In this chapter, Peter is closing out his letter to his fellow believers, and as he closes, he briefly summarizes the need of the church, the body and bride of Christ Himself. I find it remarkable that with the intense and violent persecution that came about in that day, that the needs of the church were basically for godly Leadership, humility, courage, and faithfulness. We have lived in a time where that need is more clearly seen, especially with the compromise of the Southern Baptist Convention in the US. Allow me to explain before we begin our study, because I believe this is not just important, but that it is mission-critical for us as believers in Christ today.
You will remember that Peter was writing this letter as a comfort and response to the intense and violent persecution that had arisen because of a ruler trying to avoid the consequences of his own evil act in burning down Rome. Nero wanted to rebuild parts of Rome in his own image, and so he ordered some of his henchmen to burn it down. What he did not anticipate is that the fire got out of control, and it burned more than he planned, and that the suffering his actions caused took an emotional toll as well as just loss of property and life. [Cut to present day. We have unrighteous rulers that are ignoring the needs of their citizens in countries all over the globe that set policy that affects us the same way. Pay attention, because it has implications which I will explain.]
To avoid the consequences of enraging his citizenry, Nero identified a scapegoat that was not well armed and well prepared to deal with the false accusations of setting fires as a form of “insurrection” against Rome and Nero in particular. This sect had the bonus of being connected to the unpopular Jewish people, and of not worshipping the Roman gods like everyone else. [Does this group of people sound familiar to you yet? No? Then I will have to identify the historical group that Nero scapegoated.] This group was known by then as “Christians,” or “little Christs,” because they ran around as little miniature Messiahs doing good and spreading the truth that all people were now called to repent and believe the good news that Jesus had provided the perfect sacrifice for sins by giving up His perfect life on a Roman cross as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice. (In case you miss the theological implications there, it means that we have all sinned and incurred the wrath of God, but that Jesus paid the penalty for us. This was mocked by Nero for several reasons, including that it did not give him what he thought of as his rightful place as a living god. I know that makes us snicker a little, but that is what he thought of himself.
Nero’s idea worked. Our first brothers and sisters in Christ suffered personally under this persecution. As Nero hoped, it instantly galvanized the Roman people against this Christian sect. The persecution that followed was passionate. It involved arrests, tortures, unlawful confinements, tortures, isolations, and executions in multiple and horrible forms. Some were crucified. Some were burned like torches. Some were fed to deliberately starved wild animals. Some were used as target practice. Some were simply killed. We even know the names of some of them. Peter himself suffered under this persecution. Tradition has it that he was crucified upside down over three days, all because he did not feel worthy to die the way our Lord did. The main success here was that it took the attention (and therefore the heat) off of Nero.
Beloved, this has been the case through all of history, including the present day. Are you aware that the current financial ruin that we are all experiencing first hand, and all of the political turmoil that we see around us is being blamed on “White Christian Nationalism?” I suppose it is a small comfort to think that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s really funny to me personally, because you can tell the folks that say such things have never read the Bible for themselves. Also, I’m not white, strictly speaking, I’m Metis, and either 1/4 or 1/8 Mohawk. That’s enough to actually live on the reserve, by the way, not that it matters anymore. That matters to the conversation about the way that “a fish needs a bicycle,” to quote. My “hybrid” status does not fit their paradigm, so they tend to ignore me, which absolutely pleases me. As for the accusations of Nationalism, they couldn’t be more wrong. I have no interest in this world of any of its petty kingdoms. My King’s words to Pontius Pilate were, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would fight, but My kingdom is NOT of this world.” The only thing I really worry about is my ability to share Christ with people around me, and if that makes me some kind of nationalist, then that’s just stupid. However, they still call us all White Christian Nationalists and label us as domestic terrorists for our actual Christian ideals like Galatians 5:22-23, where Paul talks about the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives being the love of God for our fellow man, exuberant gladness at the salvation that God has given us, the peace of mind and spirit that He gives all of His children, the patience that we have when we are maligned unjustly, the kindness that we display to everyone, even while they are maligning us, the goodness (as in good will) that we give to everyone because they too are created in the image of God, the faithfulness we have in assigned duties at our jobs or anything else we put our hands to, our deliberate gentleness with which we respond to people when they are trying pretty much everyone’s patience, and the self-control that governs everything we do. Now tell me, which of those things is against the law? Does anything from that list read like terrorism to you? Me either. Yet, that is what they tend to do, and more and more as the days around us grow darker before the dawn of the Kingdom of God.
It is THIS kind of persecution that the young church faced, and exactly why Peter wrote the letter that he did, and the one we have studied to this point in detail.
I broke the chapter down as follows:
KV10: The Needs of the Church Briefly Summarized
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
1-4: The Need for Godly Shepherds in the Church
5-7: The Need to Follow in Humble Submission
8-11: The Need to Resist the Devil and Suffer like a Good Soldier
12-14: The Need for the Chosen to Stand Faithfully
KV10: The Needs of the Church Briefly Summarized
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
As is clear from the outline, Peter is going to summarize the thoughts that he has expressed to this point as a kind of concluding the letter. Peter is in a way saying if you don’t get anything else, get this stuff. We will jump into the text directly here, because it is of the most benefit to Peter’s letter and our understanding of it.
1-4: The Need for Godly Shepherds in the Church
When I look across the spectrum of everything I see out there that names the name of Christ as its Lord, I automatically know that it isn’t necessarily true. Jesus said as much by dividing the group in front of Him in the last times into His sheep and the rejected goats (Matt. 25:32-33). The whole passage reads like this:
All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:32-46)
How did this happen? How could it? How could the Lord let it? All valid questions, and I think they can be answered by a hard look at the so-called leadership in those organizations. Some of them are clearly not led by actual believers in Christ, even those that claim to be “defenders of the faith” as it were. I’m not going to use up our time by decrying them, though that would not be an unbiblical idea. Paul named names and called out specific sins. I think out time at this study, however, is better served if we take this horrid state we are in now and show that the need has never been more clear for GODLY LEADERS to shepherd the flock of God.
