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1 Peter 5.1-11 NOTES


1. The responsibility of the elders 5:1-4

v. 1: Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, - In view of the inevitability of trials and God's judgment Peter gave a special charge to the elders (overseers) of the congregations of his readers. Peter himself was an elder as well as an apostle. As an elder he spoke from experience.

  ▪ As an apostle he could have ordered them to follow his instruction, but he did not take this approach. His appeal is based on the fact that he was one of them and thus understood their problems." [Note: Louis A. Barbieri, First and Second Peter, pp. 82-83.]

  ▪ He himself had participated in sufferings for Christ's sake. "Witness" (Gr. martys; cf. Acts 3:15; Acts 10:39) does not just mean that he observed Jesus suffering, which he did. It means he shared Jesus Christ's sufferings and bore testimony out of that experience (1 Peter 4:13). As his readers, Peter also shared the glory that God will yet reveal (1 Peter 4:14).

  ▪ Peter concluded the body of his epistle and this section on encouragement in suffering with specific commands so his readers would understand how to live while suffering for Christ.

  ▪ An intimate personal note runs through this section, the author alluding to himself and his own experience and standing more directly than heretofore, and addressing his readers, especially those in the ministry, with primary regard to their pastoral relationship to one another in the Church. Earlier themes, such as the need for humility and wakefulness, and the promise of grace to stand firm in persecution and of glory at the last, are repeated." [Note: Selwyn, p. 227.]


v. 2: shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; - Peter's exhortation to his fellow elders was to take care of those under their charge as a shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. John 21:16; Acts 20:28; Ezekiel 34:1-16). In other words, elders are responsible for the pastoral work of the local church. A pastor is usually an elder who functions as a shepherd. The verb "shepherd" (Gr. poimaino) literally means to tend. Pastoring includes the duties of feeding, leading, guiding, guarding, and providing for the needs of those in the church, as a shepherd does for his sheep (cf. John 21:16).

  ▪ If we ever view the flock as 'ours' or the ministry as 'ours,' we are in serious trouble, and so is the church.

  ▪ Two contrasts follow that clarify the proper motivation and manner of an elder's ministry:

(1) He should serve willingly as opposed to grudgingly (2 Corinthians 9:7). God wants us to perform any service for Him willingly. Elders should not serve because they feel they must do so because of external pressure but because they desire to serve God.

(2) An elder should serve zealously and enthusiastically rather than for selfish gain. He should not serve for what he can get out of his ministry now but for the love of his Lord. The gain one could derive from elder ministry included honor in the church as well as possible financial gain. It seems that elders in the early church often received payment for their ministry (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17 where the "double honor" probably refers to payment; 1 Corinthians 9:7-11). Otherwise there would be no such temptation.


v. 3: nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. - Third, continuing from above, an elder/pastor should lead by being an example of a godly lifestyle that others can follow rather than by driving people forward with authoritarian commands. In short, he would expect them to do as he does as well as to do what he says. "If I have any counsel for God's shepherds today, it is this: cultivate a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and share what He gives you with your people. That way, you will grow, and they will grow with you." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:428.]

  ▪ The effective pastor . . . must be 'among' his people so that he can get to know them, their needs and problems; and he needs to be 'over' his people so he can lead them and help them solve their problems. There must be no conflict between pastoring and preaching, because they are both ministries of a faithful Shepherd. The preacher needs to be a pastor so he can apply the Word to the needs of the people. The pastor needs to be a preacher so that he can have authority when he shares in their daily needs and problems. The pastor is not a religious lecturer who weekly passes along information about the Bible. He is a shepherd who knows his people and seeks to help them through the Word.

v. 4: And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. - Elders are shepherds who serve under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 21:15-17). Peter wanted the Chief Shepherd (Christ) to find his fellow elders faithful when He returns at the Rapture. Then they would have to give an account of their stewardship at His judgment seat (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

  ▪ To prevent the faithful servant of Christ from being discouraged, there is this one and only remedy, to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ."

  ▪ The "crown" (Gr. stephanos, garland) of glory that does not fade probably refers to glory as a crown that will come to every faithful Christian when Christ returns. It is probably not a material but a metaphorical crown (as is the crown of righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, the crown of life in James 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the crown of joy in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thess 2:19-20). The reason for this conclusion is that the biblical writers described the crowns in figurative language (glory, righteousness, etc.), not in literal language (gold, silver, etc.; cf. Heb 2:9). Elders who are faithful now will receive glory that will not fade when Jesus Christ returns.  

