God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:13-14 Peace in Christ.
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 31, 2022
13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (NIV)
In my introduction to the book I showed that many take “Babylon” here to be a cryptogram or enigma for Rome. There is no record at all of Peter ever going to the Babylon in Mesopotamia, nor to the little fortress of Babylon in Egypt at the border between lower and middle Egypt (built in the days of the son of Cyrus the Great). The place that is so likely as to be certain is Rome. The “she” here must be the church in Rome. An intense persecution began against Christians in Rome in July 64 when the city burned. Rome is also called Babylon in other places in the New Testament. Acts 7:43 is the last place that the old Mesopotamian Babylon is meant by this word. Every use of “Babylon” after Acts 7:43 is a reference to Rome: 1 Peter 5:13; Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10 and 18:21. I don’t think that anybody in Palestine was fooled by this enigma, but maybe a few in Rome didn’t understand. The Jews understood, though. Babylon was a condemned city because of her many sins: “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19). And again: “At the sound of Babylon’s capture the earth will tremble; its cry will resound among the nations” (Jeremiah 50:46). These prophecies were about the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, but the same words would apply to the abomination of Rome; Rome that had already driven away the Jews (Acts 18:2) and would soon begin to persecute, execute, and crucify the followers of Jesus Christ.
“My son Mark” is the Mark who wrote the second Gospel, the same Mark who had traveled with Paul and Barnabas and worked with Barnabas on the Island of Cyprus. Although Mark made mistakes in his life, as do we all, Paul gave this judgment: “He is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
What was the kiss of love? We can say with certainty that we no longer have this custom. It was a greeting that Paul also mentions: Romans 16:16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (and see 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Usually reserved today for spouses, sweethearts and children, the kiss was used as a greeting that showed familiarity, fellowship, affection, and a common bond. Between Christians, this was the bond of faith.
Peter concludes with a happy statement, using a fairly common point of grammar we call the dative of sphere. He says “those in Christ” (τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ). Earlier, the Apostle talked about “good behavior in Christ” (3:16) and God’s eternal glory in Christ (5:10). Here, “in Christ” is where we receive true peace. In many ways, Greek is an excellent language for describing mathematics, geometry, and trigonometry. The nominative (subject) case describes a thing as it is (such as “my son Mark” in verse 13). The accusative (object) case draws our attention to who or what an action happens to, such as the “one another” who get kissed at the beginning of verse 14. The genitive case describes a thing’s origin or whatever comes out of the thing, or what kind of thing it is, such as what kind of kiss is the kiss “of peace” in verse 14. The dative case (this is the form we encounter at the end of verse 14) can show that a person or thing is the indirect object of an action, or, in this setting, it draws a circle or sphere around the person to show that those within that sphere belong to Christ. But anyone outside the sphere of Christ and his blessings do not have peace at all. And there is no part way that is possible in the grammar of this verse: Either you are within Christ and believe in him and receive all of his blessings, or else you don’t. This gives comfort to all who believe.
This is an excellent conclusion for such a letter. The Apostle has carried his readers from the altar of grace and salvation to the need to live a holy life in the home and in the world, and to submit to authorities as one submits to Christ, even in the face of trouble, hardship and persecution. He has reminded us of the importance of the way we live as a testimony to the faith in our hearts, with this final reassurance of peace in Christ. We are “in Christ,” because we know him, we trust in him, we are saved by him, and in him alone, we have the blessings of salvation, the resurrection of the living body, and eternal life. This truly is peace.
Pastor Timothy Smith