Sin, Grace and Reward: A Case Study

Peter once again comes to the forefront of the Judgment Seat study.  His is a case study showing that even great failure does not in and of itself remove a person from great reward.

Our subject these past months has been on the Judgment Seat of Christ, an event which is yet future.  No one has yet appeared there and had the experience of receiving or of losing reward.  It is precisely because future things have not yet taken place yet that causes us some uncertainties.  When speaking of this future event, it seems strange, therefore, to talk about a “case study.”  This would be impossible if it were not for the fact that in the Scriptures the Lord gives us a small amount of information about the future of several individuals.  By looking at these men who have lived their lives and then at some Scriptures that point to their futures, we can pick up some ideas about the coming payday.  We must not allow Satan to paralyze us in our service for Christ by our past sins and failures.  There remains for every believer today to receive from Jesus the commendation of “well done, good servant”, as well as the rich rewards He has for such believers.

Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ

Peter was a regenerate man who was first a disciple of John the Baptist prior to following the Lord Jesus Christ.  About half way through Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter was selected from the large pool of disciples to be an apostle of Christ and this brought to him many wonderful privileges and responsibilities.  Peter did indeed give up everything to following Christ (Matt. 19:27).  However, in spite of his many privileges and opportunities, and even his devotion to Jesus, he still experienced sin and failure.

Peter’s Sins and Failures

Undoubtedly the most infamous time of failure and sin in Peter’s life occurred at the time of the arrest and trials of Jesus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter (along with others) failed to watch and pray and support the Lord in His time of trouble.  Peter was among those who fled when the Roman soldiers and Jewish temple police arrested Jesus.  A little later that evening, Peter went so far as to deny having any relationship with Jesus.  His denials were accompanied by cursing and swearing. And this came from one who just hours before had forcefully declared unswerving loyalty to the Lord.

The Scriptures record some other negatives about Peter.  He misused his tongue when he rebuked the Lord (Matt. 16:23) and when he was involved in self-promotion involving his place in Messiah’s kingdom (Luke 22:24). In fact, on a number of occasions his pride and arrogance were seen (Luke 9:46).  And then, there was the time when his fear of men caused him to demonstrate a terrible hypocrisy which nearly split the church at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-14).  These sins of hypocrisy and divisiveness could have had lasting effects on the entire church if it had not been for the faithful rebuke by the Apostle Paul.

Peter was guilty of pride, hypocrisy, divisiveness, disloyalty to Christ, multiple misuses of the tongue, fearing men and who knows what else could be added to this list.  Could such a man receive great reward at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ?

Peter’s Repentance

After his string of failures that culminated in his denials of Christ, Peter went out and “wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:75). While tears are not conclusive evidence of genuine repentance, in Peter’s case they do reflect a broken-hearted man and a repentance that was real. Jesus had said earlier that Peter would fail but that he would “turn again” (Luke 22:32) which is an accurate picture of repentance.  And furthermore, Jesus’ response to Peter after His resurrection shows that Peter’s repentance was indeed genuine. (Luke 24:34; John 21:15-19). Peter was truly repentant and his actions generally in the Book of Acts reveal this as well.

Peter’s Reward

In response to Peter’s questions about rewards (Matt. 19:28), the Lord promised that the Twelve (including Peter) would sit on twelve thrones in Messiah’s kingdom and would rule over the twelve tribes.  In that section, Jesus is referring to the time of His return to earth when He will fulfill the Davidic covenant and rule on David’s throne.  It is then that the Apostle Peter will rule alongside of King Jesus.

Peter will have ruling authority over one of Israel’s tribes in Messiah Jesus’ kingdom and will no doubt receive the Lord’s commendation of “well done, good servant.”  The Lord Jesus also told Peter (Luke 22:30) that he would eat and drink with the King at His table, which is a picture of close fellowship.

We learn a vital lesson from Peter’s life that even with much failure there can be much reward.  Sin and failure does not rule out the possibility of significant reward.  The key was Peter’s heartfelt repentance for his sin and his following through to serve Christ faithfully.  His various sins and failures did not automatically put him in the category of the “worthless slave” (Luke 19:22).

Peter’s Example for Us

So believer, even if embarrassing failure is true of you, crying out to the Lord Jesus in repentance not only cleanses from sin but frees you to faithfully and energetically serve Him. And in that there is great reward. We all can easily think of sin and failure that has been true in our lives.  Peter’s example for us is that we can still faithfully serve the Savior and experience great reward in that future day.