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Bible Commentaries

Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

1 Peter 5

Verses 1-4



This paragraph is Peter’s powerful appeal to the shepherds in charge of the Lord’s flocks, i. e., the pastors in charge of the churches.

1. In this verse Peter enforces his importunate appeal by reference to his Apostolical seniority and his wonderful experience with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, where he actually beheld the wonderful glory destined to be revealed and actually participated in by the transfigured saints when the Lord appears.

2. “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” Poimanate means not only to feed the flock, but take care of them in every respect, protecting them from Satan’s wolves, i. e., the very approach of sin and appearance of evil. “Not by constraint but willingly for God’s sake.” Thus it is the positive mandate of God that the pastor shall delight to look after every member of his flock, not for money or respectability, but for the sake of God who bought them with His blood. “Not for filthy lucre, but with a ready mind.” Here Peter corroborates Jesus in His denunciation and even anathematization of a hireling ministry, certifying that they can not be relied on to take care of the flock. “When the wolf cometh, then the hireling fleeth because he is a hireling.” Oh, how true do we find the words of Jesus and Peter in reference to a hireling ministry. Suppose all ministerial salaries were this day discontinued. Would not thousands of pastors abandon their flocks and go into secular employments? Yet not one would go whom God wants to stay. Every one whom God has called would abide with his flock, true to his trust, if his salary were eliminated. Truly a hireling ministry is the blighting curse of the fallen churches at the present day, Satan’s wolves, i. e., dancing, card-playing, theater-going, liquor-drinking, horse-racing, and other vices too dark to mention, send church members to hell by wholesale, right under the eye of the pastor,

who keeps his mouth shut, like a “dumb dog,” while he ought to be barking at the wolves and running them off. What is the solution? They pay him money. Therefore he lets them slip through his fingers into hell. Judas sold Jesus for money. Myriads of preachers have done the same and gone down to join Judas in hell. I doubt whether any other Apostle had a larger ministerial following than Judas. I have been preaching forty-three years. Good Lord, deliver me from a preacher’s hell! I would rather have any other. Oh, the momentous responsibility of the preacher when he meets his congregation before the great white throne!

3. “Not as domineering over the heritages.” This sweeps away ecclesiastical tyranny, which has been the crying sin of the clergy in all ages. They rule with a rod of iron, thus forgetting that this is the prerogative of God alone. Their ipse dixit has burnt millions, and would still burn God’s saints if the civil arm would enforce their autocratic edicts.

“But being examples of the flock.” Here we see the pastor’s prerogative. He is to rule by his godly precept and example. He is to lead the way in holiness doctrinal, experimental, and practical. Of course, excommunication is the legitimate ultimatum of all incorrigible wickedness. But, alas, ecclesiastical tyrants in all ages have given themselves a notoriety by their interdictions, decapitations and martyrdoms, inflicted on the godly members of their flocks. Meanwhile the worldly and wicked receive their smiles and approval.

4. “Indeed the chief Shepherd appearing you shall receive a crown of glory which shall never fade away.” We are on the constant lookout for our chief Shepherd to ride down on a cloud. There are the unsalaried, toiling pastors in all lands, leading the people by their godly teachings and example, amid suffering; poverty and persecution. Be patient, O ye shepherds, in your daily toils and nightly vigils! Behold the chief Shepherd with His mighty angels descendeth on the throne of His glory! Lift up your weary heads, and receive from His hands that crown of glory which will never fade away, but accumulate new luster through the flight of eternal ages, while the souls you have rescued from sin and Satan and safely led through these dark valleys of sorrow and probation will forever rise up to call you blessed.

Verses 5-7



When John Fletcher was asked, “What is the most important Christian grace?” he answered, Humility.” To a second inquiry he said, “Humility.” To a third he answered, “Humility,” when the inquirer desisted.

5. “Likewise ye younger people submit to the elder, and all put on humility toward one another, because God resisteth the proud, but He giveth grace to the humble.” Oh, how beautiful and bright the sweet and amiable grace of humility shines in every walk of life. It is believed that the Archangel Lucifer fell from heaven when he permitted spiritual pride to creep in, while unfortunately he ventured to contemplate the splendor and glory of the gigantic intellect which God had given him. John Wesley pronounces pride the great mother sin, whose daughters curse the earth and fill hell. If you can keep your pride thoroughly crucified, you will never fall, because God’s grace will ever sustain you.

