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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
1 Peter 5

 

 

Introduction

Verse 1

1 Peter 5:1. Elders, therefore, among you I exhort. Instead of ‘the elders,’ which the A. V. and R. V. both (though probably for different reasons) adopt, the better supported reading is simply ‘elders.’ The omission of the article perhaps generalizes the statement, as if Peter had said, ‘Such as are elders among you I exhort.’ The best authorities also insert ‘therefore,’ which the A. V. omits. This implies that what is to be said of the duties of elders is to be urged specially on the ground of the considerations with which the previous chapter has closed, and as involved in that ‘well-doing’ which is to accompany fearless trust in God under the pressure of fiery trial. The next verse makes it clear that the term ‘elders,’ or (to reproduce the Greek word itself) ‘presbyters,’ is used in the official sense. The New Testament gives no account of the rise of this office in the Christian Church. When it first mentions Christian elders, it simply refers to them as the recognised persons in the Church of Jerusalem to whom the contributions of the Church of Antioch for the relief of ‘the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,’ were sent ‘by the hands of Barnabas and Saul’ (Acts 11:30). When it next mentions them, it is to state that Paul and Barnabas ‘ordained elders in every church’ in the course of the first missionary journey in Asia (Acts 14:23). It has been a question, therefore, whether the Apostles proceeded from the first on the definite plan of organizing the Christian Church on the model of existing institutions, and at once took over this office and others from the synagogue, or whether, without setting out with any definite plan, they simply adopted the various offices as circumstances and experience from time to time made it wise or necessary to do so (on which see Neander, Hist. of the Planting of Christianity’, vol. i. p. 30, etc., Bohn). On the term ‘exhort’—a term with a fulness of meaning (covering persuasion, entreaty, admonition, consolation, etc.) which no single English word can reproduce—see on 1 Peter 2:11.—your fellow-elder: or, co-presbyter. This compound word occurs only here. So John calls himself simply ‘the elder’ (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1). Any claim to primacy is far enough removed from Peter’s meek association of himself with the men of these scattered Asiatic churches as simply an elder like themselves. Even apostolic authority is waived for the time.

and witness of the sufferings of the Christ. One distinction, and only one, is alluded to. It is that of having seen what Christ suffered. Among all these fellow-elders he was the one who had witnessed that. The distinction did not give him lordship over them, but it did give him a title to speak to Christians who were to suffer, and who were tempted to think their trial a strange thing. This word ‘witness’ is used in the N. T. not only in the simple sense of ‘spectator’ (e.g. Acts 10:41, etc.), in the extended sense of ‘one who testifies of what he has seen’ (e.g. Acts 1:8, etc.), and in the forensic sense of one who gives evidence at law (e.g. Matthew 26:65), but also in the ethical sense of ‘one who seals his faith in Christ by suffering,’ or ‘martyr’ (Acts 22:20; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 17:6). Hence some think that in designating himself a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, Peter means here that he was a sharer in Christ’s sufferings. But the expression is to be understood rather in the light of what the Apostles were declared to be to the Church—eye-witnesses of what they preached. It is the nearest approach, therefore, which Peter allows himself to make at resent to an appeal to his apostolic authority.

the partaker also of the glory destined to be revealed. The ‘glory’ is presented here in the same large and inclusive sense as in Romans 8:18; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2. Peter speaks of himself as heir of that. But in so doing he also suggests that those associated with him in faith have the like honour. If for a moment, therefore, he distinguished himself from them, he at once places himself again on common ground with them. Neither here, nor in what follows, is there any allusion even to the distinction so solemnly given him by his Lord (Matthew 16:18-19). Having engaged the interest and sympathy of the elders by the threefold designation of himself, he now speaks freely and emphatically of their duties and dangers.


Verses 1-5

We come now upon a brief series of injunctions, dealing with the spirit in which the members of Christ’s Church should occupy their respective positions, and bear themselves toward each other. These counsels are remarkable for their point and precision. They are not less remarkable for their tenderness. They are offered as the recommendation of one who, though entitled to speak in some respects of superior privilege, meekly identifies himself with the persons to whom they are addressed. These persons are in the first instance those who are charged with office and special ecclesiastical duty, and in the second instance the whole membership of the Church. What concerns the soundness of the inner life of the Church is still in view. The exhortations are given in immediate connection with the preceding statements about the end, the judgment already beginning with the house of God, and the necessity of earnest well-doing in all things. The watchword of submission which rang through so large a space of the second and third chapters, is heard again here.


Verse 2

1 Peter 5:2. Tend the flock of God. The ‘feed’ of the A. V. is too limited a rendering. In the memorable scene by the sea of Galilee (John 21:15-17), which is probably in Peter’s mind here, Christ gave three commissions to the restored Apostle. Of these the first and third dealt with the duty of feeding in the strict sense of the word (the verb used in John 5:15 and John 5:17 being one which conveys that idea only); but the second (in John 5:16) referred to a wider range of ministry than that, and was expressed by a different verb. It is this latter term that is taken up by Peter here. The idea is that of acting all the shepherd’s part, including protection, rule, guidance, etc., as well as the providing of pasture. The charge reminds us also of Paul’s counsel to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:28). In the oldest of the classical writers the relations of ruler to people are familiarly described as the relations of shepherd to flock. The same figure occurs frequently both in the Old Testament and in the New. In the former it is used of Jehovah, of Messiah, and of the political heads of the theocratic people (Psalms 78:71; Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 12:10; Jeremiah 25:34; Ezekiel 34:2). In the latter it is used of Christ, and of those in office in the Church. The designation ‘the flock of God’ expresses both the unity of the Church and the fact that it is God’s possession, not that of the elders.—which is in you. It has been felt singular that the flock should be described as among or (as the word literally means) in the elders. Hence it has been proposed to render the phrase rather ‘as much as in you is’ (so the margin of the A. V., also Calvin, etc.). Others explain the form of the expression as due to the wish to bring out the peculiar intimacy of union between the elders and the members, as the same preposition is used in the analogous charge in Acts 20:28—‘take heed ... to all the flock over (literally in) the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.’ The ordinary local sense, however, is quite in point, whether it be taken as=which is in your districts; or as=which is within your reach (Luther, etc.), or as=which is under your care (Hofmann, Huther, etc.). The idea is that this church of God, which is the flock, is to be tended by these particular elders, so far as it exists where they themselves are settled and have it thus put under their charge.

