Recently, when going on a trip to the Vatican with a tour group, Liya visited St. Peter’s.
“Okay! Now we are reaching the great St. Peter’s Cathedral. It was completed in 1626, covering over twenty-three thousand square meters…,” said the tour conductor, who was explaining and leading the tourists into the cathedral. “Wow! It’s so big!” cried Liya. She was stunned by the width and height of the nave, and so were the other tourists. The conductor continued, “St. Peter’s was the largest cathedral in the world in that period, which can hold more than sixty thousand people. In the center of it is the great dome, which is forty-two meters in diameter, one hundred and thirty-eight meters above the ground….”
After visiting St. Peter’s, the conductor guided them to see some other places. When finishing the day’s travel and returning the hotel, Liya was so exhausted that she flung herself on the bed. She couldn’t help but think of the great St. Peter’s constantly. She thought and thought, and then a question occurred to her: From the Bible, Paul did more work and wrote more epistles than Peter did. According to logic, Paul’s contribution to the church was greater than Peter’s, but how come St. Paul’s was not as big as St. Peter’s? Liya turned herself sideways, and remembered that the Lord Jesus appointed Peter as the rock and foundation of the church and gave him the key to the kingdom of heaven. Why did the Lord Jesus love Peter so much?
Liya got out of the bed and came to the window. When looking at the scene of the strange land outside, she thought to herself: “God inspects people’s hearts. That the Lord Jesus gave Peter the key to the kingdom of heaven proves that Peter must be better in some aspects than Paul. That won’t do, and right now I need to read Peter’s epistles carefully to find the answer.” Thinking of this, Liya quickly took out the Bible from her pack, sat on the edge of the bed, and began to read it carefully. She saw the words of Peter say: “But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy. And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Peter 1:15-17). After reading this, she pondered the words carefully: “Peter was aware that God is holy and God detests filth, so he told us to seek holiness. Peter quoted the words of God in his epistles, and communed God’s will to us, thus showing us what kinds of people God wants and how to conform with His will. From his epistles, Peter always told us God is righteous, and that He determines man’s sins according to man’s actions. So, we need to often have a heart that reveres God, be vigilant with our words and actions, and speak and act in accordance with God’s word. We should not tell lies, commit fraud or envy others. Only by practicing like this are we worthy to follow God. It seems that Peter tried to guide us to the path of fearing God.” At that time, Liya also thought of the words of Paul: “For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace” (Romans 11:6). As we can see from these words, Paul believed the Lord is merciful and loving, and that He did not focus on men’s works. No matter how we believe in the Lord, no matter what sins we commit, the Lord will not remember. As long as we keep the Lord’s name and believe that the Lord Jesus is God, we will be approved by Him, whereas our behaviors are unimportant. Liya pondered both the words of Peter and Paul in her heart: What Peter pursued is thoroughly different from what Paul pursued. Peter sought to fear God and shun evil, while Paul sought to receive salvation by grace. So whose view of pursuit is right?
Liya then read the Four Gospels. She saw the Lord Jesus say: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27). From the words of the Lord Jesus, Liya realized: The Lord is righteous, and observes our unrighteousness. If we do not restrain our behaviors, committing sins without compunction, then we will frequently offend God, and in the end God will punish us according to our own deeds. Just as when the Pharisees faced the work of the Lord Jesus, they did not fear God at all. So arrogant and ignorant were they that they arbitrarily condemned the Lord Jesus’ work. As a result, they committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and were cursed by the Lord Jesus. Afterward, the Pharisees and Jewish people nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross, but they never repented to God. In AD 70 the Jews received God’s punishment, and many of them were killed. From this we realize that the Lord is not only merciful and loving, who can forbear man and forgive the sins of man, but He is righteous and holy, and does not tolerate any offense. In this way, Peter’s pursuit was more in accordance with God’s will, and his knowledge of God was more accurate. Paul, however, believed that since the Lord bestowed upon people grace, He did not pay attention to our actions. Paul’s views ran contrary to the Lord’s will, and the way he pursued precisely exposed that he did not know God’s righteous and holy disposition. He also did not understand God’s will, nor did he know God has different attitudes to each type of expression of every person. Understanding these, Liya came to know why the Lord Jesus approved Peter.