We have already looked at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to determine the way that church leadership is supposed to be set up. This was not something that Peter concerns himself with in the letter he wrote here, and so we will try to restrict ourselves to what he says, because this is his letter, after all, and we want to understand his point without imposing our own. With that said, let’s get into the text.
1: Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
- Hey look, Peter starts with that word therefore, we had better see what it is there for! (Yes, I know, a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with.) Therefore is a conclusion-drawing word, and it gains its meaning from the context of statements immediately previous to this. What were those again? I mean it has been a week, right? I have slept since then. As it turns out, it is all about drawing a conclusion from everything covered in the 8 verses we considered last time. So here it is:
KV17: A pivotal decision–What is the reason for YOUR suffering?
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
12-14: Difficult Trials–are you really surprised they show up?
15-18: Now is the time that judgement begins with us…
19: Therefore, suffer for what is right, not what is wrong.
- Peter is saying BECAUSE these things ARE, that is, we as a church and as individuals are now facing this intense and difficult set of trials, and God is using this to purify all of His people, and because we have this incredible need to suffer for what is right, and NOT what is wrong, we need to respond in a certain way, which he describes in the next verse, which we will talk about when we get there in a few minutes.
- Because of this required application, Peter is taking the occasion to offer some strong encouragement (exhort). Who is the intended target of his encouragement? The elders in the congregation. That word for “elder” is not the same as the one used for “overseer,” which is episkopos, it is instead, presbuteros, and is used to describe and older man. However, given that one of the main ways that Elders in the church are developed is by time and experience in walking with Christ, the two words are often in the New Testament used interchangeably. This is one of the passages that shows that ideally there should be more than one for a church to exist. This plurality of oversight is to ensure accountability, by the way, among other things. They fulfilled the divine qualification mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and have given evidence of fulfilling those qualifications over time, and that is what is to be understood in this verse, at least according to Vine in his Expository Dictionary.
- Peter here is says he is writing Elder to Elder in this passage. This is important, because we should understand that he is writing to men who are probably at least nervous at what is happening around them. Peter is also going through it, and he is writing to men who are qualified to lead and guide the flock as a man who is also qualified to lead and guide the flock of God. He includes that he actually saw Christ suffer as added weight, as if to say, Hey, I know what you’re feeling because I’m right there with you, and I even saw our Lord go through this, and it was horrible to watch. But I also know what is to come after all of this trouble we are going to have to go through. It will be the glory that will be revealed, at least according to Peter.
2: shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
- Here is where Peter tells us what he meant in terms of the specific response I was talking about in the last verse. That response is to at least start in Church Leadership, the shepherds. Let me translate that remark into Christianese in case you didn’t understand it. This specific response to the trials and troubles we are facing as God’s people is to begin WITH YOUR PASTORS! PLURAL! The church model where the congregation grows lazy and hires one person to do all of the stuff that WE ARE ALL supposed to be doing (like caring for other believers in the congregation, that gets turned into “pastoral care” and has nothing to do with the actual care of their souls that the Pastor should be doing, or like the prayer meeting, assuming your gathering actually has one, or the bible study where only the pastor teaches all the time and no one else participates, and is often combined with the prayer meeting) is horribly broken and ineffective for surviving persecution. We are organized almost so that we ARE easy marks. Our gatherings in Canada are required to register with the government, and as “incentive” (read bribe), they offer us tax-advantaged status as a registered charity. I’m not saying that’s what we are here, but I have seen a lot of behaviour that is attempting to drive us toward that model, and a lot of either lazy or weary saints or flat-out false converts. I am not trying to cause trouble with my remarks, but shouldn’t we be conscious of these things, and strive to do them like they did them back in Peter’s day? If the God of the universe does not change, and His law does not change, and His word does not change, then why are WE changing again? I’ll drop that discussion for now, but I can tell you that BereanNation.com is working on a biblical framework document to guide gatherings according to New Testament suitability. It was a simple design, and simple to organize, and simple to replace when necessary, and simple to move when persecution arose. Just saying.
- What are the Elders supposed to do? They are to “shepherd the flock of God.” Peter is even specific as to what that means, and why a church has what I call an accountability structure to it. These shepherds exercise oversight in full view of each other so that they may hold each other to God’s standard laid out in Scripture. Remember when Jesus told us to love each other as His people? This is one (of the myriad) reasons why. And this oversite is not to be exercised under compulsion! (Aw do we HAAAVE toooo?) Beloved, whatever you are doing in the church should never normally be “because you have to,” but because you love the Lord, you want to serve Him, and therefore want to do what it is that will please Him for you! This is the meaning of “voluntarily, according to the will of God.” If something needs to be done, and you want to get involved, do not wait for an engraved invitation, start doing it! And of course you will meet opposition, even from brothers and sisters that don’t understand. Do it anyway if you are persuaded it is the will of God for you!
- “Not for sordid gain.” This is a caution, and to be frank, we see too much of this today. Don’t mistake what I’m saying. It is not wrong to make a living from the support of others that also believe the gospel and want to help you teach and preach, like that. But to turn your religion into a money-making scheme is wrong. Time would fail me if we named all of them, but Ken Copeland, Jesse DuPlantis, Perry Noble (who is still disqualified for other reasons), Todd White, Bill Johnson, Chris Valoton, and a guy with the actual name of Creflo Dollar all come rapidly to mind. I did a little research, because I had thought that Mr. Dollar’s name was originally Michael Smith, but that is apparently his birth name. These guys particularly have turned “naming the name of Christ” into a money-making pyramid scheme via the word-faith heresy that you have heard us talk about before. And they are not alone in this, there are too many others. And people still send them money! Such individuals preach their own version of our great Saviour and Lord simply for what they can get for themselves out of it, whose God is their appetite, as Paul says (Phil. 3:19). This is the reason you should NOT be a shepherd. If money and power are what you are after, try politics, not shepherding the flock of God.
