Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stand Firm. He will Make you Stand Firm

Often the apparent contradictions in Scripture, upon careful reflection, blossom into some of the most beautiful truths we can find.  Such is the case at the end of 1 Peter.  It comes from the apostle who was singled out for his desertion of Christ at the Lord's darkest hour before being crucified.  Peter is uniquely qualified to discuss God's grace to restore us and keep us steadfast, while in the same breath commanding that Christians stand firm in the faith to the end.

1 Pet 5 contains much of Peter's final encouragements to a group of Christians who suffer persecution.  Twice in the final chapter, Peter encourages the suffering brothers to persevere.  He says they ought to avoid the devil's temptations, "Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings," (1 Pet 5:9).  Then, he concludes, "I have written to you briefly, encouraging you...that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it," (1 Pet 5:12).  In the first case, the command to stand firm is one of resistance.  In a sense, it is the negative side: withstand what is wrong or displeases God.  The second case, the command to stand firm is one of purpose.  In a sense, it is the positive side: stand in God's grace by following Him.  One is put off, and the other is put on (cf. Eph 4:22-24).  

Now, perhaps this begins to sound as if our continued salvation depends solely on us?  Well, here's how the New Testament so often presents this tension: sandwiched between these two commands is the assurance that Christ will make them strong, and make them stand firm.  "The God of all grace...will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever," (1 Pet 5:10-11).  Here is beautifully portrayed the Divine indicative alongside the imperative.  God has done it, now you do it.  We are given the command because we must stand firm, but to clarify, as we stand firm we know that it is God's grace holding us there.  God tells us to go so we go and He carries us all the way there.  So, the encouragement that God will make us strong ought to compel us to obey with confidence.  In prayer, and in faith obey Him, knowing He grants His Holy Spirit to work obedience into your life, and once you have obeyed God, daily thank Him so that, like Peter, we recognize "to him be the power for ever and ever. Amen," (1 Pet 5:10).

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