Monday, March 22, 2010

The Grace of God in Which We Stand

By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.

She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Peter 5:12-14)
Peter ends his letter with a few personal notes, but even so, he is still bringing his message. Here is Silvanus, also known as Silas, the same one who served and suffered with Paul (Acts 15-18) and emerged with a strong faith. In Peter’s mind, he has proven himself to be a faithful brother and, therefore, a worthy example of exactly what Peter was exhorting believers to do. Silas served as Peter’s scribe or secretary for this letter, recording his message to the churches.

Here also is Mark. This is John Mark, who was Barnabas’ nephew or cousin (Colossians 4:10). He went out with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey (Acts 12:25) but soon turned back for home and failed to complete his work (Acts 13:13). Later, when Barnabas wanted to bring Mark on another mission, Paul refused for that reason. The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp that they split up, Barnabas taking Mark and Paul taking Silas (Acts 15:37-40). However, though he was initially intimidated by the difficulties of the Christian mission, Mark turned out to be a faithful brother after all, as Paul eventually realized (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). He also became a very important part of Peter’s ministry. According to early Church history, the Gospel of Mark represents the preaching of Peter. Peter calls him, “my son.”

“Babylon” is a reference to Rome. As Babylon was a place of exile for Israel, Rome symbolized a place of exile for the Church. “She” is the Church at Rome, which was not separate from the other churches scattered throughout the provinces but one with them, chosen together with them by God.

Peter sums up why he has written this letter: to exhort and testify. The Greek word for “exhort” is parakaleo. Literally, it speaks of one calling out to another and by usage means to exhort or encourage. The churches to whom Peter wrote, scattered and exiled as they were, could certainly use encouragement as they faced continued harassment from unbelievers. His exhortations were also very practical, about the transformative power of love in serving others. He hits this a final lick with, “Greet one another with a kiss of love,” once again bringing together the words “one another” and “love” (see 1 Peter 1:22, The Gospel of Fervent Love).

Peter also “testified” to them and this was what they needed to hear the most. In difficult times, it can be very easy to waver or doubt: Is Jesus really God’s promised Messiah who came to repair the world and rescue the people of God? Has the kingdom of God really come into the world and is Jesus really Lord over all? Peter’s testimony is a resounding Yes!: “This is the true grace of God in which you stand.” Yes, the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead gives us a living hope and an incorruptible inheritance. Yes, it is being preserved for us in heaven, kept by the power of God. And yes, it will be fully revealed on the earth in the “last time,” God’s great kairos moment when heaven and earth will be brought together into one, the will of God being done on earth exactly as it is in heaven.

This is the grace of God in which everyone who receives Jesus as Messiah and Lord now stands, the truth in which we live and abide. Because it is true, Peter is able to give this final benediction, “Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Again, Peter would be thinking of the Hebrew shalom, the peace and wholeness that comes from God and belongs to all who belong to His Messiah King.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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