The Latter Epistles – 1 Peter 5

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.  Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

  • 1 Peter 5:1-14

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

1 Peter 5:1 ‘humility’: “Peter did not introduce himself in this letter as an apostle or a great spiritual leader, but simply as another elder.  However, he did mention the fact that he had personally witnessed Christ’s sufferings (see Matt. 26:36ff).  The Greek word translated ‘witness’ gives us our English word ‘martyr.’  We think of a ‘martyr’ only as one who gives his life for Christ, and Peter did that; but basically, a ‘martyr’ is a witness who tells what he has seen and heard.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful

1 Peter 5:1-4 ‘need for shepherding’: “Times of persecution demand God’s people have adequate spiritual leadership.  If judgment is to begin at God’s house (1 Peter 4:17), then that house had better be in order, or it will fall apart!  This explains why Peter wrote this special message to the leaders of the church, to encourage them to do their work faithfully.  Leaders who run away in times of difficulty are only proving that they are hirelings and not true shepherd (John 10:12-14).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful

1 Peter 5:2 ‘what is shepherding?’: “Peter is emphasizing the fact that an elder, occupying the office of a bishop (elders are never spoken of in the singular, there was never to be only one), is to be the shepherd of a flock.  Shepherding suggests provision and protection, supervision and discipline, instruction and direction.  The ministry of an elder is to be performed in a very positive way, but Peter also gives a negative injunction.
“First of all, Peter says that elders are to minister for the right reason, in the right spirit, not because they must do it but because they freely choose to do so.  …
“’Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.’  Peter makes it clear that there must not only be the right reason – the right spirit, because they freely choose to serve – but there must also be the right motive for service.  It is not to be for material gain but for the sheer delight of doing it.  An elder is to find satisfaction in the job itself rather than in what he gets out of it.”

  • J. Vernon McGee, First Peter – Thru the Bible Commentary Series

1 Peter 5:5-6 ‘younger submit to the elder’: “This has been reversed in our day – today the elder is supposed to submit to the younger.  Young people are the ones who are protesting, and they are the ones who want to discard the establishment.  However, the Christian young person needs to realize that the Word of God says. ‘Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.’  After all, your father, if you have a good or a godly father, has a lot of sense and maybe more sense than you have.
“A friend of mine told me, ‘I was ashamed of my dad at the time when I went away to college.  Although he had made good money, and he was an executive, I was ashamed of him.  He had such old-fashioned ideas; he was a real square.  When I finished college and got out in the business world, I didn’t see him for a couple of years.  When I did see him again, I was absolutely amazed to see how much he’d learned in just six years!’  A lot of young people find out, after they themselves have been out in the school of hard knocks for awhile, that their dads have learned a great deal.
“…  In other words, believers should not insist on having their way over others. … Actually we are to be armed with [humility]; that is the picture that is given…”