6. “Therefore humble yourselves beneath the mighty hand of God in order that in His time He may lift you up.” The Bible reveals a topless heaven and a bottomless hell, consentaneous to the illimitable progress of all finite beings, whether on an upward or a downward tread. All the wicked are sinking every moment by the tremendous weight of their sins. At an unsuspected moment, hell fire rolls over them and they continue to sink forever, because hell has no bottom, i. e., they illimitably progress in sin and misery through all eternity. On the contrary, God’s truly faithful people progress in wisdom and holiness, not only through this life, but throughout never-ending eternity. We all desire the upward trend, but oh, how men and devils deceive us. God’s ways are the opposite of man’s ways. Man says, “Climb,” God says, “Humble yourselves.” In God’s vocabulary, to go up is to go down, and to go down is to go up. Pride lifts you up, to drop you the more precipitously into hell. Humility humbles you down in the dust, where God’s angels ever linger, to encircle you in their pinions of light and favor you with a balloon ride to heaven.

7. “Casting your care upon Him, because there is a care to Him for you.”

This is the Christian secret of a happy life. God wants us to be free as angels, disencumbered of every care, swift as birds of paradise to go on His missions of love and mercy. He wants to carry us and all of our burdens, so we may be perfectly free to do His sweet will on earth, as the angels do it in heaven.

Verses 8-14



8. “Be sober, watch.” As nothing but sin can intoxicate the human soul, nothing but entire sanctification can make it perfectly “sober,” and so keep it. Hence, “be sober” simply means be wholly sanctified. These two commandments, “watch and be sober,” walk hand in hand through the New Testament. Watch has a double meaning, as our Savior has a double nature. We are to keep our eyes on the spiritual Savior every moment we can, while He keeps His hand on us, fortifying us against all danger. At the same time, we are to be on the constant outlook for the glorified Jesus to ride down on a cloud, for whose presence perfect spiritual sobriety, i. e., entire sanctification, is the qualification. “The devil, your adversary, is walking around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” Though the devil goes about roaring like a lion, ready to eat you up in a moment, beware that you do not watch him lest you take your eye off of Jesus. If you keep your eye on Jesus and abide in perfect sobriety, He will attend to this roaring devil and you too. So the devil’s roaring can never hurt you. On the contrary, it will stir you up to the battle and inspire you to fight the more Courageously, thus even utilizing the devil as a drummer to make music for you while you fight him.

9. “Whom resist steadfastly in faith.” Now Jesus is a million times stronger than the devil. He says, “It shall be unto you according to your faith.” Therefore you have nothing to do but steadfastly resist the devil, having faith in Jesus to whip him for you, and He will do it every time.

10. “The God of all grace having called you unto His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself make you perfect, having suffered a little while, will establish, strengthen, settle you.” The “little while” you are to suffer in order to be made perfect, is just long enough for old Adam to be crucified.

The omnipotent Adam the Second will slay Adam the First in a moment pursuant to your faith. John Wesley said that only one out of three in his day having received the grace of perfection retained it. We see here the establishment, invigoration and settlement in holiness in God’s order, should follow the grace of perfection, as the only available preventive of collapse. The Holiness movement is very delinquent in that invaluable precaution against apostasy. I dictate these pages in California. A leading officer of the Salvation Army declared that thirty thousand persons have professed conversion through the work of the Army in this State, whereas it is impossible to find more than three thousand. The work of establishment is underestimated to the serious detriment of God’s cause.

11. “Unto Him is the dominion, unto ages of ages. Amen.” The Greek here is, eis tous aioonas toon aioonoon which defines the duration of the divine government, and also the existence of God, the life of the saints in glory and the perpetuity of heaven. Now remember that the Holy Ghost throughout the New Testament repeatedly uses the same phrase to reveal the duration of hell torment and the future existence of lost souls, suffering the retribution of eternal punishment. These positive revelations of God in the Bible forever sweep away the foolish dogmata of Universalism, Annihilationism, and Restorationism. You have to either throw away the Bible or accept the doctrine of endless punishment for the wicked.

12. Silvanus was the honored amanuensis of the venerable apostle, writing this letter pursuant to his dictation. “Exhorting and testifying that this same grace of God is true, in which you may stand.” The English indicative in this clause is wrong. The true reading is may stand, involving the liability to fall.

13. Doubtless the elect sister here in Babylon,. i. e., Rome, sending her salutations was the kind sister who entertained the apostle. We see Mark was also with him, who is believed generally to have been his amanuensis, Peter dictating the gospel which bears his name.

14. “Salute with a kiss of divine love.” The kissing salutation will always be right, blessed of God, and a means of grace if prompted by divine love, as the Scriptures say: But beware of the carnal kiss. In it there is a snare. “Peace be unto all you who are in Christ.” This is Peter’s benediction at the close of this wonderful letter. It is very beautiful, and so brief as to suit our convenience on many occasions. We find benedictions at the close of all the apostolic letters, furnishing us a vast variety, suitable to all occasions. We should never use any one unto monotony, as has been done for ages in case of Paul’s benediction at the close of Second Corinthians.

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Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".