The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 5, 2011


1) 1 Peter 5:13,14 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Peter 5:13,14
by Tom Edwards

After mentioning Silvanus (Silas), whom Peter regards as a faithful brother, and after exhorting the brethren to "stand firm" in the "true grace of God," Peter then says in 1 Peter 5:13, "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark."

The KJV renders this as, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son."  But the phrase "church that is" is in italics because it is not in the original Greek.  It has been added by the translators.

The NKJV translates it as "She who is in Babylon...," as well as the NASB, the NIV, and others.  But who, though, is this "She"? And what "Babylon" is this referring to?

Commentators are divided over both of these questions.  Some take the "She" to be referring to a church; others, to Peter's wife; and still others, to a woman in the church.  

And when it comes to "Babylon," some take this as literal Babylon (on the Euphrates), while others view it as figuratively referring to Rome.  Some have even taken it to mean "Jerusalem."  So different speculations have been made. 

For those who think the "she" is Peter's wife, they can point out that she sometimes did accompany him on his journeys, as 1 Corinthians 9:5 shows: "Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?"  But still, this doesn't conclusively answer for us who the "she" is.  

Some individuals view this "she" as being the "church in Babylon" -- and that "Babylon" is figuratively standing for Rome.  The similarities in these two places would be that Babylon once persecuted God's people -- even as Rome was now doing.   In addition, just as Babylon had once been a world-ruling empire that was eventually destroyed, even so, there was coming that time for the fall of the Roman Empire.  But though it is true that Babylon is used figuratively to refer to Rome in the Revelation letter, that letter (which is highly symbolic) wasn't written until about 30 years later, around A.D. 96.  Furthermore, during the time of the early church, there were many Jews who had dwelt in Mesopotamia, where Babylon was located.   For Luke lists "residents of Mesopotamia" as some of those Jews who had come to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost on the day the church was established  (Acts 2:9).  Plus, according to Colossians 1:23 (which was written a few years prior to 1 Peter), the gospel had already been taken into all the world.  So it is not unreasonable to view this Babylon of 1 Peter 5:13 as being the one in Mesopotamia, which is more likely.  For to say that Peter was in Rome, based on this verse, is an assumption that doesn't appear to hold true in the light of what the rest of  the NT teaches or implies.  For regardless of how much we search the Scriptures, it never shows or indicates that Peter had ever been in Rome.  Rather, our inference would be to the contrary.

Still others view the "She" as being some woman who was a Christian; and, therefore, one of the Lord's elect.  But, as one writer points out, since there is "so much uncertainty in the discussions to be found in the histories, lexicons and commentaries on this phrase, that I shall be careful to avoid speculation" (E.M. Zerr).  And that would be best for us, too.  

The "Marcus," in this passage, which the KJV uses, is also rendered as "Mark" in some other translations.  Peter refers to him as his son, but he doesn't mean of the flesh.  For Mark was not a literal son of Peter.  Some have referred to Peter's use of this expression as indicating that he was the one who had converted Mark to the Lord.  It would then seem that Peter is using this term for Mark, just as Paul used a similar one for Timothy.  For instance, in 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul addresses that epistle, "To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."  But it is also true that even if one did not actually convert another to the Lord, "son" was also used figuratively in referring to someone who had been a disciple or student of another.  For instance, the phrase "sons of the prophets" is seen ten times in 2 Kings, and once in 1 Kings.  In 2 Kings 2:5, it was the "sons of the prophets" at Jericho who told Elisha that the Lord was going to take away Elijah that day; but Elisha already knew that.  Verse 7 mentions "fifty men of the sons of the prophets...."  But this doesn't mean that each of these men literally had a father who was a prophet.  Rather, they had belonged to a school of the prophets that had begun with Samuel (cf. 1 Sam. 19:20; Acts 3:24).  So the phrase, "sons of the prophets," has been referred to as "the scholars of the prophets" or the "disciples of the prophets."   

This particular Mark is "John Mark," the one who accompanied Paul for some of his missionary journey and who also wrote the gospel of Mark.  He was Barnabas' cousin, according to Colossians 4:10 (in many translations).  However, in the KJV, Mark is referred to as "sister's son to Barnabas," as well as in the Webster Bible.  And the Young's Literal Translation also shows him as being the "nephew of Barnabas"; but in all other translations I looked this up, Mark is referred to as a COUSIN --  the NKJV, NASB, RSV, NIV, ASV, and 15 other translations.  The Greek word is "anepsios," which Thayer defines as "a cousin."  According to Vincent Word Studies, this word is correctly rendered as "cousin" in the Scriptures; and "The sense of nephew did not attach to the word until very late."  So, it wasn't used to denote "nephew" at the time of the writing.  Robertson's Word Pictures also agrees with this, stating that it is "clearly 'cousin' here and common so in the papyri."  His mother was Mary, who had many brethren in her home praying for Peter when he was incarcerated (Acts 12:12).  

Peter then closes this epistle by saying, "Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ" (1 Peter 5:14).  This might also remind you of what the NT says elsewhere about the "holy kiss."  It actually speaks of this in four different passages.  In three of them (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, and 2 Cor. 13:12), they each use the same phrase in expressing this; and that is, "Greet one another with a holy kiss."   The fourth place is similar, in 1 Thessalonians 5:26, but stated as, "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss."  In commenting on this, Zerr writes: "I have examined a number of dictionaries and histories, as well as four lexicons, and they all represent the kiss to have been a form of salute between persons of both sexes, the custom dating back to ancient times.  The instruction of the apostle, then, was not to start any new form of salutation, for that of the kiss was in existence centuries before he was born. The point is in the word holy, and it means for the salutation to be sincere and not hypocritical as was that of Judas."  Another commentator made the remark that "The practice [of greeting with a kiss] seems to have been universal in those times."  In our time and culture, hand-shaking has been liken to the "holy kiss" of Peter's day.  

