Stand Firm in True Grace
Let’s begin with prayer. Father, we want to thank you that you have taken us, who didn’t know mercy. We’re not a people. You flooded us with mercy. You made us fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. What a high and holy calling! And I am burdened to pray that this week, during the midterm election, we as your people, would remember what you have been teaching us in 1 Peter. We would remember first, who you are, our faithful creator, the mighty God, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords. Our faith and trust is in you, Lord. We stand in awe of you.
And then second, we would not only remember who you are, we would remember who we are, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that we may proclaim the excellencies of you, Lord, who has called us out of darkness into your marvelous light. And God, help us not let any amount of political pressure or enticement lead any of your people to sell our souls for political gain. Help us to be more passionate about our nation repenting and believing and delighting in you than in any short-term political advantage or benefit.
May all our political interactions, whether online or in person, be characterized by humility, grace, love, truth. May your people be known for this, and we do beg you together in Jesus’s name that you would have mercy on our nation. We don’t deserve mercy, but we ask for it. We pray that we as your people would be good stewards of the opportunities you’ve given us in this nation as voters, as citizens, ultimately of a better nation, but as temporary citizens of this very fallible nation, that we would participate wisely as good stewards for gospel advancement and the good of our neighbors.
We beg you to give us, and this is a big request, Lord, that you would give us humble leaders who serve with integrity, who value every life from in the womb, out of the womb, weak, strong, black, white, Asian, Latino — every life in the world — that you would give us leaders who creatively build partnerships to help the marginalized, who care about the next generation, morally and educationally, who take their responsibility seriously to provide safe neighborhoods and fiscal responsibility.
We pray all of this that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way, as you say in your Word, because we desire, you desire that everyone, all people be saved. So, Lord, help us now and speak to us, we pray, as we open your Word in Jesus’s name. Amen.
So, we’ve come in our study of 1 Peter to the last three verses, and we could simply view them as customary closing comments, really adding nothing new, just to be skimmed over. Kind of like the end of a football game where one team has clearly defeated the other team. The defeated team has no more timeouts, and the quarterback is just hiking and taking a knee. There’s nothing more to see here. That’s not what’s happening here.
There are three big ideas in these three little verses, and I hope we can see these three. One is the people sprinkled throughout the verses. The other is the purpose. Peter’s going to tell us the purpose for the letter. And third, the prayer. He ends with a remarkable prayer.
So, first the people — a brother, a sister, and a son. Notice the faithful brother Silvanus, who is also known as Silas. He is a faithful brother. A chosen sister —
“she who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen”
is a church sending greetings. A restored son — “so does Mark, my son.” So, Peter doesn’t want us to miss the personal. We must see the fact that this letter, although it contains a lot of theology, is about real people in real crisis, facing real challenges. And Peter doesn’t want us to miss that. And he ends in verse 14,
“greet one another with the kiss of love.”
Just find a way to show your love for each other.
Now, that’s the personal side. I’ve skimmed over it really fast because we’re not going to talk about that at all today. Alan Sherer is going to come back next week and talk about the personal side, which is huge.
I want us to focus on the second one, the purpose. In the middle of verse 12, Peter tells us the purpose of his letter.
“I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.”
Peter here describes his letter as brief and as a combination of two things: exhorting and declaring. Exhorting, which is the idea of appealing, where he is calling for a response, and declaring, that is announcing he is stating what is true. So, the whole letter, as he says here, is teeming with both appeals and announcements, declarations. And verse 12 has both as well. So, let’s look at both of those.
Number 1, what is he declaring as true? Verse 12,
“This is the true grace of God.”
Now that word “grace/charis,” appears ten times in the book of 1 Peter. So, I want us to walk through, very quickly, every one of those ten times so that you can see how big Peter’s vision of grace is.
Number 1, grace is what we all need. Chapter 1 verse 2,
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
Second, grace is what the prophets predicted.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, [chapter 1 verse 10] when they predicted the sufferings and the glories of Christ.”
They were promising what? Grace. Isn’t that amazing? That one word in Peter’s mind is summarizing everything they’re promising. If you have to find one word to summarize, it’s grace.
