Goodbye. Stand in Grace. 1 Peter 5:12-14 (Sermon)
Hi. This is pastor Rob. It is a joy and honor to share with you God’s Word.
Saying goodbye can be hard or not. Some goodbyes are downright ordinary and routine. For example, you leave your kids in the house and tell them what? “Don’t answer the door to strangers.” Or, if you are going for a while, you may say, “I love you. Don’t fight and be good to the babysitter.” Or, if you are moving away from friends, you might say, “Stay in touch. Don’t be a stranger.” Today, we are wrapping up the letter of 1 Peter in with his goodbye. What he wrote is typical for a letter, and offers a summary of where we have been in the book and a reminder of how we relate to one another.
If you have your Bibles, open them with me to 1 Peter chapter 5 starting at verse 12. I will be reading from the English Standard Version of the Bible. Please stand with me in honor of God’s Word?
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. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Let’s pray. God, I need you. We need you. Thank you for your Word. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). In the darkness, it guides us for the next step. Some of us come to worship with things weighing us down. Some are frustrated, some are excited, some are bored, some of us are content, while others are sad or fearful. We need you to break into our world and wake us up to your Word. Please do that, for your glory and our joy. AMEN.
The apostle Peter wrote this letter near the end of his life, around 62 to 63 AD. He was likely in prison in Rome and soon would be crucified for his faith under Emperor Nero. We learn about his audience in chapter 1, verse 1. “Those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). That is a mouthful. Where was that, and who were those people? In modern parlance, they were the church in Turkey, some 1,200 miles away from Rome. The church was persecuted. Peter’s overarching message was, “Our sure hope in Christ enables us to live in a way that displays God’s glory in all circumstances,” even in trials. He told them of God’s true grace and called them to stand in it.
Let us walk through the last few sentences of his letter. I see two things going on—first, a reminder to stand in God’s grace and second, a goodbye.
Let me say that another way for those of you taking notes: stand in God’s grace and remember to greet one another.
If you have your Bibles, keep them open, and let’s look at chapter 5, verse 12 again.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you,
Some translations say it slightly differently.
Some say, Silas, while others say, Silvanus. Who were they? Was it Silas or Silvanus? It was both. They were the same. Silas is short for Silvanus. What?
How many names do you have? Do you have a nickname? What is the name on your birth certificate? My parents named me Robert John Nash at birth—you can call me Rob. I imagine if Silas had a birth certificate, it would have said, Silvanus. You might remember him from such books as Acts or Thessalonians in the Bible. We read that Silas lived in Jerusalem. The church's apostles and elders sent him with Barsabas to Paul and Barnabas to share the council’s decision in Acts chapter 15. The council had met to discuss how to handle non-Jewish Christians. Christianity was born from Judaism, so it looked very Jewish early on. As the gospel spread, the question arose, “Do the non-Jewish believers need to follow Jewish laws and customs?” Silas delivered the verdict. They didn’t.
Silas was more than a mail carrier. He became an assistant on Paul’s missionary journeys. We read he traveled to Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Philippi with Paul. In Philippi, Silas and Paul were beaten, stripped, beaten again with rods, and thrown into prison. There they had their legs put in stocks and stayed overnight. The book of Acts says Silas was a prophet who encouraged and strengthened the brothers in Christ. Peter called him a faithful brother. Silvanus was outstanding.
STAND IN GOD’S GRACE
What message did he carry? Peter got to the heart of it with a summary statement. Look back at verse 12. “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you.” What? “Exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (1 Peter 5:12). This is my first point, and Peter's first command in these verses: Stand in God’s grace. Stand firm in God’s grace. God’s grace is foundational.
TWO TYPES OF GRACE: GENERAL
Peter’s letter talks about grace in a couple of ways. First, in a general way. In chapter 4, he called it varied grace (4:10). The word in Greek for grace is Xaris, meaning gift. God gives spiritual gifts and blessings to every believer. James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift (Gk. Dosis) is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Peter mentioned this general form of gift in chapter 1, verse 2, writing, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2). This type of grace varies and can increase.
Yet, Peter used grace in another sense. He wrote of a grace that parallelled the firm faith mentioned in verse 9 of chapter 5. That is foundational. Look at chapter 1, verse 8, to see this grace.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith. (1 Peter 1:8–9)
What is the outcome of our faith? Keep reading. “The salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace” (1 Peter 1:9–10). Here is the word “Grace” again. The text continues, “That was to be yours searched and inquired carefully” (1 Peter 1:10). Inquired about what? Keep reading. “Inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:11). What glories? Keep reading.
"It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look"(1 Peter 1:12).
Peter articulated that this grace was about “the outcome of our faith” and “the salvation of our souls.” Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Peter agrees with Paul. He wrote to the church to stand in that grace. You are saved. It is not fake news. It’s the absolute truth and a fantastic gift you didn’t earn or deserve. It was a gift of love.
What are you standing in? I think we can too often forget our great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). I know I can. I can be going along my day and be just doing tasks after the task and forget God. I can be wrapped up in my desires, needs, goals, and dreams, and all of a sudden, be reminded I need to be considering that I am God’s. I am not an island or an atheist. I exist by God’s general and specific grace. Let us stand in that, friends. Let us remember that. Let us revel in God’s grace. God loves us so much that he came, lived, and died for the salvation of souls. If we know his disposition and his blessing, we will be less likely to reject him and his ways and more likely to stand in his grace.
Can I have everyone stand right now? (If you can’t, that is okay.) Someone told me once that if you bend your knees and put one foot ahead of another, you are in a strong position to defend yourself. If instead, you stand up straight, lock your legs, and someone pushes your sternum with a couple of fingers, you will fall right over. If you brace yourself, bend your knees, and put one in front and another, you can’t be moved easily. God wants you firm in your faith and rooted in his grace. Stand firm, church. (You can be seated.)
