Stand Firm - 1 Peter 5:8-14

Peter closes his letter to the exiles with this sobering analogy: you are sheep, and you have a deadly enemy who bursts out against you with roars of persecution. Everywhere God’s people go, this adversary follows, waiting for his chance to devour you. So don’t fall asleep, but don’t panic, either. Recognize the very real danger, hold fast in faith to Jesus, and God Himself will save you. For all his noise and bluster, the lion cannot harm you if you resist him by faith, and so this is Peter’s closing message: stand firm in the grace of God!

As we hear Peter’s words, we need to see that being roared at is different than being devoured. The lion leaps out at Christians with roars of persecution and slander and alienation, but if you are not surprised, and if you stand firm and resist him, then by faith you will stop the lion’s mouth. As Peter has been saying, persecution cannot devour you – it will only purify you. Various trials cannot devour you – your tested faith will come forth as gold. Suffering cannot devour you – Christ suffered once for all for your sins, to bring you to God. Injustice cannot devour you – you have entrusted your souls to the one who judges justly. Not even death can devour you – Death swallowed Jesus, but it could not hold Him in the grave.

But if when persecution comes, you give in to fear and run away from the flock, out from under the shepherd’s protection, then you will indeed be devoured. Persecution is the devil’s roar that attempts to frighten you into abandoning Jesus, so that he can devour you. The devil devours you when he drives you out of the church back into the world, when you stop living as an exile and start making this sinful world your home. This means that the real danger is not persecution, fiery trials, or suffering. The real danger is allowing these things to scare you away from Jesus. And so Peter’s whole letter has been designed to keep you from running scared, and to strengthen you to stand firm.

He’s done this in two ways (v. 12): first, declaring, by rehearsing the gospel as evidence that the devil could not ultimately devour Jesus, and second, exhorting, by drawing clear lines of both belief and behavior to keep you out of reach of the devourer. Christ defeated the devil, and established a path of safety. Your faith in Christ places you on that path, and your obedience to His commands preserves you from crossing back into the devil’s territory. This path of faith and faith-filled obedience is the true grace of God. As you stand firm in it, God promises that He will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you, bringing you to glory under Christ’s dominion.

And to encourage the saints in Asia Minor to stand firm, Peter passes on greetings from “she who is in Babylon”, referring to the church in Rome in terms that call to mind Israel’s exile in Babylon, where our forefather Daniel faced off against the lions and stood firm by faith. And what the saints in Rome can only do by means of written greetings, Peter tells the church locally to express through physical action: “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” The simple actions of a handshake or a hug are physical affirmations of a shared commitment to stand firm together, promises to help one another stand firm, which work against the lion’s dividing and devouring behavior.

The lion’s roars are meant to frighten you so badly that you will do anything to stop being an exile. Your adversary wants to intimidate you into making this fallen world your home. He wants you to be so uncomfortable being different that you let your life to sink to the level of those who live in the flesh, those who don’t have the Spirit of God.

But Peter’s letter strengthens you, so that you can stand firm in the true grace of God until Jesus returns. Don’t be scared when the lion roars. Stand firm in the faith, and God will deliver you from your suffering by His mighty hand, and welcome you into His eternal glory. When He comes, your exile will be over, and God will wipe away every tear that you ever cried as you suffered under various trials, together with all the pain of your life as a sojourner. So elect exiles, stand firm. Just a little while longer, and you’ll be home.

Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 by CJ Bowen