|6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And 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.||6Ταπεινώθητε οὖν ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὑψώσῃ ἐν καιρῷ, 7πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρίψαντες ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν. 8Νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε. ὁ ἀντίδικος ὑμῶν διάβολος ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος περιπατεῖ ζητῶν [τινα] καταπιεῖν· 9ᾧ ἀντίστητε στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει εἰδότες τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων τῇ ἐν [τῷ] κόσμῳ ὑμῶν ἀδελφότητι ἐπιτελεῖσθαι. 10Ὁ δὲ θεὸς πάσης χάριτος, ὁ καλέσας ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον αὐτοῦ δόξαν ἐν Χριστῷ [Ἰησοῦ], ὀλίγον παθόντας αὐτὸς καταρτίσει, στηρίξει, σθενώσει, θεμελιώσει. 11αὐτῷ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν.|
v. 6: It Is To Christ The Savior That We Submit
We have already considered Peter’s doctrine of humility and in that installment we considered the difficulty of dividing this passage from the previous. Is Peter still speaking to elders or has he turned his attention again to the congregations generally? Arguably, in the previous pericope (περικοπή) Peter began to turn his attention beyond the presbyters. Should we think that only presbyters must humble themselves to submit to God’s providence or is that true for all believers? Of course all Christians must learn submit to submit to God’s providence. Since the middle of the 17th century, in various ways both subtle (Descartes) and overt (e.g., Nietzsche ) Modernity has told the West that human beings are autonomous (a law unto ourselves), that we are captains of our fate, that we have outgrown the notion that God rules all things by his sovereign will. Peter, however, knew better as do all believers. We know that we did not control our birth and that we cannot control much of what happens to us. Even if we should attempt the ultimate act of asserted autonomy, we may well fail and if we succeed we shall find out immediately the foolishness and sin as we face the “holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8) to give account.
Peter’s language here also militates strongly against the too-often used expression, “making Christ Lord.” We all understand what is meant by this phrase: “to recognize that Christ is Lord and to respond accordingly.” It is also good and necessary to get to grips with the truth and to respond appropriately. The verb “to make,” however, as it is used subjectively is not an appropriate way for Christians to speak. We do not “make” Christ Lord. He is Lord. A great part of the Christian life is recognizing that reality and conforming to it. When we speak of “dying to self” (mortification; 1 Pet 2:24), we are, in part, speaking about recognizing who Christ is, what he has done for us, and who and what we are, his redeemed creatures and servants. The Lord to whose providence we submit is none other than Jesus the Messiah, who gave himself for us.
This is the significance of Peter’s figurative language, “mighty hand” (κραταιὰν χεῖρα). Remember, Peter began this epistle in the name of Jesus writing to “elect sojourners” (ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις). We believe because we are elect. We did not become elect when we believed. We did not elect ourselves. God chose us, in Christ from all eternity (Eph 1:4). His gracious election is an exercise of his “mighty hand.” The figure Peter uses here is drawn from one of the greatest manifestations of Christ’s sovereign power, the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. In Exodus 3 we read that Yahweh commissioned Moses to go to Pharaoh to declare that “I AM” had sent him. In contrast the imagined multiple Egyptian deities, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God who is. Yahweh explained to Moses that Pharaoh would not release his national people unless Yahweh compelled him “with a mighty hand” (μετὰ χειρὸς κραταιᾶς; Ex 3:19 LXX). This language becomes part of the formula when referring to the Exodus (Ex 32:11; Deut 4:34; 5:15; 6:21; 7:8, 19; 9:26; 11:2; 26:8). It continues to echo in the memory of Israel (e.g., 1 Kings 8:42; Ezek 20:33; Dan 9:15).
Peter invokes the Exodus deliberately. Throughout the epistle he has been trying to help his original readers in Asia Minor and us to understand where we are in the history of salvation. Perhaps the predominate imagery has come from Noah. We are like those waiting for the ark to be built, waiting for deliverance from the coming deluge of judgment. Here, however, he shifts the imagery to the exodus. We are the Israel of God, united by grace alone, through faith alone, to the risen Christ. We are in Egypt, as it were. We are believers, for whom God has sent the one greater than Moses. We are aliens and strangers in Egypt. We live under a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph (Ex 1:8). Like the Israelites, we are surrounded by pagans who misunderstand us and who sometimes abuse us. That is a hard providence. In order to submit to it and to the the sovereign Lord who ordained it, we must be assured that it is ordained for our good and his glory, even if we cannot see how it is all working out. Surely that was true of the Israelites? How often over the centuries of their captivity must they have wondered why Yahweh had ordained their captivity?
Whatever suffering and abuse we suffer in this life, for Christ’s sake, is a “season” (καιρός), a temporary period in the outworking of God’s plan to be succeeded by a new and glorious consummation of all that he has begun in Christ and in us. It is to that final season that Peter appeals when he says, “in order that he may exalt (ὑψώσῃ) you in season” (ἐν καιρῷ). In Mark 1:15, Jesus came announcing the advent of the Kingdom God proclaiming, “the season is fulfilled” (πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς) but there is a “time” or “season” to come, about which, in Mark 13:33, our Lord warned, “You know know when the season is” (πότε ὁ καιρός ἐστιν). At the beginning of the epistle (1:5) Peter had distinguished between the present time and “the last time” or “the last season” (ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ). Believers, waiting in Egypt for deliverance, are being guarded by God’s power until it is time for the final exodus to begin. It was about our time (καιρὸν) that the prophets spoke and into which they inquired (1:11). Now is the season or time in redemptive history (καιρὸς) for us to suffer (4:17) but there is another epoch, time, or season to come.
In short: Christ knows what he is doing. We are not the first to experience suffering for his sake. Remember that Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb 11:26). So we embrace our identity with Christ and look toward the our final deliverance with uplifted faces, as we confess in Heidelberg Catechism 52:
52. What comfort is it to you, that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead”?
That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head, I look for the very same one, who before offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven, who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.
The “mighty hand” to which we submit is the same hand that Christ our Savior submitted to the cross. We wait not for a judge but for a Savior. Judgment is for the reprobate for blessedness and joy awaits those who believe. Repent and believe in Jesus the Savior for now is the season of salvation.