Counsel & Blessing
1 Peter 5:10-14 (focal: vv10-11) In his commentary on 1 Peter, Dan Doriani, writes about a company that attracts customers to its health products by offering to test people’s ‘real age.’
The test allegedly compares a person’s chronological age to his body’s real age. If someone eats fruits and vegetables, sleeps enough, and exercises daily, the test declares that his real age is less that his birth certificate indicates. But if he sleeps three hours per night, smokes cigarettes, devours cheeseburgers, and commutes by helicopter, the test says, ‘Because of your risk factors, your life expectancy is less than anticipated.’ It then delivers counsel that, if followed, will lead to a longer life.
First Peter 5 presents the apostle’s counsel to people who have a great risk factor: they resolved to follow Jesus in a world that was hostile to the faith. The Christians in Peter’s churches no longer worshiped pagan deities, no longer bowed to the emperor or participated in pagan revelry. That brought danger. Change upsets people.
‘Peter’s counsel aims at a faithful life more directly than a long life,’ points out Doriani. As we heard last week, Peter commands the church to ‘humble yourselves’ (5:6), ‘cast all your anxiety on him’ (5:7), ‘be self-controlled and alert’ (5:8), and ‘resist’ the devil (5:9). Peter’s commands rest on a theological foundation, as his last passage begins and ends with God. His hand is mighty (5:6), he cares for us (5:7), and he is gracious (5:10a). He has called us to glory and promises to restore us (5:10). He can make good on his promises because he possesses eternal power (5:11). ‘Clearly, notes Doriani, ‘the character of God is the basis for our faithfulness and confidence.’
Throughout his letter, Peter has sprinkled phrases and word pictures to help his people endure trials. One instance is a phrase we noted in passing last week. Peter wrote, ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you’ (5:6). While this might escape our notice, it would not have escaped the attention of an Israelite. In the exodus, the mighty hand of God liberated Israel from Egypt’s oppression (Ex. 13:9; Deut. 3:24; 7:19). The New Testament describes the work of Jesus as a second exodus. At the transfiguration, as Luke 9:30-31 says, Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus ‘of his departure [literally, exodus], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.’ Doriani writes:
As an Israelite, Peter knew the blessings that God gave Israel when he established the new nation after the exodus. Peter claimed and applied those blessings to his Gentile converts in 1 Peter 2:9-10. If Jesus accomplished a new exodus for the Gentiles, then they enjoy God’s power and compassion, just as Israel did. Because God is strong, because he has a ‘mighty hand,’ Peter tells his people, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (5:6-7).
Peter asserts further that God’s favor depends on both his grace and his power: ‘the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you and make you strong.’ He will fulfill his promise because he has ‘power for ever and ever’ (5:10-11).
Peter then closes his letter with the assurance that the outcome of our life rests more on God’s power and grace than on our labors (see 5:10). This is good news. God, the source of all grace, has called us to ‘eternal glory.’ Still, suffering precedes glory (4:13), so we must suffer ‘a little while’ before he restores and strengthens us. ‘Peter uses four nearly synonymous verbs, all in the future tense, to emphasize God’s promise. The four promises rise in ‘a rhetorical crescendo.’’ God himself will restore us, establish us, strengthen us, and set us on a firm foundation. All of this happens ‘in Christ,’ that is, through our union with him, and by God’s eternal power. ‘Thus, as God one day sets creation right and removes the sin that drives all suffering, he pledges to restore us, too.
And in case you are tempted to overlook the wonders of the God of all grace, Peter concludes with several cameos of God’s transforming grace. Do you know that grace? It is the ‘true grace.’ Invite someone to come along with you this Sunday as we look at how Peter closes his letter singing ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a sinner like me.’
By His Grace,