November 24, 2008

The God of All Grace: 1 Peter 5:10-14

Have you ever been just at your wits end, asking yourself “Will this pain never end?” Maybe it is sickness, injury, or unexpected death in the family; difficulty with a child; a bad job situation or supervisor; frustration with sin around us or our country on the wrong path

One of the most common ways believers endure suffering is the general rejection of our faith and lifestyles by the world Most people around us, including lots of people who proclaim their Christian faith, want little or nothing to do with holiness, but, instead, want to live in comfort, their desire for pleasure and possessions being satisfied The rejection of our values is kind of a hidden suffering. It may not be overt or confrontational, but like a dripping faucet, it does wear on us.

Peter’s first letter deals a lot with suffering. You’ll remember that his first readers were violently persecuted. Many had fled the Roman cities to rural areas to avoid being tortured or killed. They were afraid. And because of the persecution and the threat of persecution, they suffered.

In 5:10-14, the concluding verses to this letter, Peter writes:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

God never tells us we are immune from suffering. Sometimes, we struggle to find the purpose for our troubles, and often we see that our faith grows stronger when we are facing trouble or suffering. In every case, we have the opportunity to focus not on the immediate situation, but the promises of God: the sure knowledge, as Peter tells us in verse 10, of the future with our Savior, who will make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”

I think Peter here has two restorations in view in verse 10: (1) the restoration from the pressures and events that cause us anguish and (2) the future restoration of us to Christ Himself in His presence in heaven.

In today’s passage, Peter tells us we can depend on a great promise: God will care for us through the sufferings of this life and preserve us in our faith and our future existence in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

God’s grace and call (10)

God has promised us His grace and has demonstrated to us time after time, and He has called us to be with Him forever. Everything He does for us is because of His grace. He is, as Peter says, the God of all grace.

God’s grace to us means he shows us favor. He favors us, blesses us; our very existence and His continuing care for us are gifts of His grace. As James tells us: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

Notice He has also called us to eternal glory. That is, eternal glory in heaven, with Him, where there is no more sin, disease, or death; no more pain or suffering.

The Holy Spirit through Paul describes the moment we will be perfected and glorified in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Note that Paul writes not about a change just in form, but in our very substance: from perishable to imperishable, from mortal to immortal. It is not just that those who are saved move from earth to heaven; we are changed in substance to something new bodies in which there is no sin, disease, death, pain, or suffering.

As Christians dwelling on earth, we know that God in His mercy and grace is our sustainer and protector no matter the pain and suffering we face. He has called us to be in His presence in heaven, and He promises to restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast no matter what we endure here. The term translated “restore” in the NIV is often translated “establish”; it means to strengthen and make stable or place firmly

In short, He is committed to keep and preserve us, no matter what trials, troubles, and temptations we face; He is gracious to us and He will keep us, because He has called us to live forever with Him.

Paul also addresses this:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:16-17).

He preserves us (10)

The literal translation of the last part of verse 10 is “will Himself perfect you, establish you, strengthen you, and make you firm.” The text uses the reflexive—God Himself will do this; it is not something we can accomplish through good works and not something we deserve. It is through His grace. God will make us perfect, which means to mend, repair, or to make complete.

The Holy Spirit promises this in the context of the suffering Peter has written about in this letter. In the midst of troubles, God puts us back together to make us more and more holy. Notice Peter doesn’t say God just takes over and solves the problems of life. What Peter does tell us is that in the midst of the problems of life He improves us, perfects us, and makes us strong, firm; He “establishes” us, which means sets us firmly in place.

We have all heard people say suffering or enduring difficulties is good for the Christian because it makes us stronger, wiser, feel closer to God, etc. Well, I am one who hasn’t always received those assurances very well. They always seem to come from someone who isn’t going through struggles themselves.

But Peter puts it all in the right context: the struggles themselves do not make us strong, it’s God who makes us strong. No matter what we face, He always is with us: He perfects us (mends, repairs, makes us complete); He establishes us (sets us firmly in place on his character qualities and His promises to us). Our assurance in Him is unfazed by problems we face He strengthens us (literally, fills us with strength). And He makes us firm (stable or steadfast), which refers to our faith increasing in times of trouble.

He has all power (11)

Verse 11 is a doxology or exclamation of worship and praise. Peter is expressing His faith and assurance: God has called us to His eternal glory, He Himself will perfect us, set us firmly in place, strengthen us, make us steadfast, because He has all power.

Peter’s closing remarks (12-14)

Peter closes his letter with some personal references to Silas, the purpose of his letter, Mark, and what he refers to as “she who is in Babylon.”

Silas is most likely the same Silas who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. He was one of the most active missionaries in the early church (Acts 15:40) and a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:27). Silas is called a prophet (Acts 15:32) and was in prison with Paul (Acts 16:19-40). He served with Timothy in Berea (Acts 17:14) and with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5; 1 Corinthians 1:19). And we learn from verse 12 here, Silas ministered with Peter in Rome. Silas is mentioned in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, and 1 Peter.

Peter also reminds his readers of the purpose of his letter: encouragement and testimony declaring the true grace of God in which his readers should stand fast. It is God’s Grace that gives us hope and assurance: our hope is real, incorruptible, undefiled, and permanent (1:3-5).

Peter’s conclusion contains what we might call an odd reference: “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings.” “She who is in Babylon” refers to the church in Rome. Because of the government-led and government-sanctioned persecution of Christians, secrecy was important during this time. “Babylon” was a common reference to Rome in early church letters, to protect the Christians in Rome, in case the letters would fall into the wrong hands.

Peter also tells his readers that Mark sends his greetings. Mark was known also as John Mark. We find him in Acts 12, where we read that his home was a meeting place for Christians. He was a cousin of Barnabas, another early church leader (Colossians 4:10) and a disciple of both Barnabas and Paul (Acts 12:25). Mark accompanied Paul on part of his first missionary journey but returned to Jerusalem before the trip was completed, which displeased Paul (Acts 13:13), but later accompanied Barnabas on his missionary trip to Cyprus (Acts 15:39).

Mark reconciled with Paul and was with him when Paul was under arrest in Rome (Colossians 4:10), and we find in verse 13 here that he also was ministering with Peter. This is the Mark that is the author of the gospel of Mark, and it is thought that the gospel of Mark was written while Mark was with Peter in Rome.
Finally, Peter writes, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” This was a greeting in families, a fraternal kiss. Among Christians, it was a demonstration of being brothers and sisters in Christ.

Note: While I usually teach from the New King James Version [NKJV], I am teaching from the New International Version [NIV] in this study in the book of 1 Peter because the NIV so accurately renders the thought of the original text. Regardless of the English translation used, I also the Greek New Testament. For those not acquainted in the biblical languages, a Greek-English interlinear Bible and Hebrew-English interlinear Bible can be of great assistance. Many of the interlinear Bibles also include Strong's numbering and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries keyed to Strong's for concise definitions. The most useful study Bible I have found is the MacArthur Study Bible, which is available in the New King James Version and the New American Standard [NASB] translation. The notations in the MacArthur Study Bible are accurate in reflecting the literal meaning of the texts and provide the backgrounds for the basic evangelical Christian doctrines. Another helpful Bible for English readers is the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, which is an NIV translation with numbering keyed to a Hebrew dictionary and Greek dictionary in the back of the book.)

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