1 Peter 5:13
The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you; and so does Marcus my son.
The Revised Version omits "the Church," and substitutes "she"; explaining in a marginal note that there is a difference of opinion as to whether the sender of the letter is a community or an individual. All the old MSS., with one weighty exception, follow the reading, "she that is at Babylon." That the sender of the letter is a church, symbolically designated as a "lady," seems the natural meaning. Then there is another question — Where was Babylon? An equal diversity of opinion has arisen. In my own opinion "Babylon" means Rome. We have here the same symbolical name as in the Book of Revelation, where it is intended primarily as an appellation for the imperial city, which has taken the place filled in the Old Testament by Babylon, as the concentration of antagonism to the kingdom of God.
I. WE HAVE HERE AN OBJECT LESSON AS TO THE UNITING POWER OF THE GOSPEL. Just think of the relations which, in the civil world, subsisted between Rome and its subject provinces: the latter, with bitter hatred in their hearts to everything belonging to the oppressing city, having had their freedom crushed down and their aspirations ruthlessly trampled upon; the former, with the contempt natural to metropolitans in dealing with far off provincials. The same kind of relationship subsisted between Rome and the outlying provinces of its unwieldy empire as between England, for instance, and its Indian possessions. And the same uniting bond came in which binds the Christian converts of these Eastern lands of ours to England by a far firmer bond than any other. The separating walls were high, but, according to the old saying, you cannot build walls high enough to keep out the birds; and spirits, winged by the common faith, soared above all earthly made distinctions and met in the higher regions of Christian communion. Now our temptation is not so much to let barriers of race and language and distance weaken our sense of Christian community, as it is to let even smaller things than these do the same tragical office for us. And we, as Christian people, are bound to try and look over the fences of our "denominations" and churches, and recognise the wider fellowship and larger company in which all these are merged.
II. We note, further, THE CLEAR RECOGNITION HERE OF WHAT IS THE STRONG BOND UNITING ALL CHRISTIANS. Peter would probably have been very much astonished if he had been told of the theological controversies that were to be waged round that word "elect." The emphasis here lies, not on "elect," but on "together." It is not the thing so much as the common possession of the thing which bulks largely before the apostle. In effect he says, "The reason why these Roman Christians that have never looked you Bithynians in the face do yet feel their hearts going out to you, and send you their loving messages, is because they, in common with you, have been recipients of precisely the same Divine act of grace." By the side of these transcendent blessings which they possessed in common, how pitiably insignificant all the causes which kept them apart looked and were! And so here we have a partial parallel to the present state of Christendom, in which are seen at work, on one hand, superficial separation; on the other, underlying unity. The splintered peaks may stand, or seem to stand, apart from their sister summits, or may frown at each other across impassable gorges, but they all belong to one geological formation, and in the depths their bases blend indistinguishably into a continuous whole. Their tops are miles apart, but beneath the surface they are one.
III. Then, lastly, WE MAY FIND HERE A HINT AS TO THE PRESSING NEED FOR SUCH A REALISATION OF UNITY. "The Church that is in Babylon" was in a vary uncongenial place. Thank God, no Babylon is so Babylonish but that a Church of God may be found planted in it. No circumstances are so unfavourable to the creation and development of the religious life but that the religious life may grow there. An orchid will find footing upon a bit of stick, because it draws nourishment from the atmosphere; and they who are fed by the influx of the Divine Spirit may be planted anywhere, and yet flourish in the courts of our God. But it also gives a hint as to the obligation springing from the circumstances in which Christian people are set, to cultivate the sense of belonging to a great brotherhood. Howsoever solitary, and surrounded by uncongenial associations any Christian man may be, he may feel that he is not alone, not only because his Master is with him, but because there are many others whose hearts throb with the same love, whose lives are surrounded by the same difficulties. If thus you and I, Christian men, are pressed upon on all sides by such worldly associations, the more need that we should let our hearts go out to the innumerable multitude of our fellows, companions in the tribulation and patience and kingdom of Jesus Christ.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.