Sermons

October 18, 2020

Stand Firm in the True Grace of God

Jason Meyer (Downtown Campus) | 1 Peter 5:10-14

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.1 Peter 5:10–14

Outline

  1. What God Will Do: Finish What He Started (1 Peter 5:10–11)
  2. What You Must Do: Stand Firm (1 Peter 5:12)
  3. What the Churches Do: Greet One Another (1 Peter 5:13–14)

Main Point: Stand firm in the true grace of God as elect exiles.

1) What God Will Do: Finish What He Started (1 Peter 5:10–11)

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. 

A) Timeframe for Suffering

The apostle Peter starts with a timeframe for suffering. We instinctively want to know how long something hard will last. He says that restoration is coming, but not until after they have suffered a little while. How do we define “a little while?” It refers to your whole life. He does not promise that you would only have to endure suffering for a few days or months or years. You will face hostility in a fallen world for as long as you live in it.

Peter uses this term now for the second time with reference to suffering.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials—1 Peter 1:6

B) Timeframe for Glory

But someone’s whole life certainly does not feel like a “little while.” The only way that “little while” works is in comparison with something else in this text—namely, eternity. This little time of suffering is compared to an “eternal glory.” The Bible takes this strategy time after time when addressing suffering. It does not pat us on the back and say, “It may go away—maybe next year will be different.” The Bible says, “Suffering is hard and intense and it may feel long, but it is really a vapor compared to eternity.” The one great thing that we must do with time is put it in its proper place.

Life in a fallen world wants to bury us under the weight of all our difficulties so that we can hardly breathe. It feels insufferably long. The Bible does not come along and say, “I am going to remove half of your problems so that the weight is not so heavy.” It gives us the hope of glory. It says all of the weight will be removed and will be replaced with the weight of glory and beauty and unspeakable majesty.

Therefore, we must not simply stand under the tyranny of time. We must grab it and put it into the grand context of eternity. Listen to the pastoral advice of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

There is only one thing to do with time, and that is to take it and put it into the grant context of eternity. When you and I look forward, ten years seems like a terribly long time. A hundred years? Impossible. A thousand? A million? We cannot envisage it. But try to think of endless time, millions upon millions upon millions of years. That is eternity. Take time and put it into that context. What is it? It is only a moment. If you look at time merely from the standpoint of your calendars and your almanacs and life as you know it in this world, it is an impossible tyranny. But put it into God’s eternity and it is nothing.[1] 

C) Will We Make It?

Peter does not pull any punches when it comes to how hard suffering is, but he also does not lose the proper focus of our hope. Yes, suffering is strong, but God’s grace is stronger. He is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10). The only way you are going to make it is the grace of God. And he is the source of all the grace. The grace that called you and the grace that keeps you and the grace that glorifies you. All of it.

Past Grace

Look at the grace of “calling” in verse 10: “called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” Remember 1 Peter 2:9?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You were chosen in eternity past and called at a moment in time. You were in darkness. Now you are in marvelous light. How did that happen? He chose you and called you. 

Future Grace

And look at the grace that is coming. The God of past grace who called you to a destination is the God of future grace who will make sure you get there. “He will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

It is almost impossible to discern every little nuance of distinction in meaning between these four terms (restore, confirm, strengthen, establish). Peter uses these terms to make the same emphatic, cumulative point: the God who called you will give you the strength to endure to the end. The perseverance of the saints is always based on God’s preservation of the saints. Peter has already told them that they are “guarded by God’s power” for this salvation that is coming (1 Peter 1:5).

Remember Romans 8:29, that “those whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first of many brothers, and those whom he predestined, he called, and those whom he called, he justified and those whom he justified, he glorified.” Not “he will glorify.” To be called and justified is to be as good as glorified. Why? Because we are so consistent—our follow through is so good? No. Because he is so faithful and consistent and powerful. The God of all grace has never failed. He always finishes what he starts. He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it. It is his grace, just like the hymn “Amazing Grace” says:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares 
I have already come. 
Tis grace has led me safe thus far 
and grace will lead me home. 

Theology should lead to doxology. God is going to finish it. Suffering is intense, but his grace is greater. It is no accident that there is a flurry of worship here as believers call attention to his strength, not our own. The dominion or strength (kratas) is his forever. When we place ourselves under his mighty (kratian) hand (1 Peter 5:6), he will lift us up to heaven and will not drop us on the way up.

2) What We Must Do (1 Peter 5:12)

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.

Silvanus here is someone that we know more commonly as Silas. You may remember that he was a traveling partner with Paul on his second missionary journeys. Silas is likely the person who carried the letter.

