Conduct of Elders and Closing Remarks
1 Peter 5
1 Peter 5
1 Peter 5. In this final chapter of the epistle, Peter gives some closing exhortations and salutations. Among them are exhortations concerning oversight in the assembly, and concerning the attacks of the devil. This chapter is full of immense practical value for believers, and serves as a fitting conclusion to the epistle.
Oversight, Submission, and Humility (5:1-7)
Assembly Oversight. One of the provisions that God has given to the church for its profit and blessing is assembly oversight. Oversight is the work of caring for the spiritual needs of the church. While deacons (or servants) care for the material needs of the saints, elders (or overseers) care for the spiritual needs. Oversight falls into the category of office, as distinct from gift and priesthood. Oversight therefore is a local function; i.e. the elders in one assembly have the care of that local assembly, and their authority does not extend to other assemblies. Each believer has a spiritual gift; a special ability in ministry. These gifts function for the edification of the body of Christ, whether in one local assembly or for the whole body of Christ. For example, pastors and teachers function to feed and instruct the saints from the word of God. However, there may not be pastors and teachers in a local assembly, and therefore the oversight will do that work in a local setting. There are four primary passages that deal with oversight: Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5. In addition, there is a similar subject in Hebrews 13 where "guides" are spoken of, which can apply to overseers, and yet it would seem that "guides" have a broader influence, perhaps across multiple assemblies. The primary work of oversight is to "feed the flock of God" (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28). This means setting before the saints that which would meet their spiritual needs. It requires care to know the saints, discernment to know what the needs are, dependence as to how to feed them, and faithfulness to carry out the work. Other aspects of oversight would include: the work of discipline and restoration, the maintenance of peace and unity in the assembly, and vigilance over the inroads of evil. Only one epistle is addressed to elders and deacons; that is the epistle to the Philippians, where the issue of unity is taken up. The seven letters to the seven churches are addressed to "the angel" or responsible element in the assembly, and there we find that the general state of each assembly is the responsibility of the oversight, who are responsible to the Lord Jesus, the Son of man who walks amidst the golden candlesticks.
Exhortation to Elders (vv.1-4)
1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am their fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also am partaker of the glory about to be revealed: v.1 Elders Addressed. Peter next addresses the elders among the Jewish believers. The word for elders is ‘presbuterous’, and means seniors or older ones, and refers specifically to the persons who have the oversight in the assembly (always mentioned as a plurality). Note that the word ‘elder’ can mean ‘older ones’ in a general sense, depending on the context, as in 1 Peter 5:5, but in other places ‘elders’ are those who occupy the office of an overseer, as in Acts 20, where Paul spoke to “the elders of the church”, saying, “…all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:17, 28). The world for overseers is ‘episkopos’, which means ‘those looking on’. It is translated ‘bishops’, and ‘overseers’, referring to the office itself, but the office is filled by elders. Peter speaks as “their fellow-elder”. He was an older man in the same role, having the care of the flock of God (John 21:15-17). He writes as one elder speaking to other elders. He also writes as a “witness of the sufferings of the Christ” and a “partaker of the glory”. He places himself at the two ends of the Lord’s history: the sufferings are past, and the glory is “about to be revealed”. Peter could not claim to be a partaker of Christ’s sufferings, because he had denied the Lord. Yet he had witnessed the sufferings (not atoning), and they had made a profound impression on him. Being prepared to endure hardship is an essential trait for an elder. But he would be a partaker of the glory that will be revealed at the appearing of Christ! Maintaining a focus on the approaching glory will provide sustenance for an elder in their labors.
2 shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising oversight, not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily; 3 not as lording it over your possessions, but being models for the flock. vv.2-3 The Work of Elders. Elders have the care of the local assembly, called “the flock of God which is among you”, and the responsibility to shepherd them (v.2). When the Lord was restoring Peter in John 21, after Peter responded to His three questions, “lovest thou me?”, the Lord told him “Feed my lambs… Shepherd my sheep… Feed my sheep”. The Lord entrusted to the restored and humbled apostle that which was the dearest to his heart. Peter’s heart was settled there, where the Lord Jesus had directed it, on the flock of God. Shepherding is not easy work, but it is vital work. It involves feeding the flock; setting before them spiritual food that meets the needs of their souls. It also involves oversight, providing direction and correction when needed. Three contrasting statements are made that properly frame the character of shepherding:
- Shepherd Voluntarily. The work of an elder is not to be compulsory; “not by necessity, but willingly”. It ought not to be done based on a feeling of duty or obligation. This is why the Spirit of God is the One to raise up elders; a man must be led of the Spirit of God to do the work voluntarily. If one does the work of an elder because they feel obligated, it will often lead to poor leadership and therefore a poor condition in the assembly.
