May 17 – Satan’s Role in Our Trials

“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.”

1 Peter 5:8–9

✧✧✧

All of Satan’s involvement in our sufferings and trials is under God’s control, which means our success against him is also in God’s sovereign hands.

During the past twenty–five years, there has been a tremendous upsurge of interest in the occult, Satan worship, and evil supernatural influences. Such unwise fascination has had an impact on the church and led to an overemphasis on spiritual warfare in some circles. But such unbiblical emphases give us an unbalanced perspective on the role Satan plays in our trials and persecutions.

On the other hand, 1 Peter 5:8–9 places Satan’s activities in the proper context. Peter urges us to watch our surroundings and be alert to possible temptations. But as we do, we can be encouraged that Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan, and therefore the evil one can have no long–term victories in our lives (1 John 4:4).

Peter goes on to admonish us that we need to resist Satan, which simply means we must “stand up against” him with our spiritual feet solidly planted on the objective truth of the Word (see also James 4:7). The Devil is a liar and a deceiver, and the surest way to deflect his onslaughts is with the infallible, revealed truth of Scripture.

In the biblical accounts of Satan’s participation in the trials, persecutions, or sufferings of God’s servants, God is always the one in control (see Job 1:1–2:8; Matt. 4:1–11). Therefore, our responsibility as we prepare for possible satanic attacks is to recall that our own grand strategies of spiritual warfare, however relentless and innovative they might be, will not provide the vigilance Peter speaks of. Paul gives us a further example of the right kind of preparation when he describes the essence of spiritual warfare as “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). If we heed the implications of those words, there’s really nothing else we need to have or do in combating the Devil.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to give you a biblical, balanced approach to dealing with Satan and his many subtle temptations.

For Further Study: Read Mark 9:14–29. What does this passage affirm about Jesus’ authority? ✧ What basic lesson did the disciples need to be reminded of?[1]


Self-Control

Be of sober spirit, (5:8a)

This command calls for another basic element of godly thinking, which Peter mentioned already (see earlier discussions on 1:13 and 4:7 in chapters 5 and 21 of this volume). On a physical level, sober (nēphō) refers to self-control in relation to intoxication. Here, as in its other New Testament usages, however, it has a more metaphorical connotation (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15 kjv; 3:2, 11; Titus 2:2). It includes ordering and balancing life’s important issues, which requires the discipline of mind and body that avoids the intoxicating allurements of the world (cf. 2:11; Luke 21:34; Rom. 12:1–2; 13:14; Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:6–8; Titus 2:12; James 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15–16).

Vigilance

be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (5:8b)

The reason Christians must cultivate the preceding attitudes of submission, humility, trust, and self-control is that they face fierce and relentless spiritual opposition from Satan and his demons. Believers must not become indifferent to that reality (cf. Prov. 15:19; Heb. 6:12) or indulgent of sin (1 Cor. 5:6; Heb. 3:13), lest they become victims of the enemy (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11; cf. 1 Thess. 3:5). Instead, the realities of spiritual warfare call for vigilance. Peter urges believers to be on the alert (grēgorēsate), an imperative command that means “be watchful,” or, “stay awake.” The spiritual forces that assault Christians, not only directly (cf. Gen. 3:1–7; Mark 1:13; 2 Cor. 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18) but often very subtly (2 Cor. 11:14), demand that those who love Christ maintain such vigilance. The Lord warned His disciples: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

Peter identifies Satan as your adversary, the devil, the pronoun your making that designation a very personal one. Satan is not only the adversary of God and His holy angels, but he is the vicious, relentless enemy of all God’s people (cf. Job 1:6–8; 2:1–6; Zech. 3:1). Adversary (antidikos) was used as a technical term meaning “legal opponent,” as well as any kind of enemy who was seriously and aggressively hostile. The term rendered devil (diabolos) takes this opposition to the level of a “malicious enemy who slanders or attacks.” Three times Jesus called him the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; cf. Eph. 2:2), which shows the formidable platform from which he launches his malevolent assaults.

The devil commands the demonic realm and administrates the human, fallen world system. Personally and through his surrogates the demons, who like him never sleep nor rest, Satan untiringly, like a predator in the night of his own evil darkness, hunts to kill. He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (cf. Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7). Peter’s imagery of the roaring lion derives from the Old Testament (Pss. 7:2; 10:9–10; 17:12; 22:13–21; 35:17; 58:6; 104:21; Ezek. 22:25) and pictures the viciousness of this hunter pursuing his prey. Devour has the sense of “to gulp down,” emphasizing the final objective, not to wound but to destroy. Peter would not have had, as most believers today do, the experience of seeing lions in a zoo. But he might have seen the gory spectacle of lions slaughtering victims for the entertainment of the Romans. Certainly he knew of such events.

