The Bible, is not like any other book.
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 5:12-14
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. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
We have come to the last sermon in 1 Peter and I hope that you have been blessed as we have tried to hear every word of 1 Peter in context. I think it is of utmost importance that we remember and reaffirm on a regular basis that we believe…
…that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises (taken from the EFCA Statement of Faith).
This book, the Bible, is not like any other book because this book, made up of the 66 books of the Old and New testament, are the authoritative Word of God;
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
We believe that what we have here is what men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 2:21). And so because we believe that this is in fact God’s Word we must be a community that longs to hear the Word, longs to be conformed to the Word, and longs to proclaim the Word.
2 Timothy 4:1-2
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
But even as this book is not like any other book, it is a book, intended to be read like a book. That is, we ought to show each author (and The Author) the respect we want people to give our words. Each word of Scripture has a context and an intended meaning. We do God’s Words violence if we tear words and phrases out of their contexts. If we are not careful to discover and honor the Divine and human authors’ intention we can literally make the Scripture say absolutely anything we want.
But, we believe God meant to communicate something specific to us and did not give a big unknowable mishmash of old documents to be used to promote our thoughts, our ideas, or our agendas. What we are doing here every week is trying to understand God’s thoughts, ideas, and agenda – to explain what God has said and to conform our hearts and minds to that and to be humbled by it, strengthen by it, equipped by it, confronted by it and conformed to it, and also rejoice over it.
Jonathan Edwards said,
Be assiduous (showing great care and perseverance) in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity (theology) must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!
We have just spent months working line by line through 1 Peter because I am convinced, and I hope you are too, that what we all need is a steady diet of quieting ourselves under the Word of God together, endeavoring to hear the meaning and catch the sense of each word in context.
What a blessing and privilege we have to possess the Scriptures, let us endeavor to make good use of them for our progress and joy.
Exhortation and Declaration – v 12
So let’s look at Peter’s concluding words here at the end of 1 Peter with eagerness and interest.
In verse 12 Peter says,
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.
First, some believe that this Silvanus, (This is probably Silas who accompanied Paul in ministry. See Acts 15:22, 27, 32, 40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14–15; 18:5. This Silas seems to be the Silvanus mentioned in 2 Cor 1:19; 1 These 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1 and here in 1 Peter 5:12 which is why the NIV translates his name here as Silas. ) was Peter’s amanuensis, that is Peter’s secretary who actually wrote the letter. But the phrase “by Silvanus…I have written briefly…” can simply mean they one who carried and distributed the letter. (see for example Acts 15:23)
And I think that is the best explanation of this Silvanus. He was the one who Peter used to deliver the letter to the churches scattered throughout modern day Turkey. Peter calls him a faithful brother which is a normal way of commending the carriers of letters. (see for example Romans 16:1-2; Ephesians 6:21-22; Colossians 4:7-8.)
But what I would like to highlight here is what Peter says he has done his this letter. Peter says that he has written briefly exhorting and declaring the that this is the true grace of God. Peter felt the need to declare and exhort God’s people – those who had already placed their faith in Christ. He felt that it was important to exhort them on in their faith and declaring the contours of the true grace of God in order to spur them on in their faith.
We all need the gospel declared to us again and again and we all need exhortations to stand firm in it.
I am often concerned when I hear Christians speaking about friends and loved ones’ who are living in sin (unrepentant) and walking hand in hand with the world, but who they feel certain are ‘saved’ because they once upon a time they made profession of faith. This kind of thinking is deadly and unbiblical.
Peter was not content with the knowledge that these dear saints had believed once; he felt compelled to write declaring the gospel of the grace of God to them again and exhorting them to walk in a manner worthy of that gospel.
It is the faith that perseveres that saves (See Mark 4:3-9 and 4:14-20 – The seed of the word must be heard, accepted, and bear fruit).
Let none us grow weary of hearing the true grace of God or grow weary of being exhorted to test ourselves in these things. Really loving each other will mean declaring and exhorting each other with the gospel until Christ returns.