- Shepherd Eagerly. The motive for an elder should never be to get something; “not for base gain, but readily”. An overseer may be supported by the saints financially (1 Tim. 5:17-18), but that should never be a motive for them in service. Hence, Paul could say in 1 Tim. 3:1; “if any one aspires to exercise oversight”. Very often the role of an elder has been exploited by wicked men who have used their “position” in order to gratify their covetousness. That is the total opposite of what an elder should be. An elder should do the work eagerly, happy to do the work without any kind of earthly compensation.
- Shepherd Gently. The character of oversight is to be that of grace; “not as lording it over your possessions, but being models for the flock”. Elders should never view the saints as something belonging to them, as the ‘possessions’ of those in oversight. The sheep do not exist to serve the shepherds, but the shepherds exist to serve the sheep! Often we hear supposed Christian leaders referring to “my flock”. Always the shepherd must remember that it is “the flock of God”. When someone in oversight begins to view the saints as possessions, they have the potential to start exercising dominance over the people by flaunting their “position”. Rather than a lord-possession relationship, the shepherd should have a model-learner relationship with the flock. The elder must exhibit the character of Christ before the flock, such that they see Christianity lived out in practice. The saints have the life of Christ in them, and as they see Christ displayed before them, they actually want to imitate that character. The leadership of an elder is of a gentle nature, employing attraction rather than compulsion.
4 And when the chief shepherd is manifested ye shall receive the unfading crown of glory. v.4 The Reward for Elders. As an encouragement for elders and to keep the proper focus in view, Peter sets before them the elder’s reward; an “unfading crown of glory”. Elders are to remember that they are under-shepherds, and that there is One who is above them and to whom they must answer; the Chief Shepherd. The appearing of Christ is therefore set before the elders: the day of manifestation when rewards will be displayed. The work of shepherding is very difficult and not often recognized on earth. The flock is precious to the heart of Christ, and those who care for His flock will receive a special crown that will not fade away!
The Good, Great, Chief Shepherd. It has been remarked that Psalm 22 presents Christ as the "Good Shepherd" giving His life for the sheep (John 10:11), Psalm 23 presents Him as the "Great Shepherd of the sheep" raised from the dead by "the God of peace" and comforting His saints (Heb. 13:20), and Psalm 24 presents Christ as the "Chief Shepherd" who shall appear in His kingdom glory, giving crowns to the faithful (1 Peter 5:4).
Exhortation to Submission and Humility (vv.5-7)
5 Likewise ye younger, be subject to the elder, and all of you bind on humility towards one another; for “God sets himself against the proud, but to the humble gives grace.” [Prov. 3:34] v.5 Submission and Humility. Submission is a closely connected topic to oversight. Just as the elder was to be subject to the Chief Shepherd, so the younger should “likewise” submit to the elder. We can see by this that the Jews to whom Peter was writing used the term “elder” characteristically rather than officially; i.e. generally older ones. The role of the younger in Christianity is to submit to their elders. Submission is very difficult because it is in our fallen natures to resist the will of another. Yet submission is absolutely critical for there to be peace and blessing. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you… and ye shall find rest” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus Himself is the perfect example of submission. Submission sees beyond the vessel of authority (in this case the elders) to the One who set that authority up. Young people in the subject place have the opportunity to display the same beautiful character displayed in our Lord’s earthly path. But whether young or old, we “all” need humility. Humility is spoken of as “lowliness of mind” (Phil. 2:3). Humility is to think little of ones own importance, not seeking a place or position for self. Humility is the inevitable result of grace received in the heart.1 Humility is the opposite of pride! Peter says to “bind on humility towards one another”. The allusion is to an apron that a slave would tie around their body.2 Maintaining humility is hard, especially when interacting with one another because we all have the flesh! Peter now brings in the issue of the government of God in the life of the believer in connection with humility. God makes His mind known concerning humility and pride in Proverbs 3:34, the same verse that James quotes in James 4:6. God sets Himself against the proud governmentally, and gives grace to the humble. The grace of God is sufficient to meet every circumstance, but whether we meet God’s resistance or grace depends on our humility.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the due time; 7 having cast all your care upon him, for he cares about you. v.6 Humility and Trust. Seeing that God rewards humility by giving grace, it should be our desire to take the place of humility; ” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God”. Pride comes in when we stray from the presence of God. When we abide in the consciousness of who He is – His power, wisdom, and love – it is must easier to humble ourselves. The believer is assured of future exaltation with Christ. It is not our place to seek our own exaltation now. Our place now is to humble ourselves after the pattern of Christ who was exalted in due time (Phil. 2:5-11). Coupled with humility and submission is the fact that we can trust God in the face of trials. Here the trials would be persecution that the Jewish believers were facing. When we submit, we can cast all our cares on Him (Psa. 55:22), knowing that He who loves us unconditionally, proving His love at the cross, has now charged Himself with our care. Therefore, we can bring our burdens to the Lord in prayer, and relinquish them there, trusting His wisdom, love, and power. This will resolve any discouragement, and lead to peace in our soul!3
Every day the Lord himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares he gladly bears and cheers me,
He whose name is Counselor and Power.