Satan’s opposition to God and believers is behind the human enemies of God and His Word. Revelation 12 is the watershed passage that draws the battle lines in the long war with the enemies of God’s kingdom (vv. 3–4; cf. Isa. 14:12–16; Ezek. 28:1–19). Those demons who are not bound (see the discussion of 3:19–20 in chapter 19 of this volume) are the sinister, diabolical forces behind the world system. God’s children, in their struggle against deception and temptation that come from the world to their flesh, are actually wrestling with and contending with demonic strategies (Eph. 6:11–12; cf. 2 Cor. 10:3–5).

Satan and the demons hide unseen in the spirit world, but do their work through human agents (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1–2; 2 Peter 2:1–22; Jude 3–16). Revelation 12:4 says that “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” The dragon is Satan, the woman Israel, and the child Christ. The dramatic picture is of Messiah about to come out of Israel, God’s chosen people, and Satan poised to devour Him. The Enemy sought to implement that plan through Herod the Great’s horrific slaughter of all the male children age two and under in and around Bethlehem (Matt. 2:13–18). He attempted to defeat Christ by giving Him the world’s kingdoms without any suffering (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–12). Judas Iscariot was also a willing pawn of Satan, used to betray the Lord in an ill-conceived effort to somehow thwart God’s plan (Luke 22:3; John 13:27; cf. Matt. 26:47–56). Satan also used the Jewish leaders in an effort to hinder Christ’s redemptive mission (cf. Matt. 12:14; 21:46; 22:15–16; 26:1–5; 27:20–23; Luke 6:7; John 5:16; 7:1–13, 32; 8:44, 59; 11:8, 47–48, 53, 57). The enemy continues tirelessly in his efforts to oppose Christ through twisting the saving gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6–9; 1 John 4:1–4) and attempting to ruin God’s redemptive plan (cf. Matt. 13:38–39; 2 Cor. 2:11; 4:3–4).

In addition to opposing Jesus Christ directly, Satan over the centuries has sought to destroy the nation of Israel (cf. Est. 3:1–4:3), the people from whom the Messiah would come. In his vision, John was given a look into the future time of tribulation at the end of the age and saw that “the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 12:6). God will preserve Israel (“the woman”) during the last half (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days”) of the seven-year Tribulation period, when Satan, through the Antichrist, tries again, unsuccessfully, to destroy the Jews. They will be protected, saved (Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Rom. 11:11–12, 25–29), and given the kingdom promised to them (Zech. 14:4–9, 16–21; Rev. 20:1–6).

Third, Satan’s strategy has been to oppose the holy angels: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:7–8). When Satan first fell from heaven, those angels who joined his rebellion accompanied him in warring against Michael, the superangel (cf. Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1), and his legions of holy angels.

Believers are the fourth target in the demonic strategy of warfare against God and the main focus of Peter’s admonition in this passage. The apostle John describes that part of the vision: “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). After being expelled from heaven, the devil (“the dragon”) and his demons began their assault against “the rest of her children” (believers)—those who obey God’s commands and trust in Christ for salvation. Not content with deceiving unbelievers (Rev. 12:9; 2 Cor. 4:3–4) and enslaving them to his world system of ignorance, unbelief, false religion, and sin, Satan also focuses his efforts on opposing the saints.

Satan seeks to devour believers in a number of ways. First, God may allow him to attack a believer directly. The story of Job’s ordeal and the eventual triumph of his faith illustrates this well. In the New Testament, Peter himself experienced Satan’s onslaught (Luke 22:31–34) as the enemy caused him to deny Christ three times (vv. 54–62). The Lord, however, used that incident to make his faith stronger and give him a greater ability to instruct others (cf. John 21:15–22). The apostle Paul also had to contend with assault from a demonic agent who led the attack of false teachers on the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Some of the members of the church in Smyrna suffered as a result of satanic persecution (Rev. 2:10), and some in Thyatira experienced the painful consequences of demonic teaching in their church (Rev. 2:18–24). The fifth seal reveals the thousands killed by Satan through Antichrist during the Great Tribulation as pleading for divine justice to come speedily against evil enemies (Rev. 6:9–11). Finally, God even uses Satan as the agent of punishment for those who profess to preach Christ but actually lead others astray with false doctrine (1 Tim. 1:18–20), and for those who are unwilling to repent of sin (1 Cor. 5:1–5).

