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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
1 Peter 5

 

 

Verses 1-5

Final Admonitions and Concluding Greetings.

An exhortation to pastors:

v. 1. 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:

v. 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;

v. 3. neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

v. 4. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.

v. 5. 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.

Having referred to various stations among the Christians in the first part of his letter, the apostle here addresses words of precept to the pastors, or elders, of the congregations which this epistle would reach: Elders, therefore, among you I, a fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory which is about to be revealed, exhort. Therefore, since God expects from all Christians simple faithfulness and devotion in the midst of the sufferings, the persecutions of these latter days, they should be assiduous in the duties which their station demanded of them. In a threefold capacity Peter is addressing these elders, or bishops, or pastors, of the Christian congregations in Asia Minor. He is a fellow elder; although not a resident pastor, he belonged to those men whom God had made the teachers and leaders of the entire Church, and therefore had a right to give instructions in the individual congregations. But note that Peter does not assume absolute authority over these pastors, nor does he stress hierarchical power. He calls himself, in the second place, a witness of the sufferings of Christ. The redeeming work of Christ was the theme of Peter's sermons; the Savior was the power which inspired him. Of this he had given evidence also in being a partaker of the sufferings of Christ, in imprisonments and stripes. But for this reason he is, lastly, certain of obtaining and enjoying the future glory, the glory which was soon to be revealed. Thus the designations which the apostle gives to himself, are in themselves a hearty encouragement to all pastors to base their preaching of the Gospel on the inspired writings of the apostles, to proclaim the redemption through the blood of Christ without fear, to bear any sufferings which may strike them without flinching, and confidently to expect the future glory.

The admonition itself is short and to the point: Be shepherds to the flock of Christ in your charge, not with constraint, but willingly, nor yet for sordid gain, but zealously, neither yet as lording it over your charges, but become patterns for the flock. The Greek word used by St. Peter to denote the work of the pastors is one which describes the entire labor of faithful shepherds, not only the feeding, but also the tending, the watching, all the duties which the pastors assume in accepting a charge. For the flock is not their own to rule and to handle as they please, but belongs to the great Lord and Shepherd above, to whom they will have to render an account on the last day. They should discharge the office of bishops, or shepherds, in the employ of the Lord, not with constraint, as being pressed to the work, performing only just so much as the situation absolutely requires, but willingly, with a true interest in, and with a cordial love for, the souls; not for the sake of gaining great temporal advantages, to come into possession of money and goods, making that the sole object of their labor, but freely, with a mind that has no other interest but just to serve to the best of ability; not in the sense that they should set themselves up as the lords and masters of God's heritage, of the congregations which belong to the Lord alone, their duty rather being to be examples, patterns, to the souls entrusted to their care, in love, in the spirit, in faith, in purity. See 1Ti_4:12; Tit_2:7; 2Th_3:9; Php_3:17. This is a short, but pastoral theology, which incidentally teaches also the members of the congregations the responsibilities which are attached to the pastoral office.

A splendid reward is held out to the faithful pastor: And when the supreme Shepherd has appeared, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. The chief Shepherd, the Lord of His Church, is Christ. His manifestation is imminent; we may expect at any time that He will return in glory, both for the Judgment and for the reward of those that have given evidence of their faith in a faithful discharge of their duties. It is He who will, on the last day, as a reward of grace, press upon the brow of all faithful shepherds, or pastors, an unfading crown, or wreath, of glory. The service, the battle here on earth, is but of short duration, but the reward will last throughout eternity. See Dan_12:3.

To the admonition addressed to the elders the apostle adds another: Likewise you younger, submit yourselves to the elders; but all bind upon yourselves toward one another humble mindedness, for God resists the proud, but to the humble He gives grace. This word is intended to curb the false idea of independence which is liable to take hold of the hearts of the younger members of the congregation. They should remember that they owe obedience to the office of the elders, that they should submit themselves to the teaching, to the instructions which the pastors give them from the Word of God. But in the final analysis it is the duty of all Christians to be humble-minded toward one another, literally, to bind around, to put upon themselves, humble-mindedness like a vestment, a part of a garment, Eph_5:21; Gal_5:13. All of them should at all times be mindful of the word which the Lord has recorded prove 3:24, saying that He will steadfastly resist the proud, and therefore finally bring all their pride down into the dust, but He gives grace to the humble, showing him such favor as will finally redound to his lasting benefit.


Verses 6-9

Humility and vigilance enjoined:

v. 6. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time;

v. 7. casting all your care upon Him, for he careth for you.

v. 8. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring Lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour;

v. 9. whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

The lesson which the apostle opened in the first paragraph he here concludes with an urgent appeal: Humble yourselves, then, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in His time. The reference is to the suffering which He sends His Christians. The pride of the human heart is inclined to resent this chastisement, to murmur, and to grumble. But true Christians will repress this tendency, will willingly bow themselves under the chastening hand of their almighty Lord and Master, will cheerfully bear all the misfortunes which He thinks it best to inflict. If this is the case, then God, in His mercy, will also lift up them that are His out of the slough of despondency which threatens to engulf them, and will make them feel the fullness of His goodness in Christ Jesus.

