Postscripts and Amanuenses (v. 12)
While it is tempting to pass quickly over the conclusions of our New Testament epistles, doing so impoverishes our faith. Peter’s conclusion, for example, does not contain the lofty themes that are in the body of his letter, yet it is useful and edifying. Of chief concern is the way in which the apostles communicated with the precious souls under their care and guarded the commission given to them by the Lord. Many testimonies of their vigilance are given in their postscripts. The first thing that strikes us here is the surprising reappearance of Silvanus, or Silas. Originally, he was an eminent servant and prophet in the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 15:22,27). With Barnabas, he became attached to Paul and accompanied him first to Antioch to deliver the decrees of the Jerusalem Council, and later on his missionary travels (Acts 15:34,40; 16:25; 17:7,10,15; 2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; Rom. 16:22). He is now with Peter on an errand from Paul. He is also the carrier of Peter’s letter, and very likely his amanuensis, or scribe. The apostles sometimes used trusted secretaries to write the revelation they received from the Lord. Even so, “I have written” is accurate, for the apostles supervised the work of their scribes and attested its accuracy before sending out (2 Thess. 3:17). That Silas was also a prophet of God gives us further confirmation that this letter is truly God’s holy word to his church.
That Peter speaks of Silas as a faithful brother teaches us two things. First, we may trust the authenticity of the letter, for it comes from a verified member of the immediate apostolic circle. We possess complete confidence that this letter was faithfully copied and delivered, for Silas was of utmost reliability. This is no small comfort to us, for we must know that God’s word has been handed down to us faithfully and handled carefully. Even in those earliest days, the apostolic writings were considered “Scripture” and the “commandments of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:15; 1 Cor. 14:37); they were treated as such. The second point of interest is the practice of the apostles to speak of one another and of their immediate associates as “brother:” no lofty titles, no pomp, no official distancing of themselves from “underlings”: simply “brother” (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7,9; 2 Pet. 3:15). The apostles were men who carefully guarded the authority of the Lord; among themselves, there was humility and brotherly affection. Gone are the days of “which one among us shall be the greatest?” They have learned, as we must, that “he must increase, but we must decrease” (John 3:30). They serve the one Lord; they were all brothers (Matt. 23:8). This should put an end to any idea that the government of the early church was hierarchical. If Peter, an apostle, delighted to commend Silas, a prophet of God, as a brother, so we ought to cherish the most fervent affection and practice the deepest humility toward one another.
The Form and Purpose of Peter’s Letter (v. 12)
Though brief, Peter’s letter is full of “exhortation and testimony.” The first of these words means encouragement; much of this letter has been a heartfelt appeal to these believers to be faithful in the midst of their “fiery trials,” including suffering patiently in the hope of their inheritance in heaven. The second word indicates that this exhortation is based upon Peter’s faithful witness to the glorious truths of the gospel. Before we can or will be faithful in the midst of our warfare, we must know to what we are to be faithful, and why. This is the reason he explained to them that they are God’s kingdom of priests and holy nation, the purpose of their refining afflictions, and the great privilege of suffering like and for Jesus Christ. Both exhortation and testimony are necessary if we are to be mature in faith. Perhaps we should like to hear only rousing sermons and read only stirring books. An elevated emotional state, however, is not the only path we walk as Christians. We are called to descend into the valley of the cross and suffering. The only thing that will sustain us in living for our Savior’s honor and eternal kingdom is a firm grasp of God’s truth, especially who we are in Christ and our union with him. It is not simply to be lamented, then, that doctrinal preaching and literature are almost universally neglected in the present life of the church. The grand truths of Scripture are treated as secondary to emotional well-being, to being relevant, and to living practically. Yet, we cannot be accurately practical if we are ignorant of the apostolic testimony; nor can we be certain that our emotions are correct or that we are truly relevant to a lost and dying world unless we possess a firm and certain knowledge of God’s truth. Doctrine and practice ever go together. We cannot have godly practice if we are not built upon the doctrine “foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Doctrine without practice makes us cold and primed for pride. It raises the question of whether we have truly learned anything at all if our lives are not being transformed by God’s holy truth.
Stand in God’s Grace (v. 12)
Peter summarizes his epistle by the word “grace,” the wondrous gospel of our Savior. We must be careful not to empty “grace” of content and reduce it to a sentiment or a slogan. This is commonly done today. Many speak and live as if “grace” frees us from honestly facing the sins in our lives, as if the word were something of a lucky charm against all preaching of duty and responsibility, as if we should never judge sin or stand for righteousness. “Grace” is often the comeback whenever we feel a preacher has stepped on our toes: “We need to hear more about grace.” If grace means that we should never be confronted by our sins, that we should hear only polite, uplifting messages without pressing applications to our conscience, we know little of grace. We are showing a preference for license: the freedom to live as I please, sprinkling my life with a few spiritual principles and truths without any deep sense of obligation to Christ and his kingdom. The very mention of grace should strike a holy, adoring fear in our hearts, for we have been saved from the terrors of death and horrors of hell only because the holy God has extended wholly undeserved kindness to us. A sense of having received grace binds us to God in life with a holy, consuming love. To settle for a substance-less grace is to empty grace of its glory, as well as of its power.
