Clothe yourselves, all of you…
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 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. Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 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.
Peter is drawing his letter to the elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (modern day Turkey) to a close. He has written to people chosen from the nations to be members of God’s own family in Christ Jesus, but who live yet among the nations as strangers now.
But here we have come to Peter’s concluding instructions to the saints and he frames this kind of summary instruction in terms of how to avoid being devoured by the devil. These verses are really about how not to be ruined spiritually. It might be argued that this entire letter was written for this purpose.
It is interesting, though, that only here, at the very end of the letter, Peter mentions the devil. Granted the apostle has said we have been born again, which is a spiritual reality (1:3), that we are a spiritual house (2:5), that we have been called out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light (2:9), that there is a war being waged for our souls (2:11), that Christ proclaimed His victory over the spirits in prison (3:19), and that Christ has already gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (3:22) – Peter has certainly been speaking about spiritual realities and the spiritual warfare that we are even now engaged in, but he has not until now mentioned the devil.
Interestingly, this is something that came up at the men’s breakfast last Saturday as well. I think the way Peter speaks about the devil is instructive. He does not in anyway deny the existence, activity, or threat of the devil (and we will consider what he has to say about those things this morning), but he also doesn’t feel the need to even mention the devil in any of his exhortations to those experiencing fiery trials until the very end of the letter. As I say, I think this is instructive.
Even as we should know about the existence, activity, and threat of the devil I think Peter is showing us that our focused attention needs to be, not on the devil, but on the God of all grace, who has called us to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus. And this is a point that we will unpack as we move through our portion of God’s Word this morning.
But what we need to do is to consider broadly the spiritual warfare we are engaged in and the one called our adversary and the threat he poses. We will then look at how Peter instructs us to oppose out adversary. So before we look at our text let’s consider more broadly the reality of spiritual warfare.
Without going too far afield, I want to start with this more broad issue of spiritual warfare because it is all too easy to forget that we are in fact spiritual beings and that the true crisis addressed by the Scriptures is a spiritual one.
So often we judge our lives based on whether or not the sun is shining, whether or not the old body is functioning and pain free, whether the bank roll is fat or slim, whether other people think we’re marvelous or are less than satisfactory. So often we judge the success of the day based upon health and wealth, upon what was accomplished in flesh and blood, what tasks we completed, what approval from people we secured, what money we earned.
But the Scriptures tell us that this is not truly where the battle is raging.
In Ephesians 6:12 Paul tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. We get so fixated on the physical that we can fail to remember that it is in the spiritual realm that the real war is being waged. Jesus asks us in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul.” Brothers and sisters, let us remember that it is not financial success which ought to be the unwavering focus of our lives, nor endless lines of friends and family singing our praise, nor peak physical health, nor a perfect marriage, or fulfilling job, or carefree retirement. No, the unwavering focus of our lives must be our everlasting souls.
“Let good and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.” A Mighty Fortress is Our God, by Martin Luther, translated by Frederick H. Hodge.
Let us be sober. The spiritual war for our souls is raging and it is real.
The backdrop of all that takes place in the Scriptures is the fall of God’s image bearers into sin and death and condemnation, into the power of the kingdom of evil. What underlies and is the context for all that takes place in the Scriptures is that mankind lies captive and enslaved to sin – utterly without strength to deliver themselves. And the spiritual forces of evil are working to keep and increase the slavery of mankind. The spiritual war for our souls ought to be fully on our radar.
So, let’s go to our text with sobriety and look with interest at what God would have us understand this morning.
Knowing the Enemy
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
First, let’s get a handle on who this devil is.
Dr. Robert L. Reymond gives us a good summary of this being’s names in the Scriptures,
Satan, referred to in Scripture by the names Abaddon and Apollyon (Rev. 9:11), Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24; Luke 11:15) and Belial (2 Cor. 6:15) … is represented as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10; see Job 1-2, Zech.3:1), the ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9), the angel of the abyss (Rev. 9:110, the devil (Rev. 12:9), our enemy (Matt. 13:25,28,39; 1 Pet. 5:8), the evil one (Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38; Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19), the father of lies and a murderer of men’s souls (John 8:44), the prince of demons (Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15), the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5).
John Murray has written (in The Fall of Man),
Back of all that is visible and tangible in the sin of this world there are unseen spiritual powers. Satan is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. The arch-foe of the kingdom of God is not the visible powers arrayed against it; for behind these visible agents and manifestations of evil is the ingenuity, craft, malicious design, instigation and relentless activity of the devil and his ministers. It was this of which Paul was fully aware when he said, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritualities of wickedness in the heavenlies’ (Eph 6:12). Because we have given way to the impact of naturalistic presuppositions, and to the anti-supernaturalistic … bias, we are far too liable in these days to discount this truth of Christian revelation. We are liable to discard it in our construction and interpretation of the forces of iniquity. To the extent that we do so, our thinking is not Christian.
