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Care for the Flock of God
1Pet 5:1. When Christians live in a time of persecution and suffer because of that, a lot depends on how the relationships are among them. Therefore Peter continues his teachings with admonitions for elders (1Pet 5:1-4) and younger people (1Pet 5:5). When there are frictions between both groups, they will be an easy prey for the enemy who threatens them from the outside.
There has always been the danger of frictions between older and younger people, but in our time it is greater than in former times. In the past the authoritative relationships were clear and they were generally also respected. Nowadays authority is an almost ‘dirty’ word. Autonomy, the free will of man, seems to be the most valuable asset, also to Christians.
Changes in authoritative relationships are taking place rapidly. Younger people increasingly see older people with their opinions as old-fashioned and liberty limiting. Older people have the opinion that younger people only want to be revolutionary, without any respect for the good achievements of the former generation or generations. Each proposal for a change is being rejected in advance, because it is experienced as a threat for the old achievements to which they want to hold on to. When we are willing to listen to the teaching of Peter, then the frictions mentioned or even collisions and divisions will have no chance to have a detrimental effect on us.
Peter starts with the elders, thus with those who have the greatest responsibility. When it comes to the relationship between elder people and younger people, the heart of the fathers must first be brought to the children and then the heart of the children can be dealt with, in order to bring them to the fathers (Mal 4:6). Although Peter speaks as an elder and therefore speaks with authority, he at the same time speaks as an elder to his fellow elders.
The term “elders” is not a title for a special class of people with an official position in the church that are appointed by others. An elder is somebody who by age, experience and wisdom of life is able to lead believers. The word ‘elder’ therefore does not indicate an official position, but it indicates an older person. That also appears from the contrast with the ‘younger people’ in 1Pet 5:5.
That doesn’t mean that each believer has the same responsibility. There are older believers who by their conduct win authority (that is totally different from demanding authority!) and who take the care of the church to heart. Those are the ones who Peter addresses. He not only does that as a “fellow elder”, but also as somebody with two special characteristics, namely as a “witness of the sufferings of Christ” and as “a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed”. Peter can testify of the sufferings of Christ that came over Him when He was on earth (Jn 15:27). He is also a partaker of the glory of Christ that He will have in His kingdom, for he has foreseen that on the mountain of transfiguration (Lk 9:28-31).
1Pet 5:2. As an elder and due to his education for his ministry, Peter fulfils the order of the Lord to take care of His flock (Jn 21:15-17). Firstly he does that by the means of this letter to the whole flock. In the second place he does that also by transferring his care now to the fellow elders or anyway by involving them in the care. He points out to the elders that it is about the flock of God. It is in no way their flock, as a church leader sometimes speaks about ‘my’ church.
It is also the flock that is among or with them and therefore not a flock that is below them. The elders themselves are also a part of the flock. A flock forms a whole. This is how it is with God’s people. The task of the elders consists of their supervision over the whole flock (cf. Acts 20:28) and not giving some sheep a preferential treatment. The ‘shepherding’ of the flock consists of the preservation of dangers. Hereby you can think of the shielding from false doctrines. “Exercising oversight” actually implies that the flock is being provided with nourishment, with what is encouraging and empowering to move on.
It is important that elders exert their spiritual authority in the right way and in the right mind. That will be the case when they fulfil the three conditions that Peter mentions. They are to do it “voluntarily” and “with eagerness” and as “examples to the flock”.
Each of these conditions is in contrast to something of the flesh. ‘Voluntarily’ is in contrast to “compulsion”. An elder must not be forced to do his task. To act compulsively or against your will is not fitting to a task of care, for then there is no love for the flock. It is about a service out of willingness. That is after God’s heart, for He also did not act out of compulsion, but out of love when He gave the Lord Jesus as the good Shepherd. God loves the joyful shepherd (cf. 2Cor 9:7).
The shepherd is also not supposed to his work for sordid gain. The sheep are not for him, but he is there for the sheep. Unfortunately you see that the church has become a house of trade. Some church leaders cry out for money and promise a lot regarding health and prosperity. The gain that shepherds are striving for may also lie in the increasing of their status. The rulers and pharisees in the days of the Lord Jesus were seeking that, while they also sought financial profit. They wanted to enrich themselves as much as they possibly could to the detriment of the sheep. Those were shepherds who were shepherding themselves (Eze 34:2). The opposite of that is the shepherd after God’s intention. Such a shepherd is willing. Willingness is the attitude to help whenever it is needed, even when it is not asked with words. When a sheep deviates, he will go after it and bring it back. He is willing to forsake his own rest to succeed.
1Pet 5:3. Elders are also not people of power. One may possess his own possession and exert power, but the church is not in possession of a man. Instead of ruling with severity, in order to make the flock behave in a desirable way, the shepherd will show how a sheep ought to behave itself. After all, the shepherd himself is a part of the flock. Spiritual authority lies in the example, not in the words that are spoken. Following the Lord does not mean commanding, but showing in practice what that means. The shepherd after God’s heart doesn’t shout the command: ‘Go forward! from behind, but he shouts: ‘ Follow me!’ and he himself is in the front.
