1 PETER Part 22
1 Peter 5:12-14
We now come to the final portion of this very provocative and insightful letter, penned by the Apostle Peter to Christians exiled from Rome because of their beliefs – and scattered throughout a broad region nearly the size of California.
These are places where Paganism and local gods, deities and superstitions run wild – and where Christianity has made very few inroads.
The culture is overwhelmingly hostile to the Christian worldview, and especially its morality and values.
And for the most part, these Christians are in isolated little pockets with few other Christians to turn to for support or even prayer.
They are misunderstood, discriminated against, and looked upon with suspicion and disdain. Relocated here against their will as if they were enemies of the State.
It is to Christians under these circumstances that Peter writes to give them a reminder and digest of just what it means to BE a Christian, and to live the Christian life under these extreme pressures.
So when we come to these closing words, Peter takes the time to summarize all he has said so far, but condensing it into this compact phrase: 1 Peter 5:12 “this is the true grace of God.”
In other words – THIS – what he has written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – is what TRUE Christianity looks like lived out in this present world.
However else some may characterize the Christian life –
- A pathway to power
- A means of achieving respectability, or success or financial stability
- A way to get the ideal family, job or life situation
- Or perhaps in our case, the way to grasp the American dream of freedom, personal happiness and security…
Christianity is NOT some method of getting the universe to give us what we want, nor to bend God’s arm to our way of doing things to accomplish our dreams.
Instead, Christianity restores us to living lives committed to God’s plans and purposes in the World through His Church.
Back to being what we were made to be – His image bearers.
To serve as His representatives in this World, displaying His excellencies and accomplishing His will.
This, Peter contends, is the “TRUE” grace of God – not what men want to make it out to be.
And we’ll come back to unpack that in a fly-by survey of the letter’s key themes in a moment.
So his closing is both simple and profound: It breaks down into 6 statements.
- 12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you,
Silvanus is the Latinized version of the name of someone most of us are already familiar with from Acts 15.
In that passage: Paul & Barnabas had been at Antioch in Syria, revisiting some places where they had previously preached the Gospel.
While they were there, some Jewish men came down from Jerusalem, telling the Gentile Christians they had to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses in able to be saved.
Acts 15:1 “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
This created quite an uproar as you might imagine – Paul seeing this as a direct attack upon the Gospel of grace: Salvation through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.
So off went Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to put the matter before the Church leadership there.
And when the Leadership discussed and debated it all – it is Peter who summarized the issue saying: Acts 15:7–11 “And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:19–21 “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
They then sent a letter conveying these things back to those Gentile Believers in Antioch, and with the letter, sent some of their own so that Paul & Barnabas would not be looked upon with suspicion as though they did this on their own.
And so Acts 15:22 notes: “They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers.” Along with them. Vs. 32 there notes that these 2 men were “prophets.”
This same Silas later in the chapter becomes Paul’s chief ministry companion taking the place of Barnabas.
Silas then would have been quite well known in Christian circles, and if Peter not only used Silas as his amanuensis, but also was the one who actually delivered this letter – it would have great confirmation attached to it.
- Peter says that in his letter he was doing 2 things: “exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.”
In other words, he wasn’t just giving them some advice, he sent the letter to goad them into accepting its contents and living out its principles with Apostolic authority.
- And what is that charge? Since this is the “true grace of God” – Stand firm in it.
That is his final call. Don’t abandon these things or let them slip – this is Christianity as God has given it – what it looks like to live as having obtained God’s highest favor in Jesus Christ – DON’T LET IT GO!
- She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.
The reference here to Babylon is somewhat disputed, but most take it as a reference to Rome where Peter now was, and as a symbol of his unity with them that even there, he too was in “exile” – even as the Jews in the OT were during their Babylonian captivity.
ALL Christians are in a sense in exile, until we come to our true home, the New Jerusalem which will come down out of Heaven at the end of all things. As per: Rev. 3:12 and Ch. 21.
Being in Rome was no less being in exile than being thrown out of Rome and into the regions where they were.
Because this is a spiritual reality, not a spatial or geographical one.
- Greet one another with the kiss of love. Keep your hearts tender toward one another even in this distress.
- For in fact – there is “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Peace that truly passes understanding – even in the midst of the most harrowing trials.
Which leads us back them to Peter’s Conclusions: It is his 2nd statement which is so pregnant with meaning – This is the TRUE grace of God – that they, and we – need to stand firm in.
If what he has written is to be understood as “the true grace of God” – what IS that true grace that we are to stand firm in?
And for this, we go back to survey Peter’s key themes in the letter.
- (1:1-2) Elect Exiles. Exiled, but God’s still. 1 Peter 1:1–2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
- According to His foreknowledge. NO Surprise.
- As part of His setting us apart from the rest of the world for Himself.
- As leading us to obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord above all earthly powers.
- For being purified in Him, not through religion.
Christians are to have:
- A fixed hope in Christ’s return and resurrection. Anticipating the living inheritance, undefiled, preserved for us Who are being preserved.
1 Peter 1:3–5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Christians are to:
- Endure Suffering & Persecution as normative. 1 Peter 1:6–7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Christians respond to these things:
- With non-Retaliation & Gracious responses to all authorities and persecutors: 3:9; 13-17. Firm but winsome.
1 Peter 2:13–17 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1 Peter 3:13–16 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Christians are not to be distracted from :
- Preserving & Perpetuating Christ’s Church. 1 Peter 4:7–10 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Both Elders and Non-Elders.
Christians must remember our:
- Eschatological Calling:
a. Revealing in Christ’s Character Holiness as opposed to the passions of the flesh and the values of this world.
1 Peter 2:9–12 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
b. Prefiguring of God’s final judgment. 1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Christians are facing:
- Supernatural opposition but with supernatural equipping in humble dependence upon The Spirit.
1 Peter 5:6–9 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
What he has written to them, regarding how to live as strangers and exiles in this present hostile world, IS what the true faith looks like. This is Christianity at its core.
This then dispels a very pervasive, but unspoken myth about being a Christian that persists among many today.
That is, that simply BEING a Christian is the key goal – we might call it a biological mindset of Christianity.
I AM all Christian, that’s all there is.
But God in His creation shows us quite a different picture.
Yes, when a human egg is fertilized, at that very moment, that fertilized egg is as truly and biologically human as he or she will ever be.
They aren’t some other species which then grows into becoming a human being – that ARE a human being.
But, they are not meant to simply BE a human being, they are never meant to remain a zygote.
They are meant to grow up into the fullness of their humanity and all that that implies.
This then is the very same reality with the Christian.
To become one, but never to grow more into Christ’s likeness,
Never to take on walking like a Christian, thinking like a Christian, feeding yourself and taking on spiritual responsibility is a sad and tragic anomaly – it is anything BUT the Christian life.
Peter is telling his readers AND us, the TRUE grace of God takes on a certain appearance and does not stop at being simply a “biological” child of God – but a one who lives out that life in the real aspects of life in this fallen world.
The true grace of God is our knowing His favor in Jesus Christ, irrespective of external trials and tribulations. And knowing that as we stand in this favor, we are not to retaliate sinfully against those who sin against us – but putting all of our hope in what will be ours at Christ’s return, depend upon His indwelling Spirit to respond in gentleness and right submission, while protecting and growing His people and His Church, resting in His sovereign hand, and living as eschatological lights in the world, and as indicators of God’s coming wrath on sin. Knowing all the while that we will be opposed spiritually, but remaining steadfast by the strength He imparts.
This, is what Christ has purchased for us by His blood. Not a bare salvation – but a glorious one – growing more and more into His own image by the presence and power of His indwelling Spirit.