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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Peter 5

Verses 1-14

1 Peter 5:1 . Who am also an elder. See the note on Acts 20:28, and on Philippians 1:1. Let the bishops, says Jerome, know that they are greater than other presbyters, rather by custom than by virtue and reality of the Lord’s ordinance. Cap. 1. supra Sirum.

1 Peter 5:2-5 . Feed the flock of God, by all assiduity in preaching, and in pastoral care. Green pastures must be prepared for the flock, that the whole church may grow in knowledge and in grace. But in doing this be as gentle shepherds, not as absolute lords over the heritage of God, proud, austere, and vindictive. Κατακυριευοντες is used in Matthew 20:25. “The princes of the gentiles exercise dominion over them but it shall not be so among you.” The church must not be governed as they govern their legions. In the church, love is the impulsive cause of duty, but in military bodies, fear commands obedience. A minister of Christ should take the people’s hearts along with him, in love and affection, just as the mind moves all the members of the body to unity of action. That minister is a Rehoboam, who thinks to enforce obedience without affection. With the paternal pastor it is far otherwise: the people know and love, and willingly obey his voice.

1 Peter 5:6-7 . Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. During the present fiery trial of persecution, cast your care upon him, using all prudent means to avoid calamity, Rely on his promises, trust his providence, and all shall work for good. Though exposed to trials and difficulties, the Lord cares for you with the most tender solicitude.

1 Peter 5:10 . But the God of all grace, the fountain of deity, the liberal giver of all good, according to the riches of his grace, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect. Sanctification is attained by a growth in every active and suffering grace, that we may be refined as gold in the crucible. It is to be attained by faith and prayer. We must enquire for covenant blessings, and pray that the God of peace may sanctify us wholly. Eze 36:37 , 1 Thessalonians 5:13. Establish, strengthen, settle you. These words belong to architecture; they designate a building settled on a rock that can stand when the winds blow, when the rains descend, and when the floods beat against this living temple. It stands because it is founded upon a rock. And when the mind is thus confirmed in the faith, and the heart established with grace, we can in the strength of the Lord, resist the roaring lion who goes about to devour unwary souls.

1 Peter 5:13 . The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you. Dr. Lightfoot has a sermon on these words, for critics in his age would preach on hard texts, pulpit eloquence not being sufficiently reformed. They did it to enlighten the people against popery. The doctor endeavours to prove that Babylon means the old Babylon in Chaldea; yet his arguments are not conclusive. Beza, Alley, Stillingfleet, and Dupin however concur with him in opinion. Others contend that St. Peter had not the same reasons for calling Rome by the mystical name of Babylon, as St. John had. Rome, and not Babylon, was undoubtedly the place from which St. Peter wrote.

1 Peter 5:14 . Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. This was a custom in the east. Moses kissed Jethro his father-in-law; the wicked Joab kissed Abner, and kissed Amasa, and afterwards assassinated them. The women at the close of worship often embraced one another. Happy days of simplicity, when love and brotherhood reigned in every heart.


The charge to the presbyters of Asia, who were afterwards called bishops, is remarkably apostolic and paternal. It is their first duty to feed the flock with sound doctrine, and with every instructive motive to piety and holiness. He who can amuse a congregation with a mere dry morality is ignorant of the worth of souls. The moral precepts may be worked in at proper places, as the apostles do in their epistles, or occasionally made the subject of a sermon. Ministers must not aim at more than bread from the ministry. Filthy lucre corrodes more conspicuously in the sanctuary than in any other place.

Ministers must not be tyrants in the flock, beating the menservants and the maidens, as our Saviour says, but fathers in the house of God, willingly superintending the family. So it was with Christ. Thy law is within me. I delight to do thy will, oh God. The grand aim of ministers is to be approved when the chief shepherd shall appear. His approbation will be a greater reward than the villa and the coach, which are only sometimes acquired by commerce.

The prayer of this apostle for the sanctification of the church is equal to the charge. He addresses himself to God, the fountain and giver of all grace. He fixes his eye on our call to eternal glory by Christ Jesus. He prays, catarlisai, as in the Greek, that after our sufferings we may be installed into all favour with God, and consummated in the enjoyment of his love. 2 Corinthians 13:9.

How different are the sources of relief and consolation to a believer in times of trouble, from those of other men, who have no hope beyond the grave, and no refuge to which they can flee in the hour of distress. The apostle here suggests to these jewish strangers, suffering persecution for Christ’s sake, that their sorrows were only for “a while,” and soon would all be over. They were in heaviness, but it was only for “a season,” for “a moment” only, in comparison of the boundless ocean of eternity. 2 Corinthians 4:17.

They are also what “the God of all grace” sees good to lay upon us. They come not from the hands of an enemy, though the wicked may be his sword, but from Him who is pleased in this way to exercise the faith and patience of his people. In his hands afflictions are also intended to make us “perfect,” and give embellishment to the christian character; it is in this school we learn wisdom by experience, are taught humility, and like Hezekiah to go softly all the days of our life.

Hereby the believer becomes “established” in the faith, more “settled” and confirmed in his attachment to the leading truths of the gospel, and encreasingly sensible of his need of a Saviour, causing him to cry out with Peter, Lord to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. The most eminent christians are generally such as have passed through a series of trials, ordained and sanctified by the God of all grace.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.