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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Peter now broadened his perspective and reminded his suffering readers of their corporate responsibilities.

Verse 1

In view of the inevitability of trials and God’s judgment Peter gave a special charge to the elders (overseers) of the congregations of his readers. Peter himself was an elder as well as an apostle. As an elder he spoke from experience.

"As an apostle he could have ordered them to follow his instruction, but he did not take this approach. His appeal is based on the fact that he was one of them and thus understood their problems." [Note: Louis A. Barbieri, First and Second Peter, pp. 82-83.]

He himself had participated in sufferings for Christ’s sake. "Witness" (Gr. martys; cf. Acts 3:15; Acts 10:39) does not just mean that he observed Jesus suffering, which he did. It means he shared Jesus Christ’s sufferings and bore testimony out of that experience (1 Peter 4:13). As his readers, Peter also shared the glory that God will yet reveal (1 Peter 4:14).

Verses 1-4

1. The responsibility of the elders 5:1-4

Verses 1-11

B. The Church under Trial 5:1-11

Peter concluded the body of his epistle and this section on encouragement in suffering with specific commands so his readers would understand how to live while suffering for Christ.

"An intimate personal note runs through this section, the author alluding to himself and his own experience and standing more directly than heretofore, and addressing his readers, especially those in the ministry, with primary regard to their pastoral relationship to one another in the Church. Earlier themes, such as the need for humility and wakefulness, and the promise of grace to stand firm in persecution and of glory at the last, are repeated." [Note: Selwyn, p. 227.]

Verse 2

Peter’s exhortation to his fellow elders was to take care of those under their charge as a shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. John 21:16; Acts 20:28; Ezekiel 34:1-16). In other words, elders are responsible for the pastoral work of the local church. A pastor is usually an elder who functions as a shepherd. The verb "shepherd" (Gr. poimaino) literally means to tend. Pastoring includes the duties of feeding, leading, guiding, guarding, and providing for the needs of those in the church, as a shepherd does for his sheep (cf. John 21:16).

"If we ever view the flock as ’ours’ or the ministry as ’ours,’ we are in serious trouble, and so is the church." [Note: Cedar, pp. 188-89.]

Three contrasts follow that clarify the proper motivation and manner of an elder’s ministry.

First, he should serve willingly as opposed to grudgingly (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7). God wants us to perform any service for Him willingly. Elders should not serve because they feel they must do so because of external pressure but because they desire to serve God.

"I have counseled with many pastors who . . . feel that they are imprisoned by their calling to ministry. They would prefer to be somewhere else, they are not enjoying their ministry, or they are in a difficult situation from which they would like to escape. To them, ministry has become mere drudgery.

"It need not be so! Peter reminds us that we should serve the Lord and tend His flock willingly. . . . The Lord does not force us or coerce us to be involved in ministry. He calls us and invites us to ministry, but we have the freedom of saying ’yes’ or ’no’!" [Note: Ibid., p. 190.]

Second, an elder should serve zealously and enthusiastically as opposed to selfishly. He should not serve for what he can get out of his ministry now but for the love of his Lord. The gain one could derive from elder ministry included honor in the church as well as possible financial gain. It seems that elders in the early church often received payment for their ministry (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17 where the "double honor" probably refers to payment; 1 Corinthians 9:7-11). Otherwise there would be no such temptation.

"To enter the ministry simply because it offers a respectable and intellectually stimulating way of gaining a livelihood is to prostitute that sacred work. This warning also includes the temptation to use the work of the ministry to gain personal popularity or social influence." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "Counsel for Christ’s Under-Shepherds: An Exposition of 1 Peter 5:1-4," Bibliotheca Sacra 139:556 (October-December 1982):336-37.]

Verse 3

Third, an elder should lead by giving an example of godly living that others can follow rather than by driving people forward with authoritarian commands (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). He should be able to expect them to do as he does as well as to do what he says. The English word "clergy" derives from the Greek verb kleroo, meaning "to make a possession," here translated "allotted to your charge" (NASB).

"The shepherds are not to be little popes or petty tyrants. Matthew 20:25; 2 Corinthians 1:24.

"Peter mentions three common sins of preachers: laziness, greed, popishness, all of which are especially objectionable in days of persecution." [Note: Lenski, pp. 219, 220.]

"I made it a practice never to ask my congregation to give to any cause to which I didn’t also give. I do not think we have a right to make a demand of other folk that we are not doing ourselves." [Note: McGee, 5:712.]