- “…but with eagerness;” The Greek word is prothumōs, meaning “with a ready mind.” The Lexicon I found this in I think says, “willingly, with alacrity.” Alacrity of course means “with cheerful readiness.” You know the attitude! Ready to GO! Ready to STAY! Ready to STAND THE TEST! As long as it is the will of God. But there are more instructions, so we’ll move on.
3: nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
- We are NOT to be leaders that become tyrannical about it either! The Greek term Peter uses is a form of katakurieuō, meaning to take down by exercise of authority. As leaders in the House of God, we gain our office by serving others, not by making stupid rules for other people to follow. Someone that does that is rightly called a tyrant. Our Lord and Master girded Himself in a towel and washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. That duty was reserved for the most junior of servants! And HE did that for our brothers. And then He SAID we are to serve each other, not push each other around and demand things that God has not qualified you to do!
- Those allotted to your charge. The word here in Greek is klēros, it meant an inheritance, a lot or allotment. Here, the Greek literally says, “The charges [PLURAL!] allotted to you.” The NASB here has captured the Greek meaning well. Those saints for which you have been allotted to care for as a shepherd. It is also where we get our English word “Clergy,” so people that talk about the clergy as some add-on that came later are not correct, but it IS true that they are not a special class of saint or priest with mystical powers and ability. We have a different name for those individuals, we call them Apostles, and the last one alive was John. This was a little of that brain-damaged theology I had to sort out, by the way. I had always been taught that the “clergy” were something that came out later and were not a New Testament Church thing, but that isn’t true at all. However, this was just another way of describing church leaders, not a special office outside of that.
- And Beloved, these lists of qualifying behaviours are not JUST for Elders. While they are must haves for those who God would have in Leadership, these are characteristics for EVERY believer to have. It isn’t just my opinion that I say this, we should all be examples to other believers. I had a teacher in high school that used to say, “Don’t worry, you can always be used as a bad example.” Your behaviour is always representing something for someone. For the Christian, we are to be imitators of Christ. Sometimes we aren’t good examples of that, but it is something to which we should all aspire, especially those that God names leaders among the saints. It is our job to “show them how it’s done.” If something needs doing, Pastor, dig in and get to work! If you can’t do it by yourself, get some brothers to help! What’s the worst that could happen? That you build a church? How is that a bad thing?
4: And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
- And Shepherds, do a good job! There will come a day when the Chief Shepherd will appear. Would anyone like to guess Who that might be? [pause for answers] Jesus Christ, right! You can tell because he is handing out rewards for the faithful undershepherds. That reward is the Crown of Glory, beloved! Unfading! I cannot even picture it, and I have a really rich imagination!
Now, look at what the church has today. Beloved, I tell you I have been a Christian for 37 years on Saturday this week. I have been to different gatherings over the years for different occasions, and over time. I have never seen the dearth of leadership I see today. All I see are men that have their seminary degrees about how to interpret the ancient religious scriptures, and with very few exceptions, NONE of them have the Spirit of God guiding them, none of them live for Christ, none of them pursue God like a fish needs water to breathe! God calls us to this whole headlong pursuit!
I can tell you from experience, especially the last 8 years or so, that this pursuit is not easy, it is not safe, it is not idyllic, it is not pretty, and it rarely gives you earthly satisfaction–but oh, the benefits of a life spent pursuing our King with a whole heart, at top speed through dangerous obstacles, and only turning where you see Him turn, and only stopping where He stops! Beloved, if you want to be a leader, a pastor, a teacher, someone that preaches in the House of God, this is YOUR course. Let me give you the advise that was given to me at the beginning of my own pastoral course. If there is anything else you want to do, do that instead. If that doesn’t dissuade you, then get your running shoes on, and try to keep up. And no, we won’t be pausing because you need a breather. Suck it up, buttercup, it’s about to get real.
Oh, you don’t think you should be a Pastor or Elder? You’re probably right, not everyone should be one, or there would be no one to do other kinds of work like evangelize and disciple, show hospitality, administrate things, like that. No problem, the next section is for you!
5-7: The Need to Follow in Humble Submission
What I say here is also not a list only for certain people. In case I was not clear, God wants all of these great and holy character traits to be held and practiced by ALL believers, not just the Elders. However, these things are REQUIREMENTS for Elders. If you want to be an leader, then consider this a sort of to-do list! And in the meantime, practice them in preparation for that. Until then, follow such individuals in humble submission. Also, please note, this is a requirement for Elders as well. Just as they need to humbly follow the direction of God, if you are not one of them, YOU must follow them, and Peter talks about how that should happen here. Let’s get into the text and find out what he is saying.
5: You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
- Here is another place where I kind of take issue with the NAS translators. The word for “younger” in Greek [neoteroi] is translated as “younger men” because the adjective is masculine in the language rules, kind of like Le Français or La Française depending on the context. This does no doubt include younger men, but it also includes younger women. Now I’m not a Greek scholar, but the impression I get is that the Greek root neos is kind of like our English vernacular “Newbies,” but without the associated mocking disrespect that comes in English. The term would be like the word Freshman at university being transmogrified to “Frosh” for the mocking aspect of the word. Peter isn’t making a putdown here. The address is clearly to those younger in the faith, and no disrespect is intended.