taking the oversight thereof. It is doubtful whether this clause belongs to the text. The R. V. retains it in the form ‘exercising the oversight.’ It is omitted, however, by the two oldest manuscripts, and by the most recent editors. If it is retained, it states one direction which the tending is to take, namely, that of overseeing the flock. The verb is the one with which the word bishop (i.e overseer) is connected. We find it only once again in the N. T., viz. in Hebrews 12:15, where it is rendered ‘looking diligently.’ If it is omitted here, the tending is defined directly by the three adverbial and participial clauses which follow. Each of these, too, consists of two parts, the thing to be avoided being in each case first set solemnly over against the thing positively enjoined. Greater force is thus given to the statement of the spirit in which the tending is to be discharged.

not constrainedly; or, as the R. V. gives it, not of constraint. The adverb occurs nowhere else in the N. T. It is of the rarest possible occurrence in Classical Greek.

but willingly: a term found only once again in the N. T., viz. in Hebrews 10:26, where it is rendered ‘wilfully.’ The R. V. adds here the words ‘according unto God,’ on the genuineness of which the divided state of the documentary evidence makes it difficult to pronounce a decided opinion. This first definition describes the elder’s duty as one which is not to be taken up like an unwelcome burden imposed on one, or a task from which one cannot retreat. In such circumstances there will be, as Calvin suggests, a dull and frigid discharge of the work. We have a similar antithesis in 1 Corinthians 9:17, and Philemon 1:14.

nor yet for filthy lucre. The negative is more than the simple ‘not’ of the A. V. It has the force of a climax—‘nor yet.’ The adverb ‘for filthy lucre,’ which denotes the corrupt motive here, has also a very strong sense. It means in sordid greed of gain. This is its only occurrence in the N. T. Its idea is otherwise expressed in 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7; Titus 1:11. The support which those are entitled to receive who preach the Gospel, or otherwise devote themselves to the service of Christ’s Church (Luke 10:7; 2 Corinthians 9:14), becomes base gain, if it is made the motive of the service.

but of a ready mind. This again is an adverb found nowhere else in the N. T. The adjective describes Paul as ready to preach the Gospel (Romans 1:15), and is used by Christ when He says to Peter himself and his drowsy comrades in the garden, ‘the spirit indeed is willing’ (Matthew 26:41), or, ‘the spirit truly is ready’ (Mark 14:38). Here the word expresses the prompt alacrity which marks the service which is undertaken for love of the work—‘a mind forward of itself, not measuring its efforts by the prospect of external advantage, but quickened and impelled by its own inward and Divine principles’ (Lillie).


Verse 3

1 Peter 5:3. nor yet as lording it; or, in the character of those who lord it. The expression is again a very strong one. An uncommon compound form of the verb ‘to rule’ is chosen, which conveys the idea of high-handed rule, or a rule which is detrimental to the interests of the flock. Bengel notices how, as the elders in course of time assumed lordship, the Latin word Senior, elder, became the Italian Signore, Lord, Sir. Rule and office are recognised in the N. T. Church, and those who guide its affairs receive a variety of names (comp. Luke 22:26; Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, etc.). But they are never described as being lords over the flock (Luke 22:25). If lordship, therefore, is nowhere recognised, much more is oppressive rule, or ‘overruling’ as the margin of the A. V. gives it, repudiated.

over the congregations. The Greek noun used here is that (cleros) from which our English word clergy comes. It means a lot, then what is apportioned by lot, and so anything, such as an office, a heritage, or a possession, which is assigned to one. Strange meanings have been given it here, e.g. church property, the possessions of worldly rulers, the province of the Roman proconsul, etc. Some eminent Roman Catholic interpreters have held it = the clergy; and both Wycliffe and the Rhemish Version actually render it ‘the clergy,’ apparently making a simple transference of the term used in the Vulgate. It has been also taken to mean estates, as if the idea were, ‘do not rule haughtily as men do who exercise rule over estates belonging to themselves’ (Hofmann). But while the word has that sense in Classical Greek, it does not seem to have it in Biblical Greek. In the Old Testament it is one of the terms by which Israel is designated God’s heritage or inheritance (Deuteronomy 9:29, etc.). Hence it is supposed that the term is chosen here, in order to express the fact that the Church of Christ is now that heritage of God which Israel originally was designed to be. So the A. V., following the Genevan, translates it ‘God’s heritage.’ The plural form is then explained to be due to the circumstance that the one flock or Church of Christ is conceived as distributed among the various churches in which these elders laboured. And the point of the phrase lies then in the idea that these churches were God’s possession, and not at the disposal of the elders. It is most natural, however, to take the word as practically equivalent to ‘congregations.’ These were the lots, or charges, assigned to the elders. So the word ‘charge’ has come to mean a congregation in ecclesiastical phraseology. Tyndale and Cranmer are not far astray in rendering it ‘parishes.’ The R. V. comes short only in translating the plural noun as a singular—‘over the charge allotted to you.’ The use of the terra is due perhaps to the pastoral imagery which underlies the whole paragraph. The whole pastoral wealth of a great proprietor would make one flock, over which there would be a Chief Shepherd. But the flock would be broken up into various contingents, pasturing in different localities. Each of these would be a cleros, or lot, over which would be a shepherd responsible to the Chief Shepherd (see Dr. John Brown in loc.).