2. The responsibility of the others 5:5

v. 5: You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. - "Younger men" is literally "younger ones" and includes females as well as males. Nevertheless younger men were probably in Peter's mind since the contrast is with older men in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

  ▪ In the ancient world the division of society into older people and younger . . . was just as much taken for granted as the division into men and women, free men and slaves, etc." [Note: Kelly, p. 205. Cf. Bigg, p. 190.]

  ▪ Leaders of the church were normally in the older age group. Peter addressed the younger in this verse. "Elders" here refers to those in the older age group. That he did not mean just the official elders of the church seems clear from the contrast with "younger" (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Timothy 5:17).

  ▪ The younger people in the church were and are to take a position under the authority of the older people. The reason, though not explicit, seems self-evident: the older have more experience in living. (Job 32:4).

  ▪ All Christians, regardless of our age, should wear humility as a garment, (i.e., let it be what others see as we serve; cf. 1 Peter 3:8). The Greek word translated "clothe" is a rare one that comes from a word referring to the apron that slaves put on over their regular clothes. This garment prepared them for service. We should be ready and eager to serve one another rather than expecting others to serve us (Mark 10:45).

  ▪ In short, believers should not insist on having their way over others.

  ▪ Peter again quoted Proverbs (Proverbs 3:34) for support. This is the theological reason for his ethical command.  He then proceeded to expound the ideas expressed in this proverb in the following six verses.


3. The importance of humility and trust in God 5:6-7


v. 6: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

- God's almighty hand had permitted affliction to touch Peter's readers. The apostle urged them to submit to God's working in their lives as to the skillful hand of a surgeon. He assured them that God would raise them up eventually better off for their suffering (cf. Luke 14:11; James 1:2-4). Peter had learned to submit to God's

hand on his own life, though at times he had not been as submissive as he should have been.

  ▪ The Old Testament writers used God's hand as a symbol of discipline (Ex 3:19) and deliverance (Deut 9:26).


v. 7: casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. - This verse does not introduce a new command but explains how to humble oneself: by entrusting oneself and one's troubles to God (Ps 55:22; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6). We can do this because we have confidence that God cares for our welfare. "Mermina [sic, merimna] = worry or anxiety as when one does not know whether to do this or to do that, 'distraction.'" [Note: Lenski, p. 224. Cf. Psalms 55:22; 37:5; Luke 10:41; 12:11-12.]

4. The importance of resisting the devil 5:8-11

v. 8: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - Trust in God is not all that we need, however. We also need to practice self-control and to keep alert (cf. 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7) because Satan is on the prowl (cf. Job 1:7; Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 16:13). Peter's readers were in danger from Satan if they gave in to his temptation to regard their sufferings as an indication of God's unconcern or ill will (James 1:13). Satan not only seeks to deceive us as a serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3), but he also seeks to devour us as a lion. The picture here  is one of a beast swallowing its prey in a gulp.

v. 9: But resist him [Satan], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. - Whereas God commands us to forsake the world and deny the lusts of the flesh, we should resist the devil (cf. Ephesians 6:11-13; James 4:7). Satan's desire is to get the Christian to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey what God has said. The Greek word translated "resist" means to defend oneself against as opposed to attacking. It is easier to resist when we remember that this duty is common to all Christians; it is not unique to us alone. Suffering is the common experience of all committed believers as long as we are in the world (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12).

  ▪ Peter advocated three responses to Satan in this passage. (1) We should respect him ("be of sober spirit," 1 Peter 5:8). If Peter had respected Satan more he might not have slept in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus had warned him to watch and pray so that he would not enter into temptation. (2) we should recognize Satan ("be on the alert," 1 Peter 5:8). If Peter had been alert he might not have denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. (3) we should resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9). If Peter had resisted Satan he might not have felt that he had to resist Malchus' advance in Gethsemane and cut off his ear.