- What is it telling people? It is telling people that they need to “be subject” to church leadership. That is represented by a form of our now familiar Greek word hupotasso, which of course means to rank under, originally a military term. Okay, I can hear the objections before you say them, so I’ll deal with them now and in context for Christianity. PLEASE remember that “submission” for the Christian is never blind submission, we call that being naïve and gullible. The word is “credulous.” You are also to submit to the Lord Jesus, and this is the man that he has appointed to lead and guide the congregation. That’s right, CHRIST ordained him for that specific task in the church. Christ, who stripped down to the essentials and wrapped himself in a towel to wash the dirty feet of the disciples, a task reserved for the least of the servants in rank. You see, leadership is determined in the house of God by who serves the most, and only those that God qualifies this way should be involved. In a real church, this is never a problem. I know that there are a lot of so-called “pastors” [really “impastors,” a polemics term for an unqualified individual pretending to be a pastor] that demand your fealty instead of earning your loyalty today. Never in history has the need been so clearly demonstrable if you ask me for real men of God to step up and take the reins of leadership in God’s house. If we saw more of this, there would be MUCH less objection to this point. Get out from under those kinds of leaders. Find biblical ones if you can. Yes, you must submit to your leaders, like it or not. But there is also a little good news here.
- They all need to be humble with you as you are humble with them. In fact for a leader in God’s house, humility is a requirement. How does Peter phrase it? “…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…” There is no “lording it over” for anyone. Anyone doing that is in clear violation of Scripture. When you are speaking to a brother or sister in Christ, you are speaking to another being for whom Christ died. Show a little respect. And even if you are addressing an unbeliever, that is still someone that bears the imago Dei, and is worthy of respect. The taunting and name-calling that we are all naturally given to has no place in those kinds of discussions, no matter how clever your riposte or how much you want to do it. Stop that. Be clothed with humility. For those that need a practical application here, being humble is showing the love of God for them and putting their actual needs in front of your own in terms of priority. So Pro-death person at one of their own marches accosts you as you are going about your unrelated business to tell you that abortions are YOUR fault because MEN need to take responsibility for their actions. What is their actual need? Is it not to share Christ with them and explain to them that they are correct in their assertion to you? Oh, and be prepared to duck.
- Peter even goes so far as to demonstrate his point with an Old Testament quote: “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Folks that have been around for a bit and know how to use their cross-references will know that is a quote from Proverbs 3:34. That verse reads, “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” Remember that the New Testament writer is free to interpret the Old Testament under inspiration of the Holy Spirit if you want to understand the word difference. That part of Proverbs 3 is a contrast study between the righteous and the fool, and was written by the brainiest dude that ever lived, King Solomon himself. Peter is simply highlighting the principle reflected in that passage. If you should doubt me, look for a moment in James 4:6, which reads, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.'” The context there is a contrast between those who would become friends with the world and its corrupt system (fools) and the righteous. Peter is saying directly, “Be humble with each other. Don’t be a fool.” Next verse.
6: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
- Peter even widens the application of the “be humble with each other” to more than just with each other. I think what he is addressing here is that even though you WILL be maligned because you are putting their needs at a higher priority than your own, you WILL also be vindicated. Remember all of our so-termed “Calvinist rhetoric” that people love to decry as old-fashioned and utterly impractical as well as non-Biblical? Here is a little that makes perfect sense, especially if you consider why Peter is writing this letter or if you have read the Book of Job and know that there is an unseen reality going on all around us. You do not go through a single trial that is not already approved by the Father first. Some of you were here when I covered that reality when we looked at Job on Sunday mornings. We learned that as evil as the Devil is, he is Still GOD’S Devil. He can only go as far as he is allowed to go, and we do not know how far that is. It is possible that God will allow him to take your life. Think of all of the reformation martyrs, for example. I always think of Jon Huss, whose last words were something like, “you may cook this old goose, but I see the coming of the swan that will topple you.” That’s not exact, but I do find it interesting that the swan was Martin Luther’s banner, and that he came on the scene about 100 years after the death of Jon Huss by burning at the stake. Today, especially among those who follow reformed doctrine, Jon Huss is completely vindicated, and the Catholic cult that burned him still has not apologized for it or shown any remorse. But HE saw the coming of Martin Luther, the man that began the Protestant Reformation in reality, and shouted it to the world with his dying breath. And if we needed to point it out, WE now are speaking of HIM in terms of the honour HE has as a faithful witness to Christ. God exalts him now as we remember his faithfulness.
- That is a large-scale application, and most people will not be asked to be burned at the stake for their faith in Christ, I trust. But how many of us have made commercials for ourselves because we think what we are doing for Christ is important, and we need people to know that we are being faithful? That’s the logic we use, but Jesus said (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16) that if that’s what we are doing, we have our rewards in full. I could share a number of examples, but I don’t want to shame people needlessly. I’ll share instead that I have to fight this tendency MYSELF! Remember that term “impastor?” I described it as a polemics term. Are you aware that I am the first person coined it for use in publication as an editorial suggestion for an article in 2017? I’ve done other stuff like that too, but if I talked about it incessantly outside of the example context, wouldn’t that just be a huge commercial for myself and how clever I am? Yes, it would be, and I would have what I really wanted—the admiration of others at my abilities. I’m sure you have encountered the individual that must be the “best” in the room. The smartest (the one that simply MUST contradict EVERY statement that they know something about just to show they know something about it), the most religious (When I met with the pastor myself to discuss [issue], I presented, I resolved, I pointe out, like that), the most vocal (the ones that never shut up regardless of topic), the most humble (and they’re very proud to tell us about that accomplishment), like that. Don’t do that. And don’t stop them, God forbid we should keep them from the desires of their heart, right? All of this is to say that all of our shameless self-promotion is essentially hubris, and will cause us to fall a long way. Why not rather let God do the promoting? He will bring about your exaltation at the best time for Him, which incidentally will be the best time for you, but not because of you, but because of Him. That’s what Peter is talking about brought into the present.
