Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through 1 Peter in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.
- David Dunham opened our series by looking at 1 Peter 1:1-2.
- Dave looked at 1 Peter 1:3-9.
- Dave looked at 1 Peter 1:10-12.
- Dave looked at 1 Peter 1:13-21.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 1:22-2:3.
- Zach wrote on 1 Peter 2:4-10.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 2:11-17.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 2:18-25.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 3:1-7.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 3:8-12.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 3:13-18.
- Matt Adams wrote on 1 Peter 3:18-22.
- Mike Boling wrote on 1 Peter 4:1-6.
- Dave wrote on 1 Peter 4:7-11.
- Matt wrote on 1 Peter 4:12-19.
- Jason wrote on 1 Peter 5:1-4.
- Zach wrote on 1 Peter 5:5-6.
- Today Dave concludes our series by looking at 1 Peter 5:7-14.
1 Peter 5:7-14, “7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 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. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
A certain company attracts people to its health products by offering to test people’s “real age.” The test allegedly compares a person’s chronological age to his body’s real age. If someone eats fruits and vegetables, sleeps enough, and exercises daily, the test declares that his real age is less than his birth certificate indicates. But if he sleeps three hours per night, smokes cigarettes, devours cheeseburgers, and commutes by helicopter, the test says, “Because of your risk factors, your life expectancy is less than anticipated.” It then delivers counsel that, if followed, will lead to a longer life.
1 Peter 5 presents the apostle’s counsel to people who have a great risk factor: they resolved to follow Jesus in a world that was hostile to the faith. The Christians in Peter’s churches no longer worshiped pagan deities, no longer bowed to the emperor or participated in pagan revelry. That brought danger. Change upsets people. Friends questioned these believers, and the empire entertained suspicions.
Peter’s counsel aims at a faithful life more directly than a long life. He commands the church to “humble yourselves” (1 Peter 5:6), “cast all your anxiety on him” (1 Peter 5:7), “be self-controlled and alert” (1 Peter 5:8, is a double command), and “resist” the devil (1 Peter 5:9). Peter’s commands rest on a theological foundation as his last passage begins and ends with God. His hand is mighty (1 Peter 5:6), He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), and He is gracious (1 Peter 5:10a). He has called us to glory and promises to restore us (1 Peter 5:10). He can make good on His promises because He possesses eternal power (1 Peter 5:11). The character of God is the basis for His people’s faithfulness and confidence.
The Might and Care of God
Peter commands his people, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up” (1 Peter 5:6). In the Exodus, the mighty hand of God liberated Israel from Egypt’s oppression (Exodus 13:9; Deut. 3:24; 7:19). The New Testament describes the work of Jesus as a second exodus. At the transfiguration, as Luke 9:30-31 says, “Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus “of his departure [literally exodus], which he knew was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” As an Israelite, Peter knew the blessings that God gave Israel when He established the new nation after the exodus. Peter claimed and applied those blessings to his Gentile converts in 1 Peter 2:9-10. If Jesus accomplished a new exodus for the Gentiles, then they enjoy God’s power and compassion, just as Israel did. Because God is strong, because he has a “mighty hand,” Peter tells his people, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Peter asserts that God’s favor depends on both His grace and His power: “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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11).
Throughout his epistle, Peter has sprinkled advice to help his people endure trials. They should avoid trouble by respecting governors and masters (1 Peter 2:13-18). Ordinarily, no trouble should arise for the man or woman who tells the truth, does good, seeks peace, and shows compassion (1 Peter 3:8-11). The church should also stand together, with shepherds overseeing a willing flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Still, before Peter signs off, he delivers more counsel. His people should humble themselves (1 Peter 5:6), cast their anxieties on God (1 Peter 5:7), be watchful (1 Peter 5:8), and resist the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9), all the while trusting God’s grace and the power that makes them strong (1 Peter 5:10-11).