"If I have any counsel for God’s shepherds today, it is this: cultivate a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and share what He gives you with your people. That way, you will grow, and they will grow with you." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:428.]

"The effective pastor . . . must be ’among’ his people so that he can get to know them, their needs and problems; and he needs to be ’over’ his people so he can lead them and help them solve their problems. There must be no conflict between pastoring and preaching, because they are both ministries of a faithful Shepherd. The preacher needs to be a pastor so he can apply the Word to the needs of the people. The pastor needs to be a preacher so that he can have authority when he shares in their daily needs and problems. The pastor is not a religious lecturer who weekly passes along information about the Bible. He is a shepherd who knows his people and seeks to help them through the Word." [Note: Ibid., 2:429.]

Since one of the husband’s primary roles is that of shepherd of his family, it is worthwhile to read 1 Peter 5:2-3 from this perspective. A husband should shepherd his family flock by caring for their needs. He should consider this a privilege (voluntarily), he should make his family a priority (eagerness), and he should be a model of integrity (example). Certainly he should tell the members of his family that he loves them. [Note: Family Life . . ., p. 125.]

It might be profitable to read Psalms 23 and put your name in the place of the shepherd if you are an elder and or a husband.

"The flock" over which an elder ruled was probably a house-church. Each church in a town usually consisted of several house-churches at this time. [Note: See Del Birkey, The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church, pp. 40-62.]

Verse 4

Elders are shepherds who serve under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 21:15-17). Peter wanted the Chief Shepherd to find his fellow elders faithful when He returns at the Rapture. Then they would have to give an account of their stewardship at His judgment seat (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

"To prevent the faithful servant of Christ from being cast down, there is this one and only remedy, to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ." [Note: John Calvin, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St Peter," Calvin’s Commentaries, p. 317.]

The crown (Gr. stephanos, garland) of glory that does not fade probably refers to glory as a crown that will come to every faithful Christian when Christ returns. It is probably not a material but a metaphorical crown (as is the crown of righteousness in 2 Timothy 4:8, the crown of life in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10, and the crown of joy in Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). [Note: Michaels, p. 287. See Joe L. Wall, Going for the Gold, pp. 125-71, for a practical discussion of these crowns.] The reason for this conclusion is that the biblical writers described the crowns in figurative language (glory, righteousness, etc.), not in literal language (gold, silver, etc.; cf. Hebrews 2:9). Elders who are faithful now will receive glory that will not fade when Jesus Christ returns. [Note: For a further helpful study of elders, see Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, pp. 295-308.]

Believers’ Crowns
An Imperishable CrownFor leading a disciplined life1 Corinthians 9:25
A Crown of RejoicingFor evangelism and discipleship1 Thessalonians 2:19
A Crown of RighteousnessFor loving the Lord’s appearing2 Timothy 4:8
A Crown of LifeFor enduring trialsJames 1:12;
Revelation 2:10
A Crown of GloryFor shepherding God’s flock faithfully1 Peter 5:4

Verse 5

2. The responsibility of the others 5:5

"Younger men" is literally "younger ones" and includes females as well as males. [Note: Davids, p. 184.] Nevertheless younger men were probably in Peter’s mind since the contrast is with older men in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

"In the ancient world the division of society into older people and younger . . . was just as much taken for granted as the division into men and women, free men and slaves, etc." [Note: Kelly, p. 205. Cf. Bigg, p. 190.]

Leaders of the church were normally in the older age group. Peter addressed the younger in this verse. "Elders" here refers to those in the older age group. That he did not mean just the official elders of the church seems clear from the contrast with "younger" (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Timothy 5:17).

The younger people in the church were and are to take a position under the authority of the older people. The reason for this, though unexpressed, seems self-evident: the older have more experience in living (cf. Job 32:4).

All Christians, regardless of our age, should put on humility as a garment, (i.e., let it be what others see as we serve; cf. 1 Peter 3:8). The Greek word translated "clothe" is a rare one that comes from a word referring to the apron that slaves put on over their regular clothes. This garment prepared them for service (cf. John 13:4-15). We should be ready and eager to serve one another rather than expecting others to serve us (Mark 10:45).

"In other words, believers should not insist on having their way over others." [Note: McGee, 5:713.]

Peter again quoted Proverbs (Proverbs 3:34) for support. This is the theological reason for his ethical charge (cf. James 4:6). He then proceeded to expound the ideas expressed in this proverb in the following six verses.

