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The Apostle closeth his Epistle with this chapter: and a blessed Close it is. As an Elder himself; he calleth upon the Elders, to feed Christ's Flock; and both Elder and Younger to be in the Affection of Brethren. Peter speaks very delightfully on the God of all Grace, and ends with his Apostolic Blessing.
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. (4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
There is somewhat very affecting in the Apostle's account of himself; at the opening of this Chapter, in that he calls himself an Elder, and a Witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. We feel the expressions the more, because it is impossible but to connect with them our knowledge of what Jesus hath said to Peter, signifying what death he should die; and now behold the aged Apostle drawing nigh the time, John 21:19 . The Reader will not overlook, with what delight the hoary saint mentions his being a witness of Christ's sufferings, and a partaker in all the communicable parts of Christ's glory. And I mention this the rather, because it is one of the great points of faith. Men of a yea and nay gospel may, and indeed cannot but be, halting between two opinions. The peradventure life, must be a peradventure death. But not so the truly regenerated and faithful. Our father's names would not have been handed down to us with such honorable testimony, had they so lived, and so died. Instead of being to us a cloud of witnesses, they would then have proved as the wife of Lot, pillars of salt: Hebrews 12:1 ; Genesis 19:28 . Reader! do not too hastily pass this by, I say, and the word of God will bear me out in what I say, it is the faith of God's elect, to know the truth, and the truth to make them free, John 8:31-43.8.32 . And, wherever God the Holy Ghost hath savingly called any of his children by grace, they are supposed to be justified freely, to have daily access in the grace wherein they stand, and to rejoice in hope of the glory of God, Romans 5:1-45.5.5 . Hence Paul founded his confidence, Philippians 1:6 ; 2 Timothy 4:6-55.4.8 . Hence John his, 1 John 5:19-62.5.20 . And hence Peter his. A witness for Christ, and having a sure hope of being a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.
I hardly think it necessary to remark to the Reader, how much the words of Christ were in the mind of Peter, since he useth almost the same words which Jesus did to him, in recommending the most endeared attention to Christ's flock, John 21:16 etc. It would form the substance of a distinct volume, to shew what may be supposed to be implied under the expression, of feeding Christ's Church, which is called his flock, and in how many ways it is capable of being performed. Feeding is a comprehensive term, for the whole service of the ministry. To watch over the flock, to know their persons, have an acquaintance with their spiritual state and circumstances, to administer ordinances, to go in and out before the fold, to visit the sick, to comfort those that mourn, to pray with the people, and to pray for them; and, like Jesus himself, whose glorious example they are supposed to have always in view, to bear as our Great High Priest doth, the whole sheep-fold in the arms of faith and love before the throne, and watch in prayer for kind answers of peace; these are among the daily ordinary employments of the ministry. And, he that knows or considers the arduous and difficult nature of the employment would rather shrink from the call, than run unsent. To engage in it for filthy lucre sake must argue the most insensible mind, or the most hardened. And, as to the idea of rank and dignity in temporal distinction from the office; never, surely, could the Apostles of Christ have conceived the possibility of such a thing, who when receiving ordination from their Bishop, were taught to expect nothing but obloquy and reproach from men, for their services; and whose general precept was, when persecuted in one city, to flee to another, Matthew 10:23 . Neither (saith he) being lords over God's heritage. The Lord's heritage or portion is his people: (we read, Deuteronomy 32:9 .) Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. And a most gracious instance of condescending love it is, in the Lord to consider his Church, his fold, in so endearing a manner. He is, indeed, the Lord of it. But it is a perversion of names, to talk of any other lord over it, among men, whose highest dignity, when found faithful, is to be servants to the household of faith, for Jesus's sake, 2 Corinthians 4:5 .
