The Significance of Saints Peter and Paul to Christianity
Were it not for the remarkable efforts of Saints Peter and Paul in the early spread of Christianity, none of the majestic churches or the many beautiful lessons that we celebrate today, would have survived. Saint Peter, the Apostle, is considered the leader of the 12 original disciples of Christ throughout his ministry. Saint Paul is widely believed to have been the most influential Christian missionary proselytizing Gentiles into the early faith and establishing churches across Asia Minor.
Christians celebrate the feasts of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on June 29, (if this falls on a Sunday, the feast is referred to as the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul). This day marks the occasion of their martyrdom although history does not record them being executed on the same day, probably under directions from Emperor Nero after the sacking of Rome in the first century, CE.
Why do We Celebrate Saint Peter?
Saint Peter, the Apostle, who went by the name of Simon, was a simple fisherman from Galilee. During the time of Jesus’ ministry, he is said to have lived in Capernaum, at the Northwest end of the Sea of Galilee along with his brother, Saint Andrew, where they used to practice their fishing trade along with Saints James and John.
All the Gospels unanimously recognize Peter, as the first among the Apostles, often asking Jesus on behalf of the others when the meaning of a parable was not clear, or answering temple officials when they wanted information, or giving his boat to Jesus to preach to the gathering crowd.
According to the Gospel of Matthew: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Saint Peter is variously depicted as being vacillating and unsure at times, just like you and me. He could be rash and hasty on occasion, and sometimes act in irritation or anger. However, he could also be resolute, and gentle but firm, capable of showing great love and loyalty.
Peter was unschooled in the laws of Moses and it is doubtful that he knew any Greek, but when he was entrusted with responsibility, he showed great maturity and capability. This is the reason why Jesus chose him to be the ‘rock’ (in Hebrew, Peter means rock) upon which he would build his church.
Why do We Celebrate Saint Paul?
Although not one of the original disciples of Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, who originally called himself Saul, was a self-proclaimed detractor and persecutor of the early Christians. According to the story, on his way to Damascus, he encounters a vision that would reverse his views entirely, and transform him into a lifelong and steadfast disciple of Christ.
Saint Paul was a contemporary of Saint Peter and by agreement, preached the message of Christ among the Gentiles or non-Jews, while Peter, and other apostles restricted their preachings to the Jews.
Unlike Peter, Paul was well-versed in the laws of the Pharisees, and skilled in the trade of tent-making. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 13 are ascribed to Saint Paul. Half of the Acts of the Apostles deals with Paul’s life and works. It is to the letters left behind by Saint Paul to his followers, that the modern ideas of the Christian faith owe their origin.
”Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen! (Galatians 1:1-2:21)
If you wish to have these great patrons of the faith intercede for you in the devoutness of their faith, there’s no place better to do it than St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel. We can take your prayer requests to the holy land of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Write to us today.