Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Peter 5
Directions to the elders to feed the flock of God, and not to be lord over God's heritage, that when the chief Shepherd does appear, they may receive a crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:1-4. The young are to submit themselves to the elder, and to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, and cast all their care upon him, 1 Peter 5:5-7. They should be sober and watchful, because their adversary the devil is continually seeking their destruction, whom they are to resist, steadfast in the faith, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 5:9. They are informed that the God of all grace had called them to his eternal glory, 1 Peter 5:10-11. Of Silvanus, by whom this epistle was sent, 1 Peter 5:12. Salutations from the Church at Babylon, 1 Peter 5:13. The apostolic benediction, 1 Peter 5:14.
The elders which are among you - In this place the term πρεσβυτεροι, elders or presbyters is the name of an office. They were as pastors or shepherds of the flock of God, the Christian people among whom they lived. They were the same as bishops, presidents, teachers and deacons, Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 5:17. And that these were the same as bishops the next verse proves.
Who am also an elder - Συμπρεσβυτερος· A fellow elder; one on a level with yourselves. Had he been what the popes of Rome say he was - the prince of the apostles; and head of the Church, and what they affect to be - mighty secular lords, binding the kings of the earth in chains, and their nobles in fetters of iron; could he have spoken of himself as he here does? It is true that the Roman pontiffs, in all their bulls, each style themselves servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God, while each affects to be rex regum, king of kings, and vicar of Jesus Christ. But the popes and the Scriptures never agree.
A witness of the sufferings of Christ - He was with Christ in the garden; he was with him when he was apprehended. and he was with him in the high priest's hall. Whether he followed him to the cross we know not; probably he did not, for in the hall of the high priest he had denied him most shamefully; and, having been deeply convinced of the greatness of his crime, it is likely he withdrew to some private place, to humble himself before God, and to implore mercy. He could, however, with the strictest propriety, say, from the above circumstances, that he was a witness of the sufferings of Christ.
A partaker of the glory - He had a right to it through the blood of the Lamb; he had a blessed anticipation of it by the power of the Holy Ghost; and he had the promise from his Lord and Master that he should be with him in heaven, to behold his glory; John 17:21, John 17:24.
Feed the flock - Do not fleece the flock.
Taking the oversight - Επισκοπουντες· Discharging the office of bishops or superintendents. This is another proof that bishop and presbyter were the same order in the apostolic times, though afterwards they were made distinct.
Not by constraint - The office was laborious and dangerous, especially in these times of persecution; it is no wonder then that even those who were best qualified for the office should strive to excuse themselves with a genuine Nolo episcopari, "I am unwilling to be a bishop."
Not for filthy lucre - Could the office of a bishop, in those early days, and in the time of persecution, be a lucrative office? Does not the Spirit of God lead the apostle to speak these things rather for posterity than for that time? See the notes on 1 Timothy 3:3.
But of a ready mind - Doing all for Christ's sake, and through love to immortal souls.
Neither as being lords over God's heritage - This is the voice of St. Peter in his catholic epistle to the catholic Church! According to him there are to be no lords over God's heritage, the bishops and presbyters who are appointed by the head of the Church are to feed the flock, to guide and to defend it, not to fleece and waste it; and they are to look for their reward in another world, and in the approbation of God in their consciences. And in humility, self-abasement, self-renunciation, and heavenly-mindedness, they are to be ensamples, τυποι, types, to the flock, moulds of a heavenly form, into which the spirits and lives of the flock may be cast, that they may come out after a perfect pattern. We need not ask, Does the Church that arrogates to itself the exclusive title of Catholic, and do its supreme pastors, who affect to be the successors of Peter and the vicars of Jesus Christ, act in this way? They are in every sense the reverse of this. But we may ask, Do the other Churches, which profess to be reformed from the abominations of the above, keep the advice of the apostle in their eye? Have they pastors according to God's own heart, who feed them with knowledge and understanding? Jeremiah 3:15. Do they feed themselves, and not the flock? Are they lords over the heritage of Christ, ruling with a high eclesiastico-secular hand, disputing with their flocks about penny-farthing tithes and stipends, rather than contending for the faith once delivered to the saints? Are they heavenly moulds, into which the spirits and conduct of their flocks may be cast? I leave those who are concerned to answer these questions; but I put them, in the name of God, to all the preachers in the land. How many among them properly care for the flock? Even among those reputed evangelical teachers, are there not some who, on their first coming to a parish or a congregation, make it their first business to raise the tithes and the stipends, where, in all good conscience, there was before enough, and more than enough, to provide them and their families with not only the necessaries, but all the conveniences and comforts of life? conveniences and comforts which neither Jesus Christ nor his servant Peter ever enjoyed. And is not the great concern among ministers to seek for those places, parishes, and congregations, where the provision is the most ample, and the work the smallest? Preacher or minister, whosoever thou art, who readest this, apply not the word to thy neighbor, whether he be state-appointed, congregation-appointed, or self-appointed; take all to thyself; mutato nomine de Te fabula narratur. See that thy own heart, views, and conduct be right with God; and then proceed to the next verse.