7: casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
- That is hard for us, I know. Instead of trusting the Lord and simply humbling ourselves to wait upon His timing, blessing, etcetera, we tend rather toward something else, and Peter nails it: Anxiety. The Greek word is merimna, and it literally means “to be drawn in different directions.” Peter is well versed in what this means, having lived it. Let’s look at Matthew 14:23-31.
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:23-31)
- When Peter first got out of the boat, he was only focused on Jesus. But after a few steps (and it usually doesn’t take long), Peter began to be distracted by the impossibility of the situation. The wind picked up, maybe. A wave passed by in his range of vision. It split his attention, and caused a fair bit of anxiety, and he began to sink. Now fortunately, Jesus was right there, but Peter, for a few steps, at the command of Jesus, actually walked a short distance on the water. My question is this: what would have happened if Peter would not have allowed himself to be distracted by the impossibility of his situation? We have no way of knowing. But did you notice that Jesus was right there? You bet he was. Why? To save Peter from his impossible situation at the right time for Peter, all according to His will. Beloved, we do not need to have the mind-splitting anxiety that causes us to sink into the depths of despair, inaction, paralysis of action, like that. He is there, He cares, and He will save us in spite of ourselves. We only need do what Peter did—cry out for help to Him and ask. What is he going to do for those who are His? Watch them drown in despair? NO!!! He will save them, though that can take unexpected forms.
To go back to the beginning of this paragraph, this is about humbly following the God-provided leadership of your gathering. If you are in a real church, God has placed these men in charge. Humbly follow their instructions. They have a difficult job, which is to guide YOU! As believers, we are often biblically compared with sheep, and I find this to be true. I know we have talked about this before, but being compared with sheep is an unflattering and accurate comparison. First, sheep stink. If you have a large herd, you can smell them for miles. Beloved, WE stink, being sinners. Yes, the Lord is imparting his righteousness to us by sanctifying us, a topic Peter discusses in this letter at length, but it is clear from simple observation that we all NEED that cleansing.
Also, sheep are stubborn. If they get it in their head they want to go “thataway,” nothing YOU can do will stop them, even your strongest warnings. I wonder what it would have been like to have been in the gathering at Corinth on the Sunday morning they read the letter where Paul was telling them that the guy who was having sexual intercourse with his father’s wife was read out to the congregation? What would it have been like for the guys that had to escort him, probably under his protests, from the room and building? What would it have been like for the man himself, to find himself cut off from his supporting community? What must it have been like as it sunk into his thick skull that his own behaviour was wrong? How hard was it to leave that off? How hard was it to go back after that repentance? How joyful was the meeting where he would have publicly told the story of how the Lord gave him the heavenly perspective and had changed him permanently? That would have been real shepherding.
Besides that, sheep are dumb. They have no sense of direction (though they think they do, see sheep are stubborn). They cannot drink from water unless it is calm (it has to do with their nose placement). They require shepherds to guide them and they must guide them constantly! And for a flock animal, they have little or no flocking instinct sometimes. They do not pay attention to what is going on around them, like that. And they are also defenceless when predators come. (Another reason for a shepherd.) No, being compared to a sheep is not a flattering comparison. But it is correct. What can we do? Well, that’s what I saw in the next paragraph.
8-11: The Need to Resist the Devil + Suffer like a Good Soldier
Again, the need for resisting the Devil has never in history been clearer for those who would follow Christ. As sin and lawlessness (which are different aspects of the same thing) are CLEARLY on the increase, we need to stand for what is right according to God’s standard. This WILL cause suffering of the same type that Peter is addressing in this letter: Persecution. It is incumbent on us as believers who would follow Christ to suffer like a soldier suffers as he fights. He fights through prevailing conditions in terms of weather, terrain deliberately messed up to impede his progress, enemy-placed obstacles also meant to impede his progress, enemy fire meant to slow or stop him altogether, the minor or sometimes major injuries on the battlefield, like that. All of these things a good soldier must suffer and continue to advance on his assigned objective. Let’s see what Peter is saying.
8: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- Peter here to open the thought starts in with a warning. BE SOBER. I must once again note that the word “spirit” is in italics in your English bibles if it is there, and that indicates that the word “spirit” is not in the original, it has been inserted by the translators in an attempt to clarify the meaning. In this case, I do not believe that it is necessary, but it does not take anything away or add to the meaning. The word for “sober” itself is a form of the Greek word nephro, which in its most basic and literal form means to abstain from wine, or if you like, we can extend the meaning easily to be free from the influence of intoxicants. The word itself does not imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it, and that is the next phrase Peter uses. Before we get there, however, that list of intoxicants can get VERY long. Alcohol is very clear, narcotics and other forms of pharmakia are easy to include, but there are activities that can produce an intoxicating effect. Anything that gives you a rush or dissipates your focus on your walk with Christ can theoretically be included. Sex, Music, Games, anything for which an addiction is possible, up to and including TV and the internet are in the possible intoxicating influences. What Peter is saying isn’t so much “don’t drink,” but rather “be careful what you are giving your attention to.
- Be on the alert. This is one Greek word, grēgoreō, which means to be awake, here your reference to being watchful. It is necessary to add weight to the “be sober” statement because of the danger that being intoxicated has for your focus, at least that’s what I take from this. It isn’t my opinion, it is what I see as the intended meaning Peter has in the text, which is more than just “my interpretation,” but is instead based on my understanding of the linguistics and meanings of words. But why does Peter want us to figuratively keep our wits about us?
