Twenty-four weeks ago we began a journey. We opened Peter’s first letter to the persecuted believers of Asia Minor and chose to walk through it instead of rushing through it. Along the way, we noticed familiar verses and discovered new vistas. We watched as Peter returned several times to his main themes of suffering, triumph, and encouragement. Even in these last few closing verses, those same themes reverberate.
Peter closed his letter in this way. “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. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. 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! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.” (1 Peter 5:10–14, NASB95) Peter’s closing words can be split up into three categories. Faith in God’s work. Encouragement for each other, and some behind the scenes insights.
Let’s tackle the behind the scene stuff first. The phrase “she who is in Babylon… sends greetings” seems a bit mysterious. Most scholars and early church tradition believe that “Babylon” is a coded term for Rome and the “she” is the church community Peter was writing from. We must remember that in a way we’re reading someone else’s mail. So while we may not know for certain, Peter’s readers knew exactly what he meant.
Peter mentions two specific individuals, Silvanus and Mark. Silvanus was no doubt the scribe that physically wrote Peter’s words on parchment. He could have been the same Silvanus that traveled on occasion with Paul (2 Corinthians 1:19). Mark could literally be Peter’s son but could also be, and probably is, the Gospel writer John Mark. There’s more to Mark’s story than we have space to cover here. However, early church tradition saw a bond between Peter, Mark and the Gospel that bears Mark’s name.
One of the things we noticed along our journey is that no matter what is going on God is greater still. While Peter does point out some things we are to be actively involved in, he also points out many things which God is doing on our behalf. This play between passive and active continues into Peter’s closing comments.
You could list them this way: God calls by grace, perfects, confirms, strengthens, and establishes you. Often we strive for these things when in reality they’re not up to us to do. God perfects our faith – Hebrews 12:2. God confirms our faith – Romans 8:16. God strengthens us – Philippians 4:13. God establishes us – Colossians 2:6-7.
It reminds me of Psalms 1:1-3. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1–3, NASB95)
Perhaps I should back up for just a moment. One thing kind of hidden in the translation from Greek to English has to do with verbs. Peter often wasn’t as specific in his verb use as Luke or Paul. But there are times when he is specific about the things which God is doing on our behalf and things which we are to actively be engaged in. Like a tree planted by the water, there are actions where our only activity is to receive. God provides grace, growth, confirmation, strength, and beginnings; we receive.
Peter begins with a strange encouragement, “After suffering a little while” then God will do these things. Perhaps it’s not all that strange since it echoed something Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95) Peter was being dead honest with his readers. Life is often bumpier than we’d prefer.
Jesus never promised to fix all the wrong we see in our lives or the world in these last days. He instead changes our own hearts. This abundant, rich, and fulfilling life Jesus promises is because He walks with us no matter what comes our way. The Chinese have a curse that goes something along the lines of “may you live in interesting times.” The idea being that peaceful and placid is better than times of struggle and turmoil. Here’s the thing, it’s the “interesting” moments of life that exposes our faith and trust in Jesus in ways that words can never match.
Peter encourages his readers to stand firm in God’s grace. That’s the anchor that will see them through this storm of trials and tribulations. Throughout the letter, Peter constantly exposes God’s goodness and ultimate triumph in Jesus Christ. He encouraged them to “fix their hope completely on the grace to be brought to you through Jesus Christ.” And reminded them that God’s gives grace to the humble and that salvation comes through grace.
God’s grace is utterly different than the pagan mindset many of Peter’s readers grew up with. Outside of the God of the Bible, all other gods are fickle, needy, and limited. The pantheon of Greek and Roman gods (along with the Norse, Egyptian, Canaanite, and others) required sacrifice and worship to remain appeased, to gain favor, or to prevent disaster. God’s grace, however, is not earned, bought, or bartered for; it is utterly and completely a gift. Stand in it like that firmly planted tree along the bank of a stream.
The fruit of God’s grace is love and peace which we are to share with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NASB95) It doesn’t mean that we don’t share love and peace with all, but that love and peace must be practiced and perfected in the household of God.
Peter closes his letter, and we end this series, by saying, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.”