More generally, Satan and his demons constantly mount the attack on individual believers through the ubiquitously sinful and alluring world system. John condensed the spiritual battle down to three points at which believers’ fallen humanness is susceptible to temptation:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17; cf. Acts 5:3)

Secondly, Paul recognized that Satan attacks believers in the most intimate realm of human relations—marriage and the family. For that reason Paul charged the Corinthians,

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Cor. 7:3–5)

When one partner withholds the physical relationship from the other, Satan will tempt the one deprived to sin, thereby hastening attitudes that often bring the destruction of that marriage and family.

Third, believers—both the leaders and the members of the congregation—are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks within the church. Paul instructed Timothy to choose well-qualified men as shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1–6), lest they be subject to “the snare of the devil” (v. 7). Satan also seeks to destroy the church’s unity, render its spiritual power ineffective, and confuse its purpose (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10–13; 6:1–6; 11:17–34; 14:20–38; Rev. 2–3).

Peter’s first line of defense for protection from Satan’s strategies is simple and direct—be on the alert. If Satan so easily deceived Eve in Eden’s perfect environment (Gen. 3:1–13; 1 Tim. 2:14; cf, 2 Cor. 11:3), how much more are redeemed sinners living in a sinful, fallen world susceptible to Satan’s craftiness and deception (2 Cor. 11:3).

Contrary to what some teach, Scripture nowhere commands believers to attack the devil or demons with prayers or formulas, or to “bind the devil.” Those who foolishly engage in useless efforts to speak to Satan (who is not omnipresent anyway), or to command him, or to dismiss him or other demons are confused and wrong about their powers as Christians. Since the saints are not apostles of Christ, they have no authority over demons (cf. Matt. 10:1; Luke 9:1; 2 Cor. 12:12). Only Christ Himself, by dispatching a powerful holy angel, can bind Satan:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. (Rev. 20:1–3)

Satan has already been defeated by Christ (cf. Rom. 16:20) and, through belief in the truth and prayer, can also be defeated in believers’ lives. It is by the Word of God, believed and obeyed, that Christians overcome Satan:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. (1 John 2:12–13; cf. 4:4–6)

They will be victorious if they are spiritually alert for satanic influence coming through their surroundings and relationships, and assess potential temptations and flee from them (Prov. 1:10–17; 4:14–15; Matt. 18:8–9; 26:41; 1 Cor. 6:18; 10:13–14; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; James 1:13–16).

Fortitude

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. (5:9)

Peter commands Christians to have a mind that is resolute and to resist Satan by being firm in their faith. Such resistance causes the devil to “flee from you” (James 4:7). Resist means “to take a stand against,” and to be firm is to make that stand solid (the Greek is stereos, from which comes the English stereo, meaning “solid,” or balanced at both ends). That is done by being solidly fixed on the faith (tē pistei), which is biblical revelation. It is the whole body of revealed truth contained in Scripture (cf. Gal. 1:23; Eph. 4:5, 13; Phil. 1:27; 1 Tim. 4:1). This is a call to know and believe sound doctrine, to be discerning in distinguishing truth from error, and to be willing to defend the truth and expose error. Jude’s call is most appropriate in this connection: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). It is that “once-for-all” faith which is the inscripturated revelation of God and constitutes the faith on which believers stand solidly and from which they continually resist Satan. This strong stand is the result of the faithful leading of shepherds in the church, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 4:11–14,

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.

Since Satan is a liar (John 8:44; cf. Gen. 3:1; 2 Thess. 2:9) and a deceiver (Rev. 20:7–8), the only sure way to stand up against him is by faithful obedience to biblical truth. The battle is a spiritual one, in the supernatural realm, as Paul notes:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3–5)

“Speculations” are satanic ideologies, ideas, theories, religious philosophies, and systems of thought “raised up against the knowledge of God”; that is, they are anti-biblical viewpoints that have people captive as if they were imprisoned in a great fortress. Christians cannot smash those ideas with human ingenuity, but only with biblical truth—“taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Only when someone has the mind of Christ on a matter is he rescued from such ideas.

Peter concludes this section with a word of assurance to his readers as they persevered humbly and submissively, vigilantly and courageously in the midst of many persecutions, sufferings, and trials—they were not alone. He reminded them that the same experiences of suffering were being accomplished by their brethren who are in the world. Believers in other places could empathize with them because every segment of the Christian community has experienced or will experience attack from the Enemy (cf. Heb. 13:3). God allows this form of painful testing to accomplish His perfect work in the lives of His elect (cf. 1:6–7; 4:19; 5:10; Matt. 5:10–12; John 15:18–21; 2 Cor. 1:6–7; James 5:11).[2]


Self-control

5:8

The exhortations in the epilogue of this epistle appear to be loosely related. Peter moves from topic to topic: submission, humility, and self-control. And he seems to lack the time to expand on them. He writes,

  1. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Peter exhorts the Christian who puts his confidence in God to be in full control of his senses. In two other places in his epistle he urges the readers to self-control (1:13; 4:7). Moreover, he admonishes the people to be alert, that is, to be fully awake (1 Thess. 5:6). The warning is clear and crisp: be sober and alert. Be on your guard!

