Summary: In this summary of the series on the life of Peter, we explore the end of Peter's life left to us through history and tradition, and we explore how to leave a legacy like Peter's.


A. There’s a story told of a group of tourists who were on a sightseeing tour of the Holy Lands.

1. The group came to one of the historical areas and a local exhibit owner offered to take the group into his exhibit to see the bones of the apostle Peter, for a small fee, of course.

2. The group members paid the fee and entered the exhibit.

3. As they looked at the bones of Peter, one of the group members said to the exhibit owner, “In a different city on our tour we visited another exhibit that claimed to have the bones of Peter. Your bones of Peter are much smaller than the bones we saw in that exhibit.”

4. The exhibit owner quickly explained, “The bones of Peter that I have on display are his bones when he was a boy, and that’s why they are smaller!”

5. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

B. Although there are many legends and myths surrounding the apostle Peter, it has been my goal to lead us in a study of the life of Peter that was Biblical and truthful.

1. I hope that our sermon series on Peter’s life has blessed you as much as it has me.

a. I am sad that the series is coming to a close today.

2. We started the series 18 sermons ago, back in May.

3. In Peter’s very first encounter with Jesus, Jesus gave Peter the name “rock.”

a. We have seen Peter grow into that name.

4. In Peter’s next encounter with Jesus, he was given a call to become a fisher of men, and Peter, Andrew, James and John left their nets and boats behind and followed Jesus.

a. When we follow Jesus, there is much that we must also leave behind.

C. As we have journeyed with Peter as he followed Jesus, we have witnessed his highs and lows.

1. We have seen Peter get it, and we have seen him fail to get it.

a. We have seen Peter do the right thing, and we have seen him do the wrong thing.

b. One minute he was walking on the water with Jesus, and the next minute he was sinking.

c. One minute Peter declared the Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, and the next minute Peter tried to keep Jesus from God’s mission and Jesus called him “Satan.”

2. Peter witnessed Jesus’ glory in the transfiguration, and he saw the power of God at work in Jesus through the healings, the exorcisms, and even in the miraculous catches of nets full of fish, and a single fish with a coin in his mouth to pay their taxes.

3. When many in the crowd turned their back on Jesus because the demands of discipleship were great, Jesus asked His disciples if they too wanted to leave, and Peter declared, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life…you are the Holy One of God.”

6. We watched Peter learn to serve when Jesus washed his feet.

7. We learned that there is hope for the fallen by seeing the way Jesus treated Peter after Peter had denied Jesus three times.

a. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He sent word through the angel that He wanted to see Peter, and then Jesus made a private appearance to Peter, and finally Jesus reinstated Peter in the presence of the other apostles in John 21.

8. Then we saw the change in Peter that came after the resurrection of Jesus and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

a. Peter rose to the occasion and to his calling, and proclaimed the truth about Jesus to the crowd of Jews on the day of Pentecost, and in a single day the church grew from a group of about 120 to a group of over 3000.

9. From that day forward, we saw the influence of Peter’s life as he had a ministry of healing, helping and encouraging, and has he had a ministry of rebuking and correcting.

a. We saw Peter’s courage as he would not be silenced by the Jewish leaders, even though they arrested him, beat him, and threatened him.

10. At the house of a Gentile named Cornelius, we witnessed Peter allowing God to change his heart and mind about the prejudices he had toward the Gentiles.

11. And then last week, as we saw Peter’s miraculous escape from prison and from the hand of Herod, we, along with Peter and the early church, worked to understand that God is in control and that God’s will is not always our will.

D. Today, as we bring our journey with Peter to completion, I want us to look at what we know about the end of Peter’s life that comes to us through history and tradition, rather than from Scripture.

1. I also want to encourage us to consider Peter’s legacy and our own legacy.

2. God has put eternity in every human heart.

3. We have been built by God in a way that causes us to always pursue meaning.

4. The heart’s desire of every human being is to mean something and to be valuable in some way.

5. This heart’s desire causes many people to despair and to chase after all kinds of empty pursuits.

6. But the only way we can truly have meaning in our lives, and for our lives to have permanent value, is to be rightly related to God.

