Practical Suffering, Part 5d: Mighty Hope Leads to Mighty Worship – 1 Peter 5:10-11

So, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after suffering a little while, will restore, support, strengthen, and establish. To Him be the might forever and ever. Amen.


These two verses form the conclusion of the paragraph which began in 5:1. Peter is finished with giving direct commands regarding the inward care of the church (vv. 1-7) and the outward need for vigilance (vv. 8-9). Here he provides some much-needed encouragement before entering the conclusion of his letter (5:12-14).


Theology is always practical. Instruction always has a reason or cause. Encouragement is always rooted in objective reality. In other words, without accurate theology and precise instruction, there can be no meaningful encouragement. Encouragement is grounded upon what is factual. All of Peter’s commands, instruction, exhortation, and theology come to a point in these final verses in the form of encouragement. This encouragement forces the readers to face an uncertain world with two certain attitudes: hope (v. 10) and worship (v. 11). Our theology and practice are designed to cement, fortify, and establish these two constant and certain attitudes, hope and worship.


Certain Hope (v. 10)


Hope” (ἐλπίζω/ἐλπίς), while not found in these two verses, is a major theme in this letter (1:3, 13, 21; 3:5, 15). The term indicates a confident expectation, a certainty that something will happen. We often misuse this term in our vernacular to indicate a fancy, whim, or desire that is not necessarily based upon factual evidence. We hope it will rain despite forecasts to the contrary. We hope for a Red Rider BB gun even though we have been told repeatedly that we’ll shoot our eye out. That is not the sense of the term, nor is that what Peter means when he uses it. Hope is based on facts. It is a confident expectation based on what we know to be true. Though the term itself is missing from these verses, the concept drives every word that Peter writes. He encourages his readers with a promise, a promise that they must trust, believe, and hope.


The Greek word order is a little different in this verse than most of our English versions represent. The original text first draws attention to God (the God of all grace who called you - ὁ θεὸς πάσης χάριτος, ὁ καλέσας ὑμᾶς…) before establishing a reference point to his readers (after suffering for a little while - ὀλίγον παθόντας). The effect is to first remind the beleaguered saints of Asia Minor of who makes this promise (v. 10a), and then draw attention to when this promise is due to come to pass (v. 10b), followed by what the contents of this promise consist of (v. 10c).


The Promiser (v. 10a)


The post-positive δὲ provides a loose connection to the previous verses. Rather than a contrast, the conjunction introduces something new and can be translated as “so” or “moreover.[1]A promise is only as good as the one who makes it. Here Peter presents the best of all promise makers and promise keepers, the Almighty God of the universe. As he does so, Peter presents God’s character and God’s works as proof that this promise is true.


God’s Character

So, the God of all grace


God is first presented as the God of all grace (ὁ θεὸς πάσης χάριτος). This subject genitive defines God as the source of all grace or the One from whom all grace comes and is derived. The Greek noun χάρις indicates favor or goodwill from one party to another. The New Testament uses this term to indicate that this favor or goodwill is given freely to those who trust in Christ, though it is wholly undeserved. God is the source of all grace, favor, and goodwill to undeserving humanity.


This term is no stranger to Peter, who has used it prolifically in his epistle thus far (1:2, 10, 13; 2:19, 20; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10). While many think of this term in the context of salvation, particularly when addressing conversion and redemption, Peter seems to favor emphasizing God’s grace in the realm of sanctification and perseverance. In 1:13 Peter addresses a current hope on future grace that is to be revealed at the return of Christ. In 2:19-20 he states that Christians enduring suffering find favor or grace with God. In 4:10, he exhorts the church to utilize their giftedness which is an extension of God’s grace to the church. Just as the term salvation is used with a fuller implication by Peter, so too is grace. He uses the term to look at the whole picture of God’s divine favor being placed upon wretched man. This goodwill from God to man extends well beyond conversion to include the process of sanctification in perseverance into the eternal glory. It is all grace, undeserved favor from God to man. The God who promises is the God of all grace.


God’s Works

who called you to His eternal glory in Christ


Peter moves from God’s character as a gracious God abounding in lovingkindness and truth to the works of God. The primary act of God that Peter now focuses is the call of God. This call is nothing less than the effectual call out of sin and death into light and life. This is the same call as referred to in 1:15, the source and reason for our praise (2:9) and the underlying foundation of our current obedience and perseverance (2:21; 3:9). Man does not come to God of his own volition, but is called by God the Father, by means of God the Holy Spirit, in union with God the Son.


