Suffering, Satan, and Standing Firm (1 Peter 5:8-14)
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
A very cruel error is being proclaimed from some pulpits, especially by certain television preachers seeking to attract followers and supporters. They assure their audience that Christ’s death on Calvary means the end of suffering and of Satan—for all who have sufficient faith. This cruel error causes many to question their faith when they need it most. And it is error, for it simply is not true. Peter’s final words of his first epistle address the relationship between Satan, suffering, and the saints. Heeding his words may not deliver us from suffering, but it will deliver us from the error of those who tickle the ears of men for gain.
Satan and Suffering:
A Review of the Biblical Teaching
Peter’s first epistle has been dominated by the topic of suffering. In these final verses, for the first time he mentions Satan. Before trying to understand Peter’s words here, let us briefly review from the Scriptures Satan’s relationship to suffering.
Satan’s view of suffering is dictated by his view of success. Because he is success oriented, Satan revels in what he perceives to be success. His head swims with thoughts of his own splendor and glory. His addiction to success led to his own downfall because of his pride and grasping for the preeminence and glory which belong only to God (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-15; 1 Timothy 3:6).
Satan also tempts men on the basis of their success. When they are successful, Satan seeks to puff up their pride, convincing them they do not need God (see 1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Timothy 3:6).150 But for those who suffer, Satan tries to convince them God cannot be with them, that He cannot care for them because godly people should not suffer.
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face” (Job 1:9-11).
Satan shamelessly brushed aside God’s commendation of Job as a godly man. “How can God hold Job forth as a godly man when He ‘bought’ his worship by blessing him with all he could possibly want? Just take the blessings away and replace them with suffering, and his adoration will turn to animosity.” Satan believes men worship God because He gives them success; he also believes they will turn from God if He allows them to suffer. Satan’s theology sees suffering as his golden opportunity to turn men from God.
Let us use the term “glory” rather than today’s popular term of “success.” Peter indicates that the themes of suffering and glory both converged in the person of Messiah. But the Old Testament prophets could not understand how this could be since suffering and glory seemed incompatible (1 Peter 1:10-12). Satan craves glory, and he employs suffering to turn men from worshipping God to serving him (all the more glory).
Satan’s theology of suffering and glory is evident in the temptation of our Lord in the fourth chapters of Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13). Following the account of Matthew, consider how Satan relates suffering and glory in the temptation of our Lord.
The First Temptation: Matthew 4:1-4
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD’” (Matthew 4:1-4).
Satan granted Jesus the premise that He was the Son of God. But if He was the Son of God, why was He enduring the suffering of this forty day fast in the wilderness? Jesus should use His power as the Son of God to end His suffering and reveal His glory by commanding that stones become bread. Suffering was not appropriate for the Son of God, Satan reasoned, but glory could be gained by performing a miracle.
Jesus’ response comes from Deuteronomy 8. There God indicated through Moses that He purposely led Israel into the wilderness and let them hunger and thirst so they would learn that men live by God’s Word and their obedience to it, not just by eating physical bread. Even if He were to die in the wilderness, He would “live” because life comes from obedience to God’s will and to His Word.
The Second Temptation: Matthew 4:5-8
5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON [their] HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST’” (Matthew 4:5-7).
Satan seeks to intensify the temptation of our Lord by challenging Him to wrongly apply a biblical (and Messianic) promise of protection. God has promised that His angels will protect His “sons” (and especially His Son) from harm. If this promise is true, and if Jesus is truly Messiah, then let Him put God to the test. Let Jesus cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and then God must act to save Him. Let Him put Himself in a situation where suffering is inevitable, and then God must save Him.
Jesus knew this promise of protection was first and foremost a protection from divine judgment to be fulfilled because He would suffer the wrath of God in the sinner’s place. But once again He employed the principle drawn from the Book of Deuteronomy. Men are not to put God to the test, forcing Him to come to their rescue or do their bidding. Such an action would allow man to become the cause of God’s actions, rather than God being the cause of our actions. It is illicit to put God to the test by precipitating suffering.