Verse 6

God’s almighty hand had permitted affliction to touch Peter’s readers. The apostle urged them to submit to God’s working in their lives as to the skillful hand of a surgeon. He assured them that God would raise them up eventually better off for their suffering (cf. Luke 14:11; James 1:2-4). Peter had learned to submit to God’s hand on his own life, though at times he had not been as submissive as he should have been. The Old Testament writers used God’s hand as a symbol of discipline (Exodus 3:19; Exodus 6:1; Job 30:21; Psalms 32:4) and deliverance (Deuteronomy 9:26; Ezekiel 20:34).

Verses 6-7

3. The importance of humility and trust in God 5:6-7

Verse 7

This verse does not introduce a new command but explains how to humble oneself: by entrusting oneself and one’s troubles to God (Psalms 55:22; cf. Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6). We can do this because we have confidence that God cares for our welfare.

"Mermina [sic, merimna] = worry or anxiety as when one does not know whether to do this or to do that, ’distraction.’" [Note: Lenski, p. 224. Cf. Psalms 55:22; 37:5; Luke 10:41; 12:11-12.]

Verse 8

Trust in God is not all that we need, however. We also need to practice self-control and to keep alert (cf. 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7) because Satan is on the prowl (cf. Job 1:7; Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 16:13). Peter’s readers were in danger from him if they gave in to his temptation to regard their sufferings as an indication of God’s disinterest or ill will (cf. James 1:13). Satan not only seeks to deceive us as a serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3), but he also seeks to devour us as a lion.

"The picture is one of a beast swallowing its prey in a gulp." [Note: Davids, p. 191.]

Verses 8-11

4. The importance of resisting the devil 5:8-11

Verse 9

Whereas God commands us to forsake the world and deny the lusts of the flesh, we should resist the devil (cf. Ephesians 6:11-13; James 4:7). Satan’s desire is to get the Christian to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey what God has said. The Greek word translated "resist" means to defend oneself against as opposed to attacking. It is easier to resist when we remember that this duty is common to all Christians; it is not unique to us alone. A better translation of "accomplished by" might be "laid upon." Suffering is the common experience of all committed believers as long as we are in the world (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12).

The Christian’s Three-Fold Enemy
The World
(1 John 2:15-17)Lust of the flesh
Lust of the eyes
Pride of life
(1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22)
The flesh
(Romans 7:18-24)
(Romans 6:12-13; Romans 8:13)
The devil
(1 Peter 5:8)
(1 Peter 5:9)

Peter advocated three responses to Satan in this passage. We should respect him ("be of sober spirit," 1 Peter 5:8). If Peter had respected Satan more he might not have slept in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus had warned him to watch and pray so that he would not enter into temptation. Second, Peter said we should recognize Satan ("be on the alert," 1 Peter 5:8). If Peter had been alert he might not have denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. Third, we should resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9). If Peter had resisted Satan he might not have felt that he had to resist Malchus’ advance in Gethsemane and cut off his ear.

"Before we can stand before Satan [1 Peter 5:8-9], we must bow before God [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Peter resisted the Lord and ended up submitting to Satan!" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:433.]

Verse 10

We have on our side One who is able to overcome our adversary the devil. Furthermore God gives sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has called us to experience eternal glory ultimately (1 Peter 1:1). Both our calling and our glory are in Christ. God will make us complete (Gr. katartizo, "to mend [nets]," Matthew 4:21) establish us, strengthen us for service, and give us peace in His will.

"What Peter has done is pile up a number of closely related terms that together by their reinforcing one another give a multiple underscoring of the good that God is intending for them and even now is producing in their suffering." [Note: Davids, p. 196.]

Verse 11

God has enough power and ability to help us endure whatever suffering He allows us to experience (1 Corinthians 10:13). Peter concluded this statement about God’s sufficiency with another benediction (cf. 1 Peter 4:11).

To summarize, Peter exhorted the church elders to shepherd those under their care. He exhorted younger Christians to submit to their older brethren. And he exhorted all to stand firm against Satan’s attacks armed with an attitude of submission to God and to one another.