E. Peter understood that truth and he lived a life that was rightly related to God.

1. Peter became a great man and a great leader in the church.

2. After the counsel in Jerusalem of Acts 15, about A.D. 49, Peter concentrated his efforts on the vast multitudes of Israelites who were scattered throughout the eastern portion of the empire.

3. In Galatians 2, Paul wrote about the approval he had received from James, Peter and John, those reputed pillars of the church, that Paul should go to the Gentiles and they, Peter and the rest, should go to the Jews.

4. And so, unless tradition is very much mistaken, the last 16 or 17 years of Peter’s life were occupied by a wide system of evangelistic ministry.

a. Accompanied by his devoted wife, Peter went from place to place leading many people to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven.

5. It appears that Peter ended up in Rome, and perhaps wrote 1 and 2 Peter from Rome.

a. Peter ended his 1st letter saying, “She who is in Babylon…sends you her greetings.” (5:13)

b. There has been much speculation about whether the Babylon he spoke about was the literal Babylon, or whether it was a figurative name for Rome.

F. You will recall that in the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in John 21, when Jesus reinstated Peter, he told Peter that when he was old, he would be arrested and put to death against his will.

1. The fulfillment of that prophesy took place there in Rome, during Nero’s persecution, when Peter was executed, along with his wife about 66 A.D.

a. This is not recorded in the NT, but there are numerous references in the Church Fathers.

2. Clement of Alexandra in 195 A.D. wrote: “Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call to go home, shouting to her very encouragingly and comfortingly by name and saying, ‘ Remember the Lord!’ Such was the marriage of the blessed apostle.”

3. Lactantius wrote in 320 A.D.: “While Nero reigned, the apostle Peter came to Rome. Through the power of God committed to him, he worked certain miracles. And by turning many to the truth, he built up a faithful and steadfast church to the Lord…It was Nero who had Peter crucified.”

4. Lactantius also wrote: “Execrable and notorious tyrant as he was, Nero determined to destroy the heavenly church and to abolish righteousness; and becoming the persecutor of God’s servants, he crucified Peter and slew Paul.”

5. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth in the second century, states that Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom at the same time.

6. Jerome, in the 4th century, attests that Peter was crucified and crowned with martyrdom, his head being turned earthward and his feet in the air, because he held that he was unworthy to be crucified as his Lord was.

7. Peter, the rock, was faithful to the end.

G. As we move toward a conclusion, I would like to share with you three reasons why Peter’s life has eternal repercussions (I am borrowing these from Erwin Lutzer).

1. As we consider these repercussions, let’s keep in mind that Peter had been just a common fisherman before he experienced “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”

2. Peter was just a common human being just like you and me.

3. Peter was a sinner with the same kinds of struggles that you and I face, and yet because of God’s work in his life, his legacy continues to inspire us today.

4. And our legacy can inspire others as well.

H. First of all, Peter’s life has eternal repercussions because of what he believed.

1. Let’s notice what Peter wrote: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

2. Peter believed in Jesus because of what he had seen and heard.

a. Peter understood more clearly than anyone that he had been in the company of God in the flesh.

b. Peter truly believed in God incarnate.

3. I know that all of us wish that we had been there and had seen and heard what Peter had seen and heard, but the truth of the matter is that we have something just as good.

4. Peter goes on to say in verse 19ff: 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

a. Peter believed in the incarnate Word – Jesus, but he also believed in the written Word.

b. The Word of God is a lamp shining in the dark places of the world and in our hearts.

c. We need to believe in that light of God.

d. There is a day coming when we won’t need that light, but until that time we have this sure word of testimony – we can trust God’s word – we must know and trust in what we believe.

5. Peter’s life has had an everlasting impact because of what he believed, and so can ours.

I. Second, Peter’s life has eternal repercussions not just because of what he believed, but because of what he did.

1. We don’t have time to talk about all that Peter did, nor do we know all that he did.

2. But we know that Peter preached sermons and testified to the truth, and served people in many ways.

3. The many things that Peter did because of his faith had a great impact on the lives of multitudes of people.

4. Revelation 14:13 says: And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

5. Shakespeare said that the evil that men do lives after them, but the good is interred with their bones – there is some truth in his statement.