but becoming examples of the flock. Peter uses three different terms for the idea of a model or pattern. In chap. 1 Peter 2:11 the word is one which means literally a writing-copy. In the Second Epistle, chap. 1 Peter 2:6, we have another (occurring also in John 13:15; Hebrews 4:11, Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:23; James 5:10) which is used particularly of the sculptor or painter’s model. In the present passage the word (the same as in 1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7; Hebrews 8:5) is the term type, which has a wide range of application, from a mere mark or footprint up to the living likeness of the father which appears in the child. It is the word which Thomas uses when he speaks of the ‘print’ of the nails (John 20:25). The elders, therefore, were themselves to be what those under their charge should be. The secret of their rule was to lie not in a lordly spirit, but in the persuasion of a consistent life. The things which they are cautioned against in these two verses are the three vices which, as Calvin observes, and as Church history too plainly shows, are wont to be most injurious to the Church.


Verse 4

1 Peter 5:4. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested. The title ‘Chief Shepherd’ is nowhere else given to Christ. It is appropriate here, where the duties and rewards of those are dealt with who are called to act the Shepherd’s part of tending Christ’s flock for Him on earth. In chap. 1 Peter 2:25 He is called simply ‘the Shepherd;’ in Hebrews 12:20 He is ‘that great Shepherd;’ in John 10:11, etc., He names Himself ‘the good Shepherd.’ The word ‘manifested’ is the same as in chap. 1 Peter 1:20, as also in John 1:31; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2, etc.—ye shall receive; on this see on chap. 1 Peter 1:9.—the amaranthine crown of glory. In this passage, as also in Revelation 2:10, the A. V. overlooks the article, and gives ‘a crown.’ Peter speaks of ‘the crown’—the one well known to Christian hope. He calls it ‘the crown of glory,’ meaning by that not merely that it is a glorious one, but that it consists of glory. Glory itself, and nothing less than that, will crown the heads of the elders as their reward for the meek discharge of their vocation. Isaiah speaks of ‘a crown of beauty’ (Isaiah 52:3); Paul of ‘a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:8); James (1 Peter 1:12) and John (Revelation 2:10) of ‘the crown of life.’ It is doubtful whether the figure is drawn here from the wreath with which the victors in the Greek games were crowned, from the diadem set on the heads of kings, or from the wreath which the Jews themselves made use of on festal occasions. It is less likely in the case of Peter than in that of Paul, that the imagery should be taken from the heathen spectacles. For these were abhorrent to the Palestinian Jews. The word chosen for ‘crown,’ though different from the ordinary term for a diadem, appears to have that sense occasionally (e.g. Revelation 4:10), and it is possible, therefore, that here, as also perhaps in Revelation 2:10, the idea is that of kingship. But it is most probable on the whole that Peter’s term is borrowed from familiar Jewish practice, and that the figure of the ‘crown’ points more generally to the honour and joy into which Christ’s faithful stewards shall enter when He returns. The ‘crown’ is further described by an adjective which differs but slightly from the one already applied to the ‘inheritance’ in chap. 1 Peter 1:4. It may be translated, therefore, simply unwithering. It seems, however, rather to be formed immediately from the noun which denotes the flower known as the ‘amaranth.’ We should translate it, therefore, amaranthine, the figure being that of a wreath constructed of immortelles, which change neither in contour nor in colour. So Milton speaks of the ‘blissful bowers of amarantine shade’ whence ‘the sons of light hasten’ (P. L. Book 11). Compare also the description in the third book of Paradise Lost:

‘And to the ground

With solemn adoration down they cast

Their crowns inwove with amarant and gold;

Immortal amarant, a flower which once

In Paradise, fast by the tree of life,

Began to bloom.’

And Cowper’s,

‘The only amaranthine flower on earth

Is virtue; th’ only lasting treasure, truth.’

Task, B iii.


Verse 5

1 Peter 5:5. In like manner, ye younger, submit yourselves to the elders. The exhortation clearly is to the cherishing of a spirit of deference on the part of one class to another. But the question is, Are the two classes introduced here in respect of age simply, or in respect of office? Seeing that in the opening verse the term ‘elders’ is used in the official sense, it is natural to suppose it to have the same sense here. It is not less natural to suppose the correlative term ‘younger’ to have a similar official sense. And this is supported by the circumstance that in connection with the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5; Acts 5:10) we read of the ‘young men’ as if they were a distinct class, charged with certain manual services to the Church, who accordingly rise up at once and perform unsummoned the duty which had to be done then. In this case, the exhortation would bear upon the relations of the junior and subordinate office-bearers (not necessarily identical with the deacons), or the recognised servants of the Church, to the presbyters or elders. It is alleged on the other hand, however, that there is no historical notice of the institution of any such lower order of church officers, and that the passage in Acts 5 does not necessarily imply the existence of a distinct class known officially as the ‘young men’ or the ‘younger men.’ Hence the phrase ‘ye younger’ is taken by some (Wiesinger, Alford, etc.) to mean the general membership of the Church, its members as distinguished from its office-bearers. Others (Huther, etc.) understand the official sense to be dropped here, and both the ‘elders’ and the ‘younger’ to be designations of age only. Others (de Wette, etc.) suppose the ‘elders’ to mean the office-bearers proper, and the ‘younger’ to denote neither a junior order nor the entire non-official membership, but only those members who were young in years and consequently under stronger temptation to snow themselves insubordinate to their ecclesiastical rulers. The term ‘elder’ in the Hebrew Church was first a title of age and then a title of office. As those who were elders by age were in ordinary circumstances chosen as elders by office, the word combined both ideas, and with these it probably passed into the Christian Church. And even before there was any direct creation or recognition of distinct offices, the young men would naturally be looked to for the discharge of such duties in the Christian Church as they had probably been accustomed to in the Synagogue, and this would have a quasi-official position.

