1 Peter 5:1-11
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…
I. EXHORTATION TO ELDERS.
1. In what character Peter exhorts. "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." The link of connection is "well-doing," which is here given in detail. The first who are exhorted to do well are the elders, to be understood officially. These elders are referred to as among them, i.e. in the Churches in the various localities. Peter might have commanded even the elders, as an apostle; there was nothing derogatory to his apostleship, and there was a gain of influence, in his humbly exhorting them as a fellow-elder, who had the same duties of the eldership to perform. If he had superior authority, he would only derive it from the fact that he was "a witness of the sufferings of Christ." He had seen Christ suffer in the garden and on the cross; he had, therefore, the advantage of proceeding on personal testimony in his preaching. An eye-witness of the sufferings of Christ, might he not claim to have a special title comfortably to exhort the suffering, the persecuted? Taking them back to the Crucifixion-scene, he does not leave them there, but points them forward. He was also "a partaker of the glory to be revealed," i.e. future sharer with Christ when revealed in his glory, of which he had already enjoyed the foretaste in his having been a privileged witness of the Transfiguration. He does not say "fellow-partaker;" but we may suppose that this was in his mind for the comfort of the persecuted.
2. To what duty he exhorts.
(1) Shepherding. "Tend the flock of God which is among you." Thrice Peter fell; thrice the Master laid on him his commission. Twice the word of the commission was feed, as if special attention was to be given to feeding of the flock, finding spiritual food for them; on the second occasion the word of the commission was more comprehensively shepherd, or, as it is translated," tend." It is that word which is used here, taken, we can believe, from the commission. The shepherd has to guide, guard, fold, as well as find food; so the minister (the elder chiefly, though not exclusively, to be thought of) has not only to teach, but also to do what is sometimes, with a limitation, called pastoral work - attending to the sick, the aged, the anxious, the tempted. The elders were to tend the flock in their several localities in the consciousness of its being the flock of God, i.e. not belonging absolutely to them, but God.
(2) Character of the shepherding. First negative and positive. "Exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according unto God." Shepherding is of the nature of overseeing. This overseeing is not to be engaged in of constraint, i.e. from outward pressure such as the solicitation of friends, but willingly, i.e. from free choice, The remaining words introduced into the Revised Version seem unnecessary in thought. Second negative and positive. "Nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." Overseeing is not to be engaged in for filthy lucre, i.e. lucre which is not filthy in itself, but becomes filthy when made the determining consideration in the holding of a sacred office. On the contrary, it is to be engaged in of a ready mind, i.e. from love for the work. Support cannot be overlooked, but it will be a secondary consideration with a man who loves his work, is glad to have the abundant opportunity of doing good in the name of Christ. Third negative and positive. "Neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock." Elders are to oversee; it is said that they are to preside; it is also said that they are to lead; but it is not said that they are to lord it, nor that they are to lord it against, as it is literally here, i.e. against the rights or interests of the people over whom they are placed. They are not to lord it over the charges allotted to them. On the contrary, they are to make themselves ensamples to the flock. Their ambition is to be to live what they teach. "Either teach not," says Gregory Nazianzen, "or teach by living."
3. Promise of reward for fulfillment of the exhortation. "And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." The pastoral wealth of the great Proprietor makes one flock, over which is placed the chief Shepherd. This is a very beautiful designation of our Lord. It is suggestive of shepherds under him. If these under-shepherds act from their own free choice, and from love of the work, and are exemplary, they shall not go unrewarded. The time of their reward is to be when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, i.e. shall be disclosed in all the glory that belongs to him on account of what he has done for the flesh. The faithful under-shepherds are to be crowned with a crown of glory. Peter, who is Jewish in his imagery, may have had in his mind the wreath used by the Jews on festive occasions. They are to be crowned as with flowers, i.e. with all that is most beautiful in body and soul. The designation given to the crown of beauty is derived from a flower, to which Milton thus makes allusion.
"Their crowns inwove with amarant and gold;
Immortal amarant, a flower which once
In Paradise, fast by the tree of life
Began to bloom." As the lily is symbolic of purity, so the amaranth (being what we call an "everlasting") is symbolic of immortality. What is at last to blossom forth in the faithful servants of Christ is never to lose its form or brightness.
II. EXHORTATION TO THE YOUNGER. "Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder." As there was what was suitable for the elders, in like manner there was what was suitable for the younger (people). By these we are to understand all in the congregations except the elders. The designation was not simply with reference to age (which held to a certain extent), but with reference to their being placed under the elders. We should therefore read" elders" here, as in the first verse. In accordance with former injunctions in regard to other relations, the word for the younger is "subjection" They were to be subject unto the elders. It is not said that they were to be subject in the Lord; but we are to understand the ground and conditions of the subjection to lie in the elders being representatives of Christ's authority and administering Christ's laws.
