Strangers And Aliens (23d): You Are Not Alone (1 Peter 5:6–11)

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. 8: Resist The Devil
Politicians have often been tempted to declare “Peace in Our Time.” The most notorious example of this folly is the 1938 declaration by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that he and the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had reached an accord to prevent war between them.

As you can see for yourself, Chamberlain was fairly bursting with pride at his accomplishment. That pride was quickly dashed, however, as Great Britain was at war with Germany by 1939. Like all tyrants, Hitler was willing to offer what he never intended to give. He was a liar and a murderer, which became evident soon enough. He was not the first, however. There have been many such liars and evil totalitarians. The impulse to make ourselves into gods is ancient. We know who the father of lies is. Jesus said to those who claimed to be Abraham’s children but who sought to murder him:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44; ESV).

Satan came to Eve and lied. He offered what was not his to give: divinization and equality with God (Gen 3:5; Phil 2:6). He grasped at what was not his. Adam foolishly made a false covenant with him and, in so doing, broke the covenant of works. Instead of an eternity of blessed fellowship with God, represented by the tree of life, he sought to be God, to supplant God, and so ate death and judgment (represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). So it ever is with the Evil One. So it has been with us since the fall.

Peter had great cause to warn the Christians of Asia Minor to “resist” (ἀντίστητε) him. Given the suffering of the Christians in Rome and the pressure they felt from the surrounding pagan culture, from their families, from their masters and employers, it must have been a great temptation for them, as it is for us, to “cut a deal,” as we say, to sue for peace with the Adversary (ἀντίδικος; v. 8).

In our time there has been an almost desperate desire to be approved by the broader culture, even as orthodox Christianity is marginalized. We see this in the compromises made by the mainline denominations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the liberals and critics demanded that the heretofore culturally acceptable and occasionally influential denominations (the so-called “Seven Sisters of the Mainline,” the UMC, the ELCA, the PCUSA, ECUSA, ABC, UCC, and the D of C) give up the ecumenical doctrine of Scripture, of its infallibility and authority. Then they came for the ecumenical doctrine that God is almighty (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon are apparently too narrow) in favor of some version of process theism. Then they came for the doctrine of salvation, the ecumenical doctrine that only believers are saved, which they replaced with universalism. Over the course, of time the rot has worked its way through to Christian ethics so that the ancient and universal understanding of marriage and human sexuality have been, in some of the mainline churches, replaced with socially acceptable views. All along the way the mainline churches have capitulated in the hope of regaining their former, imagined influence.

Since the the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy marginalized the fundamentalists, their evangelical grandchildren have spoken of a “seat” at the cultural table. Over the last 40 years, as the early neo-evangelical leadership of Carl Henry et al gave way to the baby-boomers, the evangelicals have given conceded the old doctrine of the complete infallibility of Scripture for, e.g., the infallibility of Scripture on theological, as distinct from historical, matters. Where the liberals  adopted process theism and Unitarian Universalism, the evangelicals capitulated on Open Theism. We could go on but you get the picture.

Peter knows nothing of “peace in our time” with the prevailing pagan culture, insofar as the pagans refused to distinguish religion from civil life—Darryl Hart is right. It was Christianity that gave us the sacred/secular distinction—and demanded that we Christians acknowledge the pagan pantheon, Caesar as a deity, and that we denounce Christ. The pagan Romans were sometimes willing to  allow us to co-exist but sometimes not, even though we were manifestly no threat to the empire or the civil order.

Neither is Satan willing for us to co-exist. He will not allow us to have “peace in our time.” Hence Peter reminds us that, like Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4) we must resist. This doctrine was hardly unique to Peter. James exhorts us to “submit” ourselves to God. Resist the devil (ἀντίστητε δὲ τῷ διαβόλῳ and will flee from you.” In Ephesians 6:13 Paul exhorts us to “put on the panoply of God, in order that you may be able to resist (ἀντιστῆναι) in the evil day and having done all to stand.”

Jesus modeled how to resist the devil: we stand on the Word of God. We confess the Word of God. We say the Words that must have rung like a bell in Peter’s memory, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:33). Peter knew from both sides of the spiritual conflict what it was to resist the devil and to be resisted when he denied Christ.

We resist with confidence, standing “firm in the faith” (στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει), in the knowledge that there are certain immutable truths. God is righteous and gracious to sinners. Christ is God the Son incarnate, that he obeyed for us, died for us, was raised for our justification, has ascended and is seated at the right hand. He is coming again. This is the faith in which we stand. We do not stand on the basis that we know all the answers. We do not stand because we are “right” on our pet issues (QIRC), nor on the quality of our religious experience (QIRE). We stand on the basis of the objective facts of redemption.

It is a comfort that we are not alone. Of course, one of the first things that the Evil One wants us to think is that we are alone, that God has abandoned us, that there is no one on earth who shares our faith. Neither is true. God cannot abandon us because Christ has ratified an everlasting covenant in his blood. He has vindicated it with his resurrection. He has sealed it with the holy sacraments. As surely as we have been baptized, as surely as we taste with our mouth the bread and wine, so surely is the gospel true for us who believe. We are part of a communion of the saints (communio sanctorum). Christ has a people, of whom we are a part. He was a suffering Savior and we are his suffering people, identified with him in baptism and identified with him in our suffering (παθημάτων) for sake of his name.

The pagans murdered Jesus but they could not keep in the tomb. Perhaps we shall have the privilege to be his witnesses (martyrs) but whatever happens, they cannot separate us from his love (Rom 8:39), nor can they separate us from him or from one another.

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