Christians: Resist the Adversary

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Be 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. 11To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:8–11 (ESV)

Understanding the Word

This is the third time that Peter has instructed his audience to be sober-minded. The first set of instructions that Peter gave starting in 1:13 was framed with the idea of being self-controlled. Then, in 4:7, Peter reminds them that the end of all things is at hand, and he commands them to be sober-minded. Now, at the very end of the letter, he repeats the instruction to be sober-minded. Peter wants those to whom he is speaking to be self-controlled (not out of control, like someone who is drunk). He wants them to be alert. He wants them to be watchful.

It is important to be completely clearheaded when there is an enemy on the prowl that is seeking to destroy the people of God. That opponent is the devil. The word “devil” has the underlying meaning of “someone who slanders.” And this is the main form of suffering that the Christians are encountering. Throughout 1 Peter people speak evil of the Christians, mock them, and abuse them. Now we see that behind all of this is the enemy of God, the devil. One of the evils that the devil uses is false speech (lies, slander, slurs, insults). The devil’s hope is to destroy faith and ultimately the new life that God is growing in his people. Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion that is seeking someone to devour. The lion roars when it is hungry and ready to begin the hunt for food. And Christians should know that this is a formidable enemy.

However, the devil can be resisted. The devil will cause suffering as a means of destroying Christians. But Peter’s message is that suffering for one’s faith is actually a sign of right relationship with God. Christians should not be discouraged if they suffer because of their faith. Instead, they should look forward to the future promise of God. Their experience of suffering is not unique. Other people throughout the world have also suffered because of their faith. But their suffering will not go on forever. After they have suffered for a little while God will restore them. No matter how long their suffering lasts—a few days or ending in martyrdom—they are reminded that God has called them and that God will share his glory with them. Through Christ they are enabled to enter into the amazing presence of God. He promises that he will set them in a secure place. They will be restored, secure, established, and built up. When God has done this for them, their adversary will no longer threaten them. Ultimately God is the one in control. He has been given power (dominion) over all things in every time and place. God’s control extends into eternity. This is the one to whom they belong. This is the one in whom they can put their trust.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do the instructions to be sober-minded and watchful relate to your experience of the world around you?
  2. What promises of God give you hope and enable you to live out the Christian life today?
  3. Do you believe that the devil is actively seeking to destroy Christians, and are you actively resisting the devil?

Did you enjoy this entry? It’s an excerpt from Ruth Anne Reese’s Bible study, The Letter of 1 Peter. In this work, Reese helps readers understand and respond to 1 Peter’s call to live as the new family of God within the context of a challenging world. This eight-week study will encourage participants to think about what it means to be the church and to take up practices that demonstrate the love of God in community.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Become familiar with the cultural context for Peter’s writings to the church in Asia Minor
  • Better understand and respond to 1 Peter’s call to live as the new family of God within the context of a challenging world
  • Be encouraged to think about what it means to be the church and to take up practices that demonstrate the love of God in community

Get it from our store here.

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Dr. Ruth Anne Reese is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. Reese is also the Chair of the New Testament Department at Asbury Seminary and serves on the board of the Institute for Biblical Research.

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