1. Humility in service of one another. "Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." Peter now turns to all of them, i.e. both the elders and the younger (people), and with a certain emphasis sums up their duties in humility. A recognized definition of it is "the esteeming of ourselves small, because we are so, the thinking truly, and, because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves." The work for which Christ's gospel came into the world was no less than to put clown the mighty from their seat, and to exalt the humble and meek. It was, then, only in accordance with this its mission that it should dethrone the heathen virtue great-souledness, and set up the despised Christian grace humility in its room, stripping that of the honor it had unjustly assumed, delivering this from the dishonor which so unjustly had clung to it hitherto; and in this direction advancing so far that a Christian writer has called this last not merely a grace, but the casket or treasure-house in which all other graces are contained. And, indeed, not the grace only, but the very word was itself a fruit of the gospel; "no Greek writer employed it before the Christian era, nor, apart from the influence of Christian writers, after" (Trench). What we are to do with humility is to gird ourselves with it, the reference being to the use of an apron (worn especially by slaves) for menial service. "Even if this were not the reference, it would be difficult to believe that Peter could have written this without remembering how the Lord washed his disciples' feet, and what he said on that occasion, and specially to Peter himself. The Lord put on a servile garment for the occasion - he girded himself before he addressed himself to that menial, gracious task, which was a parable in action never to be forgotten. This being so, how much force, how much life, is given to Peter's admonition! When his words come to us loaded with the loving, overwhelming remembrance, they bring to us all the weight of what our Savior aid and said on that sacred evening before the Crucifixion" (Howson's 'Horae Petrinae'). All of them, after the example of Christ, were to gird themselves to serve one another - the elders the younger (people), and the younger (people) the elders. The principle laid down in 1 Peter 4:10 was that all gifts - experience, youthful energy, among them - were to be placed at the service of the community. The consideration by which humility is enforced here contains the principles according to which God withholds and grants his blessing. There is a certain disposition which is necessarily disowned, its opposite being that which is owned. The proud, i.e. those who are satisfied with themselves and who exalt themselves above others on account of advantages, God sets himself in array against them. The humble, i.e. those who have a sense of their needs and who do not think of comparing themselves with others, God giveth grace to them. He sends the rich empty away, while satisfying the poor with good things.
2. Humility before God. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Even in the persecutors Peter saw the mighty hand of God. In what they suffered at their hands there was a call to acknowledge their importance in the hands of might. There was also a call to acknowledge their sins. If they thus abased themselves individually and unitedly before God, he would exalt them in due time. He would certainly exalt them above their persecutors, and, without reference to their persecutors, on the day of judgment. He would then bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noonday. But the language may also be taken as holding out a promise that, whenever the ends of the Divine administration permitted, they would be exalted here above their persecutors. The hand that afflicted would also remove the affliction.
3. Accompaniment of humility before God. "Casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you." This does not stand by itself, but is participially connected with the foregoing. Whilst there is to be an abasing, there must be, if there is to be a lifting up, if there is to be a balanced condition in the spiritual life, also a casting upon God. What they were to cast was, not their care, but their anxious care. What was to become of them in the persecution? In the event of their being martyred, how would their families be provided for? how would their children be defended against worldly influences, which were worse than persecution? Let them be encouraged to cast all their anxious care upon God; for he most effectually cared for them. He was acquainted with all their anxious care in its length and breadth, in its height and depth, and he would not forget them or theirs in the present or in the future. When Peter penned this precept he had grown above his own restless energy into the calm of words which he had once heard from sacred lips. "For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought [have no anxious care] for the morrow."
IV. THE ADVERSARY OF SOULS.
1. Watchfulness. "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." By the omission of connecting words, a nervous force is given to the language. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 it is said, "Let us watch and be sober." The same verbs are used here, but the order is reversed. The stress is here upon be watchful, which is placed next the danger pointed to. Be sober, i.e. be free from the stupefying of meats and drinks, from all worldly excitement; from the disturbing influence of anxious care. Unless they were sober, they could not be watchful, i.e. have all their senses and powers wakened up, so as to be prepared like a sentinel against the approach of the enemy. The two words are like the ringing of an alarm-bell. Be in a fit and wakeful state; the enemy may any moment be here. There is raised an impression of the formidableness of the enemy named here. In respect of good qualities - strength, majesty - Christ is compared to a lion. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In respect of bad qualities - fierceness, wonderful activity for rapacious ends - the devil is here compared to a lion. "As a roaring lion he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." This language has special application to times of persecution. When the fire of persecution is among the Churches, then there is, as it were, roaring, unwonted stirring-up of energy, in the expectation that, through unsteadfastness, one here and another there may tall into his power.
2. Steadfastness. "Whom withstand steadfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world." it is sometimes our duty to flee from the devil. We are to flee from the scene where we are strongly tempted. We are here exhorted not to flee from but to face the devil; and James adds the thought that, when we boldly face him, he will flee from us. There seems to be a connecting of the devil with the persecutions that were taking place. Paul says that Satan hindered once and again his going to the Thessalonians. So, through the persecutors who were under his influence, he was opposing the Christians; and they were not weakly to yield to him, but to stand up against him. They could only expect to be unwavering in their stand against him in their faith, i.e. in the strong conviction that they were not left to themselves, but that there was One with them stronger than their adversary. Let them be supported by the consciousness that they occupied no singular position. It was the destiny of the brotherhood in the world to suffer. The same sufferings were being accomplished in Babylon from which he wrote as in the Churches of Asia Minor to which he wrote.
3. Promise of support from God. "And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you." They were to be steadfast in their faith; there was this promise on which their faith could rest. The God of the promise is designated the God of all grace, i.e. who could supply grace up to and beyond all their needs. The beginning of his grace was when he called them in Christ; but that beginning was connected with an end. He called them unto his eternal glory. The end was not to be reached, unless by means going before. The foregoing condition was suffering a little while. There is consolation in the manner of stating it, the shortness of the suffering being placed in contrast with the length of the glory. In and through the suffering God would support them, so that they would not fail of eternal glory. There being three words employed has the effect of giving increased force to the idea. The first word is a promise that God will supply all that is lacking in the elements of character upon which strength depends. The second word is a promise that God will keep from being overpowered in the actual assault. The third word is a promise that God will increase strength so as to turn successful resistance into victorious aggression. The God who called, he will support all through unto eternal glory.
4. Doxology annexed to the promise. "To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." "Power" is a better word than "dominion." When God promises us power or gives us to experience power, it becomes us to ascribe the power to him. As we shall be receiving accessions of power through the ages of ages, our ascriptions of power can never end. As our ascriptions are so defective at their best, we seek to have them intensified by adding our "Amen." - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: