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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

1 Peter 5

Verse 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:

The elders which are among you I exhort: Having addressed servants, wives, and husbands as particular groups within the church, Peter now turns to another group, a far more restrictive group, the elders.

The word "elder" (presbuteros) is used of age, of one advanced in life, a senior. Among the Jews it was a term used to designate the ruler of the people in that such were generally selected from elderly men. This term came to refer to those who presided over the assemblies or churches.

The word is always used in the plural (Acts 20:28) unless the individual qualifications of one (Titus 1:7) are being discussed. These men are referred to as presbyters (1 Timothy 4:14), pastors (Ephesians 4:11), bishops (Acts 20:28), and overseers. Their qualifications are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and in Titus 1:5-16.

The brethren addressed in this first verse were as those in Philippians 1:1; they had elders among them. Peter now exhorts or persuades them. He bases his exhortation on several points.

who am also an elder: The word elder (sumpresbuteros), in this use, occurs only here, referring to a "fellow elder." Notice that he does not refer to himself as pope (which he was not) or even as the apostle that he was. He bases his words to elders on the fact that he is an elder.

and a witness of the sufferings of Christ: In that Peter was an apostle, he had seen the suffering of Christ (Acts 1:8), His death, and the resurrected Christ. Peter was an eyewitness who had been called forth to testify (Acts 3:15; Acts 10:39).

and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Over and over the apostle emphasizes that partakers in suffering will be partakers in glory. (See chapters 1:11 and 4:13.)

Verse 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;

Feed the flock of God which is among you: Peter now addresses a work or function of the elders among them. They are to feed (poimaino) or tend the flock as spiritual undershepherds of the Lord. They are to remember that it is the flock of God (Psalms 78:70-72); to Him they will give an account.

taking the oversight thereof: Elders have the responsibility to feed the flock, tend the flock, and take the oversight (episkopeo) which is "to look upon, to contemplate." Oversight is to be exercised. The duties are to be performed (Acts 20:28-35; John 21:15-17).

not by constraint but willingly: The desire for the good work (Titus 3:1) is a cardinal qualification which must ever be held in view, especially in times of trials and danger. No pastor should serve "under force" or "unwillingly" tend the flock. Everyone, including elders, is to function in harmony with the will of God.

not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: Every age, station, or work has its own particular temptations. Even the men of this stature could yield to right service with wrong motives. Service for "filthy lucre" (aischrokerdos) is service for disgraceful gain (Titus 1:7). The concept would cover any misuse of his position as a bishop in order to obtain money.

This passage strongly reveals that at least some of the elders were supported financially, especially those who labored in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17-18), devoting their time to the church (Matthew 10:10).

Verse 3

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage: "Lords (katakuriuo) over" indicates an abuse of "taking the oversight." In any position of power there is a persistent danger of abuse; ruling with an arrogant or high-handed approach is forbidden (Matthew 20:25-28). Notice the plural use in reference to elders.

God’s heritage is the Lord’s people in general and as seen in the local congregation in particular. In this text they are recognized as His sheep allotted to the undershepherds, the elders. The local church is recognized as "the saints ... with the bishops and deacons" (Philippians 1:1).

The word "heritage" (kleeros) primarily means "to cast lots or to choose by lots" (Acts 1:26). Literally, in this passage, "what is obtained by lot or allotted portion." The reference is to persons whose care and oversight have been assigned. In the local church the administration has been allotted to the overseers; they, in turn, have allotted to them the flock, their heritage or lot. No other flock of God is theirs. The congregation is the "kleroo" of God. "Kleros" is the word for clergy and is applied to the congregation, not to preachers. Elders are not the clergy; they are over the clergy, the members.

but being ensamples to the flock: Instead of being arrogant lords over the "flock," that is, a group of Christ’s disciples, banded together (1 Corinthians 14:23), elders are commanded to be ensamples (tupos) or patterns for the flock.

There is no doubt that the overseers of a congregation are to rule (1 Timothy 5:17) and rule well, but one of the strongest elderships will be one in which they rule by example. Teaching and example will lead more sheep than will ever be led by decree. Sheep are not driven; they are led.

Verse 4

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

And when the chief Shepherd shall appear: "Chief Shepherd" is a title given to Christ alone. Although this expression appears only in this place, similar ones are found in Hebrews 13:20 and John 10:11; John 10:14. Peter would never dream that millions would misapply this passage to refer to him as the vicar of Christ.

Bishops of congregations should think of themselves as under-shepherds of the Prince of Pastors, the Lord Himself.

That great Shepherd of His sheep will come for His own. "When" (the time element) He appears, at His second coming (Revelation 1:7), then shall we also appear with Him in glory. The reward is just as sure as His coming!

ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away: The word "crown" (stephanos) denotes the victor’s crown, given in recognition of the saint’s triumph over sin and evil.

Peter’s words remind us of Paul’s many allusions to the contests of first century life. Unlike those who received a crown of woven oak leaves, ivy, myrtle, violet and roses, that was soon to fade away, the people of God will receive a crown that will never fade.