  ▪ Before we can stand before Satan [1 Peter 5:8-9], we must bow before God [1 Peter 5:6-7]. 


v. 10: After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. - We have on our side One who is able to overcome our adversary the devil. Furthermore God gives sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has called us to experience eternal glory ultimately (1 Peter 1:1). Both our calling and our glory are in Christ. God will make us complete (Gr. katartizo, "to mend [nets]," Matthew 4:21) establish us, strengthen us for service, and give us peace in His will.


v. 11: To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. - God has enough power and ability to help us endure whatever suffering He allows us to experience Peter concluded this statement about God's sufficiency with another benediction (cf. 1 Peter 4:11). To summarize, Peter exhorted the church elders to shepherd those under their care. He exhorted younger Christians to submit to their older brethren. And he exhorted all to stand firm against Satan's attacks armed with an attitude of submission to God and to one another.

  1 Peter 5:6-11 - EXEGESIS (Donovan)

CONTEXT:  Recipients of this letter are experiencing trials, harsh treatment, and suffering (1:6-7; 2:18-20; 3:13-17; 4:1-4, 12-19; 5:10). Peter encourages them with a vision of "an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn't fade away, reserved in Heaven for you" (1:4), and calls them to live holy lives (1:15; 2:9). He holds up the prospect of the rewards that they will experience in the future (1:8)-and encourages them to stand fast in their faith in the midst of adversity.

In 2:18-25, he spoke at length about the example of Christ's suffering, "leaving you an example" (2:21).

In 3:8-22, he addressed the issue of suffering for doing what is right.

In chapter 4, he said, "For as much then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (4:1). He talked at length about people who "walked in lewdness, lusts," etc. (4:3). Such people would see Christian behavior as peculiar (4:4). "But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins" (4:7-8).

Verse 11 ends with a benediction, which is probably the reason that our lectionary reading begins with verse 12. However, as you will see from this "Context" segment, there is much continuity between what went before (1:1 - 4:11) with what follows (4:12 - 5:11) in the emphasis on handling persecution (4:12-14) and holy living (5:6-11).


Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.


Verse 5 (not included in this reading) says: "You younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble'" (quoting Proverbs 3:34). Verse 6 is based on that Proverbs verse.


"Humble (Greek: tapeinoo) yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (v. 6). This is an example of a reversal-a frequent theme throughout both Old and New Testaments.

  • God chooses little Israel to be his people rather than mighty Egypt or Rome.
  • God chooses little David to slay giant Goliath.
  • Reversal is a primary theme in Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).
  • The Beatitudes are a series of reversals (Matthew 5:1-12).
  • The last hired becomes the first paid (Matthew 20:1-16).
  • Jesus says, "So the last will be first, and the first last" (Matthew 20:16).
  • "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7).

  ▪ Paul uses the Greek word tapeinoo to describe Christ bringing himself low-humbling himself-taking a lower place than he could rightly have occupied (Philippians 2:8). He did this voluntarily. No one forced him to do it. He was not brought low due to circumstances beyond his control. Nor was he being punished. He did this voluntarily in accord with God's plan of salvation.

  ▪ Now Peter calls these Christians (and us) to humble themselves (ourselves) "under the mighty hand of God"-in accord with God's plan for our lives. Peter promises the reward of exaltation to those who comply-but only in "due time," which could mean "in the last days"-or "at the end of time."

However, the rewards of faith and faithfulness are often rewarded in the near term as well. As I consider Christians I have known, I believe that they have enjoyed blessings in the here and now-freedom from fear-faith in the future, to include faith in live beyond death-moral strictures that helped them to avoid many of the potholes that fill the broad paths that lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13).


"casting all your worries (Greek: merimna) on him, because he cares (Greek: melei) for you" (v. 7). It would be better to translate this verse, "casting all your cares on him, because he cares for you." The word merimna can be translated "worries," but "cares" preserves a useful wordplay. We can cast our cares on God, because God cares for us.

  ▪ This is in keeping with Jesus' counsel, "Don't be anxious, saying, 'What will we eat?', 'What will we drink?' or, 'With what will we be clothed?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:31-33; see also Luke 12:22-32).



Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.


"Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful" (v. 8a). A literal translation would be "Be sober! Watch!" Just as soldiers in combat face deadly enemies, so also do Christians. Just as a soldier's life depends on his alertness to the dangers around him, so also the Christian's life depends on staying alert to the genuine dangers that are likely to assail from every side. We are surrounded by people who are actively hostile to Christ. They would like nothing better than to subvert our faith.

  ▪ Jesus took his inner circle of disciples-Peter, James, and John-to the Garden of Gethsemane, telling them to stay and watch while he went off by himself to pray. When he returned, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn't you watch one hour? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38). "Watch and pray!"


