If you’ve been with us, you know we’ve been working our way through the letter of 1st Peter. Peter, in these last verses we’re looking at this morning, gives us the bottom line. He concludes the letter by summarizing everything, it seems. It’s a pretty strategy for a letter. If you’re a teacher, maybe you’ve heard that you’re supposed to “Tell them what you’re going to teach them, teach them, and then tell them what you taught them.” Well, Peter is basically doing that as he concludes this letter. It’s a great summary of what it looks like to be born again which is how he started off the letter back in chapter 1. Let’s read 1st Peter 5:5b-14:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 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.
What it Looks Like to Be Born Again
- Humility (5b-7).
If you were wondering last week why I stopped in the middle of verse 5, I did that on purpose. I think “Clothe yourselves” in the middle of verse 5 actually marks a new paragraph. This is where a new thought begins. Perhaps it’s good to remind you that these verse numbers were not added until the 16th century, and these paragraphs, how they’re split up, are even more recent. I think they’re very helpful, but be sure you understand that they were not original to Peter’s letter, nor any of the New Testament. That will help you as you read and study God’s Word on your own.
So he starts closing out his letter by emphasizing humility. First, humility toward others in verse 5. Because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” That’s a quote from Proverbs 3:34. God opposes the proud, why? Because they are the ones who trust in themselves. And he gives grace to the humble, why? Because the humble are the ones who trust in God. So, we humble ourselves before others. I love Philippians 2:3 as another wonderful example of this instruction: Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This is a genuine, deepfelt humility toward other people.
And the example Paul uses, of course, is Christ Himself! In the same chapter he goes on to describe the glorious picture of Christ humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Ultimately, the question for us is, if Christ can humble himself for the good of others, can we not humble ourselves for the good of others?
But this humility isn’t just before others, it’s actually primarily a humility before God. In verse 6, he gets more specific: “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.” Now, I think verse 7 is often taken out of context a bit. There is no doubt that verse 7 stands on its own as truth: “Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you.” It’s a beautiful verse. But I think we miss the real power of verse 7, by not linking it with verse 6! Something worth noting here is that no new sentence begins here in the Greek. Verses 6 and 7 are one sentence!
In other words, Peter is telling us one way to humble ourselves. Casting your cares upon the Lord isn’t all about you, even though certainly the Lord cares for you. But this is about humbling ourselves before God! In context with this whole letter, Peter is saying, no matter the circumstances we face (suffering, persecution, opposition, pain, joy, all of it)—we humble ourselves before God. We submit to his will, even when we don’t like it. Why? Because we know at the proper time he will exalt us. That’s what verse 6 says.
We don’t know when. We don’t know exactly how. But we can know that God cares for us, and no matter when or how we will be exalted, we submit to His mighty hand. That’s easier said than done though, right? It’s easy to say we need to submit ourselves to him, humble ourselves before him. It’s easy to say that, hard to do. But do you know what the only alternative is? Self-sufficiency. Trying to control it all yourself. Instead of casting your cares upon the Lord, you try and hold on it to it as tightly as you can. You let it eat at you and make you distraught.
The greatest obstacle to Godly humility is self-sufficiency. It’s like a child who’s neglected, who learns to take care of themselves very early because he can’t trust his parents to take care of him. For those of you who maybe have had parents or spouses neglect you, betray you, prove to be unfaithful or unreliable. Listen to me closely: our God is not like that. You can humble yourself before him, cast your cares upon him, because he truly cares for you. He will not betray, he will not neglect, he will not prove unreliable.
Please hear and read verses 6 and 7 together. Because I know when we hear this, that we’re to be humble. That we’re to put others before ourselves. Maybe your first question is, “Well, what about me?” And I’ll admit that I think that’s a legitimate question. If we’re supposed to care for others more than ourselves, then who is going to care for us? Peter says, “God will.” Is there anyone better, church? If you are in Christ, if you’ve repented from your sin and placed your faith in Jesus alone to save you—God Himself cares for you with his mighty hand. Number 2. What does it look like to be born again?
2. Watchfulness (8).
Verse 8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This has been an ongoing theme of this letter. A desperate urgency for sober-mindedness. Not drunk or distracted or desensitized. But aware and watchful. And then Peter adds this chilling metaphor.
The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Theologically speaking, the concept of Satan, or the devil, is not just some old-timey fairy tale that isn’t actually found in Scripture. No, Satan is real. There is no doubt. And we must be awake and watchful for his work, and the work of those who serve him (other demons like himself).
This doesn’t mean we turn everything into a battle against spiritual forces. We don’t have to blame everyday struggles on the devil- “My coffee was cold this morning; it’s the devil trying to get to me.” We need not be sensational and credit all bad things to the enemy. Many times, this is simply part of what it means to live in a fallen world. However, we need to be aware of active spiritual warfare taking place all around us.
And this warfare is not always obvious. A lion doesn’t bounce in among its prey yelling, “Hey, I’m here to eat you!” A lion stays hidden in the grass and will move very slowly and quietly toward its prey. Oftentimes, a lion will even sit and wait for their prey to come close before they attack. We must be on guard. We must be awake. Do not spiritually drowsy. Be awake and watchful. Number 3. What does it look like to be born again?
