1 Peter 5  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Peter 5
The apostle returns in this chapter to exhortation. In the close of the fourth he had been unfolding certain truths with regard to the government of God, because it was His house (1 Peter 4:10,17-1810As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17‑18)
). Now in 1 Peter 5, he has exhortations both for the elders and for the younger ones. Elder carries its own meaning with it. He is not speaking to official persons, but to those of riper years. This is quite in keeping with the Acts of the Apostles, where we read of elders. With the Jews elder was a characteristic term meaning a man of years. Peter says he is an elder, in the sense I have spoken of it, but no one would think of speaking of Peter as an elder in the way Christendom speaks of it. Paul’s elder was not one who necessarily possessed much gift. His was a local charge. He was an elder in the place where he was fixed, and nowhere else.
We read (1 Tim. 5:1717Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17)) of teaching elders and ruling elders. Who were these elders? They were those who had this official position in some particular locality, by the special appointment of the apostles, or someone delegated by the apostles. There are two simple reasons why you cannot have this official position in this day. First, you have not the competent ordaining power, unless you can bring evidence that you are an apostle or an apostolic delegate, and that is impossible. A man who says he is an apostle does not speak the truth, and the apostolic successors were “grievous wolves” who did not spare the flock. Secondly, you have not the Church all together in one locality, over whom to appoint elders.
Supposing you had the power, where would you begin to appoint elders? The first thing you would have to do would be to shake Christendom to its center, and bring all the Church of God together, and have the Church manifestly one. Where would Paul, if he were here today, begin to appoint elders? He could not begin anywhere, because we have not the Church of God all one.
But you get the men who do the work of elders very blessedly, and say nothing about it. They serve Christ and will get their reward by-and-bye. Anything else is only hollow assumption. You have not now either the Church over which your elders could be appointed, or the competent ordaining power.
The Lord saw the disorder that was coming into His house, and so He forbore in His wisdom to perpetuate a system that would only keep people apart. The actual effect would be that. Ah! what wisdom is His! He saw what would happen, and therefore let the official function die with the apostles, and now we are cast upon God, and the word of His grace, to go on simply with the Lord.
(Verse 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.” Peter takes the two ends of Christ’s history, I have seen His sufferings, and I am going to see His glory, and in between these two he finds the saints in this world, and exhorts the elders to care for them.
(Verse 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.” How beautiful! “The flock of God which is among you.” Shepherd them he says. I have no doubt he alludes to the confiding word from the Lord in his own history, “Feed my sheep: Shepherd my sheep” (John 21) When the Lord had brought him to this, that it was only He Himself, who in His omniscience searched his heart, that could know that he had any love for Him at all, that was the moment when He put into his care His sheep and His lambs.
“Taking the oversight,” the apostle continues, “not by constraint, but willingly.” I believe the Spirit of God foresaw that in Christendom today, the so-called care of the sheep of Christ would become a bread trade, or a profession! Here I get the Holy Spirit striking a death-blow at the whole thing. It is perfectly true that the laborer is worthy of his hire. I find the apostle Paul lays down the principle most distinctly that those who labor should be cared for, but in the very next verse he says, “But I have used none of these things, neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me” (1 Cor. 9:1515But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. (1 Corinthians 9:15)). The divine principle for a servant is that of walking in faith, trusting the Lord. He cares for His servants, and meets all their needs.
“Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind,” is a spontaneous blessed desire of serving Christ, and caring for His people: and what is more blessed than to be permitted in any measure to care for Christ’s people.
(Verse 3) “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Our translators have spoiled the verse by putting in “God’s.” It is your if there be any word at all, “lord’s over possessions” literally. The Spirit of God foresaw the condition of Christendom in this day, when the ministry of the Word of God has become a trade, and the Church of God is broken up into so many men’s flocks. As a consequence, the deepest jealousy arises when the sheep find their right place in God’s flock, for someone has lost some of his sheep. Scripture says, “Not as lording it over your possessions.” Shepherding the sheep is more than feeding, it is going after the sheep when they have got away under the hedge, when perhaps they are torn with the brambles, comforting them, helping to care for as well as to feed, to nurse, and to tend them in every way.
Every gift needed by the Church of God on earth He has given, but the pride and self-will of man has come in to hinder the full use of this grace of God.
What a wonderful difference it makes if you look at the saints as being God’s own flock. Suppose they are cold, you try to warm them. Suppose they do not love you much. Well, you love them the more abundantly. Do your work quietly; be an example to the flock by the way; lead them; be a guide to them; and wait for the appearing of the chief Shepherd, and then you will receive an amaranthine crown that cannot fade. Here you may be despised and thought little of; never mind, go on, and wait till the chief Shepherd comes for your reward.
In the 10th of John the Lord is called the good Shepherd in death, when He loved us and gave Himself for us. In Hebrews 13 He is the great Shepherd in resurrection. His resurrection demonstrates His almighty power, “None can pluck them out of his hand.” But besides this He has many under-shepherds, hence Peter speaks of Him here as “the chief Shepherd.” He loves His flock, and though He has gone out of the scene, He is the chief Shepherd still, and He puts into the hearts of some to care for His flock, and He says he will not forget their service, and that by-and-bye for them there will be a crown of glory that fadeth not away. I do not believe that all get this crown. There is a crown of righteousness for all those who love His appearing. I believe that includes every soul born of God, for it is impossible to be born of God, and not love Christ’s appearing. Of course you would like to see the Lord; every soul born of God loves the thought of seeing the blessed Lord. So I believe every child of God will get the crown of 2 Timothy 4.
In James we hear of a crown of life. You will get that crown too, thank God, because you could not be born of God without loving Him. For loving His appearing you get a crown of righteousness, for loving Himself, and tasting something of trial, you get a crown of life.