The protection of his child and treasure
Is a charge that on himself he laid:
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure”–
This the pledge to me he made.4
The Opposition of the Devil (5:8-11)
8 Be vigilant, watch. Your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour. v.8 Vigilance, and a Description of the Devil. Though God Himself cares for us, Peter warns us that we have an adversary that is seeking to harm us. We must be vigilant or watchful for the inroads of the devil (earlier he warned us to be watchful because the end of all things is at hand, 1 Peter 4:7). Paul reminds us that we are not ignorant of his strategies (2 Cor. 2:11). The Christian has three enemies to contend with: the flesh, the world, and the devil. The devil is called the serpent, Satan, and the dragon. He was the most exalted of God’s angelic creatures, but he is bitterly opposed to Christ and therefore to Christians. The devil was defeated by the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection (Heb. 2:14), yet he is permitted to still act in order to accomplish the will of God. When the purposes God intends are accomplished, the Devil will ultimately be consigned to the lake of fire, made “for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41). Meanwhile, the believer must still contend with the devil today. Satan finds something “in us” on which he can act, unlike the blessed Lord (John 14:30). The flesh is within us, and therefore we are not immune to his attacks. The devil is compared to “a roaring lion” in his opposition to believers, especially in the capacity of persecution. Paul referred to him as a lion in 2 Tim. 4:17, where he showed that the devil was the power behind Nero in his persecution of Christians. A lion’s roar is a frightening thing, and many are terrified into giving up; in this way the devil “devours” them.
9 Whom resist, stedfast in faith, knowing that the selfsame sufferings are accomplished in your brotherhood which is in the world. v.9 Exhortation to Resist (Involves Suffering). Though we need to be sober and watchful, we do not need to be afraid. James tells us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam. 4:7). When we notice ourselves or others giving in to fear, we must “resist” the roaring lion. Satan meets Christ in the believer, and he flees from Christ, because Christ has already defeated him! How do we resist? By not giving in to the Devil’s wishes. This is why we have the armor of God (Eph. 6), to “stand”. We are told to “flee youthful lusts” and “flee fornication”. But we do not need to flee the Devil. If we resist him, it is he who must flee from us! The Devil is stronger than we are apart from Christ. We should not resist in pride or self-confidence, but “steadfast” in personal “faith” and dependence of God, just as the Lord Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness. Peter adds a note of encouragement to the persecuted Jewish believers; “knowing that the selfsame sufferings are accomplished in your brotherhood which is in the world”. There were other believers throughout the world that were facing the same suffering as a result of persecution (e.g. 2 Thess. 1:4). It was a comfort to know that they were not alone; the Christian brotherhood throughout the world is likewise exposed to the hatred and antagonism of the devil.
10 But the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, when ye have suffered for a little while, himself shall make perfect, stablish, strengthen, ground: 11 to him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen. vv.10-11 Grace and Glory. In addition to the fellowship of brethren, Peter would set before the suffering Christians the unfailing purpose of God. He is called “the God of all grace”; the God who is Love, acting according to His own purposes for our eternal blessing. From the very outset of our calling, God had a glorious end in view; He called us “to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus”. Nothing will interfere with that purpose! The devil as a roaring lion may oppose, but the God of all grace will sustain us until that day of glory arrives. He is presented as the God of “all grace”, with a heart so large it goes out to all. In contrast to the glory of an earthly kingdom, He has called us unto “His eternal glory”. The present time that we are passing through, in which believers suffer in trial and persecution, is described as “a little while”. The whole period of Christ’s absence, almost 2000 years, is viewed as “a little while”. The expression is full of tender meaning for us because it brings before us the relative brevity of this lifetime in view the joys of eternity! It has to do with the patience of the saints (see also John 16:17; Heb. 10:37; 1 Peter 1:6; 5:10). The great point here is that God’s purpose for us will be accomplished. The work He began will be completed (Phil. 1:6), and He “himself” will “make perfect, stablish, strengthen, ground” each believer in spiritual maturity. The sufferings of the present time are used by God to accomplish that purpose. This leads on into a doxology of praise, to the glory and exaltation of God for all eternity; “to him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen.”