The Third Temptation: Matthew 4:8-11
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and [began] to minister to Him (Matthew 4:8-11).
The first two temptations were primarily about suffering; the third is about glory. Satan shows our Lord the kingdoms of the world and their glory, arrogantly claiming possession of them, a vast overstatement of the truth. He offers these to our Lord if He will but bow down and worship him.
What cheap glory! Cheap in the sense that it was neither Satan’s to give nor would it last long. The price was exceedingly high—worship Satan. Satan thought Jesus would be repulsed by suffering and attracted by glory. So he offered Him the glory of earthly kingdoms for the glory Satan would gain by obtaining the worship of Messiah. Oh, to have the Son of God bow down to him!
With no hesitation, Jesus made the reason for His refusal crystal clear: “God alone deserves to be glorified by worship.” Jesus knew obedience to God brings glory to Him and leads us to share in His eternal glory. Satan must not be submitted to in worship, for what we worship, we serve. Jesus will not be tempted by cheap glory. His glory will come not in serving Satan but through suffering in the will of the Father.
I believe these same tests were failed by God’s “son,” Israel (Hosea 11:1; see Matthew 2:15), making the victory of our Lord over these temptations all the more significant. The first test was Jesus’ refusal to turn stones into bread. When in the wilderness, God allowed the Israelites to hunger and thirst so they would learn that obedience to God is the key to life—not just the eating of physical bread (see Deuteronomy 8:1-3). Over and over, the Israelites grumbled against God and threatened to rebel and return to Egypt because they lacked food or water (see Exodus 16; Numbers 11, 14).
During the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus fed the 5,000. The people followed after Jesus hoping for an eternity of free bread (see John 6:25-34). When Jesus spoke to them about suffering (namely His suffering and their identification with Him), they wanted out. At that point, the crowds left Jesus and only His disciples remained (John 6:52-69). They wanted the glory of the kingdom, but no suffering. They expected God to turn the stones of suffering into the bread of glory. And this He would do, but only by means of Christ’s suffering and their identification with Him in His suffering. This is what baptism was all about.
Our Lord’s second test was to cast Himself down so that God would fulfill His promise to protect Him from suffering and harm. The Israelites presumed they could live as they chose, flagrantly disobeying His Word and even rejecting His Son, assuming their privileged position as God’s chosen people would force God to save them in spite of their sin. John the Baptist rebuked them for this error, indicating the Son of Man had not come to bless them but to bring judgment upon those who rejected God’s Word (see Matthew 3:1-12).
The third test was Satan’s proposition that Jesus fall down and worship him so all of the world’s glory could be his. Throughout its history, until the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites were idolaters. They worshipped the “gods” whom they trusted to indulge their every fleshly desire. When Moses was absent for a time on the holy mountain, the Israelites had Aaron make them a “god,” whom they worshipped by indulging in fleshly and sinful pleasures (Exodus 32:6). The Israelites of Jesus’ day chose to reject Him as Messiah to protect and preserve their little kingdom on earth and the glory it provided them, all of which Jesus threatened (John 11:47-50).
Just prior to Jesus’ transfiguration before His disciples which revealed the glory of His coming kingdom, Jesus began to speak of His suffering and death—a prerequisite to this glory. Peter reacted and rebuked Jesus, seeking to turn Him from suffering to glory. In so doing, Peter was simply reiterating the very same temptation Satan put to the Savior in Matthew 4. No wonder Jesus rebuked Peter as Satan. When Satan left Jesus until an “opportune time” (Luke 4:13), he found that time when Peter sought to rebuke Christ. Satan’s attacks come not only through unbelievers but even through the saints (such as Job’s friends).
In the Book of Revelation, John writes to some of the same churches addressed by Peter—the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2 and 3). In four out of seven churches (2:9, 13, 24; 3:9), John mentions Satan in the context of opposition and suffering. The rest of Revelation teaches that in the last days of history Satan will intensify his efforts to bring about suffering and persecution for the saints. This suffering will serve as a temptation for them to forsake the faith (which appears to be the temptation for the Hebrews). But it will also test and prove the faith of the saints, distinguishing them from the rest of the world.
