Stand Firm in God’s Grace (1 Peter 5:12-14)

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Introduction

I invite you to turn with me one last time to the book of 1 Peter. Our passage for today’s sermon will be 1 Peter 5:12-14. If you do not have a Bible with you this morning, or if you’d like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, please make use of one of the pew Bibles where you will find this passage located on page 1017.

Back in March of last year—almost one year ago—we began a new sermon series in the book of 1 Peter, and the title I gave to that series was “Learning to Live as Exiles.” And in the first sermon from this book, I began by asking the questions: “Have you ever found yourself in a place or in a situation where you felt like you didn’t belong? Do you know what it is like to not fit in with the people around you? In other words, are you familiar with it’s like to be thought of as an outsider?”

And then, after pointing out that it is common to feel like an outsider whenever you move to a new neighborhood, or when you start a new job, or begin attending a new school, I went on to ask whether or not any of you have ever felt like an outsider because of your faith. Specifically, I asked: “Do you know what it is like to be looked upon as strange because you believe that a man named Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave to defeat death for you? Do you know what it is like to be ridiculed because you still believe things taught in the Bible that most of the people around you reject? Do you know what it is like to be seen as strange and different and antisocial because you refuse to take part (or for your children to take part) in activities that seem normal to everyone else?”

Well, as we have seen over the past year, the Apostle Peter was writing this letter to people who were having these exact sort of experiences. He wrote this letter to people who were living in a place that was not their home. He was writing to people who were very aware of what it felt like to be outsiders because of their faith. He was writing to people who knew what it was like to be looked upon as strange and different as a result of their beliefs. He was writing to people who did not fit in with those around them because of what they believed about God’s Word. And he was writing to people who had experienced the hostility of those who were unwilling to tolerate Christian ways of thinking and living.

As I said in that first sermon, Peter was writing to believers who were learning to live as exiles in this world. They were struggling with persecution. They were struggling with rejection. They were struggling with ridicule. They were struggling with hostility. They were struggling with being seen as weird and different. They were struggling with resentment from their neighbors. In other words, they were struggling with how to remain faithful to God in a society that encouraged the opposite and among people who looked suspiciously at those who refused to assimilate to the cultural norms of the day.

And that is why, so many of our sermons from this letter, have been so very relevant to us as Christians who are living in a time and a place where there is less and less tolerance for those of us who truly believe and base our lives on the things God has said in the Bible. Yes, it has been so very relevant because we too are learning what it is like to be rejected and ostracized and marginalized because of our faith. We too are beginning to understand what it feels like to be seen as strange and different and even dangerous by other people.

Well, in our passage for this final sermon from this letter, Peter really summarizes everything up for us. Yes, in these verses he tells us that if we are going to live as exiles in this world, we are going to have to recognize God’s grace toward us and stand firm in it. Remember, our our goal as sojourners and exiles in this world is not to withdraw from society, but to live in such a way in front of society that observing unbelievers will be drawn to the one, true God through faith in Jesus Christ. Well, if we are going to do that, we are going to have to understand what it means for us to be recipients of God’s grace and then stand firm in that knowledge regardless of what the world throws at us.

So let’s go ahead and look at this passage and begin to talk about how we are going to stand firm in God’s grace using the things we have learned from Peter in this letter. If you haven’t already, please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 5 and follow along as I read verses 12-14.

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. (1 Peter 5:12–14 ESV)

Who Are These People?

So, in his concluding words, Peter does a few things. First, he recognizes an individual named Silvanus who either transcribed this letter as Peter dictated it or served as the courier of the letter from Peter to the original recipients—or maybe he did both. Now, interestingly, Silvanus is just the Latin version of the Greek name Silas.1 Yes, this is the same Silas who traveled with Paul on many of his missionary journeys and was even thrown with Paul into the Philippian jail. He was a trusted leader in the early church, and after his missionary endeavors with Paul, he ended up serving in Rome with Peter and another well-known biblical figure, Mark—the one who wrote the Gospel of Mark.

Now, speaking of Rome, look with me at verse 13. It says, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.” Now, first of all, Babylon was just a common way that believers in Peter’s day referred to Rome. It is the same thing we see John doing over and over again in the book of Revelation. From Old Testament times, the name Babylon was used to represent any people or any place that was opposed to God.2 And it is very likely that Peter was writing this letter from Rome and using this code word “Babylon” to refer to it.

But, who is Peter referring to when he says, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings?” Well, some have believed that Peter is referring to his wife, but much more likely, is that he was referring to church in Rome as a whole. It is sort of like the way we refer to ships and boats as “she” and give them feminine names. In the same way, the church, as the bride of Christ, is also usually referred to using feminine pronouns and that is what Peter is doing here. So, in his concluding words, he is sending greetings from the church he was leading in Rome, and from his son in the faith, Mark. Yes, Mark wasn’t his biological son, but Peter referred to him in this way as evidence of the fatherly love that he had toward his younger friend and coworker, Mark.

Now, the ”kiss of love” that Peter refers to in verse 14 was something that was common in the early church—and in that culture as a whole. And there are still many cultures today where people greet one another with a kiss. It seems strange to us, but that’s all that is going on here. It was simply a way for these believers to express their love for one another—something that Peter knew was important for believers who were suffering hostility from the outside world. In our own culture today, the same thing is accomplished by a friendly handshake or a hug. And it is just as important that we show our love for one another as it was for the original recipients of this letter to do so.

God’s Grace

Okay, with that background information out of the way, let’s spend the rest of our time this morning focusing in on the second part of verse 12, which will be the primary emphasis of this sermon. Here Peter says, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” And so, let’s begin by talking about God’s grace as Peter has described it in this letter.