  • J. Vernon McGee, First Peter – Thru the Bible Commentary Series

1 Peter 5:6 ‘Humble’: “Pride is so natural to fallen human beings that it springs up in the heart like weeds in a watered garden.  We may hunt down this fox and think we have destroyed it, but our exultation is pride.  None have more pride than those who dream that they have none.  Pride is a sin with a thousand lives and a thousand shapes.  By perpetual change it escapes capture.
“Therefore, let us humble ourselves under the hand of God as creatures under the hand of the Creator, as chastened children under a father’s rod.  Many people have been humbled, and yet they have not become humble.  There is a great difference between the two things.  If God withdraws his grace and allows a Christian to fall into sin, that fall humbles him in the sight of people, and yet he may not be humble.  He may never have a true sense of how evil his action has been.  He may still persevere in his pride and be far from humility.  The most hopeful way of avoiding this humbling affliction is to humble ourselves.  Let us be humble that we may not be humbled.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 5:7 ‘casting cares’: “His care, though tender and comprehensive, causes no anxiety to him, for his great mind is more than equal to the task.  But our ferments within us and threatens the destruction of our meager souls.  We are to cast our care, which is folly, upon the Lord, for he exercises a care, which is wisdom.  Care to us is exhausting, but God is all sufficient.  Care to us is sinful, but God’s care of us is holy.  Care distracts us from service, but the divine mind does not forget one thing while remembering another.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 5:8-9 ‘the devil’: “Satan knows how to use God’s providence to serve his own ends.  One of the greatest mercies God grants is not permitting our inclinations and opportunities to meet.  Have we not sometimes noticed that when we have had the inclination to sin there has been no opportunity, and when the opportunity has presented itself, we have no inclination toward it?  Satan’s principal aim with believers is to bring their appetites and his temptations together, to get their souls into a dry, seared state, and then to strike the match, and make them burn!  He is so crafty and wily with the experience of many centuries that human beings, who are but of yesterday, can scarcely be considered a match for him.  What should we do to overcome this adversary?  ‘Resist him, firm in the faith.’  This is our first means of defense.  The devil will soon give up if he finds that his attacks drive us to Christ.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 5:10 ‘share in His glory’: “To believe we are totally and eternally debt free is seldom easy.  Even if we’ve stood before the thrown and heard it from the king himself, we still doubt.  As a result many are forgiven only a little, not because the grace of the king is limited, but because the faith of the sinner is small.  God is willing to forgive all.  He’s willing to wipe the slate completely clean.  He guides us to a pool of mercy and invites us to bathe.  Some plunge in, but others just touch the surface.  They leave feeling unforgiven. …
“Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness is born.  But where the grace of God is embraced, forgiveness flourishes. …
“The more we immerse ourselves in grace, the more likely we are to give grace.”

  • Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace

1 Peter 5:10 ‘suffering – temporarily’: “This present suffering is just for a little while.  Then Christ Himself will restore us to strength and health – a strength that can never fail, a vitality that can never fade, reserved for us in heaven.  The world is temporal and temporary.  God will bring an end to the world – but you and I will go on forever with Him.  This is God’s plan.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

1 Peter 5 ‘Reflection’: “Some time ago I heard a man attempt to pour ridicule upon the custom of pastoral preaching.  He didn’t believe much in going to church every week to hear the Word of God expounded.  He thought it quite unnecessary.  After a man is converted he should go out at once and begin to win souls, not go to church and hear preaching.
“So argued this good brother, and to prove his point he reasoned that a farmer candles eggs once, not every week.  As soon as the eggs have been candled they are straightway crated and shipped off to market, not taken out the next week and candled again.  This all sounded so convincing that one less stubborn might have just surrendered without a fight and handed in his credentials.  No more preaching from the pulpit to eggs that had already been candled!  The very thought of that farmer candling the same eggs every week would have been too much!  Where had I been all my life not to have thought of that before?
“But there was one very serious weakness in the argument:  Christ did not say to Peter, ‘Candle my eggs’; He said, ‘Feed my sheep.’  Christians are not eggs to be candled; they are sheep to be fed.  Feeding sheep is not a job to be gotten over with once and for all; it is a loving act to be repeated at regular intervals as long as the sheep live.  Peter well understood his Lord’s meaning and years later admonished certain elders of the church to ‘feed the flock of God which is among you’ (1 Peter 5:2).  Not one word did he say about eggs!
“Figures of speech should illustrate truth, not originate it.  Christians are living creatures dependent upon food and must be fed well and often if they are to remain healthy.  Our Lord selected the figure of sheep because it accords with the facts.  The figure of eggs does not.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men

My Thoughts

First, if you have no idea what candling an egg is, you shine a light through the egg to see if the egg has been fertilized.  If you have a baby chick growing in the egg, you can hatch it.  If you do not have anything growing inside, you can make an omelet, scrambled eggs, etc.  When I grew up on a turkey farm, you had to gather the eggs quickly.  The tom turkeys, those of the alpha-tom variety, are aggressive and they can destroy the eggs if given the opportunity, either to eat or preventing another tom turkey from taking over.  The workers in the field would gather the eggs and take them to the hatchery.  The eggs would then be candled with an electric light and sorted.  The eggs that had failed to be fertilized by the tom turkey would be set aside and our family would use them as eggs for breakfast.  We would prefer the workers only gather the fertilized eggs, but the visible signs that the tom had sprayed the eggs in the field are not as accurate as a light shining through the egg. Thus, without the tom turkey, or rooster, to fertilize the egg, candling the egg again a day later is redundant and a waste of time.  Yet, Rev. Tozer’s point is clear.  We are sheep, not eggs.