Third, as we prepare our minds for action, we’re to focus on what Jesus will bring at his second coming. What is Jesus going to bring his people at his second coming? One word. Can you guess? Grace. Look at verse 13.
“Set your hope fully on the grace [charis] that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So, quick review. Grace is what we all need. Grace is what the prophets predicted. Grace is what Jesus will bring. You say, “Well, that’s great, but I’m living right now, and life is really hard.” Well, look at chapter 2 verse 19. Grace is what unjust suffering is when mindful of God.
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures … This is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
Now he uses the word “charis” twice there, and I know it’s translated “a gracious thing,” but in the Greek it’s just “charis.” This is grace. “A gracious thing” is a good translation because of what Peter is communicating.
And I’ve heard so many of these stories recently. Some of our high schoolers experiencing this. Some of our adults at work. But, you know, somebody comes at you with a question like, “Why do Christians hate gay people?” And you have a choice there as a Christian. You can take that as an unjust assault and attack back, or I’ve just heard some beautiful stories of winsomely. “No, actually, Christians don’t hate gay people. But, let me tell you what Christians really believe.” And in that context of tension, unjust accusation, hopefully unjust, what Peter is saying is when a Christian kindly, gently, truthfully responds to someone who doesn’t really understand who Christians are, they have formed an opinion based on the media or online somewhere or some freak who claims to be a Christian and doesn’t represent Christ accurately, and they come at Christians. What Peter’s saying is when Christians respond kindly and truthfully, he says, there’s one word that describes that — grace. “That is a gracious thing.” That is a manifestation of the kind of grace that Jesus poured out on us when we were in his face, when we rejected his truth. He did not give us what we deserved, but he sacrificially and truthfully (he didn’t ignore sin) poured out grace. And Peter says he’s actually applying that grace right to that interaction, that tension.
Next one, fifth, grace is what Christian wives and husbands share. They are
“heirs with you of the grace of life.”
Grace is what we are using when we serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. So, today when you look around, you will see hundreds and hundreds of people serving one another, whether it’s ushering, greeting, singing, playing, taking care of screaming kids, teaching classes, cleaning up messes, counseling in various counseling rooms, in classrooms. And what Peter says, if somebody put a gun to your head and said, “You’ve got to have one word. What is that?” You would say, “That’s grace.” That’s grace — that God would move in the heart of human beings who are naturally selfish and want to serve one another. That is grace. And it’s varied grace.
Next, grace is what God gives the humble.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Grace is what God is the overflowing source of. Chapter 5 verse 10,
“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.”
If you think God just will save you by grace and then leave you, no! He is the God of all kinds, all amounts. What he starts, he finishes.
And then, finally, therefore, grace is what we stand firm in.
“This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.”
Now, do you see how holistic that is? Grace is what the prophets promised. It’s what we believe. It’s how we were saved. It’s how we live. It’s what we look forward to.
I am burdened that a lot of Christians have tiny views of God’s grace. It’s something we might say before supper — “Who’s going to say grace?” It’s something we might need if we really mess up. True. But Peter’s vision of grace — much bigger, much bigger! It’s not just something we prayed before supper, which it is. It’s not just something I need when I really mess up. It is. Stand firm in grace every minute, every moment.
Why is this so important? Well, notice the word “true,” implying there’s a chance that you might actually have such a tiny view of grace because you actually believe in fake grace. There is such a thing as true grace and fake grace. Well, what’s fake grace?
Let me give you two quick examples of fake grace. Number 1, legalism. That is any time you add to grace. In Galatians 5:3-6, Paul writes,
“I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
Now, what does he mean, “fallen away from grace”? What he’s talking about is that grace operates in the realm of total dependence. When you add to grace, you have fallen away from grace in the sense you have moved out of the realm where grace operates. Grace operates in the realm of total dependence. When you add something to grace, you’re no longer in the realm of total dependence. You’ve moved into the realm of debt. For example, “Jesus, I know I need you. Please save me by grace.” And we wouldn’t say this out loud probably, “but just in case that’s not enough” In their day it was “We’re going to throw in some circumcision.” Okay, today what does that look like? “I’m going to do my very best” or “I’m going to keep a certain amount of rules that I’ve established as if this might push me over the top and make sure I’m truly saved or stay saved.”