6. God keeps track of the good and the bad that people do, and I’m thankful that those of us who are in Christ are forgiven and our sins are forgotten by God.

7. Throughout this series, I have been saying that our lives have an impact for good or for evil.

8. Every deed you and I do has repercussions sometimes for generations to come.

9. We have impact on the adults and children around us, in our homes, neighborhoods and church.

10. We won’t know the full impact of our lives until the end of time.

11. So Peter’s life has eternal repercussions because of what he believed and what he did, but there is one more thing.

J. Third, Peter’s life has eternal repercussions because of what he became.

1. God is in the business of changing people.

a. Peter wasn’t a rock at the beginning of his relationship with God, but that is what he became.

b. God wants to change each of our hearts and our lives.

c. God wants us to be more like Him, because He made us in His image.

d. God wants to change us from the inside out.

2. In Peter’s second letter, he wrote about this transformation that God wants to bring into our lives.

3. Peter wrote: 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

a. How awesome is it that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness?

b. How awesome is it that God has given us His precious and very great promises?

c. How awesome is it that we get to participate in the diving nature?

d. What a relief it is that we can escape the corruption of this world and can overcome our sinful desires.

4. So much of what we can become is because of what God does for us on our behalf, but there is also a lot that we need to do in cooperation with God.

5. So after telling us what God has done for us, Peter then addressed what we must do: 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:5-10)

a. We must make every effort to add these qualities into our lives.

b. We must be more diligent to confirm our calling, by our faithfulness and godliness.

c. But look at the wonderful promise – if we will make the effort, then we will be effective, and fruitful and will never fall.

6. To drive home this need to change Peter ended his letter pointing to the end time and asking an important question.

a. Peter wrote: 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…? (2 Peter 3:10-11)

b. Every earthly thing that we know is going to be burned up, dissolved and destroyed.

c. Think about it – that includes every work of art, every car, every house, every toy, all clothes and jewelry – everything…but human beings – human souls.

d. The human soul is the only earthly thing that will live forever – every human soul will live on in eternal reward or eternal punishment.

e. So, how then shall we live? We should make every effort to change and grow so that our lives will have a positive eternal impact.

K. As we studied the life of Peter, we were reminded again and again about how much God loves us, how patient and forgiving God is with us, and about how amazing it is that God works through imperfect folks like Peter and like us.

1. The life of Peter certainly illustrates the old saying: “God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.”

2. God did and continues to do so much through the life of a man named Peter.

3. After seeing what God did through the likes of Peter, it gives me great hope to think what God might do through someone like me and like you!

L. Let’s end this sermon series the way we began – with the poem written by Myra Brooks Welch in 1921 called “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”

‘Twas battered and scarred, And the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while

To waste his time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bidden, good folks”, he cried, “Who will start the bidding for me?”

“A dollar, a dollar, Do I hear two?” “Two dollars, who’ll make it three?”

“Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice; going for three -” But, No,

From the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow;

Then wiping the dust from the old violin, And tightening up the strings,

He played a melody, pure and sweet, As sweet as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said, “What am I bidden for this old violin?” And he held it up with the bow.

“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? “Two thousand? And who’ll make it three?"

“Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice; And going, and gone!” said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not quite understand,

What changed its’ worth? Swift came the reply. “The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin.

A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; A game - and he travels on.

He’s going, once; he’s going, twice; He’s going, and “almost gone.”

But the Master comes, And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,

The worth of a soul, and the change that is wrought,

By the Touch of the Master’s Hand.

M. All of us are like that battered, old violin – we are not worth too much in and of ourselves.

1. But in the master’s hand, we can be used to make beautiful music.

2. God can redeem us and transform us so that we can spend eternity with God and our lives can have a positive eternal impact, just like the man named Peter.

3. But time is passing, and we don’t know how much time we have left to leave a legacy.

4. We can’t go back and change the beginning or the middle of our lives, but we can start right now and make a new ending of our lives, because of the touch of the master’s hand.


The Life of Peter, F.B. Meyer, Edited by Lance Wubbels, Emerald Books, 1996

The Apostle Peter, Jerry Haughton

The Legacy of One Life, Sermon by Erwin Lutzer