David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
1 Peter 5
1 Peter 5:1-14 - FOR SHEPHERDS AND SHEEP
A. Elders should be faithful shepherds.
1. (1 Peter 5:1) A call to elders.
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
a. The elders who are among you I exhort: Peter will give a word of exhortation to the elders who are among the Christians reading this letter. These elders have special responsibilities that Peter will address.
i. The idea of the elder came into church life from Jewish culture (Exodus 3:16; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 19:7). The word “elder” simply speaks of the maturity and wisdom that an older person should have, making them qualified for leadership. In its application, it is more about wisdom and maturity than age.
ii. It was the practice of Paul and Barnabas to appoint elders in the churches they had founded (Acts 14:23). There was also the development of the office of pastor, who was essentially a teaching elder (1 Timothy 5:17) who appointed and guided elders and other leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-13, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:5-9).
b. I who am a fellow elder: Peter is qualified to speak because he is a fellow elder. Though Peter was clearly the prominent disciple among the twelve, he claims no special privilege or position, such as the “Pope” of the early church. Instead, Peter sees himself only as one fellow elder among all the elders in the church.
c. A witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Peter is qualified to speak because he is a witness of Jesus’ sufferings, when he saw Jesus’ torture and crucifixion, and he was a partaker of Jesus’ glory, probably when he saw Jesus’ transfiguration.
i. Peter wrote about suffering and glory in the Christian life (1 Peter 4:12-13). Because Peter saw both suffering and glory in the life of Jesus, he can speak with the authority of an eyewitness.
2. (1 Peter 5:2-3) What leaders in the church must do.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;
a. They must shepherd the flock of God. Peter seems to be remembering Jesus’ three-part commission to him in John 21:15-17. In that passage, Jesus told Peter to show his love for Jesus by feeding and tending Jesus’ sheep.
i. How does a spiritual shepherd do his job? The first job is to feed the sheep. Jesus emphasized this to Peter in John 21:15-17. Another aspect of the job is to tend the sheep, which means protecting, guiding, nurturing, and caring for the sheep.
ii. The most important “tool” to shepherd the flock of God is a heart like Jesus’, that is willing to give one’s life for the sheep, and who genuinely cares about and is interested in them (John 10:11-14).
b. Serving as overseers: For Peter, the job of being a shepherd can also be understood as being an overseer. This word for leadership comes to the church from Greek culture, and it means someone who watches over, a manager, or a supervisor (Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Titus 1:7).
c. Not by compulsion but willingly: Shepherds should not do their job by compulsion, as if they were being forced into a task they really hated. Instead, they should serve God and His people willingly, from a heart that loves sheep and wants to serve.
i. “None of God’s soldiers are mercenaries or pressed men: they are all volunteers. We must have a shepherd’s heart if we would do a shepherd’s work.” (Meyer)
d. Not for dishonest gain but eagerly: Shepherds should not do their job for dishonest gain. The gain is dishonest because it was their motive for serving as shepherds. Instead, they should serve eagerly, willing to serve apart from financial compensation.
e. Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock: Shepherds should not do their job as lords, because the sheep do not belong to them. The sheep are entrusted to them. Instead, shepherds are to serve by being examples, not dictators.
i. Nor as being lords shows that in the mind of Peter, shepherds had significant authority in the early church. If the office of shepherd was so powerless that a shepherd didn’t rule and lead, then there was little potential for being lords. But because Peter gives this warning, it shows there was the potential for lording over.
ii. The sobering fact is that pastors are examples to the flock, whether they intend to be or not. It is interesting to see how a congregation takes on the personality of its pastor in good ways and bad ways.
3. (1 Peter 5:4) The reward for leaders in the church.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
a. When the Chief Shepherd appears: Peter reminds shepherds in the church that they will answer one day to their Chief Shepherd, who will want to know what they did with His flock!
i. It is important for shepherds - pastors - to realize that they lead Jesus’ sheep. He is the Shepherd, He is the Overseer (1 Peter 2:25). In this sense, the Christian shepherd doesn’t work for the sheep, he works for the Chief Shepherd.
b. You will receive a crown of glory: Faithful shepherds are promised a crown of glory, but not like the crown of leaves given to ancient Olympic champions. This crown will not fade away.
i. Crowns are not only for shepherds, but for everyone who was faithful to Jesus and who did what He called them to do (1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12).