- Because we have an enemy that is patrolling, and who is actively looking for his lunch like a predator. The picture Peter uses is a wild lion hunting his prey, and one who is not afraid to make his own presence known with his signature roar. Who is he seeking to devour? “Someone.” That someone, no doubt is not focused on a sanctifying walk with Christ, and is therefore vulnerable to becoming an entrée for the enemy’s meal.
9: But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
- Here is another reason we want to be sober and undistracted in focus—we are going to have to be prepared to FIGHT this adversary. How else does one resist an enemy like a roaring lion? We could run and hide, true, but that is not what Peter is saying, nor is it what God wants. We are to RESIST. The Greek word here is a prefixed word, and it is anthistemi, anti, against (in this meaning) and histemi, to cause to stand. Literally to stand against. KJV here for those that like that is to “withstand” which means the same thing. It implies that you are to resist the attacks and assaults that he sends your way, in other words, to do combat in a spiritual and metaphorical sense. How?
- Firm in your faith. The Greek for “firm” is stereos, and we get our word for steroids from this word. Steroids are literally known for their enhancing of physical performance. The Greek meaning is a bit different, but it does mean, “solid, hard, of stiff.” Steadfast is a possible translation here. And what are we solid in? Our FAITH. There is that Greek word pistis again, and remember that it is best defined as a firm persuasion or opinion held strongly enough to move you to action. Peter is saying to know what you believe, and STAND in that knowledge, literally whatever the enemy of God throws at you. I always remember that scene from Lord of the Rings where Gandalf is trying to rally the soldiers of the city of Minas Tirith to defend the city right before the city gate is breached. He said, “You are soldiers of Gondor! You will defend the city no matter what comes through that gate,” or words to that effect. We could say something similar to ourselves! We are soldiers of the King of kings and Lord of all Lords! We will stand in His strength, no matter what comes at us, and trust in Him! Because, according to Peter, this isn’t unusual or surprising.
- We can have the knowledge that literally “the same suffering” [auta ton pathēmatōn] is busy “perfecting” or “completing” your brethren who are in the world. Look, you can tell me that’s my interpretation if you like, but all I did was translate the Greek. No, I am not a Greek scholar, but I know enough to use tools that can aid in basic translation and have it make sense in English. It is true that we are suffering in the world while we are being perfected by these same sufferings. But do you realize this betrays a secret about our enemy? If everyone everywhere is under the same kind of attack, that makes him a one-trick pony. If all he can do is throw this stuff at us for actual attack, it means we can learn how and then resist in faith. That’s what Peter is telling us here! There is nothing new under the sun. We’re all going through it. The way to fight it is to stand firm in faith, and then no matter what happens to us personally, God is glorified, which is the whole point of the whole war with the enemy in the first place.
10: After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
- Peter even tells us what the CERTAIN result will be if we will faithfully stand. He says that AFTER we have SUFFERED for a little while [possibly for the rest of your life, which is only a little while for God], that the God of ALL grace, who called us TO HIS ETERNAL GLORY (See? It is HIS glory that is important, not ours) in Christ, will do good things to and for us. And Peter even listed those things, so we will look at them!
- Perfect: katartizo, to make fit, to equip, prepare. Here, it is used in the sense of ethically preparing or perfecting us as vessels of His grace and fit for His use. Comparatively, it is used oppositely in Rom. 9:22 to refer to vessels of wrath, but Peter is being clear that this is for the target audience to understand as a benefit because they are not those vessels of God’s wrath.
- Confirm: sterizo, to fix, make fast, to set. This is used in the NT as the establishing or confirmation of people, and in this particular passage, it is meant to reflect the confirmation of His people through the ministry of His Word, according to Vine.
- Strengthen: sthenoō, literally meaning strethening, and represents the divine promise of making us able to be in His eternal presence, for which we will require more strength than we now humanly have.
- Establish: themelioō, literally, this means to lay a foundation or to found something, like a founder would do. It has metaphorical uses as well, like in Ephesians 3:17 where we are grounded in love, but here is seems to be used in the sense of “settle,” as in establish in a new setting.
- These things are what God promises conditionally that He will do for us if we will faithfully stand against the enemy in faithfulness to Christ, whether the enemy ends us or not! Paul is calling us to remain faithful, and these are the reasons to do so.
11: To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Remember a few verses back when we mentioned the unseen reality all around us in the Book of Job? How the Satan (the accuser) could only go as far as the Lord Yahweh would let him go? The Devil is still God’s devil. He cannot work unless God permits, as he did there in Job, all to make a point that only peripherally involved Job, all without Job’s knowledge or permission. You can try to pretend to be offended at God for that, but hey, Satan started it by trying to get at Job in the first place. Or do you think God didn’t know what he was up to the whole time?
- No, He knew, and he limited Satan accordingly. This is the one about whom Peter says to HIM be dominion for all the ages, Amen [So be it].
It seems to me that if you deny that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, you will find most of the Scriptures unintelligible. You will read about a war that seems to be winnable by the enemy of God who we read is smarter than all humans put together, but somehow bumbles the victory away because of, I don’t know, God is really lucky or something. I mean come on, really?
Friend, the reason you might be having trouble seeing what we are talking about here is not because we are being unclear. You are not becoming angry because we are leaving you behind with big words. You simply cannot see the kingdom of God, because you are NOT one of the believers that Peter has addressed with this letter. But you CAN be. Let me explain how.
