Concluding Thoughts – 1 Peter 5:12-14

Through Silvanus, the faithful brother (as I account) I wrote to you in brief, exhorting and testifying this to be the true grace of God; in which you must stand firm! She who is in Babylon, elect together, greets you. Also, my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ.


We should note from the start that Peter returns to many themes first introduced in the opening few verses of this letter. By mentioning that she who is in Babylon (v. 13) is also called or elect (συνεκλεκτὴ), Peter returns to the theme of God’s elect (ἐκλεκτός) first mentioned in 1:1. The command to stand firm (στῆτε) reiterates nearly every imperative that he has given. Even his final desire for peace (εἰρήνη) reaches back to his introduction (1:2). These three verses reinforce all that Peter has already stated (v. 12) before concluding the letter with heartfelt greetings and encouragement (vv. 13-14). Yet couched within this summary, Peter provides three reminders for the elect aliens of Asia Minor. These reminders will drive home the point of Peter’s preaching and provide the recipients with the needed comfort and courage to sojourn in a foreign land and suffer for the sake of righteousness.


Reminder of What to Do: Stand Firm (v. 12)


In a single verse, Peter summarizes the totality of his letter. His summary begins by introducing and commending his qualified messenger (v. 12a) before moving on to his summary. This summary reveals the purpose of the letter (v. 12b) and the desired application (v. 12c). If we have misread or misapplied Peter’s writing beforehand, now is the time to repent and correct our thinking.


Peter’s Messenger (v. 12a)

Through Silvanus, the faithful brother (as I account)


This Silvanus is undoubtedly the same man commonly known as Silas who became Paul’s traveling companion after he and Barnabas parted ways (Acts 15:36-41). Throughout the book of Acts, Luke (who was a Greek) refers to this man with the Greek version of his name (Saul) likely to avoid confusion with the Apostle. In the epistles (2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1), the Latin version of the same name is employed. This is quite common among those who enjoyed Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37-40).[1] By stating that this writing is coming through Silvanus (διὰ Σιλουανοῦ) Peter marks Silvanus as the currier or agent who will deliver this letter.


The role of currier would demand more of Silvanus than that of a simple mailman. Silvanus would have been near Peter while he composed the letter, perhaps even acted as his secretary while Peter dictated. He would have known the mind and intention of Peter and thus would be the best candidate to answer any questions or offer further explanation when this letter is read to the churches. It is for this reason that Peter recommends Silvanus as the faithful brother, as I account (τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι). It is not that Silvanus’ faithfulness has ever been called into question but only that Peter makes plain his affirmation of this man as a qualified agent of his message. The churches of Asia Minor are to receive Silvanus and the letter he bears as they would receive the apostle himself.


Peter’s Message (v. 12bc)


True to the pattern already set throughout the body of the letter, Peter summarizes his entire writing by first laying a foundation of indicatives before demanding obedience with the use of imperatives. Facts have implications. Those implications demand obedience.


Final Summary (v. 12b)

I wrote to you in brief, exhorting and testifying this to be the true grace of God


It is remarkable that Peter refers to this letter as a brief (literally “through few” – δι᾽ ὀλίγων) writing. What Peter has written in less than 2,000 words has taken this author nearly 100,000 to expound upon. Yet there is doubtlessly more that Peter would have wanted to say, or at least explain further. Nearly every topic of systematic theology has been addressed in this epistle; soteriology (1:3-12), ecclesiology (2:4-10; 5:1-7), and eschatology (3:13-14; 4:17-19; 5:8-9) being some of the more obvious examples. Yet the overarching theme of this epistle is focused on Christian perseverance. Peter uses the assurance of the Christian’s sure salvation, protection found within the church, and certainty of a future hope to drive his readers to endure, persevere, and suffer well for the sake of righteousness. It is in this sense that he states the purpose of this brief letter is to exhort and testify.


