The Peter Principle
By Rod Nichols (Rod@RodNichols.com)
Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter developed a theory called the Peter Principle. It’s a very popular business principle:
“Employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competency and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.”
There is also a Peter Principle taught in the Bible:
“We rise to a level of our own incompetence, but by accepting Jesus we operate in Him and are able to rise to ever increasing levels of competency.”
Let’s examine this principle, by studying the calling and life of Peter.
Matthew 16:18 says: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”
Peter was a competent fisherman. He had likely been fishing all his life. It was probably all he knew. Then along comes Jesus and calls Peter to be a fisher of men. He gets promoted to a level of personal incompetence. Peter knew a lot about catching fish, but he knew nothing about catching men for Jesus.
Let’s look at a snapshot at Peter’s life and review his incompetence:
Matthew 17:4 – Peter wants to set up tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah during the transfiguration of Jesus.
Matthew 18:1 – Since Peter was quite boisterous, it’s likely he was one of the disciples arguing over who would be the greatest.
Mark 8:33 – Jesus rebukes Peter, when in his incompetence, he tries to hinder God’s plan for Jesus.
John 18:10 – Peter, once again not understanding what Jesus was doing, tries to stop his arrest by lopping off the ear of the servant of the High Priest.
Luke 22:54-60 – Peter denies even knowing Jesus three times.
The Peter Principle – Peter was a competent fisherman. Jesus promoted him, even in name (from Simon to Peter), from a competent fisherman to an incompetent disciple. However, here is where the biblical Peter Principle differs from that of the world.
The world leaves the person at a level of incompetence or fires them to start the cycle all over. However, in the biblical version, God gives us the opportunity to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We then receive the Holy Spirit who operates inside us as our guide and counselor. Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit enables us to operate in competence in areas where we are incompetent. Let’s see how this works by continuing to examine Peter’s life:
John 21:15-19 – Jesus restores Peter and commissions him to tend and feed His sheep – to become a Shepherd of men.
Acts 1:14-39 – Peter preaches the first sermon of the new church and 3,000 were saved.
Acts 3:6 – Peter heals a lame man.
Acts 5:15 – People bring the sick and lame into the streets, so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them and they would be healed.
Acts 9:34 – Peter heals Aeneas.
Acts 9:36 – Peter raises Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead.
Acts 10:9-16 – Peter is given a vision that opened the gospel to the gentiles.
Unlike the first set of scriptures we read, Peter is now operating at a high level of spiritual competence. How did this happen in such a short period of time?
There are five keys to how Peter was transformed from incompetence to competence and how Jesus can transform each of us as well.
1. Jesus knew Peter better than he knew himself. He knew Peter’s strengths and weaknesses. He used Peter’s outgoing personality and his boldness and where Peter was weak, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, became his strength.
The same is true for each of us. If we will do as Peter did, agree to follow Jesus without question, then Jesus will use our strengths and where we are weak, He will be strong.
2. Jesus expected Peter to fail. Jesus recognized the sin nature in Peter and knew that he would do all the crazy things he did. Jesus also knew that He would need to restore Peter to his proper place and He did.
Jesus also knows that each of us will fail. He is ready to pick us up, dust us off, and restore us to our calling. This doesn’t mean we should seek to fail or not be concerned when we fail, but rather we should be seeking the Lord every day for His help with everything we do.
3. Jesus never stopped loving Peter. No matter how bad he was; even to the point of denying knowing Jesus three times, Jesus never stopped loving him.
Jesus never stops loving us either. No matter how bad you have been in the past. No matter what you have done or are doing now, Jesus is right there ready to accept and restore you to your proper place. His love is not based on what we do or don’t do, but rather it is based on the unconditional love the Father has for us. Jesus said that He did nothing that He hadn’t first seen the Father do and the Father loved us so much that He was willing to send His one and only Son to earth to be cursed at, spit upon, flogged to near death, and then crucified on an old rugged Roman cross, in order to legally atone for your sin and mine.
We have all sinned and the penalty for sin is death. We all deserve death, but because Jesus loves us even when we are unlovable, we are saved from death and restored to our rightful place as children of God and co-heirs with Jesus himself. Hallelujah! That is good news!!!
4. Jesus offered Peter restoration and he accepted. Peter could have felt that he had done something so awful that Jesus could never forgive him and missed out on the restoration. Fortunately for all of us, Peter was willing to receive the restoration and went on to fulfill his calling.
Jesus offers each of us restoration right now. If you who have never accepted the restoration, by asking forgiveness for your sins and accepting Jesus as your Lord, then you have that opportunity right now. Also, if you have been away from God for awhile and would like to be restored, you too have the opportunity to re-commit yourself to Jesus right now. Just ask Jesus to forgive you, and then commit your life to Him.
5. Last, Jesus called Peter to follow Him and fulfill his calling. Peter made a free will choice to follow Jesus and fulfill his purpose.
Jesus is calling each of us out of our incompetent world to follow Him into competence, so that we too may fulfill our earthly purpose.
From the life of Peter we can gain great assurance. As we choose to follow Jesus, we will travel from our competent earthly life to a spiritual life where we feel completely incompetent and out of control. This is good. When we are no longer in control, God can take over and through Him we, like Peter, can do amazing things.
Rod Nichols is an Associate Pastor at Truth and Grace Foursquare Church in Tacoma, WA. He is also a published author and accomplished public speaker and teacher. Rod’s latest articles and books can be found at www.RodNichols.com. Rod is married with five children. He and his wife Karen live in beautiful Washington State. Rod is available as a freelance writer. If you'd like to hire him, e-mail Rod@RodNichols.com.
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