The crown of glory the Apostle speaks of which the under pastors in the fold are to receive, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear; must not be considered under the idea of reward. All is of grace, free, rich, unmerited grace. And, indeed, if the Reader carefully observes the Apostle's words he will find, that nothing like a recompense is mentioned. The highest and best servant in the Lord's house, whether Apostles, Prophets, or Evangelists, Pastors, or Teachers, have no claim to reward: yea, from the multitude of errors and neglects which have mingled with their best performances, need pardon for all. And very blessedly Jesus hath taught as much, in one of his beautiful discourses: Which of you (said Christ) having a servant plowing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go, and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do, Luke 17:7-42.17.10 . Who that reads this statement of Christ with an understanding heart, will evermore talk of rewards from the Lord for services? But, on the other hand, who that reads what the same Lord hath said by his servant the Prophet, of neglect in the office of the ministry, and is conscious of coming under such an awful character, but must tremble for the eventual consequences? See Ezekiel 34:0 throughout.
Great Shepherd of thy blood-bought sheep! What a relief is it to the mind of thy most diligent under-pastors in thy fold, that amidst all the negligence, and wretched services of men, thy flock shall not, in a single instance, be overlooked, or go unfed, of God. Jesus himself will feed his flock like a Shepherd! He himself is, and will be their pasture. He saith himself, Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out! Lamb of God! that art in the midst of the throne, do as thou hast said! Look on all thy fold here below. Surely they are equally dear to thee, everyone of them, with those that are above. And, as they are in a wilderness, they need thy care. Shortly the chief Shepherd will appear, and unite the whole in one beautiful flock, Jeremiah 13:20 . And they shall then pass again under the hand of him that telleth them, Jeremiah 33:13 .
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (6) Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: (7) Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (9) Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (10) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. (11) To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (12) By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. (13) The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son. (14) Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Of all men, Peter found most occasion, as an Elder in the Church, and from solemn experience in his own heart, to admonish the whole family of Christ against Satan. Jesus his dear Lord, and Master, who so graciously forewarned Peter of his fall, and so mercifully, at the same time, comforted him with the assurance of his recovery, through his High Priestly office, in praying for the preservation of his faith; very blessedly commanded him, that when he was converted, he should strengthen his brethren. See Luke 22:31-42.22.32 . And, beyond all doubt, upon numberless occasions, from the moment that Jesus turned and looked upon Peter, and in that glance of the eye, accompanied with Christ's power in his heart, he became a blessed instrument in the Lord's hand for good, in strengthening the Lord's people. And yet still more, as the hoary Apostle was now about to close his Epistle, and shortly after his life with it, he had in view the most lively impressions upon his mind, both of his own disgrace, and the Lord's mercy; and, therefore, is earnest to admonish the Church of the dangers to which they are always exposed in the subtilty of Satan, and that their only security is in the Lord, the God of all grace.
But, over and above the Apostle's anxiety on this account, and on this interesting subject, I would humbly ask, do we not see the yet infinitely higher grace and love of God the Holy Ghost on this occasion? Was it not the Lord the Spirit that here taught the Church, and from the instance of the fall of so great an Apostle, how to be looking for grace from the God of all grace, to resist the fiery darts of Satan? I cannot but believe, that this was the tender and gracious design of God the Holy Ghost, to make choice of his servant Peter, that in the close of his life, he should leave on record, for the comfort of God's Church in the earth, to the very latest period of time, and Peter's history might be an illustration of it, that they who are kept are not their own keepers, but they are preserved by the power of God through faith unto salvation. And very blessed is it, to see the watchful eye of God the Spirit over the Church in this particular, to keep the little ones in the faith against all temptation, and against all danger of finally falling away, while supported by the God of all grace, who hath called his people unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus!