Consider the grace to which Peter has born noble, compelling testimony in this letter. He began on the high notes of election, sanctification, and cleansing, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son; these are the foundations of grace and peace (1:2). Our heavenly Father has treated us with such kindness that he has “begotten us to a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and to “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading” (1:3-4). This grace, this undeserved kindness of God to condemned sinners, was ardently longed for by the prophets of old; it is now ours in Jesus (1:10). It was extended to us at the high price of his “precious blood” (1:19). That we partake of it is to be attributed to the sovereign, regenerating work of God (1:22-25). This grace makes us God’s own dwelling place, his living temple (2:1-10). What glory! We have been redeemed from filth so that we might enjoy fellowship with God! Cheap grace is an insult to the true grace of God. It ignores God’s glory, Christ’s sufferings, and the Spirit’s holy presence in our lives. It turns Christianity into a farce, a feel-good religion of pithy stories, personal fulfillment, and self-improvement. Yet how can a grace that required the precious blood of the Lamb ever be anything but humbling to us, leaving us grateful, amazed, and filled with ardent love for the God of all grace who has so loved us?
This grace, then, a sense of wonderment at God’s kindness to us, is the animating principle behind all obedience and explains the heavily practical thrust of this letter. We shall never suffer on earth and live for heaven unless the grace of God takes firm root in our breasts. How can we “turn the other cheek,” bearing unjust injury patiently for the sake of Jesus Christ, unless we are humbled by his cross, revel in the glory of his crown, and assume the responsibility of the sons and daughters of the glorious God (2:19-25)? Women shall never be modest or wives submissive to their husbands unless God’s grace reigning in them tames their tongues and subdues their wills, enabling them to consider their obedience as given to Christ himself (3:1-6). Husbands cannot love until they have tasted of our Savior’s kindness to them, that he loves the unlovable (3:7). We cannot be unified among ourselves unless we are transformed by the power of God’s grace; the Son of God humbled himself to make us one with God, with him, with each other (3:8-9). Holiness of life and consistency of Christian witness in the world likewise find all their strength in God’s kindness to us: humbled by his goodness, inspired by his faithfulness, and devoted to him who loved us and gave himself for us (3:10-16). Can we fight against the filth in our hearts, live with heaven in mind, and patiently receive God’s chastening strokes upon his church without establishing all our happiness in him who has been so kind to us? (4:1-7).
Every practical exhortation Peter gives assumes God’s grace in us: strength we do not possess in ourselves, hope he alone can give, and constancy that comes from knowing and rejoicing in his love for us in Jesus. Use grace, if you will, to be a simple summary of the whole gospel, but do not forget all that this grace includes. Do not forget that we are called to taste of our Lord’s kindness, to rejoice in it, to allow it to shape and mold our affections, enlighten our dark minds, and set our wills firmly on the path of his eternal kingdom. This is grace that transforms; it is grace that humbles; it is grace that never leaves us barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ but fills us with holy passion for him, love for the God of love, and desire to serve him, whatever we are called to endure on our way to his glory and kingdom.
Only by this grace do we stand. This is the reason that reducing grace to slogans and sentiments is dangerous to us and dishonoring to God. It is too precious to be treated so meanly, so cavalierly. “Stand” is not a command but a description. Peter is confident that these believers are standing in this grace. He has not written to them because they are not standing in it but to encourage them to hold fast to it. Just as the world cannot understand grace, so it cannot tolerate it. Do not think it strange if the world makes the same response to Christ’s grace-filled church as it did to him: accusation, mockery, and persecution. Satan ever prowls to make grace – election, sanctification, heaven, inheritance, and Christ triumphant and cleansing us by his stripes – obscure, unreliable, and irrelevant. We resist his efforts and overcome the world by standing in grace: nowhere else – full, free, insuperable, inexhaustible, blood-purchased grace. It makes us holy, thus silencing the world’s accusations and making our witness compelling. It gives us joy in our hearts, light in our minds, and love toward one another – what a privilege to share this gift with fellow-sinners, to live in the power and hope of God’s kindness to us in Jesus Christ! Grace changes everything. It silences guilt, empowers obedience, gives patience in suffering, and fills us with the sure hope of our heavenly inheritance. God did not simply give us a one-line gospel. When he gave us his Son, he gave us everything: now and later, earth and heaven, history and faith. His grace is abundant and deserves to be carefully studied and properly lived out in the world.