As we learned when we considered 1 Peter 5:1-6, the call to humility as well as a final word for leaders and the opening of his final counsel for everyone (1 Peter 5:6-14). Young men must submit to elders, but everyone should wear humility like a garment, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
In an essential way, the Christian must be humble, for faith begins with repentance. We confess, “I am a sinner, unable to reform myself, and without hope, outside God’s sovereign mercy.” While there is a definitive, one-time humbling when we repent, we must remain humble. Then God promises to exalt us “at the proper time” as He judges it (1 Peter 5:6). Fallen human nature is prone to pride and egocentricity. We often think we deserve to be prominent and to excel, so we resent barriers to our ascendance. But if we humble ourselves, we refuse to grumble about adversity. To the question, “How are you doing?” we can honestly reply, “Better than I deserve.”
Cast Your Anxiety on the Lord
Peter’s people had problems, so he urges them, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). There is an innate antagonism between pagan polytheism and Christianity. The monotheism and exclusivity of the faith were affronts to Rome’s religions and way of life. New Christians faced the loss of friends, social status, livelihoods, even life itself—each of which, of course, could induce anxiety.
Notice that anxiety (merimna) is singular. We normally think of anxieties in the plural. We worry about work, health, relationships, and an too-dense schedule. Problems roll in like waves, but they can congeal into one mass of anxiety. If we pay attention, we sense the big anxiety in our friends—and our friends can see it in us. We can weather modest problems, arriving singly, but when one great problem falls on us, or a cluster arrives, we feel it differently.
Peter commands us to take our anxiety and throw, toss, or cast it onto God. As we throw a bag of gym clothes into a car or hoist a saddle onto a horse so we should toss our anxiety on the Lord. He is mighty and He will exalt us at the right time, because our cares are His.
Jesus tells us not to be anxious. Matthew 6:25-32, “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
We should not indulge our worries.
Yet Paul admits that he has anxiety (merimna again). He lists his troubles as an apostle—the beating and jails, the hunger, thirst, cold, and shipwreck—then concludes, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). So Paul has anxiety and apparently sees it as a problem but not as a sin.
From this we conclude that anxiety is normal in some circumstances and that it’s possible to be anxious and yet not sin, if we address it properly. Specifically, we neither panic nor attempt to solve our problems autonomously. Suppose someone is anxious about his or her inability to find a job or to conceive a child. We should do what we can to solve the problem and ask God to bless our actions (Psalm 90:17). Yet even as we act, we should pray, “Lord, I’ve done what I can; now I leave the results to you. My fears weight me down, and I give them to you.”
Resist the Devil
But our God isn’t the only spiritual being who takes interest in us. An evil foe stands behind our visible enemies. Peter warns us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6).
Conventional Christian wisdom rightly observes that we make two mistakes regarding Satan. We can take him too seriously, as if he possessed God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. But he is an angel, and like all other creatures, he is in one place at a time, has areas of ignorance, and has finite power. Indeed, Michael the archangel is presented as his peer in Revelation 12:7. On the other hand, we can fail to take him seriously enough, reducing him to a carton villain. This states the essentials.
First, the term devil translates a Greek word meaning “deceiver,” for he does seek to deceive (Zech. 3; Rev. 20:2). Second, he is dangerous. Hungry and wounded lions attack, and Satan, whose name means “adversary” in Hebrew, is both. His power is limited, but he walks around, looking for victims. Because the devil aims to deceive and then to devour, Peter warns us twice, “Be sober-minded; be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan operates by tempting or enticing people to sin. One classic case is Satan’s attempt to persuade Jesus to use His powers selfishly. After Jesus fasted forty days, He was hungry, and Satan invited Him to turn nearby stones to bread (Matt. 4:2-3).
Satan has additional tactics. He incites idolatry, the worship of anything but the true God (Matt. 4:8-9). He also tempts us to doubt our standing with God (Revelation 12:10). He confuses or blinds people so that they cannot see the truth (2 Cor. 3:14-16). Today it seems that he has blinded Western societies ethically. Notice how we talk about ethics. People are no longer evil or perverse; they adopt alternative lifestyles. Deeds are no longer right or wrong; they are appropriate or inappropriate. That implies that wicked acts are nothing worse than breaches of etiquette. If someone offers us a chance to do evil, we don’t say, “That’s wrong”; we say, “I’m not comfortable with that,” as if comfort were a moral category. But the right course of action is often intensely uncomfortable, and the path to evil will be comfortable if habit makes it familiar. Satan is probably quite pleased when we do what is comfortable and shun what is not. How readily our essential but difficult duties would fall away.
“Resist him, standing firm in the faith,” Peter commands (1 Peter 5:9). James adds, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It’s hard to resist the devil, and at first, the longer we resist, the harder it feels. Suppose you accidentally start to divulge something before you recall that it’s confidential. You pause, and a friend begins to please, “Come on, tell me! I can keep a secret, I promise.” As he begs and guesses, the pressure builds. It eases if you break your silence. Yet if the intensity of the temptation increases as we resist it in the shorter term, it falls of in the long term, as we keep resisting sin. Most addicts see this when they break with addictive use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. The longer we break with lying or the use of pornography, the easier it is to stay away from those sins.
One way to resist sin is to flee temptation. Paul advised, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) and “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). He told Timothy to flee from the love of money, to “Flee the evil desires of youth,” and to “pursue righteousness” (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
When we resist Satan, he must seek another opportune moment to tempt us, as Luke 4:13 points out. But when we capitulate to temptation, we offer him more time to do his will with us. When we succumb once, it’s easier to sin again, as we form sinful habits.
Resistance to temptation should be both individual and communal. God’s grace trains us to “renounce worldly passions,” so that we are responsible, as individuals, to monitor our internal life. Each individual is responsible to say, “No” when sin presents itself (Titus 2:12-13). Yet the command to resist the devil is, like the other commands here, addressed to you, plural. We are part of the church, and together we strive to live faithfully.
Peter shows interest in Christian solidarity when he says that we know that our “brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9b). Because we face the same sort of trouble, we should be more resolute to resist temptations.
By God’s Grace
Peter closes his epistle with the assurance that the outcome of our life rests more on God’s power and grace than on our labors. 1 Peter 5:10, “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.” This is good news. God, the source of all grace, has called us to “eternal glory.” Still, suffering precedes glory (1 Peter 4:13), so we must suffer “a little while” before He restores and strengthens us. Peter uses four nearly synonymous verbs, all in the future tense, to emphasize God’s promise. God Himself will restore us, establish us, strengthen us, and set us on a firm foundation. All of this happens “in Christ,” that is, through our union with Him, and by God’s eternal power. Thus, as God one day sets creation right and removes the sin that drives all suffering, He pledges to restore us, too.
Greetings and Blessings
Since Peter often tells His people to stand together (1 Peter 5:1-3, 5, 9), it is fitting that he mentions his co-laborers, Silvanus and Mark, as he closes, “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” (1 Peter 5:12).
Peter also describes the letter itself, asserting that it exhorts and testifies that this is the true grace of God. “This is the true grace” (1 Peter 5:12b) refers to the whole letter, which began with God’s election, moved to Jesus’ atoning death, resurrection, and ascension, and closed with God’s promise of eternal glory in Christ” (1 Peter 5:10). The gospel, Peter declares, is true, and trust in Jesus is trust in the living God. Jesus is no mere man, the gospel no mere story. It is the truth about the eternal and gracious God. None of this is in doubt, but humans are fickle, so Peter commands his people to “Stand fast” in this grace (1 Peter 5:12).
Peter, along with Mark, the longtime companion of Paul and Barnabas before he joined Peter (Acts 12:12, 25; col. 4:10; Philem. 24) sends a greeting. 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.” As we have noted, “Babylon” is not the literal city, but code for “Rome.” If the gods that oppose the faith are oppressive power, materialism, and false religion, Rome and Babylon are two cities that offered both power and wealth, both violence and sensual indulgence (Isa. 46:47; Rev. 17-18). If Peter dwells in Rome/Babylon, his flock should see that he stands with them. Even if many miles separate the apostle and the churches, they live in the same setting.
Finally, Peter commands his people to stay together locally. 1 Peter 5:14, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” The kiss of love meant the ritual touch of cheeks, not the lips. Further, the kiss was given from man to man or woman to woman, not man to woman.