"Your adversary, the devil" (Greek: diabolos)" (v. 8b). The Greek word diabolos is the equivalent of the Hebrew word satan. In the Old Testament, Satan is an accuser in the heavenly court. In the New Testament, the devil takes on the character of a tempter here on Earth (Matthew 4:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).


"walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (v. 8c). Paul used similar language to elders at Ephesus. He said, "After my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch!" (Acts 20:29-31a).

  ▪ Jesus came to destroy the devil's work (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), but that victory awaits its final consummation (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Hebrews 10:12-13). Only in the last days will the devil be thrown into the eternal fire for his final denouement (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).

  ▪ But at present, "the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour"-an apt metaphor. Lions might roar, but they also stalk-quietly and with great stealth. They don't always succeed in bringing down their prey, but they prowl relentlessly until their prey succumbs and their bellies are full. When they feel hungry again, they restart the process, looking for new prey, striking again and again.

Similarly, the devil pursues us relentlessly-skillfully assessing whether we might be most easily tempted by high things or low-whether we might be most easily persuaded to go an inch in the wrong direction or a mile.

"Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings" (v. 9). We are not defenseless. James says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you" (James 4:7-8).

  ▪ How can we defend ourselves from the devil's wiles? Traditional spiritual disciplines help-public worship-private prayer-scripture study-devotional reading. We will do well to choose our friends carefully, because peer pressure has enormous power to influence our behavior. We need to choose friends who will help us to act in accord with God's will rather than tempting us to act against it.

  ▪ Peter suggests that we take heart in our suffering, knowing that other Christians have undergone the same trials-and are doing so now. We would do well to read biographies of Christian men and women, both past and present. We would do well to familiarize ourselves with the persecutions that Christians are undergoing throughout the world today. We would do well to render all possible support to persecuted Christians. Doing so will strength them-and strengthen us as well.

  ▪ The following verses from Ephesians 6 spell out in broad brushstrokes how to resist evil:

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:11-18).


"But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while" (v. 10a). The contrast here is between the short time that we will be expected to endure suffering and the eternity in which we will be able to enjoy God's glory.


"the God of all grace,... will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

"perfect (Greek: katartizo), establish (Greek: sterizo), strengthen (Greek: sthenoo), and settle (Greek: themeliosei) you" (v. 10b). Peter's prayer is that God might help these Christians in four ways:

  • "perfect" (katartizo). The word katartizo is a craftsman's word, and means fit or restore or finish or perfect. Peter prays that God will fit these Christians perfectly for the challenges that they will face.
  • "establish" (sterizo). Peter prays that God will set these Christians firmly in place-that he will establish them permanently so they cannot be moved.
  • "strengthen" (sthenoo). Peter prays that God will strengthen these Christians-will give them health and strength and endurance.
  • "establish" (themeliosei). This word has to do with founding something-with laying the foundations. Peter prays that God will set these Christians on firm footing so they cannot be uprooted or moved.


"To him be the glory and the power (Greek: kratos) forever and ever. Amen" (v. 11). A literal translation would be "To him belongs the kratos (power, dominion) forever. Amen. This is similar to the doxology in 4:11.



1 Peter 5:1-11 - W. BARCLAY COMMENTARY

THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH ( 1 Peter 5:1-4 )

