2017-10-15 Stand Firm in God’s True Grace

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 15, 2017

“Stand Firm in God’s True Grace”
Text: 1 Peter 5:12-14

Nine months ago, we began our punctuated sermon series through 1 Peter.  Today, in this twenty-eighth sermon of the series, we complete it.  We have seen for nine months what we again see today—to wit, that we are not Home, and that we may suffer some before we get Home.  Yet Peter, as he brings his first letter to a close by the Spirit’s leading, gives us wonderful balm and nourishment for our souls.  Let us go, then, into these final three verses of 1 Peter—and let us today note precisely those things which will bless our souls long after this day is done.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Lord, through Peter’s pen, calls us to receive from His good hand.  First, we receive this exhortation: Stand firm in the true grace of God.  Peter conveys this exhortation, and all the other material in 1 Peter, by Silvanus—who likely is the Silas who helped Paul, especially on the second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-18:23, cf. ibid, 15:40).  This faithful brother served Peter as scribe, or as courier, or possibly as both.  If Silvanus served in these ways, then he carries Peter’s brief letter with him—a letter, written in Greek, of just under seventeen hundred words.[1]  The author of Hebrews, similarly, calls his Spirit-led letter a brief word of exhortation (Hebrews 13:22)—though his exhortation runs almost to five thousand words.  True, one can read 1 Peter in less than thirty minutes—and God the Holy Spirit packed this letter with an amount of material all out of proportion to its brevity.

Peter says of his short letter, “This is the true grace of God.”  Note its contents.  It declares the character of the triune God: He is holy, He is all-powerful, and He is kindly disposed toward us.  It also declares unto us the suffering of our Savior, Jesus—and that unto death on the Cross.  Jesus’ suffering is both efficacious for our redemption and exemplary for our own suffering.  This letter also declares the Lord’s ministries unto us.  We receive a message from it both of empowerment for today and of promises now and forever to be realized both now and throughout eternity.  All of this come from God graciously; there is nothing we are or that we do than can compel His kindness toward us.  It is the true grace of God.  Moreover, God calls us to stand firm in this true grace of God—both resisting the adversary (recall 1 Peter 5:8-9) and wearing the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).  Let us receive this encouragement to stand firm in the true grace of God.

Second, let us receive this encouragement: Others greet you.  Others greeted the church to whom Peter wrote.  Peter, led by the Spirit, conveys the greeting of she who is at Babylon.  This appears to be a cryptic for the church at Rome, ca. A. D. 65, the one to whom Paul wrote some 8-10 years earlier.  Early Church writers (Papias, fl. ca. A. D. 130, et al.) note that Peter was at Rome during this period—hence, it follows that the Christians near Peter would greet the Christians to whom he wrote.  Peter also conveys the greeting of Mark, whom he refers to as his son.  This Mark, who wrote the Gospel bearing his name, likely is not the literal son of Peter, but we should understand this as a figure for Peter’s special affection for Mark.  Again, by appeal to early Church writers, Mark was associated with Peter at Rome, and the Gospel of Mark is thought by many to reflect Peter’s preaching.  Mark, and the Christians at Rome, greet Peter’s original readers.

We need to recall, as we together tread the pilgrim pathway Home, that we do not tread alone.  Other Christians—in every part of the world, under varying degrees of persecution—greet us as we travel, and we greet them in turn.  We, and they, are not alone in this world.  We have fellowship one with another, and we each and all have fellowship with God.  This puts spring back into our pilgrim stride indeed.

Third, let us receive this command: Greet one another.  In Peter’s day, they did this with the kiss of love—probably not unlike the holy kiss enjoined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:20.  God calls us in our own time to express Christ’s love to one another, whether at home, or in this church, or across the visible Church on earth, with expressions of love both heartfelt and culturally appropriate.  I recall the time when I graduated my high school (of about 1,000 students, most of whom I knew) and went to my university (of about 30,000 students, almost none of whom I knew).  How happy it was for me then to see someone I knew—and to extend and to receive greeting.  Let us greet one another who are in Christ; it will encourage us much as we walk with him.

Fourth, let us receive this blessing: Peace to all of you who are in Christ.  What a blessing God extends to us through Peter.  When we have the peace of God in Christ, we have absence of adversarial relation with Him—and we have enjoyed it since being grafted into His covenant family through faith.  We also enjoy relative absence of hostilities between ourselves and other people—others both considered individually and collectively.  Also—and, for many of us, most precious—we enjoy inner tranquility and freedom from inner turmoil.  This is Peter’s parting word to us in this letter—and this is the thought that God would have linger in our minds.

Again, we are not Home, though we in Christ surely are headed that way.  We may hurt for wearing His Name, though it is light, compared to eternity apart from Him and to the eternal felicity awaiting us—and it is momentary, compared to eternity itself.  Also, our God, Who leads us to the trial, either will pluck us out of the trial or will be closer than a brother to us amid the trial.  Therefore, we have heard the true grace of God.  Let us stand firm in it.

AMEN.

[1] According to Logos Bible Software, the Greek word count for 1 Peter (using the NA27 text) is 1,684.

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