Peter now gives his authoritative explanation of what this letter he wrote is all about. It is an exhortation and declaration—the letter constitutes the true grace of God. This letter is like a grace foundation that has been laid for them. It is all grace—which we know means that it all came from the God of all grace. Now that the foundation has been laid in his letter, what should they do with it? Fold it up and put it away? Do not archive it—stand on it! It can hold up all the weight that you put on it. Satan will try to get you to move off of it. Stand firm. Don’t be moved.

But notice that Peter does not end there. He once again cultivates unity by showing them that though they stand firm, they do not stand alone. Stand firm and stand together. Because you stand together, greet one another. Other churches stand with you too. Greet them too! 

3) What the Churches Must Do (1 Peter 5:13–14)

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.

Peter says that the church of Jesus Christ will have family greetings. The kiss of love would usually happen in the context of corporate worship when the family would gather together. This greeting is still practiced by some cultures—though perhaps Western culture has something like a handshake of great affection!

Closing the letter with “peace” is very significant.

Closing the letter with a peace wish is significant. Believers in the Petrine churches were buffeted by trials and persecutions. The stress of life was significant. What believers need in such a situation is God’s peace and strength, a peace that will enable them to stand (1 Peter 5:12) amidst the pressures of the present evil age.[2]

But I want to close by pointing out that the two words we have used at the end of the melody line are here again. Stand firm in the true grace of God as elect exiles.

Where do you see the concept of election? You see the word “chosen” in verse 13. He begins and ends with this note of being chosen (1 Peter 1:1, 5:13).

The “she in Babylon” is a reference to the church in Rome. We see something similar in 1 John with the chosen lady and her children (the church and believers). The church is the bride of Christ and so it is no surprise we would have a metaphor like that. Babylon the ancient city was in ruins at this point, so he does not refer to the literal city of Babylon, but Babylon as the anti-god city of the Old Testament. Here Babylon is a reference to Rome. 

And with “Babylon” we have another reminder that the church is in exile. Just like Israel was in exile in Babylon, Christians are exiles in Babylon once again. But Peter makes a powerful point that we can only understand if we back up and see the place that Babylon plays in the biblical story. 

Two Seeds

If we go back to last week, we are reminded that we really are part of a cosmic battle. Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He has always been a predator targeting God’s people from the very beginning. In the garden, Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s poisonous bite, broke God’s word, and thus joined the ranks of Satan’s rebellion instead of crushing it. Conflict becomes a continuous feature of the narrative from this point on. The fall fractures all of creation. There is conflict at the horizontal level, but we must never forget the conflict at the comic level.

The emergence of the serpent (Genesis 3:1) and the earlier command to guard the garden (Genesis 2:15) allude to a bigger war. One of the angels, Satan, led an uprising against God along with a third of the angels. God put an end to the rebellion by casting Satan and the fallen angels to earth. Therefore, the cosmic struggle has spilled over onto the earth.

The King pronounces a curse on everyone involved in this conflict: the serpent, Eve, and Adam.  In the midst of the curse, however, God also speaks a word of promise: there will be warfare between two seeds: the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). This is the same pairing we see in 1 John 3—the children of the devil and the children of God. Why do you think John the Baptist calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers? He is identifying them: you are the seed of the serpent! 

Not only will there be warfare, there will be a winner. The seed of the woman will come and crush the head of the seed of the serpent. This is the note we are waiting for. Benjamin Zander makes the point that none of us are tone deaf. We know the final note that should come in a sequence. But it takes a long time. People come on the scene in the subsequent narrative who raise our expectations—could this be the one we have been waiting for? This question is answered with a false cadence. The focus on the two seeds (children of God, children of Satan) quickly becomes a focus on two cities: the city of God and the city of Satan (anti-God city). 

Two Cities

Beginning in Genesis 11, the satanic seed joins together to build a city. This is not the first city we have seen in the narrative. Cain also built a city back in Genesis 6:17. Even more emphasis is given to the story of the city in Genesis 11. This city is an archetypal anti-god city. It is an anti-god, God-less city because it represents a consolidated rebellion against the High King of heaven and earth. The inhabitants of Babel-Babylon try to make a name for themselves by building a tower that will stretch into the heavens. The story has strong echoes back to the fall of Genesis 3. The arrogance of human pride in the garden led Adam & Eve to reach out to lay hold of supremacy on earth. The arrogance of the sin of Babel-Babylon is the attempt to gain control of not only the earth, but heaven as well.