Themes from 1 Peter – v 13- 14
Now, the way Peter wraps up this letter is wonderful. He revisits some of the major themes of the letter as he concludes. So, what I am going to do is try to highlight the themes that Peter intends to leave us with. There are four themes that I see here and they are these:
1. a Chosen People and so must be…
2. a Strange People
3. a Loving People
4. a Peace Filled People.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
1. A Chosen People – v 13
Number one, we are a chosen people.
In verse 13 Peter says,
She who is at Babylon who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.
So a couple of things first to explain who and what Peter is talking about here. “She who is at Babylon who is likewise chosen…” is clearly speaking about another local church as Peter began this letter addressing those who were chosen exiles of the scattered in modern day Turkey and they were chosen according to God the Father’s foreknowledge, chosen in sanctification of the Spirit, chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and chosen for sprinkling with His blood. So here Peter concluded by reminding the church that they are chosen and by sending a greeting from another local church who are likewise chosen.
There is some question about where this Babylon is, but we will address that when we some to the next theme of strangers.
For now, I want to linger on this idea that we are chosen. Peter is wrapping up his letter to God’s people who may very soon have their faith tested by fiery trials – they may be required to give their lives for their faith – and one of the notes he wants to end with is that they are chosen by God.
I am aware that the doctrine of election is controversial, but it is something that God has revealed is important for us to know and embrace.
Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 4 that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He did not chose a plan nor did He select us because of anything He saw we would do or believe, rather as Acts 13:48 says, “ …and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
Brothers and sisters, we are intended to know and embrace the incredible truth that the God against whom we have rebelled from our youth and whose wrath we deserve has freely chosen us for life everlasting and not the wrath we deserve. And we are meant to embrace the souls strengthening truth that God almighty has done everything necessary through Jesus Christ to ensure that we will make it to glory though all around our soul give way.
I hope a strong theme that you meditate on again and again is this truth that God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake (physically alive) or asleep (physically dead) we might live with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Let us encourage one another and build each other up with these this truth.
2. A Strange People
Number two, we are a strange people.
So even in the same breath that Peter reminds us that we are a chosen people he reminds us that we are to be a strange people, that is strangers here in earth – exiles.
We come now to this question of where this Babylon is from which these likewise brother and sisters send their greeting.
If you are familiar with the Old Testament you will know that Babylon was the capital of became the Babylonian Empire and you will know that God used Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon to take Judah and Jerusalem into captivity. But this Babylon lay in ruins at the time Peter wrote and we know of no other literal Babylon to which Peter could be referring. Instead it appears that Peter is using OT and NT language to talk about those powers that contest and resist God (see Isaiah 13-14 and Revelation 17-18). it seems probable that Peter is specifically referring to Rome here as Babylon, the center of earthly power at that time.
But let’s catch what Peter is doing in using this language of Babylon.
The Old Testament reveals that Israel and Judah had for years and years rebelled against the LORD their God and committed spiritual adultery (see Ezekiel 15 and 16) and the LORD final drove them from the land and from Jerusalem and from the Temple. But it was in this foreign land that God promised to make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and Judah (see Ezekiel 16:59-63; 36:22-38; Jeremiah 31:31-34). A New Covenant in which the Lord Himself would cleanse them and give them a new heart and a new sprit within them – God would put His own Spirit within them and He would take them from the nations and gather them from all the countries and bring them into their own land (Ezekiel 16:23-31).
Now what is remarkable is that when Jesus comes on the scene He makes it very clear that the New Covenant is established in His blood (Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25) and that this New Covenant in Christ actually spills over the banks of Israel and extends even to the gentiles! (See John 4:21-26; John 17:1-3)
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
And what we have in Peter here is remarkable language. We, gentiles who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, are called exiles in 1 Peter 1:1 scattered through the nations. Amazing.
