Multiplied Peace (Part 5)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b ESV).

The fourth principle the apostles share is that grace and peace are multiplied by God. Peter uses the passive voice, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” The implied actor is God. We are stewards of “God’s varied grace” (cf. 1 Peter 4:10). Grace does not just happen, it comes from God. Our reading today says, “God gives grace to the humble” (v. 5). Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22). Peter’s prayer is that God act. “May God multiply grace to you and peace!”

Thunder once roared over the vast plains of North America. It came not from the sky but from the soil, as myriads of black cloven hooves pounded the ground. However, they were hunted to near extinction. In the 1800’s they went from 30-60 million to 325 animals. Fortunately leaders in our country recognized the peril of these wonderful animals and put into place measure insuring the rebuilding of their numbers. In Yellowstone today there are two distinct herds that number about 5,000. Seeing them roam wild in the Lamar Valley reminded me of what it might have looked like when there were millions across the western plains. None of this could have happened without the intervention of men. We also must remember that grace and peace are multiplied by God through human means. If God did this multiplication without respect to human means, Peter would not say these words. They would be pointless. He says them because he believes his words are God’s means of multiplying grace and peace.

We need to see this truth because of how common it is today to think of grace only as unconditional. There is unconditional grace and there is conditional grace. Paul speaks of the “election of grace” (cf. Romans 11:5). That grace is unconditional. God’s election is not a response to conditions we can meet. But there is grace that is a response to conditions we meet. Peter says in our reading today, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (v. 5). God responds to humility with more grace. Humility is a condition of receiving this grace.

Of course, humility itself is a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:23). But the fact that “God is at work in you to do his good pleasure” does not lessen your responsibility to “work out your own salvation” (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). In other words, to say that receiving some grace has conditions does not mean we are left to fulfill the conditions by ourselves. But it is a serious mistake to bring in the doctrine of justification at this point in a way that says, “Christ fulfilled the conditions of God’s blessing, so we don’t have to.” Christ performed some conditions in our place; namely, the ones necessary for God to be 100% for us in spite of our sin. But when he died, he also obtained for us the gift of the Spirit by which we fulfill other conditions for “multiplied” grace and peace. That is what Peter and Paul are praying for.