Concerning Writing the Epistle (5:12)
12 By Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I suppose, I have written to you briefly; exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which ye stand. v.12 Conveyance and Purpose of the Epistle. In closing, Peter remarks on the brother that he relied on to convey the epistle from Babylon to those he had just visited in various Roman provinces (1 Pet. 1:1). The name is quite familiar; “Silvanus” or as he is called throughout Acts, “Silas”. He was one of the chief men among the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), and one of the men entrusted with the letter from Jerusalem to Antioch. He was a travel companion with Paul on his second missionary journey, serving especially in Achaia and Macedonia, and is often mentioned in Paul’s letters in fellowship with Paul and Timothy (2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). Peter speaks of him as “Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I suppose”, by his opinion of Silvanus forming a link between his own ministry and that of the apostle Paul’s. Peter then gives his purpose in writing the epistle; “exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which ye stand”. Peter wanted to establish these Jewish believers in their Christian position. It wasn’t by law, but by the grace of God they they stood faultless before Him (Acts 15:11). They were keenly aware of what they had given up in leaving Judaism. Peter writes to them as an apostle of the circumcision, to encourage and establish these believers in “the true grace of God”. He wanted them to know that, in leaving Judaism, they had gained something incomparably greater. Peter wrote his first epistle in approximately A.D. 63.
13 She that is elected with you in Babylon salutes you, and Marcus my son. v.13 Greetings. Peter would pass on the greetings of two dear saints to the believers of the Jewish dispersion. The first was the “elect sister” in Babylon where Peter was writing from. Babylon holds significant historical importance as the location where thousands of Jews were forcefully deported during the Babylonian Captivity, which occurred centuries earlier. Peter was there fulfilling his ministry as the apostle to the circumcision! A mistranslation of this verse has been used by some to support corporate election. In the Authorized Translation it reads “the church that is at Babylon, elected together with you”. This is an erroneous translation. The verse refers to a sister in the city of Babylon, not to an assembly. The Church is never said to be elect as a corporate body, only as individual believers. It is quite possible, even probable, that Peter was referring to his own wife, mentioning her in a gracious and personal way. It is remarkable that Peter was a married man, even from the earliest days of the Lord’s ministry (Matt. 8:14). He was known to lead about his wife with him on journeys in the Lord’s service (1 Cor. 9:5). Peter gives us a different aspect of how Christianity intersects with domestic life, and spoke of believing husband and wife “as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). Second, Peter forwarded salutations from “Marcus” (John Mark). Just as Paul had Timothy as his own son in the faith, Peter had John Mark for a spiritual son. John Mark failed in his service with Paul on the first journey, and Paul refused to take him on a second journey (Acts 15:38). Peter, who himself experienced failure and restoration, seems to have been able to help Marcus (Col. 4:10). A short time after this, Paul could say; “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). This is very much in keeping with the pastoral ministry that was committed to Peter; “Feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep”.
14 Salute one another with a kiss of love. Peace be with you all who are in Christ. v.14 Final Exhortation and Prayer. The final exhortation is for the saints to “Salute one another with a kiss of love”. Peter encouraged the saints to show brotherly love through a common expression of affection used as a greeting for Christians (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). There was to be a ‘kiss’, or display of affection; but it was to be ‘a kiss of love’. Judas kissed the Lord Jesus, but it was a kiss of betrayal (Luke 22:47-48). Joab also gave Amasa a kiss, but it was not genuine (2 Sam. 20:9). God’s desire is for there to be warmth and affection present in the greetings of His saints, and it ought to be genuine. It is remarkable how a simple greeting such as a kiss can remove barriers, soften bitter hearts, and draw the Lord’s people together. The final prayer was for “peace” to be with all the saints “who are in Christ”. Peter’s desire was that the Jewish believers, in spite of all the persecution they were enduring as Christians, might have peace in their souls. God’s desire is the same for us today!
- There is no humility so deep and real as that which the knowledge of grace produces. – A. Miller
- It is a word unique in N. T. usage, and occurs but rarely elsewhere. The figure is taken from the apron a slave girt on to do his work earnestly without soiling his dress. The Lord from a far different motive stooped lower still when He girded Himself with a linen towel to wipe the feet of His own which He washed clean from defilement. This was holy love; and this alone constrains us to bind on lowly-mindedness, to which we are all exhorted by the apostle who had not forgotten his sad ignorance and error on that memorable and touching occasion. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
- Why, Christian, have you not rolled upon Him the weight that oppresses you? Is not His word to us plain and certain? Does He not care for you — He that gave His Son for your sins, He that numbers all the hairs of your head? – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
- Sandell, Carolina. Day by Day. 1865