This city is archetypal because the human pride and hubris that energize the activities of the city will show up again and again throughout the narrative. Thus, this city casts a long shadow over the rest of the Bible as the first of many cities that embody the same anti-god function. Therefore, the narrator introduces the city as “Babel,” which is the same name as the place that shows up so prominently in the rest of the Old Testament as “Babylon.” Therefore, T.D. Alexander recommends calling the place “Babel-Babylon” to avoid a failure to link them together. Some translations even translate the name of the city as “Babylon” (HCSB; rightly, in my opinion).

The Lord brings a judgment upon this city and confuses the languages so that the seed of the serpent will be forced to separate into distinct groups instead of joining together in rebellion against God and the seed of the woman. 

It is important that Abram is a sojourner throughout the narrative and never a settler. That is, Abram does not build a city and does not own any part of the Promised Land—with the magnificent exception of a burial plot. The narrative slows down considerably to describe the purchase of this burial plot showing Abraham’s faith (Genesis 23). Hebrews tells us very clearly that Abraham was not looking for an earthly city that he would build. He was looking for a heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10, 16). 

The ark of the covenant travelled with the people of God and came to a temporary dwelling place at Shiloh. At this point in the narrative, however, there is no city that becomes the centralized hope as the city of God. Hopes concerning David rise even higher when the ark of God comes to Jerusalem, the city of David (2 Samuel 6). It even appears as if this city will be the permanent resting place of the ark and God’s presence. David states his desire to build a house for God. God instead promises that he is going to build David a house (2 Samuel 7). David’s son is going to build the house and will have an everlasting kingdom.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Jerusalem finally falls around 586 B.C. Shockingly, it looks as though the false city has defeated the true city. Babylon, the city of the serpent, reemerges in the narrative and conquers the city of God (2 Kings 2425). This defeat of the city of God is only a symbolic defeat. The book of Isaiah highlights that a heavenly Jerusalem is the real city of God and God’s city will win in the end. Ezra and Nehemiah show that the return of the Jews under Cyrus and the rebuilding of the Temple falls short of the glorious return promised in the Prophets.

Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension represent the hinge of the whole story. All of the promises are blood-bought at the cross and find their “yes” of fulfillment in him. He defeated sin on the cross. He crushed death itself when he emerged from the grave. The victorious king ascends on high. In the book of Luke-Acts, the ascension of Jesus is the highest peak. Everything in Luke moves toward the ascension, and everything in Acts flows from Jesus, the true King, who is seated on the true throne of David in the true city, the heavenly Jerusalem. He empowers the twelve by clothing them with power from on high. The day of Pentecost comes and the Holy Spirit falls upon them. Peter says that Jesus’ pouring out of the Spirit is proof that he is ascended and reigning above (Acts 2:33). As noted in the last chapter, Acts is a new conquest narrative after the pattern of Joshua. The conquest extends from Jerusalem to Samaria (Acts 1–12). The call narrative of Saul (Acts 9) provides the impetus for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 13–28). 

Revelation highlights momentous victory of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as God decisively vanquishes the false trinity (Satan, beast, and false prophet). As part of this warfare, the archetypal anti-god city Babylon is back as part of a consolidated rebellion against the true city of God. The whole world hands over its power to the beast, but God sovereignly reigns supreme over all of this rebellion. “God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17).

They will make war on the Lamb, but the outcome is certain: “the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). Babylon’s fall is certain (Revelation 18:1–24). The Jerusalem above will triumph over Babylon. This victory is won with the Word as God’s powerful weapon. This powerful weapon is Jesus. Jesus “is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13; emphasis mine). He will crush the enemies of God. He has the royal scepter like a rod of iron. He has the sharp sword of the word that comes “from his mouth.” He will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). He vanquishes the beast and the false prophet and throws them into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). 

The nations deceived by Satan make one last-ditch effort at battle and try to siege the “beloved city,” but fire falls from heaven and consumes them. Satan joins the other two members of the false trinity in the lake of fire in eternal torment (Revelation 20:710). Jesus is the “bright and morning star” that crushes all the enemies of God as Numbers 24 foresaw (Revelation 22:16). 

Earth and sky now pass away and even death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire along with anyone not found in the book of life (Revelation 20:1115), which is elsewhere called the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13:8, 21:27). It is finally time for the heavenly city to come in a glorious unveiling (Revelation 21:2, 927). The tree of life found in the beginning of the story in Genesis comes back into the picture at the end (Revelation 22:12). All the redeemed will finally see God face to face and there will be no more cursing, crying, dying, or darkness (Revelation 22:36).