Peter, here calls the devil our adversary or enemy and truly this is the case. This enemy wants the everlasting ruination of God’s people. He wants nothing less then to see your soul in torment for all eternity. That is an enemy indeed. And he has bent all his energy and resources and his demonic hosts toward this goal.
Sober and Watchful
And so Peter rightly calls us to be sober-minded and watchful. Living life in spiritual relax mode is spiritual suicide. It is utter foolishness. Oh, yes, we are stressed about work and family and health and retirement and sports teams we put all kinds of attention and energy into those things, but when it comes to staying focused and alert, sober and watchful against the schemes of the devil we are so often indifferent.
There is a reason the the New Testament calls us again and again to sobriety and attentive minds and hearts. It is because you have an enemy who is looking for people who are spiritually lazy and vulnerable.
A Roaring Lion
Peter says the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. It is truly significant that he is prowling around seeking someone to devour. This tells us that not everyone he runs across can be devoured. He is seeking those who are vulnerable to his schemes. Peter is calling us to not be that person – for our soul’s sake.
But let’s remember that Peter has written to encourage the saints not to be surprised by the fiery trials when they come upon them to test them as though something strange were happening. Peter is now adding another layer to our understanding of painful persecutions in our lives. Yes, they are the work of ungodly people who hate God and Jesus whom He has sent. And yes, they are in fact testing from God Himself used to judge the quality of our faith. And now, we see they are also the intimidating efforts of the devil, roaring as it were, as he seeks someone to devour.
Again, we need to have spiritual eyes to see what is going on. Being persecuted, experiencing fiery trials at the hands of sinners, even being put to death for our faith is not being devoured by Satan. All of those things are simply his effort to intimidate. They are nothing more than his angry bark; they are not his devouring bite.
So how does Peter think about preparing us for the prowling, roaring lion? How do we make sure we are not one of the vulnerable which the devil will devour?
Peter says, “Resist him.” Brothers and sisters, true Christians are people who resist the devil. This word does not carry with it a passive resistance, but an active opposition. We are called to act against the devil, to oppose him and what he is trying to do. None of us should be passive, sleeping, or distracted because those who are will be devoured.
So what does it mean to resist the devil? What does it look like in our lives? Here each of us should be listening carefully.
Firm in Our Faith
The first way Peter tells us to resist the devil is by being firm in our faith. Now, here again, I want to emphasis where our focus should be. Even as Peter has brought up the reality and intention of the devil, when he thinks about opposing the devil he tells us to get our eyes and hearts on the gospel. The way we resist the devil is by being firm in our faith.
It is when we look at the world and the works of the devil and we let his roar fill our minds that we stumble with anxiety and fear – the opposite of faith. So instead of fixing our attention on our enemy, what we need to do is fix our eyes on our King.
Notice that Peter does not call us to guard our homes with garlic or wear beads or medallions or to recite certain rituals or prayers. There is so much speculation out there regarding warding off evil spirits – we really need to be careful that we are listening to the apostles. What Peter calls us to here is faith.
Truly this is what Paul tells us as well. In Ephesians 6:12-18 after Paul tells us that our conflict is not with flesh and blood but with the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, he does not advise us to fix our attention upon them or preform certain rituals, instead he tells us to take up the whole armor of God which turns out to be fixing all of our minds and hearts upon truth, practicing righteousness, so feeding upon the gospel of peace that we are prepared for temptation, being strong in faith, hoping in God’s salvation, and taking up the Word of God which is called the Sword of the Spirit, keeping alert and persevering in prayer.
Truly the fight of faith is one in the same as the the call to oppose the devil. It is the fight to believe the gospel, to believe 1 Peter 5:6 and 7 that we can cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us. It is the fight to set all our hope at every moment fully upon the grace promised to us when Christ Jesus appears (1 Peter 1:13-23).
When the roar of Satan echoes in our ears and we feel the painful heat of persecution the battle is to know with an assured confidence that the gospel is true, that God is trustworthy, that God has not lost the reigns, that Christ has beaten the power of sin and death and that all God’s promises are yes for those who rest in Jesus. That is how we oppose the devil.
So Peter gives us a couple of things to know with an assured certainty here in verses 9, 10, and 11 which we must fight to remember and believe if we are to oppose the devil.
