Final Greetings

I Peter 5: 12-14.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.

The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.

Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Silvanus: This man’s name is derived from Silas, who was a Roman citizen who often accompanied Paul in his journeys. It was common practice in Peter’s day to include greetings from others at the end of his letters. It is likely that Peter dictated part or all of this letter to Silvanus, who included his own greeting, and made sure the epistle was delivered to the believers in Asia.

I like Peter’s emphasis on his letter being about the true grace, wherein ye stand. Peter had wrestled with the idea that grace had to include obedience to Old Testament law. He therefore could speak with personal knowledge and authority about the complete, true grace of God in which we can stand with assurance.

The church at Babylon: It may be that Peter wrote from Babylon, which still existed as a city in his time. Some believe he was using Babylon symbolically, although there isn’t much evidence to support that. In any case, the clearest sense is that one church was greeting another, as is still common today.

Elected together with you: Chosen, just as all believers are chosen of God. They had the same Father.

Marcus my son: This is the same Mark who wrote the gospel. Apparently Mark and Peter had a very strong and affectionate connection. It would seem that Peter’s teaching strongly influenced Mark’s writing in content and perspective.

Kiss of charity (love): This has translated as a “holy kiss,” which is exactly what it was. The practice of a kiss of greeting and/or departure existed long before Peter’s time, and is still common in many European and Asian countries. It was not established by Peter or any other Apostle. It was simply a habit of tradition. When I went to Slovakia on a short-term mission trip, I experienced this greeting for the first time in my life. I got to where I really liked it– a warm and friendly greeting that carries no hint of anything else.

Peter’s final greeting was for the believers to experience the peace of God in their lives, in spite of looming persecution. That is an encouragement for every believer.

The God of all Grace

I Peter 5:10-11.

But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Something that seems hard for us to get our minds around is that our struggles here are only temporary. They will not continue forever.

I have a chronic, painful condition in my lower back. Sometimes it feels to me as if it’s ALWAYS been there, but that simply isn’t true. What I’m dealing with right now didn’t really set in until I was over 60, and didn’t become a daily companion until maybe six or seven years ago. In the span of my life, that’s a very small percentage of time–just about 10%. And that’s how I need to continue to see it. Keep it in perspective. This, too, shall pass.

Persecution can seem endless. For too many, it has been what takes their lives. But what we need to see is that God not only gives us grace during persecution, but after the trial is over He makes us perfect (mature),and stablishes (establish, make permanent), strengthens, and settles us. This is a wonderful promise, as it can pertain both to earthly life and, of course, to eternity in heaven with Him.

God is the One Who deserves all glory and power for all of eternity. He is the One Who strengthens us to endure whatever He allows in our lives.

Satan, our Adversary

I Peter 5: 8-9.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

Satan is sneaky. He hunts quietly, staying downwind from his prey, just like a hungry lion. And he has pads in his feet that absorb sounds, so if he steps on a branch, or dry grass, his prey will likely not hear him.

Like a hunting lion, Satan looks for someone who wanders a little too far away from the herd. He looks for the old, who can’t run as fast as younger, healthier prey. He looks for the young, who have not yet learned how dangerous it can be to drift away from the herd. He looks for the wounded or maimed. He looks for the most vulnerable among us.

We must never assume that we are safe from Satan’s attacks because we are born-again believers. He can’t have our souls, but he can oppress us, obsess us, and cause us to become worried and anxious. He can be the biggest killjoy around!

Satan is our adversary. No matter how attractive sin may look, it is our enemy. Satan is our enemy because he is the enemy of God. We are to be watchful, alert, aware at all times so that Satan does not succeed in his efforts to cause us to stray into sinful paths.

We are to resist him. We are never told to chase him, but to stand fast against him, using our defensive weapons (Eph. 6: 10-18) to protect ourselves from his attacks. Just as Jesus did when Satan tempted Him, we are to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to defeat Satan.

We can stand fast, knowing that we are not alone in our battle. Believers all around the world suffer the same attacks. The defense is the same for all of us.

Study God’s Word. It is your most effective, powerful weapon against the attacks of Satan.

Humble Yourselves

I Peter 5:6-7.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time:

Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.

So much depth in so few words.

We are to humble ourselves. Notice that the verse does not admonish us to pray that God will humble us. It is something we are to choose, on purpose, allowing God to exalt us,(lift up high), and not to exalt ourselves. “I am the greatest” should not be a part of our vocabulary!

If we fail to humbly submit ourselves to God’s authority, He may choose to bring us to our knees instead. He can, you know. It is in His power to reduce our pride and self-exaltation to ashes.