yea, all one to another. The ‘be subject,’ which the A. V. inserts after ‘yea, all of you,’ must be omitted on the authority of the best documents. This leaves it open to connect the clause either with what precedes or with what follows. In the latter case (which is adopted by the text of the R. V., and by Alford, etc.) the idea is—‘Yea, all of you, in reference one to another, gird yourselves,’ etc. In the former case (which is the more grammatical construction) the clause extends to the whole body of Christian people, without distinction of office or age, the same exhortation to mutual deference and submission which has already been addressed to a particular class.—Gird yourselves with humility. The ‘and’ of the A. V. does not belong to the text. As to the grace of humility see on chap. 1 Peter 3:8. The verb translated ‘be clothed with’ by the A. V. occurs nowhere else in the N. T. The precise idea which it conveys has, therefore, been variously understood. Some give it the sense of ‘adorn yourselves’ (Calvin, etc.), and so the Genevan Version renders it ‘deck yourselves inwardly with.’ Others think that it is formed from a noun meaning the frock or apron of a slave, and would render it ‘the yourselves up with humility as with the slave’s cape.’ To put on such a cape was to prepare for discharging the duties of a servant. The word would thus be chosen in order to indicate ‘the menial service which they were to render one to another; in the same way as our Lord showed it in His own example and person when He girded Himself with a towel and washed the disciples’ feet’ (Humphrey, Comm. on the Rev. Vers., p. 446). The Vulgate and the Rhemish Versions, again, translate it ‘insinuate humility.’ The word seems to be derived, however, rather from a simpler noun denoting a band. It thus means to fasten, not merely to put on, but to gird tightly on; the grace of humility being not the girdle that fastens other things, but the thing which is girt firmly about one. It is therefore a stronger form of Paul’s ‘Put on . . humbleness of mind’ (Colossians 3:12). Bengel paraphrases it admirably thus: ‘Indue and wrap yourselves about with it, so that it may be impossible for the covering of humility to be torn from you by any force.’ Tyndale’s rendering is, ‘Knit yourselves together in lowliness of mind.’

because God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. The ‘resisteth’ indicates a strong and deliberate opposition. Its idea is that of setting oneself in array against one. The importance of the duty of humility is enforced by a sentence taken (with the substitution of God for the Lord) from the Greek text of Proverbs 3:34. This sentence is introduced in a similar connection in James 4:6. It states a principle on which God acts. It is the principle which is recognised in the Magnificat (Luke 1:5-53), and of which a figure has been seen by many in the action of rain or dew on hill and vale. Leighton, e.g., says—‘His sweet dews and showers of grace slide off the mountains of pride, and fall on the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile.’ But in this he is anticipated by Augustine, who speaks of grace descending into humble souls as ‘the water flows together toward the lowliness of the valley, and flows down from the swelling hill.’ Compare also J. D. Burns’ rendering of the same principle:—

‘The dew that never wets the flinty mountain

Falls in the valleys free;

Bright verdure fringes the small desert-fountain,

But barren sand the sea.’


Verse 6

1 Peter 5:6. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God. Once more is the question of affliction touched, and the duty of submission urged. This time, however, the matter is pressed in connection with the statement of the general principle on which God acts in giving grace to the humble. The phrase ‘mighty hand’ of God occurs nowhere else in the N. T. In the O. T. it is a figure both of man’s power (Exodus 3:19) and of God’s (Deuteronomy 3:24; Job 30:21, etc.). It is not limited in the O. T. to God’s power in afflicting or punishing. Neither is it so limited here. The Hand that lays low also exalts. The reason why the irresistible power of that Hand is exerted in chastening is that it may be seasonably exerted in exalting.

in order that he may exalt you in due time. God has His purpose in laying His Hand heavily upon us. That purpose can be given effect to only on condition that we be to Him what He is to us. Self-exaltation will frustrate His purpose. But if we humble ourselves as He humbles us, we shall reap the ‘interest of tears’ and be glorified through sorrow. God has His own time, nevertheless, for fulfilling the purpose of His chastenings. That time, whether it come late or early,—not our own hour, for which, like Mary at the marriage in Cana, we are so apt impatiently to plead,—is the ‘due time,’ the fit season.


Verses 6-11

The grace of humility closed the foregoing series of counsels. It appeared there as the safeguard against a lordly spirit on the side of those in office in the Church, and a spirit of insubordination on the side of the members and servants of the Church. It is reintroduced as the first of another brief succession of counsels addressed to all. It is enjoined now as a grace to be cherished toward God Himself, to be studied in especial under His afflictive dispensations, and to be valued as the condition upon which He suspends the honour which comes through suffering. It open the way to other kindred duties,—sobriety, vigilance, stedfastness in faith. The exhortations are then crowned by a devout assurance of the graciousness of God’s intention in all the trials of the time.