The words "that fadeth not away" are from (amarantinos) signifying an "unfading flower." The Greeks spoke of the amarantinos as a flower that never withers nor fades; it was their symbol of immorality. How beautiful the thought, how encouraging to the poor slain sheep (Romans 8) to know that the Prince of Life awaits them with the crown.

Verse 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.

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder: "Likewise" (homoios) or "for the like reason" has prefaced the instructions for wives and husbands, in reference to the concept of submission that began in 2:13. Elders have been taught to submit to the chief Shepherd and now "for the same reason" the younger are taught to submit to the elder.

The "younger" (neoteros) refers to the "newer, the youthful" and is used in a comparative degree (Luke 15:12-13; Luke 22:26; 1 Timothy 5:1). All younger people of either sex are included.

The word "elder" (presbuteros) basically means "one of age, of one advanced in life, a senior." This word later came to refer to those selected overseers of the congregation (Acts 20:17-28, 1 Peter 5:1-2). The question in this passage is whether this word in verse 5 is used in reference to elders as overseers or elders as older people in the congregation. It is difficult to switch from one usage to another in close context yet this seems to be the case. The words younger and elder seem to be set in comparative degree as respects age alone. Paul does this in 1 Timothy 5. In verse 1 he forbids rebuking one advanced in years (an elder) and in verse 17 turns his attention to the elders (overseers) selected to "rule well."

Yea, all of you be subject one to another: Having required subjection (2:13; 2:18; 3:1) of those in particular stations of life, Peter now addresses all the saints. The word for "be subject" is identical to submit, the idea being "place yourselves in subjection" to one another.

Let it be noted that subjection is the fabric that holds all things together.

and be clothed with humility: "Humility" (tapeinos) is literally "low-lying, to be brought low," and in this verse refers to being humble in spirit.

"Clothed" (egkomkomboomai) is a word with a rich background. It is from a word which signifies a knot or a tie or a band by which two things are fastened. It came to denote the white scarf or apron of slaves, which distinguished them from freemen. This word occurs in no other place in the New Testament.

Christians are to tie on the garment of humility. Humility should be visible over all other virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7); these are the clothes that make a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl! (John 13:10-17).

for God resisteth the proud: Those who wish to "show themselves above others" or to "appear preeminent," will find that God resists them. "Resist" (antitasso) was originally a military term referring to open, active conflict.

The pride of man deploys the armies of the Lord of hosts. Little wonder that pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6).

and giveth grace to the humble: God’s amazing unmerited favor is given to those who humble themselves.

Verse 6

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God: The saints are to abase (tapinoo) or submit themselves in a lowly spirit to the power and will of God. What an utter exercise in futility to array ourselves against and break ourselves under His mighty hand. (See Exodus 3:19 and Job 30:21.)

that he may exalt you in due time: This promise, as a major theme, runs throughout the New Covenant (Matthew 23:12). His word is given! He will exalt (hupsoo), "spiritually uplift" the humble. This exaltation will be at "the right" time; God will determine the best time.

Verse 7

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

"Casting" (epirripto) or "to cast upon" denotes a deposit once for all time. Lest the Christians, facing foes within and without, be tempted to renounce Christianity, Peter assures them that God will bear their load. Christians do live in the world and they do have "cares" (merimna); the word means "to draw in different directions, to distract." The idea is anxious care or anxiety. All our cares, the whole of our cares, are to be transferred to the Lord (Psalms 55:22; Matthew 6:25-30). It is in this context that "take no thought" (Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:28; Matthew 6:31; Matthew 6:34) or "be not anxious" makes sense. Take it to the Lord (Ephesians 4:6-7). Leave it there (Psalms 40:17).

Verse 8

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

Be sober, be vigilant: Peter restates the warning and admonition of 4:7. Further reason is given for mental self-control; Satan is present.

because your adversary the devil: The enemy is real! He is (or at least was to first century Christians) a well-known adversary. In this trial to death, Satan accuses us, opposes us and would sift us as wheat (Zechariah 3:1). Oh how well Peter knew this lesson!

as a roaring lion: This powerful simile in reference to Satan allows us to hear the roar of a beast in fierce hunger. In this passage Satan is no angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14); Satan, as a raging monarch of the jungle, moves in power (Proverbs 30:30; Psalms 22:13).

walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: With insatiable rage, Satan is on the prowl. He is a restless, evil one and with persistence he seeks the lost straying sheep. "Devour" (katapino) is literally "to drink down or to swallow."

Verse 9

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

Whom resist stedfast in the faith: Faith is the shield (Ephesians 6:16) on which we receive the weapons of Satan. Satan is to be resisted (anthisteemi) or "withstood" (James 4:7). Not only are we to stand in battle against him; we "steadfastly," unwaveringly, stand (Ephesians 6:14). Satan is pictured as watching us for a weak moment; a crack in our defense.

knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world: There is strength in the community of believers. If one can know that others have walked and are walking a road of trials, the lot is easier to bear. There is support in the fact that we are not alone; others have come this way before; and others will follow. The grace that sustained them, sustains us. God’s arm is not shortened. His grace is as great as it was when Stephen died. He has gone before us. There will be light at the river for every saint in "all parts of the world" throughout all ages.