5:1-4:  1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Few passages show more clearly the importance of the eldership in the early church. It is to the elders that Peter specially writes and he, who was the chief of the apostles, does not hesitate to call himself a fellow-elder. It will be worth our while to look at something of the background and history of the eldership, the most ancient and the most important office in the Church. (i) It has a Jewish background. The Jews traced the beginning of the eldership to the days when the children of Israel were journeying through the wilderness to the Promised Land. There came a time when Moses felt the burdens of leadership too heavy for him to bear alone, and to help him seventy elders were set apart and granted a share of the spirit of God ( Numbers 11:16-30). Thereafter elders became a permanent feature of Jewish life. We find them as the friends of the prophets ( 2 Kings 6:32); as the advisers of kings ( 1 Kings 20:8; 1 Kings 21:11); as the colleagues of the princes in the administration of the affairs of the nation ( Ezra 10:8). Every village and city had its elders; they met at the gate and dispensed justice to the people ( Deuteronomy 25:7). The elders were the administrators of the synagogue; they did not preach, but they saw to the good government and order of the synagogue, and they exercised discipline over its members. The elders formed a large section of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews, and they are regularly mentioned along with the Chief Priests and the rulers and the Scribes and the Pharisees ( Matthew 16:21; Matthew 21:23; Matthew 26:3; Matthew 26:57; Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:3; Luke 7:3; Acts 4:5; Acts 6:12; Acts 24:1). In the vision of the Revelation in the heavenly places there are twenty-four elders around the throne. The elders were woven into the very structure of Judaism, both in its civil and its religious affairs. (ii) The eldership has a Greek background. Especially in Egyptian communities we find that elders are the leaders of the community and responsible for the conduct of public affairs, much as town councillors are today. We find a woman who had suffered an assault appealing to the elders for justice. When corn is being collected as tribute on the visit of a governor, we find that "the elders of the cultivators" are the officials concerned. We find them connected with the issuing of public edicts, the leasing of land for pasture, the ingathering of taxation. In Asia Minor, also, the members of councils were called elders. Even in the religious communities of the pagan world we find "elder priests" who were responsible for discipline. In the Socnopaeus temple we find the elder priests dealing with the case of a priest who is charged with allowing his hair to grow too long and with wearing woollen garments--an effeminacy and a luxury of which no priest should have been guilty. We can see that long before Christianity took it over "elder" was a title of honour both in the Jewish and in the Graeco-Roman world.

THE CHRISTIAN ELDERSHIP ( 1 Peter 5:1-4 continued)

When we turn to the Christian Church we find that the eldership is its basic office. It was Paul's custom to ordain elders in every community to which he preached and in every church which he founded. On the first missionary journey elders were ordained in every church ( Acts 14:23). Titus is left in Crete to ordain elders in every city ( Titus 1:5). The elders had charge of the financial administration of the Church; it is to them that Paul and Barnabas delivered the money sent to relieve the poor of Jerusalem in the time of the famine ( Acts 11:30). The elders were the councillors and the administrators of the Church. We find them taking a leading part in the Council of Jerusalem at which it was decided to fling open the doors of the Church to the Gentiles. At that Council the elders and the apostles are spoken of together as the chief authorities of the Church ( Acts 15:2; Acts 16:4). When Paul came on his last visit to Jerusalem, it was to the elders that he reported and they suggested the course of action he should follow ( Acts 21:18-25). One of the most moving passages in the New Testament is Paul's farewell to the elders of Ephesus. We find there that the elders, as he sees them, are the overseers of the flock of God and the defenders of the faith ( Acts 20:28-29). We learn from James that the elders had a healing function in the Church through prayers and anointing with oil ( James 5:14). From the Pastoral Epistles we learn that they were rulers and teachers, and by that time paid officials ( 1 Timothy 5:17; the phrase double honour is better translated double pay). When a man enters the eldership, no small honour is conferred upon him, for he is entering on the oldest religious office in the world, whose history can be traced through Christianity and Judaism for four thousand years; and no small responsibility falls upon him, for he has been ordained a shepherd of the flock of God and a defender of the faith.