1Pet 5:4. The prospect of a great reward is presented to the elders for their work. Their eyes are focused on the coming of “the Chief Shepherd”, that is the Lord Jesus. Peter is drawing the attention of his fellow elders to that, so that they may be encouraged to faithfully continue to do their often difficult and heavy task. It is a heavy order that can only be carried out with the view to the coming of the Lord and the reward that He has for those who have served in that way. All who have taken the lowest place on earth, will soon take the highest place with Him, distinguished from all others. Then they will be handed out “the unfading crown of glory” by the Chief Shepherd.
This particular encouragement for this often thankless task is certainly justified. Ministering to the believers is often heavier than preaching the gospel to the unbelievers. Still this task is of great importance. Therefore the Holy Spirit led Peter to write these words. Let each older believer who has a task as shepherd be sure to be encouraged by that and that he may persevere in fulfilling his duty until the coming of the Lord in glory.
1Pet 5:5. After this exhaustive word to the older people Peter addresses the younger people. He tells them that they must submit themselves to the older people. A lot will depend on the attitude of the older people. In order to develop themselves spiritually sound, the younger people need older people to submit themselves to, because they give the good example to the younger people. Though also older people are not perfect people. Younger people are inclined to use the mistakes of older people as an excuse not to submit themselves. But that is not the right attitude.
Each authoritative source that is established by God must be acknowledged. That doesn’t mean that they should be obeyed without consideration, but it means that there must be an attitude of submissiveness with those who are under this authority. The Lord Jesus submitted Himself to His fallible earthly parents (Lk 2:51). It is an exercise for younger people to follow Him in this and to deal with the older people submissively.
The enemy will do his utmost to cause a division between younger people and older people. He will try to cause them not to understand one another. But younger people and older people need each other. Older people need to serve the younger people. When they do that, the younger people will want to submit themselves to them.
The appeal that is made for both parties, is that it is necessary to be humble, which also applies to all. When you are clothed “with humility”, thus when humility is your power of living, you will experience the blessing of it. He who is humble doesn’t pretend anything and due to that he will not encounter conflicts with someone else and definitely not with God. With Elihu you see a beautiful example of a younger man who takes the right place towards the older Job and his friends (Job 32:1-11).
However, when you resist and try to fight for your own rights, God will resist you. A spirit of pride is a direct attack on God’s right over man.
Now read 1 Peter 5:1-5 again.
Reflection: How do you as a young believer, look at older believers?
The God of All Grace
1Pet 5:6. In the test of your faith you can notice the powerful hand of God. Instead of resisting that you have to submit yourself. That’s what He is looking for. Humiliation is an indication that there was pride, like pride goes before destruction (Pro 16:18).
Though, you ought not to humble yourself under the hand of men, but “under the mighty hand of God”. When you’re facing difficulties, even when those difficulties are caused by men, then it is still His hand that you feel. Behind the hand of men you may see the hand of God. Behind the humiliation you may see the exaltation that will be your part at God’s time. That will happen when the Lord Jesus comes. Then you and all other believers will become rulers from being subjects.
1Pet 5:7. It doesn’t mean that everything will be easy. Therefore God gives you a great encouragement: you are allowed to cast all your care upon Him (Psa 55:22). He will take over your whole burden. The only thing you’ve got to do is to cast that burden of care upon Him. When you have done that, you’ve got rid of them. He has taken them over and will take care of you further. When you keep on carrying this burden yourself, you will be absorbed by it and you will not see God Who loves to take care of you.
The fact that God is taking care really means that He has great interest in each detail of your life. He not only wants to be involved, but He wants to take over your need. He brings you into tests and trials, so that you may learn to take it out of His hand and to put it into His hand (Psa 10:14).
1Pet 5:8. With this view you have the privilege to accept all tests out of the mighty hand of God and to submit everything to Him that goes together with it. Nevertheless you should not neglect that the devil also plays his part. To trust in God doesn’t mean that you have got rid of your responsibility and can therefore allow yourself to be passive. You always need to be “sober”, therefore not naïvely think that you can do everything without being bothered by the devil. He absolutely is a defeated enemy, but only for those who go their way in the confidence of faith in God. Keep your eyes widely opened for the dangers that surround you. Sleepiness and laziness are an invitation for the devil to attack you.
The devil is called your “adversary” here. With everything that is in him he is against you, because you belong to the Lord Jesus. There is nothing in the devil that in any way can be beneficial to you. He “prowls around like a roaring lion”, searching for a prey. He is cruel, powerful and merciless. With his roaring he tries to frighten you. Be sure that you do not come into his power. His only goal is to “devour” you, which means that he wants to completely destroy you.
1Pet 5:9. Don’t let him intimidate you when he comes your way. Do not turn your back on him, but resist him. You have to flee when he comes your way in the form of seducing you into sin in case you encounter something that addresses your flesh, in order to stir that up. That regards to fornication, idolatry, money and the lusts of the youth (1Cor 6:18; 1Cor 10:14; 1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:22). When the trial comes from the outside, when the devil wants to frighten you and wants to cause you to deny your faith, you must resist him. You should not avoid the suffering, but you ought to endure it, steadfast in the faith for the sake of the Lord, looking upon Him in the confidence that He supports you.