I must not trespass. But I do humbly beg the favor of a little further indulgence, to dwell a few moments over this most interesting passage of the Apostle. The Apostle knowing that self-will and presumption, in his own instance, were the sad causes, on his part, which gave Satan such an handle over him; before he admonisheth the Church concerning the devil, in going about as a roaring lion, he calls upon them to humble themselves under the Almighty hand of God, and to be sober and vigilant. He knew, by woeful cost, what combustibles for explosion are in the human heart, to ignite with the fiery darts of Satan; and, therefore, urgeth to the damping of all pride, which, like gunpowder, when moistened, will resist flame, But the Apostle, while enjoining this great wariness of conduct, teacheth them still more, to look to the Lord for security. Casting all your care upon him, (saith he,) for he careth for you. Here was the grand resource, yea, the only one. All our preparations, humblings, watchings, and the like, unless found in Christ, and Christ undertakes for us, will stand as nothing against the wiles of Satan. Like the Leviathan in the mighty waters, he laughs at the shaking of the human spear, Job 41:29 . The greatest saint, in his own strength, is no more than a feather in the hurricane of the devil's temptations. And, the Apostle hath described him in such a way, in this Chapter, as cannot but carry conviction to every heart taught by sad experience, as Peter was, what a formidable foe, and of the most implacable kind, he is. Your adversary (saith he) the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Who can read this account, and call to remembrance the awful ravages he made upon the man who so describes him, but must tremble! An adversary indeed, and of the deepest subtilty, unmercifulness, and power. A lion, yea, a roaring lion, whose yells, could we hear them, would alarm more than thunder. I have often thought, what a mercy it is that to us he is invisible. Surely the very sight of him, would make all the beasts of the forest to shrink with fear, and drive them to their dens, to escape his fury. And yet, Reader! if the Lord Jesus give but grace to his people, the feeblest of his little army can easily overcome him, in the blood of the Lamb.
Let us look at the subject a moment in this point of view. This scripture tells us, that he is walking about, seeking whom he may devour. Observe: not whom he will, for then it would be all the Lord's people; but whom he may. And, therefore, that may shall not reach to one of them. He may, for the Lord's greater glory, and the foe's greater disgrace, tempt many of them, yea, all of them into sin: But to devour them, he cannot. No weapon formed against them shall prosper, Isaiah 54:17 . And, no temptation shall take them but what is common to man; and with every temptation, the Lord will make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it, 1 Corinthians 10:13 . And that other sweet promise, brings up the rear; the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, Romans 16:20 . Reader! do not lose sight of these things, for they are most precious. And while we resist Satan, stedfast in the faith, that faith is supported, yea, given by the Lord. And faith in his blood must crown all. The same afflictions, leading to the same triumphs, are accomplished in our brethren, which are in the world: Yea, the armies in heaven overcame in the same way; by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death, Revelation 12:11 .
But we do not stop here. The Holy Ghost, by the Apostle; adds yet further comforts. As the life of faith is a continual warfare, and God's chosen ones must be tried ones; that precious scripture is given, which is enough to lift the heart of him that through grace feels its sweet influence, above all the exercises and sufferings he may be called upon to endure. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To whom be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. If endless volumes were written upon this blessed scripture, it would remain unexhausted, and vast resources left unexplored. For what indeed can unfold, and lay open the grace and love of Him, who is here, by way of striking distinction, called the God of all grace?
I do not remember, in all the Bible, a similar expression. God is, indeed, in numberless places, said to be gracious, yea, very gracious; and we frequently read of the grace of God. But, the God of all grace, is peculiar to this Chapter of the Apostle. And, if I might venture to suppose the cause, I should be led to think, that it is here specially marked from its connection with the subject the Holy Ghost is upon. Peter had been winnowed by Satan. Peter is admonishing the Church, on the danger of this walking-about adversary; And, having in his own instance suffered so much, he knew, that his recovery, and the safety or recovery after failing, of every other, could only be effected by the God of all grace. Graciously, therefore, the Lord will have the Church taught, that, as the Lord's people have such a great foe to contend with; they may remember, they always have a much greater, even an Almighty Friend; God himself, yea, of all grace, to be their safety. And as from sins, and corruptions, and too often listening to the temptations of Satan, they have in themselves no claims upon God, to come forth to their deliverance: God will come forth of his free grace, and not from their deserts, to secure them. Hence, there is a double beauty, and a tenfold blessedness, in God's calling himself here the God of all grace, where sins and sufferings, and trials and temptations, are the subject in hand; and where, like Peter, presumption and self-will, and other sins in us, too often lead us in the way of the enemy. Reader! do you enter into the apprehension of the peculiar blessedness of this title of our Covenant-God in Christ, upon such occasions? Do you see a glory in it, suited to our poor, and often exercised circumstances? Do you yourself know the Lord, as the God of grace, yea, the God of all grace? And have you found, in your own instance, that where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound? Oh! then, write it down in the daily memorandums of your mind; yea, beg of God the Holy Ghost to impress the precious truth in the fleshly tables of your heart, that the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that we have suffered a while, will make us perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle us.