In the empire, the kiss of greeting was common when friends or family reunited. But not everyone kissed. The kiss demonstrated friendship, kinship, and affection. The Ephesians elders kissed Paul when they saw him for the last time (Acts 20:37). In Jesus’ Parable, the father kisses the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). But a Pharisee proves that he has no love for Jesus when he offers no kiss (Luke 7:45).
The command to “greet one another with a kiss of love” reminds us of Peter’s emphasis on love in God’s household. Love is our prime disposition and main action, our sign of solidarity. 1 Peter 1:22 said, “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” We also notice the phrasing of 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers.” So we respect everyone, but we love the brotherhood. Since love must show itself in unity, we should “live in harmony with one another;… love as brothers, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8). Love also heals breaches, “love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Peter also sprinkles family metaphors through his letter. God is our Father, and we are “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14) who have been “born again” (1 Peter 1:23). Since we belong to a new and loving family (1 Peter 1:17-18, 22; 4:9), we should seal our ties with a “kiss of love,”
Joel Green says that the kiss of love has traits that shape the Christian world. The kiss generated a sense of identity and focused attention on believers’ shared life. The visual, tactile act sealed “the community’s essential commitments with physical demonstration.” They had suffered hostility and alienation from the pagan world; now the kiss affirm that they belonged in a loving family. The kiss of love strengthened “patterns of thinking and feeling” and a “quality of life, determined by the merciful initiative of God who brings liberation in Christa and creates a household structured around his grace.”[i]
The kiss of love is still known in many cultures, but where the practice is alien, we find other ways to demonstrate our affection. That could be a handshake or a hug. Physical affection is important, as the five-fold command to greet with a kiss shows (Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14; Luke 7:45; Acts 20:37). But the custom must be grounded in reality. We need genuine ties for the signs of affection to carry weight. It’s awkward, not helpful, to hug a stranger. We need relationships and must take time to form them.
Even the great apostles Peter and Paul never wanted to be alone; they needed loving relationships, too. As Peter wrote, Silvanus and Mark were with him. He wanted the whole church and each church to know the benefits of familial love. At the least, we more richly we experience grace when we are together. We help each other stand in God’s grace this is one way that Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, cares for us as we move toward the eternal glory that God promises to us. All of this allows Peter to conclude with a simple but profound benediction, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ “(1 Peter 5:14).
So we have finished our journey through 1 Peter. How beautiful to receive God’s peace at its conclusion. It fitting that Peter, who betrayed the Lord and received the grace of forgiveness, closes his epistle by offering his churches the grace of God. His letter began, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1 Peter 1:2). He concludes, “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.” (1 Peter 5:12). The apostle’s talk of grace is not formulaic. Peter denied Jesus three times, swearing an oath that he did not even know him. Yet when Peter repented, Jesus both forgave him and reinstated him as an apostle. Because of the depth of his sin, Peter loved the grace of God.
But Peter offered no cheap grace. He called the church to a holiness grounded in the work of Christ. Because God is holy, we are holy. Because Jesus ransomed us, we are to put away sin (1 Peter 1:13-2:3). Because we are God’s holy nation, we abstain from sin and live honorably, even if slandered (1 Peter 2:4-12). Holiness manifests itself socially, in submission to governors and masters (1 Peter 2:13-25), and it shows itself in the home (1 Peter 3:1-7). Peter says that disciples can ordinarily expect to “see good days,” living in substantial peace, if we live well, treat others well, and seek peace (1 Peter 3:8-13). Still, it is possible to suffer for doing good (1 Peter 3:13-18). Jesus did so when He died for us and so liberated us from death (1 Peter 4:1-6). Nonetheless, the disciples’ eyes are not always on possible troubles. We are self-controlled, loving, hospitable, and quick to use God’s gifts to administer God’s grace (1 Peter 4:7-11). The elders of the church lead God’s flock in all this, setting an example and watching over all (1 Peter 5:1-5). So we hope to stand firm in God’s grace and enjoy the peace of Christ (1 Peter 5:7-14).
[i] Joel B. Green 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007, 183.