It is normal these days for Christians to consider the gospel and especially this effectual call of God exclusively in the light of conversion. Much emphasis is placed on the calling out of sin and into life. But Peter, as always, views the gospel in its fullest scope. He does not emphasize the point of conversion or regeneration here but instead focuses on the fullest aspect of this call. The call of God does not end with regeneration, but in eternal glory. Peter’s eschatology is a major part of the gospel he preaches. The modern church would profit well from this observation. Because we are finite creatures that are trapped in time, we consider the call of God as a past action in our lives. Yet we fail to consider where or to what ends God is calling us. Regeneration is only the starting point of our new lives in Christ. The end is not yet complete and will not be complete until we are in the presence of God in the fullness of His glory. Peter does not have in mind any current state in this age, for no man can see God and live (Ex. 33:20) nor can man stand in the presence of God’s glory (Ex. 40:34-36; 1 Kings 8:10-11). Yet it is to this end that God has called us in Christ.


This gospel call is issued only in, through, or by means of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The preposition ἐν is taken as instrumental,[2] thus establishing that God calls His people through Christ alone. The exclusivity of Jesus Christ has long been a part of Peter’s theology, for he claimed from the very beginning that there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved (Acts 4:12). The whole New Testament affirms the fact that only by believing in the name of Christ might man have eternal life (Jn. 20:31). Apart from Christ, there is no hope of eternal glory. It is through Christ that the God of all grace has bestowed His divine favor on mankind.


God is here presented to Peter’s audience in the best possible light. God, the One who is the source of all grace. God, the One who called you out of darkness and into light. God, whose call is issued through Christ. God, whose call results in unending and unfading glory. This God has made a promise to His people. Yet, it is essential that His people understand the timing of this promise.


The Timing of the Promise (v. 10b)

after suffering a little while


The glory just mentioned is here contrasted with suffering.[3] Though the fulfillment of God’s call is yet future, the issuing of this call is set in the past. The promise itself is presented by using future tense verbs (will restore, will support, etc.). The temporal participle therefore indicates a time after the call was issued yet before the fulfillment of the promise. It is in this sense that our English translations read “after you have suffered for a little while.”


The adverb ὀλίγος indicates a small amount. It can indicate a number that is comparatively few or a low place on a particular scale (small, little, low). If the scale is a measurement of time (as the temporal participle indicates) then the idea is a relatively short amount of time. The suffering indicated then is relatively short in duration.


It would be a mistake to think that the duration of time is contained within the lives of Peter’s audience. The measurement is not compared to the lifespan of human beings, but the time between the present and the eternal glory. When compared with God’s eternal glory, this suffering is but a small thing and a short time. The suffering of the church, though it be over 2000 years long at this point (and is still counting), is but a short time to suffer when compared with the never-ending glory of God to be enjoyed in Christ. The glory just mentioned is eschatological while the short suffering is contemporary. If there is to be any encouragement here, it is imperative that Christians forsake the secular world view that places all emphasis on our current and fleeting age. This is not the kingdom. We are but aliens and sojourners passing through a fleeting world. We are not promised glory and freedom of the curse’s effects in this age. But we are promised hope and strength to endure.


The Content of the Promise (v. 10c)

will restore, support, strengthen, and establish


Four future tense indicatives present the content of God’s promise to His people as they sojourn in this failing world. The future tense is appropriate because it is Peter’s intention to focus the readers’ attention on the future glory. Yet, it would be a mistake to say that this promise is devoid of value in their current suffering state. The completion of these promises will only be fulfilled when the readers are brought into God’s eternal glory, an eschatological future event. Though there is contained within these future promises a current aspect that moves from the present to the future. One cannot be established in the future if one is not being established in the present. If God calls His people, then He must preserve His people (Rom. 8:28-30). Four future indicatives describe this future completion of present preservation.


The first future indicative of καταρίζω can indicate either the act of preparation (to prepare, make, create, outfit) or a condition or order (to put in order, restore). In either case, there is a sense of completeness that is involved. In order to prepare an individual one must equip him with what is missing. In order to put things in place, one must replace what is missing and arrange what is misplaced. This is a promise that God will complete each individual Christian. All that is missing will be equipped. All that is out of order will be restored to its proper place. Christians can rest in the hope that this will certainly come to pass. But they can also rest in the knowledge that God is even now about this grand work.