B. Everyone should be humble and watchful.
1. (1 Peter 5:5-7) A promise for the humble.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
a. Likewise you younger people: Peter begins this word of humility to you younger people, in contrast to the elders he has just addressed. But he soon realizes that it is of application to all of you. This word to be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility applies to everyone, but perhaps especially to the young.
b. Clothed with humility: Humility is demonstrated by submission. It is the ability to cheerfully put away our own agenda for God’s, even if God’s agenda is expressed through another person.
c. Be clothed with humility: “Be clothed” translates a rare word that refers to a slave putting on an apron before serving, even as Jesus did before washing the disciple’s feet (John 13:4).
d. For “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humility is essential to our relationship with God. If we want to walk in God’s grace (His unmerited favor) then we must lay aside our pride and be humble - not only to Him but also to one another.
i. Grace and pride are eternal enemies. Pride demands that God bless me in light of what I think I deserve. Grace will only deal with me on the basis what is in God (love), not on the basis of anything in me.
i. “Pride is one of the most detestable of sins; yet does it find lodgment in earnest souls, though we often speak of it by some lighter name. We call it - independence, self-reliance. We do not always discern it in the hurt feeling, which retires into itself, and nurses its sorrows in a sulk . . . We are proud of our humility, vain of our meekness; and, putting on the saintliest look, we wonder whether all around are not admiring us for our lowliness.” (Meyer)
e. That He may exalt you in due time: If God has us in a humble place at the present time, we must submit to God’s plan. He knows the due time to exalt us, though we often think we know that time better than God does.
f. Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you: True humility is shown by our ability to cast our care upon God. It is proud presumption to take things into our own worry and care about things that God has promised to take care of (Matthew 5:31-34).
i. Sometimes we need to call worry and inappropriate care exactly what it is: pride and unbelief, and a desire to usurp God’s place as our providing, caring Father.
ii. He cares for you: At their best moments, the religions of Greek culture could imagine a God who was good. Yet they never came to the place where they believed in a God who cared. The God of the Bible - the God who is really there - is a God who cares for you.
iii. We often judge the parents by the children. When a child of God is full of worry and fear, doesn’t the world have reason to believe that their Father in heaven doesn’t care for them? Our worry and fear reflects poorly - in an unfair way - upon God.
2. (1 Peter 5:8-9) Be watchful for the devil.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
a. Your adversary the devil walks about: We must remain clear-headed (sober) and watchful (vigilant), because Satan has not yet been bound and restrained for 1,000 years as Revelation 20:1-2 says he will be. At the present time, the devil walks about.
b. Like a roaring lion: For Christians, Satan is a lion who may roar but who has been de-fanged at the cross (Colossians 2:15). Yet the sound of his roar - his deceptive lies - are still potent and he has the power to devour souls and rob Christians of effectiveness.
c. Resist him, steadfast in the faith: The secret of spiritual warfare is simple, steadfast, resistance. As we are steadfast in the faith, we resist the devil lies and threats and intimidation.
i. Significantly, Peter doesn’t tell us to cast demons out of other Christians. He simply challenges individual Christians to deal with Satan as a conquered foe who can and must be personally resisted.
ii. Resist comes from two Greek words: stand and against. Peter tells us to stand against the devil. Satan can be set running by the resistance of the lowliest believer who comes in the authority of what Jesus did on the cross.
d. Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world: We also take comfort in knowing that we are never alone in our spiritual warfare. Our brothers and sisters in Jesus have fought, and are fighting, the same battles.
3. (1 Peter 5:10-11) A prayer for their spiritual strengthening.
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
a. May the God of all grace . . . perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you: Peter, knowing the suffering and danger Christians face, can only conclude with prayer. He asks God to do His work of perfecting, establishing, strengthening, and settling.
i. These things are God’s work in us and through us. Peter personally knew the futility of trying to face suffering and danger in one’s own strength. His own failure taught him the need for constant reliance on God’s work in our lives, so he prays for his dear Christian friends.
ii. After you have suffered a while: We almost want to ask Peter, “Why did you say that?” But the truth remains. We are only called . . . to His eternal glory . . . after you have suffered a while. We wish we were called to His eternal glory on the “no suffering” plan. But God uses suffering to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us.
b. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever: The God who can do this great work in our lives is worthy of our praise!
4. (1 Peter 5:12-14) Conclusion to the letter.
By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
a. By Silvanus . . . I have written to you: This portion was probably written by Peter’s own hand, after he (according to the custom of the day) had dictated the bulk of the letter to Silvanus. This man Silvanus is probably the same one known as Silas in many of Paul’s letters.
b. This is the true grace of God in which you stand: Peter sums up his message as an exhortation to understand and recognize the true grace of God in which you stand. We must understand not only what God’s grace is, but that grace is our place of present standing before Him.
c. She who is in Babylon . . . greets you: She probably refers to the church, which in Greek is in the feminine. Peter apparently writes from Babylon. This may be the literal city of Babylon (which still existed in Peter’s day), or it may be a symbolic way of referring to either Rome or Jerusalem. These were two cities that in Peter’s day were famous for their wickedness and spiritual rebellion, just like ancient Babylon. In any regard, this is one church greeting another.
d. So does Mark my son: This verse connects Mark with Peter, apparently the same Mark of Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 15:37-39. When the style and perspective of the Gospel of Mark are taken into account, many to believe that Peter was Mark’s primary source of information for his gospel.
e. Greet one another with a kiss of love: Peter concludes with a command to greet and display God’s love to one another, and by pronouncing a blessing of peace. These two things - love for each other and peace - are especially necessary for those who suffer and live in dangerous times.
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