You are not the only one who has to face this suffering. It is the experience of all with whom you form “the brotherhood”. The brotherhood embraces all believers and therefore not the limited circle of believers whom you regularly are in contact with. The brotherhood is not a part of the world, but it finds itself in the midst of it. The brotherhood and the world have nothing in common. The world may be very friendly at times, but as soon as it is confronted with the control of the Lord Jesus, their tolerance directly turns into threat and hatred. Then the world reveals its true face and that is that it hates all of those who belong to that brotherhood and everything that is theirs.
1Pet 5:10. But there is a mighty fortress that repels all the attacks of the roaring lion. That fortress is “the God of all grace”. All believers know the God of all grace, meaning that God’s grace is experienced in all kinds and at all times. That also applies from the beginning to the end of your life and in all circumstances. All grace comes from God, any which way it comes.
He has called you “to His eternal glory in Christ”. Your future is totally fixed in God’s plan. The future is His and you are His. Nothing and nobody is able to make a change in God’s call. Who could that be? It must be something or someone who is stronger than God. Would you know who that could be? There is not even one to be compared with Him, not to mention that there would be something that could possibly be above Him.
When He has called you for an amazing future related to Christ, then you will also have a part in that (Rom 8:30). At the same time and contrary to that there is “a while” of suffering. In that while He is preparing you for that future with Christ.
1. The suffering serves to “perfect” you, meaning to bring you to perfection and fullness, so that you may lack nothing. There will be no lack or shortage of anything anymore.
2. He will also “confirm” you through the suffering, meaning he will make you stand steadfast.
3. Thereby He will inwardly “strengthen” you, so that there will be no weakness anymore.
4. Finally He gives you a firm foundation, on which He will “establish” you.
You see that God makes an end to all that is out of balance and that is weak and instead he gives a new situation in which absolutely no change can be possibly made or done.
1Pet 5:11. This all will end up in His glorification. From the mouth of all the redeemed the praise will sound that ascribes to Him all glory and power. There is no glory and power beside Him. The proofs that He alone possesses it, are abundantly delivered and seen in all the redeemed together. With an ‘amen’ Peter concludes this praise. Each believer will wholeheartedly agree with that. That’s how it is and there is nothing else.
1Pet 5:12. Peter still has some personal greetings. In order to deliver the letter to them he gave it with Silvanus, after he might have possibly dictated it to him. Silvanus is the same as Silas, the journey companion of Paul. This Silas was familiar with suffering. He and Paul were scourged in Philippi and were thrown in prison (Acts 16:19-23). Maybe Peter knew that and he therefore asked him to take his letter with him. Peter must have known him, for Silas was a leader among the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), where Peter also had served the believers.
To introduce Silas to the readers of his letter, he says that as for him, Silas is a faithful brother. He tells his readers what his impression of Silas is, without arrogating himself a definite judgement about the faithfulness of Silas. Peter is aware of his own unfaithfulness. That’s what makes him careful. After all, the judgment about faithfulness is up to the Lord (1Cor 4:1-5; Mt 25:21; 23).
He has written a brief letter, but its effect is definitely great and long lasting. It is to make them understand what “the true grace of God” is. By that Peter says that grace is the true nature of Christendom, that it is based on grace and not on the law. In that grace they must stand and hold on to and in no way should be drawn away from it.
That also goes for you. By grace you are saved (Eph 2:8) and you stand before God (Rom 5:2). That grace ought to characterize your life. If you have understood anything of what grace is, you will not be willing to place yourself under a law again or would want to participate in outwardly formal services. Grace means putting your whole life in God’s hand and to be guided by Him.
1Pet 5:13. Peter also conveys the greetings of the “chosen together with” them. He may possibly refer to his wife by that, whom he took with him on his journey 1Cor 9:5). He is writing from Babylon, where the biggest Jewish community was and where he had worked. After all he is the apostle of the circumcision (Gal 2:7). He also conveys the greetings of his son Mark, the evangelist. Mark is probably his spiritual son.
1Pet 5:14. Finally Peter gives them the order to assure one another of their love to one another by greeting each other with an intimate greeting.
While Paul often concludes his letters with a wish that they may experience the grace of the Lord Jesus, Peter wishes his readers “peace”. Peace is the great character of the kingdom over which the Lord Jesus will reign and it is therefore also called ‘the kingdom of peace’. Peace is also the great blessing for the believers in their dealings with one another. The pleasure of that peace is only possible when each believer himself is aware of his position in Christ, is living up to it and also sees the other one in that position.
I heartily wish you that too in your relation with Christ and in your dealings with fellow believers. Amen.
Now read 1 Peter 5:7-14 again.
Reflection: Just explore how often God has already revealed Himself to you as the God of all grace.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Peter 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27