Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9th - Conclusion to First Peter

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
High Schoolers Preaching next week
Dave and Brooke
Ben and Holly
Craig and Katarina baby!
James' friend Aaron

Text – 1 Peter 5:6-14

There is so much in these last eight verses and I hope I do these verses justice. I did the schedule for the rest of the school year and we can just finish Second Peter if we stay on a strict schedule and that schedule requires us to finish First Peter today. Many of the things I could talk about from the end of this Epistle will be reiterated in Peter’s second epistle, so that’s why I don’t have too many qualms with just skipping over them.

So context, what was the beginning of chapter 5 about? Shepherds overseeing the flock, the church, and the church obeying the shepherds. Who is our chief Shepherd? Jesus Christ. Who is our chief Overseer? Jesus Christ. He is our good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, so that is where we’re going to pick up today, that we must humble ourselves under his leading.

1 Peter 5:6-14 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

This is a major theme at the end Second Timothy and James, that Christ is able to rescue us from the world and the efforts of Satan to destroy us, I think that it is such a major theme because of a very vivid story about David, one that we read two weeks ago but one that is worth rereading,

1 Samuel 17:34-35 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.”

Let’s read the other two Epistles as well to see how Paul and James described it; Peter follows James chapter 4 close enough that I think you could make a case for Peter quoting it as scripture, with will be something we’ll talk about a lot more in Second Peter.

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

2 Timothy 4:17-18 the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

In all of this Peter, Paul, and James are making a major point, that as terrifying, big, dangerous, and evil the Devil is, Christ is bigger. Remember when we talked about sheep we realized how defenseless they really are, they are totally without a defense mechanism and are wholly dependent on the shepherd for their safety. Likewise are with Satan, but we have such a great promise as these three passages, and add

2 Thessalonians 3:3 the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

As much as I need to stay on topic to get through this on time, I really want to remind you that it is foolish to worry about one or two things and hope to keep yourself alive. I don’t think it would be exaggerating at all to say there are a million things a day that try to kill you, from germs to gamma-rays, and only by God’s good pleasure are we spared to walk in the good works which he has prepared for us. We don’t resist the Devil under our own power, but by drawing near to God knowing that Satan cannot overpower or defeat the plans and purposes of God.

Our duty in this is to humble ourselves under the watchful and mighty hand of Christ, knowing that he cares for us. We watch for the schemes and plans of the Devil, which are to get us to doubt Christ and love our selves and worldly desires more than him. When we see these things come up, then it is absolutely imperative that we resist and flee to Christ, firm in our faith that he has overcome the world, overcome the grave, and is able to deliver us to Heaven.

You’ll notice to this point we haven’t really gone verse by verse, this is partly my fault and partly how Peter concludes his letter. I really should have taught chapter 5:1-11 as a unit, but also Peter is bringing a ton of themes together here at the end making his letter all come to a head in verse 10, and I’m trying to show you how all of these themes interweave. Verses 6-9 have been connecting the importance of good shepherds to the flock, and now Peter is going to tie that back to the suffering that he says the Christian is called to.

v.9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Peter is reminding his readers that this world is not their home, because Christians throughout the world are facing the same suffering. Our nature is to think we’re being persecuted worse than anyone ever, or that we’re being tempted more than we can bear, or that we’re being misunderstood and treated unfairly. But there is evidence that we cannot undergo anything that is special to us. And, God is vindicated in ensuring that if we so desired to escape temptation, we could.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Consider this, that there is no way we can be tempted that Jesus wasn’t tempted, yet he was tempted in ways that we will never be tempted. There is no way we can suffer that will come close to how Christ suffered, yet he suffered in ways we will never suffer. The Bible says Christ “learned obedience,” which isn’t to mean that he wasn’t perfect to begin with, but through his really experiencing things he proved through his actions that he is perfect. Theoretical obedience is good, but general tested obedience is better and his righteousness can now be imputed to our sakes.

And all that leads to verse 10, the culmination of Peter’s Epistle which has shown us the value of our faith, the holiness of Christ, the mercy and adoption we’ve received into God’s family, the suffering we must endure, the beauty of the resurrection, and his ability to be our Good Shepherd,

v.10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Some of the suffering that Christians have gone through in history and are going through today is truly terrible, and it could conceivably cut us off from Heaven if we were imaginative; for example, the reason John Huss was burned and then his ashes thrown into the Rhine River was so that he wouldn’t be able to partake in the resurrection…

But look, God has called us to ETERNAL glory, our eternity is secure, because though our body be destroyed, our soul is imperishable. Christ himself will restore, he will put all things back together…restoring health, body, and everything else that was lost. Then he will confirm and strengthen you, which means make everything about you, not just your soul, imperishable so that you can never perish from eternity. The ESV and KJV split up confirm and strengthen, while the NIV keeps them together, I think Peter is saying the same thing twice in very similar ways to emphasize that in Heaven we are done suffering and done sinning. And finally, Peter says Christ will establish you, making our resurrection to eternal life a permanent fact. It is reminiscent of Peter saying in chapter 2 that we are being built up on Christ as the foundation.