Now we can understand Peter’s reason for establishing the link between suffering and Satan. Peter’s warning about Satan’s opposition also becomes clearer. Two times in the Gospels Peter falls prey to Satan’s attacks. The first we see in Matthew 16, where Peter virtually mouths once again the words of Satan recorded in Matthew 4. Speaking for Satan (almost speaking as Satan), Peter rebuked our Lord for bringing up the subject of His suffering because Peter had only thoughts of glory. And later, just before our Lord’s arrest and crucifixion, He warned Peter of Satan’s demand to “sift him like wheat” (Luke 22:31-32). In those final hours at the Garden of Gethsemene, Peter was not sober and he did not keep alert to Satan’s attacks, so he fell—but not for long.
In reality, Peter’s words to us here are his obedience to our Lord’s instructions to him in Luke 22:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, emphasis mine).
We should pay utmost attention to Peter, for he knows only too well whereof he speaks.
Satan, Our Adversary
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, …
Satan often is given too much credit and too much publicity because of the naivety of Christians who see Satan behind every bush. In one sense, he is there. The forces which oppose the Christian are the world, the flesh, the devils (demons), and the devil. But my conviction is that Satan seldom engages in a personal attack against a believer. Even a man like Paul is afflicted through a “messenger of Satan” (see 2 Corinthians 12:7). Very often, Satan attacks the believer indirectly through the impulses of the flesh (see Romans 7:7-25) and the world (see Romans 12:2).
Satan is our “adversary.” The term, “the devil,” is the word employed by the Greek translation of the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1) when referring to Satan. The term is used of one who makes accusations and presses charges. In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called the “accuser of our brethren.” Peter has already indicated we will be unjustly accused of being evildoers by unbelievers for doing good (2:12; 3:16; 4:4). Now we see that behind these accusations is Satan,151 the great “accuser.”
When Peter does introduce the subject of satanic attack, he does so at the very end of his epistle, giving Satan little “press.” Satan loves to bask in the glory we will give him, even negative press. But Peter wants us to understand that behind the opposition and persecution of unbelievers is the encouraging hand of Satan, who seeks to frighten and destroy us through the opposition of men (see Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:26).
Satan is a creature with a great diversity of methods. At times, he seeks to catch us unawares, slipping up on us unnoticed (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15). But sometimes, like we see here, Satan’s opposition is direct and frontal. He is described as stalking us like a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” I have heard some strange explanations of why lions roar. One is that an “old lion” stalks its prey, roaring so it will frighten his prey into the jaws of the younger lions who will share their kill with the older feline. Another is that lions are cowards, roaring loudly to frighten off jackals and other predators which seek to take the kill away from the lion.
The Scriptures speak of roaring lions, and I believe we should take Peter’s meaning from these references:
21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God (Psalms 104:21).
14 “Is Israel a slave? Or is he a homeborn servant? Why has he become a prey? 15 The young lions have roared at him, they have roared loudly. And they have made his land a waste; His cities have been destroyed, without inhabitant” (Jeremiah 2:14-15; see also 51:36-39).
25 “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her” (Ezekiel 22:25).
4 Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured [something]? (Amos 3:4).
From these references, it seems clear the explanations above do not fit the picture portrayed in Scripture. The young (not old) lions roar as they pursue their prey and after they have captured it. In this mode of attack, the lion wants his prey to know he is in pursuit. Fear is a part of his plan of attack. A frightened prey is a more likely catch. After the prey is caught, it is devoured, while the lion roars to let all the other creatures know of his victory. The boldness and confidence of the lion is likened to the aggressive confidence of Satan, who vainly believes he is invincible.
Peter gives us two commands regarding Satan’s attacks. First, we are to be “sober;” second, we are to be “alert.” Twice already Peter has instructed us to be sober (1:13; 4:7). Jesus often exhorted His disciples to be “alert” (Matthew 24:42; 26:41; Romans 13:11f.; 2 Timothy 4:5). In 1 Thessalonians, both terms occur together:
6 So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of [the] day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, emphasis mine).
