The True Grace of God (I Peter 5:8-14)
Passage: 2 Peter 5:8–5:14
New Life in the Same Old Place
I. Which Grace?
The grace of God.
Did you know there are several different interpretations in the New Testament in regard to the implications of God’s grace in our lives? Paul expresses one perspective in Romans when he asks, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1). He expresses yet another perspective on grace when he ask the Christians in Galatia, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3), that is, have begun by grace, are you now depending on what you can do?
Of course in these contexts, Paul is arguing against these implications of grace. He is showing why they are wrong. Grace should neither be a license to sin, nor a foundation for trying to establish our own right-standing before God, based on our good works.
How many interpretations are out there today in regard to the grace of God? If grace is God’s favor given, because of Jesus, to those who don’t deserve it, then what are the implications of this grace? What do you believe about grace? What does your life say about what you believe about grace?
Look with me at I Peter 5, and listen to what Peter says in verse 12 about this letter: 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.
Did you hear that? Peter has not only given us a king of purpose statement or summary statement for the whole letter, but he tells us that what is contained in this letter is, in fact, “the true grace of God”. This morning, we finish the journey we began back in January. We finish our study of the book we call “First Peter”.
II. The Passage: "Standing Firm in the Faith" (5:8-11)
Let’s pick up where we left off last week, starting in verse 8, and looking together at I Peter 5, verses 8 through 11.
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.
Now I believe what God has given us here in these final verses is a great reminder of what we learned from the rest of this letter. Let’s use three key phrases from verses 8-11 as a means of rewinding back to the beginning of the book, and then forward to pick up one of three main themes. And listen to what they teach us about “the true grace of God”.
A. “Be Sober-Minded”: True Grace Results in Living in God’s Holiness (vs. 8, 9a )
First, look again at verse 8: “Be sober-minded…” Wait. Stop there. We’ve seen that same command before. Do you remember? We saw it first back in chapter 1, verse 13, where Peter writes, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded…”. We also saw it in chapter 4, verse 7 where Peter tells them, The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
What does Peter mean by this phrase? When he’s talking about sobriety here, he’s not focused on their blood-alcohol level; he’s not addressing issues related to literal drunkenness. He’s challenging them in light of the very real possibility of being mentally and spiritually drunk with booze of the world lies.
He’s saying to them, “Keep your head clear, so that you can do God’s will. Don’t get bogged down in the passions and priorities of this world. Don’t fall into that stupor of living for what will not last and for what ultimately doesn’t matter.”
I think our tendency with grace is to believe that since we cannot earn God’s favor, then even when we receive His grace, we sometimes use grace as an excuse for inaction and inattention.
But look at how he adds to this idea in 5:8—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…
Can you imagine a lion tamer getting drunk in his tent only minutes before the big show, or a safari guide becoming inebriated only minutes before he shows his group a pride of African lions? That’s what Peter is saying here. “You have an Enemy who wants to destroy you. Keep your head clear so that you can resist him.”
Now, I’m not going to spend time right now talking about the devil because next week we will actually begin a two part series on Satan and spiritual warfare. It’s enough here to say that we can resist the devil by being “firm in [our] faith”. And what does this look like? Well throughout the book we see that “the true grace of God” calls us to action, action that flow from this kind of spiritual sobriety and watchfulness:
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. (1:14)… Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1:22)…Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. (2:1)…I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. (2:11)… Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (2:17)…live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (3:8)…Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (4:8)
As Peter stated in 5:12, …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. He says there he is not only declaring the true grace of God, but that he’s also exhorting. Exhorting means to come alongside someone and urge them or appeal to them to do the right thing.
So true grace results in living in God’s holiness. As Peter argue in 1: 15, 16: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
If you have received the true grace of God, are you striving by that grace to live a new life that is all about what God wants, and not just what you want?
B. “The Same Kinds of Sufferings”: True Grace Reveals God’s Purpose in Our Suffering (v. 9b)
The second phrase I’d like to focus on from chapter 5:8-11 is in verse 9. Peter warns them about the devil and says, Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
The phrase “the same kinds of sufferings” is a great reminder for us about the situation of Peter’s original audience; the circumstance they were experiencing.
Peter touched on this reality right at the beginning of his letter when he wrote, “…now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1:6).
He goes on to reveal more about the trials these believers were going through as he calls them to action in 2:12… Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
He asks those who were household servants among his readers, “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” (2:20)
He speaks of “those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ” (3:16). He declares, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (3:17)
In reference to their non-Christian neighbors, he declares that, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. (4:4). These followers of Jesus were being, “insulted because of the name of Christ” (4:14). They were experiencing what it was like to “suffer as a Christian” (4:16).
