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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

1 Peter 5

Verses 1-4

Shepherds Over the Flock of God

In the New Testament church the name "elders," which literally means older, came to stand for the leaders of local congregations ( Act_11:29-30 ; Act_14:23 ; Act_15:2-3 ; Act_15:6 ; Act_15:22 ; Act_16:4 ; Act_21:18 ; 1Ti_5:17-20 ). Since the word "elder" is used interchangeably with the word bishop ( Act_20:17 ; Act_20:28 ; Tit_1:5-7 ), it is clear that both words describe the same office. Peter exhorts them as a fellow elder. He also was one who saw the suffering of Christ as he was crucified and looked forward to the glory that will belong to all Christians when they get to heaven. Peter, of course, was one who witnessed Christ' s suffering and was to carry his testimony to all the world ( 1Pe_5:1 ; Luk_24:46-48 ).

Peter said elders have the very important task of shepherding, which includes the whole work of a shepherd, God's flock ( Act_20:28 ). The shepherd rarely fed his flock, but he did pasture them. In his book, A treatise on the Eldership , J. W. McGarvey says, "Their duty was to guide them from place to place, to protect them from wild beast, and to keep them from straying." He went on to give some insight into the shepherds of that day, by saying, "The Jewish shepherd was at once the ruler, the guide, the protector, and the companion of his flock." He emphasizes the way they handled their flocks, when he says, "He did not drive them to water and to pasturage; but he called his own sheep by name, so familiar was he with everyone of them, and he led them out, and went before them, and the sheep followed him, for they knew his voice. Joh_10:3-4 ."

Heb_13:7 talks about "those who rule over you." McGarvey says the word actually means lead, as in leading one to a conclusion, an idea also found in 1Ti_5:17 . The word translated "rule" in that verse is the same one used to speak of the father's position in relation to his family in 1Ti_3:4-5 .

Notice that Peter says the elders are to be bishops, or overseers, of the flock. Also note that it is God's flock, not the elders' flock. They are stewards over God's possession. It is the flock among them, or in their own congregation ( Tit_1:5 ). Since God gave elders the oversight, Christians should yield to them as long as their actions do not contradict the will of God. Obedience is especially important because the elders are responsible for the members' souls ( Heb_13:17 ). They will be made to rejoice if a soul is saved and grieve if it is lost. The members will thus not have to be forced, or constrained, to serve, but will willingly follow. Neither should elders serve because of the personal gain that might arise from such service. This verse and 1Ti_5:17 clearly indicate elders were paid to work in the first century church. Misuse of the position to obtain more money would be wrong. Instead, he should eagerly serve with his ultimate desire being to please God ( 1Pe_5:2 ).

Peter warned elders not to become power mad and rule with a domineering attitude ( Mar_10:42-45 ; 3Jn_1:9-11 ). Instead, he encouraged them to lead lives that would be a clear pattern to follow ( 1Co_11:1 ). They should ever be mindful of the fact that they work under Jesus Christ who is the Chief Shepherd ( Joh_10:14 ; Heb_13:20 ). Elders should not serve with thoughts of earthly, temporary rewards that will perish. Instead, they should know that faithful service will bring an imperishable reward when Jesus comes the second time ( 1Pe_5:3-4 ).

Verses 5-7

Submitting to God

"Younger" and "elder" in 1Pe_5:5 are plural. The two words occurring so close together may well indicate Peter is simply referring to age in both cases and is telling young men to yield to the wisdom of older men.

However, this verse does seem to continue the thoughts of verses 1-4, and makes this author believe Peter is telling the younger members to submit to elders, just as they submit to Christ the Chief Shepherd. Most members would be younger than the elders and this designation would seem to stand for the group of all other members. The next injunction is a general one directed to all Christians. Woods says, "the meaning is, 'Tie on humility like a slave's apron.'" Perhaps Peter was remembering a great lesson the Lord had taught him ( Joh_13:1-17 ). God is opposed to all who are proud and extends his favor to those who are of a lowly spirit and ready to serve ( Pro_3:34 ; Pro_6:16-17 ; Luk_14:7-11 ; Luk_18:9-14 ).

Because God opposes the proud and is all powerful, believers should submit to His will knowing that such submission will ultimately lead to their glorification. Similarly, all worries and those things over which they are anxious should be placed in the Lord's hands ( Psa_55:22 ; Psa_37:5 ; Mat_6:25-34 ). There is a great consolation in knowing God has care for the individual Christian ( 1Pe_5:6-7 ; Mat_10:28-31 ).

Verses 8-11

Being Watchful and Standing Firm

Even though Christ's followers can cast their worries upon God, they cannot go to sleep on the job and fail to be watchful for themselves. They must maintain a calm, thoughtful and watchful attitude. The reason for such an attitude is the devil. Woods says, "An 'adversary' is, technically, an opponent in a lawsuit; here, it is used to identify Satan as the one on the opposite side of a trial for life or death." The word "devil" indicates he is a slanderer and false accuser of the saints. He is like a hungry lion that is growling as he runs after his prey. Woods says the words "walks about" refer to a restless walking up and down as he constantly looks for a victim. He will swallow up, or destroy, any whom he catches outside of the fold ( 1Pe_5:8 ).

Like soldiers holding the line in battle, the apostle urged God's children to stand firm against the attacks of the devil. Their ability to stand firm originates in the faith produced by hearing the word of God ( Rom_10:17 ). Knowing the devil is pursuing ought to cause Christians to constantly study the Bible in an effort intended to help stand fast against him. Any suffering endured by Christians standing firm is not unique to them. Other brethren have suffered and died for their faith ( 1Pe_5:9 ).

Peter then concentrated on one characteristic of God, His grace. God is the great giver of unmerited favor. God calls His people through the gospel ( 2Th_2:13 ) to share in His eternal glory, which is in Christ (A.S.V.). Though disciples might have to suffer for a time, Peter said it is nothing compared to their eternal reward. Peter's prayer for them was that God would "perfect" them, which would be to ready them for service. This is the same word used in Mar_1:19 , which is translated "mending".

Peter also prayed that God would shore them up, "establish," like one might a wall that was teetering. He also wanted God to give them strength in the face of severe trials. When Christians realize God's glory will not fail or His dominion diminish, it is easier to face temporary trials ( 1Pe_5:10-11 ).

Verses 12-14

Closing Comments

Silvanus is also called Silas in the book of Acts ( 2Co_1:19 ; Act_18:1-18 ). He was with Paul when he wrote both letters to the brethren at Thessalonica ( 1Th_1:1 ; 2Th_1:1 ). Peter describes him as faithful and says the letter is "by" him, which may indicate he wrote it while Peter dictated, or he carried it to them, or both. The letter, 1 Peter, was a short one in length, especially when the great theme of God's grace is considered. Its purpose was to instruct them in God's grace and encourage them to stand fast in that grace ( 1Pe_5:12 ).

Who was the "she who is in Babylon" who sent greetings? Woods thinks it is Peter's wife, who was also a sister in Christ ( 1Co_9:5 ). John Mark was Peter's son in the same sense that Timothy was Paul's ( Php_2:22 ; 1Ti_1:1-2 ). Both of these people sent greetings to those addressed.

Much like Paul, Peter direct Christians to be sure their use of the kiss, which was a common form of greeting, should be done with a proper attitude ( Rom_16:16 ; 1Co_16:2 ; 2Co_13:12 ; 1Th_5:26 ). His final prayer for them was that they enjoy the true peace that can only belong to those in Christ ( 1Pe_5:13-14 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.