Sunday, April 7, 2013

1 Peter 5:12-14

12 By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. 13 She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Apostle Peter with this salutation closes his brief address to the churches of the Dispersion. He begins this by acknowledging Silvanus as writing this epistle. That is this epistle was composed by the Apostle Peter, but was penned by, as Peter calls him, our faithful brother Silvanus. Now Silvanus was also a co-worker (i.e. missionary) of the Gospel with the Apostle Paul (2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). And so Silvanus was an associate to both the Apostle's Paul and Peter, being intimately known to both men because he was apart of the church at Jerusalem. Indeed he is referred to as one of the leading men there, along with Judas Barsabbas. Now it will be during the turbulent period when the Churches were transitioning from law to grace (Acts 15:1-6). That both men will be assigned to go with the Apostle's Paul and Barnabas to deliver the Jerusalem decree to all the Gentile churches (Acts 15:22, 27), that critical decree from the Spirit of God that forever liberates all Gentile believers from any servitude towards Christ through the Law (Acts 15:6-29).
And so it is while there at Antioch that Silas (same as Silvanus) and Barnabas (both men being prophets) will not only strengthen all the brethren in the grace of God, but Silas will remain with them, while the Apostle's Paul and Barnabas continue on in their missionary endeavours (Acts 15:32-34). Now when the Apostles Paul and Barnabas have a falling out over John Mark, Silas will replace Barnabas and become one of the Apostle Paul's close compatriots in the Gospel's work (Acts 15:36-41); Timothy later joining them (Acts 16:1-4). And so along with Luke (the writer of the Gospel that bears his name, as well as the Book of Acts), they will endure some incredible trials and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds (consider Paul's own testimony in 2 Cor 6:3-10; 11:22-23), not to mention all that happened to him, and those with him, that is recorded in the Book of Acts. And so with the Apostle Paul leading them, they they will have the great privlidge to take the Gospel to the ends of the world with him. Travelling throughout the Roman Empire, by foot, by ship, by whatever means possible. Founding churches along the way at Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica etc. and or ministering to the same, in environments where their persons were often hard pressed and their lives often in peril of death (1 Cor 15:29-34, vs. 30). And as we know the Apostle Paul when his course was finished, according to the will of God, suffered martyrdom at Rome. And so Silvanus (or Silas) who is mentioned here by the Apostle Peter as being a faithful brother, will serve alongside the Apostle Paul until Paul's second missionary journey; where having ministered the gospel to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), the brethren there, because of intense and increasing opposition will send them onto Berea where they will begin to minister the Gospel there. Yet Jews coming from Thessalonica will again raise up fierce opposition to them and the Gospel there. And so Paul being sent the brethren there by sea to Athens, will again escape the Jews. Now it is while there that the Apostle Paul will preach one of the greatest sermons ever to the Gentiles, (at the infamous Mars hill), while waiting for Silas and Timothy to come to him from Macedonia. Now with there arrival they will return to Corinth where the Paul will find a Jew named Aquila who was of the same trade and who received the Gospel. And so Paul will stay with him while working there and continue to minister the Gospel to the Jews in the synagogues. Now while so doing, he will again encounter exceedingly strong opposition. And so the Apostle Paul from that point on will turn away from his countrymen the Jews, and finally see his true calling as being a preacher to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-11). And with that Paul will begin to become one of the most effective preachers to the Gentiles ever. Now at this point Silas must have returned to Jerusalem to minister there to Jewish believers along with the Apostle Peter. And thus ends Silas' missionary service with Paul (at least as far as we know) but he continues to minister with the Apostle Peter the Gospel to the Jews; as Peter was a preacher, by the Lord's will to the Jews, just as Paul was to the Gentiles. The lesson for us is that sometimes opposition and or persecution to our ministering the Gospel to a certain people, or in a certain region, is God's means of redirecting our efforts into spheres where we will be more fruitful.

Now that was a major digression, but I hope someone else will find it as enriching as I did in recalling some of Silas' service for the Lord. Now the Apostle Peter states and exhorts that "this is the true grace of God in which you stand". That is what the Biblical Gospel is and brings, the true grace of God, a grace that brings salvation unmerited and undeserved (Eph 2:8-9), yet as the Apostle Paul also declares "teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14
And thus the Apostle Peters exhortations here in his epistle are given to us as a means by which we ourselves, both individually and collectively, might live in the grace of God, as well as have the grace of God manifested through our lives. For God's saving work through Jesus Christ's death on the cross and Resurrection from the dead is the means by which we receive remission of our all sins and new and everlasting life, and so that new life, Christ's life must be manifested through us in grace and truth (John 1:12) and not according to the old sinful nature (or old man), but according to our new nature (or new man) which is in accord with true holiness and righteousness. That is essentially what the Apostle Peter is stating when he says this is the true grace in which you stand. For there is a false grace that lives according to its own ways and desires, and thus is always popular with unregenerate people who instead of having the Gospel transform them, want the Gospel conformed to their lives. Vs. 13-14 Without getting into the debates about whom the women in Babylon is, and or if the Babylon mentioned here is literal, which I believe it is. Let us simply focus on the essence of the passage and that is simply, have a heart of warmth and spirit of hospitality towards one another. Whether you do this with smiles, handshakes and welcoming words, or if your so inclined as in some cultures to kiss each other on the cheek as a means of greeting, as the Apostle Peter states here, so be it. Just remember the essence is not the means of greeting, it is that you greet one another in love.

"Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen."

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Note: this is a draft version

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