Pilgrims among Pagans Studies from I Peter: Lesson 15 – Final Instructions for Those enroute to Eternal Glory

1 Peter 5:5b–11

Key Verse: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10

Humbled together under God’s mighty hand (read 5:5b–7)

The apostle Peter turns from addressing specific groups within the congregation to exhorting all members to be submissive to each other. Just as Christ Jesus prepared to wash His disciples’ feet by wearing a towel (Jn. 13:4), so too believers who submit to onc another wear the garment of humility. Peter supports his appeal by quoting Proverbs 3:34: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Notice that pride and humility are polar opposites not only in human relationships. but first of all in our relationship to God, and His to us! Our attitude toward God determines our attitude toward people.

Peter next urges his readers that. to avoid God’s resistance and to receive His grace, they must humble themselves under God’s mighty hand. This is the same mighty hand that delivered Israel from Egypt, that delivered Old Testament saints from distress, and that finally exalted His own Son. In our judgment Peter is describing God’s mighty hand here not as the source of suffering, but as the source of deliverance. Recognizing God’s sovereign providence is the pathway to humility and thus to enjoying God’s grace in suffering. (Question 1)

So mighty is God’s hand that believers may with confidence turn over to Him all their worries: “...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (v. 7). The Lord summons suffering believers to place the unbearable burden of all those anxieties and uncertainties that accompany suffering—how long will it last? how much will it cost? how much will it hurt?—in His mighty hand. “As soon as we are convinced that God cares for us, our minds are easily composed to patience and humility” (Calvin). This knowledge of divine providence leads not to laziness, but to a quiet faith that is content to wait upon the Lord for rescue.

Resisting together the devil’s aggression (read 5:8–9)

At the same time, we must be realistic and responsible enough to know that hard work awaits pilgrims who suffer for the faith. With short, staccato imperatives Peter awakens us to this reality and duty: “Be sober, be vigilant.” Sobriety aims at internal control, vigilance alerts us to an external enemy.

Who is the enemy and what is he like?

First, he is the church’s sworn opponent (the “your” is plural), not her friendly companion. Second, he’s the devil, Satan, the prince of darkness. He is a life-threatening prowling lion whose aggressive schemes make the world unsafe. After stalking his prey he announces his ambush with a thundering roar as he pounces on his victim. The flock of Jesus Christ grazes in serious danger!

An of this describes what Peter recognizes as the power behind the persecution and suffering of these believing pilgrims. Behind the opposition of an anti-Christian culture stands the devil, the great enemy of God and of His people. Satan’s savagery can take your breath away. His roar can terrify you into cowardice. His teeth and claws can tear deeply and scar permanently. Pilgrims who suffer among pagans are really dealing with the devil himself.

But rather than take a detour to avoid confrontation with the devil, we are urged to resist him! How? By standing fast in the faith: our feet must have firm footing in the doctrines of faith, and our hearts must be firmly grounded in the confidence those doctrines afford. (Questions 2 and 3)

Moreover, this is a communal struggle, as Peter indicates: “...knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by the brotherhood in your world” (v. 9b). Earlier the apostle had urged, “Love the brotherhood” (2:17). Here in this verse, most translations speak of “your brotherhood in the world,” but a beller rendering would be “the brotherhood in your world,” pointing to a particular regional community of faith consisting of these congregations to whom Peter is writing (van Houwelingen). These brothers in Asia Minor live in their own world, so to speak, familiar with the problems of persecution hcing faced by believers throughout their region.

Often human suffering creates isolation. People withdraw and become anxious about their private welfare; victims of suffering tend to ignore others around them in similar straits. But Christians aware of the suffering of brothers and sisters arc cemented together. Suffering persecution bonds believers into a family! (Question 4)

Perfected together for God’s glory (read 5:10–11)

Peter concludes his exhortation by directing our attention to God with a beautiful prayer and declaration of praise. Both mutual submission and communal resistance may rest in the assurancc of God’s perfecting work and aim at His glorious dominion.

This God is the “God of all grace,” a grace which comes to fullest expression in the lives of the humble (5:5) who cast their cares on Him (5:7). For them He is the source of all kinds of spiritual help.

This God once cal1ed or summoned Peter’s readers by means of the gospel out of darkness into light and life. The destination of that summons was “His eternal glory in Christ Jesus.” This divine calling itself is the guarantee that these pilgrims will reach that destination. The time of suffering is short; their sorrow will be limited. Jesus Christ is not only their example for suffering; He is also their Savior in suffering—He sees to it that their pain leads to glory.

Peter uses four verbs to describe God’s design with His children in their pilgrim suffering. He perfects them, in the sense of restoring them to their original beauty and function. This restoration occurs as God reinforces what is weak, supports what is unstable, and establishes each one on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

For all this work God alone deserves the honor and praise. “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (5:11). God’s personal radiance and power are the ground, guarantee and goal of this restoration program.

With the certainty of “Amen” Peter ends his instruction and exhortation. What confidence and courage persecuted pilgrims may enjoy! Nothing can prevent God from finishing what He has begun, which means: nothing can hinder these believers from reaching their destination of eternal glory! (Question 5)

Questions for Reflection and Reply

1. Imagine writing a letter to believers suffering persecution today in Moslem countries. Put 1 Peter 5:6–7 in your own words as you write a short paragraph to comfort these people.

2. James 4:7 says: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Can we really run away from the devil? If we try to run instead of resist, what are we saying about God? About the reality of our salvation? Mention some effective tools or techniques for resisting the devil.

3. According to Isaiah 31:4, Hosea 11:10 and Revelation 5:5, who is the other Lion active in the world today, and what is this Lion doing?

4. Where in today’s world is Christ’s church suffering severe persecution? In view of increasing persecution around the world, mention some specific things the church of which you are a member can do to equip herself to endure persecution.

5. 1 Peter 5:10–11 is often read in connection with public profession of faith. Is this really appropriate, or is it too depressing for the occasion? Explain why.

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