Holiness: In Time of War.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ( I Peter 5:8-11)

Bishop J.C. Wyle explains in the believer’s battle with the devil that, “That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, he has been “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning (John 8:44), he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactic and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls.

The Apostle Peter, throughout his first epistle extensively addressed the issue of the believer’s suffering for Christ while living in this world. The apostle did not shy away from this biblical truth. However, what, if any, hope does the believer have that the trials of life will eventually end? Does God provide any promise that our trials will give way to something better and greater? Will our battle with the world, the flesh and the devil ever be concluded?

As Peter neared the conclusion of his letter to suffering saints, the Holy Spirit led him to provide some lasting encouragement to those beset by temporary trials. One pastor writes, “Christians are to live with the understanding that God’s purposes realized in the future require some pain in the present. While the believer is personally attacked by the enemy (I Peter 5:8-9), he is being personally perfected by the Lord.”

Peter acknowledged the reality of suffering at the beginning of I Peter 5:10. The word suffered (πάσχω; pascho), which is also in I Peter 4:13, means to undergo an experience of pain. See Luke 22:15. However, the believer’s suffering is only for a little while (ὀλίγος; oligos), a small amount or a short period of time.

This parallels what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

What does God promise to do? To begin with, we see that Peter identified God as the God of all grace (θεός πᾶς χάρις; theos pas charis). Grace, which is unmerited favor and divine kindness, belongs to and originates from God and God alone. This is who God is.

What the God of all grace has done is that He has called us to His eternal glory in Christ. To call (καλέω; kaleo) means to summon and to invite. This was done by God at a particular time and which impacted our entire being. Consistently, the call of God refers to His effectual, saving call of the sinner unto salvation (I Peter 1:5; 2:9, 21; 3:9). His eternal glory (αἰώνιος δόξα; aionios doxa) refers to the believers everlasting life in heaven. This eternal glory is because the believer is in union with Christ. While our sufferings are temporary, our life in Christ is eternal.

Because of the believer’s status in Christ before the God of all grace, God promises to do four things on the believer’s behalf. First, God promises to restore the believer. To restore (καταρτίζω; katartizo) means to make adequate or furnish completely. To confirm (στηρίζω; sterizo) means to strengthen and to make more firm. To strengthen (σθενόω; sthenoo) means to make more able. Finally, to establish (θεμελιόω; themelioo) means to literally lay a foundation. All four verbs are in the future tense indicating that these actions are what God will do.

These four verbs all speak of strength and steadfastness of the Christian’s character. God is working through the believer’s temporary struggles and battle for holiness, to strengthen the believer’s eternal and godly character. While the struggles are temporary, God uses them to bring about everlasting results.

What was Peter’s response to all of this? The apostle acknowledged that God is sovereign and has dominion (κράτος; kratos) power, might and strength (Acts 19:20; Ephesians 1:19; 6:10; Colossians 1:11; I Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 2:14; Jude 25; Revelation 1:6). Our sufferings are not cause by the impersonality of fate, but rather are purposed by the eternal, sovereign God of the universe. He is in control and we bow down to Him.

Peter’s concluding word in I Peter 5:11 is the familiar conclusion “Amen.” It means that what the apostle has written is true and that what we read in I Peter we acknowledge as truth from God.

In this similar benediction to the one found in I Peter 4:11, the Apostle Peter praised Christ who has all power for all time (Romans 11:36; 1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus Christ certainly has the power to strengthen His church as and when she undergoes persecution.

A wise general once said, “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and to try to make a little war.” However, it is also an equally serious mistake to underrate our Lord in the time of our spiritual war. Christian warfare is no light matter. Take time today to thank God and worship Him as the sovereign God of your salvation. He is working in you from beginning to end and everything in between.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

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