First, you can lose the anger, because it is misplaced. You, sir or madam, are a SINNER, someone that has broken God’s holy standard, His moral law, written in the 10 commandments by the hand of God Himself on two tablets of stone that He then gave to Moses. Ever tell a lie? That’s one, and no matter the size of your falsehood, that makes you a liar. Even those white lies to protect yourself from the consequences of hurting someone else’s feelings. I could go through all ten if we had an hour more or so, and show that all of us have violated all ten 10 of them. If that is God’s standard, when you stand before God to determine whether He will give you eternal life, assuming He is consistent with Himself and judges you by those 10 commandments, how do you think you will do? I’ll tell you. We would ALL be lost. Romans 3:10 tells us that there are NONE righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:23 further tells us that ALL have sinned and “missed the mark” of the glory of God. We aimed at the target, we took our shot, and fell far short of it, to use the words of the Greek for that verse. Worse, Romans 6:23a tells us that the “wages” of sin, what we earn for ourselves by our working, is DEATH. That’s the bad news. You’re a dead man walking, literally and spiritually speaking.
But God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life! God knows that we are all sinners. He loves us anyway. He does not WANT to send you into eternal and conscious punishment forever. He detests that idea so much, that He gave His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ as a payment for the price of our sinning! We did the crime, His Son Jesus paid the fine. Scripture tells us that God was so happy with that sacrifice that Christ was raised from the dead to show that the price for sins was paid, the power of sin in our lives was broken, and that someday he will remove the very presence of sin from our lives. Now he offers the resulting eternal life for those who have until now been lost in sin and death to YOU as a GIFT. That gift was NOT free, but He paid for it Himself if you want it. But like any gift, it isn’t yours until you reach out and take it.
You take that gift of grace and forgiveness first by a biblical concept called repentance. To repent means to change your mind about something. What needs to be repented of here is your sins. You need to admit that they are sins that offend a holy God, and then you need to turn away from them and stop doing them, because they offend God! The other thing you need to do is believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, because that is the proof that your sins HAVE been paid for and their power in your life is broken. If you will do that, God will save you from His wrath that is coming on the whole world because of sin. Turn to Christ before you run out of time. And before you decide to wait, I suggest to you that’s a bad idea. You do not know how much time you have left to you. You could walk out across the street from here and get run down and die, and then it will be too late. Or worse, Jesus could come back and rescue all His followers and leave all unbelievers behind to be given over to THE lie that is prepared for all those that did not love the truth and turn to Christ. I’m not saying don’t think about it. I’m saying be aware of your very dangerous position.
Turn to Christ!
12-14: The Need for the Chosen to Stand Faithfully
In my opinion, the biggest theme that is running through this short chapter is the need for faithfulness from all the believers in the body of Christ. That kind of a funny statement, because there are ONLY believers in the body of Christ. There are people, as we saw over the course of this week, that are in positions of prominence in the Southern Baptist Convention that are anything BUT faithful to Christ. These people are false brethren, and not believers, though they will tell you that they are, and then probably accuse you of slander and gossip if say otherwise. As I have been saying throughout this study tonight, the need ahs never been grater for faithfulness for everyone in the true church. Leaders need to be faithful shepherds of the flock of God, the sheep need to be faithful to walk with Christ and obey their shepherds as they follow Christ, and everyone needs to be faithful to stand in faith against whatever the enemy and his servants throw at us. Even the unbelievers need to obey the gospel, and if they will not, then the return of Christ to earth will take them all by surprise and things will not go well for them.
To put this in other words, the Elect of God, chosen from before the foundation of the world, need to stand faithfully in the things that God has given them to do, ourselves included. I’m not going to debate how they are chosen here, I’m simply going to telly you those are biblical titles for these concepts and leave it at that. Let’s see what Peter says.
12: Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
- Peter is closing out his letter to the saints here, and we need to understand some details about why out of the blue Peter mentions Silvanus. We have met this individual in the pages of Scripture, particularly in the letters of Paul. Perhaps you will recall the post-Barnabas duo of Paul and Silas? Silas was a Roman (Acts 16:37), and had a Roman name, Silvanus, the Latin form of the name. In fact the original name was God of forests, fields, and flocks, so I don’t know where to go with that. Silas is thought to be the Greek contraction of that name if you were curious. He would have been introduced to Peter at the council on circumcision at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-33). That council is dated at about AD 50 and Peter was martyred in about AD 64, so Peter had known him for over a decade and could give a recommendation on the man and describe his character and walk with Christ with the word “faithful.” Why would Peter bring him into this?
- As it turns out, Silvanus was likely Peter’s secretary and scribe, who would have written the letter Peter was dictating! Read the sentence and omit all of the subordinate and modifying clauses to clarify this. “Through Silvanus, I have written to you briefly…” There is now no doubt in my mind and should not be in yours that Peter is telling us who scribed the letter.
- Peter was telling us also that this letter and its contents contain the true grace of God, at least as Peter saw it. As Christ’s chosen Apostle, I can take his word for that, because I also understand the same grace, and we have been talking about it all the way through our studies of this letter, and indeed through all of the other scriptures we have studied to this point. Peter began with the gospel that justifies us before God, went through the baptism and trials in our lives that sanctify us in Christ, and even talks a little about our future glorification with and in Christ. These things, he says, “are the true grace of God!” So STAND FIRM in it! What I hear from Peter here is, “This is the gospel we are called to! Stand in it faithfully!”
13: She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.
- She who is in Babylon. The She is a veiled reference to the bride of Christ. Why is the reference veiled? Well, consider the persecution of the church that was at that very moment looking to expose as many believers as possible for societal purging. Kind of like today, by the way. What? You don’t think car thieving is a socially acceptable lifestyle? We need to cancel you! We’ll leave it alone. By the way, THAT is ALSO a veiled reference, and if you know what we are talking about, then you know. It is not wrong to do this, nor is it cowardice, it is a measure to make sure that the gospel can be continued to be spoken at the moment. Ultimately that “subtle” subterfuge will fail, and we will change those words again. This is simply Peter engaging in the practice. Everyone that Peter wrote could easily figure out what he meant here.
