1 Peter 5:8–14
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
Why Is the Lion Roaring?
Let's jump right into the struggle here with this lion that is roaring in verse 8. Peter says that the devil is an adversary that walks around roaring seeking to devour Christians. Now why is this lion roaring? If a lion wants to eat someone, you'd think it would sneak up on them instead of roaring. In fact that's the way the devil is described in other places: he's like a snake. It's subtle. It can fasten onto your heel before you know its there. It doesn't roar. It hides and slithers.
The Devil's Power to Cast Suffering on Believers
The devil is like that. He's dangerous sometimes because he is subtle and quiet and hidden. But that's not the case here. He is dangerous for other reasons. A lion is dangerous not mainly because it sneaks, but because it's so strong. Even if you know it's there, you're a goner unless you have some power more than your own—like a rifle, or a gigantic net, or God.
So Peter's point here is not the devil's subtlety or craftiness, but his power. What power specifically? Verse 9 tells us: "resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." What this says is that the roaring jaws of the lion are the suffering of believers. Read it carefully and you'll see this: "Resist him . . . knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." "Same"—same as what? "Resist the lion because the same suffering . . . " The same as you are facing in the lion. Resist this lion because Christians everywhere are in this fight—of suffering. The roaring jaws of the lion are the sufferings of the saints, designed by Satan for their devouring.
He Can Only Kill You
We see a clear picture of this in Revelation 2:10, where Jesus says to the church in Smyrna,
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
In other words Satan will throw some in prison so that some die there. But if they are faithful unto death (thus, "resist him firm in their faith"), they will live forever—or as Peter says here in v. 10, they will be "perfected, confirmed, strengthened and established."
Which means that successfully resisting the devil does not mean that he can't kill you. It only means he can't do you any ultimate harm. He can only kill you. And he can't do that without God's will (1 Peter 4:19).
Satan as a Snake and Satan as a Lion
Now you can see the difference between Satan as snake and Satan as lion. His snakelikeness is his indirect sneakiness. But his lionlikeness is his direct attack in suffering. The hardest thing about suffering is not usually that it sneaks up on you (though that can sometimes make it harder, cf. 4:12). The hardest thing about suffering is that it can overwhelm your faith with fear and pain. It can destroy your faith that God cares, or has any power to help, or even exists. That's exactly what Satan wants to happen, and that's why Peter says the lion is roaring. The roaring of the lion's jaws is the power of suffering to destroy our faith.
So the point of saying in verse 8, "Be sober, and be on the alert," is not because the lion might sneak up on you. He's roaring! The point is that when you fight a lion, roaring with hunger, you better not be drunk or distracted. You need all your spiritual faculties.
Who Causes the Suffering?
But this raises some important questions. For example, didn't I say in the past sermons that the suffering of the Christians is the judgment of God? 1 Peter 4:16–17,
If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.
So the suffering of Christians is God's purifying judgment. It's a refiner's fire as 1 Peter 1:6–7 says.
But now I am saying that suffering is Satan's attack. Well then, which is it: the judgment of God or the jaws of the lion? The answer is: it's both. This is not new. It was both in the life of Job (cf. Job 1:12, 21; 2:7, 10), and it was both in the life of Paul. Paul says his "thorn in the flesh" was given to him to keep him humble (implied, by God). But he calls it a "messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians 12:7). If God is sovereign over all things, including Satan, which he is (!), then God has a different sovereign design in all the designs of Satan than Satan does. When Christians suffer, the devil's design is destructive pain; but God's design—in the same suffering—is constructive purification and holiness and power. The devil aims to devour. God aims to empower and purify and prepare for glory.
Is This War Just a Game?
Now that raises another important question. Can Christians be devoured? Peter says in verse 8, "Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." So the devil's aim is to devour. Devour is not scratch or maul or wound. It's is chew up and swallow. I don't think there is any way to make this mean anything less than bring to ultimate ruin. The devil aims to take people with him to the lake of fire.
Now Peter says this is the reason we should resist him. Verse 9: "But resist him, firm in your faith." He's trying to devour you, so resist him. Now what shall we make of this? Is it just a charade? No devouring is really possible? Christians can't get eaten by the devil? They can't go to hell? It's sort of like war games? The bullets are all blank? But let's fight like their real?
I don't think so. Devouring is real. And resisting is real. And what is at stake is heaven and hell. Being devoured in hell versus being merely mauled in prison followed by glory.
Can True Christians Be Devoured by the Devil?
So can true, born again, Christians possibly be devoured by the devil? No they can't, because true born again Christians resist the devil firm in their faith. That's the meaning of being true born again Christians; they have the Holy Spirit inside moving them to fight the fight of faith.
If God says—which he does say in 1 Peter 1:5—that he will keep us eternally secure by his power through faith, then it is foolish and presumptuous to say, I am eternally secure without a life of faith. The promise stands sure in many wonderful passages of Scripture (Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24; Hebrews 13:20f., Romans 8:30): God will bring us safely through the jungle of this world and keep us from being devoured by the devil; and he will do it by his power through faith. Therefore the person who says, I believe I am eternally secure, and so I don't need to resist the devil firm in my faith is contradicting God and throwing away the warrant of his assurance. Those who are called by God do not do that. They fight to the end. And that is their badge of being born of God.
Where Is Our Assurance Found?
Verse 10 shows us where our assurance is really found.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
What this verse promises is this: if God called you to his glory, he's going to get you to his glory. A little suffering in between is not going to stop him.
The meaning of being a Christian is that we have been effectually called to eternal glory (cf. 1:15; 2:9). This is Peter's way of saying what Paul said in Romans 8:30: Whom God calls he also justifies, and whom he justifies he also glorifies. Peter simply says, The One who called you to his glory will get you to his glory: he will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. It's a promise. You can take it for yourself if you will have it and believe it and bank on it this morning.
And I urge you to take it. When Peter says that "the God of all grace" makes this promise, he wants to help you believe that it's for you. You may say. It can't be for me. I'm not qualified. I'm not spiritual. Peter says, you don't start with being qualified. You start with the God of all grace. Grace precedes qualification. You may have this promise freely, if you will believe in this God of all grace.
And he gives one last encouragement to believe it in verse 11: "To Him—to the God of all grace—be dominion forever and ever. Amen." Dominion means superior strength. God has dominion over the devil. He is stronger than Satan. Therefore when he promises to successfully get us through the jungle of this world and bring us to glory, he can do it and will do it. Dominion belongs to the Lord.
Resist the Devil Firm in Your Faith
So when Satan roars with his suffering in your face and threatens to devour you, don't say, "O, I'm eternally secure, this is no real threat." Rather say, "The God of all grace has called me to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, and after I have suffered a little while from your claws and fangs, he will perfect and confirm and strengthen and establish me. He is a God of all grace. He is a God of absolute dominion. You can maul me. And you can even kill me. But you cannot devour me. He has called me to glory and he will get me to glory."
That's how to resist him firm in your faith. Take this promise this advent season. Believe it. Be saved by it. Rest in it. Fight with it. Persevere with it. It's yours free from the God of all grace.