Verse 7

1 Peter 5:7. Casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you. While the A. V. adopts the one term ‘care’ in both clauses, the original has two distinct terms, the former meaning ‘anxious care,’ the latter ‘interest’ or ‘concern.’ The A. V. follows Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan. Wycliffe gives ‘cast ye all your business in to Him: for to Him is cure of you.’ The Rhemish has ‘casting all your carefulness upon Him, because He hath care of you.’ Peter seems to have Psalms 55:22 in mind, although he gives the second clause a different form from what it has in the Psalm. Compare also Psalms 37:5. The fact that God retains a loving concern for us is our reason for rolling the burden of our anxieties upon Him. This we do by prayer, and He shows His care for us by helping us to throw off the weight, or by sustaining us under it Humility of mind is a chief protection against anxiety. Where there is the disposition to humble ourselves beneath God’s hand, there the disposition to trust Him will also appear. The anxiety is described here as a burden (= ‘your whole anxiety’) which is to be cast as one whole upon God—‘not every anxiety as it arises; for none will arise, if this transference has been effectually made’ (Alford). In the present instance the burden is not the affliction itself, but those doubtful, carking thoughts about affliction which double its pain. Compare Shakespeare’s

‘Care is no cure, but rather a corrosive.

For things that are not to be remedied.’

—Henry VI. iii. 3,

and the remarkable words of the Stoic slave, Epictetus (Dissert, 1 Peter 2:10), ‘From thyself, from thy thoughts, cast away grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance. But it is not possible to cast away these things in any other way than by fixing our eyes upon God only, by turning our affections on Him only, by being consecrated to His orders’ (Ramage’s rendering).


Verse 8

1 Peter 5:8. Be sober; see on chap. 1 Peter 1:13, where sobriety is noticed as a condition to the highest type of Christian hope. In chap. 1 Peter 4:7 it appears as a preparation for prayer. In this third recommendation, it is enjoined as a protection against Satan.

be watchful. The verb rendered ‘vigilant’ here, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 ‘wake,’ is elsewhere (in some twenty-one occurrences) always rendered ‘watch’ by the A. V. Its use here perhaps indicates painful, personal recollection on the writer’s part. It is the word which Jesus addressed to Peter and his comrades in the garden—‘What, could ye not watch with me one hour?’ (Matthew 26:40).

your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom to devour. The ‘because’ which is prefixed by the A. V., is not found in the best manuscripts. Its omission gives a nervous force to the whole statement. The word ‘adversary’ means primarily an opponent in a lawsuit, and then an opponent generally. It is much the same as the O. T. term Satan. This is the only N. T. passage in which it is a name for man’s great spiritual enemy, who is immediately designated also the ‘devil,’ or accuser. While this adversary is elsewhere described as a serpent in respect of his cunning, he is here appropriately compared to a ‘roaring lion,’ where threatenings and persecutions are in view. The Hebrews had several terms for the terrible roar of the lion. They had one (used also of thunder) which expressed in particular the roar of the hungry creature in quest of its prey. It is that one which seems to be represented by Peter’s word here. There is great force also in the other descriptions,—‘walketh about’ (cf. Job 1:7; Job 2:2), as if the wide earth were his range, and ‘seeking whom he may devour,’ or, as it literally is, swallow, or gulp down, in his famished rage. The fury and vigilance of this enemy, the dread means which he employs and the end to which he applies them, make sobriety and watchfulness imperative on our side. The writer who pens these words, so bluntly expressive of his own belief in the existence of a personal spirit of evil, is the disciple to whom Jesus specially addressed the mingled warnings and assurances which Luke records (Luke 24:31-32)—‘Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’


Verse 9

1 Peter 5:9. Whom resist, stedfast in the faith. The ‘stedfast’ means stable or firm. It is translated ‘sure’ in 2 Timothy 2:19, and ‘strong’ in Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 5:14 (its only other New Testament occurrences), while its verb is rendered ‘establish’ in Acts 16:5, and ‘receive strength,’ ‘make strong,’ in Acts 3:7; Acts 3:16. By ‘the faith’ here is meant not the objects believed, but the subjective conviction, the power or principle of faith (cf. 1 John 5:4-5). The spiritual adversary is neither to be fled from nor to be supinely regarded, but to be withstood. He will be faced, however, to little purpose where he is met by weak and wavering conviction. Only he who is strong in the faith which makes him a Christian, is strong enough to vanquish this foe in the assaults which he makes with the engine of persecution. Compare James 4:7, and above all, Paul’s view of the shield of faith and its efficiency in Ephesians 6:16.

knowing that the same sufferings are being accomplished in your brotherhood who are in the world. The phrase ‘the same sufferings’ means, literally, ‘the same things of the sufferings,’ or ‘the identities of the sufferings.’ The construction of the sentence is also otherwise peculiar. Hence it is variously rendered, e.g., as = considering that the same sufferings are accomplishing themselves in your brotherhood, etc. (Huther); or as = knowing that ye are accomplishing the same sufferings with your brotherhood, etc.; or as = considering how to pay the same tribute of suffering as your brethren in the world; or simply as = knowing that the same sufferings are being inflicted on your brotherhood, etc. (Wilke). The idea in any case is sufficiently plain. Their courage in withstanding, with a firm faith, the devil’s attempts to seduce them through their sufferings, should be helped by the consideration that they occupied no singular position (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). They suffered only as the whole Christian brotherhood suffered. The same dispensation of tribulation was fulfilling itself in them and in the brotherhood, the same tribute of suffering was being paid by them and by the brotherhood, and for the same reason. They were both ‘in the world.’ On the phrase ‘the brotherhood’ see on chap. 1 Peter 2:17. Compare Gray’s lines:

To each his sufferings, all are men, Condemned alike to groan; The tender for another’s pain, The unfeeling for his own.’