The Church at Babylon (v. 13)
Peter was working east of Palestine, in Babylon, when he wrote this letter. There is nothing to indicate a symbolic reference to the city of Rome. Roman Catholicism desperately clings to this interpretation, else there is no proof that Peter was in Rome for the twenty-five years they often claim. This lacks any historical or exegetical foundation. Peter was working to extend the gospel in that old city that was located in the region now occupied by Iran and Iraq. He describes the believers there as “elected together with you,” a reminder that we share in God’s rich grace and ought never to think of ourselves as alone in the battle. How powerful is the gospel! In less than a generation, there was a congregation of believers established where the Assyrian Empire used to hold sway. Mark was there with him. This is the John Mark of the gospel narrative, the amanuensis through whom our Gospel of Mark was written. This is the apostolic tie to this beloved section of Scripture. It was really Peter’s gospel, though Mark wrote it down. This church salutes the believers to whom Peter wrote. Are we not convicted by this small reference that the isolation and, God forbid, animosity that often exists between congregations whose only boast is the grace of God in Christ is a great evil? It can only be remedied as we taste deeply of the waters of life and abide in Christ.
Kiss One Another (v. 14)
The apostles often tell us to kiss one another in Christian love (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). The greeting with a kiss of charity is imperative. It will not do to say that that race was more expressive in their friendships, though this is certainly true in comparison to us. Peter is not telling them to obey common custom but to express their love for one another outwardly, warmly, and sincerely. While a hug or handshake may seem preferable in today’s climate, for kisses have been corrupted by our culture, we must never forget that we believe and worship with brothers and sisters, yes, but also with kings and queens, those with whom we are “co-heirs of the grace of life.” Was not Jesus kissed by those devoted to him (Luke 7:45)? It is unimaginable that his love did not flow down in their hearts to one another. The same must be true of us if we have tasted that he is gracious (1 Pet. 2:3). Of course, if one cannot give this kiss of charity without sensual thoughts, if brother cannot hug and kiss brother, the problem is not with the kiss but with the corruption of our hearts by the world. It may simply be that we are not sanctified sufficiently for this kiss to be given not as a form or ritual but from sincere love for one another and without embarrassment. While we cannot prescribe this as part of worship – and it is certainly inappropriate for indiscriminate kissing to be going on within the body, especially young men to young women (1 Tim. 5:2) – we must ask: do we love like this? Love is not an idea or a feeling. Love cannot be planned or choreographed. Christian kissing is the natural feeling of oneness for those with whom have cried before the cross, rejoiced in the reigning Lamb, and determined to walk in love and obedience, as Christ did. When we grow in grace, we shall grow in love, and in holy expressions of that love to one another.
Benediction of Peace (v. 14)
Peter concludes with a benediction of peace through Jesus Christ. He is our peace (Heb. 2:14). He bore the chastisement required for us to have peace with God (Isa. 53:5). We enjoy the sweetness of that peace in our hearts as we abide in Christ. The gospel of grace is the only key that will turn the lock of conscience and allow the condemned not only to go free but also to feel their true liberty through Christ’s blood and righteousness. This is the reason Peter extends the benediction to “those who are in Christ. There is no other peace except through faith in him. Though our world craves peace, there is no peace for the wicked (Isa. 48:22). “Peace on earth” was the cry of the angels; it is given and enjoyed ony through the gospel of grace. And as this peace comes in the form of a benediction with the apostolic “A-men” sealing it, we are to understand this as God’s own pledge that if we look to the Son, we have life, forgiveness of sins, and righteousness before his holy throne. This is an authoritative peace. It is the only peace that will keep us secure and joyful in a world of trials and turbulence. Let us learn to abide in Christ more, and we shall feel more of the peace he purchased for us with his own blood. Let us speak of peace to others: from sin’s horrid guilt, from the flesh’s enslaving corruption, from the world’s wars, from the darkness of science, philosophy, and governments who run furiously away from God trying to find peace on man’s terms. This is a deadly delusion. There is peace only in Jesus.
These sermons are now at an end. Through the mercy of God, I pray Peter’s letter will abide with us, that the truth of God will grow and multiply in us as we give ourselves wholly to it. Our need is great for God’s living and eternal word. We know not when the Lord may be pleased to bring us through fiery trials and cause us to feel the cross more acutely. This should not frighten us. We live “near the end.” Satan’s time is short. His malice will increase as the days grow shorter before our Lord returns in glory, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not his gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8). Courage, hope, incredible freedom from worry, patience in suffering, and faithfulness are found through building our lives upon the truths we have learned in this epistle. Our Father is full of grace. Our Savior shed his precious blood for us. The Holy Spirit indwells us as God’s temple. We cannot fail to arrive as our reserved inheritance in heaven if we abide in the gospel of the glorious God. Our victory is secure. Let us speak and live as those who will soon stand before the judgment seat of Christ.