We live in an era in which self-esteem has become a “thing.” People seek out professional counselors to help them develop better self-esteem. I would submit to you that the real problem here is that we really want other people to think more highly of us than they do. It is not so much that we think poorly of ourselves. It is that we think others don’t think as highly of us as they should. We crave to be noticed, appreciated, held in high regard.

Of course there are those who truly believe they are beneath contempt. I never, as a therapist, urged those people to have better self-esteem. Instead, I gave them scriptural principles about who they are in God’s eyes. He made us for Himself (Col 1: 16); we are His masterpieces (Eph. 2:10); He knew us before we were conceived (Ps. 139:14); and He has plans for us that are good (Jer. 29:11). Add to all that the fact that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the ultimate sacrifice to bring us into right relationship with Himself. There is no greater love!

Finally, v. 5 reminds us to lay all our worries, fears, doubts, and concerns at His feet, because He cares for us. There is no better place to take our burdens that to the feet of Jesus! Satan would load us up with burdens we cannot carry, but we can lay all those burdens at His feet and leave them there. Our trouble lies in the fact that we lay our burdens down, then go back to pick them up again. Some of us seem to believe that if we’re not worried, burdened, loaded with heavy cares, that we aren’t really very spiritual.

The exact opposite is true! God intended for us to walk joyfully through this life, not to crawl in sorrow and anxiety, bearing the whole world on our shoulders.

The degree to which we worry is NOT the measure of our spirituality.

Submit to the Elders

I Peter 5:5. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”

I believe that one of the most tragic things that can happen in a church is younger people having no regard or respect for the older, wiser, more experienced members. I’ve seen the results of giving too much control to a novice–someone who has not lived or experienced enough to be able to handle the leadership wisely and well. The Bible says we are not to “lift up a novice” in I Timothy 3:6. The word novice can mean one who is too young to have gained experience; it can also refer to a new convert. Either way, this person could easily become full of himself, full of the pride of his position, and come under judgment for his failure to lead in a godly manner.

Does this mean that all leaders in the church should be old, wrinkled, and feeble? No, of course not. There are younger men and women who have humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God, and through whom God can and does work mightily. What we need to do, in choosing church leadership, is look at the maturity level of a person. There are, after all, some very old folks who have never quite gotten over their youthful immaturity!

We are to be subject one to another in the church. Our demeanor should be that of humility. God resists those who are proud and demand to be leaders, but He gives grace to those who are humble in spirit and are willing to submit to others in the church.

Some people just seem to be natural leaders, tending to rise to leadership in any situation. Those people need to be acutely aware of the possibility of pride in their natural, God-given abilities. We need to remember that God has given us those abilities, and He can take them away!

Saturday Soliloquy: Comings and Goings

Two of our grandchildren came about two weeks ago to see their parents who are staying with us; also, to help their great-grandmother celebrate her 97th birthday. Our little house has been quite busy!

It has been wonderful to see them. It’s been about three years, since we all met in England to celebrate our 50th anniversary. One lives in New Zealand, where she attended university. The other has recently located to Montana, where he’ll start college in the fall. They’re just getting started on their adult journeys. It’s wonderful to watch them as they make decisions about both their immediate and far future.

In the meantime, Terry and I are looking forward with anticipation to our immediate and perhaps not-so-far-off futures in heaven. There is nothing morbid about that anticipation. It just becomes more of a reality with each passing day. More of a joy.

I do remember being their age. I was very excited about getting on with life after high school. Never could I have anticipated all the twists and turns life would take. It has certainly been an adventure.

Part of that adventure took us far away from both Terry’s parents and mine. Visits were anticipated, and the “hello” was always joyful. The “goodbye,” not so much. Knowing it could always be the last time we would see them made it hard to pack the kids into the car and head back home.

Now, Terry and I are on the other side of those comings and goings. Our traveling days are pretty much behind us, and we are content to be at home.

What is truly amazing to me, in retrospect, is how fast those intervening years flew by. Moves, jobs, four children, busybusybusy!

James 4:14 says, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” We can make plans, but we do not always know exactly what will happen on the next day. Life is like a mist or a fog that vanishes with a breeze. We are, as the old gospel song says, “just a-passin’ through.” Our time here on earth can be filled with both joy and sorrow, tragedy and pleasure.

It is our task to live for Him in this life. It should be our joy to do so. The pleasures that await us in heaven are unceasing, untainted with sin, loss, and tragedy. I want to go there.

To the Elders

I Peter 5:1-3.