When the chief Shepherd - That is, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose is the flock, and who provides the pasture, and from whom, if ye are legally called to the most awful work of preaching the Gospel, ye have received your commission; when he shall appear to judge the world in righteousness, ye who have fed his flock, who have taken the superintendency of it, not by constraint, nor for filthy lucre's sake, not as lords over the heritage, but with a ready mind, employing body, soul, spirit, time and talents, in endeavoring to pluck sinners as brands from eternal burnings, and build up the Church of Christ on its most holy faith; Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away, an eternal nearness and intimacy with the ineffably glorious God; so that ye who have turned many to righteousness shall shine, not merely as stars, but as suns in the kingdom of your Father! O ye heavenly-minded, diligent, self-denying pastors after God's own heart, whether ye be in the Church established by the state, or in those divisions widely separated from, or nearly connected with it, take courage; preach Jesus; press through all difficulties in the faith of your God; fear no evil while meditating nothing but good. Ye are stars in the right hand of Jesus, who walks among your golden candlesticks, and has lighted that lamp of life which ye are appointed to trim; fear not, your labor in the Lord cannot be in vain! Never, never can ye preach one sermon in the spirit of your office, which the God of all grace shall permit to be unfruitful; ye carry and sow the seed of the kingdom by the command and on the authority of your God; ye sow it, and the heavens shall drop down dew upon it. Ye may go forth weeping, though bearing this precious seed; but ye shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you. Amen, even so, Lord Jesus!
Likewise, ye younger - Νεωτεροι probably means here inferiors, or those not in sacred offices; and may be understood as referring to the people at large who are called to obey them that have the rule over them in the Lord. In this sense our Lord, it appears, uses the word, Luke 22:26.
Be subject one to another - Strive all to serve each other; let the pastors strive to serve the people, and the people the pastors; and let there be no contention, but who shall do most to oblige and profit all the rest.
Be clothed with humility - To be clothed with a thing or person is a Greek mode of speech for being that thing or person with which a man is said to be clothed. Be ye truly humble; and let your outward garb and conduct be a proof of the humility of your hearts. Εγκομβωμα, from the original word εγκομβωσασθε, signifies often an outward ornamental garment, tied in different places with knots or bows, probably ornamented all over with bows or knots of different coloured ribands, silk twist, etc. But it also signifies the outward garment worn by servants, slaves, girls, and shepherds, which was rather intended to be the guard of the other garments than an ornament to those thus dressed: and I am rather inclined to take it in this sense than in the former; for as the apostle calls upon them to be subject to each other, he desires them to put on humility, as the encomboma or servant's dress, that they may appear to be such as were ready to serve; and that he cannot refer to this article of clothing as an ornament the next words sufficiently prove: God resisteth the Proud, and giveth grace to the Humble - the proud, with all their ornaments, God resists; while those who are clothed with the humble garment he adorns.
Humble yourselves - Those who submit patiently to the dispensations of God's providence he lifts up; those who lift themselves up, God thrusts down.
If we humble not ourselves under God's grace, he will humble us under his judgments. Those who patiently submit to him, he exalts in due time; if his hand be mighty to depress, it is also mighty to exalt.