Peter also says in 1 Peter 2:14, "Peace be to you all who are in Christ."  This is where true peace is -- in Jesus.  Paul writes, "For He Himself [Jesus] is our peace..." (Eph. 2:14).  God is also referred to as a "God of peace" (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 13:20). Through the cross of Christ, though we were formerly enemies and hostile toward God, we can now have peace with Him, to be reconciled into a harmonious relationship, and also have peace with fellow Christians, as Paul shows in Ephesians 2:13-18.  He also says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom."  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, it was used to mean not only "freedom from disturbance" (whether outwardly, like in war; or inwardly, within the soul), but also to signify "prosperity," "well-being in general, all good in relation to both man and God."  It was used as a "common friendly greeting, used in asking the health of anyone; also in farewells."

In the NT, we also see "peace" being frequently used in salutations or greetings.  The Greek word is "eirene."  Strong defines it as "peace (literally or figuratively); by implication prosperity...."  This Greek word is used in every book of the NT with the exception of 1 John.  It is coupled with grace for the salutation in 17 of the NT epistles (Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Phil. 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:2, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:2, 2 Jn. 1:3, Rev. 1:4).  

We are reminded, too, of the words of the resurrected Savior when He said to His apostles (who, after His crucifixion, had been behind closed doors for fear of the Jews), "Peace be with you" (John 20:19).  He also repeated this to them in verse 21, and then one week later when Thomas was present (v. 26).  

Peter also points out that this peace is "in Jesus" (1 Pet. 5:14).  Because of Him, Christians can truly dwell together in peace, which was even prophesied and figuratively portrayed in Isaiah 11:6-9 as a wolf that would dwell with a lamb, a leopard lying down with a young goat, and others peacefully coexisting that we would normally think of as being hostile toward each other.  Even a nursing child would be able to safely play near a cobra!  This, of course, is all figurative.  It is not foretelling a time when animals would literal do this; but, rather of Christians who would be living harmoniously with fellow saints in the Lord.  For "They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain" (v. 9).  That "holy mountain" represents God's authority, His rule.  So those who have given themselves over to that are in His spiritual kingdom.  This peaceful coexistence can specifically be seen in the reconciliation that was made between Jew and Gentile through the cross of Christ: "...For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity..." (Ephesians 2:11-22).  The Law of Moses was never intended for all mankind, but only for the Jews.  That Law showed that the Jews were to be a separate people from the Gentiles (Lev. 18:24-30; Deut. 7:3-12).   But now through Christ, Jew and Gentile can be one and at peace, through that one gospel that is for all.     

Being "in Jesus" is certainly the key.  For we must be in Him for not only peace, but also for all spiritual blessings.  As the Bible shows, in Christ Jesus, the Christian has redemption (Rom. 3:24), the "free gift of God...eternal life" (6:23), "no condemnation" (Rom. 8:1), the "love of God" (8:39), sanctification (1 Cor. 1:2), grace (1 Cor. 1:4), and victory (2 Cor. 2:14).  In Christ, one also becomes "a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), has true liberty (Gal. 2:4), has unity among brethren (Gal. 3:28), has the blessings of Abraham (3:14), has all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), has an inheritance from God (Eph. 1:10,11), has been made to sit in heavenly places (2:6), has the "surpassing riches" of God's "grace in kindness toward us," has "been brought near by the blood of Christ" (2:13), has the forgiveness of sins (4:32), has "the upward call of God" (Phil. 3:14), has "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension," to "guard your hearts and your minds" (4:17), has all needs fully met (4:19), and is heading for that ultimate salvation in heaven itself, where there is eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10).  

All of these verses show the great importance of being in Christ, and what better verse could there be than Galatians 3:26,27 to end this section with?  For here Paul shows how one gets into Christ: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

This is certainly a good thought to also end this epistle with.  For those who take heed to God's gospel plan of salvation will then have all the spiritual blessings we just considered for those who are in Christ.  And what a major difference it will make in the judgment day, whether one is in Christ or not in Christ.  

Those who are in Christ are those who also listen to Him; and the  importance of doing so can be seen in Matthew 7:21-23, as well as many other verses in the Bible.  But let us remind ourselves with what this passage says: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'   And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"   

How tragic it would be to hear those words in the judgment day. Let us, therefore, live in such a way that we will not hear any pronouncement of doom upon us in that great day of reckoning; but, rather, one that we can joyfully receive -- such as, "Well done, My good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord."   That is certainly worth striving for -- and even for these whom Peter is addressing that would experience "fiery trials" for simply doing so. For as we have seen, the sufferings of this life are temporal; but the blissfulness of heaven -- that ultimate relief -- will be forevermore!


News & Notes

I had mentioned last week of Danny Holton, preacher in the church of Christ in Greenville, Mississippi, who had been diagnosed with cancer.  I found out recently that it is Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.  His doctor did not recommend chemotherapy, but did mention doing a clinical trial.  So Danny is seeking a second opinion.  For those of us who are Christians, let us keep him in our prayers.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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