Notes on 1 Peter 5

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1Peter 5:1, KJV 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 mentions here that he is an elder, probably not just in terms of age but also in office or position in the Church. He does not express nor demands anything for himself, rather, he simply exhorts the other elders in the following verses.

But Peter does remind the readers that he did witness Christ’s sufferings and that he will be a partaker of the glory to be revealed later. Thus he provides an eyewitness link to the past, when the Lord suffered, died, and rose again, with the present—where some believers were suffering for their faith—and the future when the glory to come would be revealed.

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;

No doubt Peter remembered the words of Jesus at the Sea of Galilee (John 21) when He told Peter three times to tend/feed/shepherd the sheep. Now Peter exhorts the elders (leaders) to feed the flock as well. Note the contrasts: not by constraint (feeling forced?) but willingly; not for filthy lucre (the wrong kind of money or salary, perhaps) but definitely a “ready mind”.

3 Neither as being lords over (God's) heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Jesus Christ Himself gave an example in Luke 22:25-27, “25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye (shall) not (be) so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether (is) greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? (is) not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.” One commentator or speaker wryly observed that the shepherd’s job was to feed, not fleece, the sheep.

4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Here is a reference to one of the possible crowns or rewards any believer might obtain. The other crowns or rewards are: the crown of life (James 1:12, Rev. 2:10), the crown of rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19); the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8); and the incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:25). There may be others but the important thing is that the rewards come from the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are based on each believer’s service for and to the Lord. Besides, He sees and knows and will reward each believer as He sees fit—and who could complain about that?

The reference to the glory not fading away may be a reference an Old Testament event in Exodus 34.. Moses had made many trips up the mountain to speak with God in person, this time to copy the words of the Ten Commandments onto a second set of stone tablets. When Moses came down from the mountain, his face shone (!) so he put a vail on his face when he talked to the people. There is no other record of his putting on or taking off the vail after this incident so logically the glory bestowed upon Moses, or what stayed with him while he was on the mountain must have faded away after a time. Paul used this as a figure or example in 2 Corinthians 3.

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.

Peter reminds the younger to submit to the elder—not necessarily the elders (plural) of and in the Church but the ones who are older in terms of age. Next he exhorts them to be subject one to another and to be clothed with humility. Being subject does not necessarily imply a “chain of command” or hierarchy but refers to a proper realization of one’s place. Paul had said that the head of the woman was the man, the head of the man was Christ, and the head of Christ was God (1 Corinthians 11:3, paraphrased).

The second part of this verse is a close parallel to James 4:6. This does not suggest that Peter copied the writings of James—although the audience (Jewish background believers, mostly) and area (Asia Minor or modern day Turkey) are practically the same. If Peter was writing several years after James wrote his letter, perhaps there were new believers who weren’t familiar with James’ letter, or, God simply wanted the message to be reinforced. When God wants something repeated, it must be important!

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

The first verse is another allusion by Peter to James 4:10. The words are not so close in this writing but the ideas are very similar. James was writing in the immediate context of believers in conflict with one another; suffering—at least on the scale of what Peter was describing—doesn’t seem to be in the picture. Peter is writing to believers who are under attack for their faith.

Verse 7 has a very precious promise, that He—God, as in verse 6—cares for us. Someone once remarked that you can cast your cares on God and He will never cast them back to you!

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Brief comments: first, the word “sober” here means something more than being free from intoxicating substances, perhaps referring to sober-mindedness. Being vigilant has the idea of being on the alert. Although Peter may never have been a shepherd before he began his career as a fisherman, he probably knew about the ways of wild beasts. David had spoken of keeping the flock protected from lions and bears when he volunteered to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

The reference to the devil as an adversary is a repetition of what Satan did to Job. He first accused God (!) of protecting Job, then basically challenged God to allow Job to suffer. Job’s sufferings are legendary but Job never lost his confidence in God. Later Satan would be called “the accuser of our brethren” in Revelation 12:10. Peter’s mention that Satan walks around even echoes the words of Satan himself when God asked him, “Where have you been?” and Satan replied “I’ve been walking around the whole earth (Job 1:7, paraphrased)”.

9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

This is a repetition of James 4:7, where James exhorts believers to “resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Peter adds the necessity of being steadfast in the faith: new or weak believers could easily be swayed into another doctrine or system, like the effect of the Judaizers in Acts 15 and Galatians.

10 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). 11 To him (be) glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Here is a prayer, by Peter, for the believers, that God would make each one complete, established, strengthened, and settled after they had suffered for a while. He then adds a closing comment or doxology, similar to several of Paul’s prayers in his own letters.

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.

Silvanus is another spelling of Silas, who had gone with Paul on at least one missionary journey. Silas joined Paul in Antioch (Acts 15:40) and suffered with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16). How Silas came to join Peter is nowhere stated explicitly and there is no need to make guesses about this. The important thing here is that he was working with Peter and perhaps wrote this letter as Peter dictated it.

Peter then reminds the readers that he is exhorting them and that they were standing in the true grace of the True God.

13 The (church that is) at Babylon, elected together with (you), saluteth you; and (so doth) Marcus my son.

Some have debated what Peter meant by “Babylon”. Wherever it was—the original Babylon near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, or if he was using a code-word for Rome, or if he meant somewhere else, is not determined here. Regardless, there was a church and they sent greetings to fellow believers in the regions Peter listed in chapter 1. Marcus is probably John Mark, who had left Paul but later was requested by Paul to come to Rome (2 Tim. 4:11). Interestingly, Paul had called Timothy his son (2 Tim, 1:2) even though there was no biological connection.

14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace (be) with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

This was their way of showing fellowship in those days. Peter closes this letter by wishing peace upon all believers, those who are “in Christ Jesus”. Amen, and amen!

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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