Dr. Luke, the Holy Spirit-inspired historian, recorded the stories of Peter and Paul, lives that interestingly parallel one another. Consider this…
In the Gospels, Peter’s life is riddled with selfish ambition and pride (Mark 9:33; Luke 22:24), doubt (Matthew 16:7), confusion (Matthew 15:15-16), and a general lack of compassion (Mark 10:13). Peter’s failures culminated when he infamously denied any connection to Jesus, not just once, but three times (Luke 22:57-60).
But there comes a moment of clarity. Fifty days after Passover, during Pentecost, Peter saw and heard the powerful presence of God as the Holy Spirit was showered upon the church. Peter was filled with the Spirit of Jesus! From this moment forward, Peter’s life was laser focused.
Can you see some similarity in Paul’s story? His moment of clarity came on that dusty road south of Damascus when, like Peter, he saw and heard the powerful presence of God. Prior to “Saul, Saul, why…” (Acts 9:4), Paul’s life, like Peter’s, had been marred by selfish ambition and pride, doubt, confusion, and a complete lack of compassion. But by God’s grace Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).
And… as Luke recorded, God performed similar miracles through Peter and Paul.
When Peter saw “a man who was lame from birth” (Acts 3:2) sitting outside the temple, “Peter said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!’ Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong” (Acts 3:6-7). Similarly, on Paul’s first missionary journey, “in Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet!” And he jumped up and began to walk around”(Acts 14:8–10).
Both Peter and Paul, confronted demon-empowered sorcerers (Acts 8:9, 20-24; 13:7-11). Both, by the power of the Holy Spirit, cast out demons (Acts 5:15; 16:18) and by the laying on of their hands, new converts received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6).
When the saintly Tabitha died, Peter “knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up” (Acts 9:40). When Eutychus fell to his death from the third story window, “Paul went down, bent over him, embraced him, and said, ‘Don’t be alarmed, because he’s alive’ ” (Acts 20:10).
Both Apostles were miraculously freed from prison. Peter’s emancipation came following the execution of James the son of Zebedee, and on the eve of his own date with the axe-man (Acts 12:6–11). Paul’s miraculous liberation from jail came in Philippi, on the second missionary journey (Acts 16:25-26).
One last item for your consideration… Simon and Saul became Peter and Paul. “When Jesus saw him, he said, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called … Peter” (John 1:42). Jesus gave him a new name. On the first missionary journey, while on the Island of Cyprus, Luke embeds a footnote into the story: “Saul – also called Paul…” (Acts 13: 9). Many theologians point out that Saul was a Hebrew name and Paul was its Greek equivalent. They suggest that it was natural for Paul to use this name while serving in a Greek-speaking Gentile world.
I’d prefer to think that Jesus prodded Saul to give up the royal name, the name of Israel’s first king who stood taller than his contemporaries (1 Samuel 10:23), in favor of a name that meant “small.” Tall Saul became Small Paul. I believe that the once--proud Saul took a humble name that he might honor the One who had “a name above every name” (Philippians 2:9).