68. And Finally

Meditations in 1 Peter : 68: And Finally

1 Pet 5:12-14 With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

And so we come to the end of this great little letter. In these closing sentences Peter brings greetings and in this we move into an area that lacks clarity. There are a number of questions over this passage that we are simply not able to answer with any measure of certainty.

For instance, who is the Silas that he mentions? Is it the Silas who is mentioned in Acts who travelled with Paul? Whoever he is, Peter assumes the church receiving the letter will know. In other words he is a well known figure in the early church. Then there is the reference to Babylon? There is no indication that Peter ever went east to the literal Babylon and so we must assume it is a figurative Babylon. In the book of revelation Babylon seems to be used to refer to the godless world. It is quite possible therefore that Babylon was a term used by the early church to disguise their real location, and so here it may well refer to Rome. Then there is the reference to his son, Mark. Was Mark a literal son or simply a figurative term to describe someone who had become very close to Peter (the one who wrote Mark’s Gospel?), possibly a spiritual son?  Each of these names leave us realising that not everything is clear, and we have to leave it at that. Let’s put the names aside, therefore and see what else comes out of these verses.

Peter says he has written ‘briefly’. Well we may wonder at that description after five chapters but what it must do is suggest that Peter had lots more that he could have said. In fact when you look back over this letter much of it is about the difficulties of living at that time, facing persecution, and so much of it is reassurance in the face of that.  In many ways that is quite a limited theme. Yes, Peter could have said a lot more but he limits himself to what he sees (and has heard?) is a primary need in respect of the churches to whom he is writing.

He specifies his objectives: encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.” This is primarily a letter of encouragement (in the face of persecution) and part of that encouragement has been to explain the grace of God which is theirs. They are who they are by the grace of God. They receive from Him what they receive by God’s grace. What they receive in terms of enabling, is the grace of God. Look back over this letter and realise that it is all about the grace of God – but isn’t that exactly what our lives are? Everything about us has to do with the grace of God. It describes what we are, what we have received and what we go on receiving. It is all grace, the free gift of God.

This, he says, is what should anchor you. Remember it is not by your efforts that you stand, but by His. It is all His provision, and so receive it and stand fast in it, not letting the enemy or the people he uses put you off or bring you down. Understand that the things you experience are common to Christians all over the world and the same grace is available to all of us. For that reason we can be assured and we can stand fast in the face of all that comes.

Then he sends greetings from the church in Rome (we assume). In this there is subtle encouragement for he is, we believe, referring to the believers in Rome, a church that lives right under the nose of the emperor. If persecution hits out in the provinces, how much more so in the capital of the empire – yet they stand and from there Peter is able to write.

In the face of the things that he has covered in this letter it is understandable that he finishes with a blessing of peace. Peace is what we all need in the face of the trials and tribulations of life, especially persecution. The apostle John in his first letter wrote about perfect love casting out fear. Well love casts it out and the result is peace. When we are confident of God’s love for us, we can learn to rest in it and even in the face of opposition we can be at peace. If you have peace, you will not have fear. So, in the face of concerns, worries, and difficulties, let the love of God fill you, and may you know His peace. Amen? Amen!

 

 

1. In Eden

“God turned up” Meditations: 1 :  In Eden

Gen 3:8,9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

I realised recently that there are many times in the Bible when human beings were just getting on with their lives – and then God turned up! Of course the truth is that He’s always here, everywhere; it’s just that He makes His presence known when He ‘turns up’. Now this first instance isn’t like most of the others, because the impression that is given is that God communicated with Adam and Eve on a regular basis and the reference in our verses above to Him “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” seems to have a regular habit feeling about it, i.e. it was something He did every day, to perhaps come and share with Adam and Eve at the end of the day to see how they had got on in the day.

Now this day was a unique day for it would suggest that whenever the Lord came into the Garden, Adam and Eve would be obvious and easily found, but this time when they heard the sound of Him coming (was He singing?) “they hid”. God ‘turning up’ today was obviously something they did not look forward to. For the first time ever they didn’t want to meet with the Lord.

Well of course we know the reason, for at the beginning of this chapter we have the account of the Fall, when Eve listened to Satan and disobeyed God for the first time, and then Adam listened to Eve and did the same thing. Suddenly there is a dimension to their lives which had never been there before – they were guilty.

Now perhaps many of us know this story so well that we have taken it for granted, but writing about God’s love recently I have come to see something about Adam and Eve’s response on this fateful evening that I have never realised before. Everything about their response to the Lord speaks of their guilt. They hid from the Lord and when they do meet Him and acknowledge what has happened, they move into a blame routine. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. Now all that is very obvious and which, I am sure I’ve written about at least a half a dozen times over the years but there is something else about this behaviour which is very challenging. It is that neither of them appreciated the fact of God’s love for them.

Now the apostle John teaches in his first letter, “God is love”. (1 Jn 4:8,16) When the Lord appeared to Moses in Exodus 34 we find Him revealing Himself as the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6,7) and this description of Him is repeated in many forms throughout the Bible. Everything about God is love. He didn’t just become that in Exodus; He has always been love, He always was that.

Now sin blinds us, the Bible tells us, and we either forget this or fail to see it, that everything about God is love. One of the expressions of this love (because love always wants the good for another) is forgiveness. The Lord is always looking to forgive sin and restore the sinner but to do that He needs the sinner to repent. Obviously while someone is still denying their guilt they cannot, living a lie, come close to the Lord to receive all His blessings. Ezekiel understood this as when, speaking from the Lord, he declared, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and then again, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32)

Now what is so terrible about this incident in the Garden of Eden, and the reason for their subsequent expulsion from it, was that neither Adam nor Eve appreciated this. If they had done, they would have simply come to God in humble contrition and said, “Lord, we have been utterly stupid. We did what you told us not to do, we are so sorry, please forgive us” – and I am utterly convinced He would have done! Why because He is love and He wants to forgive and already before creating the world the Godhead has decided that the Son will come to take the guilt and punishment for all sins. We see that in a number of Scriptures. But Adam and Eve don’t understand that and so they keep on making excuses and don’t face their guilt. While in this state they cannot carry on in the presence of the Lord and so they are expelled from the Garden.

The challenge comes to us – do we appreciate the love of God? Do we appreciate that He is constantly working to draw us back to Himself and is looking to forgive, cleanse, reconcile and bless rather than punish, as the enemy would have us believe. Please note as we start these meditations that the Lord did not come to them and confront them with, “Why did you sin?” He was not looking to blame. That may account for why the Lord is able to approach so many people in the Bible without blaming them. He knows they are guilty of sin and they know it deep down, but it will take many dealings with God before they (and we) realise that God is for them, God loves them. Keep this in the back of your mind as we examine the encounters God has with people. It will never be obvious, but it is there in the background, this incredible truth: God comes to guilty people to draw them to Himself. That is the wonder of the message of the Bible! Hallelujah!