And Paul says, “Whoa! The moment you do that, you’ve moved out of the realm where grace operates.” Where does grace operate? In the realm of total dependence; otherwise, you’re in the realm of debt. Did I do enough? Have I balanced the scales? Have I been sincere enough, worked hard enough, been consistent enough? And when you’re in the realm of enough, there never is enough when you’re standing in the presence of a holy God. And that’s why Paul is saying “Never add to grace! All grace!”
Here’s a second way in which we can step into fake grace, and that is what we call license or libertarianism — fake grace. It’s when we limit grace or compartmentalize grace as if grace only saves my soul but has no power to begin transforming my life. Grace is beautiful when you need forgiveness, but grace is useless, with this view, when you need power and ability to break the chains of a former way of life. And Paul says, “Whoa! You don’t understand grace.”
Romans 6:15, for example,
“What then? Are [you] to sin because [you’re] no longer under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
You’re acting as if God’s grace saves you from the punishment of sin but is unable to save you from the power of sin.
Years ago I took my wife on a date one night. I’ve taken her out since then, and I probably took her to a really nice place like McDonald’s or something, and on the way back, we noticed a guy on the side of the road that we just both at the same time felt burdened to help, and we pulled off. We’re talking to him, and this is over near Cherrydale (I’ve talked to many in that area where the same thing happens), where he had just been released from prison and dropped off. And so, he had no money, no place to go. So, we helped him. We didn’t give him money, but we got him some food, got him a place to stay.
And I think about that common experience, being set free from prison but dropped off on the street corner, as how many of us view grace. Think spiritually. I was under judgment (in prison) of sin, on my way to hell. Jesus paid my debt. He sprung me! He set me free from prison to sin, and then he dropped me off on the corner, and now I’m on my own. And I’ve got to try to make a new way, make a new me, create a new life. Is that grace? Jesus just pays for your past sin and then drops you off on the street corner, and says, “Be grateful. I’ll see you in heaven maybe.”
Is that grace? No, but that’s how some of us view grace. It is enough to set us free from the penalty, but somehow, we’ve got to find something to help us prove that we’re sincere and enable us to live differently. And what Peter is saying when he says,
“stand firm in the true grace of God,”
he is saying the same grace that saves you from the penalty of sin is the grace that saves you from the power of sin is the grace that will lead you to be free from the very presence of sin one day. That’s grace. That’s big.
And so, as a Christian, when you say, “Well, I’m struggling right now,” well, what do we need more than anything? Grace. How do we get that? Humble yourself because God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble, in salvation in the past, present, future.
So, what is Peter declaring is true? This is the true grace of God. So, what is he then calling us to do? Verse 12, “Stand firm in it.” Now, that is tough. You think, “Okay, I know what it’s like to stand firm.” This summer, we went to the ocean, and you know, when you have big waves coming in … Have you ever done that? Well, that is not me. The arms would be much bigger, I’m sure. No, and that guy is going to get blown away. But have you ever done that kind of thing with the waves coming in and you just trying to hold, stand firm, and then you find yourself just tumbling backwards?
Or how about a goal line stand? Something last night Clemson could not do at all tragically. Or how about when you accidentally answer a phone call from Spectrum? Don’t you hate that? They’ve gotten so good at disguising. Oh, this must be … and, no! And before long, your whole life is a one big, giant bundle. They will bundle your wi-fi, your phone; they will bundle your TV, your lawn care, your hair appointments, everything, and they’re just rattling this off at a deal. “If you just sign over your bank account, we will bundle your life.” So, you’re trying to take a stand. You don’t want to be rude, right? Because this person is just trying to put food on their table, but I need to get off the phone! So, we know what that’s like, whether it’s a wave of water or a wave of linemen or the pressure of a salesperson … We know what that’s like. We stand firm.