Suffering is Normal
The first thing we need to fight to remember is that, middle of verse 9, “…the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
As much as we want to believe otherwise, God’s good plan for finishing His great redemption of sinners out of every tribe and language and nation include our suffering until the end. Suffering is the common Christian experience. We should not be surprised when life is hard. We should not ask ‘why me’ as if our sufferings were unique to us, as if God had it out for us. Rather our sufferings belong to the family of God in Christ. It is the very nature of our privilege to identify and suffer with Christ until He returns. You are not alone and your suffering is not unique.
Suffering is Short
Peter also adds that we need to remember that our sufferings are short. He says in verse 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.”
Oh, if we could keep this perspective this age is but a “little while” and this suffering is but a little while. As Paul says in 2 Cor 4:17–18,
…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
God and Jesus Christ whom He has Sent
But Peter finishes this section on how to oppose the devil by telling us about the thing that we absolutely must know with an assured certainty. What Pete says here is indispensable to our fight of faith and that is to know God.
Again, verse 10 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…” and verse 11 says, “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Brothers and sisters, the single most needed thing you need to fight the fight of faith is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Do you know the God who is?
Do you know Him to be the God of all grace? Do you know how He has demonstrated that grace? Do you know what it cost Him to be the God of all grace? Is this something you think on and meditate on and cherish and sing praise to God about and tell others about? Do you know that God is the God of all grace?
Do you know the God who promised to bruise the serpents head (Gen. 3:15)? Do you know the God of Job, who even before the cross has Satan on a leash so that the enemy could do nothing except what God allowed him to do (Job 1- 2)? Do you know the God who promised to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed, who promised a son to the couple well passed child bearing years and brought it to pass (Gen. 12, 15, 17, 21)? Do you know the God who delivered the people of Israel from the Egypt with a strong hand and split the sea (Ex. 14)? Do you know the God who bore with the rebellious people of Israel because of His promise to Abraham (Ex. 15 – Neh. 13)? Do you know the God who promised to establish the throne of David forever (2 Sam. 7)? Do you know the God of Ester who, when it looked like the end of God’s people, turned the plots of God’s enemies toward His people on their heads and the reverse occurred (Ester 9:1)? Do you know the God who kept His promises one day in Bethlehem of Judea as a virgin gave birth to a son conceived on the Holy Spirit (Luke 1 -2)?
Do you know Him to be the One who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus? Do you know what it means that He is the One who called you out of darkness, out of the kingdom of sin and death and condemnation where you were enslaved and without hope, He called you out of that darkness and into His own kingdom, the kingdom of Light and righteousness and life and justification? Do you know that He it the One to whom all praise is due for rescuing your soul from the eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels?
Do you know the glory and power and worth and beauty and attractiveness of Jesus Christ the One the Father sent to destroy the works of the Devil (John 3:8)? Do know Jesus to be the One who did battle with the devil and his kingdom on earth (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12) and finally having disarmed the powers of evil at the cross, having taken their only weapon against us (Colossians 2:13-15)? Do you know Jesus to be the One who has bound the strong man, Satan, and is even now plundering his house – saving souls once lost (Matthew 12:29)? Do you know Jesus who delivered the decisive blow to Satan’s head at the cross so that even now the prince of this world is being driven out (John 12:31)?
Do you know the God of peace and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, who has promised to soon crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20)? Do we know that God’s kingdom, His dominion is forever and ever.
The fight of faith is to know God, to know His promises, to know His character and power and to know Jesus Christ His Son. We read our bibles and rehearse the gospel and pray for God’s help because we might know our God. Are you fighting the fight if faith, opposing the devil? In other words are you fighting to know and believe the gospel of the glory of Christ?
This is God’s Work
I’d like to close this morning by making it plain that this fight is truly God’s work in us. As Peter told us in the open verses of this letter we were caused to be born again by God (1:3) and we are being guarded by God’s power for salvation (1:5) and Peter says the means God is using to keep us is in fact our faith! Repentance is a gift according to 2 Timothy 2:25 and faith is a gift from the Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12:9.
I would hate to have anyone leave this morning misunderstanding this exhortation to be sober and watchful, to wake up and be aware of the enemy, and to fight to know God as somehow implying that we can loose our salvation. No, salvation is of the Lord and God does not lose any of His beloved people in Christ Jesus. But, it is just this kind of exhortation that God uses to build and keep His people in the faith. God uses means to keep us in the faith so that in the hour of trial we will not abandon Christ and be devoured by the devil.
Truly Satan is a defeated enemy and all he has left is to try to roar and intimidate and distract us from Christ. Let us not be fooled, but know with an assured certainty that persecution will come, but they are for just a little while, and God is the God of all grace, and He has called us to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, and it is He who will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.