The First Epistle of Peter

Extracts from the Bible Study Monthly on a New Testament book
Part 6

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

(2 Pet.3:14) The Christian’s lot in those days was a heavy one. Persecuted by Rome and its provincial governors, to the lion, the sword and the flame; hated, harassed and hunted to the death by their own kinsmen, with the ravages of war and desolation daily growing sharper and more widespread, it is not to be wondered at that these despised followers of a hated cause came to think that the whole realm of Nature was closing in upon them, and that the end of the world was near. Peter himself, in a previous letter, had given vent to an almost identical expression, when he assured his scattered brethren that "the end of all things is at hand:" (1 Pet.4:7). That this was a prevailing idea amongst the brethren is apparent also by the works of John (1 John 2:18) "little children, it is a last hour" (not the last time, as A.V.), and also of James, "...the coming of the Lord draweth nigh...behold, the judge standeth before (at) the door." (James 5:8‑9). Sep Oct ‘78

Peter instructs us to have fervent love among "Use hospitality one to another without grudging," and "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another", (1 Pet.4:9‑10). This is an admonition to Godlikeness, for God delights to give: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." What is our attitude towards all His giving? Surely not by giving to Him in return, but by receiving from Him. Love wants no return for what it gives or does. God does not show favours in order to receive as much again. He gives because His heart is full of love, because He yearns to bless us. All he requires at our hands is that we gladly accept what He offers and give Him love in return. Consecration? Yes, but the consecration of love and not as recompense or repayment. June ‘45

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:13

There was no beclouding or confusing the plain issue by theological definitions of doubtful value and full of incipient (initial) sources of argument and misunderstanding. To these earnest, enthusiastic souls, participation in the sufferings of Christ was a sharing the life that He lived and enduring the same trials and distresses that came upon him in consequence of that way of life; and this participation was a very real thing to them. The history of early Christian persecution and martyrdom shows that. The ordeal of fire which so many of them went through and endured until death released them from their sufferings is too terrible to recount—historians have already described it in sufficient detail. Let it be realised that nothing but the one‑ness of the Church in which all members suffered with one, and so the strength of all was given to one in the hour of need, could have enabled them thus to endure. Many in later times have wondered how those stoical souls withstood the fiendish cruelty of their pagan persecutors. The answer is that their strength was not of themselves, it was of the Body, and from him Who is the Head of that Body. And without the true unity of the Spirit the strength would not have been theirs. Paul knew this when he desired that he "may know…the fellowship—communion—of his (Christ’s) sufferings," (Phil.3:10). He knew that in that common‑sharing there resided a source of strength such as his own self‑resolution could never give him. To the Corinthians he says "as ye are partakers (common‑sharers) of the sufferings (both of Christ and of his disciples), so shall ye also be of the consolation" (2 Cor.1:7). That word "consolation" is full of significance here. It means the arrival of help at a time when it is needed (paraklesis—a being alongside to help). That is the effect of conscious sharing in the sufferings of one another and of our Master—it gives strength to withstand all that makes our Christian way difficult and arduous. There is then a "being alongside to help". What wonder, then, that Peter, in the calm maturity of his old age, bids his suffering brethren to "rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers—common‑sharers—of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (1 Pet.4:13). And it is Peter who takes us to the highest level of this communion of saints, for in two eloquent Scriptures he relates it to the consummation of our glorious hope. In 2 Pet.1:4 he tells us that we shall be "partakers—common‑sharers—of the divine nature" and in 1 Pet.5:1 that we shall be "partakers—common‑sharers—of the glory that shall be revealed:". The communion of saints is not only one of suffering, it is also one of glory. The fellowship that is begun here below in conditions of "weakness and much trembling" is to be continued forever in that eternal kingdom where it will be expanded into the glorious fellowship of the general assembly of the Church of the First‑Born, whose names are written in heaven. Mar Apr ‘90

"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation" says the beloved James "for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12). Note well that the crown is bestowed after the man has been tried (tested, proven‑worthy) and the plain implication is that if he does not stand the proving and the trying process, then he loses the crown. Exhorting the elders of the Church to faithfulness in the discharge of their duties, Peter says (1 Pet.5:4) "When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away". That is conditional upon faithfulness to their charge. And to seal all these words with his own approval, our Lord says to all his Church and each member thereof "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev.2:10). Sep Oct ‘84

1 Peter 5:5 Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

And then for the day‑to‑day struggle He giveth grace to such as repair to his Throne of Grace, humbly beseeching assistance in their time of need (Heb.4:16; Jas.4:6; 1 Pet.5:5). Mar Apr ‘83 &smp; Nov ‘40

1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."

