1 Peter 5:6-14. Coping in Difficult Times

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: 1 Peter 5:6-14. Coping in Difficult Times
Date: October 27th 2016

1 Peter 5:6-14.
Coping in Difficult Times

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV

As Peter brings his letter to a close, he offers some summary imperatives to assist the churches in overcoming the consequences of the stresses that they are experiencing as they are working to maintain their witness and ministry in a wicked and perverse world.  When we understand the early church in this way, we find that there has been very little change in the relationship between the church and this world in all of these years.  There has always been tremendous pressure placed upon the church by this secular and pagan world to compromise its holiness and accept the mores of this godless culture, increasing its acceptance by those outside of the community of faith, and diminishing its effectiveness in propagating the gospel message, as well as dramatically diminishing the presence of “holiness” in our culture.  We tend to operate our churches like secular clubs that simply maintain a Christian theme, and in doing so we tend to be doing things in a manner that is quite the opposite of what the Holy Spirit would will.  Consequently, Peter’s summary imperatives are quite important and applicable to the church today.

Sustaining Godly Character.

1 Peter 5:6.  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Pride is a powerful and damaging fruit of our natural spirit.  Pride is one of the primary motivators among those who strive for success in this pagan and secular world.  However, the LORD has made it quite evident through literally hundreds of scripture passages that pride is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it serves to damage Kingdom work as it turns glory and authority away from the LORD of creation to those of that creation.  Because of our propensity to prideful behavior, we are continually taught to replace that pride with true and uncompromised humility as one recognizes the true glory of God and His amazing grace. 

Our sin nature that is so evident in our propensity to prideful behavior, convicts all people of their need for God’s grace, and subject to that grace, there is no place for feeling that any one individual is any better or more valuable than another.  God has declared that all people are of infinite value to Himself, hence He is not a “respecter of persons,” in that all people are equal and of great value.  All have sinned and come short of God’s glory.  All people deserve eternal separation from God.  It is only by God’s choice of grace that people are lifted up, and not by any work of their own.  It is only by God’s mighty hand that we are exalted above that which we truly deserve.  Peter reminds the church of that exaltation that will be realized at the end of the age.  There is no need for the church to fight for position in this society, nor is there any need for individuals to fight for position within the church.  Humility teaches us to submit ourselves to one another in love so that each can thrive within the context of their calling by the LORD as they exercise the unique gifts that God has given each.  The exultation that we seek, even when filtered by our bent to natural pride, will be rewarded at the end of the age when those who have humbled themselves before the LORD and before all men will hear the words, “well done.”

1 Peter 5:7.  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

In perhaps one of the best known and encouraging passages of this epistle, Peter reminds us that we can give to God all of the baggage that comes with the stressors of life because He loves us and seeks to replace that stress with His joy and peace.  The grammar of the first word ties it with the previous passage that refers to remaining humble and submissive in a world that despises the meek and humble. 

Peter uses a play on words that is evident in the English translation as the word “care” is used in two ways.  The first usage refers to those issues that burden us, contextually identified as those that are the result of persecution, rejection, or reproach that Christians may receive as a consequence of uncompromised faithfulness that is demonstrated as holiness in an unholy world.  However, it may also be appropriate to understand this verse in a broader context since God’s love transcends time or circumstance to include all of the worries that we carry.  God’s love for us supersedes our need to carry the burdens of worry or guilt. Peter’s imperative is simple: give them to the LORD.  Period.

