Some believers try to clothe everyone with one-size-fits-all coveralls when it comes to ministry. We are supposed to talk the same, like and do the same things, feel the same burdens, and follow one narrow avenue of service which is often held up as the only acceptable path for a believer. The Apostle Paul, evangelistic through and through, is touted as the ideal. The practice of categorizing believers into one role and rating their performance accordingly leave many discouraged, dejected, and often disconnected. Few people match Paul’s level of commitment to Christ, so what happens to the rest of us? Are we then unusable?
What does the Bible teach? Are we all the same, cut from identical cloth, and intended for the same purposes? Let’s investigate this idea. Consider this transcript of a conversation between Jesus and Peter.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”Luke 22:31-32 NASB
Peter responded in his own self-absorbed way with confidence and surety. But let’s be fair. Matthew records (Matthew 26:35) that the others in the room parroted their resolve to die rather than deny Christ. Peter’s words started all their heads nodding in agreement.
But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”Luke 22:33 NASB
Jesus carried the conversation further with this revelation.
And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”Luke 22:33-34 NASB
And we know the truth of what transpired. A short verse in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 14:50) gives the official record, “And they all left Him and fled.” Now, back up to Luke 22:31-32 so that we may draw out the command given specifically to Peter, his mandate. Jesus knew Peter would return from his denials with stronger faith, and He ordered him to carry back with him a specific purpose—to strengthen his brethren.
Strengthen is a word used in several places in the New Testament where translators have also rendered it as stablish or fix. The word strengthen has several synonyms including fortify, renew, restore, reinforce, energize, invigorate, nourish, build up, harden, and prop up. Peter’s role, once his own faith was back on solid ground, would be to help his fellow believers return to the same footing. His focus would be to help them take the right steps toward mature faith.
Peter’s assignment had absolutely nothing to do with evangelizing the lost.
I possibly offended some readers with that line, but perhaps if you would take a deep breath and read on before you unfriend me we might find that we are on common ground. Evangelism is a general responsibility for all believers, but no, it is not the complete summation of each person’s mission. Peter had a specific assignment in addition to the Lord’s command to evangelize as spelled out in Matthew 28:18-20. Incidentally part of the Great Commission is found in the phrase (v. 20), “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The Great Commission is actually a progression, and all parts must be included. “Go. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach.”
Paul would later send Timothy on a similar mission to minister to believers in Thessalonica. False teachers were attempting to upset the faith of these relatively new followers of Christ, and of paramount importance to Paul was their confident and continuing walk with the Lord. He wrote to them (1 Thessalonians 3:8), “for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” Timothy’s role can be found in these verses:
Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 NASB
Timothy’s mandate was similar to Peter’s. Lest we dismiss Peter’s assignment as “well that’s just an assumption on your part” we should revisit the beach in John 21 where Jesus united with His disciples. As Peter confirmed his love for Christ three times Jesus gave him three commands:
- “Tend My lambs.” (John 21:15)
- “Shepherd My sheep.” (John 21:16)
- “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:17)
While Peter played a major evangelistic role in the early chapters of Acts his two epistles (1 and 2 Peter) perhaps better capture his determination to obey the repeated command to take special care with the believers. Time and space will not permit us to dive into those books, but the reader may want to invest an hour or two noting words which reflect Peter’s concern for the flock of God. Please note the salutation for the second epistle to see who was on Peter’s heart as he wrote.
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;2 Peter 1:1-2 NASB
Do I know the mandate God has given me for my life?
Paul wrote several chapters in 1 Corinthians (chapters 12-14) detailing that the body of Christ is made up of many parts with varying roles. If you are curious about spiritual gifts and God’s design of the church body why not take a look at Discovering My Spiritual Gifts from BibleBuildingBlocks. The publication is free and is yours to use and share as you see fit.
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.1 Corinthians 12:18 NASB
You have a purpose, my friend. Put the uni-size coveralls back on the rack and resolve to make 2021 a year of discovery.