“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” (Acts 1:15–16, AV)
There is an expression, “The pot calling the kettle black.” People use this expression to refer to one who is criticizing another when the one criticizing is equally guilty of the same. An example is the drunkard, criticizing another drunk because of his drunkenness. This thought comes up in many conversations I have had with people regarding Peter and Judas Iscariot. Their question goes like this. “What was the difference between Judas and Peter? Didn’t both men betray Jesus?” Let me address this briefly.
In this passage, Peter stands and addressed the actions of Judas Iscariot. Some feel Peter is criticizing Judas’ actions, and perhaps he was. However, Peter is clearly stating the facts regarding Judas and his actions. It does not appear that he was promoting himself above Judas, but there was a clear difference.
Before addressing the differences, let us first look at some similarities. Peter indicated that Judas was called to be a disciple of Jesus just like he was. Judas was also given a share in the ministry (v17). Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish authorities. And in a related way, Peter betrayed Jesus by denying that he knew Him three times during Jesus’ trial. Thus, in a similar way both failed Jesus.
However, the point that those with whom I have had this conversation normally bring up is that Judas had sorrow for his actions. Thus, he should be treated the same as Peter. Yet, here is a major difference between Judas and Peter. It is in the type of sorrow that each one expressed. Paul wrote about two types of sorrow people exhibit when they have transgressed. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10, AV).
There is a type of sorrow that is worldly. This type of sorrow does not bring a person to repentance. Repentance, metanoeo, refers to a change in mind and purpose. In the area of godly sorrow, it brings a person to reflect upon the mercy, grace, and sovereignty of God and realign his or her direction and actions with the purposes of God. In short, Judas had the opportunity to find forgiveness and repent from his actions and align his life with the purposes of God, but his sorrow was worldly and he did not. He chose the path of death.
Peter on the other hand, demonstrated godly sorrow, which brought about repentance and restoration to the purposes of God. Peter chose the abundant life of which Jesus spoke. Thus, Peter joined God’s sovereign purposes and was powerfully used by the Lord in the gospel mission, while Judas did not.
Let us bring this thought full circle to ourselves. When we mess things up by sinning against the Lord’s commands and purposes, do we have sorrow? Is our sorrow godly or is it worldly? The way to tell is by the result of the sorrow. Does the sorrow produce genuine repentance, a turning from self-desires to the purposes of God? If not, our sorrow is worldly and works death. There is no middle ground our sorrow is either godly or worldly. We are either truly repentant or we are not.