Alert (verse 8a)
Peter has already encouraged us to cast all of our anxieties on the Lord, knowing that He cares for us (verse 7). Casting all of our anxieties on Him, however, does not exempt us from watchfulness. We are to cast all of our anxieties on Him, not so that we are more free to pursue pleasure and ease, but so that we may be more apt to be alert and watchful. Alertness is necessary because the adversary is on the loose, often using suffering and difficulties to roar at God’s children in the hopes of frightening them into apostasy and destroying their faith. When life is difficult, we are all the more likely to capitulate to the Devil. So, we must “be of sober spirit [and] be on the alert.”
To be sober and alert is the opposite of drunken drowsiness. Moderation or temperance encapsulates this idea. We must do nothing to the degree that it distracts us from Christ. Excessive cares and seemingly tiny little attachments are so unfavorable to the soul. They engross our minds and consume our hearts with earthly things, drawing us away from those things which are eternal. Good things are often the most dangerous—career, education, possessions, recreation, reputation, friendships. We are to maintain spiritual concentration by avoiding mental intoxication with the world.
Adversary (verses 8b-9)
The title “adversary” in reference to Satan refers to him as our supreme opponent or opposition. We were once under his power, willingly doing his bidding in the world. By God’s grace we have escaped, being saved to another kingdom. Still, he continues to pursue us, like Pharaoh did to the Israelites. He entices and tempts us to sin, but his most devastating role is as the “accuser” (cf. Zechariah 3:1ff). If Satan can discredit us and our standing before God, we lose our confidence in Christ and prove to be spiritually impotent. However, he serves like a prosecutor lacking sufficient evidence, conveniently emphasizing only a portion of the truth. In futility, he seeks to discredit God’s word and destroy God’s work in us through Christ. In the end, though Satan accuses, God rebukes him because through Christ and according to His sovereign choice He has provided the means for us to have a right standing before Him.
Not only does Satan accuse us as our adversary, but he is also “seeking someone to devour” (cf. Psalm 7:1-2). He has both the propensity and the ability to attack and harm Christians. He threatens within as an angel of light (Acts 20:29-30). He rages from without by persecution (Acts 8:1ff). He induces bizarre and irrational behavior directed at Christians and the gospel (Acts 16:16-18). He stirs up malicious slander, turning truths into lies (John 8:44). He brings people into bondage to self-destructive behavior (Mark 5:4-5). He advocates false doctrine (1 John 4:1ff). He tempts us to distrust providential care, grasp at worldly power, and doubt God’s promises (Luke 4:1ff).
We are no match for him—but “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The Devil is not a competing god; he is a vanquished foe. The danger for the Christian is not that he is helpless before the Devil. The danger for the Christian is that he will fail to resist by not watching and praying.
We ought to be encouraged to know that “the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by [our] brethren who are in the world.” We are not alone in our sufferings. By virtue of our union with Christ we are also united to other Christians who are experiencing the same trials. Knowing the sufferings of others and understanding that suffering is inherent with Christianity stimulates hope within us—hope in the sovereign grace of God.
All Grace (verses 10-11)
Suffering is temporary (cf. 1 Peter 1:6) and will not ultimately deter His gracious acts toward us. He will perfect, putting all things in order and restoring us. He will confirm, granting us a fixed, firm position. He will strengthen, by causing Christ’s strength to work through us. He will establish, not allowing us to be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). In God, there is an all-sufficiency of every grace.
Peter is moved into a doxological consideration of God’s power and rule over an evil world: “To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” When God’s triumphant grace is seriously considered, worship is the only proper response. Peter is simply rejoicing in the certain fact that God’s power and rule will endure. The ability and authority to accomplish the wonder of His perfect will belongs to Him forever and ever.
- We are to be on the alert because our adversary is prowling, seeking to destroy our faith. But we are also to be encouraged because we are not alone, and because God, who is all grace, will keep us forever. Satan wants to devour us; God cares for us. Satan wants to destroy us; God will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. How does the knowledge both of Satan’s attempts to devour us and God’s determination to care for us affect the way you live your daily life? In light of the adversary’s opposition to Christians, how should we be encouraged by the words: “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)?