Dear friend, have you ever wondered why Simon’s name was changed to Peter in the Bible? This name change signifies an important shift in Simon’s life and calling. In this post, we will explore the meaning behind Simon’s new name of Peter, looking at the Biblical context and significance. We will see how Peter grew into his God-given identity and calling step-by-step. Ultimately, we will find that Peter’s name change shows God’s transformative power at work in him, equipping Peter for his vital role in the early church.
In the Gospels, we first encounter Simon as a fisherman from Bethsaida who became one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Jesus gave him the nickname “Peter” early in His ministry:
Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone) (John 1:42 NKJV).
Later, in Matthew 16, Jesus formally renames Simon as Peter:
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:15-18 NKJV).
This name change from Simon to Peter marks a significant transition in Simon’s life. But what is the significance of this new name? Let’s explore this question in more detail.
- Simon’s name change to Peter marks an important transition in his calling and identity.
- The name Peter means “rock” and points to the rock-solid role Peter would play in the early church.
- Jesus established Peter’s foundational role, but also made it clear that He alone is the cornerstone and head of the church.
- Peter grew into his new identity through a process, including failures, lessons, and ultimately empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
- God desires to do a transforming work in each of us, just as He did in Simon Peter.
The Meaning Behind the Name Peter
To understand the significance of Simon’s new name, we must first look at what the name Peter means. The name Peter comes from the Greek word “petros” meaning “rock” or “stone.” When Jesus first met Simon, He called him “Cephas,” an Aramaic equivalent of the Greek word petros, translated into English as Peter (John 1:42).
By renaming Simon as Peter or Cephas, Jesus was indicating that Simon would become like a rock or stone. This signifies the key role Peter would play in the early church as a foundational leader.
The significance of this name became even more evident when Jesus formally conferred the name Peter upon Simon in Matthew 16. Jesus affirmed that upon the bedrock truth of Christ’s divinity, He would build His church. And Peter would be central to that building:
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18 NKJV).
With this name change, Jesus established Peter’s crucial foundational function. He would help lay the bedrock of truth upon which the church would be built.
Peter as the Rock-Solid Follower
As Simon grew into the name Peter, he increasingly provided rock-like stability and leadership to the early believers.
We see glimpses of this emerging strength even before Pentecost. After Jesus’ arrest, when other disciples deserted Him, Peter steadfastly followed Christ even into the courtyard of the high priest (Matthew 26:58). Later, when Mary Magdalene and the other women reported Christ’s resurrection, John noted that Peter and John rushed to investigate, with Peter entering the empty tomb first (John 20:1-9).
At Pentecost, the newly Spirit-empowered Peter powerfully preached the gospel, spurring 3000 conversions in a single day (Acts 2:14-41). Peter healed cripples, raised the dead, and introduced the first Gentiles into the church. Repeatedly, Peter courageously defended the faith and withstood persecution from the Jewish religious leaders. He provided stability and nurturing care for the growing church, exemplified as he restored and reinstated Mark after failure (Acts 12:12, 15:36-41). As the preeminent apostle, Peter helped establish church doctrine and practices. Throughout Acts, Peter’s rock-solid leadership is evident.
Clearly, Simon grew into the rock-steady role signified by his new name of Peter. He lived up to Jesus’ charge to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32) and shepherd God’s flock (John 21:15-17). As Peter matured as a believer, he increasingly reflected the stability and permanence of his name.
Christ as the True Cornerstone
Yet while Peter played a foundational leadership role, we must be careful not to overstate his importance. Scripture makes it clear that Christ alone is the cornerstone and head of the church.
When Jesus first called Simon Peter in John 1, He distinguished between Peter’s role as a stone and His own role as cornerstone:
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” (1 Peter 2:4-7 NKJV)
Peter himself makes it clear that Jesus is the head of the church:
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22 NKJV).
Peter’s leadership was important and God-ordained. However, Scripture establishes that Jesus Christ alone is the cornerstone, founder, and head of the church.
Lessons from Peter’s Process
An examination of Peter’s life also shows that his growth into this rock-like leadership role happened gradually, through many lessons along the way.
In the Gospels, we see Peter stumbling frequently as an impulsive, outspoken disciple. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter brashly refused to let Jesus wash his feet, prompting Jesus to warn that unless He washed Peter, Peter would have no part with Him (John 13:6-10). At the last supper, Peter loudly declared that he would never deny Christ, only to fall away and deny Him three times soon after, just as Jesus foretold (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75).
Even after Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep in John 21, Peter soon stumbled again at Antioch by giving in to peer pressure from the Judaizers, prompting Paul’s correction (Galatians 2:11-21).
These incidents show that Peter needed many lessons along the way before he grew into the resolute, spirit-filled leader seen in Acts. His growth required failures, corrections, and most importantly the empowerment of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Through all of this, Peter was molded step-by-step into the “rock” leader Jesus prophesied he would become.
God’s Transforming Power at Work
In studying Peter’s name change and growth, we see the transforming power of God at work in Him. Just as God transformed timid fisherman Simon into the mighty apostle Peter, He desires to do a transforming work in each of our lives.
As we submit ourselves to Christ, deny our fleshly impulses, learn lessons through failures and corrections, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, God will shape us step-by-step into the men and women of God He created us to be.
Like Peter, we may start seemingly unqualified – impatient, impulsive, unreliable. But as we yield to God’s wisdom and power, He will transform us rock-solid followers of Christ. The same powerful name change that happened in Peter’s life can happen in our own. We can become living stones shaped by the Cornerstone and built into His church (1 Peter 2:5).
The name change of Simon Peter reminds us of God’s remarkable transforming power. Let us reflect on Peter’s example, embrace the lessons God brings our way, and open ourselves fully to His work in our lives each day. As we do, we will grow steadily into the God-given identity and purpose He has for each of us.
In summary, Simon Peter’s name change from Simon to Peter marks a key transition in his calling and identity. The name Peter means “rock” and signals the vital foundational role Peter would play in Christ’s church. Though Peter stumbled often in the process, He grew through failures, lessons, and the Spirit’s empowerment into the stalwart leader Jesus prophesied he would become.
Peter’s firm leadership established him as a “rock” in the early church. Yet Scripture makes it clear that Christ alone is the true cornerstone and head. Through Peter’s example, we see God’s remarkable transforming power at work. As we yield ourselves to God, He will shape us step-by-step to become more like Christ and fulfill our God-given purpose as living stones in His church.
Let us reflect on Peter’s example and embrace the strengthening, shaping work God desires to do in each of our lives. As we submit to His wisdom and power, we will grow steadily into the rock-solid followers of Christ that He created us to be.