1 Peter 5:8-9.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

As we live lives that are characterized by holiness, godly humility, and freed of the burden of care, we might do so thinking that “all will be well,” with little or no more effort on our own.  However, the battle that is waged between the faithful and this world is the same battle that is waged between the Holy Spirit and the adversary, the prince of this world, the devil himself.  Peter makes use of significant imagery as he describes the nature of the prince of darkness through the description of a roaring lion. “The lion image itself, though concisely depicted, is characterized by strong and vivid embellishment. First, the lion is roaring, conjuring up an auditory as well as a visual image of aggression and hostility. Second, the lion ‘is prowling around,’ a depiction that adds motion as well as threat and thus intensifies the visuality of the text. Finally, the lion is ‘seeking someone to devour,’ another vivid image that explains why the animal is prowling around and intensifies the sense of threat: those who succumb will be eaten up, swallowed, gulped down.”  The thoughts of the early Christians would immediately be drawn to the violent and bloody executions by the Romans when they threw their victims to hungry lions.   How does one stand up to such a formidable enemy?

Peter provides two imperatives that instruct us on how to deal effectively with the attacks that come from the adversary, those same attacks that we refer to as persecution, rejection, and reproach.

Be sober.  This call to sobriety is repeated frequently in the biblical narrative both by Peter and by Paul, as well as by the LORD.  Today’s culture tends to limit the application of sobriety to a separation from the intoxication that comes from the ingestion of alcohol or drugs.  However, though the term certainly includes these intoxicants, the term actually refers to a separation from any event or action that would tend to cloud our judgment or distract us from the truth.  The list of those things that can introduce wrong thinking into our minds is a long one, one that reaches far beyond drugs to include things like personal presuppositions, pride or prejudice, false doctrine, mob logic, secularist human logic, or any other influence on us that can guide our choices other than the One true source of holy choices: the Holy Spirit of God.  It is only when our mind is freed of the burden of error and we put on the “mind of Christ” are we truly sober.

Be vigilant.  This term is one used to describe the state of a military guard who is scanning the area around himself for any indication of a threat from any direction.  Though we are not to carry the baggage of worry, that does not imply a life of indifference or ignorance.  Some would leave the battle lines with a testimony that “God will take care of me.”  Though God does care and provide for us, we are still subject to the ravages of our own sins and the sins of those with whom we have a relationship.  It is through these that the adversary can attempt to defeat us.  Peter calls upon the faithful to keep up their guard against the wiles of the devil, much like Paul does when he recommends the faithful to put on the armor of God.  

Peter reminds us that the enemy of the faithful is not people, but rather is the adversary himself.  The adversary wins when he can get people, and particularly those in the body of the church, to quarrel and fight among themselves, doing so in ignorance of the true enemy who seeks to devour them.  Standing against the work of satan requires a constant watch as he works in this pagan and secular world to build up his own dominion. 

This battle is a subtle one.  Though the Holy Spirit draws the faithful to Himself, He still does so within the context of drawing them out of this perverse world.  It is a difficult task to leave this world fully behind, and when we are not perfected in that task we find ourselves burdened by the same issues that are experienced by this pagan and secular society.  Today’s statistics reveal that the frequency of divorce, suicide, abortion, infidelity and many other unholy choices among Christians is roughly the same as that among non-Christians.  Though Peter describes a Christian life characterized by humility and peace, he also provides an honest assessment of the battle that all Christians are embraced in.  Therefore: 

God’s Sustaining Grace

1 Peter 5:10.  But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

We are reminded that we all are in need of God’s grace.  We have done nothing to deserve God’s favor.  There is no work of man that can win God’s favor.  There is no power that we can appropriate on our own to defeat the adversary who seeks to destroy us.  Our only hope is in God’s grace, His favor that is given out of His own love for those whom He has called: those who place their faith and trust in Him, those who have found forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  The call to godly living in this world, a call that is also one that will bring persecution, rejection, and reproach, is one that is only for a short while when we compare the length of this life with the promise of eternity that awaits the faithful.

Meanwhile, God provides several resources to empower and enable us to withstand the attacks of the adversary.

Make you perfect.  In this application the word translated “perfect” does not refer to flawlessness as much as it refers to completion.  God is at work in the lives of the faithful, working through the circumstances of their lives to make them more like Christ, and more capable of dealing with the issues of the battle, a process that is often referred to as “sanctification.”  Personal perfection, as we understand it in modern terminology, will never be attained in this world.  However, God’s work to bring us to completion is a continuing process that would bring us closer to the target of perfection as we grow and mature in our relationship with God and in our obedience to the gospel mission.

