By Their Fruits You Will Know Them

In this Minister’s Commentary I would like to focus on the scripture in Matthew 7:20 which states, “by their fruits you will know them.” Since God’s church has been scattered and battered, there have been challenges to many of the teachings held by the modern era of God’s church. One of those challenged teachings has to do with whether Peter was the designated human leader of the Jewish early church. It goes undisputed that Christ is the head of the Church of God, but the question arises concerning Peter’s position as chief apostle of the church, especially during the time it was composed primarily of Jewish converts.

Since the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, some organizations teach that it is not clear Peter was the designated leader. Those who are not certain of this should review the record of God’s word before trying to debate the question. The following is a brief chronology of the approximate first 20 years following Christ’s resurrection.

In John 21 Christ clearly singles out Peter to ask for his loyalty. Then he tells Peter to “feed my sheep”. This comment is not directed to any other of the disciples, but to Peter alone. Even John, Christ’s good friend, who later recorded the event, was not included in this directive of loyalty and commission. If John had wondered who was to lead the church, he would not have verified Christ’s commissioning of Peter in his account.

In Acts 1:14 the apostles and other disciples are gathered together in “one accord”. At the moment a governmental decision had arisen, and it is clear Peter was the one to set in motion the event that would resolve their problem of who was to replace Judas:

Acts 1:15: And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said…KJV

In chapter 2 of Acts the church is gathered together “of one accord” on the day of Pentecost. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit many begin to speak in the tongues (languages) of the visitors from various nations. It is Peter’s address that is quoted, calling the convicted individuals to repentance. While the other apostles were involved in the preaching, it is clear Peter was the spokesman charged to call the believers to repentance.

Chapter 3 of Acts records the instance Peter and John approached a lame man. While John was present, it was Peter who commanded the man to “rise up and walk”. I recommend that you read this entire chapter.

In chapter 4 of Acts Peter and John are brought before the high priest where they are questioned. Again, it is Peter who responds:

Acts 4:8: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them…KJV

In chapter 5 of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira are broght before the the apostles. In this instance it is again Peter who pronounces their sentencing for having “lied to God”.

Again in Chapter 5 Peter is portrayed as the one who passed by the sick and they were healed. In verse 29 it is Peter who, as obvious spokesman, replied to the High Priest and the council that they were to “obey God rather than men”. These instances do not mean that the other apostles did not do great works, but it is always Peter who is portrayed as the spokesman and leader.

Again, in Acts 8:14 Peter and John were sent to Samaria to baptize those who had received the word. While there, it was Peter who condemned Simon, the sorcerer, for trying to obtain power from the Holy Spirit to do his own works. Chapter 9 is the account of Peter being used in the healing of Aeneas and Dorcas.

As you read through the first 15 chapters of the book of Acts, it becomes apparent Peter is the dominant spokesman. It is he who is most often cited by name, and if it is Peter and John, Peter always is named first.

Then the reader comes to chapters 10 and 11. These chapters are some of the most significant chapters in the New Testament. In them God shows the meaning of the scripture that says, “first to the Jews, then to the gentiles”. God uses Peter, a conservative man of the Jewish culture, to bring the message to the church that the gospel was meant for all men.

It is interesting to note that chapter 9 of Acts is the account of Paul’s conversion. But Paul’s commission to the gentiles does not begin until after Peter, in chapters 10 and 11, informs the church that the gospel is to be preached to all mankind, not just to the Jews.

In chapter 12 the subject is largely about Peter’s imprisonment and miraculous delivery from prison.

Finally, in chapter 15 Paul, along with Barnabas, appears before the Jerusalem council regarding questions as to the Gentiles’ adherence to Jewish customs such as circumcision. Once again it is Peter who takes command and quiets the raucous assembly so that Paul and Barnabas can be heard (read verses 6-12).

It becomes obvious, then, when reading through these first 15 chapters of Acts that Peter is the main player on the stage. While other events are recorded and individuals are named, it is Peter who rises up as the spokesman and the one who takes primary responsibility in carrying forward the commission to preach the gospel. It is through him that the call for repentance goes out and the door to the conversion of the Gentiles is opened. Once the spotlight shifts to Paul’s commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, Peter falls into the background, but that does not imply he is no longer the leader of the church.

At the beginning of this commentary I mentioned that the principle, “you will know them by their fruits”, is important in this article. As you read through this account of Peter’s ministry, you can readily see that Peter bore the fruits of leadership. He was the one to whom Christ looked to fill that leadership role, yet He also made it clear that Peter would be a small “pebble” (petros) compared to his own stature as the Rock (petra) who would be the true head of the church – the one upon whom the church was founded.