Peter’s writing style in chapter 5 is another bracketed passage, verses 1 and 10 set our affection on Heaven, where-as verses 2-9 are living a godly life on this earth. This is our major reminder from this letter that we set our affections on Heaven, on Christ seated at the right hand of his Father, and because of this affection we love the church first, and second we seek to bring others into the kingdom.

And in all of this the point is so that Jesus receives the glory,

v.11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

He is ultimately the owner of everything, the Supreme, the Saviour. We don’t worry about Satan and his roaring because Christ is bigger and has judged the ruler of this world, as Jesus put it in John 16:11 and Paul puts amazingly in

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Peter is completing the thought of the spiritual danger of Satan by showing that Christ ultimately owns EVERYTHING, including Satan.

There is a poem by Cyril of Jerusalem, a noted theologian from the 4th century, which says, “The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.” As much as I like the poetic language and image it draws, we add that this dragon is defeated, that Christ is our protector, and that in order to pass by we only need to hold fast to Christ in faith. But beloved, if you walk this path apart from Christ, seeking to walk the road yourself, Satan will easily drag you off the way and blind your eyes. And even, perchance, you do make it past Satan apart from Christ, in Matthew 7 it says he will turn you away at the gate; so it is absolutely imperative that we hold fast to Christ and Christ alone, that through his merits of learned obedience, his atoning death, and his saving resurrection, he will deliver us into Heaven.

The "Amen" here is basically the end of the letter, everything that follows is Peter’s signature and final instructions. Chapter 1:1 through 5:11 is a complete thought, and everything from 12 to 16 is a very effective application to us.

v.12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter didn’t actually pen this Epistle, though it is his thoughts, he spoke them to Silas his amanuensis who wrote them down. This is neat that in Second Peter, Peter is going to say that the words he is writing are not his, but the Holy Spirit’s, and so the Holy Spirit is inspiring Peter, Peter is speaking them, Silas is writing them, and now I’m preaching them, and the Holy Spirit is able to faithfully preserve his words and deliver them to the saints. We’ll talk more about this in a few weeks, but for now think about how big of a privilege and responsibility it is to be a herald of the Word of God.

Peter exhorts, which means to urge to take seriously, the Epistle he has just written. It’s important to remember that we have a huge privilege to have a complete Bible, but Peter is making the point that this Epistle he’s just written is able to stand-alone and for those who only had this letter, it was enough and revealed the true grace of God. He keeps pointing us towards Heaven through Christ’s resurrection as the important thing, not towards worldly wealth or health or getting as much for yourself as possible, but for glorifying Christ for his amazing grace.

Peter’s greatest exhortation is to stand firm in this grace. It reminds me of a wonderful song which says, “No guilt in life, no fear in death, here in the love of Christ I stand.”

Silvanus was a good friend of Paul’s, and here he is a good friend of Peter. There are some things in the New Testament that overlap and are quoted by other writers, and it is hugely important that we remember that the Bible is not a collection of verses, but is a complete thought by God who reveals himself to us through his Word. The writers of the New Testament were friends who grew together, confronted one another when in error, and supported each others’ ministries. Peter doesn’t talk about the requirements for a pastor, because he knew Paul did that, he doesn’t write a gospel because he knew Mark did that. Speaking of Mark, look at verse 13:

v.13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

The “she who is chosen” is the church; at "Babylon" is strange language but we’re fairly certain Peter is talking about Rome…so why doesn’t he say Rome? The real physical Babylon was hundreds of miles from Rome. It goes back to Peter’s point in calling Christians exiles, aliens, and strangers to this world, that Israel was a stranger in the kingdom of Babylon in the Old Testament. Rome was the capitol of the world basically when Peter was writing this. It’s important that we see that this world is not our home, that we are exiles and pilgrims, and that when we depart we will finally be home. Peter would die in Rome.

Mark, “my son,” is interesting language, Peter either really liked Mark and discipled him and counted him like a son, or maybe he really was his son. We know Peter was married, and if Mark was his real son then Peter’s wife’s name was Mary, because Acts 12:12 tells us that that was Mark’s mother’s name; but it's strange that Luke wouldn't have referred to Peter in that passage. Ultimately we don't know if this was a biological or spiritual.

What’s more important is that Peter, Mark, and Silas were in Rome together, and this again has huge implications on the construction of the Bible and that there was a beautiful fellowship of these saints to minister together. And that leads to

v.14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

This is an affectionate greeting, kissing on the cheek. I really have no idea why it is no longer popular in Western Culture, but you can still find it practiced in many Eastern countries. What this definitely wasn’t was a kiss on the lips, and it didn’t carry with it any romance, but was purely an affection shared between friends.

In our hyper-sexualized culture where it is hugely important to avoid any and every appearance of sin we can contextualize this by greeting one another warmly with friendly handshakes and warm smiles and caring words.

Finally, the end of

v.14 Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Basically Peter has written a whole Epistle describing how the world is at war with the church, and yet he points out that we have peace with God through Christ, which is the peace that really matters. No matter what happens to our bodies we have the full assurance of our faith which will attain the salvation of our souls through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In a life of torment and suffering and strife we have our perfect sinless Saviour who has overcome the world. Beloved, draw near to him and he will draw near to you; humble yourself before him, and he will exalt you.