He quickly became a leader among the disciples and often dominated the scene. He was direct, active and decisive. He often was the first to respond to Christ, not only for himself but also on behalf of the other disciples. He carried a sword, using it to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest who was threatening Jesus. He continued in the forefront after the resurrection. “In those days Peter stood up among the believers” (Acts 1:15)–and then led the group in selecting a replacement for Judas. Peter was a natural leader.
For all of Peter’s innate leadership abilities, Christ had to teach him significant lessons about godly attitudes. He took fleshly, impetuous Peter, and taught him how to be more effective within the personality, ability and opportunity God had given him. The Gospels contain many examples of these teachings, and you may find it valuable to do your own study of Peter’s life. Here are some of the lessons he had to learn to be a leader in God’s kingdom.
An accurate view of authority and service
JOHN 13:3-4. Before Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He was fully aware of His authority and position in the kingdom. John takes pains to remind us that Jesus viewed His exalted position accurately. The magnificence of His act of service comes from the fact that He did not seek His own glory, but entrusted that to the Father. Instead, He used His authority and power to serve others.
Submission to Christ’s authority
JOHN 13:8-9. One way Christ taught His followers to be servants was by washing the feet of His disciples. At first, Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet. Christ responded that, without submission, Peter would have no part of His work. Peter submitted.
- LUKE 5:6-8. Submission to Christ involves humility. Even when it came to his profession, Peter learned that Jesus was in control. In response, he fell down in humility before Christ.
- JOHN 21:15-17. Peter’s ultimate lesson in humility occurred when Christ appeared after the crucifixion. After denying Christ three times, Peter was asked by Christ three times if he loved Him. Peter’s hurt was deep as he remembered the denial. But his humiliation led to a great ministry as he continued to lead the disciples.
- LUKE 5:4-5. Surely a fisherman knew more about fishing than a carpenter! They had been at it all night. Now it was the wrong time of the day. But again Peter submitted–and brought in a great catch.
LUKE 22:31-32. Jesus knew Peter would have a temporary failure of faith. He also knew Peter would be restored through faith and would have a significant leadership role after His death. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
JOHN 13:34-35 AND 1 PETER 5:1-5. Christ taught that the leader’s conflict between mission accomplishment and the welfare of people is resolved by love and service. Peter learned well and taught others these lessons of godly leadership.
Recognition of and submission to institutional authority of the provision of God
MATTHEW 17:24-27, 1 PETER 3:13-22, 1 PETER 4:12-19. A leader with many powerful attributes may tend to think he or she is always right. Even when one is in the right, Christ taught Peter to abide by the rules of the institution “so that we may not offend them.” The cross of Christ is offense enough to people immersed in sin, without us also bringing offense to them. Christ also taught that God will provide for us in such circumstances.
Peter learned well and taught submission to instituted authority and trust in God in his first letter.
We encourage you to continue developing an attitude that is usable by God, an attitude of serving those for whom you have been given responsibility!
Are you operating only on your natural abilities?
Is your use of command, rank, or position influenced by the attributes Peter learned from Christ?
Do you have a vision for serving your people as well as using them to accomplish your mission?