We finish our discussion of the book of 1 Peter today, it has been a joy to read these chapters many times this year. Oftentimes the temptation in studying Scripture is to speed through, read a commentary, and move on. But in studying slowly, you can dig deep in your study, while meditating and memorizing, and basking in His words. Abide in His words, beloved! As we walk through chapter five, take note of how many verbs you see, and whether they are directed at us.
Many find offense at 1 and 2 Peter because of how direct the message is–but remember, our obedience is possible as we walk in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will illumine our minds, grant us understanding, align our desires with His, and empower us to walk in His ways, as He makes us more like Christ. Our doing will be in His strength, because of who He has made us to be, to His glory.
In verses 1-4, Peter speaks directly to the elders of the churches. Then he turns his directives toward everyone else:
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
If there is one thing the current generation does not want to hear, it is to be subject to Church elders. I get it, I’ve had that opinion, and one day I may write out my story. For now, suffice it to say, I’ve learned that Christ is amongst His seven golden lamp stands (the picture given to John, in Revelation), He is amongst His church. He calls some to be pastors, and details that in His Word. He is not carrying on many different gatherings, but one–He is gathering His people into His Body. My life as a Christian cannot be lived in isolation from the brethren, in the way He has outlined in Scripture.
Many American churches have gone astray–I do not condone their actions, nor would I say one ought to remain in one such organization. But there are healthy churches, true to Him and to His Word, built by Him and for Him. (I hope you may find one, beloved, and partake!) Okay, moving on…
This first verb directed at us, to clothe ourselves, is similar to several Pauline passages (Romans 13, Galatians 3, Titus 2). We are to be adorning the doctrine of God, having clothed ourselves in Christ, having put on Christ, and now clothed in humility. Jesus is our example of humility, and we are called into this life of humility. Toward one another–not just toward our elders, or to certain persons, but all in the church. “One Another” denotes true brothers and sisters in Christ. With this comes the promise, the reminder, that God gives grace to the humble.
“Therefore” in verse six reminds us not to segment God’s Word, but rather to remember what comes next in light of what you’ve just read. Therefore, being clothed in humility towards one another we can consider these next ideas. And here you notice one verb directed corporately at us, and one reminding us of God’s work; then verse seven the same pattern, one verb we are commanded to do, one verb describing God’s work in and toward us. Humble yourselves, He exalts; you pray, He cares for you.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Just as Jesus taught His disciples that in their prayers they must Hallow His Name, so Peter reminds us that this includes being humble ourselves. We do not begin “Oh I can’t believe I did this, or cannot believe this happened to me” because this expresses the worldly idea that I’m too good for these circumstances, I’m too good to be treated this way, I deserve better.
Take the time to remind yourself how amazing and magnificent and glorious He is! And not only that, but that He loves you with perfect, unchanging, steadfast love. That is the Fatherly hand you want to remain in, the hand that will comfort, protect, keep, provide for, and nurture you. Do you know how much He cares for you? Have you pondered the depth and breadth of His love?
The hand of your loving Heavenly Father will exalt you at the proper time–His timing, in His kingdom. He is not going to give you your own kingdom, nor perform His work only for the sake of our earthly kingdoms. Think through Matthew 5:1-12 as you wonder at this exaltation.
This is now the third time we have this command. In the Hebrew culture, when a thing is mentioned a third time it is a call to really pay attention! He knows we will struggle with this as much as he did.
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
Peter was so reactionary, and had to learn to act from a sober spirit–from a renewed mind, one prepared for action and transformed by God’s desires. Peter knew all about having knee jerk reactions and wanting to take back his words…he knew what it was like to have Jesus’ stern look fixed upon him hearing “Get behind Me, Satan!” Peter learned, he is the perfect one to advise us.
When you have the mind of Christ, you become this–you become more of who He created you to be, and you crucify the old self, you let go of the “you” that was alienated from God, separate from Christ, having no part in His promises, and no hope (Ephesians 2:11-18).
Many bodily exercises can help our mental and emotional ability to do this–mind will control matter, matter will impact mind! Breath deeply, slowly; rehearse His words while you do so. Not your own words, no declarations (those are almost all unbiblical, and that is a whole separate topic). Be outside where God’s creation can put you in awe of Him, and where your body can soak up the sun, your skin can touch His earth; His breeze, His trees, His bird songs and cricket chirps, can all lower your blood pressure. This will create the opportunity for your thinking to be centered in the part of your brain that was created to do it, rather than being shut down by the portion that focuses on emotions–when that part is in control you spiral into anxiety and “thoughtless” reactions.
We need to find practices that help us “keep sober” or clear minded.
You face an enemy against which you can stand–if you are sober in spirit, not if you are a ticking time bomb, not if you are “carried away by every wind and wave of doctrine,” not if you think you can wing it. Prepare your mind! Abide in His word. We are told to resist our enemy, by knowing. Knowing that you are not alone; learning from our brethren who have also suffered; knowing more deeply the God who abides in you.
Firm in your faith
The same faith received by the apostles; the same kind! There are no super Christians; there are none who ought to be monks and nuns while the “rest of us” are just normal people not growing in the faith. There are none who have a secret knowledge, or a better way of connecting with God to which you are unaware.
God has revealed all you need to know, it is all in His Word. His Spirit dwells in all believers the same, we live in the reality of Ephesians 4:4-6
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
To be firm in the faith is not some far off goal that not many attain. In His Church, we pray for one another that “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) He will keep us, He can make us stand firm, and we can have the stability of faith mentioned in Colossians 2:5. We will grow at different paces, our journeys will not be the same. But we will grow. And we will flourish (Psalm 92), we will overcome (1 John 5:4; Revelation 17:14) and we will have faith to the preserving of our soul (Hebrews 10:39).
10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
Don’t you just love how this letter closes! Silvanus, our faithful brother. There are faithful brothers and sisters! And there will be! I know many, and we all ought to encourage one another all the more to remain in Him, to remain faithful (see Hebrews).
After they had suffered? We will all suffer, and share in His sufferings. Life in this fallen world is hard, it takes a toll on us physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, relationally…all the ways. Our suffering is not in vain; He is working Providentially in all of it, and will redeem us, restore us. His promises are sure, and in the midst of suffering Peter knew they needed to hear them once more. Turning your gaze often to where Christ is, Who He is, what He is doing, what He will do–this will nourish your soul.
This is the true grace, stand firm in it! There are counterfeits. There are false ideas about His grace circulating through our culture. Don’t listen to those other voices. He is unchanging, His grace is boundless, and beautiful, and real. A time meditating in Ephesians is always encouraging as you ponder His lavish grace. We will be faithful as we stand firm in His grace; never on our own.
For further reflection this week: Galatians 3:25-29; Romans 11:20; Hebrews 10:31-39; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:27-31; Romans 4:19-5:5