But how do you stand firm in grace? What are the forces that might — the pressures, the waves — that might try to push us out of grace? Let me give you a few possibilities from I Peter. First of all, trials. In I Peter 1:6, Peter wrote, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So, in a sense, trials are opportunities to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith. But the enemy … Remember chapter 5, we have
“the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
He is seeking to use that same trial to move you out of genuine faith and into fake faith. Fake grace. It’s easy in the middle of a trial to think, “Okay, God, I thought you had me covered. Apparently, you don’t. So, I need to look out for myself.” So, we started by grace and now we’re operating in the flesh, as if we care about us more than God cares about us. And Peter’s saying, “No, no, no, don’t let the pain of a trial push you out of being firm in grace.”
Second, passions. And Peter talks about this from many different angles throughout the book. I’ll just show you one example. Chapter 1 verse 13.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed [that’s a fascinating word] to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
That word “do not be conformed” is where we get in English the word “schematic.” Now it’s the idea of a design. In that day it was the idea of “do not be fashioned by your passions.” Don’t be contorted into the shape of passions that formerly, apart from grace, defined you and determined who you were and what you’re going to do. Stand firm in grace.
And then a third example. So, we’re seeing examples from 1 Peter of forces or pressures that might seek to make us un-firm in grace. Third, conflict. 1 Peter 3:8,
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
He’s saying here that when you get involved in a conflict, it is easy to be swept into repaying evil for evil or reviling for reviling. “She says it to you; you give it back.” “He comes at you; you give it back.” The problem with that is imagine if Jesus did that to us. We gave him evil. What did he give us back? Grace. And so, when we stand firm in grace, even in our interactions with one another and beyond, we are saying, “No matter how harsh, unfair, unkind someone is to me, standing firm in grace on a very practical level means you’re getting grace back. You come at me with evil? You’re going to get grace back. Standing firm. And you say, who can do that? You’re right. It’s all grace because you can’t naturally, I can’t naturally live that way. Stand firm in grace.
When the Israelites had been freed from Egypt, they soon found themselves in a great predicament. They were caught between the Red Sea and the army of Pharaoh chasing them. And the way they responded in that moment is such a vivid picture of what you will be tempted, what I will be tempted to do this week. We feel the squeeze, and then the Israelites immediately began to get really cynical and sarcastic with Moses. “Okay, Moses. There weren’t enough graves in Egypt for us, huh? You had to bring us out here in the desert to bury us.” Hmm. “Better red than dead, Moses. We’d would rather be back in Egypt as slaves. At least would be alive than out here with you and dead.” So, they’re hurling this reviling, this cynicism, this panic, this hopelessness at Moses.
In chapter 14 verse 13, look at this. This is the Exodus version of what 1 Peter just said.
“Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord.’”
Fear not. Stand firm in grace.
“‘See the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’” Fear not. Stand firm. It’s like Moses is saying, “Listen, dudes. You didn’t set yourselves free from Egypt. God did that. And you are not going to be able to sustain yourself through the desert. God does that. And you’re not going to defeat the Egyptian army. God will do that.”
We are not just saved in the past by grace. We are saved this moment by grace. We will be saved in the future by grace. Stand firm in grace. That’s what Moses was saying. That’s what Peter is saying. The enemy of our soul seeks to use … every one of you know what this is like right now … trials, passions, conflict to push us out of the realm where grace operates, try to coax us into the realm where flesh takes over. Peter, inspired by the Spirit, wrote this letter, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
And then look at how he ends — the prayer. The prayer — if you want a benediction that we all can memorize, this is a good one. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Peace to all of you who are in Christ. Can we say it again? Can you say it by memory? “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” And don’t just blow over that. Think about that. He just promised them severe trials. People are going to malign you. You’re going to pay a price for following Christ. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Shalom, wholeness to all of you who are in Christ.
This is our prayer for all of you who are about to get baptized, that you would stand firm in grace. And that the peace that God gives us as a gift, it’s all a gift, you would experience even today as you share your stories and as we get the joy of watching. All day long there are about twenty-five people, testifying and being baptized. We had ten this morning. I think we have six in this service and another ten tonight. So, let’s go ahead and do that now.