A Closing Call to Grace
Passage: 1 Peter 5:12-14
Of course, this is the conclusion to 1 Peter, and this will be my last message in what ended up being a 32 sermon series. I have been can deeply blessed by my study of this book. God has used 1 Peter to make a powerful impact on my life in a broad range of areas. It is really incredible to consider how much meat is packed into this little letter of only 105 verses. I’ve been blessed by rich theological statements regarding the work of Christ and the hope of eternity. I’ve been challenged by Peter’s broad range of exhortations regarding holiness, obedience, Bible study, submission, marriage, relationships, and ministry in the church. And I’ve been instructed about how I ought to think about suffering and life in a sin-cursed world. Probably the most impactful truth has been to consider how my eternal hope should impact my life right now. I must see all of life in light of heaven if I am to keep a godly perspective about life. Since God’s Word is powerful, I’m sure you could come up with your own list. That might be a good dinner discussion for this afternoon. How has God used 1 Peter to impact your life?
Today, we will consider the conclusion of the book and also pull together some major themes of the epistle. Like the conclusions to most epistles, these verses include personal greetings and may not seem to have a lot of immediate significance for us. But even the greeting has significance as it sets an example for how the church should function. This passage also includes a final exhortation, which is a significant conclusion to the book. The central theme of these three verses is grace. We see an example of grace in the loving warmth among God’s people, and we also see an exhortation to grace in the call to realize the incredible grace we have received and to live in dependence on it. As a result my outline today consists of two commands. First, we must stand firm in God’s grace, and second, we must extend grace to each other.
Let’s begin by considering the command to…
Stand firm in God’s grace (v. 12).
Role of Silas:
Before we get into the exhortation, we need to consider the role of Silas. Everyone agrees that this is the same Silvanus whom Paul mentions in several of his epistles. He is also called Silas in Acts. Silas became Paul’s travel companion on his second missionary journey after he separated from Barnabas. Most likely Paul had already been executed by the time 1 Peter was written, and so it seems that Silas joined up with Peter following Paul’s death.
There are three legitimate ways to understand what is meant by “through Silvanus.” It could mean that Silas would carry the letter to the recipient churches. It could also mean that Silas served as Peter’s secretary in composing the book. The technical term for this role is amanuensis. Another possibility is that Silas played a significant role in developing the content of the book. In other words, Peter told him the basic ideas he wanted communicated and then Silas basically composed the epistle. I think we can rule out the third view because this book is clearly presented as the work of Peter. I’m comfortable with either of the first two views, and it’s possible that Silas fulfilled both roles. He may have been Peter’s amanuensis and also carried the epistle to the region where these churches were located.
After mentioning that he wrote to them through Silas, Peter goes on to give a basic summary of the theme of the book and an exhortation that follows from that theme.
Peter summarizes his book as a combination of exhortation and testimony regarding the “true grace of God.” What does Peter have in mind when he mentions the “true grace of God”? Since the word “this” doesn’t have an immediate antecedent, we can assume that Peter is looking back on the entire epistle as a testimony to grace. Maybe the idea of grace hasn’t jumped off the page as we have studied 1 Peter, but grace really is at the heart of this book.
I’d like to summarize Peter’s message of grace in five statements.
Christ suffered for sins (3:18).
This verse is a wonderful summary of the gracious work of Christ on the cross, which provides the foundation for all of God’s grace. Jesus took on himself the punishment for sin, but he didn’t just die. He rose in victory. The death and resurrection of Christ are the foundation of grace because they provide forgiveness and power.
Because Jesus suffered for sins and won the victory, the second aspect of Peter’s message of grace is that…
Christ called us to himself (2:4-10).
This passage describes the incredible new relationship that we enjoy with Christ. Christians are God’s special people who “have obtained mercy.” We enjoy an intimate relationship with Christ, and he is precious to us. This relationship is very significant in a hostile world because while we may be rejected “out there,” our Savior accepts us, and he commissioned us to declare his praises to all people. We now live for him and his eternal purpose.
And this reality has significant implications for what my life should look like in comparison to the world out there. The third aspect of Peter’s message of grace is that…
Christ calls us to follow him in holiness and suffering (1:13–16; 2:11; 4:1–2).
Verse 13 calls us to see our eternal hope clearly. Because of that hope, we must live holy lives that do not conform to the world. This is very important in a hostile world because the easiest way to minimize hostility is to just blend in. But Peter says we cannot conform to the former lusts. Peter gives a similar charge in 2:11. This world is not our home; therefore, we must not live for its passions. And since we cannot merely blend in, we should expect to suffer (4:1-2). We must embrace the mindset of Christ where God’s will is supreme and we will do his will no matter the cost. Therefore we must accept the fact that suffering will come and prepare to take it. The call to follow Christ in holiness and suffering is sobering and convicting. It’s not popular in our day, but Peter makes it very clear that it is an essential aspect of the true grace of God. Any gospel that promises your best life now or that minimizes the hardship of following Christ is not true.