But let us not stop here. It is further said, that this God of all grace hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus. Here the Lord the Spirit opens before us another, and a brighter view, even of glory, yea, and of eternal glory; and that in a way and manner, which must be eternally safe: and secure, being in Christ Jesus. So that every word in this blessed scripture, as we say sometimes of many things coming together, tells. God calls to it. Yes! For whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified, Romans 8:29-45.8.30 . And it is his grace, his free grace, as the God of all grace, which is the sole cause. For elsewhere, as the Holy Ghost teacheth, we are saved, and called with an holy calling, not according to our works, (for where grace is the sole cause, it cannot be of works, otherwise grace is no more grace: Romans 11:6 .) but according to his own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9 . So that, he that gives grace, will give glory. Grace is the earnest of glory. It is the very charter, the patent, sent from heaven. The Holy Ghost by Paul, calls it the earnest of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 5:4 . the seal of the promised inheritance, Ephesians 1:13-49.1.14 . The child of God at regeneration, receives it as the writings and heavenly parchments of his freehold, or what is infinitely more precious, his free grace inheritance. It is in reversion, indeed, and not to be entered upon, until grace is consummated in glory. But it is as sure as though in present possession; for the God of all grace hath called us unto it. Yea, even now by faith we sometimes enter upon it; and in Christ, our forerunner, who is gone before, and hath taken possession of it in our name, we do see ourselves raised up together, and made to it together in heavenliness, (or as we render it, in heavenly places,) in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-49.2.6 .
And who is it that the God of all grace hath called? Us, saith the Apostle. Even those to whom Peter writes his Epistle, as the title in the first Chapter shews. Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:2 . The Epistle is but one, and sent but to one body of persons. And these are they. And to what are we called? Even to his eternal glory. Every Word here again is big with importance. We are called to glory. . Not to purchase it, for it is freely given. Not to merit it, for it is of grace. And it is to eternal glory. Not a glory that is short and transient for it is eternal. And they that are called to it, are prepared for it. For Christ hath power over all flesh, for to give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him, John 17:2 . And all that the Father hath given me, (saith Christ,) s hall come unto me. And I give unto them eternal life. And I will raise them up at the last day. Reader! compare these scriptures together, and see how the whole is bound, John 10:24-43.10.30; John 10:24-43.10.30 . Can anything be more certain, and eternally secure? And observe that little word, His. The God of all grace hath called us unto His eternal glory. Yes! God the Father hath a glory, in which, it is said, Christ shall one day come. He shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, Matthew 16:27 . And Christ, as Christ, hath a glory, personally considered, for so is he called, the Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8 . And the glory of all the persons of the Godhead, the Church of Christ is said to have, Revelation 21:11 So that in each, and in all the views of it, the expression His eternal glory is blessed.
