The fifth book in our New Testament records for us the powerful and amazing Acts of the Apostles. Many of the chapters read like an ancient book of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! In Acts 2:41, we read of three thousand being saved, baptized, and added to the church. In Acts 4:4, another five thousand men are wonderfully converted.
In the middle of this dynamic ministry is a man by the name of Peter. God uses him to deliver the message on the day of Pentecost in chapter two. We see him healing a lame man in chapter three, which opened the door for more preaching and the conversion of multitudes. By chapter four, all of Jerusalem was recognizing the boldness of this man and his commitment to Jesus Christ. In chapter five, we see that multitudes of both men and women were being saved (verse 14). The power of God was so evident that the next verse reads: “Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” (Acts 5:15).
Bold—without question; beloved—not by the enemies of Christ, but certainly by God’s people; a builder—relentless in his efforts to serve the early church. By the time God uses Peter to write his epistles, we find a man that is deeply in love with his Saviour and is passionate about his followers being firmly rooted in Christ. His motivation in writing is that God’s people would be “established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12). His closing words burn with a desire that his readers would stay grounded and growing in Jesus Christ. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).
These were not hollow or empty words. Peter knew that before the ink was dry, his own life could be required at the hand of his enemies. History tells us that Peter was sentenced to die by crucifixion. Jerome, the historian, states that Peter requested that he be crucified upside down, saying that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. Thus, they placed him on the cross with his feet upward and his head downward.
No one is willing to die for a cause unless he is firmly fixed in what he believes and practices. Peter left this life deeply rooted in His Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. But it was not always so. We see his short-lived faith on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 14; his love for man’s applause in Matthew 16; his pride on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17; his slothfulness in the garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26; and later in that same chapter his outright and shameful denial of Christ.
So how did Peter go from a reckless liability in the gospels to a rooted leader in the Book of Acts? The last chapter of John’s gospel records an incident that Peter probably wishes had never been recorded, but I believe it transformed him into an unmovable pillar in the work of Christ. Peter decides in the opening verses of John 21 that he is done. He’s quitting—throwing in the towel. Serving Jesus Christ has lost its appeal, and he is going back to fishing. God had called him to leave his boat and nets and fish for men, but he has decided now that discipleship is too hard; so he is returning to a lifestyle much easier and less demanding. He fishes all night, but as day dawns, his nets are empty. A voice pierces the air, however, as the first rays of light glisten on the water: “Children, have ye any meat?”
“No,” the disciples answered.
“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.”
They obeyed, and they couldn’t draw the net into the boat for all the fish.
As Peter drew the unbroken net to the shore filled with 153 fish, he knew that this was a miracle that only one Person could perform. His ego bruised and his spirit humbled, he takes a seat at the fire next to his Saviour and dines on the fish already prepared by the Master. When all had eaten, the eyes of Jesus now fix themselves upon the one who had denied Him. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” You see, to be rooted, there must first be a priority to our love. You can’t be double-minded or halting between two opinions. “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). You can’t be focused on the fish and your Father. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).
Peter’s response was, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Three times the Lord asks Peter the same question, and this reckless follower affirms that he truly does love his Saviour. So Jesus shows him that to be rooted there must also be a purpose for our love. “Feed my lambs” (verse 15); “Feed my sheep” (verses 16 and 17). When we become rooted, our reason for living is no longer wrapped up in our selfish desires but in the will of God and His Great Commission.
In verse 18, Jesus drives the roots of Peter’s love even deeper when He declares: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” No doubt Peter was puzzled by these words, but he was soon to learn that there is a price to being rooted. Verse 19 explains: “This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” Being rooted was going to cost Peter his very life!
It seems like a lot to ask, doesn’t it? But do you think that as Peter was led to his place of execution that he wished he had stayed a reckless liability? Not for a moment! Peter had seen thousands saved, local churches established, and the world impacted by the Gospel. In large part because he had decided one day around a fire by the Sea of Galilee to become a rooted Christian.
My words in this article are not as powerful as His, but I hope that wherever you are as you read this you will hear His voice asking, “Lovest thou Me?” My prayer is that every reader will answer, “Yes,” and become a rooted Christian. To do so will determine your priorities; it will drive you to His purpose; it will demand a heavy price. But before you decide that the rooted life is not for you, don’t forget the divine pronouncement in Revelation 2:10: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”