There was a knock at the door.
“Lady, this is your dinner.”
Liya gave a wide smile to the attendant and took her food. Then she began to read 2 Peter over the dinner. She wanted to see how Peter knew and appreciated the truth about sins. She saw 2 Peter 2:4 say: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved to judgment.” Reading this, Liya got a surprise: Peter did not acknowledge at all that people can enter the kingdom of heaven after they confess their sins. He thought that whoever one is, even if he is an angle, as long as he sins, in the end he will receive the judgment of God, much less be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. The words of Peter were exactly based on facts. For example, the archangel was struck down into the midair by God, for it betrayed God; Adam and Eva were driven out of the Garden of Eden, for they disobeyed God’s orders and ate the forbidden fruit; in the Age of Law, David committed adultery and was punished by God—From then on, the sword never depart from his house. These facts prove that Peter had a precise knowledge of God’s disposition. Even though one is a person who was approved by God, as long as he sins, he will receive God’s punishment. This is determined by God’s righteous and holy substance. This verse shows Peter’s humility and obedience. No matter he was before God or men, he did not show off his seniority. Though he was appointed by the Lord Jesus as the rock and foundation of the church and held the key to the kingdom of Heaven, he neither treated these as capital, nor exalted himself or bore witness to how he suffered and expended for the Lord. What Peter did was not for the sake of doing business with the Lord or obtaining a crown of righteousness, but for performing his duty as a created being. That Peter could achieve this was inseparable from his accurate knowledge of God’s disposition.
Liya then turned to Romans, and she saw Paul say: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34). What on earth is this all about? In Paul’s opinion, as long as we believe in the Lord, all of our sins have been forgiven and we have been sinless. Thus, we are deemed righteous, and we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. There is a huge difference between Paul’s viewpoints and Peter’s. So who is right and who is wrong out of these two viewpoints? Liya put down the spoon and prayed to the Lord silently, asking the Lord to continue to guide her to understand the problem. After praying, Liya read the words of the Lord Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever” (John 8:34-35). Liya’s heart was enlightened from the word of Jesus. God did not say all those He has selected are righteous men, or that no one could accuse them. God’s words clearly tell us whether one is selected by God or not, as long as he has not cast off the bondage of sin, he is the servant of sin. And whoever commits sins is unable to enter the kingdom of God. In this way, it can be seen that Peter knew God and his words are in accordance with the truth. No wonder the Lord Jesus loved and trusted Peter so much, and even entrusted him to feed the flock.
So what other knowledge of Peter does God approve? Liya pondered and continued to read. She saw Peter say: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear” (1 Peter 2:18). “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). From the beginning to the end, Peter stood in the position of servant to speak. In his epistles, he told us that people should obey Christ like a servant obeying his master. People should not be overweening and conceited, but only honor the Lord Jesus as great; people should have a heart that fears God and cannot stand equal to God. Subsequently, Liya turned to Philippians, and saw Paul say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Liya raised her head and took a deep breath. With so many emotions, she thought: In the past, I didn’t have any feeling when reading these words. But now, by comparing Paul’s words with Peter’s words, I find Paul was so arrogant and unreasonable to say so. Is it not his motivation to make others worship him as Christ when he said for him to live was Christ? How come he had the same disposition as the archangel’s? Reading this, Liya confirmed in her heart that Peter was the true servant of the Lord. All the time he had practiced according to the words of the Lord, and submitted to the Lord as a servant. Peter was humble without arrogant words, his words and actions were in accordance with the Lord’s words, his heart feared the Lord, and he stood in the position of a servant. This is the reason why the Lord Jesus gave him the key to the kingdom of heaven. Maybe the Lord wanted to use this to tell people only by emulating Peter can we enter the kingdom of heaven.