Peter very intentionally calls us a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession…” in chapter 2:9 and those who … “once…were not a people, but are now God’s people” in chapter 2:10 Peter wants us to think about ourselves as full members of God’s chosen and beloved people, but still waiting among the rebellious nations for the final blessing that will come when Christ Jesus comes again. And so we are sojourners and exiles.
We are to think of ourselves every bit as much members of God’s house hold – more so, in fact, than a mere physical descendant of Abraham. As John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism in Matthew 3:7-10,
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
We are indeed those stones by faith in Jesus Christ
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.)
You are meant to live in this world knowing and embracing this glorious truth that though you are still living among the nations – you are no longer of the nations! You and I are God’s people, holy and beloved. We are of the everlasting family in Christ. We are members of the heavenly eternal country and our inheritance is kept there for us.
Is this a theme you think on often and rejoice in? Do you relish that your citizenship is in heaven and do you live like this is not your home? Embracing your identity as chosen exile means you will not fit into the worlds system of anti-God living. We are to be a peculiar people.
So Peter finishes the letter striking a third and a fourth theme intended to remind us how we, chosen strangers ought to be conducting ourselves.
3. A Loving People
So the third theme Peter leaves us with is that we, God’s people, are to be a loving people.
We see this both in the greetings from other churches and from other Christians (like Mark) and in this command from Peter to greet one another with the kiss of love in the last verse of first Peter.
I think this command should not be passed over as an incidental detail. Peter is telling the community of faith that we should be able to greet one another in the household of faith with love and affection.
Now some people have gotten hung up in their earnest desire to obey God’s Word thinking that Peter (and Paul in Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26) was establishing a new regulation for the church until the Lord returns. And so you will find churches that practice a holy kiss (as Paul calls it) or a kiss of love (as Peter here calls it).
Now, I am convinced that the apostles were instituting no such law, but instead they were making use of a common cultural custom of the day which expressed friendship and closeness and unity. I really think it would be unwise, in fact, to require a culture like ours to practice a kiss of love when we are not accustomed to such a thing.
But what I think is required is that we make every effort to walk in all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
As Peter has been saying again and again in this letter, we who have been born of God’s Spirit are to love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1:22), love the brotherhood (2:17), have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing (3:8 and 9), above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality one another without grumbling, serve one another (4:8-10). An essential mark of authentic Christianity is love for one another as Christ has loved us.
Peter could not finish his letter without striking that all important theme one more time. Are we marked in this place by unity, closeness, friendship, and brotherly love? Let us make this our aim, to so know the love of Christ for us that we more and more turn to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
4. A Peace Filled People
The final theme that Peter leaves us with is that we are to be a people filled with peace. His last words are: Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
It is important to note that Peter began this letter saying, “…may grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1:2). The letter of 1 Peter is intended to multiply grace and peace in our lives. Christians should be people who more and more sink their roots into the nourishing soil of the gospel of grace and so more and more spring up with the fruit of peace in their hearts.
Are we that people filled with peace? Are we that people who believe the message of 1 Peter? as Thomas R. Schreiner summarizes it:
“The veil of tears will not last long… [and] a great reward is laid up for those who are faithful.”
Do you embrace that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being alienated from God and under His wrath, and only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can you be rescued, reconciled, and renewed?
And do you believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary? That He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate?
Do you believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins? That His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for your salvation?
If you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ than what should rise in our hearts is peace. No longer do we bear the burden of our guilt. No longer do we need to dread God’s verdict over our lives. No longer is death the final word. We need not fear the fiery trials ahead because Christ has secured our everlasting joy and reward.
Are we a people more and more firm in our faith, more and more with our hope set on Christ, so that more and more Psalm 112:7-8 describes us?
“…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…”
What a blessing it is to have the letter of 1 Peter in our hands, to hear this declaration of the true grace of God and this exhortation to stand firm in it.
What a blessing to be reminded that we are God’s chosen people waiting as strangers here until Christ returns and reminded that our lives should be characterized by is love and peace even as we do participate with Christ in suffering for a little while. Let us suffer well, standing firm in our faith.