Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom withstand stedfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world.
And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you.
To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 5:8-11 ASV
This warning against the devices and evil intentions of man’s inveterate foe, SATAN, should be strictly heeded.
Nothing could be any clearer than the presentation in Scripture of the kingdom of evil as an organized wickedness, directed by a powerful and malignant leader, a personal ruler of darkness, having as his objective the destruction of souls.
The current theology which downgrades this danger, or even denies the reality of Satan, is wrong!
It is contrary to the word of God.
The Saviour himself warned Peter of Satan’s “sifting him”; and from this it is clear that Peter got the message.
SATAN is represented in Scripture under various figures:
(1) THE ROARING LION
(2) THE ANGEL OF LIGHT (2 Corinthians 11:14)
(3) THE SERPENT (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 20:2).
These representations also answer to the three avenues of temptation:
(1) THE LUST OF THE FLESH
(2) THE LUST OF THE EYE
(3) THE PRIDE OF LIFE, the same being also the three avenues through which Satan assailed Jesus in the temptation (Matthew 4:1ff).
In the time at which Peter wrote, Satan was indeed, not a sly and stealthy serpent, nor disguised as an angel of light; but he was a roaring lion elevated in the person of Nero upon the throne of the Caesars and thundering his decrees of death and destruction, like a roaring lion! Many of the Christians would be terrified and intimidated, and some under threat of death would renounce their faith.
This passage may well be a veiled reference to Nero or to his amphitheater with its lions!
Satan is not to be yielded to; whatever he may do to the bodies of Christians, there is really nothing that he is able to do to them.
Peter had just spoken of them as “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13), and this clause shows that all Christians, elders included, are called to suffer for the cause of the Lord.
As Paul put it, “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
It is not one unending “high,” comparable to a stroll along some flower-lined pathway to the accompaniment of sweet music.
It is a fight (2 Timothy 4:7); it is like being a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4), subject to disagreeable and difficult assignments; it is like training for an athletic contest (2 Timothy 2:5), involving all kinds of austerity, self-discipline and hard work; it is called “taking up one’s cross” (Matthew 16:24), etc.
There is a poignant suggestion in this that being “in the world” was one and the same thing as being under Nero and his persecution.
Someone has said that in the times of the Caesars, the world itself was but a dreary prison for those who were proscribed by the emperor.
Peter’s usage of this mighty phrase, both here and at the end of the epistle, indicates his respect and appreciation of the doctrine, no less than that of Paul, despite the fact that he did not emphasize it as Paul did.
“A while” should here be understood for “the whole of life,” and not as indicating the short duration of the persecutions. In the relative sense, even a long life is but “a little while.”
It is the word for mending nets (Mark 1:19) or setting a broken bone and this is the meaning that many commentators prefer.
This writer cannot resist the conviction, however, that “the absolute perfection of Christians in Christ” is what this speaks of. The very proximity of the phrase “in Christ” seems to suggest this.
Taking the word in the other sense also yields some very beautiful thoughts, as in Barclay, who understood it to mean “restore.”
Sir Edward Elgar once listened to a young girl singing a solo from one of his own works. She had a voice of exceptional purity and clarity … When she had finished, he said, “She will be really great when something happens to break her heart.”
Something was about to happen which would indeed break the hearts of many Christians, recalling the words spoken by the blessed Christ who “learned obedience by the things which he suffered, having been made perfect” (Hebrews 5:8,9).
Many of the precious saints would be “made perfect” in the same sense, through the awful things they were about to suffer.
“Strengthen” means to make strong, and suggests the strengthening that comes to steel, or iron, when it is heated with fire and suddenly cooled, thus “tempering” it and giving it much greater hardness and strength. The onset of the fires of persecution would harden and strengthen the faith of many.
For discussion of the whole theology of perfection see: Perfection in Christ