Our burden‑bearer. God is the most careful Being in the universe, we may be sure. He is not careful, in the sense in which the word is used in this text—in the sense of worry and unrest of mind—but He is care‑full in the right and proper sense. There are cares that come to the Lord’s people because they are harassed by the adversary. These experiences the Lord permits for the very purpose of leading His people to cast their care upon Him, of bringing them closer to Himself, of teaching them patient endurance, of showing them more fully their need of Him, their utter helplessness and wretchedness without Him. But worries and frettings— anxieties that would hinder us in the Lord’s service, that would rob us of our peace in the Lord—should be dropped, not carelessly, however, but intelligently, with the thought that Jesus, our great Burden‑bearer, has invited us, yea, urged us, to cast all our care—all that would disturb our peace upon Him. He will make our burden light and ease our tribulations. This is a test of faith, and cannot be attained otherwise than through faith in His love, faith in His promises. Mar  ‘41

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

Says the Lord to Ezekiel (28:12) "take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus,". This word "lamentation" stamps the succeeding account as poetry, prophetic poetry, for "lamentation" here means a "mournful song" and its connection with the literal Tyre rests upon an analogy which is not immediately apparent at first sight—the meaning of the Hebrew word for "merchant" which (probably because of its trading and commercial implications) came to enshrine the combined ideas of one who goes about, goes to and fro, and one who bargains, misrepresents and slanders. In a rather clever manner Ezekiel pictures the one who, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8. goes about seeking who he may devour, and Jesus, was a liar and a deceiver from the beginning (John 8 .44) in the guise of a Tyrian merchant king, whose people likewise misrepresent and deceive in their commercial dealings. May June ‘91

The lion in this Age is a carnivorous beast. He devours flesh. The Lion which the Lamb engages in deadly combat has his archetype in the Devil, whom the Apostle Peter calls "a roaring lion, walketh (going) about, seeking whom he may devour". (1 Pet.5:8). That Lion was defeated in his first endeavour to defy God and frustrate his plans for the human race. True, by virtue of his lie, uttered in the garden, man was enticed into sin, and reaped death, "and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Rom.5:12). But he was defeated, nevertheless, for the fallen pair still believed in God and began to bring their children up in the knowledge and fear of God, and there is no evidence that they ever heeded or had anything to do with the Devil again. May June ‘81

As in every age, the Devil will appear in a number of guises. Sometimes his agents are openly the enemies of God and brazenly seek to render ineffective the work of his people. Frequently however the approach is more subtle and the sabotage is done in secret ways. There are many exhortations in the New Testament to watch. Often these are accepted as a reference to our observation of the political drama in the world around us. They would serve their purpose more effectively if the application was made by an internal examination of the heart by each believer upon himself. It was our Master who said "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Matt.26:41), and years later, writing to the Colossians, (4:2) Paul admonished "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." Peter exhorted the brethren to "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour;" (1 Pet.5:8). Each of these texts might have been the words of our Old Testament hero (Nehemiah) urging his faithful band of workers to greater building efforts. July Aug ‘81

1 Pet.5:10 "The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."

The above words were penned by the Apostle Peter who, after years of experience in the Master’s service and under his discipline, through much tribulation had evidently reached the blessed experience of one established, strengthened and settled in the faith and in the practice of the principles of the gospel. Peter had much to suffer and endure in his continuous effort to overcome. In common with all our Lord’s disciples, he had much to bear from without, in the way of reproach, and sometimes of persecution, for the Truth’s sake. But he had probably much more to contend against from within. His disposition was naturally impulsive, wavering and difficult to bring under restraint, even when the Truth was clear to his mind and when his affections were fastened upon the Lord.

It should be the aim of every truly consecrated saint to reach this desirable state of strength and settled establishment in the faith. This condition cannot be reached at a single leap; it is gained by a gradual steady growth under the discipline of suffering—as the Apostle says, "after ye have suffered a while". "Now," as Paul remarks (Heb.12:11‑13), "no chastening for the present seemeth...joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." "Wherefore" with him we would add, "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way". Are you weary and disheartened in the journey, discouraged at your slow progress, and almost overwhelmed with the cares and various besetments of this life? Is a lethargy and indifference creeping over you, cooling your ardour for the Master’s service, relaxing your energies in that direction, and enlisting your interest more and more in other matters? Then beware! It is high time to wake up. July Aug ‘82

1 Peter 5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.

Silas remained at Antioch. Later on he became Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey and appears later in the New Testament as Silvanus, the Latin form of his name (1 Thess.1:1; 2 Thess.1:1 & 1 Pet.5:12. Mar Apr ‘88

Now if Silas did in fact return to Antioch from Corinth round about A.D.52 he might well have found Peter there and worked with him and earned that Apostle’s regard. About a decade later we find Peter writing his First Epistle from Rome (the expression "church that is at Babylon...saluteth you" in 1 Pet.5:13 is almost certainly his guarded reference to Rome at the time of Nero’s persecution although some do contend that Peter was writing from Babylon on the Euphrates or even from the Roman garrison of the same name in Egypt) and sending it to the Christians of the Greek provinces, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, by the hand of Silas (1 Pet.5:12). So at this time Silas was in Rome with Peter (and, incidentally, with John Mark). Paul, following his acquittal, had already left Rome; this would be during the several years’ gap between his first and second trials when no one knows where he really went. Spain, Britain, Greece, Asia, all have been suggested. Luke also was absent from Rome. Silas therefore was commissioned to take Peter’s Epistle to all the churches of Roman Asia, many of them the ones he and Paul had visited some twenty years earlier. It is hard to resist the conclusion that Silas did undertake at this time a kind of final missionary journey over these lands, perhaps, for all we know, finishing at Antioch and there spending the final years of his life. He would by then be at least in his late sixties and perhaps more. Jan Feb ‘91

That the shadow of persecution was over the church is evident from his use of the symbolic term "Babylon" for Rome when he said in the verse "the church that is at Babylon...saluteth you." (1 Pet.5:13). If the letter fell into the authorities' hands before Silas got clear away from Rome there would be nothing to incriminate the writer or his brethren. Sept Oct ‘76