I think our tendency is to believe that the grace of God somehow frees us from pain and suffering in this life.
I think we are typically tempted to believe that God is only blessing us when things turn out the way we think they should, AND so we question Him and wonder whether He really cares when things are not going our way; when we are suffering.
But as the letter shows us, true grace reveals God’s purpose in our suffering. Though the readers were suffering, Peter tells them “do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (4:12)
No, it wasn’t strange. Their suffering was not some kind of glitch in God’s oversight. Their suffering was being used by God. Peter made this clear at the beginning of the letter:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that [that’s purpose language] 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.
This kind of purposeful suffering was not only being used by God to test and refine their faith. God wanted to use their faith in the face of suffering to bring faith to others. Peter writes:
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (3:14, 15)
As Peter tells them in chapter 2: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (2:21)
And so in chapter 5, Peter calls his readers to Resist [the devil] firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
They weren’t alone on the path of suffering. All over the Roman world, other Christians were going through the same trials. And the true grace of God reminded them that this path of suffering was taking them exactly where God wanted them to go.
C. “His Eternal Glory in Christ”: True Grace [Continually] Redirects Us to God’s Salvation in Christ (vs. 10, 11)
The third and final theme I’d like to touch on this morning is part of Peter’s message in verses 10 and 11 of chapter 5. He writes… 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.
What has God done in them and for them that has so radically changed their lives? How can they live such radically different lives? How can they have such a radically different perspective on their suffering? Because the God of all grace “has called [them] to his eternal glory in Christ”.
The only reason Peter can exhort his readers the way he does is because of the radical reality of what Jesus has done. True grace [continually] redirects us to God’s salvation in Christ.
I think sometimes we receive God’s grace and see it simply as a clean slate that will allow us to get on with my life. We don’t always grow in that new eyesight of faith that allows us to see reality as God makes it known.
But true grace always points us to the reality of our salavation; it always takes us back to the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb of Jesus. Remember how Peter began the letter in 1:3…
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.
They can live radically different lives...knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1:18, 19) It was…He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (2:24) He died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God… (3:17, 18)
It was the radical reality of what Jesus had done and would do in accomplishing true salvation that Peter uses to comfort and motivate his readers.
It is because of this foundation that Peter can tell them in chapter 5:
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.
Everything he’s called them to in this letter, the hard things he’s told them about their behavior and their perspective, Peter knows all of it has to be fueled by hope. Hope that, because of Jesus Christ, God will in fact “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. If we were called, if we were chosen, that means God is in control, no matter what. This is the true grace of God.
Are you being continually redirected, by God’s grace, to the incredible reality that if you belong to Jesus by faith, then God’s has saved, is saving, and will save you? It is faith in that reality that changes everything.
III. Peter’s Closing Remarks (5:12-14 )
Before we finish, let me just briefly touch on the final three verses of this letter. Peter writes:
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.
It appears that Silvanus, also called Silas in the book of Acts, was the messenger that brought this letter to these churches.
It also appears that Peter is writing, not from literal Babylon (in modern Iraq) which at this time was not much of anything. Babylon here is simply another name for Rome, just as it’s used in the book of Revelation. In the same way that God’s people were scattered under the Babylonians 600 years before Peter wrote, just as they were exiles, so too now, the church, the fullness of Israel, the church was living as spiritual exiles under Rome’s power. “She who is at Babylon” is simply the church, those chosen believers who were in Rome.
Ancient tradition tells us that this Mark is probably the same Mark who wrote the Gospel that bears his name. Therefore Peter was probably the main source for the kind of eyewitness information we find in that Gospel.
Peter finished with two things his struggling readers need to hear. First, as tensions outside the church translated to tensions inside the church, Peter reminds them of the custom of greeting one another with a kiss that expresses God’s love. Second, he asks that, in the midst of all the chaos they were enduring, that God’s perfect peace would be theirs.
IV. Your New Life in the Same Old Place
As we leave this book, our prayer should be that God would never let it leave our hearts and minds. We also need to be exhorted in “the true grace of God”, don’t we?
In his book The Cost of Discipleship, the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who knew about suffering, a man who died at the hands of the Nazis, wrote about grace:
"Cheap grace," writes Bonhoefer, "means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before....Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has....Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because if calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son…”
If you are in Jesus Christ this morning because you trust Him as your only hope, then you are an elect exile as I Peter 1:1 describes you. You are have been chosen by God in grace, and because of that, you are now an alien in this world system that has turned away from God.
And so all of us are learning to how to live a new life in the same old place that is this world. We need the true grace of I Peter. May true grace always guard us and guide us. May true grace grant us hope in the midst of the storms. May true grace always direct us to Jesus.