The first image of a good elder is that the elder must be a shepherd.  The good shepherd knows his/her flock.  I was amazed at our previous pastor.  With just a passing comment, he would remember what you said.  He would follow up to see how you were doing.  And when you have 800 souls, that is a lot of following up.  Our new pastor is doing a good job as well.  Pastoral care is not for everyone.  It takes that special touch.  But each of us can shepherd the flock in other ways.  Caring for and knowing the flock are essential.

Humility is also a key factor.  I have known ruling bodies that require a team to get anything done, because they consider themselves as the brains of the outfit.  They need subjects to boss around.  That is not the image that Peter portrays here.  I remember my old military training.  “A commander commands, but a leader leads.”  In other words, a leader gets his hands dirty.  That means that you start working hard and the others of your team will follow.  “Supervision” should only be required if someone is confused as to what to do or how to do it.  Yet, in the Presbyterian church, it seems universal that the elders boss people around and the ones they boss around the most are the deacons, who do all the lifting.  That may not be true of all elders and I have known deacons who never lifted a finger to do anything, but I have seen it in so many churches that it is far too common, and it is cringe worthy.  Elders must be leaders and not commanders.

And then the final two charges to elders are to resist Satan and stand firm in faith.  Peter describes Satan as a lion, but Satan can also be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – back to the analogy that we are all sheep in the need of a good shepherd who knows his flock – thus finding the wolf among us.

And the overall theme of suffering returns in the final comments.  Peter describes the suffering as lasting only a little while.  In the midst of excruciating pain, we want it gone right then, but it never seems to last too long – long enough and then some, but after a while, you find ways of coping.  And even then, the human life is a terminal disease.  Our suffering will come to an end.

And then regarding the salutations at the end, Peter mentions two people, Silas and Mark.  This letter was written after the third mission trip of Paul.  Silas would be available to assist Peter.  At this point, both Paul and Peter were relying upon the help of John Mark.  Some commentaries suggest that Mark may have come to faith by the preaching of Peter, thus the “son” reference.  Yet, the home of John Mark, his parent’s home, was a gathering place in Jerusalem for the apostles.  It is thought that it is in John Mark’s parents’ home where the Last Supper occurred, but it is documented that Peter went to that house after the angel rescued him from prison.  Mark must have been a scribe, but at least he was used in writing letters.  When Paul does not specify “in my own hand,” he probably had someone like Mark taking dictation.

And as for the lady in Babylon, I find little reference to this as a person, and vague concepts as to a place:  Egyptian Babylon?, Mesopotamian Babylon?, Rome?, or Jerusalem?  Some think that Peter was in “Babylon” either figuratively or literally.  I think that the “she” is referring to female relatives or even the bride of Christ, the church, those members of the church with Peter at the time.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. What area of your life would you like God to restore and make you strong, firm and steadfast?
“2. What leadership responsibilities do you have?  (We all have some!)  How do you score on Peter’s leadership test?  How can you improve your score?
“3. In your life, where is the ‘lion’ (v.8): (a) Just looking for you?  (b) Nibbling at your heels?  (c) Chewing you up?  How can your group help you resist him?  What in this letter has helped?
“4. What pictures of Christ has Peter drawn in this letter?  How do those pictures bring peace (5:14) to you?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

As for question 2, the person who thinks of themselves as not having leadership qualities may be better suited for leadership than those who think leadership is their “spiritual gift.”  It takes humility to be a good leader and those who are proud of their leadership abilities are often tyrants who lead by intimidation, even if the intimidation is only perceived by others.  It conjures the “lording it over others” comment from the Apostle Peter.

While we might think of Satan as a lion, something to be feared, something very powerful, Satan does some of his best work when we are not paying close attention, and with those who do not think Satan exists, they are totally within Satan’s grasp.  We must all be on our guard.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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