Verse 12

Silvanus is the Roman form of the Greek name Silas. This Silas may very well have been Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey. Silas may have written this epistle as Peter dictated it or in some other way assisted in its composition. [Note: See Selwyn, pp. 9-17, for a helpful excursus on Silvanus (Silas).] Peter may have taken the pen from Silvanus at this point and written the conclusion himself, as was common (cf. Galatians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). It seems more probable, however, that Silas carried this epistle from Peter to its first destination. [Note: See E. Randolph Richards, "Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting dia Silouanou . . . egrapha in 1 Peter 5:12," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (September 2000):417-32.] It would have been more customary for Peter to mention Silas at the beginning of the letter if he had had some role in its composition. [Note: Michaels, pp. 306-7.]

Peter explained his purpose for writing this epistle. He wanted to exhort the readers to stand firm in the faith since suffering for the Savior is part of being a recipient of God’s grace (1 Peter 5:9). One of Peter’s gifts was exhortation. God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)! The "true grace of God" may refer to the help that the readers would obtain from the Lord and, specifically, from this letter. [Note: Ibid., pp. 309-10.]

Verses 12-14


Peter concluded this epistle with a final exhortation and greetings from those with him and himself to encourage his readers further.

Verse 13

"She" probably refers to the church in the town where Peter was when he wrote this letter (cf. 2 John 1:1; 2 John 1:4). The Greek word for "church" (ekklesia) is feminine, though the word ekklesia does not appear in 1 Peter. Some commentators have suggested that Peter referred to his wife. [Note: E.g., Robertson, 6:135.] But this seems unlikely to me since none of the other epistle writers in the New Testament referred to their wives. God chose the church together with the believers to whom Peter sent this epistle.

"Election is . . .: (1) the sovereign act of God in grace whereby certain persons are chosen from among mankind for Himself (John 15:19); and (2) the sovereign act of God whereby certain elect persons are chosen for distinctive service for Him (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:15; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28)." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1337.]

"Babylon" may refer to Babylon on the Euphrates River. [Note: McGee, 5:714; E. Schuyler English, "Was St. Peter Ever in Rome?" Bibliotheca Sacra 124:496 (October-December 1967):317.] However this seems more likely to be a veiled, metaphorical reference to Rome where Peter spent the last years of his life. [Note: Kelly, pp. 218-19; Blum, p. 212; Goppelt, pp. 373-75; Michaels, p. 311; Robertson, 6:135; et al.] The technical name for this figure of speech (i.e., a code name) is atbash. We know that John "Mark" was in Rome (Colossians 4:10). But why would Peter have called Rome Babylon? Probably he did so because Rome was the capitol of the pagan world. The Christians had come to think of Rome as Babylon. Babylon on the Euphrates was then in decline, but it was formerly the world center of godlessness. The Bible uses Babylon as a symbol of ungodliness as well as the name of a real town (cf. Revelation 17-18). Similarly the name Hollywood is both a literal town name and the symbol of the industry for which the town is famous.

". . . Babylon [in 1 Peter] becomes a beautiful symbol for the capital of the place of exile away from the true inheritance in heaven." [Note: Davids, p. 203. Cf. 1:1, 17; 2:11.]

John Mark was Peter’s protégé. Many scholars believe Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome and that Peter’s influence is apparent in what he included in that record of Jesus’ life and ministry. There is considerable evidence for this in the second Gospel.

Verse 14

In Peter’s culture a kiss was a common way to express affection publicly (cf. Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). It still is today in many parts of the world.

"In the ancient world kisses were normally exchanged among family members (parents and children; brothers and sisters; servants and masters) and at times between rulers and their clients. The erotic kiss is secondary and not stressed in the literature. The familial kiss probably forms the background to the NT practice, for all fellow-Christians were considered brothers and sisters. This affectionate kissing was normally on the cheeks, forehead, or hands. We can assume such to be the practice here. . . . In calling it the ’kiss of love’ Peter not only brings out the meaning of kiss (’kiss,’ philema in Greek, comes from phileo, a verb indicating familial and friendly as opposed to erotic love), but also expresses the proper relationship among the members of the Christian community (’love’ here is the typical Christian term for love, agape, used also in 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 4:8)." [Note: Ibid., pp. 204-5. Cf. Goppelt, p. 354; Michaels, p. 313.]

In the midst of their persecution Peter prayed that his readers might experience God’s surpassing peace (Philippians 4:6-7). "Peace" expresses the common Jewish blessing "Shalom." This epistle opens and closes with a prayer for peace (cf. 1 Peter 1:2).

"What a wonderful way to end a letter that announced the coming of a fiery trial!" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:434.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-peter-5.html. 2012.
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