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The Christian Circle
( 1Pe_5:1-7 )
The apostle returns to the Christian circle with special exhortation to two classes, the elder and the younger. The fact that he addresses the younger would clearly indicate that he uses the term elder, not in an official sense, but as characteristic of those who by age and experience are elder brethren.
(Vv. 1-3). Peter himself was an elder, and in addition had the marks of an apostle, for he had been a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory about to be revealed ( Act_1:21 ; Act_1:22 ). He can thus exhort us with the experience of an elder, combined with the authority of an apostle.
The elders are exhorted to shepherd the flock of God. Shepherding is more than feeding; it implies guidance, and every form of care that is needed by the sheep. It is evidently the Lord's mind that His people should be visited and cared for. When on earth He was moved with compassion as He beheld the sorrowful condition of His earthly people, “scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” ( Mat_9:36 ). Alas! It is still evidence of the low and weak condition among the people of God that there is so little of this shepherd care.
It is the “flock of God” that is to be shepherded. Scripture knows nothing of an elder speaking of any of God's people as his flock. What a privilege for an elder brother to be allowed, in any little measure, to care for God's flock! How solemn if the privilege is abused and the flock, instead of being shepherded, is used for selfish ends. The exhortations imply that it is possible to take up oversight as an irksome necessity, or for base gain, or in a domineering spirit, as if dealing with our own possessions. The elders are, therefore, exhorted to exercise this privilege with a ready mind, as models for the flock, rather than as lords of the flock.
The apostle is passing on to the elders the Lord's own word to himself, for had not the Lord said to Peter, “Shepherd My sheep”? ( Joh_21:16 ). Moreover, this was said at the very moment the apostle had been brought to realise his own weakness and utter dependence upon the Lord. One has remarked, “At the moment that the Lord convinced him of his utter nothingness, He entrusted to him that which was dearest to Himself”. It is evident that the one who attempts to take up oversight for gain or in a domineering spirit has never learnt his own nothingness. It is only as we have learnt by experience our weakness, and therefore our need of dependence on the Lord, that we can in any true sense take the oversight of others. Age and experience are needed for oversight of the flock of God. Moses must spend forty years in the desert to learn his own weakness and the greatness of God before, at the age of eighty, being sent to shepherd the people of God.
(V. 4). For the encouragement of all who take up this happy service, we learn that faithfulness in its performance will have its reward. It is a service that may not bring the servant into prominence down here, and oftentimes meets with little appreciation from the Lord's people, but at the appearing of the Chief Shepherd will receive the “unfading crown of glory”. The apostle has been speaking of “the sufferings of Christ”, and of the glory that shall be revealed, so he implies that the spirit of self-sacrifice, with the necessary measure of suffering that shepherding the flock brings, will be rewarded with a crown of glory. Other Scriptures speak of a crown of righteousness in answer to a walk of practical righteousness, but “glory” is ever presented as the answer to suffering and self-denial.
(Vv. 5, 6). The younger are to be subject to the elder, and all are to bind on humility towards one another. The working of pride that would lead us to exalt ourselves, and seek a place of prominence amongst the people of God, is destructive of true fellowship in the Christian circle. The allowance of pride leads to strife and division, but humility binds the saints together. Humility would keep the elder saints from lording it over God's flock, and hold the younger in subjection to the elder.
The proud man will ever find that, in the governmental ways of God, he is opposed, for God resisteth the proud. In taking a low place the humble will find that they have the support of the grace of God. The flesh loves to assert itself and seek a prominent place. If, however, we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He will exalt us in due season.
(V. 7). In the Christian circle God would have us free of care. This can only be as we cast all our care upon Him in the blessed consciousness that He careth for us. We, alas, may fail in our shepherd care of one another, but the compassions of God will not fail; “they are new every morning” ( Lam_3:22 ; Lam_3:23 ). If the under shepherds fail, and the sheep feel they are neglected, let each take comfort from this word, “He careth for you”.
Suffering from the Opposition of the Devil
( 1Pe_5:8-14 )
(Vv. 8, 9). The last form of suffering to which the apostle alludes is suffering from the opposition of the devil. He is the adversary and slanderer of God's people, but “the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil”. Though the devil's power has been annulled at the cross, he is not yet cast into the lake of fire. As a restless and roaring lion he is still “going to and fro in the earth . . . walking up and down in it ” ( Job_1:7 ; Job_2:2 ). His aim as ever is to destroy. With God's people his efforts take the form of seeking to destroy their faith in God. Peter can speak from experience, for the time was when Satan desired to have Peter. He was, indeed, allowed to sift Peter as wheat, but was not able to touch his faith, for the Lord said, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not”. Now Peter can tell others that the secret of resisting Satan is found in being “steadfast in faith”.
This opposition of the devil is not exceptional, or confined to the believers from amongst the Jews. In some form or other all the Lord's people while “in the world” are exposed to this form of suffering.
(Vv. 10, 11). Whatever the opposition of the devil, we have “the God of all grace” to sustain us, and “eternal glory” lies before us. The devil may oppose, but grace has called us to glory by Christ Jesus, and no power of Satan can thwart the call of God. Grace will surely end in glory, though in the meantime we may have to suffer for “a while”.
The devil by his opposition may seek to destroy the faith of the saint. Nevertheless, as in the case of Peter, God uses the attacks of Satan to perfect, stablish, strengthen and settle the saint. His efforts are thus not only frustrated, but are used for the blessing of the saint and the glory of God: “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”.
Throughout his Epistle, the apostle presents the glory as the answer to the suffering, whatever form that suffering may take. In chapter 1 the suffering from trials allowed of God will have an answer in glory ( 1Pe_1:7 ); in chapter 2 suffering for conscience' sake carries glory with it ( 1Pe_2:19 ; 1Pe_2:20 ); in chapter 4 suffering for the Name of Christ will have its reward in the day of glory ( 1Pe_4:13 ; 1Pe_4:14 ); and in this last chapter suffering from the opposition of the devil will only strengthen the saint in view of eternal glory.
(Vv. 12, 13). The apostle, in concluding his Epistle, reminds us that his object in writing this brief letter is to testify to the true grace of God in which believers stand. Silvanus, who carries the letter, was apparently but little known to the apostle. He is, however, credited with being “a faithful brother”. He writes from Babylon, sending greetings from some well-known sister.
(V. 14). The Epistle closes with a final appeal that love may mark the Christian circle, and with the desire that peace may be found in their midst.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany