Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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:
1Pe 5:1-14. Exhortations to Elders, Juniors, and All in General. Parting Prayer. Conclusion.
1. elders—alike in office and age (1Pe 5:5).
I … also an elder—To put one's self on a level with those whom we exhort, gives weight to one's exhortations (compare 2Jo 1, 2). Peter, in true humility for the Gospel's sake, does not put forward his apostleship here, wherein he presided over the elders. In the apostleship the apostles have no successors, for "the signs of an apostle" have not been transmitted. The presidents over the presbyters and deacons, by whatever name designated, angel, bishop, or moderator, &c., though of the same ORDER as the presbyters, yet have virtually succeeded to a superintendency of the Church analogous to that exercised by the apostles (this superintendency and priority existed from the earliest times after the apostles [Tertullian]); just as the Jewish synagogue (the model which the Church followed) was governed by a council of presbyters, presided over by one of themselves, "the chief ruler of the synagogue." (Compare Vitringa [Synagogue and Temple, Part II, chs. 3 and 7]).
witness—an eye-witness of Christ's sufferings, and so qualified to exhort you to believing patience in suffering for well-doing after His example (1Pe 4:19; 2:20). This explains the "therefore" inserted in the oldest manuscripts, "I therefore exhort," resuming exhortation from 1Pe 4:19. His higher dignity as an apostle is herein delicately implied, as eye-witnessing was a necessary qualification for apostleship: compare Peter's own speeches, Ac 1:21, 22; 2:32; 10:39.
also—implying the righteous recompense corresponding to the sufferings.
partaker of the glory—according to Christ's promise; an earnest of which was given in the transfiguration.
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;
2. Feed—Greek, "Tend as a shepherd," by discipline and doctrine. Lead, feed, heed: by prayer, exhortation, government, and example. The dignity is marked by the term "elder"; the duties of the office, to tend or oversee, by "bishop." Peter has in mind Christ's injunction to him, "Feed (tend) My sheep … Feed (pasture) My lambs" (Joh 21:16). He invites the elders to share with him the same duty (compare Ac 20:28). The flock is Christ's.
which is among you—While having a concern for all the Church, your special duty is to feed that portion of it "which is among you."
oversight—Greek, "bishopric," or duty of bishops, that is, overseer.
not by constraint—Necessity is laid upon them, but willingness prevents it being felt, both in undertaking and in fulfilling the duty [Bengel]. "He is a true presbyter and minister of the counsel of God who doeth and teacheth the things of the Lord, being not accounted righteous merely because he is a presbyter, but because righteous, chosen into the presbytery" [Clement of Alexandria].
willingly—One oldest manuscript, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, add, "as God would have it to be done" (Ro 8:27).
not for filthy lucre—(Isa 56:11; Tit 1:7).
of a ready mind—promptly and heartily, without selfish motive of gain-seeking, as the Israelites gave their services willing-heartedly to the sanctuary.
Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
3. being lords—Greek, "lording it": implying pride and oppression. "Not that we have dominion over your faith."
God's heritage—Greek, "the inheritances," that is, the portions of the Church committed severally to your pastoral charge [Bengel]. It is explained by "the flock" in the next clause. However, in 1Pe 5:2, "flock of God which is among you," answering to "(God's) heritages" (plural to express the sheep who are God's portion and inheritance, De 32:9) committed to you, favors English Version. The flock, as one whole, is God's heritage, or flock in the singular. Regarded in relation to its component sheep, divided among several pastors, it is in the plural "heritages." Compare Ac 1:17, 25, "part" (the same Greek). Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote to Pope Eugene, "Peter could not give thee what he had not: what he had he gave: the care over the Church, not dominion."
ensamples—the most effective recommendation of precept (1Ti 4:12). Tit 2:7, "patterns." So Jesus. "A monstrosity it is to see the highest rank joined with the meanest mind, the first seat with the lowest life, a grandiloquent tongue with a lazy life, much talking with no fruit" [Bernard].
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
4. And—"And so": as the result of "being ensamples" (1Pe 5:3).
chief Shepherd—the title peculiarly Christ's own, not Peter's or the pope's.
when … shall appear—Greek, "be manifested" (Col 3:4). Faith serves the Lord while still unseen.
crown—Greek, "stephanos," a garland of victory, the prize in the Grecian games, woven of ivy, parsley, myrtle, olive, or oak. Our crown is distinguished from theirs in that it is "incorruptible" and "fadeth not away," as the leaves of theirs soon did. "The crown of life." Not a kingly "crown" (a different Greek word, diadema): the prerogative of the Lord Jesus (Re 19:12).
glory—Greek, "the glory," namely, to be then revealed (1Pe 5:1; 1Pe 4:13).
that fadeth not away—Greek, "amaranthine" (compare 1Pe 1:4).
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.
5. ye younger—The deacons were originally the younger men, the presbyters older; but subsequently as presbyter expressed the office of Church ruler or teacher, so Greek "neoteros" means not (as literally) young men in age, but subordinate ministers and servants of the Church. So Christ uses the term "younger." For He explains it by "he that doth serve," literally, "he that ministereth as a deacon"; just as He explains "the greatness" by "he that is chief," literally, "he that ruleth," the very word applied to the bishops or presbyters. So "the young men" are undoubtedly the deacons of the Church of Jerusalem, of whom, as being all Hebrews, the Hellenistic Christians subsequently complained as neglecting their Grecian widows, whence arose the appointment of the seven others, Hellenistic deacons. So here, Peter, having exhorted the presbyters, or elders, not to lord it over those committed to them, adds, Likewise ye neoters or younger, that is, subordinate ministers and deacons, submit cheerfully to the command of the elders [Mosheim]. There is no Scripture sanction for "younger" meaning laymen in general (as Alford explains): its use in this sense is probably of later date. The "all of you" that follows, refers to the congregation generally; and it is likely that, like Paul, Peter should notice, previous to the general congregation, the subordinate ministers as well as the presbyters, writing as he did to the same region (Ephesus), and to confirm the teaching of the apostle of the Gentiles.
Yea—to sum up all my exhortations in one.
be subject—omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions, but Tischendorf quotes the Vatican manuscript for it. Then translate, "Gird (1Pe 1:13; 4:1) fast on humility (lowliness of mind) to one another." The verb is literally, "tie on with a fast knot" [Wahl]. Or, "gird on humility as the slave dress (encomboma)": as the Lord girded Himself with a towel to perform a servile office of humility and love, washing His disciples' feet, a scene in which Peter had played an important part, so that he would naturally have it before his mind. Compare similarly 1Pe 5:2 with Joh 21:15-17. Clothing was the original badge of man's sin and shame. Pride caused the need of man's clothing, and pride still reigns in dress; the Christian therefore clothes himself in humility (1Pe 3:3, 4). God provides him with the robe of Christ's righteousness, in order to receive which man must be stripped of pride.
God resisteth the proud—Quoted, as Jas 4:6, from Pr 3:34. Peter had James before his mind, and gives his Epistle inspired sanction. Compare 1Pe 5:9 with Jas 4:7, literally, "arrayeth Himself against." Other sins flee from God: pride alone opposeth itself to God; therefore, God also in turn opposes Himself to the proud [Gerhard in Alford]. Humility is the vessel of all graces [Augustine].
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
6. under the mighty hand—afflicting you (1Pe 3:15): "accept" His chastisements, and turn to Him that smiteth you. He depresses the proud and exalts the humble.
in due time—Wait humbly and patiently for His own fit time. One oldest manuscript and Vulgate read, "In the season of visitation," namely, His visitation in mercy.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
7. Casting—once for all: so the Greek aorist.
care—"anxiety? The advantage flowing from humbling ourselves under God's hand (1Pe 5:6) is confident reliance on His goodness. Exemption from care goes along with humble submission to God.
careth for you—literally "respecting you." Care is a burden which faith casts off the man on his God. Compare Ps 22:10; 37:5; 55:22, to which Peter alludes; Lu 12:22, 37; Php 4:6.
careth—not so strong a Greek word as the previous Greek "anxiety."
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
8. Peter has in mind Christ's warning to himself to watch against Satan, from forgetting which he fell.
Be sober … vigilant—"Care," that is, anxiety, will intoxicate the soul; therefore be sober, that is, self-restrained. Yet, lest this freedom from care should lead any to false security, he adds, "Be vigilant" against "your adversary." Let this be your "care." God provides, therefore do not be anxious. The devil seeks, therefore watch [Bengel].
because—omitted in the oldest manuscripts The broken and disjointed sentences are more fervid and forcible. Lucifer of Cagliari reads as English Version.
adversary—literally, "opponent in a court of justice" (Zec 3:1). "Satan" means opponent. "Devil," accuser or slanderer (Re 12:10). "The enemy" (Mt 13:39). "A murderer from the beginning" (Joh 8:44). He counteracts the Gospel and its agents. "The tempter."
roaring lion—implying his violent and insatiable thirst for prey as a hungry lion. Through man's sin he got God's justice on his side against us; but Christ, our Advocate, by fulfilling all the demands of justice for us, has made our redemption altogether consistent with justice.
walketh about—(Job 1:7; 2:2). So the children of the wicked one cannot rest. Evil spirits are in 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6, said to be already in chains of darkness and in hell. This probably means that this is their doom finally: a doom already begun in part; though for a time they are permitted to roam in the world (of which Satan is prince), especially in the dark air that surrounds the earth. Hence perhaps arises the miasma of the air at times, as physical and moral evil are closely connected.
devour—entangle in worldly "care" (1Pe 5:7) and other snares, so as finally to destroy. Compare Re 12:15, 16.
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
9. (Lu 4:13; Eph 6:11-17; Jas 4:7.)
steadfast—Compare established in the truth," 2Pe 1:12. Satan's power exists only in respect to the unbelieving; the faithful he cannot hurt (1Jo 5:18). Faith gives strength to prayer, the great instrument against the foe (Jas 1:6, &c.).
knowing, &c.—"encouragement not to faint in afflictions": your brethren suffer the same; nothing beyond the common lot of Christians befalls you (1Co 10:13). It is a sign of God's favor rather than displeasure, that Satan is allowed to harass you, as he did Job. Your fellow Christians have the same battle of faith and prayer against Satan.
are—are being accomplished according to the appointment of God.
in the world—lying in the wicked one, and therefore necessarily the scene of "tribulation" (Joh 16:33).
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.
10. Comforting assurance that God will finally "perfect" His work of "grace" in them, after they have undergone the necessary previous suffering.
But—Only do you watch and resist the foe: God will perform the rest [Bengel].
of all grace—(Compare 1Pe 4:10). The God to whom as its source all grace is to be referred; who in grace completes what in grace He began. He from the first "called (so the oldest manuscripts read for "us") unto (with a view to) glory." He will not let His purpose fall short of completion. If He does so in punishing, much more in grace. The three are fitly conjoined: the call, the glory to which we are called, and the way (suffering); the fourth is the ground of the calling, namely, the grace of God in Christ.
by—Greek, "in." Christ is He in virtue of whom, and in union with whom, believers are called to glory. The opposite is "in the world" (1Pe 5:9; Joh 16:33).
after that ye have suffered—Join to "called you": suffering, as a necessary preliminary to glory, was contemplated in God's calling.
a while—short and inconsiderable, as compared with the glory.
perfect, &c.—The two oldest manuscripts, and Vulgate and Coptic versions, read, "shall perfect (so that there shall be nothing defective in you), stablish, strengthen," and omit "settle," literally, "ground," or "fix on a foundation." Alford reads it in spite of the oldest manuscripts The authority of the latter I prefer; moreover the climax seems to require rather a verb of completing the work of grace, than, as the Greek means, founding it. The Greek has, "shall HIMSELF perfect you": though you are called on to watch and resist the foe, God Himself must really do all in and through you. The same God who begins must Himself complete the work. The Greek for "stablish" (so as to be "steadfast in the faith," 1Pe 5:9) is the same as "strengthen," Lu 22:32. Peter has in mind Christ's charge, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." His exhortation accords with his name Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." "Stablish," so as not to waver. "Strengthen" with might in the inner man by His Spirit, against the foe.
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
11. To him—emphatic. To Him and Him alone: not to ourselves. Compare "Himself," see on 1Pe 5:10.
glory and—omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
dominion—Greek, "the might" shown in so "perfecting," you, 1Pe 5:10.
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.
12. Silvanus—Silas, the companion of Paul and Timothy: a suitable messenger by whom to confirm, as Peter here does, Paul's doctrine of "the true grace of God" in the same churches (compare 2Pe 3:16). We never meet with Silvanus as Paul's companion after Paul's last journey to Jerusalem. His connection with Peter was plainly subsequent to that journey.
as I suppose—Join "faithful unto you [Steiger], as I suppose." Silvanus may have stood in a close relation to the churches in Asia, perhaps having taken the oversight of them after Paul's departure, and had afterwards gone to Peter, by whom he is now sent back to them with this Epistle. He did not know, by positive observation, Silvanus' faithfulness to them; he therefore says, "faithful to you, as I suppose," from the accounts I hear; not expressing doubt. Alford joins "I have written unto you," which the Greek order favors. The seeming uncertainty, thus, is not as to Silvanus' faithfulness, which strongly marked by the Greek article, but as to whether he or some other would prove to be the bearer of the letter, addressed as it was to five provinces, all of which Silvanus might not reach: "By Silvanus, that faithful brother, as expect, I have Written to you" [Birks].
briefly—Greek, "in few (words)," as compared with the importance of the subject (Heb 13:22).
exhorting—not so much formally teaching doctrines, which could not be done in so "few words."
testifying—bearing my testimony in confirmation (so the Greek compound verb implies) of that truth which ye have already heard from Paul and Silas (1Jo 2:27).
that this—of which I have just written, and of which Paul before testified to you (whose testimony, now that he was no longer in those regions, was called in question probably by some; compare 2Pe 3:15, 16). 2Pe 1:12, "the present truth," namely, the grace formerly promised by the prophets, and now manifested to you. "Grace" is the keynote of Paul's doctrine which Peter now confirms (Eph 2:5, 8). Their sufferings for the Gospel made them to need some attestation and confirmation of the truth, that they should not fall back from it.
wherein ye stand—The oldest manuscripts read imperatively, "Stand ye." Literally, "into which (having been already admitted, 1Pe 1:8, 21; 2:7, 8, 9) stand (therein)." Peter seems to have in mind Paul's words (Ro 5:2; 1Co 15:1). "The grace wherein we stand must be true, and our standing in it true also" [Bengel]. Compare in "He began his Epistle with grace (1Pe 1:2), he finishes it with grace, he has besprinkled the middle with grace, that in every part he might teach that the Church is not saved but by grace."
The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.
13. The … at Babylon—Alford, Bengel, and others translate, "She that is elected together with you in Babylon," namely, Peter's wife, whom he led about with him in his missionary journeys. Compare 1Pe 3:7, "heirs together of the grace of life." But why she should be called "elected together with you in Babylon," as if there had been no Christian woman in Babylon besides, is inexplicable on this view. In English Version the sense is clear: "That portion of the whole dispersion (1Pe 1:1, Greek), or Church of Christianized Jews, with Gentile converts, which resides in Babylon." As Peter and John were closely associated, Peter addresses the Church in John's peculiar province, Asia, and closes with "your co-elect sister Church at Babylon saluteth you"; and John similarly addresses the "elect lady," that is, the Church in Babylon, and closes with "the children of thine elect sister (the Asiatic Church) greet thee"; (compare Introduction to Second John). Erasmus explains, "Mark who is in the place of a son to me": compare Ac 12:12, implying Peter's connection with Mark; whence the mention of him in connection with the Church at Babylon, in which he labored under Peter before he went to Alexandria is not unnatural. Papias reports from the presbyter John [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39], that Mark was interpreter of Peter, recording in his Gospel the facts related to him by Peter. Silvanus or Silas had been substituted for John Mark, as Paul's companion, because of Mark's temporary unfaithfulness. But now Mark restored is associated with Silvanus, Paul's companion, in Peter's esteem, as Mark was already reinstated in Paul's esteem. That Mark had a spiritual connection with the Asiatic' churches which Peter addresses, and so naturally salutes them, appears from 2Ti 4:11; Col 4:10.
Babylon—The Chaldean Babylon on the Euphrates. See Introduction, ON THE PLACE OF WRITING this Epistle, in proof that Rome is not meant as Papists assert; compare Lightfoot sermon. How unlikely that in a friendly salutation the enigmatical title of Rome given in prophecy (John, Re 17:5), should be used! Babylon was the center from which the Asiatic dispersion whom Peter addresses was derived. Philo [The Embassy to Gaius, 36] and Josephus [Antiquities, 15.2.2; 23.12] inform us that Babylon contained a great many Jews in the apostolic age (whereas those at Rome were comparatively few, about eight thousand [Josephus, Antiquities, 17.11]); so it would naturally be visited by the apostle of the circumcision. It was the headquarters of those whom he had so successfully addressed on Pentecost, Ac 2:9, Jewish "Parthians … dwellers in Mesopotamia" (the Parthians were then masters of Mesopotamian Babylon); these he ministered to in person. His other hearers, the Jewish "dwellers in Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia," he now ministers to by letter. The earliest distinct authority for Peter's martyrdom at Rome is Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in the latter half of the second century. The desirableness of representing Peter and Paul, the two leading apostles, as together founding the Church of the metropolis, seems to have originated the tradition. Clement of Rome [First Epistle to the Corinthians, 4.5], often quoted for, is really against it. He mentions Paul and Peter together, but makes it as a distinguishing circumstance of Paul, that he preached both in the East and West, implying that Peter never was in the West. In 2Pe 1:14, he says, "I must shortly put off this tabernacle," implying his martyrdom was near, yet he makes no allusion to Rome, or any intention of his visiting it.
Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
14. kiss of charity—Ro 16:16, "an holy kiss": the token of love to God and the brethren. Love and holiness are inseparable. Compare the instance, Ac 20:37.
Peace—Peter's closing salutation; as Paul's is, "Grace be with you," though he accompanies it with "peace be to the brethren." "Peace" (flowing from salvation) was Christ's own salutation after the resurrection, and from Him Peter derives it.
be with you all that are in Christ Jesus—The oldest manuscripts omit "Jesus." In Eph 6:24, addressed to the same region, the same limitation of the salutation occurs, whence, perhaps, Peter here adopts it. Contrast, "Be with you all," Ro 16:24; 1Co 16:23.