Casting all your care - Την μεριμναν· Your anxiety, your distracting care, on him, for he careth for you, ὁτι αυτω μελει περι ὑμων, for he meddles or concerns himself, with the things that interest you. Whatever things concern a follower of God, whether they be spiritual or temporal, or whether in themselves great or small, God concerns himself with them; what affects them affects him; in all their afflictions he is afflicted. He who knows that God cares for him, need have no anxious cares about himself. This is a plain reference to Psalm 55:22; : Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will bear both thee and thy burden.
Be sober - Avoid drunkenness of your senses, and drunkenness in your souls; be not overcharged with the concerns of the world.
Be vigilant - Awake, and keep awake; be always watchful; never be off your guard; your enemies are alert, they are never off theirs.
Your adversary the devil - This is the reason why ye should be sober and vigilant; ye have an ever active, implacable, subtle enemy to contend with. He walketh about - he has access to you everywhere; he knows your feelings and your propensities, and informs himself of all your circumstances; only God can know more and do more than he, therefore your care must be cast upon God.
As a roaring lion - Satan tempts under three forms:
Seeking whom he may devour - Τινα καταπιῃ· Whom he may gulp down. It is not every one that he can swallow down: those who are sober and vigilant are proof against him, these he May Not swallow down; those who are drunken with the cares of this world, etc., and are unwatchful, these he May swallow down. There is a beauty in this verse, and a striking apposition between the first and last words, which I think have not been noticed: Be sober, νηψατε from νη, not, and πιειν to drink; do not drink, do not swallow down: and the word καταπιῃ, from κατα, down, and πιειν, to drink. If you swallow strong drink down, the devil will swallow you down. Hear this, ye drunkards, topers, tipplers, or by whatsoever name you are known in society, or among your fellow sinners. Strong drink is not only the way to the devil, but the devil's way into you; and Ye are such as the devil particularly May swallow down.
Whom resist - Stand against him, αντιστητε . Though invulnerable, he is not unconquerable: the weakest follower of God can confound and overpower him, if he continue steadfast in the faith - believing on the Son of God, and walking uprightly before him. To a soul thus engaged he can do no damage.
The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren - It is the lot of all the disciples of Christ to suffer persecution. The brotherhood, αδελφοτης, the Christian Church, everywhere is exposed to the assaults of men and devils; you are persecuted by the heathen among whom ye live, and from among whom ye are gathered into the fold of Christ: but even those who profess the same faith with you, and who are resident among the Jews, (for so I think εν κοσμῳ, in the world, is here to be understood), are also persecuted, both heathens and Jews being equally opposed to the pure and holy doctrines of the Gospel. Any man who has read the Greek Testament with any attention must have observed a vast number of places in which the word κοσμος, which we translate world, means the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and nothing else.
But the God of all grace - The Fountain of infinite compassion, mercy, and goodness. Mohammed has conveyed this fine description of the Divine Being in the words with which he commences every surat or chapter of his Koran, two excepted; viz.;
Bismillahi arrahmani arraheemi .
Of which the best translation that can be given is that of the apostle, In the name of the God of all grace; the God who is the most merciful and the most compassionate, who is an exuberant Fountain of love and compassion to all his intelligent offspring.
Who hath called us - By the preaching of the Gospel.
Unto his eternal glory - To the infinite felicity of the heavenly state.
By Christ Jesus - Through the merit of his passion and death, by the influence of his Holy Spirit, by the precepts of his Gospel, and by the splendor of his own example.
After that ye have suffered a while - Ολιγον παθοντας· Having suffered a little time; that is, while ye are enduring these persecutions, God will cause all to work together for your good.
Make you perfect - Καταρτισει, στηριξει, σθενωσει, θεμελιωσει· All these words are read in the future tense by the best MSS. and versions.
He will make you perfect. - Καταρτισει· Put you in complete joint as the timbers of a building.
Stablish - Στηριξει· Make you firm in every part; adapt you strongly to each other, so that you may be mutual supports, the whole building being one in the Lord.
Strengthen - Σθενωσει· Cramp and bind every part, so that there shall be no danger of warping, splitting, or falling.