Verse 10

1 Peter 5:10. But the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have Buffered a little while, will himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you. Several changes must be made upon the A. V. here, which have been rightly recognised by the R. V. Weight of documentary evidence displaces ‘us’ by ‘you,’ turns the tenses into futures, inserts ‘himself’ before these verbs, and excludes the final ‘settle.’ It is also probable that we should read ‘in Christ’ or ‘in the Christ,’ instead of ‘in Christ Jesus.’ The verse, therefore, is an assurance, not a prayer. It thus conveys far greater encouragement to those who have to face persecution, and resist the devil’s roarings and seductions. This assurance is introduced as a contrast with, or qualification of, what has been said of the burdens of believers. Hence the opening ‘but,’ or ‘moreover’ (not ‘and’). Such things they must expect from the adversary, but what may they not expect from God? They are themselves appointed to the trying duty of strenuous resistance; but, if so, God also will act with them in the perilous situation. As it is God’s part that Peter is now urging for the final comfort of his readers, that name is set emphatically first, and the solemn ‘Himself’ (which is missed by Tyndale, Cranmer, and the A. V., but caught by Wycliffe and the Versions of Geneva and Rheims) is brought in before the verbs which state the things which He is certain to do (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The designation of God as the ‘God of all grace,’ the God who is so rich in grace that all grace comes from Him, adds to the strength of the assurance. The title is itself a consolation. Still higher, if possible, might these drooping saints be lifted into the rare atmosphere of a gracious confidence, by the thought of what God had done for them in the decisive change which first gave them Christian hope. He had called them in His Son (by uniting them with Him), and that with the very object of bringing them in the end to His eternal glory. So great an act of grace was the pledge of further gifts of grace. Unless so great an object is to be frustrated, it must be that God will carry them through their sufferings, and make these the means of perfecting, stablishing, and strengthening them with a view to that glory. The glory, indeed, into which they were called is to be theirs only after suffering. Yet the space of suffering will be brief. The ‘a while’ of the A. V. does not fairly represent the original. Tyndale is better—‘after ye have suffered a little affliction.’ What Peter has in mind is not the need of suffering at least for a time, but the shortness of the suffering. The idea conveyed by the ‘perfect’ is that of preparing completely, equipping fully, bringing into fault less order, so that nothing shall be wanting. It is the term which is used for ‘perfect’ in such passages as Luke 6:10, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Hebrews 13:21; and it is applied to the mending of broken nets (Matthew 4:21), and the restoring of one in fault (Galatians 6:1), etc. The ‘stablish’ means to plant firmly, to make fast, so that there shall be no tossing or overturning. The ‘strengthen’ recalls Christ’s commission to Peter himself, the commission which he was discharging by this very writing, ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32). Some have supposed the terms in which Peter, with a confidence touched with emotion, rapidly unfolds what God may be trusted to do, to be all figures drawn from the one conception of the Church as a building, the ‘house’ already noticed in chap. 1 Peter 2:5. Bengel speaks of them as ‘language worthy of Peter (a rock),’ and gives the points briefly thus—perfect—so that no defect can remain in you; stablishso that nothing shall shake you; strengthen—so that ye may overcome every opposing force.


Verse 11

1 Peter 5:11. To him be (or, is) the dominion unto the ages. Amen. A doxology similar to that in chap. 1 Peter 4:11, but briefer. The longer version of the A. V. is not sustained by sufficient evidence.


Verse 12

1 Peter 5:12. By Silvanus. In all probability this is the well-known friend and fellow-labourer of Paul, known as Silas in the Book of Acts, but as Silvanus in the Pauline Epistles (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:19). He is noticed first (Acts 15:22) as one of the ‘chief men among the brethren’ in the Church of Jerusalem, sent as such along with Paul, Barnabas, and Judas Barnabas with the letter from the convention of apostles and elders to Antioch; next as a prophet exhorting ‘the brethren with many words’ (Acts 15:32); then, on his return from Antioch, as chosen by Paul to be his companion on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40, Acts 17:40); next, as left behind with Timothy at Beroea, while Paul went on to Athens (Acts 17:14); and, finally, as again with Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5). From Acts 17:15 we gather that along with Timothy he received instructions to join Paul at Athens. But we have no information either as to the carrying out of these instructions, or as to the way in which he became associated with Peter. It is possible that he went with Timothy from Athens to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2). As a missionary of the Cross he was most familiar with the Asiatic churches, and knew well the territories now addressed by Peter. The ‘by Silvanus’ does not necessarily imply that he acted as Peter’s amanuensis. As in the subscriptions to some of the Pauline Epistles (Romans and Corinthians), and as in the longer form ‘by the hand of’ (Acts 15:23, where the A. V. translates it simply ‘by them’), the phrase may designate the bearer of the Epistle.

the faithful brother, as I account him. The A.V. is at fault here both in giving ‘a faithful brother,’ and in rendering ‘as I suppose,’ The verb indicates not a mere supposition in the ordinary sense of the word, but (as in Romans 3:28, Romans 6:11, Romans 8:18; Romans 11:19) a settled persuasion, an assured judgment. Some indeed attach this ‘as I suppose’ to the next clause, as if it expressed Peter’s opinion of the .brevity of his own letter. It belongs, however, to ‘the present clause, and expresses Peter’s view of what he had himself found Silvanus to be. This comrade of Paul was a suitable messenger, both because he was known to the churches addressed, and because he had been to Peter as faithful a brother as he had been to Paul. The ‘unto you’ is so connected by the A. V. as to denote the persons to whom Silvanus proved himself faithful. It belongs, however, rather to the verb, and indicates the persons to whom the Epistle was addressed.

