Contrary to what is normally assumed about the content of 1Peter 5:8, there is nothing in the context of this verse that would point to a spirit being, to whom we often refer as the Devil or Satan. To believe that Peter suddenly and without warning points to such an enemy as this, seems counterproductive and simply doesn’t fit in with how he presents the context of the persecution at hand. Rather the word Peter uses simply means enemy and the same Greek word is used by Jesus in Matthew 5:24 where he says to “agree with your adversary” in hope to settle a matter before it got worse. Peter is speaking of the believers’ human adversaries who are looking for opportunities to cause them trouble.
In 1Peter 5:8 Peter tells his readers to be sober and vigilant, because their adversary (enemy), the devil (slanderer or accuser) is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. This command is given in the context of the persecution underway in Asia Minor.
The persecution against the believers was conducted in a manner where the believer was often slandered or falsely accused of wrongdoing. This is the context of Peter’s word diablolos (G1228) which is translated devil. However, it could just as easily have been translated into slanderer or false accuser as Paul uses the word in 1Timothy 3:3, 11 and Titus 2:3. The whole of Peter’s letter concerns the work of men who seek to twist what the believers say or do into something they could use against them. The sudden appearance of Satan, the Devil, at 1Peter 5:8 seems inappropriate and misleading. Rather than pointing to someone the believer could not see or detect, Peter seems to be saying to be alert for false brethren who might be seeking to abuse them.
Thayer defines the word sober (G3525) as being “calm and collected in spirit.” It means to be discrete. In Peter’s context of persecution, this is good advice. A discrete person is not libel to be tripped up in an effort to accuse him of evil. Besides its use in 1Peter 5:8, Peter uses the word in 1Peter 1:13 and again in 1Peter 4:7. In both instances Peter calls for soberness (discreteness) in behavior pointing to the coming of Christ, which is in the context of judgment of those who are persecuting the believer, showing the end of the trial is near and the vindication of the believer is at hand. Moreover, Paul uses this same word in 2Timothy 4:5 in the context of “enduring afflictions.”
Peter also tells believers to be vigilant in 1Peter 5:8. Jesus used to word in the context of being on guard in Matthew 24:43 where a householder would have been on guard, if he knew at what time the thief intended on breaking into his home. Peter uses the word in this context, calling for his readers to be especially watchful during this time of persecution, lest they be entrapped by those who wish to do them harm.
In the context of 2Timothy 4:17 and Revelation 13:2 it becomes evident that the use of the word lion has nothing to do with Satan, the Devil. Rather, it concerns men in authority who seek to kill or destroy the work of the believer. The word Peter uses for devour (G2666) is used also by Paul in 1Corinthians 15:54 for death being swallowed up (G2666) in victory. He uses the word again in 2Corinthians 2:7 for someone who repents being swallowed up in much sorrow, if he is not comforted by others. Jesus uses the word in Matthew 23:24 for folks who strain at a gnat but swallow a camel. I believe the idea Peter has in mind especially concerns Jewish believers who might be drawn back into Judaism through persecution—slandered and falsely accused and shunned by former friends. As an aside, Peter could use the word to refer to gentile believers being swallowed up by Judaism as ‘God-fearers’ which some gentile believers were prior to their receiving Christ as their Savior. In any case, the context of Peter’s mention of adversary and the devil refer to human enemies who would slander or accuse the believing community of wrongdoing, in an effort to draw them away from Christ and back into their former religious belief.