Sermons

October 11, 2020

Under God's Mighty Hand

Steven Lee (North Campus) | 1 Peter 5:5-9

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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.—1 Peter 5:5–9

As we near the end of the apostle Peter’s letter, let me remind us of his intention. He has written to encourage them, as stated in 1 Peter 5:12, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.”

Peter has focused on two main themes to encourage his audience. The first theme is their identity in Christ. Believers in Jesus are God’s beloved, elect, born again, and destined for salvation that will be revealed. The second theme is submission and suffering. Peter reminds them that submission and suffering are part of the normal experience of the Christian life. Not only is suffering ordained by God, it is used by him to purify and strengthen his church. Suffering is not punishment, nor does it mean they are forgotten or abandoned by God. In fact it’s precisely the opposite; suffering is a mark of authenticity upon their faith. 

He’s answering the following question: “OK Peter, we know our identity in Christ, and we know that submission and suffering are part of the Christian life, so how should we endure until Christ returns?” Answer: Be humble and be alert. Peter’s main point is that believers are to be humble and alert, casting their anxieties upon him, under the mighty hand of God until Christ returns. 

There are three sections in this passage that we’ll walk through one by one.

1. A call to submit (1 Peter 5:5a)
2. A call to be humble (1 Peter 5:5b–7)
3. A call to be alert (1 Peter 5:8–9) 

1) A Call to Submit (1 Peter 5:5a)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

The first half of verse 5 is like a bridge from our previous section to the next section, primarily addressing how a specific group is to receive the shepherding care of the elders. Let me try to give you the flow of thought. Peter says at the end of chapter 4 that as they endure suffering, they are to “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (4:19). How do we do that, Peter? How do we entrust our souls to God? The answer inferred is “by receiving the shepherding care and oversight of the elders.” Entrust your soul to God by allowing God’s assigned under-shepherds, namely the elders, to care for you. One of the ways God cares for your soul is by calling elders out from among the flock to focus on that very task that Pastor Sam preached last week. That leads to the question, how is the church to receive such oversight and authority?

They are to “be subject” to the elders. This is the same word used to call believers to submit to governmental authorities, for servants to submit to masters, for wives to submit to husbands, and now “you who are younger” to submit to elders. Why does Peter single out this group? Does this mean older folks can do what they want and not submit? I don’t think so and we’ll see why. 

The key question is who does Peter have in mind when he says “you who are younger.” It’s important to clarify that when Peter says “elder” in the previous passage, he wasn’t just referencing older people, but rather referring to the office of elder, and the task of shepherding because he infers that they have authority: “exercising oversight” and “not domineering over those in your charge.” Older people don’t just exercise oversight because of their age, but rather elders of the church are to exercise oversight. 

So who does Peter have in mind when he says “younger?” It could be three options: (1) it could refer to the entire church, (2) it could be a metaphorical use of “younger” speaking of those who are new converts, or (3) it could be speaking of those who are literally younger in age. Do we have any clues as to which it is? 

It seems unlikely to refer to the whole church (option 1) because he goes on to say “Clothe yourselves, all of you” which broadens his exhortation to the entire church. In option 2, it’s unlikely he’s speaking of new converts since the term “younger” is not used to refer to new converts, and there is no other evidence. It’s most likely option #3 where Peter specifically calls out those who are younger in age, which in this context when it was written, was likely younger than 40 or perhaps even 50 years old.

Evidence for this would be a passage like Titus 2:6 where Paul specifically calls out younger men, saying “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” Why would he specifically call out younger men to be self-controlled? Because that demographic of people is least likely to be self-controlled.

Similarly, Peter calls for those younger to submit to elders because Peter knows what we know about younger people: they would be most resistant to submit to authority. Peter knows that young people can be self-reliant, resistant to authority, headstrong, and independent. I am including myself in this category. We younger people can headstrong or independent, like teenagers or college students. 

Peter is reminding those younger among us that God-given authority is for our good. You may not feel like you need anyone providing you oversight—not your parents, not your boss, and not your elders—but the shepherding care of elders has been designed by God for your good.

On this Covenant Affirmation morning, where we affirmed new members, I’m so encouraged to see young men and women. And I want to encourage our college students and our young adults to pursue church membership, a way to be subject to God-given shepherding care. And I would ask, if you’re resistant to church membership, why?

