Q. I’ve noticed that some Bible teachers say negative things about the original apostles. They say Peter had foot-in-mouth disease, or that he was a coward. Some teachers even claim if they were in the garden of Gethsemane on that night they wouldn’t have abandoned Jesus! They also criticize Thomas for doubting when he saw Jesus come back in the flesh. They say the apostles were lazy and selfish because they fell asleep when Jesus was praying just before His crucifixion. Yet these same teachers have nothing bad to say about Paul. They act like he was perfect. My question is, was he the best apostle of them all?
A. Peter was a big strong guy with a reputation of being boastful and assertive. On the night of the Lord’s arrest he drew a sword intending to single handedly protect the Lord against a whole squad of professional soldiers (John 18:10). That took a lot of courage. Later his self-confidence failed him and he let a couple of servant girls scare him away (Matt. 26:69-74). The lesson for us in this was to demonstrate that when we fall it will often be in an area where we think we’re strong.
But like the others, Peter didn’t receive the Holy Spirit until after the Lord’s resurrection (John 20:22). Compare his performance that night with his persuasiveness and courage in Acts 2-4 after he received the Holy Spirit and you can see the difference.
As for the disciples being lazy, I don’t think anyone could have gone through what happened that night in his own strength. The spiritual oppression must have been overwhelming.
Those who say they wouldn’t have abandoned Jesus in the Garden are just making foolish boasts, knowing they can’t be proven wrong.
Doubting Thomas was absent on the night the Lord came back from the dead and wasn’t there to see Him or to receive the Holy Spirit. It was when he was told what had happened in his absence that he said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” (John 20:24-25) How many of us have said something like that after missing a much more believable event?
But Paul has had his share of detractors, too. Some even say he “invented” Christianity just to get even with the Jews who rejected his teaching. As far as the impact the disciples had in the world, many people believe Paul was the most effective, but he called himself the least of all the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9).