Did Peter lose salvation? In this post I will argue that in some sense He did. It is important to state at the outset that salvation is not by works or a performance based reward, especially as it pertains to deliverance from eternal punishment. At the same time it is important to reiterate as we have in past posts, that salvation is not just a future tense heaven because of a past tense deliverance for committed sins. Salvation is a present tense walking in the Spirit with a deepening relationship and intimacy with Christ, and an increasing power over sin.
In the following passage we find Simon receiving his new name from Jesus:
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
After Simon makes this confession of faith, Jesus says “You are Peter”. You will find that this is the first time that Jesus gives Him the name Peter. Of course the Gospel writers called him Simon Peter before this in their narration of Gospel, but they were writing in hindsight. Before this moment you will not find Simon being called Peter verbally anywhere. In a very real sense this name change is a form of salvation, or sanctification for Peter. He has been renamed according to his new purpose. He is now Peter, the rock, the one whom God is going to use to lead the young Church. He is saved from mediocrity, and brought into a ‘higher life’ set apart for the purposes of God. Though we do not receive new names at conversion, this new life occurs in believers when they are called to a specific purpose for the Most High God. When they are made more than mere converts, but become missionaries, preachers, husbands, wives, teachers, nursery workers, custodians, etc… believers become more than just believers, but members of His body with a specific function to carry out. If you are called specifically to bring comfort to believers in need you may no longer be merely Bill Smith, but Bill Smith, comforter of the Saints. When you are called to minister in a specific way you are no longer recognized by your mere name, but by your calling. Simon Peter, was not merely Simon, but now Rock, a leader and one Christ would use as a founder of His Church.
After Peter receives his new name we find him making a number of mistakes. He denies Christ three times on the night of His trial. He is rebuked as Satan when he rebukes Christ for saying that He would suffer under the high priests and scribes. Yes Jesus called him ‘Peter’ but He certainly did not function as a rock. The question we must ask is could Simon lose his standing as ‘Peter’ based on his failure? Could he fall back into mediocrity and lose his calling based on his failure to live into it?
We know Peter denied Christ three times as Christ predicted he would. We know that Peter went out and wept bitterly after He did this. Then we do not here much about Peter until after the resurrection. The Gospel of John gives us a little bit more insight as to how Peter reemerged as the leader of the Church after his threefold denial of Christ.
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Tend My lambs." He *said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." He *said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus *said to him, "Tend My sheep.
In reading this passage do you see what Jesus calls Peter? He calls him not by his new name of Peter, but instead Simon son of John. We know that at the second birth we become sons of God, so what is the implication of Christ calling Simon the son of John? In a very real sense this shows that Peter had lost salvation in the present tense. Of course this line of questioning by Jesus was His way of reinstating Peter to the call which He had originally called him to. It also was Jesus telling Peter that he had fallen out of the calling and thus needed to be reinstated or recalled to Christ’s purpose.
What is the application of all of this? Well it is important to understand that the calling of God to a particular purpose, say a teacher, or an encourager, or a pastor, or so on is first and foremost a privilege and a grace afforded to you by God. Moreover it is not a permanent decree based on his calling you at a given time, and in some sense God’s calling for you can be revoked. Does this mean you can lose justification, or glorification? That is not the argument I am making. However as God calls you to be sanctified for His purposes, and employs you for His kingdom, and saves you presently for His purposes, you must know that present tense salvation (sanctification) is not something you can presume upon, because it can be lost. If it is lost, it will take Christ to reinstate it, just as He did with Peter.
Are you failing miserably in your sanctification? Falling deeper and deeper into sin which you once had victory over? Were you at one time employed in the spreading of the Gospel, the teaching of His word, the encouragement of the saints, the humble service of those in need, and so on, but are no longer? Are you trying to live out something you know you were called to at one time, but no longer sense God’s power upon yourself in that calling? Maybe you have lost your salvation in the present tense, maybe you are with Simon on the side of that lake hearing Jesus call you by your birth name, and calling you the son of your human father. Maybe He needs to ask you three times if you love Him, maybe He need to ask you more times than that. Maybe your heart needs to be broken like Peter’s until you cry out to Him, “Jesus you know I love you!” then you will be reinstated to ministry for Him, and empowered once again.