1 Peter 5:1–14 (NKJV)
Peter follows up his discussion of end times and the probability of suffering for Christ with an additional thought on how to serve in the kingdom and live as a humble servant to God and others.
1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.1 Peter 5:1-4
Peter begins by speaking to the elders in the churches. He comes to them as a leader and a peer, as Peter was an elder in the church as well, but had a position of authority as one of the apostles. He rejoices in the fact that he witnessed the ministry of Christ personally, including the horrific sufferings on on the cross. Peter is a fellow heir of the heavenly glory, looking forward to the time of ultimate redemption. He then instructs the elders to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” Peter’s image of the church as a flock of sheep and the elders as shepherds over that flock is in keeping with the commonly used image of the church in Peter’s day. While there are many images or models of the church (kingdom, body of Christ, family), this image is one that is especially instructive to leaders in the church. As a shepherd, the elder is responsible for the nurture and protection of the sheep in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways. They are to serve as overseers with willing hearts, not looking for dishonest remuneration or great riches, but rather as eager participants in the life of the church of Jesus Christ. They oversee, but do not lord over the flock. Those entrusted to the elders should be able to see a great example in the life of their shepherd. That is the responsibility of the elder, to lead a life of example for those who follow in his or her footsteps. If the elders lead well by example and oversight, then the Chief Shepherd–when He appears–will give them a crown of glory that will never go away. Lead well, and let the reward come from Christ!
5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 Peter 5:5-11
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In this section of the passage, Peter addresses humble submission and spiritual authority. He instructs the young to submit to the older, and for all Christians to live in a submissive spirit to one another. He calls for humility to be the clothing of the righteous. The rationale for this exhortation is that God will resist the proud and give grace to the humble, as quoted from Proverbs 3:34 here in verse five. The logical response to such a truth would be for believers to humble themselves under “the mighty hand of God.” When believers live humbly before a strong and mighty God, He will exalt them when the time is right. Do not lift yourself up over other men and women, or see yourself as superior. Instead, cast you care upon the Lord, knowing that He cares for you and will lift you up when it is the perfect time.
Peter further instructs the readers to be aware of the danger that may surround them. He calls for sober and vigilant living, because the enemy and adversary of our souls, the devil, is roaming through the earth, roaring and seeking to intimidate those who will cower before his image. The fact that the description says that he is “seeking whom he may devour” lets us know that he cannot devour some. Who are those who cannot be devoured? Those who are sober and vigilant, and see the paper tiger for who he really is, a fallen angel with limited authority, already defeated by Christ and simply seeking to deceive. Peter encourages the reader to resist the devil, steadfast in faith, knowing that these temptations are common to all men and women throughout the world. However, those who believe are covered by the grace of God, who called us to an eternal glory once we have suffered for a little while in order to be perfected, strengthened, and settled in our trust in God. “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
12 By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.1 Peter 5:12-14
13 She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Peter sums up this letter with greetings from the scribe, Silvanus, a faithful brother who took down the thoughts of Peter concerning the grace of God in which we stand, and from the elect lady in Babylon, and from Mark, his son. He also instructs the believers to greet one another with affection and love, and then blesses them with peace as they walk with Christ Jesus. This powerful letter speaks of the need of suffering and submission more than any other topics, and truly calls the believer to faith and love as he or she walks out this faith in a cruel and sinful world. This is the grace in which we stand.