Peter sets down in a series of contrasts the perils and the privileges of the eldership; and everything he says is applicable, not only to the eldership, but also to all Christian service inside and outside the Church. The elder is to accept office, not under coercion, but willingly. This does not mean that a man is to grasp at office or to enter upon it without self-examining thought. Any Christian will have a certain reluctance to accept high office, because he knows only too well his unworthiness and inadequacy. There is a sense in which it is by compulsion that a man accepts office and enters upon Christian service. "Necessity," said Paul, "is laid upon me; Woe to me, if I do not preach the gospel" ( 1 Corinthians 9:16). "The love of Christ controls us," he said ( 2 Corinthians 5:14). But, on the other hand, there is a way of accepting office and of rendering service as if it was a grim and unpleasant duty. It is quite possible for a man to agree to a request in such an ungracious way that his whole action is spoiled. Peter does not say that a man should be conceitedly or irresponsibly eager for office; but that every Christian should be anxious to render such service as he can, although fully aware how unworthy he is to render it. The elder is to accept office, not to make a shameful profit out of it, but eagerly. The word for making a shameful profit is aischrokerdes ( G146) . The noun from this is aischrokerdeia, and it was a characteristic which the Greek loathed. Theophrastus, the great Greek delineator of character, has a character sketch of this aischrokerdeia. Meanness--as it might be translated--is the desire for base gain. The mean man is he who never sets enough food before his guests and who gives himself a double portion when he is carving the joint. He waters the wine; he goes to the theatre only when he can get a free ticket. He never has enough money to pay the fare and always borrows from his fellow-passengers. When he is selling corn (American: grain), he uses a measure in which the bottom is pushed up, and even then he carefully levels the top. He counts the half radishes left over from dinner in case the servants eat any. Rather than give a wedding present, he will go away from home when a wedding is in the offing. Meanness is an ugly fault. It is quite clear that there were people in the early church who accused the preachers and missionaries of being in the job for what they could get out of it. Paul repeatedly declares that he coveted no man's goods and worked with his hands to meet his own needs so that he was burdensome to no man ( Acts 20:33; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 12:14). It is certain that the payment any early office-bearer received was pitifully small and the repeated warnings that the office-bearers must not be greedy for gain shows that there were those who coveted more ( 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7; Titus 1:11). The point that Peter is making--and it is ever valid--is that no man dare accept office or render service for what he can get out of it. His desire must ever be to give and not to get. The elder is to accept office, not to be a petty tyrant, but to be the shepherd and the example of the flock. Human nature is such that for many people prestige and power are even more attractive than money. There are those who love authority, even if it be exercised in a narrow sphere. Milton's Satan thought it better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven. Shakespeare spoke about proud man, dressed in a little brief authority, playing such fantastic tricks before high heaven as would make the angels weep. The great characteristic of the shepherd is his selfless care and his sacrificial love for the sheep. Any man who enters on office with the desire for preeminence, has got his whole point of view upside down. Jesus said to his ambitious disciples, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" ( Mark 10:42-44).

THE IDEAL OF THE ELDERSHIP ( 1 Peter 5:1-4 continued)

One thing in this passage which defies translation and is yet one of the most precious and significant things in it is what we have translated "petty tyrants over those allotted to your care." The phrase which we have translated those allotted is curious in Greek; it is ton ( G3588) kleron ( G2819) , the genitive plural of kleros ( G2819) which is a word of extraordinary interest. (i) It begins by meaning a dice or a lot. It is so used in Matthew 27:35 which tells how the soldiers beneath the Cross were throwing dice (kleroi, G2819) to see who should possess the seamless robe of Jesus. (ii) Second, it means an office gained or assigned by lot. It is the word used in Acts 1:26 which tells how the disciples cast lots to see who should inherit the office of Judas the traitor. (iii) It then comes to mean an inheritance allotted to someone, as used in Colossians 1:12 for the inheritance of the saints. (iv) In classical Greek it very often means a public allotment or estate of land. These allotments were distributed by the civic authorities to the citizens; and very often the distribution was made by drawing lots for the various pieces of land available for distribution. Even if we were to go no further than this, it would mean that the office of the eldership and, indeed, any piece of service offered to us is never earned by any merit of our own but always allotted to us by God. It is never something that we have deserved but always something given to us by the grace of God. But we can go further than this. Kleros ( G2819) means something which is allotted to a man. In Deuteronomy 9:29 we read that Israel is the heritage (kleros, G2819) of God. That is to say, Israel is the people specially assigned to God by his own choice. Israel is the kleros ( G2819) of God; the congregation is the kleros ( G2819) of the elder. Just as Israel is allotted to God, an elder's duties in the congregation are allotted to him. This must mean that the whole attitude of the elder to his people must be the same as the attitude of God to his people. Here we have another great thought. In 1 Peter 5:2 there is a phrase in the best Greek manuscripts which is not in the King James or the Revised Standard Versions. We have translated it: "Shepherd the flock of God, which is in your charge, not because you are coerced into doing so, but of your own free-will as God would have you to do." As God would have you to do is in Greek kata ( G2596) theon ( G2316) , and that could well mean quite simply like God. Peter says to the elders, "Shepherd your people like God." Just as Israel is God's special allotment, the people we have to serve in the Church or anywhere else are our special allotment; and our attitude to them must be the attitude of God. What an ideal! And what a condemnation! It is our task to show to people God's forbearance, his forgiveness, his seeking love, his illimitable service. God has allotted to us a task and we must do it as he himself would do it. That is the supreme ideal of service in the Christian Church.

