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7. Week Seven—Resisting the Devil

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Words To Live By

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering.

1 Peter 5:8-9

Several years ago at the end of a mission trip in Africa, I was thrilled to be able to go on a safari (the viewing, not the killing kind). I was overwhelmed as I saw beautiful wild animals up close in their natural habitats living freely. Yes, we saw lions, but they were munching on prey they’d already caught.

Our visit coincided with the annual migration of the wildebeests from one feeding ground to another, so they were strewn out, dotting all across the plains. Our guide explained that they were drawn to the river and had to cross it to continue their movement forward. The river is a dangerous place because the crocodiles lurk in the water near the crossings waiting to attack the slower or younger animals.

We were able to stop at an overlook and watch it all play out. We could see the crocodiles waiting with their eyes above the water as a huge herd of wildebeests gathered at the riverbank. The zebras that travelled with them served as lookouts who neared the water first. As it turned out they recognized the danger, so the herd left without crossing. There were a few strays in a small group, however, that did cross, but thankfully, they made it across quickly and safely.

So what does this have to do with 1 Peter? In the context of suffering for Christ, Peter points out the danger we face as believers when we aren’t on guard against our enemy who is hunting us, ready to pounce when the opportunity arises.

Part One Study

Here at the end of his letter, Peter lays out his final words for his persecuted brothers and sisters.

Understanding that the church as a family is very important, especially in times of persecution. Peter has called them to love each other persistently, a committed love that overlooks insignificant hurts (4:8). Here in the final part of his letter, Peter reminds the church leadership of their important role as they put that love into practice.

Read 1 Peter 5:1-5a, And Comment On The Following Questions In Your Journal:

Note that the term elder is literally a term of age, but in both the Old and New Testaments, it often refers to the leaders of God’s people.

  • Peter appeals to his commonality with the elders as he exhorts them. Apparently the Greek suggests that all three qualities in v. 1 are shared by him and these elders.1 What characteristics do they share? (You may wonder how they were witnesses of Christ’s sufferings, as did I. Jobes says, “Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus (2:21) witness to the truth of his message as they share in the suffering of rejection he experienced.”2)
  • Review these verses where Peter has mentioned love within the church (1 Peter 1:22; 3:8-9; 4:7-9), and comment on how you see them relate to his message to the elders in 5:1-4.
  • Do you have any experiences with church leadership that didn’t measure up to these guidelines? If so, how did it affect the church over time? OR, are you in a leadership position where you need to check yourself against these exhortations? If so, how do you assess yourself? Talk to God about your answer.
  • How does Peter challenge the “younger ones”3 to respond to the elders?

McKnight points out that submission is “not to be taken as a blanket endorsement of every elder in the world. Rather, he [Peter] assumes spiritual healthiness at the top; when that leadership is corrupt, following it would be contrary to God’s will (as Peter himself resisted leadership in Acts 4:1-22.…)”4

*** Read John 13:1-17 and Matthew 20:25-28. What do you glean from Jesus’ actions and words about the kind of leadership needed in the church? How does it compare to Peter’s message? Journal your insights.

Part Two Study

As Peter ends his first letter, he speaks to the church by people category, similar to what he did in his household code. In Part One we looked at what he said to the elders and to those younger. Now he turns to everyone in the church. There’s no escaping Peter; he has something to say to everyone in the congregation!

Read 1 Peter 5:5b-11, And Journal About These Questions, Keeping In Mind That These Christians Are In A Situation Of Hostility And Persecution.

  • How does Peter suggest responding to our enemy, the devil, who wants to take advantage of our weaknesses in difficult circumstances?
  • How do humility, suffering and the devil relate?
  • What encouragements does Peter give those undergoing hostility and persecution in vv. 7-11? What name does he use for God? Why do you think he chose that name?

*** Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and James 4:6-10. Who is our real enemy and how should we respond to his attacks?

Part Three Study

We’ve made it to the end of Peter’s first letter. Here in Part Three, we’ll quickly look at the final three verses and review what God has shown us in 1 Peter.

Read 1 Peter 5:12-14, And Answer This Question In Your Journal:

  • At the end of the letter, who do we learn is with Peter? (The reference to Babylon is generally understood as Rome, “and early Christian tradition confirms that Peter wrote from Rome.”5)

Verse 12 contains the purpose statement of the book: “I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” Keep it in mind as you comment on the next set of questions.

Let’s Review Peter’s First Letter. Read Through All The Questions So You Have Them In Mind As You Review.

Early in the book Peter laid the groundwork for these Christian aliens in the world (and possibly aliens in the land) to stand strong in adversity as a Christian minority. He began by testifying to the true grace of God by reminding them of all that Christ did for them. He strengthened them by calling them chosen members of God’s family where they serve as priests and live as aliens. All of this would have grounded them in who they are as followers of Jesus.

  • Look back over 1 Peter 1:1-2:10 and copy any verse that you could hang onto if you face hostility and suffering as a Christian.

Because Peter wanted to encourage them as they suffered, the letter is filled with exhortations.

  • What exhortations throughout the letter could help you live well among people who are persecuting you?
  • How will you live in light of the end and on alert for the devil? Copy any verse in the letter that will help you do that.
  • What has God taught you through this study? What have you learned about facing hostility as a Christian?

We’ll end our study with a prayer of Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35–c. 107):

I know what must be done. Only now am I beginning to be a disciple. May nothing of powers visible or invisible prevent me, that I may attain unto Jesus Christ. Come fire and cross and grapplings with wild beasts, the rending of my bones and body, come all the torments of the wicked one upon me. Only let it be mine to attain unto Jesus Christ. Amen.6

May we be found faithful to do what is good when facing hostility and persecution.

1 Jobes, 301.

2 Ibid., 302.

3 McKnight, 263. McKnight includes both women and men in his translation knowing that the exhortation would apply to all in the church who aren’t elders.

4 Ibid., 267.

5 McKnight, 280.

6 Ignatius of Antioch, Quoted by Skye Jethani in WITH GOD DAILY - “The Devil Didn’t Make You Do It,” August 29, 2022.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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