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. 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.
Believe it or not, we’re almost at the end of the 1 Peter road. I’m going to preach on this passage today, give a summary sermon next week, and then we’re done. I hope-if you’ve been here for any length of time-that you’ve found 1 Peter extremely helpful and continue to do so as you navigate the trials of this life.
It’s hard for me to overstate the significance of it in my own life and ministry. On Friday a gentlemen came into church needing help to process some of the trials that have come his way recently (his wife passed away, his church closed down, his company went bankrupt, his son is on drugs) and I was able to walk him through some of 1 Peter. I know many of you have had similar experiences as well.
With that, as you can see, we’re in an unusual text. What I mean is that this is a text of personal address, not deep theological communication. At the end of his letter, as you would expect, and as many of you have probably ended a letter yourselves, Peter offers some final remarks to his readers. And yet, as I hope to help you see, there is a good deal for us to learn and apply from this text.
In this sermon I mean to highlight four of the biggest truths assumed by and influencing these words of Peter: 1) A right view of God effects everything, 2) The importance of partnership in ministry, 3) The reality and shaping power of objective truth, and 4) The necessary connection between God, the gospel, and brotherly love. Let’s pray, then, that God would give us a right understanding of him, along with his commands, perspective, and priorities, and that we’d live our entire lives accordingly.
A GODWARD VIEW OF LIFE
More than likely you’ve never heard a sermon on this passage. More than likely, you never will again. And yet, it’s just as inspired by God as every other passage of the bible. What’s more, there’s much to be received from it and to praise God for in it.
Back in 1 Peter 1:3-4 we read these words, “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…”. If we have any understanding of this passage, we simply cannot help but to be awed by the profound, gracious, staggeringly relevant truths presented by it. Our hearts are immediately stirred and amazed.
Clearly, there is nothing quite like that in our passage. On the surface at least it appears pretty mundane. And yet, with even a little digging, we can unearth giant nuggets of grace and glory. What do I mean by that? I mean that the truths that Peter assumes in writing what he wrote here are absolutely awesome. His closing remarks are built entirely upon (largely) invisible convictions about God, his works, his Son, and his promises. That is, we simply cannot understand these simple words as Peter did if we do not understand the massive realities that it is built upon.
And that leads to the first thing I want to draw your attention to. This final paragraph is entirely based on Peter’s godward view of life. Let me give you a quick illustration of what I mean and then state my point even more clearly and directly.
Have you ever met someone with a really developed appreciation for a hobby? Hunting or fishing or sports or Apple products or whatever? For someone like that everything revolves around their hobby. For the sports fan, during their team’s season they make their plans around their team’s games (and often around the games of their key opponents for scouting purposes). I know people who have experienced serious anger toward friends who scheduled their wedding on a college football weekend. Everything gets put on hold when the game is on. When the game isn’t on they are focused on the stats from the last one and the line for the next one. When the season ends (either with a championship or not) there is a genuine period of mourning. Then comes an offseason of watching old games and following the progress of off season acquisitions or personnel moves. Their team determines a significant portion of their wardrobe. Sports talk radio. Money for tickets. Their entire lives essentially revolve around their team (or whatever their hobby is). They simply can’t process anything that comes to them apart from its implications and impact on their hobby.
For Peter—and all Christians—the all-consuming drive, the dominant lens through which we see the world, must be Christ. Grace, there is a distinctly Christian way of looking at every aspect of life. The nature of God and the message of the gospel are such that if they don’t shape our view of everything, it means that we don’t truly understand them. You simply cannot believe in the God of the bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ and not have it affect the way you view your time and money and clothes and friends and marriage and work and butterflies and dirt clumps and traffic and stars and music and toenails and history and math and the siding on your house and shoe leather and everything else you encounter.
That’s exactly what we find in these closing words of Peter. Every part of this salutation is based on his certain belief that God is real, God is big, God is present, God is sovereign, God is worthy of our total trust and allegiance, God’s way is better than any other way, and that all of that has profound implications for the way we ought to view and treat one another. These final thoughts of Peter give us a glimpse into what it means to think Christianly even about the more mundane aspects of life and ministry.
The way Peter thinks of Silvanus (aka, Silas) is in terms of his common faith in Christ and adoption into God’s family. That’s why he refers to him as a faithful brother. Is that primarily how you think of the people in your life? As either brothers and sisters in Christ or as those who need to be told that they can be.
A comprehensively godward view of things is why Peter wrote the letter in the first place. That’s his point in writing “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God…”. Do you view the world that way? Do you see it as your goal and privilege to declare the true grace of God to all you meet?
Because he sees the world in light of God, he cares that people who profess faith in Christ stand firm in the grace of God. He can’t think of people in any other terms. Is that your main care for the people in this room? Do you care, above all, whether or not those who profess faith in Christ are standing firm in the grace of God?
His view of all things is shaped by his understanding of the sovereignty of God. He knows that God’s people become God’s people because they are “chosen” by God. Do you pray for others with that in mind? Do you pray in the knowledge that everyone’s greatest need is entirely in the hands of God?
Because he tasted and knew God’s love and peace, Peter cannot think of others apart from his love for them and his desire for them to know the peace of God. Do you know this love and peace? Do you view your life as one big opportunity to share those things with others?
Again, the point is this: In these simple, final greetings, we encounter a man who was so focused on the glory and grace of God, and the mission he’d been given, that he simply couldn’t think of anything apart from them. At the end of his letter, Peter didn’t ask about how the weather or the crops or the sports teams were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He closed with a few remarks that were entirely driven by his godward perspective of the world.
Grace, we must learn to think in these all-encompassing terms as well. It’s part of growing in Christ and it’s one of the certain effects of the gospel’s transforming power.
PARTNERSHIP IN MINISTRY
A second, more concrete, truth that we find in these verses is the significance of gospel partnerships. Sylvanus, “She who is at Bablylon” (most likely the Christians in Rome-which is where Peter wrote this letter from), and Mark are specifically named as Peter’s gospel partners. Of course, that’s how he understands his readers as well; as partners in spreading the good news of Jesus.
I want to mention one point and two applications. The point is this: our primary purpose on earth is to glorify and enjoy God by obeying his commands; especially his commands to love God, love our neighbor, and make disciples. We cannot give ourselves to anything other than these things or above these things. And if we are to do this, we need help. We need partners in this ministry.
Let me say that again, you and I, by accepting Jesus as our savior also accept him as our Lord. That is, being a Christian means, in part, joyfully placing ourselves under the kingship of Jesus. King Jesus has called us to give our entire lives to loving him and spreading the news of his kingdom. That’s our purpose on this earth. We cannot give ourselves to anything else and think of ourselves as Christians. And giving ourselves to these things requires doing so alongside and in partnership with everyone else who has done so. That’s the Christian life. If you don’t feel the need for partnership in ministry, it’s most likely because you are not truly engaged in the ministry Christ gave you.
That’s the point. Now, two applications.
Within the Local Church
The primary place that most of us need gospel partnerships is within the local church. The majority of God’s people will live out God’s commands in a particular community, alongside particular people.
On a practical level this local church, gospel partnership means, as the NT makes so clear, that we need generous people to help provide a meeting place, pastors, missionaries, and for the needs of the poor. It means that we need artists to help us celebrate and share the gospel beautifully. It means we need thinkers to divide God’s word carefully and keep the rest of us in line. It means that we need women to help us love the broken and men to lead out of a biblical vision. It means that we need kids to provide joy and innocence and zeal for our mission and older people to provide wisdom and experience. We need the brave to lead us into scary parts of our community and the quiet to remind us to pray. We need visionaries to help us imagine what things could look like and the steady to help us be glad in the way things are. We need the gentle to help us care for the weak and the firm to hold the line. We need the sick to remind us of our brokenness and the healthy to remind us of heaven. We need new births to remind us of the New Birth and deaths to remind us of that our lives are a vapor. We need the organized to keep our ministries going and the spontaneous to keep them exciting. We need extroverts to keep us connected and introverts to keep us thoughtful. And on and on.
Paul summarizes all of this in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
Jesus gave us a mission that cannot be accomplished on our own. We need everyone to give themselves to the task of praising and sharing the gospel according to the unique ways God has designed you. Our primary aim isn’t our own sense of personal fulfillment, but the health of the whole and the fulfillment of the mission for the glory of God. Peter assumes, and therein reminds us of all of this in his closing remarks as he names his gospel partners.
To the Ends of the Earth
Not only do we need gospel partnerships within our local church, we also need them with our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. Peter was likely writing from Rome. He was partnered with Christians there (Silvanus, “She who is at Babllon, and Mark) in order to minister to the elect exiles of the dispersion throughout the world (those to whom he was writing). If we are to make disciples “of all nations” we need gospel partnerships. You and I cannot make disciples of all nations on our own. We need people to pray, train, send, go, and support. We also need to find faithful gospel-workers in persecuted and resource-deprived areas and do everything we can to help them.
Again, here’s what I’m getting at: if all you want to give your life to is getting your bowling average above 110, you aren’t going to feel a deep need for help and partnership. That’s how many live their Christian lives. All they want is a comfortable place to decide (on their own) whether or not to pray, read their bible, attend church, walk in holiness, serve others, share their faith, and praise God. You don’t need a partnership for that. In fact, you don’t want a partnership for that version of Christianity-it just makes things less comfortable.
On the other hand, as Peter clearly understood and had given himself to, if your aim is to truly follow Jesus in holiness and ministry, even to the ends of the earth, even at the cost of your life, you’ll quickly realize that you need help. So let’s give ourselves to all that Christ has called us to and do so with the help of others who have given themselves to the same. All of that was deeply and unmistakably underneath Peter’s final words.
The third embedded truth that I want to draw your attention to is the fact that Peter did not believe he was teaching spiritual lessons or religious fairy tales designed to keep people optimistic and moral through hardship. He firmly and fully believed that he was writing divinely inspired objective truth.
I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
Peter did not believe he was telling them about one option among many, about his personal preference, or about a better way. He believed he was writing to them about the perfect perspective, will, and commands of God. They were free to ignore or dismiss him under the charge of divine treason and at the cost of their eternal lives. And Peter believed that to obey him was to obey God and have a rightful claim to the eternal divine inheritance.
Consequently, Peter had built his entire life around his own words and he charged his readers to do the same. Grace, we must do this also. I’m afraid that many among us are closer to what the Puritans called “practical atheism” than what peter had in mind when he charged his readers to stand firm in the true grace of God.
Let me put a few questions in front of you to see if you’re picking up what Peter was laying down.
- Are there any areas of your life that will only work if God does something you can’t?
- Are there any areas of your life that seem absolutely ridiculous to people who do not believe in the sovereignty of God, the inspiration of the bible, the sacrificial death of Jesus, and the indwelling of the Spirit?
- Are there any areas of your life that cannot be explained by anything other than divine intervention?
Peter understood the bigness of the claims in his message. He knew how ridiculous they sounded to those who did not believe. But he also believed that they were entirely true and, therefore, were the one place in the universe that provided firm ground on which to stand.
Of course, Peter also believed that the will and ability to stand firm on the objective truth of God was entirely owing to the grace of God. “This” (everything he’d written) “is the true grace of God.” We cannot obey God without his help, but he gives his help to all who believe. Peter was writing about the objective truth of God. He expected all true followers of Jesus to build their suffering lives upon it. And he knew that they were able to do so only because his words were the true grace of God.
Finally, right at the top of the pile of Peter’s most foundational convictions-one of the primary dispositions that oozes out of every word of this letter, including these final words-is the love his has for his readers and all who have faith in Jesus.
Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
It can be easy to forget in our suffering and fight for obedience that the two greatest commandments of all are to love-love God and love others. Affectionately pursuing that which is best for others, regardless of the cost (love) is the driving force of this letter.
We’re meant to read this section and ask ourselves if love drives us? As you look around your home and this church in particular, is it easy for you to see that your main aim is to lay down your life for the good of others-even as Jesus laid down his life for your good? When you come home after work do you walk in your home thinking about how to best show the glory of God to your family? When you schedule a time to get together with your friend is it your highest aim to help them know God better and make him known? When you have a bad day is your first thought to pray for others who are having a worse day? When you are persecuted for your faith in Jesus do you remember that all over the world other Christians are experiencing the same suffering? In short, is your life marked by a special kind of love for the saints?
In Matthew 12:48-50 Jesus asked, “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'”
Even above any familial affection, Peter, having personally heard these words of Jesus, had a love for Christians that drove his entire letter, even to these final words. Let us do the same. Let us love one another as Jesus commanded and modeled. And, therein, let us be a source of peace for those saints who are weary and troubled and heavy laden.
Again Grace, as we wrap up this letter, remember that the cross of Jesus Christ means that Christians will never suffer in vain. God always has a good and glorious purpose for the things he allows his people to endure. Underneath our ability to live in that hope must be a godward view of everything, a hoard of gospel partners, a belief in the absolute truthfulness of God’s words and the power of God’s grace, and a deep, deep love for all the saints. By the grace of God, may it be so! Amen.