Most often these terms are employed in the context of the last days. The disciples must not be caught off guard; they are to be mentally alert so the events preceding our Lord’s coming do not cause them to panic, for many, in Peter’s words, will be devoured (see Matthew 24:3-14, 32-44).
As I understand our Lord’s teaching concerning the last days in the Gospels (Matthew 24 and 25; Mark 13; Luke 12; 21; John 13-16), in Paul’s epistles (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) and in the Book of Revelation, they will be marked by increased opposition and persecution toward the saints. Satanic activity and opposition will also increase. The saints are therefore exhorted to be alert and sober so these difficult days do not throw them off balance.
I believe Peter’s words in our text imply a shortness of time and an increase in persecution. He wants us to recognize that Satan will seek to destroy us through the opposition of unbelievers. He wants us to be ready for what is coming and not be surprised when it comes upon us. Recognizing Satan’s hand in the difficulties we face, we must resist him.
In this epistle, Peter has had much to say on the subject of submission. We are to be subject to governing authorities, to earthly masters, to our mates, and to one another (2:13–3:12). The younger men are to be submissive to the elders (5:5), and all are to submit to God (5:6). The opposite of submission is resistance. We are not to submit to Satan, no matter how authoritative his roar may sound. We are to resist him, believe the Scriptures, and stand firm in our faith.
Before considering how we are to resist Satan, let us first be very clear about what Peter does, or does not, mean by resisting him:
(1) Resisting Satan does not mean attacking him. Even Paul was reluctant to take him on (see Acts 16:16-18). Taking Satan and his henchmen on is dangerous business (see Acts 19:13-18).
(2) Resisting Satan does not suggest we should mock him or belittle him. I have heard too many Christians make light of Satan as though he were no threat. I have even heard a knowledgeable teacher of the Scriptures call him a “wimp.” This does not square with Peter’s description of Satan here nor does it square with the attitude we are to manifest toward angelic powers (see Jude 8 and 9).
(3) Resisting Satan does not mean “rebuking,” “binding,” or “defeating” him. Resisting simply refers to our refusal to submit to him and our standing fast against his onslaughts, by divine enablement. I hear many Christians doing these things, and yet I see no command to do so and no example of the saints having done so.
Just as the key to submitting to God is faith, so the key to standing fast against Satan’s attacks is faith.152 Remember, once again, the words our Lord spoke to Peter just before his denial:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22: 31-32, emphasis mine).
The key to Peter’s survival under Satan’s attack was his faith, just as our Lord had prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Faith is likewise the key to our resisting Satan’s attacks.
But why faith? Why is faith so essential? Because Satan’s attacks against the believer are an attack on faith itself. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he tried to induce them to act independently (disobediently) of God. They were urged to act independently of God by Satan, raising doubts in their hearts about the trustworthiness of God. They could not understand why God would “hold back” the fruit of the forbidden tree and what it offered. They trusted in themselves (and Satan) by doubting God. When we are successful, Satan tempts us with pride, seeking to turn us from God because we think we no longer need Him. When we suffer, Satan tempts us with doubt and unbelief, trying to make us believe God has abandoned us so we will act independently of God to bring about what is in our best interest—or so we think.
Peter’s comments in verses 9 and 10 provide us with much fuel for faith. First, we can be firm in our faith because we know we are not alone in our suffering. Furthermore, we are well aware that many others who are suffering for their faith are standing fast as well. When we suffer, we are tempted to think our situation is unique, that no one has ever faced the difficulties we are facing. Thus, the standard biblical solutions and principles cannot apply to us; we are exceptions to the rule. This mindset is in direct contradiction to the Word of God, for we read,
13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We, like Elijah of old, may think we are standing alone, but this is a lie from the “father of lies:”
9 Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD [came] to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 So He said, “Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; [but] the LORD [was] not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, [but] the LORD [was] not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, [but] the LORD [was] not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 And it came about when Elijah heard [it,] that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice [came] to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 “And it shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:9-18, emphasis mine).