Settle - Θεμελιωσει· Cause all to rest so evenly and firmly upon the best and surest foundation, that ye may grow together to a holy temple in the Lord: in a word, that ye may be complete in all the mind that was in Christ; supported in all your trials and difficulties; strengthened to resist and overcome all your enemies; and after all abide, firmly founded, in the truth of grace. All these phrases are architectural; and the apostle has again in view the fine image which he produced 1 Peter 2:5; (note).
To him - The God of all grace, be glory - l honor and praise be ascribed, and dominion - e government of heaven, earth, and hell, for ever - rough time, and ever - rough eternity. Amen - be it, so let it be, and so it shall be. Amen and Amen!
By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose - To say the least of this translation, it is extremely obscure, and not put together with that elegance which is usual to our translators. I see no reason why the clause may not be thus translated: I have written to you, as I consider, briefly, by Silvanus, the faithful brother. On all hands it is allowed that this Silvanus was the same as Silas, Paul's faithful companion in travel, mentioned Acts 15:40; Acts 16:19; and, if he were the same, Peter could never say as I suppose to his faith and piety: but he might well say this to the shortness of his epistle, notwithstanding the many and important subjects which it embraced. See the Syriac, Vulgate, etc. If the words be applied to Silvanus, they must be taken in a sense in which they are often used: "I conclude him to be a trustworthy person; one by whom I may safely send this letter; who will take care to travel through the different regions in Asia, Pontus, Galatia, and Bithynia; read it in every Church; and leave a copy for the encouragement and instruction of Christ's flock." And in such a state of the Church, in such countries, no ordinary person could have been intrusted with such a message.
Exhorting - Calling upon you to be faithful, humble, and steady.
And testifying - Επιμαρτυρων, Earnestly witnessing, that it is the true grace - the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ, in which ye stand, and in which ye should persevere to the end.
The Church that is at Babylon - After considering all that has been said by learned men and critics on this place, I am quite of opinion that the apostle does not mean Babylon in Egypt, nor Jerusalem, nor Rome as figurative Babylon, but the ancient celebrated Babylon in Assyria, which was, as Dr. Benson observes, the metropolis of the eastern dispersion of the Jews; but as I have said so much on this subject in the preface, I beg leave to refer the reader to that place.
Instead of Babylon, some MSS. mentioned by Syncellus in his Chronicon have Ιοππῃ, Joppa; and one has Ῥωμῃ, Rome, in the margin, probably as the meaning, according to the writer, of the word Babylon.
Elected together with you - Συνεκλεκτη· Fellow elect, or elected jointly with you. Probably meaning that they, and the believers at Babylon, received the Gospel about the same time. On the election of those to whom St. Peter wrote, see the notes on 1 Peter 1:2.
And ...Marcus my son - This is supposed to be the same person who is mentioned Acts 12:12, and who is known by the name of John Mark; he was sister's son to Barnabas, Colossians 4:10, his mother's name was Mary, and he is the same who wrote the gospel that goes under his name. He is called here Peter's son, i.e. according to the faith, Peter having been probably the means of his conversion. This is very likely, as Peter seems to have been intimate at his mother's house. See the account, Acts 12:6-17.
Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity - See the notes on Romans 16:16, and on 1 Corinthians 16:20; (note). In the above places the kiss is called a holy kiss; here, φιληματι αγαπης, a kiss of Love; i.e. as a mark of their love to each other, in order that misunderstandings might be prevented. But ten or twelve MSS., with the Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, and Vulgate, have ἁγιῳ, holy; salute one another with a Holy kiss. The difference is not great.
Peace be with you all - May all prosperity, spiritual and temporal, be with all that are in Christ Jesus - at are truly converted to him, and live in his Spirit obedient to his will.
Amen - Is wanting, as usual, in some of the principal MSS. and versions.
The subscriptions are, as in other cases, various.
In the Versions:
The end of the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter. - Syriac.
The First Catholic Epistle of Peter the apostle is ended. - Syriac Philoxenian.
The end of the Epistle of St. Peter; may his supplication preserve us!
Amen. Praise be to the Lord of never ending and eternal glory! Amen. - Arabic.