The second verb from στηρίζω indicates strength and firmness. Luke is the only gospel writer to use this term. He uses it to describe the strength and determination of Christ’s decision to go to Jerusalem to be crucified and later ascend into heaven (Lk. 9:51), the unmovable chasm that exists between the righteous in heaven and the wicked in hell (Lk. 16:26), and Christ’s desire for Peter to strengthen his brothers after he is restored (Lk. 22:32). Paul uses the term as bookends in his letter to the Romans; on the one hand desiring to come and establish them with his teaching (1:11) and on the other praising God who is the one who is able to establish them (16:25). The point here is that God promises to firmly plant, establish, and fix in place His people so that they will never falter or fail. The eschatological force is necessary to make any contemporary application. If God will complete this strengthening and establishment in eternity, then we can safely assume that He will even now not allow them to falter, fail, or fall away.


The third term used is from σθενόω and carries a large amount of overlap from the previous term in meaning. In general, the term means to make strong or to strengthen. The term is not found anywhere else in the New Testament, nor the Greek of the LXX. The emphasis here is on the active endurance of the believer, the strength for which will be supplied by God. It is not enough to say that God, even in eternity, will keep the passive Christian from falling. In addition to this, God will supply the strength for the believer to actively stand. Christians are not puppets, but servants. We are not only maintained by God in a passive sense, but also strengthened by God for active obedience. And yet, in all things, God continues to receive the glory. Even now, our active obedience to Christ is done out of strength that God supplies.


The fourth and final term, which comes from θεμελιόω, also overlaps with the second promise to establish or support (στηρίζω). Jesus used this term to explain why the figurative house did not fall when the rains and winds beat against it. It was founded upon the rock (Matt. 7:25). Paul anticipates that the Colossians will be presented before God in His glory if they continue to be established in the faith and not move away to embrace heresy (Co 1:23). The emphasis here is more on the unmovable foundation rather than the strength of support.


Taken together, it is as if Peter presents a broad promise with the first term (καταρτίσει) that is described in detail by the following three (στηρίξει, σθενώσει, θεμελιώσει). Of these three, the first (στηρίξει) is made clearer by the following two (σθενώσει, θεμελιώσει). After suffering for a little while, God promises to complete all that is lacking. This completion means that He will support His people and not allow them to fall from His hand. This support means that God will provide the active strength they require and will firmly establish them so that they might stand unmovable. If this promise will find its fulfillment in the eschaton, then God must even now be working these things in the lives of His people. The God of all grace continues to give good gifts to those whom He has called to His glory through Christ.


Constant Worship (v. 11)

To Him be the might forever and ever. Amen.


There is little left to be said other than to praise the God of grace who calls and provides. The doxology here is nearly identical to the one Peter offered in 4:11. The exception is that he does not include the glory (ἡ δόξα) but maintains the might (τὸ κράτος). The reason is for emphasis rather than exclusion.


The might of God was emphasized in v. 6 as the context of the commanded humility of the sheep. Submission to the elders and humility toward each other is demanded under the understanding that God gives grace to the humble, yet He stands in opposition to the proud (v. 5). The readers are therefore commanded to humble themselves before the mighty hand of God (τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ), a phrase that relays God’s ability to save those who are His and destroy those who oppose Him (v. 6). This same God of all grace is once again identified as a mighty God. He has proven His might in the past through the destruction of the wicked and the salvation of the humble. He will continue to prove mighty to supply all that is needed for the preservation of His called-out ones. This doxology praises God’s might and confesses faith in God’s ability to save. As always Peter’s view of salvation is wholistic; surveying the past, addressing the present, with an eye to the future. Peter has turned from encouragement to worship. He has taken the focus from the promises of God to the God of promise. What more can be said other than “amen.” Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.


Conclusion


Theology is always practical. These words of encouragement and worship are grounded on theological truth. The saints can only be encouraged to the level of their theological convictions. We take courage in the fact that God will preserve us because we know that it was He who called us in the first place. We take courage in the fact that we suffer for a little while because we know that this is not the promised Kingdom and that our end is not here but there. We stand boldly, ready to suffer for the sake of righteousness, because we know that our strength, endurance, and foundation comes from God and not from ourselves. His might stands forever, not ours. It is because we can say with a full heart “amen” to these things that these words hold encouragement for us. Let us go forth then and suffer for a little while in the strength and foundation that the God of all grace who called us provides.


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1984), p. 317. [2] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 244-5. [3] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 227.

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