What is Peter’s point? The point is that there is a church right in the heart of the anti-god city of Babylon. The gospel has infiltrated it. Jesus is Lord even over the anti-god city. We are reminded once again that both nationalism and fundamentalism are both ditches. The anti-god city never becomes the city of God. There will always be warfare. But that does not mean we should go to the other ditch of fundamentalism and circle the wagons in fear and take only a defensive posture as we hunker down. We are not to respond with nationalism or fundamentalism, but evangelism. The gospel goes forth and plunders Satan’s kingdom as people are delivered from the dominion of darkness and are transferred into the kingdom of Christ—even in Babylon.

Conclusion: The Christian Ethos

I think 1 Peter gives us something of an ethos statement for who we are. Here is what I mean. I recently read the Navy Seal Ethos. It is a statement to say who they are.

The Navy Sea, Air, and Land Teams, also known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's primary special operations force and are trained to operate in all environments for which they are named. 

In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. Common citizens with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, they stand alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve their country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that warrior.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day. 

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own. 

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from others. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations. 

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. 

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me —my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend. 

Brave SEALs have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.

The Christian Ethos: 1 Peter

I am a Christian. A worshiper of the Triune God. Foreknown by the Father, set apart by the Spirit, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, refined in the fire of affliction; I rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Even though I do not see Jesus now, I love him!

I am a citizen of heaven, an elect exile. I am a child of God—by his great mercy caused to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I hope fully. I’m called to be holy. I love earnestly. I fear my Father during this time of exile. I long for the pure milk of the Word so that I keep growing up in salvation. I have tasted that the Lord is good.

I am a living stone, part of a spiritual house, a spiritual priesthood making spiritual sacrifices of praise to God. I am part of a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People for God’s Own Possession. I have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light, and now I live to proclaim his excellencies. I once was a stranger to the mercy of God—now I am drenched in mercy.

I fight to the death the sin that wages war against my soul. I honor those in authority but fear only God and hope only in God. I was straying like a sheep, but I now belong to the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul. By his wounds I am healed. By his blood, I am forgiven and free. He left me steps to follow. He gave me a mindset to adopt. I am armed to suffer. I have brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. I do not repay evil for evil. I reply with gentleness. I am not afraid of those who oppose me, for I have set apart Christ as holy in my heart—hot and ready—to give a reason for the hope that is in me. I am self-controlled and sober-minded. I show hospitality and love earnestly. I use gifts to serve one another in the strength that God supplies so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

I am not surprised by this fiery trial. I rejoice that I bear the name of Christian and make it my aim to glorify God in that name. I entrust my soul to my Faithful Creator. I humble myself under his mighty hand. I cast all my cares on him. I am persuaded he cares for me. I resist the devil. I will not let him scare me away from Jesus! After I have suffered a little while, I will be confirmed, established, strengthened, and restored—called to eternal glory in Christ. I am chosen, not forsaken. I stand firm in the true grace of God.
_______

[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Setting our Affections Upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), p. 24.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner,  1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary, vol.  37 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman),  p. 252.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Main Point: Stand firm in the true grace of God (as elect exiles). 

Outline

  1. What God Will Do: Finish What He Started (1 Peter 5:10–11)
  2. What You Must Do: Stand Firm (1 Peter 5:12)
  3. What the Churches Do: Greet One Another (1 Peter 5:13–14)

Discussion Questions

Verse 10

  • What does verse 10 mean by “a little while”? How long will we suffer?
  • What point of comparison does Peter use to show that suffering lasts only a little while? That is, a little while in relation to what? How is this point consistent with how the rest of the New Testament talks about suffering and glory?
  • What does it mean that God is the “God of all grace”? What is the past grace and the future grace that Peter unpacks here?

Verse 11

  • Theology should lead to doxology. How do we see this principle play out in verse 11?

Verse 12

  • How does verse 12 help us interpret the entire letter of 1 Peter? What are we supposed to do with this letter after we read it?

Verses 13–14

  • Why is it significant that Peter ends the letter with peace?
  • How do verses 13 and 14 help us see that Christians do not stand firm in isolation from each other?
  • Who is the chosen lady in Babylon? Why does Peter call Rome “Babylon”?

Application Questions

  • What aspects of suffering are you currently facing? What happens in your heart when you hear it referred to as a “little while”? Describe the fight of faith and how you try to put it in perspective with the hope of glory. Any advice for others in terms of what has helped you?
  • Verse 11 is a doxology of pure worship to God in the midst of suffering and mess. How would you describe the place of worship in your life? Does theology lead to doxology for you? Rarely, sometimes, or often?
  • How does the storyline of Scripture and the place of Babylon help you live your life today?
  • What part of the “Christian ethos” statement of 1 Peter resonates with you most? Why?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace to stand firm together in the true grace of God as elect exiles.

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