I wrote unto you. Where we in English would say ‘I write’ or ‘I have written,’ regarding the yet unfinished letter as still in the writer’s hands, the Greeks might say ‘I wrote,’ the letter which was being finished being regarded from the view-point of the recipient who was to read it as a completed thing. So here, although Peter says, literally, ‘I wrote’ (not ‘I have written,’ as in A. V.), he refers to the present Epistle, and not, as some have supposed, to the Second Epistle, or to another which is now lost. For similar instances see Galatians 6:11; Philemon 1:19; Philemon 1:21; Hebrews 13:22; and possibly, although not quite so certainly, 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26; 1 John 5:15.—briefly; literally, ‘through few (words),’ a formula analogous to that in Hebrews 13:22. As compared with Epistles like those to the Romans, Corinthians, and Hebrews’, this Epistle would not be considered a ‘brief’ one. But in view of the weight and variety of topics touched on, and as compared with what could be conveyed by oral discourse, it might well seem to the writer that all that he had been able to say, in the letter which he was now closing, was a very limited statement indeed. At most points, too, the Epistle is remarkable for its conciseness and condensation.—exhorting: on the force of this verb see on chap. 1 Peter 2:11.

and testifying: the verb used here is a compound form of the usual verb. This is its only occurrence in the N. T. Some hold that it should be rendered ‘giving additional testimony,’ as if Peter meant that what he had done was simply to add his own testimony to what the readers had already been instructed in by Paul and Silas. The compound verb, however, gives the same idea, only with greater strength, as the simple verb. The two participles are not to be taken to refer (as they are understood by de Wette, etc.) to separate portions of the Epistle. We cannot say that so much of it is exhortation, and so much of it testimony. It is throughout an Epistle of the twofold character expressed by these terms, its exhortations rise upon the solid basis of its testimony to the grace of God, and its testimony is determined with a view to the practical statement of duty.

that this is the true grace of God. The ‘grace of God’ here means much the same as ‘this grace’ in Romans 5:1. What is in view, therefore, is not the ‘state of grace,’ as contrasted with the state of nature. Neither is it the pure preaching of the gospel as contrasted with a false gospel or erroneous doctrinal teaching. It is the gift of grace whereof God had made them possessors through the preaching of the Gospel. Peter affirms, therefore, that what they had come to know and enjoy through the Gospel was no imaginary or supposititious thing, but real grace, God’s own grace, which they might rely on without hesitation in spite of all their sufferings, and by which they ought firmly to abide. He regards the readers as already in that grace. But by whose means they had first been introduced to it, he does not specify. So far, however, as they had been introduced by Paul into ‘this grace’ of which Peter had been writing, Peter sets the seal of his own testimony to that form of the Gospel which Paul had made known to them, and by which they had become what they now were.

in which stand; or, as the R. V. amplifies it, stand ye fast therein. Thus we must read, on the authority of the best documents and editors, instead of the ‘wherein ye stand’ of the A. V. The charge, too, is of the form (literally = into which stand ye) which recognizes the entrance into the grace, and enjoins its sedulous retention. It is therefore ‘a short and earnest exhortation, containing in it in fact the pith of what has been said by way of exhortation in the whole Epistle’ (Alford).


Verses 12-14

Certain details are now appended as to the composition and transmission of the Epistle. The object with which it has been written is stated with great brevity and point. Salutations then follow which have an important bearing on the origin of the Epistle, and have been the subject of much debate. The conclusion is given in the form of a benediction which has a simplicity peculiar to itself.


Verse 13

1 Peter 5:13. The church in Babylon, co-elect, saluteth you. The original runs simply ‘the co-elect one in Babylon saluteth you,’ or, as the R. V. renders it, ‘she that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you.’ Hence some good expositors, including Bengel and Alford, are of opinion that Peter names in this way his own wife, (to whom there is also supposed to be a reference in 1 Corinthians 9:5), as uniting with him in these greetings. Others think that some notable Christian woman belonging to the Babylonian church itself, is in view. The grounds on which this interpretation is urged are such as these: the unlikelihood of the whole Christian community, designated as it is with so strange an indefiniteness, being united in these parting salutations with a single individual, who is distinctly described by his name Mark; the probability that in an Epistle addressed to ‘elect strangers’ individually, and not to churches named as such, the ‘co-elect one’ should also be an individual; the necessity of supplying a term, viz. church, which nowhere occurs in the Epistle itself. The great majority of interpreters, however, including Luther, Calvin, and most of those of our own day, prefer the other view; and there is an obvious fitness in giving the greetings of the Christian community, within whose bounds Peter was at present resident, as the greetings of a church which, though widely separated geographically, was ‘co-elect’ with those ‘elect sojourners’ in other countries to whom he was writing. One of our two oldest manuscripts, the Sinaitic, indeed inserts the word ‘church,’ as does also the Vulgate. Wycliffe gives ‘the church that is gathered,’ etc.; Tyndale, ‘the companions of your election,’ etc.; Cranmer, ‘the congregation of them which at Babylon are companions of your election.’ The A. V. follows the Genevan and the Rhemish. But what is to be understood by Babylon here? Some few, including Vitringa and our own Pearson, have supposed the place in view to be an Egyptian Babylon, a military station mentioned by Strabo. Others have imagined it to be a mystical name for Jerusalem, or for the house in which the apostles met on the day of Pentecost. Passing over these eccentric opinions, however, we have to choose between two views, namely, that which takes the term literally and as designating the well-known Babylon on the Euphrates, and that which takes it figuratively and as designating Rome. The latter is undoubtedly a very ancient opinion. It was held, for example, by Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, and others of the Fathers. It is carried back indeed by the historian Eusebius to Papias of Hierapolis in the second century. It has been the prevalent Roman Catholic interpretation, but has also won the adhesion of Reformers like Luther, and of not a few eminent Protestant exegetes belonging to our own time, e.g. Hofmann, Ewald, Schott, etc. In favour of this allegorical interpretation it is urged that there are other occurrences of Babylon in the N. T. as a mystical name for Rome (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:2; Revelation 18:10); that it is in the highest degree unlikely that Peter should have made the Assyrian Babylon his residence or missionary centre, especially in view of a statement by Josephus indicating that the Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from that city and neighbourhood; and that tradition connects Peter with Rome, but not with Babylon. The fact, however, that the word is mystically used in a mystical book like the Apocalypse,—a book, too, which is steeped in the spirit and terminology of the Old Testament, is no argument for the mystical use of the word in writings of a different type. The allegorical interpretation becomes still less likely when it is observed that other geographical designations in this Epistle (chap. 1 Peter 1:1) have undoubtedly the literal meaning. The tradition itself, too, is uncertain. The statement in Josephus does not bear all that it is made to bear. There is no reason to suppose that, at the time when this Epistle was written, the city of Rome was currently known among Christians as Babylon. On the contrary, wherever it is mentioned in the N. T., with the single exception of the Apocalypse (and even there it is distinguished as ‘Babylon the great’), it gets its usual name, Rome. So far, too, from the Assyrian Babylon being practically in a deserted state at this date, there is very good ground for believing that the Jewish population (not to speak of the heathen) of the city and vicinity was very considerable. For these and other reasons a succession of distinguished interpreters and historians, from Erasmus and Calvin on to Neander, Weiss, Reuss, Huther, etc., have rightly held by the literal sense.

