1 Peter 5:1–14comment (0)
April 26, 2007
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1–14
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
ACT WITH HUMILITY
1 Peter 5:1–14
In Church Life (1–5)
From verses 2–3, it is clear that “elders” refers to church leaders, not just aged men. Early Christians borrowed the term from Judaism, in which leaders were called “elders.” In the New Testament, elder is used more or less synonymously with bishop/overseer (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) and pastor (the verb “be a shepherd” means “be a pastor” in 1 Pet. 5:2 and Acts 20:28). Peter described himself as a “fellow elder.” Second-century believers referred to the apostles as “elders,” and there is no reason why an apostle could not use this relatively humble term for himself.
Peter also claimed he was an eyewitness of Christ’s sufferings. The word “witness” is “martyr,” implying that Peter not only saw but also shared the sufferings of Christ.
The apostle admonished all elders to be good pastors and to exercise oversight, i.e. be good administrators. He offered a series of contrasts showing how elders should assume their duties. They must serve with an uncoerced mind, i.e. not because they are compelled but because they freely choose to do so. They must serve with an unmercenary motive, i.e. not for gain (money, prestige or fame) but for love of ministry. They must serve in an unpretentious manner, i.e. not by being domineering but leading by example. Preachers who install themselves as small dictators violate Peter’s mandate that they “not lord it over” their charges. The elder serves the Chief Shepherd, Christ, who will reward him with an unfading “crown of glory” at His appearing.
“Young men” here referred to rank-and-file believers, i.e. those who are not church leaders but today are called laypeople. Peter called on them to “submit to elders,” i.e. yield to pastoral leadership, literally “clothing” themselves with humility toward one another. The Christian virtue of humility is linked with that of submission. “Humility” does not mean a man must think himself less than he really is. Humility means a man must be willing to be treated as less than he is without resentment, to serve under others’ direction and to fit into their arrangements. God is “drawn up in battle array” against the proud but smiles on the humble.
“Likewise” in verse 5 indicates that what Peter said was good for the laity was good for the clergy, too.
In Personal Life (6–14)
All Christians must be humble (the quotation in 1 Pet. 5:5 is from Prov. 3:34), trust God to take care of them even in persecution and resist the devil. “Devil” means accuser, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Satan” (adversary).
“Humble yourselves … under God’s mighty hand” refers to the fact that persecution came to them with God’s permission. If they bow to suffering, He will exalt them at the last day. Anxieties abound in time of persecution. Peter said to cast all these on Christ because, literally, “it matters to Him about you.”
Casting all one’s cares on Christ does not mean one becomes careless. One must rather remain sober and watch, both of which suggest full awareness of Satan’s activity and approach. The method Peter advised for dealing with Satan differs from that offered by many televangelists. The apostle said nothing about conversing with him or rebuking him but instructed his readers to “firmly resist” him.
The sufferings of other Christians (9) and God’s reward (10) are set forth as incentives for faithfulness.
The body of the letter closes with another doxology. Verses 12–14 serve as the conclusion of the letter. They indicate the role of Silas (more properly, Silvanus), who may be the man better known as Paul’s assistant. How Silas came to be associated with Peter is unknown. They also contain personal greetings. “She who is in Babylon” is a church, not Peter’s wife or any other woman. Commonly it is held that “Babylon” is a code word for Rome, used for security reasons. “Mark” is probably the same person as the one in Acts 12 and 15 and Colossians 4:10.
The “kiss of love” is also referred to in Romans 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:20.