This is a sobering aspect of grace, but God doesn’t leave us alone to endure. The fourth aspect of Peter’s message of grace is that…
Christ sustains us through suffering (5:10).
Just last week, we saw that God will “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle” his people through suffering. We saw in 3:18–22 that just as Christ sustained Noah through a hostile world and an awful flood, he will sustain us and bring ultimate deliverance. God’s grace continues to be active in his children, enabling us to persevere and not lose faith. But this present grace that we enjoy is but a foretaste of the ultimate joy that awaits us in heaven.
The fifth aspect of Peter’s message of grace is that…
Christ will reward our suffering (1:3-9).
This passage touches on all five aspects. Verse 3 says that the resurrection of Christ has provided regeneration. Verses 6–7 acknowledge the reality of suffering the refining work that God does through suffering. Verse 5 says that we are “kept by the power of God.” But above all else, these verses speak to the hope of eternity. Verse 4 speaks of the certainty of our inheritance, which v. 5 says is “ready to be revealed.” And vv. 8–9 speak of the joy we can have even in the midst of suffering as we anticipate the reward that awaits us.
Returning to 5:12, Peter says that the whole point of this book has been to exhort us in light of this great grace and to testify of its truthfulness. This combination reflects well what Peter has done. He has testified to the nature of grace and affirmed its reality. And he has exhorted us. I really appreciate the Greek term that stands behind “exhort” because it combines the concepts of challenging someone and encouraging him. When you read that term, you shouldn’t think of a drill sergeant spewing harsh rebukes. Instead, you ought to think of a father giving a thoughtful combination of rebuke, exhortation, and encouragement depending on the need of the moment. Peter has done that in this book. At times, he has been strong and at times he has been compassionate because we need both.
Peter has exhorted and testified of the true grace of God, and now he gives one more command regarding this grace.
We must stand in God’s grace.
The NKJV has “in which you stand,” but pretty much everyone agrees that “stand” is best understood as a command. Peter says, “This is the grace of God, so stand in it.” You can feel Peter’s urgency as he wraps up his letter. This command is significant in a couple of ways. First we must stand in the sense that we must not be moved off of the foundation of this grace. The gospel is true, and it offers eternal life; therefore, don’t let the intimidation of Satan or the world lead you to lose faith. Don’t cave to your desire for immediate relief or immediate pleasure. We need this challenge in our day as well. When you watch the news or look around society, Christianity feels pretty small. Atheistic scientists stick out their chests and make bold declarations about the illegitimacy of our faith. Humanistic sociologists declare us to be a hateful menace to building a culture of love. We might wonder if the Bible has grown outdated and if it is true. But we shouldn’t be alarmed because what people are doing today is what blind sinners have always done and what Jesus said they would do. They are running from the truth. Stay rooted in grace.
But this command is also significant for how we cope with the pressures of this world. We live in a very psychologized society, and we’ve come up with all sorts of ways to cope with life. Sometimes it’s as simple as “breathing techniques” or “hitting a punching bag.” Maybe we cope by imagining a happy place or through recreation. Sometimes we use chemicals, like psychological drugs or alcohol and illegal drugs. Some of these things have their place. We need to take a break occasionally, and recreation can be energizing. But we need to remember that the first place always ought to run for strength is the grace of God.
When you are discouraged, anxious, angry, or exhausted, run to the gospel. Read your Bible, pray, and seek out God’s people. Remember that God is in control and loves you. Remember that your eternal destiny is secure and nothing can touch it. Trust in God’s power to sustain you. Rely on the grace of God by practicing the disciplines of grace. I want to emphasize these things because when some Christians are struggling they pass over God’s grace and instead look to human solutions. But if you’ve had a tough week and you feel exhausted physically and spiritually, then skipping church is not the solution. It may bring more immediate relief to sleep in or to drown your brain in entertainment, but it will not build a foundation of health that can consistently carry you. Don’t run to drugs and alcohol either. Sure, they may take the edge off, but they will never make you a “like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” No that only happens when you delight in the Word and meditate on it day and night. What do you do when you get in the car after a long day of work? Do you throw yourself a pity party by listening to some depressed musician talk about how bad life is, or do you listen to a sermon that points you to the glory of God? Folks, the true grace of God is found in this book and in the church he has created. Stand in it. Look to the means of grace that God has provided above everything else.
Of course, there may be someone here who has never experienced this grace. Maybe you have always assumed that someone’s relationship with God is ultimately based on the good things they do and the bad things they don’t do. But 1 Peter is clear that our relationship with God is fundamentally a product of God’s grace. As we saw in 3:18 a few minutes ago, this grace is ultimately based on the fact that Jesus suffered in our place taking on himself the punishment for sin. We are made right with God, not by our goodness but by what Jesus did. If you have never done so, I hope that you will believe on Christ for salvation. If you would like to know more about the true grace of God and how you can be saved, I’d love to talk with you afterwards. Don’t walk away from the incredible gift of the gospel. It is the most precious treasure you can ever receive, and it is the difference between eternity with God in heaven and eternity under his wrath.
Let’s all resolve today to stand firm in the grace of God. The second major challenge of this passage is to…
Extend grace to each other (vv. 13–14).
I should note that the grace in vv. 13–14 is very different from the grace of v. 12. Verse 12 describes the power of God; vv. 13–14 describe how Christians are to minister to each other through compassionate care. Peter notes several basic examples of this kind of grace.
In v. 13, Peter extends greetings to his readers from “she who is in Babylon” and from Mark. Let’s talk for a moment about who Peter has in mind. In my introductory sermon to 1 Peter, I argued that “she who is in Babylon” is a reference to the Roman church. This is the best interpretation because at this point in history, the historical Babylon was basically a ghost town, and there is no evidence that Peter ever travelled to that region of the world. However, there is very strong evidence that Peter was in Rome at the time this book was written, and the fact that Mark and Silas are with him fits with this. As well, there is precedent for calling Rome Babylon. The Apostle John does so in Revelation, and it was also common in Jewish literature from the time. Therefore, we are safe to assume that “she who is in Babylon” is the church in Rome. Even though the Roman church and the recipient churches in Asia Minor had never met each other, they still shared a common bond. Peter says they were “elect together with you.” Christ had chosen the Christians in both regions and had drawn them to himself. And by drawing them to himself, Christ had also drawn them to each other. The Roman church was concerned for the churches in Asia Minor. They felt the weight of the persecution they were enduring, and so they sent them greetings. It’s good for us to remind ourselves often that we aren’t the only ones. God is at work all over the world building his church. But as well, believers all over the world are enduring hardship. As God gives us opportunities to extend grace to our brothers and sisters in need, we ought to rejoice and be thankful for the opportunity to extend that grace.
Peter also extends greetings from “Mark my son.” I have a lesson I’ve done several times on the life of Mark. He is a fascinating character. He probably first met Peter in the early days of the church because Acts 12 says that his mother’s home was a common meeting place for the church. Then Mark made one of the most well known blunders in the early church. He abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey because it was too hard. Paul refused to take him on his second missionary journey because he lost all confidence in him. But by the end of Paul’s life he had regained confidence in Mark, and in 2 Timothy 4:11, as Paul neared death in Rome, he asked Timothy, to “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” We are safe to assume that Mark came to Paul in Rome, and after he died, he joined with Peter. There is strong testimony within church history that under Peter’s direction he then composed the Gospel of Mark. Mark went from a failure to an author of Scripture. His life is a testimony of grace, and he also sends greetings to these persecuted churches. Mark was also concerned for these believers and sent his love.
Peter also sends his love through the final line of the book. A “peace wish” was very common in Hebrew culture. Jews still will greet each other with shalom. It’s a broad prayer for well-being both in this life and the life to come. Peter prayed that God’s blessing would rest on these churches and that God would sustain them in their hardship and ultimately reward them for their faithfulness.
Peter sends greetings from the church in Rome, Mark, and himself, and he also gives one more exhortation.
I thought about trying to make you nervous by talking as if I thought this command was normative for today, but I don’t think I could have done that successfully. The “kiss of love” or, as Paul calls it the “holy kiss” was a kiss on the cheek, the forehead, or the hand. It was common greeting in the first-century world, comparable to a handshake in our day. I think it’s interesting that several epistles command the churches to engage in this practice. It tells us that Peter and Paul believed that it is important that Christians intentionally express compassion and grace to each other. This was especially important in a context of persecution. We’ve seen several times in this book that the last thing we need while living in a hostile world is to be at each other’s throats. We need to love each other show that love with practical expressions when we gather to worship. This command is consistent with the NT picture of local church worship. The worship of the church is not intended to be a spectator sport where we slip in at the last minute watch some people put on a show and then leave as quickly as possible. Rather fellowship and practical expressions of love are very significant to the worship of the church. We need to be intentional about showing love, extending grace. Take time to fellowship when you are here. Make it your goal to arrive early, and take time afterwards to get to know people and ask thoughtful, caring questions. Be someone who extends grace.
These last three verses challenge us to stand firm in the grace we have received and extend grace to each other. It’s a fitting conclusion to the book. We have all sorts of enemies out there between the world, the flesh, and the devil, but grace is available in Christ and in the fellowship of the church. Stand firm in the grace of God of this week because Satan is going to come after you. Keep your eyes on the gospel, draw on God’s power, and hope in eternity. If you will do so, God will give grace. And then extend that grace to each other. Pray for each other this week. Write a note to someone you haven’t seen in a few weeks or who appears discouraged. Take someone out for coffee or have them into your home. Let’s be a church that is marked by grace.