We may think we are alone in our suffering, but we should be comforted and encouraged when we realize saints around the world are also suffering—some much more than us—and they too are standing fast, firm in their faith. We can pray for one another that we will stand firm as we suffer, looking to the cross where our Savior suffered and died for us. Our faith silences Satan’s temptation for us to doubt God.
The second basis for a firm faith is knowing that while Satan seeks to destroy us, God sovereignly actually uses his opposition to further His purposes and strengthen our faith. As Peter has already shown, trials and suffering are the means by which our faith is proven (1 Peter 1:7). Now, he will say so again. Suffering is the means by which God—the God of all grace—perfects, confirms, strengthens, and establishes us (1 Peter 5:10).153 The very trials which may appear to be the means Satan employs for our destruction are the means God employs for our deliverance and development. Behind the opposition of unbelievers stands Satan seeking to devour us, and behind Satan stands God, sure to perfect and purify us.
The third basis for our faith is found in verse 11: “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Satan claims to control much more than he does (see Matthew 4:9) and even demands that which is not his (Luke 22:31). He seeks dominion over all the earth and over the people of God, but dominion does not belong to him; it belongs to the Lord Jesus, whose death, burial and resurrection brought about Satan’s downfall (John 16:11; Ephesians 1:18-23; Colossians 8:15; 1 Peter 3:21-22).
12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
Peter tells us this epistle was written through Silvanus, which means Silvanus did much more than hand deliver this epistle from the hand of Peter. I believe Silvanus was Peter’s amanuensis. Peter may have dictated the letter to Silvanus, who then edited Peter’s manuscript so it appears in the form we now have it.
Silvanus is probably the Silas of the Book of Acts who accompanied Paul on some of his journeys (Acts 15:40; 16:19-20, 25, 37). He is almost certainly the same Silvanus involved in the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). This man who played a role in the inscripturation of some of Paul’s epistles also played a role in the writing of 1 Peter. There must have been no great distance between Peter and Paul then, for they both ministered with men like Silvanus (see 2 Corinthians 1:19).
The mention of Mark is of particular interest. John Mark was the son of Mary (Acts 12:12), who was taken along by Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as their helper (Acts 12:25; 13:5). When things got tense, Mark forsook Paul and Barnabas and returned home (Acts 13:13). Paul and Barnabas divided over whether Mark should accompany them on their next journey (Acts 15:36-39). But eventually this young man became a trusted and valuable associate (see Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11).
The mention of Mark by Peter interests me greatly, especially in light of Peter’s teaching about resisting Satan and standing firm in our faith. Peter was attacked by Satan and momentarily failed; the same could be said for Mark. Yet both of these men repented, recovered, and became trusted warriors for the faith. What an encouragement! Even if Satan attacks us and we fail for the moment, we still have hope.
There has been much speculation on the meaning of the expression, “She who is in Babylon,” in verse 13. Interpretations range from this being a reference to Peter’s wife to one of two literal Babylons—ancient Babylon and a Babylon in Egypt—to the church at Rome. I have my own opinion as to what “Babylon” may mean.154 It is likely the churches which received this letter knew what it meant.
The fact that this expression makes us scratch our heads may be the important clue. Peter did not want to disclose the place or the people with whom he was associated at the writing of this letter because serious persecution may already have fallen upon these saints. Why make it any easier for the enemies of the gospel to carry out their persecution?
Finally, Peter exhorts the suffering saints to whom he writes to “greet one another with a kiss of love” (verse 14). This command is found several times in the New Testament (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Here is a command few, if any, Christians take seriously today. Since the command is repeated five times in the New Testament, we may need to reconsider it.
The commanded kiss is a holy kiss, not a Hollywood kiss. It is a token or expression of our love for one another. As I understand the “kiss” in that time and culture, it probably was not men kissing women, but men kissing men and women kissing women. No sexual connotation was involved. The command is therefore to give a visible, symbolic expression of our love for one another. Our love for one another is the essence; our greeting one another with a kiss is the secondary expression.