Jesus talked about a wise man and a foolish man who built their homes in two different locations. He said a wise man builds his house on the rock and the foolish man on the sand. Many of our houses are built on sand. Today, we have the technology to get footings and pylons down into the bedrock or solid ground, avoiding the difficulty of having a home built on sand. However, in some cases, when the water rises and the winds come, the foundation's washout, and nothing can stop it. What is your spiritual foundation? Build your spiritual house on the rock of Christ and his grace. That is a summation of Peter’s letter, and my first point stands in God’s grace.
It brings us to the next two verses and second point and command. 2. Greet One Another. Read verses 13 and 14.
"She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love." (1 Peter 5:13).
This passage raises several questions. Who was she? Where was Babylon? Who are the chosen? Who is Mark, and what is this kiss of love? Good questions.
Let’s begin with, who was “She?” “She” was a group of people. What do they do? They send greetings. They are in Babylon. They are chosen. Why do I think it is a group and not a person? Because Peter and the Bible writers generally spoke of individuals by names at the end of letters and the church as female. For example, in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul ended his letter,
“The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:19–20)
In Ephesians, Paul called the church the bride of Christ. John ended his second letter this way, “The children of your elect sister greet you” (2 John 13). I don’t think the elect sister was a sibling of the whole church. John, like Paul, described the entire church as a sister church. We still do that today. For example, before I got here, Sawyer planted a church in Paw Paw called Freshwater with Troy Gentz; it is now a sister church. So the "she," I believe, is the church.
Where was “She”? She was in Babylon. If you are familiar with Biblical or Middle Eastern history, Babylon was a modern-day region in Iraq. And according to Isaiah 14 through 15 and Jeremiah 17 through 18, Babylon was destined for destruction. By the time Peter wrote, it had been uninhabitable for centuries. However, he wrote as if it exists. Why? Babylon was symbolic of the world and specifically, Rome. Babylon echoed Israel’s last dramatic exile and dispersion when God’s people were conquered in 586 BC, and the temple was destroyed. So, Peter wrote about the church in Rome in veiled terms.
Peter also described this church as “chosen.” What did he mean? He used this word before. He started his letter saying his readers were “elect.” That is similar to the word "chosen." In chapter 2, he described the church this way,
"But you are a chosen race a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9–10)
Peter sent greetings to the chosen people of God from the chosen people of God in Rome.
Mark sent his greetings as well. Who was Mark? Mark, like Silas, traveled with Paul. He was known as John Mark and a relative of Barnabas. Eventually, he abandoned Paul, yet later reconciled. Mark had a close relationship with Peter. Peter was a spiritual father to him like Paul was to Timothy. Acts tells us the early church met in his mothers’ home. He authored the shortest biography of Jesus, Mark, and used Peter as a primary source. If the readers of 1 Peter had been reading Mark’s gospel, I imagine a big smile came across their face, hearing that Mark sent his greetings.
GREET ONE ANOTHER
Peter exhorted them to greet one another. Why was that? Paul did that at the end of his letters. John did that too (2 John 13, 3 John 15), and the author of Hebrews did it (13:24). Often they encouraged this kiss of love or a holy kiss. What is going on here, and what is that about? Are we living in disobedience, not being like the Europeans or Southern American brothers and sisters who kiss each other on the cheek? I appreciate literalists, but that is not the point, and my Scandinavian roots and cold cultural background appreciate that flexibility. However, I think we can learn something here about how we treat each other.
Turn to Romans 15:5 with me. (We will get back to 1 Peter.)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5–7)
Like Paul, Peter concluded with a command for the church to welcome each other as Christ has welcomed them. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Peter’s command, “Give holy embraces around” (1 Peter 5:14 The Message). Our friendliness is not just to those we like; it is to everyone in the church. We are to be kind, patient, loving, and gentle with each other. In the days of COVID, we have to be sensitive to one another’s comfort level, health, and safety, yes. But we can still greet one another.
How? Remember Romans 15, welcome each other as Jesus welcomed you. How did he welcome you? He loved you when you were still sinners. He welcomed sinners, ate with tax collectors, and dined with drunkards. He never compromised his morals, but he loved people. Love each other as you have been loved. If you struggle with the person sitting across the way from you in church, pray for them and move towards them. It is hard to be upset at people whom you are praying and moving towards. Peter wrote, greet one another. Greet one another church. Put love into practice. Be friendly. You may not like a person, but be kind to each other. This is for the youth, the retired, and the tired. This is true in public and private, online, and offline. So, stand in grace and greet one another. Peter ends with a blessing. It is a type of greeting and a reminder of the hope we have today and tomorrow.
Peter wrote, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” (1 Peter 5:14). He concluded, reminding them of their grace in God and the blessing of peace in Christ. This is different from world peace or vain hope. This peace draws on the Hebrew idea of Shalom. It is spiritual in nature. It is peace with God, peace with others, and peace with one’s soul. A person can only experience it by faith in Christ as one's Lord and Savior. That peace is made possible by what we celebrate in communion. We have peace with God the Father because God the Son took our punishment on the cross. Peter was compassionately communicating a blessing of God’s peace to God’s people in turbulent times.
In summary, embrace God’s grace. Offer it to others. Be friendly. And may you know the peace of Christ. Jesus welcomed us, saved us, and made us at peace with God through his blood. Let us pray that we may stand in this, live in this, and know this truth. Let’s pray now as we worship and prepare for communion.
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