The sentence be self-controlled and alert concentrates on two characteristics: self-control is man’s ability to look at reality with a clear mind, and alertness is a state of watchfulness and readiness. The first characteristic describes a person who controls his own disposition, while the second discloses his readiness to respond to outside influences. A Christian must always be on guard against both internal and external forces that are bent on destroying him. These forces originate in man’s chief adversary, Satan.

Peter calls Satan “your enemy the devil.” He speaks from experience, for he remembers the words of Jesus on the night of the betrayal: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32). That same night Peter denied his Lord when he failed to watch and pray (compare Matt. 26:41).

Satan is the adversary who accuses the Christian in the presence of God. The Old Testament provides a vivid illustration of Satan accusing the high priest Joshua, whose filthy garments God changed for clean ones (Zech. 3:1–5; also see Job 1:6; Rev. 12:10). Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); his residence is on this earth and he restlessly moves from place to place. Satan not only controls the whole world (1 John 5:19), but also is a slanderer who turns the truth into a lie. He slanders God and man, pits one person against another, and undermines the believer’s faith in God.

“The devil prowls around like a roaring lion.” In all of Scripture only Peter portrays Satan as a prowling, roaring lion. His simile reminds one of the psalmist’s words: “Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me” (Ps. 22:13; also see Ps. 104:21; Ezek. 22:25).

“Looking for someone to devour.” Were it not for God’s revelation, this portrayal of Satan would strike terror in the heart of a Christian. The believer would have no protection against this fearful adversary. Should he become Satan’s victim he would be ruthlessly destroyed.

A Christian, however, has the protection of spiritual armor (Eph. 6:11–18). When a Christian is fully equipped, the devil is unable to penetrate this armor. Also, Jesus has taught his followers to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). And God declares that Satan’s defeat is through the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Nevertheless, the Christian must always be on full alert “against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11).

The prince of darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure,

One little Word shall fell him.

—Martin Luther

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 5:8

νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε—two aorist active imperatives are written in the form of clear, distinct commands. Both aorists are constative; “this use of the aorist contemplates the action in its entirety.”

τινα καταπιεῖν—Bruce M. Metzger defends this reading as original and states that “the others are scribal attempts to alleviate the difficulty of the absolute use of καταπιεῖν.”

  1. Resistance

5:9

  1. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
  2. “Resist him.” The parallel in James 4:7 is striking: “Resist the devil.” And Paul urges the Ephesians to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (6:11, 13). For Christians the state of being alert must continue unabated.

How do we oppose Satan? Peter says, “[By] standing firm in the faith.” The Greek word translated “standing firm” means “solid”; that is, in respect to faith the believer must be solid and unmovable. For example, Paul uses the word solid when he writes, “God’s solid foundation stands firm” (2 Tim. 2:19). The word faith, however, can be taken in a subjective sense of one’s personal faith and trust in God. It can also be objective faith; that is, the body of Christian doctrine. Although Peter uses the word subjectively in other passages (1:5, 7, 9), here the context favors the objective sense. Peter refers not so much to the faith of the individual as to the faith, or beliefs, of the worldwide body of believers. Thus the term faith relates to the teachings of the Christian church.

  1. “Because you know.” Peter reminds the readers that the Christian church is universal. For this reason the believers must stand together against Satan. The expression you know refers not to knowing how to do something but to knowing (thinking about) somebody. In this case, Peter calls the attention of the readers to fellow Christians in other parts of the world.
  2. “That your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Here is a literal translation of the Greek: “That the same experiences of sufferings are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (NASB). Peter does not say “the same sufferings” but “the same kind of sufferings.” Perhaps he wants to point to the exact experience other Christians have to endure and thus put it in emphatic form. He conveys the message that the readers ought to see that their sufferings are only part of Christian martyrdom.

In the Greek, Peter chooses the word brotherhood to portray the Christian community of brothers and sisters. Peter is saying, “The same sufferings which happen to your brethren are also undergone by you.” Christian men and women throughout the world are suffering for the sake of Christ. Because of the fellowship of these saints, this information should be heartening to the readers and should not surprise them (see 4:12).

  1. “Are undergoing.” Translations of this Greek verb vary, with some translators giving it an active (middle) connotation and others a passive. As some stress that suffering is an experience, others state that through it the sufferers accomplish God’s purpose. In fact, the Christian who suffers because of Christ rejoices when Christ’s glory is revealed (4:13–14); the time of suffering is but “a little while” (v. 10). In his epistle Peter mentions suffering and glory in the same breath. “Thus the Christian awaits not the end of suffering but its goal.”

Doctrinal Considerations in 5:8–9

Out of the numerous symbols the Bible uses to portray spiritual truths, I select two that appear in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. They are the symbols of the snake and of the lion. Both of them are descriptive of both Satan and Jesus Christ. The sign of the snake appears in the account about Adam and Eve in Eden; there it depicts Satan (Gen. 3:1–15). In the last book of the Bible, Satan bears the name that ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9; 20:2).

Toward the end of Israel’s desert journey, Moses put a bronze snake on a pole so that anyone bitten by a venomous snake might look at it and live (Num. 21:8–9). Note that the symbol of the snake in the desert points to Jesus lifted up on a cross so “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15).

Peter portrays Satan as a prowling, roaring lion that seeks to devour anyone in its path. However, the lion is also the symbol of sovereignty; first it refers to the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9), and then it represents Judah’s greatest descendant, Jesus Christ, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5).

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 5:9

τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων—this is a peculiar Greek construction designed to stress “the same ‘kinds’ of sufferings, rather than the same sufferings.” Observe that παθημάτων is plural.[3]


8 To entrust oneself fully to divine care is not to conclude that we have no role to play. Peter continues, “Be self-controlled and alert.” The reason for this is “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” While the profile of “Satan” in the OT is (relatively speaking) low, in 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6–12; 2:1–8; and Zechariah 3:1–2, he manifests the character of an accuser (diaballō, “to press charges” or “accuse,” GK 1330) and provoker—a role amplified in the NT (Mt 4:10; 13:37; 16:23; Jn 6:70; 1 Co 7:5; 2 Co 11:14; 12:7; Eph 4:27; 6:11; 1 Ti 3:7; 1 Jn 3:8; Rev 12:9; 20:2, 7, 10). Vigilance is being accented by Peter as he prepares to conclude his letter—and with good reason, for he no doubt agonizes over the lack of it at a critical time leading up to the crucifixion of his Lord (Mt 26:38–46; Mk 14:32–42; Lk 2:39–46).

Often in the OT, persecutors are compared to a crouching lion waiting to attack and devour (e.g., Ps 7:2; 10:8–10; Jer 4:7; Eze 19:6; Na 2:11–13). Because in Scripture the image of a devouring lion is not infrequently associated with the persecutor, this image is effective in the thought of Peter.

9 The readers, however, are not called to fear the devil; they are called to opposition. Peter’s response is simple: “Resist him”—a strategy also found in James (4:7; cf. also Eph 6:10–13), remaining “firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers [and sisters] throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Solidarity with those whose experience is the same creates an extraordinary bond and motivation to persevere. Whether people share suffering or joy, this common fellowship (what the NT calls koinōnia [GK 3126] breeds uncommon motivation.[4]


5:8 Although we should not worry, we must be sober and vigilant, because we have a powerful adversary, the devil. To be sober means to be serious-minded, to take a realistic approach to life, to be intelligent concerning the stratagems of Satan. Pentecost well says:

An individual who takes no cognizance of the nature or character of the world, one who is unmindful of the purposes and attacks of our adversary, the Devil, can afford to live in a lighthearted or flippant way. But for one who sees life as Jesus Christ sees it, there must be an entirely new attitude, an entirely new outlook characterized by sobriety.

There must also be constant vigilance, a preparedness to meet every attack of the wicked one. Here the adversary is described as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The devil has different poses. Sometimes he comes like a snake, seeking to lure people into moral corruption. Sometimes he disguises himself as an angel of light, attempting to deceive people in the spiritual realm. Here, as a roaring lion, he is bent on terrorizing God’s people through persecution.

5:9 We are not to surrender to his fury. Rather we must resist him through prayer and God’s word. We do not have strength in ourselves to oppose him, but as we are firm in our faith, in our dependence on the Lord, we can resist him.

One of Satan’s devices is to discourage us with the thought that our sufferings are unique. As we pass through the fire of affliction, it is easy to faint under the mistaken idea that no one else has as much trouble as we do. Peter reminds us that the same sufferings are experienced by our Christian brotherhood throughout the world.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 280–286). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 201–204). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 354–355). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2281). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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