and so doth Mark my son. Bengel and a few others think that this Mark was Peter’s own son according to the flesh. But in all probability he is affectionately designated in this way because he was Peter’s spiritual son in the faith. The Mark referred to, therefore, appears to be the well-known John Mark, the writer of the Second Gospel, of whom we read in Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5; Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37; Acts 15:39, Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11, and who has been connected by tradition with Peter as his companion and interpreter. It was to the house of Mary, the mother of this Mark, that Peter repaired on his deliverance from prison (Acts 12:12). The old friendship, therefore, is found still alive after a long and changeful interval. It was this Mark who was the occasion of the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas, which is noticed in Acts 15. When these two set out on their second missionary tour, Barnabas desired to take his kinsman (Colossians 4:10) Mark along with them, as had been the case when they started on their first missionary journey. Paul resolutely refused, however, to accede to this in consequence of Mark’s having left them during the former tour (it may be under the influence of Peter’s vacillation, Galatians 2:13) at the Pamphylian Perga (Acts 13:13), and gone back to his mother’s house at Jerusalem. The result was that Paul and Barnabas separated, the latter taking Mark with him and proceeding again to Cyprus, the former associating Silas with him and journeying through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:39-41). Here, however, in Babylon, the scene of so much decayed greatness, Silvanus and Mark are found together once more, acting along with Peter, the friend of Paul. Near the end of his career Paul bears witness to Timothy that Mark was ‘profitable to him for the ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:11). ‘Peter here,’ says Wordsworth, ‘joins Mark with Silas, who had once been preferred in his room. So may all wounds be healed, and all differences cease in the Church of Christ. So may all falterers be recovered, and Christian charity prevail, and God’s glory be magnified in all persons and in all things, through Jesus Christ’


Verse 14

1 Peter 5:14. Salute one another with (or, by means of) a kiss of love. What Peter speaks of here as the ‘kiss of love’ is always spoken of by Paul as the ‘holy kiss’ (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). The Christian Fathers, too, speak of it as the ‘kiss of peace,’ or the ‘kiss in the Lord.’ The practice of saluting with a kiss was as common in the ancient East, and specially among the Jews, as is the custom of saluting with hand-shaking in the modern West. This gave rise to the Christian practice, which was a token of brotherly love, and had ‘the specific character of Christian consecration’ (see Meyer on 1 Corinthians 16:20). These remarks of Richard Hooker on apostolic practices which are not to be held binding, are worth notice:—‘Whereas it is the error of the common multitude to consider only what hath been of old, and if the same were well, to see whether it still continue; if not, to condemn that presently which is, and never to search upon what ground or consideration the change might grow; such rudeness cannot be in you so well borne with, whom learning and judgment hath enabled more soundly to discern how far the times of the Church and the orders thereof may alter without offence. True it is, the ancienter, the better ceremonies of religion are; howbeit, not absolutely true and without exception; but true only so far forth as those different ages do agree in the state of those things, for which at the first those rites, orders, and ceremonies were instituted. In the Apostles’ times that was harmless, which being now revived would be scandalous; as their oscula sancta. Those feasts of charity, which being instituted by the Apostles, were retained in the Church long after, are not now thought anywhere needful’ (Eccl. Polity, Preface, iv. 4).

Peace to you all that are in Christ. The closing words ‘in Christ’ (which reading must be accepted instead of the ‘in Christ Jesus’ of the A. V.) are peculiarly Pauline in tone. Paul himself, however, is not in the habit of defining the subjects of his benedictions by that phrase, although it is elsewhere in frequent use by him. The benediction itself somewhat resembles that in Ephesians 6:24. Elsewhere Paul usually gives ‘grace’ where Peter has ‘peace’ here. The ‘Amen’ of the A. V. is insufficiently supported.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-peter-5.html. 1879-90.

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