The First Epistle of Peter is completed; may his intercession be with us!
Amen, and Amen. - Aethiopic, Nothing in the Coptic.
Nothing in the printed Vulgate.
The end of the First Epistle of St. Peter. - Complutensian Polyglott.
The First Epistle of St. Peter is ended. - Bib. Vulgat. Edit. Princ.
In the Manuscripts:
The First of Peter. - Codex Alexand. and Codex Vatican.
Written from Rome. - A MS. of the twelfth century,
The end of the First Catholic Epistle of Peter, written from Rome. - A MS. of the thirteenth century.
These later subscriptions are of little value, nor do any of them help to ascertain the place where the epistle was written. The word Rome is only the supposed interpretation of the word Babylon, as in 1 Peter 5:13, which see.
As the true Church of Christ has generally been in a state of suffering, the epistles of St. Peter have ever been most highly prized by all believers. That which we have just finished is an admirable letter, containing some of the most important maxims and consolations for the Church in the wilderness. No Christian can read it without deriving from it both light and life. Ministers, especially, should study it well, that they may know how to comfort their flocks when in persecution or adversity. He never speaks to good effect in any spiritual case who is not furnished out of the Divine treasury. God's words invite, solicit, and command assent; on them a man may confidently rely. The words of man may be true, but they are not infallible, This is the character of God's word alone.
I Shall sum up the contents of this chapter in the words of a good commentator: "Because the knowledge and good behavior of the people depend, in a great measure, upon the kind of instruction which they receive from their teachers, the apostle in this chapter addressed the elders, that is, the bishops, pastors, rulers, and deacons among the brethren of Pontus, etc., 1 Peter 5:1, exhorting the bishops in particular to feed the flock of God committed to their care faithfully, and to exercise their episcopal office, not as by constraint, but willingly; not from the love of gain, but from love to their Master and to the flock, 1 Peter 5:2; and not to lord it over God's heritage, but to be patterns of humility and disinterestedness to the people, 1 Peter 5:3. This exhortation to bishops to feed Christ's flock was given with much propriety by Peter, who had himself been appointed by Christ to feed his lambs and his sheep. Next, because the faithful performance of the bishop's office was, in that age, attended with great difficulty and danger, the apostle, to encourage the bishops, assured them that; when the chief Shepherd shall appear, they shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away, 1 Peter 5:4. The distinguished reward which Christ is to bestow on those who have suffered for his sake being a favourite topic with our apostle, he introduces it often in this epistle.
"Having thus exhorted the pastors, the apostle turned his discourse to the people, charging them to be subject to their elders, and to one another; that is, to be of a teachable disposition, and to receive instruction from every one capable of giving it, and to do all the duties which they could to each other, according to their different stations and relations, 1 Peter 5:5. But especially to be subject to God, by humbly submitting themselves to the judgments which were coming upon them, that God might exalt them in due time, 1 Peter 5:6. Casting all their anxious care on God, because he cared for them, 1 Peter 5:7. And to watch against the devil, who went about as a roaring lion, seeking to destroy them by instigating the wicked to persecute them, and drive them into apostasy, 1 Peter 5:8. But they were to resist that terrible enemy by steadfastness in the faith, and not to think themselves hardly dealt with when persecuted, knowing that their brethren everywhere were exposed to the same temptations of the devil, 1 Peter 5:9. In the meantime, to give them all the assistance in his power, the apostle prayed earnestly to God to stablish and strengthen them, 1 Peter 5:10. And ended his prayer with a doxology to God, expressive of his supreme dominion over the universe, and all the things it contains.
"The apostle informed the brethren of Pontus that he had sent this letter to them by Silvanus, whom he praised for his fidelity to Christ, 1 Peter 5:12. Then, giving them the salutation of the Church in Babylon, where it seems he was when he wrote this letter, he added the salutation of Mark, whom he called his son, either because he had converted him, or on account of the great attachment which Mark bore to him, 1 Peter 5:13. And having desired them to salute one another, he concluded with giving them his apostolical benediction, 1 Peter 5:14." See Dr. Macknight.
Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition, Dec. 31, 1831, - A. C.
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