As we conclude our walk through 1 Peter by looking at chapter five today, I’d like to begin at the end. As Peter sends his final greetings, he references his brothers-in-arms, first Silvanus, who wrote Peter’s words, and then Mark, Peter’s faithful companion. He also refers to “she who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen” (v. 13). Peter is not referring here to a specific woman who resides in a kingdom that has long ceased to exist. Rather, he is using the language of the Old Testament to describe the beloved bride of Christ, who resides in Rome. Babylon was the place of punishment and exile for the Judean people in the Old Testament. As God’s people suffered in exile, mocked by their oppressors, they longed for home. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). As they suffered under their Roman oppressors, the beloved church of God longed for home, to be back in Zion, in the presence of their God, just as their forefathers did in Babylon.
As strange as it may sound, the Christian life is a life of longing for home. To be sure, you and I who have been baptized already belong to Christ Jesus who has purchased us, “not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). You and I, together with the holy, catholic church are, right now, holy. “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). You are, right where you sit, saved by Christ’s baptism through His resurrection (1 Peter 3:21). That is who you are because of what Christ has done for you! And it is glorious!
But, you say, where can I find the courage to do that? Where can I muster the strength to fight?
But it doesn’t feel like it. Because, right now, we are sitting by the Babylonian water, under the assault of all sorts of enemies.
Peter reminds us today that the Christian life is not one “glory story” after another. But it is one embattled with the devil, the world, and our own flesh. As you long for home, “your adversary the devil prowls like a roaring line, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 3:8). He employs Babylon, Rome, and the world in their attack on, not just you, but the whole church. The assaults on your faith “are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 3:9). The devil and the world work together to entice your flesh to doubt, fear, and flee from Christ. At times, they’ll even employ physical persecution and torture. And this results in your flesh producing all sorts of anxieties which, at times, make faith seem impossible.
So, Peter exhorts the church to fight back. This life of faith, where God has saved you solely through the work of Christ, is no easy, “cheap grace” sort of life. It is a battle. And you are in the fight. So, Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful…Resist [the devil], firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:6-9).
But, you say, where can I find the courage to do that? Where can I muster the strength to fight? After all, we’re talking about the devil, the world, and the flesh here. And, that’s my flesh, by the way. How can I trust myself while also battling my flesh?
You are in a fight, but the victory is guaranteed because it is in the hands of the risen Chief Shepherd.
Peter knows this is the reality of the situation, so he purposefully becomes your preacher. He does what he calls every elder (read pastor) in the church to do: he shepherds the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3). He shepherds you. He doesn’t sugar-coat the situation. He tackles it head-on. He shows no mercy to the devil, the world, and the flesh as he delivers the sweetest mercy to you: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11) Babylon, Rome, the devil, the world, the flesh: all are already defeated. For Christ, your Chief Shepherd is returning, and He will undo and overthrow all that these wicked foes have imposed upon you. You will suffer for a little while now in many ways. But God has called you to his eternal glory in Christ! Sure, your faith is weak, but now, your preacher Peter promises Christ to you in your weakness. Christ himself, the crucified Lord who conquered the grave, will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. The glory and dominion are his. Amen, indeed!
You are in a fight, but the victory is guaranteed because it is in the hands of the risen Chief Shepherd. Nor are you alone in this fight. You are with the church in your suffering and they with you. You are together so that you might encourage and build each other up with these promises of the end. This is what Luther called “the mutual conversation and consolation” of the saints. He’s even put a person in your midst, a pastor, with direct orders to feed you with this word and draw you back in when you go astray. He’s going to get this word (and along with it faith in the promise) into your ears and heart one way or another. It is this word of peace, this promise of resurrection, that will sustain you in Babylon. It is this promise that will keep you and give you peace.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ (1 Peter 5:14).