MEMORIES OF JESUS ( 1 Peter 5:1-4 continued)

One of the lovely things about this passage is Peter's attitude throughout it. He begins by, as it were, taking his place beside those to whom he speaks. "Your fellow-elder" he calls himself. He does not separate himself from them but comes to share the Christian problems and the Christian experience with them. But in one thing he is different; he has memories of Jesus and these memories colour this whole passage. Even as he speaks, they are crowding into his mind.

(i) He describes himself as a witness of the sufferings of Christ. At first sight we might be inclined to question that statement, for we are told that, after the arrest in the garden, "All the disciples forsook him and fled" ( Matthew 26:56). But, when we think a little further, we realise that it was given to Peter to see the suffering of Jesus in a more poignant way than was given to any other human being. He followed Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest's house and there in a time of weakness he three times denied his Master. The trial came to an end and Jesus was taken away; and there comes what may well be the most tragic sentence in the New Testament: "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter...and Peter went out and wept bitterly" ( Luke 22:61-62). In that look Peter saw the suffering of the heart of a leader whose follower had failed him in the hour of his bitterest need. Of a truth Peter was a witness of the suffering that comes to Christ when men deny him; and that is why he was so eager that his people might be staunch in loyalty and faithful in service.

(ii) He describes himself as a sharer in the glory which is going to be revealed. That statement has a backward and a forward look. Peter had already had a glimpse of that glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. There the sleeping three had been awakened, and, as Luke puts it, "they kept awake and they saw his glory" ( Luke 9:32). Peter had seen the glory. But he also knew that there was glory to come, for Jesus had promised to his disciples a share in the glory when the Son of Man should come to sit on his glorious throne ( Matthew 19:28). Peter remembered both the experience and the promise of glory.

(iii) There can surely be no doubt that, when Peter speaks of shepherding the flock of God, he is remembering the task that Jesus had given to him when he had bidden him feed his sheep ( John 21:15-17). The reward of love was the appointment as a shepherd; and Peter is remembering it. (iv) When Peter speaks of Jesus as the Chief Shepherd, many a memory must be in his mind. Jesus had likened himself to the shepherd who sought at the peril of his life for the sheep which was lost ( Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7). He had sent out his disciples to gather in the lost sheep of the house of Israel ( Matthew 10:6). He was moved with pity for the crowds, for they were as sheep without a shepherd ( Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Above all, Jesus had likened himself to the Good Shepherd who was ready to lay down his life for the sheep ( John 10:1-18). The picture of Jesus as the Shepherd was a precious one, and the privilege of being a shepherd of the flock of Christ was for Peter the greatest privilege that a servant of Christ could enjoy.


5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Peter returns to the thought that the denial of self must be the mark of the Christian. He clinches his argument with a quotation from the Old Testament: "Toward the scorners God is scornful, but to the humble he shows favour" ( Proverbs 3:34). Here again it may well be that the memories of Jesus are in Peter's heart and are colouring all his thought and language. He tells his people that they must clothe themselves with the garment of humility. The word he uses for to clothe oneself is very unusual; it is egkombousthai ( G1463) which is derived from kombos which describes anything tied on with a knot. Connected with it is egkomboma, a garment tied on with a knot. It was commonly used for protective clothing; it was used for a pair of sleeves drawn over the sleeves of a robe and tied behind the neck. And it was used for a slave's apron. There was a time when Jesus had put upon himself just such an apron. At the Last Supper John says of him that he took a towel and girded himself, and took water and began to wash his disciples' feet ( John 13:4-5). Jesus girded himself with the apron of humility; and so must his followers. It so happens that egkombousthai ( G1463) is used of another kind of garment. It is also used of putting on a long, stole-like garment which was the sign of honour and preeminence. To complete the picture we must put both images together. Jesus once put on the slave's apron and undertook the humblest of all duties, washing his disciples' feet; so we must in all things put on the apron of humility in the service of Christ and of our fellow-men; but that very apron of humility will become the garment of honour for us, for it is he who is the servant of all who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

THE LAWS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (1) ( 1 Peter 5:6-11 )