Establish.  As God works in the lives of the faithful, He builds a firm foundation upon which they can stand without falling.  The foundation for the Christian is the Truth, the Word of God.  It is the rock upon which the house can stand against the storm.  It is the foundation that the faithful stand on when attacked by the untruths of this world.  Peter reminds us of that blessing that God gives to all who place their trust in Him.

Strengthen.  All people are powerless to stand against the adversary without the strengthening and sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.  Satan is powerless against even the quietest whisper of the Holy Spirit, but is fully empowered when the Holy Spirit is rejected.  One may be able to imagine an attempt to lift a very heavy weight on our own.  Most healthy adults can lift several hundred pounds of weight, given the proper inspiration.  However, one cannot lift several hundred tons without significant help.  The weight of this world can feel like thousands of tons of weight, but God is not limited by the weight of any circumstance.  Peter reminds us that God gives His strength to the faithful so that they would be able to overcome the overwhelming weights of this world.

Settle.  This term can also be translated, “steadfast,” giving the idea that one who has been established and strengthened will be undaunted in the task, unimpeded by the darts thrown by the adversary, and focused on the one high calling of God’s grace.  Too often we forget that God has empowered the faithful to continue steadfastly towards the goal line of His purpose and we sometimes find ourselves knocked off of the path by life’s circumstances, circumstances that are trivialities when compared with God’s glory and His purpose.  Peter reminds us that we need not be knocked off-course when God has given to us all of the resources to maintain a steadfast faith. 

1 Peter 5:11.  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

When we observe the hopelessness of our state apart from the blessings of God, and the hope that God has given to those who trust in Him, there is only one way to respond.  Those who have rejected Him will continue to treat God with apathy.  However, those who trust Him have no alternative but to give Him the praise and glory for what He has done for us that we could never do for ourselves.  Those who trust in God give Him the sole and ultimate authority over their lives as they understand that God is the God over all creation and deserves our humble submission, a submission that brings with it an unfathomable depth of blessing. 

The faithful also recognize that this dominion of God is timeless, and we can know that the relationship that we have with God, the love and goodness that He expresses, and the blessings that He gives to the faithful are eternal and never-ending.  This world and this universe will come to a final and violent end, but God’s mercy endures forever, and the home that He has provided for the faithful will be eternally with Him.

1 Peter 5:12.  By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.

As Peter brings the letter to a close, me makes reference to Silas.  His reference to Silas without any additional clarification leads most to understand that this is the same Silas who worked closely with Paul.  Some have argued that Silas actually wrote the letter, translating or applying Peter’s message into the Greek letter as a secretary or amanuensis.  This latter argument is made because of the excellent Greek grammar that is used, one that the untrained and Jewish, Peter would not have been so likely to have used.  However, the construction, “by Silvanus” implies that Peter is sending this letter out to its recipients by the hand of Silas, making no reference to Silas as its writer.  Lacking a post office or an Email account, it was necessary that this letter be carried to the churches in the area, and it is probable that Silas was the chosen messenger.

Peter states that the purpose of this letter was to encourage the church by sharing the true testimony of God’s grace, a testimony that stands against the false teachings of the day.  Peter’s letter certainly stands against the false teachings of today’s pagan and secular society. 

Peter also notes that we stand upon this true grace, repeating the context of the previous passage.  It is only on God’s grace that we can stand, and God’s grace is sufficient to stand against all of the opposition that He finds in the work of the adversary who would work to discourage and defeat us. 

1 Peter 5:13.  The church that is at Babylon XE "Babylon" , elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.

Peter closes the letter with a customary salutation.  The identification of Babylon XE "Babylon"  has been open to wide speculation over the years.  The physical city of Babylon has been abandoned in ruins for centuries, and there is no church established in the region of Babylon at this time.  The symbolic Babylon of Isaiah and John’s prophecies represents the embodiment of evil in this world, clearly not a reference to the elect.  Some, including Martin Luther XE "Luther, Martin"  consider Babylon to be a reference to Rome, an opinion shared by many scholars. 

