June 14, 2020
Most of you know Tana and I have quite the ethnically diverse family – Latino, Japanese and Chinese. I’m actually proud of that – but it has required learning different cultures. For example, there was a time we had to learn about Chinese New Year and little red envelopes stuffed with cash. With our Salvadoran daughter-in-law, we are learning about Latino holiday traditions, like Christmas, for example. With our Japanese daughter-in-law, we’re learning a lot – about Korean BBQ, how to make real sushi, and how to say goodbye.
That’s right – that last one has been quite interesting. You see, here in the US, when we say goodbye, we may walk our guests or family out to the driveway, hug them or wave goodbye, and turn back to the house. Not so in Japanese culture. You walk them to the driveway, hug them goodbye – and wait. They get in the car and drive off as you stand there and wave. And you continue to wave from the street until you can no longer see them. It looks like you’re waving to no one – but the car can still be seen in the distance. Good thing we’re not in Kansas.
You see, there is value in that culture to saying goodbye – how you say goodbye with meaning is important to the ones leaving. It’s kind of like when the seven Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music have to say goodnight at the end of a dinner party. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, good night, we hate to go and leave this pretty sight. Well today, there is a sense in which we are saying goodbye to I Peter. Not forever, of course, like when we wave goodbye to our son and daughter-in-law. We’ll see them again, but parting is such sweet sorrow.
We started this book in September – and it’s time to say goodbye. But consider, as is often the case, when we get to the closing of biblical letters, we speed through to the end. A quick wave, and you’re off. But I would suggest there is meaning in the farewell, and we’re going to spend some time waving today. You see, biblical authors took the typical farewell – the sincerely yours – of letters and added deep theological truth. Paul, for example, almost always said, the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. And the grace of Jesus Christ is most meaningful.
Well, with that in mind, let’s read Peter’s closing words – his long wave – to us. I Peter 5:12-14.
In this rich text, we see the following three things:
- The People of the Farewell
- The Commands of the Farewell
- And the Peace of the Farewell
Let’s look at those, starting with the people of the farewell, the ones standing in the street waving to us. First is Silvanus. Paul mentions him by that name along with Timothy in three of his letters. It is the Latin name of his more familiar name, Silas. He’s first introduced in Acts 15 as a prophet, when he and others are given the task of delivering the decisions of the Jerusalem Council to the churches. Later in that chapter, and he teamed up with Paul for his second missionary journey after Paul and Barnabas split over their disagreement regarding Mark. Which is interesting, since Peter mentions Mark as well. We’ll look at him in a moment.
Now Silas was the one Michael talked about last week – he and Paul were beaten and imprisoned in Philippi during that second missionary journey. In other words, they were persecuted for their faith. And yet, here we see Silas still following Jesus in the midst of further persecution. In fact, Paul and Silas left Philippi for Thessalonica, where they were again opposed for their message – and a riot ensued. They left there, traveled to Berea where they preached the gospel. But some Jews from Thessalonica followed them there – so Paul left Berea, but left Silas and Timothy for awhile to establish the church there in Berea. They joined Paul later in Corinth. And that’s the last we hear of Silas or Silvanus until his mention in Paul’s letters to Corinth and Thessalonica.
And of course, we see him here, where Peter mentions Silvanus is with him. Silas was a man greatly used by the Apostles – those who founded the Christian church. What’s interesting to note, he spent some time with Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, and Peter, the apostle to the Jews – because, the gospel is for everyone. Jesus died for people without regard to national origin or ethnicity. Because we are all created in the image of God. Without getting into the discussion about which lives matter – it is clear in the Scripture that the gospel is for everyone, because everyone needs the gospel.
Peter calls Silvanus our faithful brother, for so I regard him. Why? Because the wording is such that Silvanus will deliver the letter Peter has just written. Now, there’s lots of discussion about whether Silvanus was Peter’s amanuensis or secretary who actually recorded the letter as Peter dictated it or shared his thoughts. But the wording is the same wording as in Acts 15 when Silas was given the responsibility of delivering the results of the Jerusalem Council. So at the very least, Silas delivered the letter to the recipients throughout Asia Minor – and Peter here commends him to the task. Why do I make a big deal about that? Because, you likely knew Silas’ name. And here he is – a faithful servant alongside Paul and Peter – doing menial work – the necessary work of delivering letters – letters that have found their way into our Bibles. See Silas waving to you now in his faithful service.
You see, it really doesn’t matter what you do in the work of the Kingdom or the Church – it matters that you do something. Whatever God calls you to do, do it with all your might – it is important, no matter how apparently menial – in the work of the gospel. And it will not be forgotten. God sees you, and He sees your faithfulness in carrying out your tasks. I don’t think we ever have Silas saying a word in Scripture. He was singing, praying, sending greetings, delivering letters – but he never speaks. But you know his name. So does God.