Verse 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.

But the God of all grace: There is no grace that does not proceed from the hand of God. And this is the God who "delivered," "doth deliver," and "will yet deliver us" (2 Corinthians 1:10).

who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus: The "called" are those who have listened to His voice addressed to them in the gospel (1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). The calling is into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27) and unto His eternal glory by Christ.

after that ye have suffered a while: Whether the suffering refers to time or degree it will be "having suffered a little." God’s people must know that the suffering is short compared to eternity and light in comparison to the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

make you perfect: "Perfect" (katartizo) is "to render fit" through right ordering and arranging. Fishermen used this term in referring to the mending of their nets (Matthew 4:21).

stablish: To "stablish" (sterizo) was "to fix or set, or make fast." It is by the word that this confirmation is effected (2 Peter 1:12, Luke 22:32).

strengthen: This word (sthenoo) occurs only here in New Testament writing and means "to impart strength."

The words "perfect, stablish, and strengthen" are in a series of future tenses, thus constituting divine promises regarding His children.

settle you: This word is omitted by some texts. Where it is included the word (tithemi) denotes the "laying of a foundation." God’s purpose is to so firmly fix us on a foundation that we shall not be moved (Matthew 7:24). The Living Oracles includes this word as "establish."

Bengel, in his Novi Testamenti translated by Lewis and Vincent, sums up the whole: "Shall perfect, that no defect remain in you: shall stablish, that nothing may shake you: shall strengthen, that you may overcome every adverse force."

Verse 11

To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

The glory is His. The dominion is His. All others have theirs either by permission or usurpation (see 4:11).

Verse 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.

By Silvanus: Silvanus (Silas) was a friend and companion of Paul (2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1). He was with Paul on the second tour as seen in Acts 15; both of them had labored greatly in Pontus, the very area where the churches were situated to which this epistle was addressed.

Silas was the bearer of this letter or he was the one to whom it was dictated (Romans 16:22). In that it was "by" him, he could have done either or both.

a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose: Silas evidently was well known for fidelity in his many travels with Paul, and now in his travels into Asia Minor. Peter, having worked with him since Paul’s death, "reckons" or "accounts" Silas to be faithful. The word does not indicate doubt.

I have written briefly: The apostle wrote this by means of a few words. He does not refer to a lost epistle.

exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand: Peter himself states this was the purpose of the writing. Through exhortation and bearing witness to the truth, or the "true" grace of God, the apostle confirmed wherein they stood. He had been there; as an eyewitness he urges them to continue in the Faith.

Verse 13

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

The word church is not in the original. It simply reads "she who is in Babylon." The Living Oracles translates it "they at Babylon." The term being feminine has caused some to think this refers to the church, other believe that it refers to Peter’s wife or some prominent woman in the church. Whoever the "she" was is described as being a "co-elect one." She, or those (the Christians in Babylon) were elected (1:2) jointly to be the people of God.

The best argument in favor of the "she...in Babylon" being the wife of Peter or a sister is that there is an unlikely joining of an individual, John Mark, and a figurative expression denoting the church in the same sentence. The reasoning is that since one is definitely an individual, the other is likely one also.

One should know, however, that the majority of commentators understand it to mean a sister congregation, "elect together with them."

The words "in Babylon" immediately bring many things and places to mind. The possibilities are at least three: The Chaldean capital, Rome, or a small village in Egypt. The basic rule of interpretation requires that we rely upon the obvious. Peter wrote this letter while in Babylon upon the Euphrates. The people of Pontus would have so understood it.

Verse 14

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

Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity: The "kiss of love" was a common practice for several centuries. Evidently this custom of welcome or farewell was prevailing both within and without the church. Vine gives a history of this custom as it related to the church.

There was to be an absence of formality and hypocrisy, a freedom from prejudice arising from social distinction, from discrimination against the poor, from partiality towards the well-to-do. In the churches masters and servants would thus salute one another with out any attitude of condescension on the one part or disrespect on the other. The kiss took place thus between persons of the same sex. In the "Apostolic Constitutions," a writing compiled in the 4th century, A.D., there is a reference to the custom whereby men sat on one side of the room where a meeting was held, and women on the other side of the room (as is frequently the case still in parts of Europe and Asia), and the men are bidden to salute the men, and the women the women, with "the kiss of the Lord."

The apostle’s words regarding greetings do not mandate a method of greeting in that the custom was already in vogue; his words simply insure that Christian principles are in control (Roman 16:16).

Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen: "Shalom" to you all that are in Christ. Peter closes with the equivalent of the ancient Hebrew word for "peace of every kind"; the benediction is limited to those who are in Christ (Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:26-27).

Copyright Statement
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-peter-5.html. 1993-2022.