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1 Peter 5

24 Dec 2018

Contents

Bible Notes Series

Up until now, I’ve begun each entry in this series with a short note about some part of my process for writing this blog. However, having done this for a few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a distraction from the main purpose. I still have interesting things to contribute about studying the Bible (and so much more to learn than I have to share) and so, when time permits and inspiration strikes, I’ll write posts about the process of writing these posts. But, for now, I’ll stop adding them to the beginning of posts in the Bible Notes series.

Introductory Thoughts

Initially, I wanted to look at what it might mean to be a ‘shepherd of God’s flock’ (v. 2), to ‘[lord] it over those entrusted to you’, to ‘[be] examples’, and these topics are certainly interesting and worth talking about, but I found it to be too large a topic for this blog. Perhaps in time, when I’ve gained more experience and done more research, I will write about church leadership. For now, though, I’ll focus on one of the many other interesting and worthwhile things in 1 Peter 5.

Selected Passage: 1 Peter 5:6–7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NIV)

Anxiety is something I struggle with. In particular, I struggle varying levels of social anxiety. When I’m around people that I know and trust, this is not usually apparent, but it is often lurking beneath the surface. Interacting with people I don’t know can be an intensely uncomfortable experience for me. While studying this chapter and these verses in particular, I saw two things I hadn’t seen before:

  1. If I don’t cast my anxieties on God, I am not humbling myself, I am being prideful.
  2. If I don’t cast my anxieties on God, I am denying that God cares for me.

Worry and Pride

The ‘therefore’ in verse 6 (‘Humble yourselves, therefore…’) refers to the truth in verse 5 that ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’ (cf. Proverbs 3:34).

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ (1 Peter 5:5b, NIV)

19th century Presbyterian preacher Marvin Vincent said that ‘anxiety carries with it a division of faith between God and self, —a lack of faith in God, proportioned to the amount which we insist on bearing ourselves, pride is at the bottom of the refusal’. (1884: 154)1

In Matthew 6, Jesus said, ‘do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (Matthew 6:31–34, NIV).

I knew that humility was a virtue. And I knew that we ought not to worry. But I had never connected the two: by worrying, I am being prideful, I’m saying, I can (and have to) do this in my own strength, I don’t need to trust in you, God.

What does it look like to humble yourself before God? Well, Peter is saying, we humble ourselves by stopping striving in our own strength and instead relying on God, we humble ourselves by giving our burdens over to the God who cares for us. How do we do this? We can look to Psalm 55, which Peter quoted. Psalm 55:22 says, ‘Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken’ (NIV). David was not writing about trifling anxieties, small worries. In verse 4, he wrote, ‘My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me’ (NIV). What is David’s strategy for casting his cares on God? Constant prayer. He says, ‘I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice’ (vv. 16–17, NIV).2

In The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney says that, ‘the very act of casting our cares upon the Lord often changes them’. He goes on to talk about the story of Mary and Martha and how ‘Martha’s many concerns grew from her pride, pride in many dishes that made her a servant of the dinner’. For, ‘when we cast our cares on the Lord, we often find that they were the concerns of our pride, not the cares of his kingdom’ (1988: 212).

God Cares for Us

Peter says that we should cast our cares on the Lord because he cares for us. If we don’t cast our cares on the Lord, we are saying that we don’t believe he cares for us. Stephen Charnock, the influential 17th century Puritan, wrote this in A Discourse on Divine Providence:

If his caring for us be a principal argument to move us to cast our care upon him,—as it is 1 Peter 5:7, ‘Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you;’ then if we cast not our care upon him, it is a denial of his gracious care of us,—this is to imagine him a tenderer governor of beasts than men, as though our Saviour had spoke a palpable untruth, when he told us, not an hair of our heads doth fall without his leave; as if he regarded sparrows only, and not his children; or else it implies that God cannot mind us in a crowd of business, in such multitudes in the world, which he hath to take care of. (1864–1866: 47)

Later, in verses 8 and following, Peter says that his audience’s ‘enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. Naturally, we expect the devil to be portrayed very differently from God, but Thomas Schreiner points out just how striking the difference is: ‘God tenderly cares for his children, inviting them to bring their worries to him so that he can sustain them. God promises to protect his flock in all their distress. Conversely, the devil’s aim is not to comfort but to terrify believers. He does not want to deliver them from fear but to devour their faith.’ (2003: 242) In addition to the stark contrast between God and the devil, Schreiner makes another important point: that ‘the roaring of the devil is the crazed anger of a defeated enemy, and if they do not fear the ferocious bark, they will never be consumed by his bite’ (ibid.). The devil is defeated and we need not fear him. Nevertheless, we can choose to fear him, we can choose to be frightened of his ferocious bark; and it is ferocious, he knows just the sort of roar that might get us to listen, but we must ignore it. And one way we ignore the devil’s roar is by letting go of our pride, letting go of our worries, our anxieties and trusting in the God who loves us.

The Humiliation of Being a Christian

Near the end of my study, I was reading Karyn Jobes’ excellent commentary on 1 Peter and saw something that I didn’t really like, but is nevertheless true. She summarised a line of thought through 1 Peter, that of Christian humiliation. In 1 Peter 3:17, Peter says that ‘persecution comes to faithful Christians and is not apart from God’s will’; in 4:12, that ‘they should recognize painful trials as a normal part of Christian life’; and, in 4:17–19, that ‘these experiences are God’s purifying fire of judgement’ (2005: 312). Jobes explains that the point is not whether or not a Christian will be humbled, as being humbled is the inevitable outcome of following Christ, but that ‘the point is how Christians respond when, because of their faith, their social status has suffered and their situation has become difficult’ (ibid.).

God has chosen what seems foolish to the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27). I cannot deny that, simply by being a Christian, the world will look down on me. But this challenges a real heart idol of mine: my longing to be understood. I often have conversations with non-Christians trying to win them over to my way of thinking, trying to convince them that I am right, or at least get them to admit the logic to what I believe and how I behave. I sometimes end up twisting the truth or bending my beliefs in pursuit of this goal. And it rarely works out the way I’d like. I need to accept the truth that, as a Christian, the way I behave, the choices I make, the life I live, will not always make sense to others.

References

Charnock, S., 1864–1866. The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert.

Clowney, E.P., 1988. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jobes, K.H., 2005. 1 Peter, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Schreiner, T.R., 2003. 1, 2 Peter, Jude, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Vincent, M.R., 1884. God and Bread with Other Sermons, New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.

  1. The two parts of the text, taken together, state this truth: that anxiety carries with it a division of faith between God and self,—a lack of faith in God, proportioned to the amount of care which we refuse to cast on him; an excess of self-confidence, proportioned to the amount which we insist on bearing ourselves. If we refuse to let God carry for us what he desires and offers to carry, pride is at the bottom of the refusal. Therefore, the apostle says, ‘Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Confess the weakness of your hand. Do not try to carry the anxiety with your weak hand. Cast it all on him. Believe that he cares for you, and be humbly willing that he should care for you.’ (1884: 154)

  2. Psalm 55 fits nicely with Peter’s theme, for the psalmist implored God to help him because the wicked were attempting to destroy him, and even his close friend had turned against him. Verses 4–8 express the anguish and torment he felt in the midst of such opposition. Again we see evidence that Peter considered the thematic context of the Old Testament when he alluded to it. (Schreiner 2003: 241)

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