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Elders. It had long been the practice among the Jews to select their leaders, judges, and advisors from among the seniors, as we refer to older people today. They were not considered to be useless because of their old age. They were, perhaps, no longer able to leap tall buildings in a single bound :). But, if they had lived for God, they had attained a level of wisdom and perception that the young have not had time to gain.

In the context of this passage, the word in Greek is presbyteros. It denotes, among the Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches). The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably.

This is not to say that a younger person cannot be an elder. Paul advised Timothy to “let no man despise thy youth” I Tim. 4:12). He was telling Timothy to behave in a manner that would gain the respect of others. Timothy was to be an example of mature Christianity.

Peter could speak with authority on this matter because he, too, was an Apostle and an elder. He had seen the suffering of Christ. He would share in the glory of heaven.

In verse 2, Peter tells the elders to feed their flocks willingly, not out of a sense of being forced to do so. They were to be elders not for financial gain.

There is some controversy over this statement. I will simply tell you that it is not meant to tell the people to keep their pastors/elders in a state of poverty, which would be a shame to the people as well as to the pastor. However, the goal of the elders should never be that of gaining wealth, power, or prestige. Money, too little or way too much, should never be the main consideration of an elder or a congregation. All are to be good stewards of that which they have.

Elders are not to behave as if they are little kings over the congregation. Instead, they are to be examples to the flock. They are to set the standard for godliness, humility, and service; they are not meant to rule with a rod of iron, imposing their will outside of scriptural principles and precepts.

Suffer According to the Will of God

I Peter 4:18-19.

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

If I may take the liberty of paraphrasing: “If it is difficult for the righteous to be saved, then how much more difficult for those who deny Jesus Christ!”

The thing is, no one is without sin. The best person you know struggles with sin in his life, and must stand before God on Judgment Day. If a righteous man could be saved by his own righteousness, then Jesus didn’t have to die! We would all be under the burden of conquering our own sin nature and living righteously before God. Religion becomes legalistic when salvation depends upon each person’s ability to follow all the rules, obey all the principles; and to do so ALL the time!

Verse 19 tells us that even if God allows suffering in our lives, we are to endure it as the will of God. And those who are believers can take comfort in the knowledge that our suffering here on earth will be over the instant our souls are in heaven with the Father. An unsaved person may not suffer persecution here on earth, but his suffering surely begins at the moment of death as he enters the realms of hell. Far better to suffer briefly here on earth when we know that heaven is our home!

Time of Judgment

I Peter 4:17. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

Peter was speaking to the people of his day. He was also speaking to all believers down through the ages, including us. We who claim the Name of Christ today are beginning to see the judgment of God upon His church. The enemies of God and His church do what they do in the name of freedom, but that freedom does not extend to believers. We have quietly stepped back when God was banned from the classrooms of our nation. We stepped back again when the then-existing Supreme Court, in their activism, made abortion the law of the land. We continue to step back when teachers groom our children, convincing them that transgenderism is normal, hiding their activities from parents. I can’t help but wonder if we have stepped back once too often, falling into a chasm of no return.

God WILL judge the church for what we have tolerated; for submissively being quiet when we should have stood shoulder to shoulder to resist those who hate Him and His church.

But the judgment we will experience is nothing compared to that of those who hate God.

Do Not Be Ashamed!

I Peter 4: 15-16.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

“If you’re going to suffer, do it for the right reasons,” Peter said. We are not to suffer for wrongdoing, because we are not to be guilty of wrongdoing.

Verse 15 has an interesting list of sins we are to avoid: Murder, theft, evildoing, and being a busybody in other men’s business.

Murder and theft need no explanation. Evildoing, however, covers a wide area. Each of us must search our own hearts, and ask God to search our hearts and reveal to us our guilt for doing that which is evil. Psalm 139: 23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Of special interest to me is the word wicked in v. 25. The strict translation from the Greek is  worry, pain or anger:—displease, grieve, hurt, make, be sorry, vex, worship, wrest.

Worry. Anxiety, pain, anger, being displeased, grieved, hurt, vexed, or idolatrous. That list certainly speaks to me! Rarely do we consider worry as sin. In fact, we tend to think that being worried just shows how much we care, and we consider it a virtue. But God says we are to cast ALL our cares on Him (I Peter 5:7). We are to fret not because of evildoers (Psalm 37:1).

And then there is that final word, busybody. According to Strong’s numbers, a busybody in other men’s affairs is one who one “takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and in no wise to himself, a meddler in other men’s affairs.” He is a person who takes charge of something that is none of his business. He ranks right up there with murderers, thieves, and evildoers of all sorts.

Christians should never be rightfully accused of such behaviors. If we are to suffer, it should be in the Name of Jesus, and for His glory.