Now that doesn’t mean that if you’re not younger, you don’t have to submit to the elders and can do what you want. Peter’s point is that if those who are most likely to be self-reliant or headstrong are to submit to God-given authority, everyone else is expected to submit as well. This type of submission to others will require humility, which leads us to our next section in verse 5 to verse 7.

2) A Call to Be Humble (1 Peter 5b–7)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 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.

Peter emphasizes an attitude and disposition of humility in this passage. We see it repeated twice in verse 5 and again in verse 6. So we want to ask five questions about humility: (1) what is humility, (2) who is to pursue humility, (3) where is humility directed, (4) why should we pursue humility, and (5) how are we to pursue humility?

Question #1: What is humility?

What is humility? We don’t get a definition in this passage, but Peter tells us to “clothe yourselves” with it, like putting on a coat. It’s an attitude or state of mind we can adopt. This is where we find help from Philippians 2:3–4, perhaps the most famous passage on humility: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Humility is the opposite of selfish ambition. Instead, it is concerned with the interests of others. Philippians goes on to say, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5–7). This call to humility is a call to Christlikeness, to being a servant, and to counting others more significant than ourselves. Very simply, it is a call to look more like Jesus.

Question #2: Who is to pursue humility?

Verse 5 says “all of you” are to be humble. All believers—young, old, elders, and non-elders—are to possess an attitude of humility. Everyone within the church is to be humble. Scripture uses the strongest language to denounce pride. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” 

Question #3: Where is humility to be directed?

We are to be humble “toward one another.” Humility is to be the lubricating oil in the engine of the family of God, so that there would not be friction, disputes, and animosity. Earlier Peter exhorted believers to “keep loving one another earnestly” (1 Peter 4:8). In trials or suffering, do not lose sight of the blood-bought family of God. We probably all know a few relationships that would go better if there was a healthy dose of humility.

In verse 6 we see that humility is not only to be directed toward one another, but it is to be directed toward God. We are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Why would Peter call out humility toward God? Probably because it would be natural to bristle or chafe while suffering according to God’s will. We see this all the time. We demand to have answers from God. We question his goodness. We doubt his love. Yet that reaction is not faith, but pride and arrogance, supposing that we know better or that God owes us answers. 

Instead of arrogantly questioning why God would allow us to suffer, believers are to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand. Joni Eareckson Tada, paralyzed as a quadriplegic since age 17, and now at age 70 battling breast cancer as well, says this about accepting God’s purposes in suffering: “Rather than try to frantically escape the pain, I relearned the timeless lesson of allowing my suffering to push me deeper into the arms of Jesus. I like to think of my pain as a sheepdog that keeps snapping at my heels to drive me down the road to Calvary, where, otherwise, I would not be naturally inclined to go.”[1] Humility is receiving suffering as God’s gentle tool to conform us to his image and to allow us to experience greater intimacy with him. It’s like going from swimming in a plastic kiddy pool to swimming in the Pacific Ocean—suffering allows us to experience the depth, width, and breadth of his love for us.

Humility is required to receive both the good and bad from God’s mighty hand. As Job, one who is not unfamiliar with suffering, said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Humility accepts what we receive from the hand of God.

Question #4: Why should we pursue humility?

Verse 5 gives us the reason: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” This is a quote from Proverbs 3:34. The point is simply that God is against those who are arrogant, but he gives grace to those who are humble. Do we want God to be against us? To shut his ear to our prayers or to turn his face against us? No! Then pursue humility and clothe yourself with it. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency cuts us off from God’s grace. We don’t pray when we are self-sufficient or arrogant. We think we don’t need worship, community and fellowship, the prayers of others, or any shepherding care.

But humility is recognizing that we are needy, weak, and desperate for God. And that attitude opens up the floodgates of grace from God. Pride is like activating the shut-off valve of grace that would otherwise flow into our lives. Humility is the recognition of our neediness that allows grace to flow freely. If that was not motivation enough, we read in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” One reason some might shun humility is because it doesn’t particularly feel good. Will others see my strengths, gifts, and skills? Will I get the recognition, praise, or accolades that I think I deserve? Will I be treated poorly by others or be thought of in a lowly manner? Peter reminds us: God sees. God will exalt those who humble themselves before the Lord.

In fact, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, without humility they could not come to God, could not receive his saving grace, and would be blinded to the glory of Christ because they thought so highly of themselves. Their pride kept them from seeing and surrendering to Christ.

Question #5: How are we to pursue humility?