The Lord says to Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:1010Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)). You are tried for My name’s sake, He says, perhaps are going into death for Me, and I have been through death for you. You are standing on one side of the river, and I on the other, and you have to come through the waters to get to Me, but the moment your head comes above the waters on this side, I will put a crown of life on it. Perhaps it may not be unto death that your trial goes. But this crown of glory is for those who care for what He cares for, and who seek to show their love for Him by looking after His sheep.
(Verse 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.” Unless I am clothed with humility I shall not be subject. “The meek will He guide in judgment, the meek will He teach his way.” The humble one is always cared for by God. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,” are the Lord’s own words. Humility is a blessed thing, and what a little thing would puff us up. I get Paul saying that the flesh is so utterly corrupt that it would boast because it had been in glory. Because he, Paul, had been in heaven, the Lord had to give him a thorn in the flesh in order to keep him from being puffed up. And we often may be puffed up, just because of His mercy to us, because He has brought us into this place of light and liberty. The only security of the saint is to walk lowly, to walk humbly.
The Lord will blight, and wither, and scatter all that plumes itself on having got truth, and light, and a right position. It is one thing to have gained that position, and another thing to maintain it; for the power of the enemy is all the more brought to bear on those who have taken this position, in order that they may the more flagrantly dishonor the Name that is put upon them. “God resisteth the proud, but He giveth grace unto the humble.” What a solemn thing for the saint of God to get into a position in which God has actually to resist him! What a dreadful thing to have the Lord set against us because of pride allowed in the heart God resists a proud person: but where is there room for pride in us who are the vilest of the vile?
“Only by pride cometh contention,” says the proverb. There never was a bit of trouble between saints, but pride was at the bottom of it! You stand up for your rights, and the Lord will put you down. You may get what you want, but the Lord will have His hand against you. A Christian should be like a piece of India rubber, always giving way, never resisting, except it be the devil. (See verse 9.)
(Verse 6) “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” What a much more blessed thing to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and for Him to exalt us, than to exalt ourselves, and for Him to have to put us down “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased.” That is the first man. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” That is the second Man. The first man sought to make himself God, and fell into companionship with Satan; the second Man, who was God, made Himself nothing, and God has exalted Him to the very highest glory.
There are two ways in which God humbles us. By the discovery of what is in our hearts, and by the discovery of what is in His heart — and nothing so humbles us as to discover what is in His heart — but humble myself as I may, I do not believe I ever get down to my true level — to the place in which God sees me. It should be a continual process. There is a difference between being humble, and being humbled. I am humble when I am in God’s presence, occupied with what He is. I am humbled when I am compelled to look at myself, for self is always a sad sight.
(Verse 7) “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Oh, what a comfort for the heart, what a rest for the soul in all the ups and downs and vicissitudes of this life, to know He careth for you! Then why should you trouble? Is it worthwhile for two to be caring for the same thing? If you are caring you take it out of His hands: if He is caring you can afford to be without care, to roll yourself into your Father’s arms, and to rest there without fear or care. When you learn the perfectness of His care for you, then you are left free to care for His things and His interests, because He is taking care of yours.
(Verses 8-9) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” But because He is caring for you, you are not therefore to be unwatchful. No, no, remember that your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour. Here it is as a roaring lion Satan comes, hence these Hebrew believers were going through persecution. In the 2nd Epistle he comes as a snake in the grass, introducing moral corruption.
“ Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” Everyone thinks there never was a lot like his, — such a troubled pathway. Peter says, Nothing of the kind, everyone else has the same; you are not the only person who is suffering. But he commends us to the God of all grace. What can keep us going? Grace — only grace. We need grace all along the way.
(Verses 10-11) “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. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” He has called you to glory, and by Christ Jesus, and now after that ye have suffered a little while, He will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. It should be “a little while” here, not merely a while. A while might seem of some duration — He shortens it. You have need of patience “a little while,” says Paul (Heb. 10:3737For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:37)); you must suffer “a little while,” says Peter.
“Stablish, strengthen, settle.” Oh, what a place has the saint got, in the call of God, and not only in the call of God, but in that invigorating power which He makes His people to know all along the way! Himself who has called you shall make you perfect. What have we not in God? Have we not everything which encourages our hearts, strengthens them, comforts them, sustains them? God’s purpose, God’s call, God’s sustaining grace all along the way, bring us at last into His glory.
(Verse 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.” How beautifully Peter speaks of grace in this epistle, ending in this chapter with God giving grace to the humble because He is the God of all grace, and, he says, “I testify and exhort this is the true grace of God wherein you stand.” The Lord give us to understand more of His grace, as we study His own Word, and to delight more in Him
(Verse 13) “She at Babylon elected together with you, saluteth you, and Marcus my son.” To whom does the apostle refer? The universal opinion for eighteen centuries was that the apostle here meant the congregation of the elect at Babylon. A few moderns have started the thought that it was his wife he thus designated. “The co-elect (one) in Babylon,” others think was some local lady of position. But these are mere conjectures. Marcus also is undetermined. Was he an actual son of Peter’s, or his son in a spiritual sense, being the well-known Mark, the Evangelist? My own thought — not as if teaching it — is that, “the co-elect in Babylon” means the brotherhood or company of the elect saints there; and that Marcus was not Peter’s actual son — save in the faith.
(Verse 14) “Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” The expression of affection Peter wished them to show to each other was the kiss of love. For them he wished “peace.” What a blessed desire!
As you review this epistle what beauty is in it. We have the call to heaven in the first chapter; our holy and our royal priesthood in the second, with the duties that flow from the position; the walk of subjection and suffering in the third chapter; the Spirit of God and of glory resting on you in the fourth; and now in the fifth God feeding, sustaining, strengthening you, and never leaving you till He has placed you in glory with His Son.