Some may be ignoring that this is the salutation of the letter.  The context of the passage makes it clear that Babylon XE "Babylon"  refers the location of the church fellowship where Peter is located as he writes.  Since Babylon is always used in scripture as a metaphor for a place of evil, Peter is noting that the church wherein he is located is simply immersed in an evil culture.  Consequently, Babylon could be any large city, whether Rome, or even Jerusalem.  Though many believe this to be Rome, there is no evidence to place him there, though there is much evidence that would place Peter in and around the city of Jerusalem.  We can draw from this inference some encouragement as we realize that the stresses that are placed upon the modern church by this modern Babylonian culture were also experienced by the early church, and it was these stressors that led the writers of the New Testament to encourage those who are subject to Babylon’s persecution and reproach of the faithful.

Peter also mentions Mark, who is the John Mark who accompanied Paul on his missionary journey.  Peter may have met Mark when meetings of the church leadership were held in the home of his mother.  Early church historians, including Eusebius, maintained a close association between Peter and Mark, so much so that Peter referred to Mark as his “spiritual son,” and many considered the gospel of Mark to actually be Mark’s record of the gospel as he learned from Peter, and to refer to the Gospel According to Mark as the Gospel According to Peter would be reasonable.   

1 Peter 5:14.  Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul often closed his letter with an imperative to greet each other with a kiss, though Paul referred to a “holy kiss,” and Peter refers to a “kiss of love.”  Greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek was a common practice in the first century, practiced among both those within the church and those in the community.  There are still some cultures today who greet with a kiss, though the practice has been dropped by most.  Peter and Paul redefined this common practice by adding a spiritual context to the kiss of greeting so that it would always represent the love that comes from the grace of God.  If Christians would greet each other this way, they would always be starting their encounters with one another with a thought of the faith that they share.

Peter has been writing to a church in stress, and his last prayer for them is for peace, the peace that comes from the knowledge and experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are reminded that the peace and joy that God gives transcends circumstance.  Christians do not need to allow the circumstances of this life, so shaped by the evil in this secular world, to steal away their joy and peace.  Peace is found in one’s faith in the LORD, not in one’s trust in the world.  Peace is found when one’s trust is placed fully in Christ.

There are no less than 110 biblical references to pride and its negative impact on God’s purpose.

Acts 10:34.

Matthew 25:21,23.

Horrell, David G; Arnold, Bradley; Williams, Travis B.  Visuality, vivid description, and the message of 1 Peter: the significance of the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).  Journal of Biblical Literature, 132 no 3 2013, p 703.

Paschke, Boris A.  The Roman ad bestias execution as a possible historical background for 1 Peter 5.8.  Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 28 no 4 Jun 2006, p 490.

Ephesians, Chapter 6.

Romans 8:28-30, James 1:3-6.

1 Corinthians 1:19, et. al.

Richards, E Randolph.  Silvanus was not Peter's secretary: theological bias in interpreting δια Σιλουανοΰ . . . έγραψα in 1 Peter 5:12.  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 43 no 3 Sep 2000, p 432.

Revelation Chapters 17-18, Isaiah Chapters 13-14.

Luther, Martin (1990).  Commentary on Peter & Jude, Grand Rapits, MI:  Kregel. p. 226.

Acts, Chapter 12-15.

Acts 12:12.

McWilliams, Warren.  Peter’s Epistles.  Biblical Illustrator 43(1), Fall 2016, p 69.

Schreiner, Thomas R. XE "Schreiner, Thomas R."   1,2 Peter, Jude.  The New American Commentary, Vol. 37. Nashville, TN:  Broadman and Holman Publishers.  2003, p. 251.

1 Corinthians 16:20, et. al.


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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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