How are they to be humble? Verse 7 says, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” So the way believers humble themselves under God’s mighty hand is by casting all their anxieties on God. How does this work? To hold on to anxiety is prideful. Why would I say that? It doesn’t seem prideful. When we hold on to our anxieties we are functionally saying that I can oversee, take care of, and address these anxieties better than God. This is the opposite of faith. Thinking we know better than God is the epitome of pride. If I can carry my burdens, figure them out, and then solve them, then I don’t need God. But humility recognizes that we cannot carry our burdens and anxieties, but we cast them onto God. One commentator put it this way, “Affliction either drives one into the arms of God or severs one from God.”[2]

There is likely an allusion to Psalm 55:22, which says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” The image is not like throwing a fishing line over the water. You don’t just throw it out there only to reel it back in. Instead the idea of casting our anxieties is like removing the yoke of burden that would be placed on a donkey, a heavy weight, and throwing it upon another the shoulders of another. In this case, we throw it upon the wide strong shoulders of the Lord. The reason we can do this is because of this reminder: “He cares for you.”

This is such a simple but profound truth. God cares for you. This morning, with whatever anxieties you are facing—unemployment, cancer, uncertain diagnosis, maligning, suffering, persecution, pain, wayward children, dying parents, trauma, a broken marriage, strained relationships, and a million other anxieties—God cares about you. He sees you. Lay your burden upon the Lord this morning. The year 2020 is a year of anxiety—and yet Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). O North Campus, give over your fears and anxieties over to the Lord this morning. Say, “God, I can’t carry this heavy burden, so I entrust it to you this morning as I rest in your love.” 

This call to humility is a call to trust, to exercise faith, and to entrust our souls to our faithful Creator. Humility allows us to receive the shepherding care of elders, lubricates the relationships in Christian community, and is the way we rid ourselves of the paralysis of anxiety.

A Call to Be Alert (1 Peter 5:8–9)

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.

Peter closes with a pair of closing exhortations: be sober-minded, and be watchful. We’ve seen this repeated emphasis from Peter already in 1 Peter 1:13; 4:3, and 4:7.

Believers are to possess a spiritual sobriety: alert, sober, and watchful. Thinking rightly and clearly about our identity and suffering. The reason for this alertness is because we have an enemy on the prowl, seeking to devour his prey. This enemy is the devil, Satan, and he is not a cute golden doodle puppy, but a deadly roaring lion. 

How are we to respond? Verse 9 says, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Notice three things. First, we can resist the devil. We are not powerless, but instead called to action and to fight. Second, we are to be “firm in our faith.” Believers triumph over the devil as we continue to place our faith in God. Third, we are to be encouraged by the truth that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 

Let me address the third point first. You are not alone in suffering. Our suffering is not unique or unforeseen. We know that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). You’re not alone. We will experience the normal opposition that Christians have faced from the beginning, and will face until Christ returns. Don’t feel sorry for yourself; you’re in good company.

Now let’s turn our attention to resisting the devil. How do we resist this roaring lion and how does faith factor in? The second phrase, “firm in your faith,” suggests that our faith is what Satan is attempting to devour. How does Satan then devour a believer’s faith? The devil, which means “slanderer” or “accuser,” brings accusations against God’s people. 

Satan lies and deceives, bringing false accusations:

  • If you had more faith, you would not be suffering.
  • If you really are loved by God, he wouldn’t let you experience trials, hardships, or pain.
  • If you’re really a child of God, he’d like you to escape persecution.
  • All this pain you’re experiencing means God doesn’t love you. 

These lies are from the very pit of hell. How do we resist him then? We don’t believe Satan and we believe in God’s word instead. We call to mind the truth that God’s word declares about us. We are his beloved. We are elect exiles, born again to a living hope, who have received the good news by the Holy Spirit. We have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ. We have been born of imperishable seed through the living and abiding word of God. We have tasted of the pure spiritual milk of the word. We are living stones built upon the very cornerstone of Jesus Christ. We are blessed, and have the Holy Spirit resting and indwelling us right now. That’s how we resist Satan—by believing in and cleaving to the promises of God. Both what he’s done in the past and what he will do in the future. 

James 4:7–8 tells us similarly, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” When we resist, Satan will flee. We resist by submitting to God, and drawing near to him in faith and prayerful trust. We remind ourselves of what is true of us in Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

So are Peter’s readers experiencing fiery trials and suffering? Yes. Will we experience trials and suffering? Yes. But does experiencing suffering change or compromise our identity in Christ and our eternal destination as his children? A million times no! Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Not even the hot steaming jaws of Satan himself. 