5:6-11 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Here Peter speaks in imperatives, laying down certain laws for the Christian life. (i) There is the law of humility before God. The Christian must humble himself under his mighty hand. The phrase the mighty hand of God is common in the Old Testament; and it is most often used in connection with the deliverance which God wrought for his people when he brought them out of Egypt. "With a strong hand," said Moses, "the Lord has brought you out of Egypt" ( Exodus 13:9). "Thou hast only begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand" ( Deuteronomy 3:24). God brought his people forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand ( Deuteronomy 9:26). The idea is that God's mighty hand is on the destiny of his people, if they will humbly and faithfully accept his guidance. After all the varied experiences of life, Joseph could say to the brothers who had once sought to eliminate him: "As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" ( Genesis 50:20). The Christian never resents the experiences of life and never rebels against them, because he knows that the mighty hand of God is on the tiller of his life and that he has a destiny for him. (ii) There is the law of Christian serenity in God. The Christian must cast all his anxiety upon God. "Cast your burden on the Lord," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 55:22). "Do not be anxious about tomorrow," said Jesus ( Matthew 6:25-34). The reason we can do this with confidence is that we can be certain that God cares for us. As Paul had it, we can be certain that he who gave us his only Son will with him give us all things ( Romans 8:32). We can be certain that, since God cares for us, life is out not to break us but to make us; and, with that assurance, we can accept any experience which comes to us, knowing that in everything God works for good with those who love him ( Romans 8:28). (iii) There is the law of Christian effort and of Christian vigilance. We must be sober and watchful. The fact that we cast everything upon God does not give us the right to sit back and to do nothing. Cromwell's advice to his troops was: "Trust in God, and keep your powder dry." Peter knew how hard this vigilance was, for he remembered how in Gethsemane he and his fellow-disciples slept when they should have been watching with Christ ( Matthew 26:38-46). The Christian is the man who trusts but at the same time puts all his effort and all his vigilance into the business of living for Christ. (iv) There is the law of Christian resistance. The devil is ever out to see whom he can ruin. Again Peter must have been remembering how the devil had overcome him and he had denied his Lord. A man's faith must be like a solid wall against which the attacks of the devil exhaust themselves in vain. The devil is like any bully and retreats when he is bravely resisted in the strength of Jesus Christ.

THE LAWS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (2) ( 1 Peter 5:6-11 continued)

(v) Finally, Peter speaks of the law of Christian suffering. He says that, after the Christian has gone through suffering, God will restore, establish, strengthen and settle him. Every one of the words which Peter uses has behind it a vivid picture. Each tells us something about what suffering is designed by God to do for a man. (a) Through suffering God will restore a man. The word for restore is difficult in this case to translate. It is kartarizein ( G2675) , the word commonly used for setting a fracture, the word used in Mark 1:19 for mending nets. It means to supply that which is missing, to mend that which is broken. So suffering, if accepted in humility and trust and love, can repair the weaknesses of a man's character and add the greatness which so far is not there. It is said that Sir Edward Elgar once listened to a young girl singing a solo from one of his own works. She had a voice of exceptional purity and clarity and range, and an almost perfect technique. When she had finished, Sir Edward said softly, "She will be really great when something happens to break her heart." Barrie tells how his mother lost her favourite son, and then says, "That is where my mother got her soft eyes, and that is why other mothers ran to her when they had lost a child." Suffering had done something for her that an easy way could never have done. Suffering is meant by God to add the grace notes to life. (b) Through suffering God will establish a man. The word is sterixein ( G4741) , which means to make as solid as granite. Suffering of body and sorrow of heart do one of two things to a man. They either make him collapse or they leave him with a solidity of character which he could never have gained anywhere else. If he meets them with continuing trust in Christ, he emerges like toughened steel that has been tempered in the fire. (c) Through suffering God will strengthen a man. The Greek is sthenoun ( G4599) , which means to fill with strength. Here is the same sense again. A life with no effort and no discipline almost inevitably becomes a flabby life. No one really knows what his faith means to him until it has been tried in the furnace of affliction. There is something doubly precious about a faith which has come victoriously through pain and sorrow and disappointment. The wind will extinguish a weak flame; but it will fan a strong flame into a still greater blaze. So it is with faith. (d) Through suffering God will settle a man. The Greek is themelioun ( G2311) , which means to lay the foundations. When we have to meet sorrow and suffering we are driven down to the very bedrock of faith. It is then that we discover what are the things which cannot be shaken. It is in time of trial that we discover the great truths on which real life is founded. Suffering is very far from doing these precious things for every man. It may well drive a man to bitterness and despair; and may well take away such faith as he has. But if it is accepted in the trusting certainty that a father's hand will never cause his child a needless tear, then out of suffering come things which the easy way may never bring.