- Babylon. This is the very first kingdom used to discipline the people of God in the Old Testament. Babylon destroyed the Temple of Solomon and the entire city of Jerusalem. It was not considered a benevolent empire by those whose nation had undergone this discipline from God. It was the most evil and dark kingdom on earth, and that meaning became attached by the writers of the New Testament as well. There are a number of theories as to what Babylon is in this text, but the one I favour is that if represented the darkest place on earth. Many of us think that was Rome herself according to Ellicot’s Commentary, but I don’t think it is JUST Rome. I base that on this principle. Look with me for a moment in Revelation 11.
- When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (Rev. 11:7-8)
- This passage, talking about the two witnesses for Christ that will stand in the last days, predicts the witnesses’ death. It tells us that the their corpses will be left to rot in “the great city,” and then gives us the location. It is “spiritually” called Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was completely destroyed by burning by sulphur that rained down from the sky, and there have even been recent discoveries to show that on the shore of the Dead Sea. It is also called Egypt. Wait, Egypt is not a city, and as far as I know, never has been just a city. It is a region containing several cities known as a nation. That’s a pretty big area, and that leads me to believe it is not speaking about Egypt as we know it. But the last phrase here is the kicker. “Where also our Lord was crucified.” Now, all you Bereans will know that the Lord being spoken of here was Jesus Christ. In what ancient city that is still standing was He crucified? Anyone want to take a crack at that? [wait for answers] Jerusalem! This is not necessarily Rome, though I do think it is a likely candidate for Peter’s letter here.
- Adding to this idea, is Peter calling Mark his son. Do we know the name of Peter’s wife or children? NO! We do not. In fact, we do not know if Peter and his wife even HAD any children! No historical source confirms any of this. We know Peter was married because sometimes his wife would travel with him on speaking engagements, and Paul tells us that (1 Cor. 9:5). So who is Mark? We think it is John Mark from Acts 12. It is true that this Mark fled the work, but later he repented of his fear and helped both Paul and Peter, likely being the fellow who penned the Gospel of Mark at the dictation of Peter.
- All of these believers that are mentioned are faithfully standing at this point of history, and all of these are “co-elect,” or “also chosen,” with YOU, not simply with Peter (1:1-2). Beloved, knowing the deadly persecution that these were going through at the time, it would have required courage and faithfulness that came from an understanding exactly what Christ had done for them. How about you? Are you willing to face this faithfully? Because they actually did.
14: Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
- Here, Peter tells the saints to be reverent and loving in their greetings to each other. A kiss of love. The kiss here is from agape, the commitment of putting their needs ahead of your own, not a romantic or erotic kiss, Beloved. You see this practiced more in Europe than North America, where we have morphed the practice into the “holy handshake,” but the point is to express the love of God that you have and practice toward another member of the household of faith. Try giving my youngest daughter a “kiss of love,” and you’re going to get the right cross of fellowship. THEN you have to deal with ME. This greeting is to express your commitment to Christ with them as a member of the household of faith, and I find it interesting that it is wordless. Have you ever had a person not know how to end the saying of hello or goodbye? It’s off-putting, right?
- Then Peter wishes what I wish for all of you, Beloved, Peace from Christ as you walk with Him, and I cannot think of a more fitting way to end this consideration.
Beloved, think about where we started, and where we ended. We started with the glorious gospel of penal substitutionary atonement (Jesus died in our place), talked (for several chapters) about the trouble and trials we encounter, and how those also are a blessing from God to purify us by giving us opportunities to practice what we know to be true, and then to come to the end with a commitment to be faithful, and to properly value and care for the church of God, the very bride of Christ before you care for yourself. I hope that’s what YOU saw in the letter, because it is what I saw.
Now, we will (as is our habit) be taking the next three weeks off from our Bible Study. This is partly to allow me time to prepare for the next book, 2 Peter, because we are doing the General Epistles in order like we mostly did with the Pauline Epistles, and we have already done James and now 1 Peter. The other part of this is a bit of a prayer request. It is not exactly a secret that I have a lot of health issues that restrict my abilities, and I can often need more downtime for illness than I used to. These issues have been known to stop these times, my ability to study, and confine me to my easy chair (which is broken and shredded, hey life with pets) and keep me from reading or thinking. It’s hard to think through a headache. That’s what I did for this study, by the way, because I’m not being a snowflake about this. I do what I can, and I trust that the Lord knows my frame. Add to that a distinct price increase for pretty much EVERYTHING, and given the amount of medication I am on, you can imagine I’m having trouble keeping body and soul together at this point. Sometimes, I just need a break, and so one of those 3 weeks will actually be planned downtime for me to recharge so I can accurately handle the word of truth with you. You deserve nothing less, and HE deserves everything I can give, right up to my last breath, and maybe even after that.
Let me conclude like this: This week was the SBC Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA. They overwhelmingly voted to allow unrighteousness to reign and elected members that would not only allow drifting away from Scripture, but those that will actively steer the largest Protestant denomination away from Christ, and MOCK those that would point that out. On that last point, they have been mocking those of us who have pointed it out for a while now, so this isn’t anything new. It behooves us to take a faithful stand for the gospel and for the truth in a post-modern era where what they falsely call “truth” is all relative. You know, the truth doesn’t care about your feelings, and it is the desire to not have one’s own feelings hurt that gives rise to this blather. Don’t be like that. In the love of Christ, tell the world what is killing it, and extend a loving hand to help it out of that pit with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That way, no matter how we get to our Lord, we will be welcomed when we do get there.