3. Resisting the enemy (9).
Here’s something that needs to be said: When it comes to temptation; when it comes to evil; when it comes to the work of the enemy—we are not victims. We are victors in Christ. We have been given victory in Jesus Christ. And we’ve all been given this victory in Christ. Verse 9: “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
We’re not alone in this temptation. If we’re ever persecuted, we’re not alone in that persecution. We’re not alone in experiencing evil in the world. Throughout the entire world, believers everywhere face spiritual warfare. The enemy working to damage the cause of Christ. Isn’t it good to know that we’re not alone? And this fellowship with other believers is fellowship in Christ. In Christ, we can resist the enemy. James 4:7 gives us a similar word: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Listen closely, Christian: the enemy has no claim over you. In Christ, you are a child of the King. And he may prowl around like a lion and pretend to be as powerful as a lion. But our King is the true Lion of Judah! He is the lion of the tribe of Judah who is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals in Revelation chapter 5. As a child of this Lion-King, you have the right to dispel the influence of the enemy. How do we do that? Well Paul gives us a great commentary in Ephesians 6. We’re not going to turn there now, but write that down and go over this later: Ephesians 6:10-18. In short, we resist him with God’s Word. We resist him with prayer. We resist him together with other believers. Number 4:
4. Trusting in God (10-11).
These are perhaps the most encouraging words of all of 1st Peter. Honestly, there are a lot of encouraging words, but I just love these. Especially closing his letter with these. This whole letter is built upon being born again to a living hope. That’s from back in chapter 1. By the grace of God, we’ve been born again. So, we focus our hearts and our minds on that reality. Verses 10-11: “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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
It is so tempting in hearing these instructions about what it looks to be born again—hearing these commands from Scripture: to be humble, to be watchful, to resist the enemy. It’d be so easy to think that these are the foundation of what makes us Christians! But we must get our timeline right here.
Everyone rewind with me back to chapter 1. Peter started this letter with a doxology. He just breaks out in worship of God the Father. I’m going to read verses 3 all the way through verse 9. We have to remember the foundation of it all. Chapter 1, verses 3-9:
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. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
You may not remember back all the way to this text. But we looked at how our Living Hope is anchored in the past, it remains in the present, and will be completed in the future. So, again: it’s anchored in the past. And what specific event in the past? The resurrection! Jesus rose from the grave! It makes sense that this extraordinary event changed everything. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Why? Because “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.” What does that mean? It means that we have a Living Hope. Not a dead hope! Our living hope is as sure as is the resurrection of Jesus, because our Living Hope is the resurrected Jesus Himself! Amen?!
Think about that for a moment: The past is something we can’t change, right? The past is fact. We can’t change the past. None of us have the power to go back in time and adjust the past. But the future is open, at least in a sense. I loved the chance of rain we have this week. The forecast shows all week long at least some chance of rain. Do we know that will happen? No, of course not! We can’t know for sure. The future, in many ways, is unknown. The past, though, is fact. It’s done.
Listen: please see here back in chapter 5. See in verse 10 the past, present and future. We don’t know everything about the future, but we do know some things about the future, yes? So look at verse 10 again, and see the past, present, and future. The present is suffering. The past is being called to God’s eternal glory in Christ! That’s in the past for most of us. And then look at the future: “God will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” There is no one greater to trust with the past, present, and future than the God of all grace. Do not trust in yourself. Cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. Do not trust the enemy, he wants to devour you. Trust in God. He is our Living Hope. Because then and only then, can we stand firm. That’s number 5:
5. Standing firm (12-14).
Peter tells us it is Silvanus who had this letter and was given the responsibility of taking it to the exiles of the Dispersion. And that’s when we see his final exhortation. He says, I trust Silvanus, this is what I’ve written about the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. Stand firm in this true grace of God.
Listen, if there is anything that captures our hearts in faith, it is God’s grace. Yes? Wayne Grudem writes this: “The entire Christian life is one of grace—God’s daily bestowal of blessings, strength, help, forgiveness, and fellowship with himself, all of which we need, none of which we ever deserve. All is of grace, every day. From continual trust in that grace and from continual obedience empowered by it, Christians must not move: rather, they must stand fast in it- until the day of their death.”
Stand firm in the grace of God. That’s how Peter closes his letter. And by sending greetings from “she who is at Babylon.” That’s probably a reference to the church in Rome. Like in Old Testament times, Babylon was the center of power and opposition to God’s people. In New Testament times, Rome was the center of power and opposition to God’s people, and especially the gospel. And so, “she who is at Babylon” is probably the church in Rome. This is likely where he wrote this letter from, and they are all sending their greetings to these elect exiles scattered around modern-day Turkey.
But I think that would be the one directive I’d want to leave you with from 1st Peter. To stand firm. In this life, you will experience suffering, some of it because of our own faults, some of because of living in a fallen world, perhaps some of it even because of the enemy himself. But we are the people of God. We are, according to 1st Peter 2, “God’s chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.” Stand firm, church. Trust in God.