Next, let’s go ahead and look at Mark. Again, like Silas, we see a man who served with Paul, and now Peter – because he recognized the gospel was for everyone – Jew and Greek. What do we know about Mark? We first meet him in Acts 12, where the Jerusalem church was meeting in his mother’s house. In fact, that’s likely where Mark first met Peter. Peter had been imprisoned for his faith – a familiar scenario – and the day before his scheduled execution, an angel appeared to Peter, loosed his chains, and opened the prison doors for Peter to walk right out. He went to the house of Mary, Mark’s mother, where the church was gathered to pray for Peter.
So Peter knocks on the door, and when a servant girl went to answer the door, she heard Peter’s voice! She was so excited, she forgot to open the door, and went to tell the church Peter was there. They didn’t believe her – which is interesting. Here they were, praying for Peter, and when God answered their prayers, they didn’t believe it. Don’t we do that sometimes? We ask God for something, He answers, and we don’t believe it. Oh, by the way, for us it usually looks like this. We only think God answers our prayers if He gives what we want. God, heal me. God, give me the new job. God, deliver me. And if He doesn’t, we wonder, where is God? Why doesn’t He answer me? But, He did. He just said no. And we don’t like that answer.
You see, for many of us, when we say God answers prayers, we mean, God answers prayers when He agrees with me. When He gives me what I want. What I ask for. And if He doesn’t – then we wonder. We say, and even believe, God is sovereign and good – as long as He uses His sovereign goodness to give me what I want. But what if He doesn’t? Is He still sovereign and good?
And I know – immediately you think, yes, He’s good, because He knows if He gave me the new job, it wouldn’t be good for me, because I might, fill in the blank. I might get too proud, or too distracted, etc. True. But is it possible that God says no because He knows the no in itself is best for you? That in your spiritual discipline, not getting everything you ask for is good for you? After all, we’ve seen in this book that God wills our suffering to mature us, to refine us in the fire, to cause us to long for the return of Christ – to bring Him glory. So is it possible that the no isn’t because the yes would be bad for you, but the no is better for you and your maturing to be like Jesus?
Well, she kept insisting, so they opened the door – and there was Peter. Mark – also known as John Mark – was likely there. I’m sure it made quite the impression on this young man. Because later, you see, he traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Of course, we know he deserted them and returned to Jerusalem halfway through the journey. Which caused the division between Paul and Barnabas in the next journey. Paul took Silas, and Barnabas took John Mark. And you also likely know, that later, when Paul was facing certain death, he wrote II Timothy – his final letter. And he asked for a coat – it was cold in the prison. He asked for the parchments – that is, the Word of God. And he asked for John Mark. He was useful to Paul – of all people, in his waning days, Paul asked for Mark.
And we find here, Mark is with Peter. You may know that the Gospel of Mark was written by this Mark – at Peter’s instruction. You see, Mark is actually Peter’s gospel – but it was written by Mark. How does this encourage us? Because no matter how much or in what way you’ve failed the Lord – you can always repent and return. You can be useful to Him in ministry. God is in the remodeling business – He takes broken people and renews them.
Well, the third person or persons we meet is found in verse 13, “She who is in Babylon sends you greetings.” That’s confusing for two reasons – first, Who is this she? Some in the early church suggest this was Peter’s wife. You say, what – Peter, the first so-called Pope, was married? Yep – we remember that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and later Paul says Peter took along his wife. The only challenge is, we never meet her in the gospel narratives – she is totally silent, even absent. So for this to refer to Peter’s wife would seem strange indeed.
Most agree today Peter is talking about the church from whence he writes. The church is often referred to as she – after all, she is the bride of Christ. So Peter says, Mark and Silas greet you as does the rest of the church here. But where here – that is, where is this Babylon? I won’t go into all the rationale, but most agree this is a reference to Rome. For example, we see Rome referred to as Babylon many times in the book of Revelation.
Why would Peter call Rome, Babylon. Because, Babylon became the symbol of the city filled with idolatries, opposed to the people of God. So Rome is appropriately called Babylon. And by the way, this was a way for Peter to identify with the recipients of this letter. Yes, you are facing opposition – but so is the church in Rome – the seat of everything abominable, that opposes the church. We stand in solidarity with you. Don’t you know your brothers and sisters are suffering around the world, just like you are.
Notice how he refers to the church – chosen together with you. This reminds us of the first verse of the letter – Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered everywhere, who don’t ultimately belong here, who are chosen…
The election of God of the church of Jesus Christ throughout time and space bookends the letter. Yes, you were chosen by the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with the blood of His gospel. And so, Peter says, the church here in Rome – and here in Boone – and everywhere the gospel is preached – we been chosen by God’s purposes for His glory.
Which brings us quickly to our second point and Peter’s final exhortations or commands. There are two. First in verse 12. He says he has written briefly – I love that – it only took us since September to get through this brief book. I have written to you, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Exhorting refers to all the commands he gives in the letter regarding ethical living. Testifying refers to the reliability. What is the true grace of God? This letter. I don’t have time to review the whole letter, but the principle points of the letter are these:
The gospel is found in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
God then caused us to be born again to a living hope through His resurrection – by this grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. You’ve been born again, not by perishable seed, but imperishable – by the living and enduring word of God. Which means, your salvation will endure – you have an imperishable inheritance that awaits you.
In the meantime, God is building us into a spiritual building – the church – in which He will live by His Spirit.
But know this – if you follow Christ, you will suffer just like Jesus did. So prepare your minds for action. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be fully yours when Jesus returns. You see, God will use your suffering to mature you, to refine you, so that the proof of your faith, at the revelation of Jesus Christ – the return of Christ – will result in praise and honor and glory.
So, live good lives – in every arena – at home, in your workplaces, under governing authorities, so that even though they ridicule you, oppose you, persecute you, kill you – live such good lives that they may glorify God by believing the same gospel we believe when He visits them with salvation. Be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope you have.
In the midst of it all, keep loving one another. In fact, love one another fervently, deeply, from the heart. Show hospitality to one another. Serve one another with the spiritual gifts you’ve received.
And now, he sums is all up by saying – this is the grace of God. Here’s the command – stand firm in it. I know it’s hard. Don’t give up. Don’t turn away. Don’t quit. Stand firm in this grace of God.
Leading to the last command of the book – and the reason I waited to preach this message on the last Sunday we’ll meet together remotely – by live-stream. The last command? Verse 14, greet one another with a kiss of love. I’ve told you this before, but there are a number of one anothers in Scripture:
Love one another.
Serve one another.
Show hospitality to one another.
Bear with one another.
Forgive one another.
Encourage one another.
Admonish one another.
Build up one another.
On and on the list goes. The thing I would point out is they require us being together in community. Live stream will not ultimately do it. I told you 14 weeks ago, don’t get used to this – it’s temporary. Listen, Peter and Paul told us to obey governing authorities, and we’ve done that – with honor and respect. Now, those governing authorities have given us permission to meet again. And I know we have people on both ends of the spectrum. Those on the one side who say, why aren’t we meeting? Why didn’t we meet when the judge said we could? Still others are saying, well, let’s not rush it. Maybe we should meet until this is all over. I want you to know, I understand both sentiments.
But what I’m concerned about is when I hear, hey, this live-stream is working just fine. Think I’ll stay in my PJs with my cereal and dog, and enjoy the church this way from now on. Or, I hear, the church will never be the same. I understand there may be some ways we do things differently in the interest of caring physically for one another. In fact, later this week, you’ll get an email from the church, and I’ll share a video on how we plan to meet together.
But here’s the point – we will meet together. Yes, we’ll encourage the most vulnerable among us to wait a few weeks or so for your safety – but we will meet together. In order for the church to be church, we require community. That’s why, while not specifically a one another, the implication is there, do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching – the day of Christ’s return. My brothers and sisters – we desperately need one another. I have missed you terribly, and others have thankfully expressed the same attitude. We were meant to live in community, and as it becomes safer for us to do so, we will.
To among other things, among other one anothers – to greet one another with a kiss of love. Now, Paul said this many times – but his was typically, greet one another with a holy kiss. Peter here calls it a kiss of love. The idea is, it’s a family affection. We are meant to show each other familial affection. Yes, it’s supposed to be holy. In fact, in the early days of the church, men kissed men on the cheek, and women kissed women – to maintain holy affection. Many in middle eastern cultures still maintain this practice – greeting each other with a holy kiss of family affection. By the way, when Paul and Peter were writing, it was typical to express this kind of affection in society among family – you didn’t do it to just friends or acquaintances. Do you see the point? We are a family and should act like it – brothers and sisters in Christ.
But then, of course, through the years, that affection has appropriately changed – to holy hugs or holy handshakes. I suppose it will change now to holy elbows – I don’t know. But the point is – in community, for which we are saved, in part – we are to show family affection toward one another. How can we do that over live-stream or Zoom? We need each other. Francis Chan recently posted, “Something that God has designed to be a function as a family has been reduced to an optional weekly meeting. And this has become normal. Expected. How in the world did we get here?”
And so the Elders have tried to balance our decision to return. To lop off the extremes of those who think we should have kept on meeting and those who think we should never meet. We have decided to try to meet safely, because, without each other, we are missing God’s plan for this, His church.
Which brings us to our last point and conclusion – as we give the final wave to the book. Peace be to you all who are in Christ. To you who are Christians. Isn’t that interesting, given the current events of our day. From pandemics to social unrest. And Peter throws in – persecution for our faith. Peace. It’s a sense of well-being – of being right with God and His people. Peace. Shalom. We remember the words of Jesus in the Farewell Discourse, as He waved goodbye,
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
And so Peter says, to a church suffering persecution, to a church likely to face increasing hostility today, to a church in the midst of economic, racial, and health challenges – peace.