But, what sums up all, and makes it most precious indeed, is, that the whole is in and by Christ Jesus. So that God, who is the God of all grace, and the Giver of all grace, and, in his threefold character of person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is everlastingly dispensing grace, yea, all grace, and all sorts of grace, in pardoning, renewing, justifying, sanctifying, comforting, sealing, yea, all grace; and, in confirmation, hath called us to his eternal glory, hath given all, both our persons, and our blessings, in Christ Jesus. He is our Head and Husband, our Redeemer, our Righteousness, our all in all. He it is which gives a gracious acceptation to our persons; and by whom, and in whom we are predestinated into the adoption of children; Ephesians 1:4-49.1.6 . and are made heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
And hence, after the short exercises and sufferings of this transitory life are passed, all the blessed consequences which the Apostle speaks of will follow. The same which calleth us unto eternal glory by Christ, will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle all his people in Christ; yea, Christ himself is our perfection, and our perfection is Christ. Paul tells the Church, that we are to come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, Ephesians 4:13 . And who is this but Christ? What perfection but in Him? All our completeness is said to be in Him, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9-51.2.10 . So, then, our perfection, our establishment, our strength, our everlasting settlement and home, is Christ. And God the Holy Ghost, in causing Peter, of all men, to teach the Church these precious truths, seems, in grace, to have intended the confirmation of the whole still more. For, who is Peter? One whom Satan desired, above all men, to sift. One whom Satan did sift; and whom, but for Christ, would have been winnowed in destruction. Who, then, so well suited to tell poor, buffeted, exercised followers of the Lord Jesus these blessed truths?
Reader! ponder well these things, give yourself wholly to them. To the whole Church of God, in the view of them, it may be said, You see your calling, brethren! Oh! for grace, to join the Apostle's hymn; and, not as I fear we too often do, with lip-service, as so many words of course, at the end of these sweet writings, but with a soul full of feeling, and turned inside-out, in the unableness to contain the running-over sense of such free sovereign grace and mercy; may we exclaim, To the God of all grace be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I detain the Reader no longer with observations on the salutations at the close of this Epistle, than just to remark, that it is probable this Sylvanus, is the same person as is elsewhere called Silas, Paul's companion, who was also, it should seem, known to Peter, and of whose faithfulness the Word of God bears testimony. The Church at Babylon, means the Church of God in that place and Peter's m ark of election, proves the sense he had of it. In relation to this Marcus, whom the Apostle calls his son, whether it was his son in the flesh, is not certain. For, though Peter had a wife, we read not of any children, Matthew 8:14 . As an elder in the Church, Marcus, if young, might be called his son. The kiss of charity, founded in the peace of Christ Jesus, formed an affectionate conclusion to this most blessed and lovely Epistle. May both Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, find grace, if it be the Lord's will, so to close it, and to put to it also, their Amen!
Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for this precious Epistle, among all the other divine revelation of covenant-love and mercy in Jesus Christ! What a review of the most out-refreshing truths, in looking back over this short, but comprehensive compendium of God's holy word, do we behold, concerning the great things of God? Surely, the Lord hath been most gracious to the Church, in the gift of this divine treasury. May the Almighty Giver add to it another blessing, and, make it forever profitable to every child of God, in every renewed perusal, as long as the Church continues on earth, until brought home to glory.
Dear Peter, thou wert an elder indeed, when as in this Chapter, thou didst exhort the elders. Blessedly called by Jesus, blessedly distinguished by Jesus, among the Apostles; no wonder Satan marked thee as an object to vent his hellish malice upon, with the most decided hatred. The Lord be praised for thy recovery from his infernal spoils. The Lord be praised, for having recorded both thy fall, and thy restoration. And the Lord be praised for every single instance, where both have been made blessed to the Church, in teaching, by so remarkable an example, the weakness of our poor nature in the greatest of men; and the strength of divine grace, in recovering the Lord's people in the most desperate cases. Oh! how fully doth both prove, that, as the Apostle himself could well certify, that they who are kept, are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.
Reader! let us not close our meditation on this blessed book of God, without taking one view more of the God of all grace, in this most precious account of his rich, free, and sovereign mercy. What, but grace, can call to his eternal glory? What, but grace, can prepare the soul of any one individual for the enjoyment of it? And, what, but a God of all grace, can bear up, and bear on, and bear home the tried and buffeted child of God, against the roaring lion Satan, and sometimes the more raging lusts of sin, which arise in our fallen nature? Blessed be the God of all grace, who hath called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany