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Devotion for Dec. 23, 2009


Because of the quality of ink, pens, and parchment in the ancient world, letter writing was no easy task. Even the highly educated often required the help of an amanuensis, or secretary, in drafting an epistle. If an amanuensis was used, it was not uncommon for the "sender" to attach a brief greeting at the end of the letter in his or her own hand. Letter writing was not a solitary affair, but often involved several people working together.

When we come to the end of 1 Peter, we likely have an example of this joint effort for letter writing in antiquity. Peter tells us that "with the help of Silas . . . I have written to you briefly" (v. 12a). Not only did Silas help to pen the letter, many commentators also think that he was probably the letter-bearer to the churches in Asia Minor. In other words, without the help of his "faithful brother" Silas, Peter could not carry out his ministry and care for the churches. Such a picture of joint effort is an apt portrait of the communal life in Christ depicted in the final words of 1 Peter.

This care for the broader church community is expressed again in Peter's explanation for his writing: to encourage them and to testify that "this is the true grace of God" (v. 12b). In the painful trials this community faced, Peter sends a word of hope, encouraging them to "stand fast" in the faith (v. 12c).

Christ's church, though separated by miles, can still encourage one another. Writing all the way from Rome (the typical referent behind "Babylon" in v. 13), Peter reminds his audience that they stand together, both being chosen by God. Peter also reminds them that the Christians in Rome have not forgotten their brothers and sisters across the Mediterranean, but wish them Christ's peace. In turn, Peter exhorts his audience to extend the same kind of encouragement and love to one another with the "kiss of love" (v. 14). What a picture of the unity of Christ's church!

Apply the Word

With the fast-paced world of cell phones, e-mails and text messaging, the age-old activity of letter writing has fallen out of fashion. Yet who of us doesn't delight to receive in the mail a hand-written letter from a dear friend? Find time this week to sit down and hand-write a letter to a friend, family member, or church leader and let them know that you are thinking of them. Express your love and care for them, encouraging them to "stand fast" in the "true grace of God."

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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