidence, believing that God has chosen us for the ministry and that just like them, God will complete our faith. We may have the confidence that we also will be rewarded with a rich life of sacrificial service in Jesus’ footsteps.
What are we willing to give up in order for our hopes and dreams to become a reality?