But the most important thing is not to allow opposition from the outside to hinder or diminish our love for each other. This is the teaching of the New Testament:
17 This I command you, that you love one another. 18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before [it hated] you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me (John 15:17-21).
9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. 10 And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another (Matthew 24:9-10).
1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:1-4).
If I understand these texts correctly, days of persecution will test the love of the saints for one another. Mere association with saints will be considered just cause for punishment and persecution (see Matthew 25:35-36; 2 Timothy 4:10, 16; Hebrews 10:32-34). How easy it will be for saints to cease gathering together for worship (see Hebrews 10:22-25). How easy to avoid greeting one another with a kiss of love, thus failing to identify oneself as a Christian with Christians. No wonder Peter and Paul instruct the church to visibly testify to their faith and unity in Christ by means of a holy kiss.
But we don’t do this, do we? Perhaps a kiss is not the appropriate symbol in our culture. It may be too closely associated with sexual attraction, even when practiced only within the same sex. Since we are to avoid every appearance of evil, we may not greet with a kiss, but we should greet in such a way as to identify ourselves as saints with the saints, for our love for one another is one evidence of our discipleship.
Peter wants the saints to understand that suffering not only identifies us with Christ, it also puts us in opposition to Satan. When men oppose us, speak evil of us, or persecute us, Satan may be seen behind the scenes. This can be true even of Christians, and who should know better than Peter? When he sought to dissuade Jesus from taking up His cross, Jesus rebuked him as Satan:
23 Get behind Me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Matthew 16:23).
Think for a moment about these shocking words from our Lord. Jesus has told Peter that thinking humanly rather than divinely is thinking satanically. To counsel and encourage (or rebuke) humanly is to do so satanically. I shudder when I think how many times saints are attacked by other saints, who although well-meaning, speak not only from a human perspective but from a satanic one. If our counsel is not from God’s perspective and is merely human, it is satanic.
Satan’s presence and power should not be overstated. Our great fear should be not of him who can only destroy our flesh but of Him who has the power over our eternal destiny:
28 And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
We are not to make light of Satan or his power. We are not to attack him, rebuke him, or bind him. But we are to resist him. We are not to submit or surrender to his attacks, even though he pursues us as a roaring lion. And when we resist, we must do so firm in our faith, knowing that others suffer at his hand and are standing fast and whatever attack Satan may wage against us, God has allowed for our strengthening and spiritual growth. When Satan attacks the saints and resists the purposes of God, he only works to bring about his own destruction. This is what happened at the cross. The cross looked like Satan’s victory. He meant it to be the defeat of God’s kingdom. But in truth it was his own demise:
11 “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31; see also 16:11).
10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 … I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! (1 Peter 5:10-12b)
150 The accounts in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are descriptions of men--human kings--who are described as being like Satan. These men were puffed up by their power and position and became arrogant just like Satan. Thus, they are described just like Satan. The more they are taken with their own power, the more like Satan they become.
151 Our adversary (see 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 5:25; Luke 12:58; 18:3), the devil (Matthew 4:1, 5, 8, 11; 13:39; 25:41; Luke 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12; John 6:70; 8:44; 13:2; Acts 10:38; 13:10; Ephesians 4: 27; 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:6, 7, 11; 2 Timothy 2:26; 3:3; Titus 2:3; Hebrews 2:14; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 3:8, 10; Jude 9; Revelation 2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2, 10; 22:2).
153 Stibbs makes a very important observation. He writes, “The verbs here are not optative (see RV). They express a promise not a wish. Peter is not praying that God may, but making an affirmation that God will, in order to give his readers assurance.” Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), [photolithoprinted] 1968. Tyndale Bible Commentaries Series, p. 173.
154 The names of ancient cities (like Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon, and even Egypt) are often applied to peoples and places of a later date, which are like them in their sin. In Revelation 17 and 18, I believe Jerusalem is the “great harlot” who is judged for her sin. Peter was surely associated with the city of Jerusalem and the saints there. Could he not have referred to Jerusalem as Babylon, due to the sinful condition of that city, a condition which in but a few years would bring God’s wrath.