According to verse 12, Peter has both declared God’s grace to them, and he has offered exhortations based on what he has taught them about God’s grace. So, let’s do a bit of a review of both of these things. I’m going to ask you to flip through the book with me as I take us on a little journey through where we have been.

First of all, back in chapter 1, beginning in verse 3, notice what Peter says; he says,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5 ESV)

And then, down in verse 13, he says,

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13 ESV)

Friends, God has shown his grace to us by sending his Son to die for our sins and by causing us to born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He has promised us a heavenly inheritance and is keeping it safe and us safe until Jesus returns. And, all of this is grace because it is not what we deserve. According to Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death.” Yes, what we have earned through our rebellion against God is death. But that is not what God gives us. What he gives us is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV). And that, friends, is nothing but grace.

Then, in 1 Peter 2, beginning in verse 9, Peter says,

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10 ESV)

Yes, friends, because of God’s grace, we have been called out of a life of darkness and despair into the marvelous light of hope found in Jesus Christ. None of us were born as God’s people, but now, as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, we have become God’s people. And according to verse 10, God has shown us his great mercy. Instead of giving us what we deserve he has shown us mercy. Again, this is God’s grace toward us. It is not what we deserve; it is grace.

Yes, because of his “great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). What amazing grace God has shown toward us as his people! And that is where Peter began in this letter. All of his exhortations that follow are based on the fact that God has poured out grace upon grace onto his people. And, friends, we too are recipients of God’s undeserved mercy and favor. We too are recipients of his grace.

Stand Firm

But, even though God has shown us great mercy by causing us to born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and even though God has given us a heavenly inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, and even though we are currently being guarded by him until we receive the salvation coming our way when Jesus returns, at the present moment we are undeniably living in this world as strangers and exiles, and we often experience a great deal of discomfort as a result. And Peter knows this. He was writing to people who were living in this exact situation. He was living in this exact situation. And the whole purpose of this letter was to encourage these suffering believers not to waver in their faith because of the persecution and suffering they were facing, but to stand firm in their knowledge of God’s grace. And that is his message to us as well.

While our struggle as Christians today might be a little bit different, it is not all that different. There is a lot of pressure on us to turn our backs on genuine Christianity for something that is more in line with the cultural norms of the day. There is a lot of pressure on us to relax what we believe and to stop claiming that Jesus is the only way. There is a lot of pressure on us to set the Bible aside and to not take our faith so seriously. But, Peter’s message to us this morning, is to stand firm—to stand firm in our faith through the knowledge of God’s grace, even when doing so is going to make life difficult for us.

Again, this doesn’t mean withdrawing from society, but living in such a way in front of society that unbelievers will be drawn to the one, true God through faith in Jesus Christ. And, he has told us, throughout the letter, how to go about this. First, as we have already said, we must focus our attention, not on the struggles, but on the grace of God that has been and will be displayed toward us. That is what enables us to stand firm. So we must begin by focusing on that.

But, that is only where we begin. Because this letter from Peter has also been full of a great deal of practical advice too, hasn’t it? He has given some very practical advice for believers who find themselves living among people who see them as strange and different because of their faith. For example, he told us in 1 Peter 2:11-12 “to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against our soul[s].” He told us to keep our conduct honorable whenever we are around unbelievers so that it makes it difficult for them to speak evil against us—and thus to slander and malign us.

In a large section from the middle of the second chapter into chapter 3, he talked to us about the importance of submitting to human institutions whenever possible. Peter knows we are not going to gain any ground by unnecessarily resisting the laws of the land and its leaders. We are not going to achieve anything by refusing to show honor to those in authority over us—whether it be those who establish and maintain the laws of our country or whether it be those who employ us. Yes, as Christians, we ought to be, in many respects, model citizens. And, this includes our families. Wives are to follow the leadership of their husbands and husbands are to show understanding toward their wives and honor them as gifts from God.

Again, all of this is pretty practical advice for living as exiles in this world. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer for doing good. That’s why beginning in 1 Peter 3:14, he tells us,

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14–17 ESV)

So, hopefully, it is clear that Peter has no illusions that following Christ is going to make everything go well for you. That’s not the case at all. In fact, he even says in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” In other words, when you signed on to give your lives to and follow a suffering savior, you signed up for some suffering of your own. That is why, in 1 Peter 4:12, he says,

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12–14 ESV)

And he concludes that chapter by saying, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV). In other words, we can’t let the suffering we face as Christians, distract from our mission and derail us from doing what is good. Instead, we listen to what Peter says in 5:6-7, when he writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” And instead of giving up, we remind ourselves of the truth found in 1 Peter 5:10. Here Peter says, “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.”

Brothers and sisters, in this knowledge, we stand firm in the grace of God that has been and will be shown toward us when Jesus returns. Yes, for now, we suffer a little and struggle a little as aliens and exiles who are living in a place that is not our home. But none of this can take away the hope we have in the grace of God. No, we have a living hope because we have been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing in this world that can take that hope away.

Conclusion

So brothers and sisters, as we come to the end of this letter, I want to do what Peter does in his closing line. I want to wish “Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (1 Peter 5:14 ESV). You already have peace with God through the death of Jesus Christ, but I will also pray that, as much as is possible in this life, you will have peace with man.

But most of all, I will pray that you will continue to rest in the knowledge of God’s grace that has been shown toward you on the cross and that you will stand firm in that knowledge no matter what life throws your way. That has been the purpose of this letter. And that has been my purpose for these sermons over the last year. I hope we have learned to live as exiles and I hope that the things we have studied will help us live out our faith in a world that desperately needs to see people doing just that.

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  1. Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 321. ↩︎
  2. Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 37 of The New American Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 251. ↩︎