In thus bearing the misfortunes, and even the chastisements which fall to their lot, with meekness and patience, the apostle suggests to the Christians: Casting your every care upon Him, for He cares for you. All the cares and worries of this present life, everything that bothers the Christians, in its entirety, and once and for always, they should simply cast upon their heavenly Father, making a recurrence of foolish care and worry impossible. See Psa_55:23; Mat_6:25-34, If Christians thus, by the prayer of faith, put everything that worries them into the care of their heavenly Father, they will realize and experience the truth of His many promises; they will find out that God takes a personal interest in every one of them, that without His will or permission not a hair of their head will fall to the ground.

But while yielding to God's almighty hand, we should stand firm against the attacks and blows of Satan: Be sober, be vigilant; your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion, is walking about, seeking whom he may devour: to whom offer resistance, firm in the faith, knowing that the selfsame sufferings are befalling your brotherhood in the world. That is the attitude of mind, the disposition, which we must find in the Christians at all times, to keep a clear mind, unclouded with the cares of this life, to be on the lookout against dangers and enemies all the time, never to slacken in vigilance for so much as a moment. For the most powerful enemy, the most mighty adversary, is the devil, the murderer from the beginning. Just as the roaring of the lion is intended to terrorize and intimidate the animals, as he goes forth to seek his prey, making them cower before him in cringing helplessness, thus the devil makes use of similar schemes. By the enmity and the threats of the children of the world he tries to reduce the Christians to a state of helpless terror, when they will be unable to resist his attack and will become a prey to him and to eternal damnation. He does not easily attack an entire congregation, but he singles out such as seem to offer the best chance for a successful onslaught. And it is the culmination of his joy if he succeeds in drawing some poor soul down into his kingdom of darkness. There is only one approved way for the Christians, individually and collectively, to save their souls at such a time, namely, by offering unyielding resistance, by being firm in the faith. For faith clings to Christ and to His Word, knowing that a single word taken from God's eternal truth is sufficient to fell Satan with all his power. And in this resistance another thought will serve to strengthen the believers, namely, that the very same kind of sufferings is being accomplished in the case of the entire brotherhood, the entire Christian Church in the world. This world is the devil's stamping-ground, here he exercises his power; hence we may expect that he will try with all his might to regain control also of our souls. The consciousness, therefore, that others are in the same condition, that all the other children of God in the world are suffering and battling in the same way as we are, will serve to comfort and to strengthen us.


Verses 10-14

Greetings and benediction:

v. 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, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

v. 11. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

v. 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.

v. 13. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus, my son.

v. 14. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

That the battle against the might and the guile of Satan is not a matter of man's own strength and wisdom is a truth of which Christians must be conscious at all times. It is for this reason that the apostle adds his fervent prayer: But the God of all grace, He that called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself, after you have suffered for a little, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, ground you. That is the source of the Christian's strength. He, the God of all grace, who is so immeasurably rich in His mercy toward men, in Christ Jesus, He that always does more than we ask for or understand, He has called us to His eternal glory, He has brought us to the communion of His dear Son, His object being finally to lead us to His eternal glory. It is true that we, in our calling as Christians, must suffer for a short while, as long as the few years of this earthly life endure, Act_14:22. But it is true also that we have His promise to bring us to final perfection, to realize His purpose in us, Php_1:6; 1Co_1:8-9; 1Th_5:24. To this end He Himself will establish, confirm us, that our feet may not become uncertain; He will strengthen our faith, He will set us on the firm foundation of His Word unto the end. Thus our ability to resist the adversary, to cling in firm faith to Christ and to His Word, is the work of God in us. And this fact is our guarantee that He will also continue to strengthen and keep us, in spite of all temptations and tribulations, unto our end. Therefore we say with the apostle: To Him be glory and power forever and ever. We acknowledge His power, we give all honor to Him, both now and in that glorious future which awaits us at the end of time. This is most certainly true.

The apostle now adds some personal remarks: Through Silvanus, a faithful brother in my opinion, I have written to you briefly, admonishing and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you are standing. Silvanus, or Silas, the companion of the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey, was a valued assistant in the missionary work of the early Church, personally known, moreover, to many of the readers of this letter. Not only Paul, but also Peter considered him a faithful brother in Christ. The letter, as the apostle here remarks, is only brief, but it certainly contains enough of admonition and of testimony to convince any believer that his faith in the grace of God, as assured to him in the Gospel-message, was not an imaginary, futile thing, but was a solid foundation, on which he might well continue to stand.

In conclusion, St. Peter writes: The congregation at Babylon, elected together with you, greets you and Mark, my son. With the common personification of the Church as we find it in the early letters, the apostle says, literally, that she who is elected together with you in Babylon (Rome) salutes yon. The members of the congregation at Rome were elected and called by the same Lord, in the same manner as those in Asia Minor. They were therefore united by the bonds of the same faith and hope and love, hence the brotherly greeting. Mark was Peter's spiritual son, standing about in the same relation to this apostle as Timothy did to Paul. The apostle, in closing, bids the members of the congregations greet one another with the kiss of love, a custom which was observed for a number of centuries at a certain point in the communion service, the men saluting the men and the women the women. His very last word is that peace, true peace, based upon the love of God in Christ Jesus, on the reconciliation earned through His obedience, might be with them all. Christ is our Peace: with this thought we may well close this letter and with it close our eyes in death.

Summary

The apostle exhorts the pastors to be faithful in their oversight of the Lord's flock, admonishes all Christians to show humility, vigilance, and steadfastness in resisting the devil, and closes with greetings and a benediction.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/1-peter-5.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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