These two participles (παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν) reveal the purpose of Peter’s writing. The verbal root παρακαλἐω literally means to call alongside and has been translated in various ways (encourage, exhort, comfort). The context dictates the precise nuance, but there is always a sense where the one speaking is calling his audience to come alongside a certain standard. Each imperative Peter provides calls his audience to the standard of living dictated by their common Lord through His most holy Word. The second term from μαρτερέω means to bear witness or to testify/offer testimony. Here Peter refers to the facts of faith that he has laid down so plainly, the indicatives that support the imperatives. This is the summary of Peter’s first epistle. He designs this letter to call his readers to a common purpose (to suffer for the sake of righteousness) through his apostolic testimony of the words of Scripture. Both the facts that Peter has presented and the commands he has pronounced are here called the true grace of God (ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ).


There is a mountain of implications behind that phrase. The demonstrative pronoun “this” (ταύτην) does not have a specific antecedent, but points back to the entire letter. More than the general themes of the letter (as some conveniently suppose[2]), the pronoun indicates every fact, command, sentence, word, and letter penned by the guidance of God the Holy Spirit. This letter contains the very true and trustworthy grace of God.[3] That statement comes with a great weight of responsibility. To ignorantly or incorrectly understand, communicate, or interpret this letter is to misrepresent, misunderstand, and malign the true grace of God and turn it into a falsehood. If this be the true grace of God, then there is only one way to know this grace. It is only by first laying down this fact that Peter can continue to the single and final command to complete his summary.


Final Command (v. 12c)

In which you must stand firm!


This command to stand firm in the true grace of God (all that Peter has written) is a command to believe, obey, and persevere in the faith. A failure to stand firm is to fall away or to apostatize.[4] Peter wrote down the genuine and true grace of God so that these readers would believe his testimony and bring their lives into conformity to it. If they fail to do so, it is because they reject these words and thus reject the grace that comes from God. This truly is a summary of the whole letter. Every call to persevere, to suffer well, and to submit to God’s will and word is a warning against the disastrous implications of neglect. It is as if Peter is saying: I wrote to you in order to make plain the implications of God’s gracious gospel. Don’t budge from it!


This reminder of what to do is very simple, stand firm. The Christian has a very simple duty: believe and obey. That is not to say that it is an easy duty. The persecution of the world will make obedience painful. The temptation of the world will make belief seem idiotic. Yet the black and white nature of our religion is not complicated. These are the words of truth and life. Do not compromise on a single point.


Reminder of Who They Are: Elect Aliens (v. 13)

She who is in Babylon, elect together, greets you. Also, my son Mark.


Much ink has been spilt regarding the meaning of Peter’s words here. The debate of what he means by Babylon is quite pointless because any answer must account for Peter, Silvanus, and Mark being in the same place at the same time. The ancient city of Babylon in Mesopotamia is therefore not an option. Neither is the Roman garrison on the Nile Delta by the same name. All evidence points exclusively to the city of Rome as this letter’s place of origin, and the first two centuries of the church’s teaching confirms it.[5] The question is not “what does Peter mean by ‘Babylon’?” so much as “why does Peter refer to Rome as ‘Babylon’?” The answer lies in what Babylon would immediately bring to mind to any student of Scripture.


It is true that the Old Testament readily uses Babylon as a symbol of sin, debauchery, and overall rebellion against God (Is. 13-14; 46-47; Jer. 50-51) and thus serves as an accurate representative of Rome. Yet the thrust of Peter’s intention is more than this. Babylon is most often used in the context of exile. While in Babylon, the southern nation of Judah were sojourners and aliens in a land that was not their own.[6] Here is a subtle reminder that the readers, though encouraged, exhorted, and strengthened must not forget that they are aliens. Though they are certainly elect aliens.


She who is in Babylon” (ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι) does not refer to an individual person, but an individual congregation. Several manuscripts even added the term “church” for clarity.[7] This is so much more than a benign greeting from a sister church. This is another subtle reminder and encouragement that, like the churches of Asia Minor, the church in Rome is also an elect alien (1:1). She was called (συνεκλεκτὴ) just as the churches of Asia were called (ἐκλεκτοῖς). The theme of God’s elect is used by Peter as an inclusio that begins and ends his letter.


The inclusion of Mark’s greeting is as beautiful as it is curious. This is of course the same John Mark that abandoned Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13) and was later replaced by the very same Silvanus/Silas just mentioned (Acts 15:36-41). Mark had evidently regained much standing in Paul’s sight by this time (2 Tim. 4:11) and is now called by Peter “my son” (ὁ υἱός μου). A very close familial relationship now exists between the apostle and this young gospel writer. Peter intends to personally and officially clear the air concerning this man, who once played the part of the prodigal. With his gospel account, heavily influenced by Peter himself, fresh off the press so to speak, it is necessary that there be no lingering doubts about Mark in the minds of the churches. They are to accept Mark as they would Peter’s own son. He is a fellow heir of the promise and joint elect alien. He too sends his greetings to the churches of Asia Minor.


Reminder of What is to Come: Peace (v. 14)

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ


This kiss of love may cause many of us brought up in the west to cringe. Many feel uncomfortable with a simple side-hug, much less a European style kiss on the cheek. However, the kiss (on the cheek) was as common to Mediterranean culture of the first century as the handshake is to our own. Many interpreters have sought to employ this greeting during the worship service, though the obvious struggles of its abuse was first regulated by reserving men to greet men and women to greet women with this kiss. By the thirteenth century, the practice had all but died out altogether.[8] To avoid similar problems, we would do well to understand this verse as Peter intended it. This is not a command initiating liturgical service, but a warm and personal greeting. When Peter asks the churches of Asia Minor to greet each other with a kiss, the meaning is that this kiss is from Peter himself. This is similar, though much more sober, to the line of XOXOXO signed on the bottom of a Grandmother’s Christmas card. Peter sends his love and wishes that each member of the congregations greet the others with this same affection.


To this Peter adds his desire for their peace (εἰρήνη), another inclusio that links us back to Peter’s introduction (1:2). By specifying this peace to those who are in Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ) Peter does not indicate that there are those in the churches who are not in Christ. It is a simple statement of fact. When he wishes peace on you all, he simply adds that you all are in Christ. After all, there is peace only in Christ.


The theme of peace is prolific throughout the Scriptures. The term can be well defined, yet poorly understood for we have no clear example of peace in our alien context. Peace is much more than a cease fire or a cessation of conflict. Peace describes a state of tranquility free from all opposition or rebellion. Peace offers a context for great prosperity with no wars to kill and maim, no plague to ruin and damage crops, and no sin to curse the ground and those who come from it. Peace is something that will not be realized while these elect aliens continue to sojourn in a foreign land and yet peace describes the object of the Christian’s hope. Peter’s final words are words of encouragement. For those who are in Christ, there is peace. There is peace between the Father and His people, and there will be peace on earth when the Son returns to rule and reign in righteousness. Until then, with an eye on the horizon, suffer well for the sake of this same righteousness.


Conclusion


This writing, as with all my work, was not conducted as an intellectual or academic pursuit, but is a product of study for the purpose of preaching. Week after week as I gained the pulpit to proclaim the Word of God from this epistle, I am in ceaseless amazement at the precision and depth the Scriptures bear upon our lives. The church of Jesus Christ needs this epistle. We must understand that this is not our home. We must learn that this is not the Kingdom of Christ and that we are aliens in enemy occupied territory. Yet our response is not to flee, withdraw, or dig in. We stand firmly upon the promises of the Almighty and, if need be, count ourselves blessed to become martyrs as we suffer for the sake of righteousness. It is His Kingdom and His righteousness that we seek, not our own. We stand, live, breath, and yes die in His strength alone. We stand upon His word and not our own opinions. May we forsake all that He has not given us, and may we never forsake the grace that He has bestowed. I will leave you, dear reader, with Peter’s words rather than my own: To Him be the might and the glory forever and ever, Amen!


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1984), p. 325. [2] Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2009), p. 207-8. [3] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 249. [4] Ibid, p. 249. [5] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 231-2. [6] Schreiner, p. 251. [7] Hiebert, p. 329-30. [8] Ibid, p. 331.

45 views