Liya then read the words of Peter: “For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19). In his epistles, Peter had mentioned conscience many times. He taught people to repay God’s love with conscience all the time. No matter how much sufferings we will endure, as long as we can be approved by God, we will live up to our own conscience. And we should take Christ as an exemplar. Seeing this, Liya felt that Peter really had conscience and reason. He loved Jesus Christ, and gladly worked for Him. In his epistles, he never said a word to ask for rewards, nor did he bear witness to how he suffered hardships. What Peter pursued was to love God, to repay His love, and to complete His mission of shepherding the flock. But then Liya saw Paul’s words: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). By comparing with Peter’s words, Liya thought over this sentence of Paul. The more she thought about it, the more she felt there was something wrong. As it turns out, it was because of his intention of receiving a crown that Paul had done so many works for the Lord, and that even if he was arrested and imprisoned, he still pulled through it. What he said meant: “I have endured so many sufferings. According to God’s righteousness, He should give me a crown. If God doesn’t give a crown to me, He is not righteous.” Was not Paul forcing God to give Him a crown by saying this? Was not he making transactions with God? So Paul was not willing in doing his work. If there was no crown for him, he possibly wouldn’t have suffered so much. However, Peter thought: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Peter 5:2). Peter asked us not only to feed the flock of God according to God’s words, but to be gladly willing. That’s right! The Lord had done so much for us, and even was nailed to the cross for our sins, so in order to repay His love, it is right for us to offer our whole beings for Him, make sacrifices and expend ourselves. Just as what the Lord Jesus required of us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Both Peter’s pursuit and what he had done to shepherd the church were according to the requirements of the Lord, and what Peter said was to lead us before God and into God’s word. At this time, Liya truly understood why God gave Peter the key to the kingdom of heaven. This was because Peter was a man who truly loved God. Peter knew the Lord, considered His will, and shepherded His sheep in accordance with His words. From this, Peter was really a loyal servant and a good housekeeper of the Lord. Then look at Paul. In his epistles there are lots of words of exhortation and encouragement, in which there was the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, but he did not know the Lord. Many of his words are not in conformity with the truth, which lead us astray. Now all the brothers and sisters of our church are practicing according to Paul’s words. They believe that they can be saved as long as they believe in the Lord in their heart and admit Him with their tongue, and that they will be forgiven by the Lord no matter what sins they commit. Therefore, they do not pay attention to practicing the Lord’s words and following the Lord’s way. Some of them follow the tides of the world, and some lust after wealth and fleshly enjoyment. They are living in the repeated cycle of sinning during the day and confessing at night … As a result, they do whatever they want every day, sinning and committing evils. But on Sundays they clothed with sheepskin go to church. Some of them even preach to others with the Bible. After gatherings, they put off the sheepskin as soon as they leave the church, continuing to sin without any restraint. They are the same as the worldly people. If they continue to pursue like this, it is difficult to imagine what they will be like.
At that moment, Liya, with mixed emotions, was not in the mood to continue to eat dinner. She thought: In the past, I blindly followed the religious trends to adore Paul. I never thought about the Lord Jesus’ intentions behind Him approving Peter, resulting in my having walked on the wrong path for many years. I only focused on journeying to and fro and working, thinking that the more sufferings I endured, the bigger crown I would receive. I made deals with God everywhere, but overlooked what the Lord said: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). I did not pay attention to practicing the word of the Lord, so even if I have believed in the Lord for many years and suffered many hardships, my corrupt disposition has not changed at all. When associating with others, I often told lies, and was even full of jealousy and strife. The Lord is righteous and holy, so how could I, a person who is living within sin and cannot be free from it, enter the kingdom of heaven? Liya gave thanks to the Lord for His guidance. That day, through pondering the words in Peter’s epistles, not only did Liya know why the Lord Jesus gave Peter the key to the kingdom of heaven, but she also understood the Lord is omnipotent and omniscient, and that Peter’s pursuit was in accordance with God’s will. Peter was indeed pleased by God. She also understood what the Lord wanted to communicate to us: Only by emulating Peter can one receive God’s approval, and enter into the kingdom of heaven in the end.
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