I want the seriousness of this text to land on us, but not to paralyze us. Is Satan deadly? Yes. He can devour our faith if we succumb to his lies and accusations. But should we fear him? No. Like the holy women of old, we are “not to fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). How should we think about Satan? Satan is like a lion at the zoo. If we foolishly climb past the barriers and somehow enter into the lion’s den, we will become his lunch. But if by faith we remain in Christ, looking into the lion’s den from a safe distance, through 2-inch-thick bulletproof Plexiglass, we have nothing to fear. His roar may be ferocious, but we will be safe from his jaws. We are to continually entrust our souls to God until he returns or takes us home.

Conclusion

I don’t know if you saw it, but our passage calls us to fight the fight of faith by resisting the devil by faith in God’s promises, and it calls us to rest under God’s mighty hand, humbling ourselves and casting our anxieties upon him. The Christian life is both humility and resting, alertness and fighting. Stay ready, O Christian, but sleep soundly, because God has got you. 

Let me close with this final word on the phrase “under the mighty hand of God.” What is that a reference to? It refers back to the Exodus when God delivered Israel from Egypt with his “mighty hand” (see Exodus 3:19, 32:11; Deuteronomy 5:15). 

Why does Peter use this phrase? To call to mind God’s power and protection in delivering his chosen people. God’s hand was not too short to save. God’s hand was not powerless against his enemies. No! God displayed his powerful judgment against his enemies. He had a heavy hand to reveal his sovereign power and glory. All the world will see the might of Yahweh in the Exodus. And God’s mighty hand, for his people, is a hand of protection, deliverance, and fulfillment of all of his promises.

We close by singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther. Hear these lyrics:

The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.

I will admit, I did not know what word Luther meant in that stanza. Do you know? What one little word will fell the Prince of Darkness? Martin Luther identified it not as “Jesus,” but “Liar!”[3] When Satan fires an accusation our way, we declare “Liar!” and we keep on trusting and entrusting ourselves to God.
_________

[1] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/a-purpose-in-the-pain-an-interview-with-joni-eareckson-tada/

[2] Goppelt, I Peter, p. 359

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-one-little-word-will-fell-satan

Sermon Discussion Questions

Main Point: Believers are to be humble and alert, casting their anxieties upon Him, under the mighty hand of God until Christ returns.

Outline

  1. A Call to Submit (1 Peter 5:5a)
  2. A Call to Be Humble (1 Peter 5:5b–7)
  3. A Call to Be Alert (1 Peter 5:8–9) 

Intro Question: Are you experiencing any anxiety right now with the current state of our world, your own situation and circumstances, or as you reflect upon our future? How is our situation similar to dissimilar to the context of Peter’s original audience?

Discussion Questions

  • Why would the apostle Peter need to call out those who are “younger” to be subject to the elders?
  • Why would a humble attitude and disposition be important toward one another in the church? How might trials, pain, or suffering make it all the more necessary?
  • How does God’s opposition of the proud and his exaltation of the humble (at the proper time) motivate humility and help us to not run from humility?
  • Why is alertness and clear-mindedness important for resisting the devil?
  • What are some lies, slander, or accusations you are tempted to believe, instead of resisting Satan, firm in your faith?
  • How does the knowledge of persecution around the world encourage us as we face trials or persecution? 

Application Questions

  • How are we doing in submitting to the leadership and shepherding care of the elders? Are you a member of the church, and if not, is there a reason you are resistant to become one?
  • Can you think of any situations or circumstances in the church where more humility is needed?
  • What are some anxieties that you can cast upon the Lord? Spend some time discussing how God cares for you and where we have experienced tangible expressions of God’s loving care.
  • When are we tempted to be spiritually dull, drunk, or sleepy, instead of being watchful and vigilant?
  • What are some promises of God that we can use to engage in fighting against the lies and accusations of Satan?

Prayer Focus
Praise God for his sovereign power, his mighty hand, his loving care for his children, and for the support and care of the body of Christ and of church elders. Confess any sins of pride, arrogance, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency instead of having a humble attitude and disposition towards other and toward God. Thank God that we can resist the lies and accusations of Satan through faith in Christ, rehearsing his promises, and remembering his loving care for his children. Ask God for grace to submit to the loving oversight of shepherds, to clothe yourself with humility toward others and under God’s mighty hand, to cast your anxieties on God, and to resist the devil.

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