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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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1 Peter 5

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-11

Consequent Duties o£ Christians (5:1-11)

In this final section of the letter, so much of which has been devoted to exhortation of one sort or another, Peter addresses various groups in the Christian community, particularly those whom he calls "elders" (vs. 1) and the "younger" people (vs. 5). At least the first of these groups represents persons holding some official status in the local communities, as Peter’s description of himself as "a fellow elder" and his charge to them — "Tend the flock of God that is your charge" (vs. 2) — serve to indicate. In Judaism the "elder" was a leader in the synagogue as well as in some cases a member of the Sanhedrin (see Mark 8:31; Acts 4:5; Acts 4:8; Acts 6:12; Acts 23:14). In the Greek world "elders" had both civic and religious duties, and a group of them might constitute the ruling body of the city. The Christian Church took over this office with its rich background, and in many communities it doubtless represented the sole leadership in the local Christian community (see Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17).

That Peter should speak of himself here merely as "a fellow elder" rather than as an Apostle should not be considered strange. It would certainly have been unseemly for Peter to lack the very humility which he was about to enjoin upon his readers (vss. 5-6) . Moreover, his apostolic authority is sufficiently cared for in the description of himself further as "a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed." Probably none of his readers could make a claim such as this (see 1:8). In any case, it was Peter’s personal relation to Jesus Christ which made him an ambassador with full power of dispensing the gospel, or, as he prefers, "a witness" to the great facts of that gospel. It is to be noted that in this passage the twofold theme of "sufferings" and "glory" is carried through along the same lines as elsewhere in the letter (1:11;2:21;3:14-15, 18-22; 4:1, 13). The "elders" also are to share in these "sufferings of Christ" as they "tend the flock of God" in the expectation that they "will obtain the unfading crown of glory" along with him (vs. 4).

Their work is to be carried on under the supervision of "the chief Shepherd," a term nowhere else found in the New Testament, though the idea for which it stands is of course prominent in a number of passages (Mark 14:27; John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20). The elders of the Church, therefore, are to think of themselves as shepherds serving under this "chief Shepherd," and the congregation allotted to their care is called "the flock of God" (vs. 2). The main characteristics of their service as undershepherds are to be willingness, eagerness, and lack of the domineering spirit which is so characteristic of those occupying a secular office. In general, the instruction given to these pastors is similar to that which Jesus gave to his own disciples, to whom he said that those who would be "first" should be "last," and that the leader should be as the "servant of all" (Mark 9:35).

The “younger," though the word is masculine in the Greek, may refer to younger people generally and is so understood by most students. A few commentators have thought that the word referred to officebearers, possibly the equivalent of "deacons" (see Acts 5:6). It is more likely, however, that the "younger" are here addressed as over against their "elders" in age, inasmuch as no suggestion is made regarding any function which they are to perform. Like all other members of the Christian community they are simply enjoined to "be subject," that is, to recognize the fact that in any community, including the Christian fellowship, law and order must be maintained. This same principle relates to all members of the community, as we have already seen (1 Peter 2:13 to 1 Peter 3:7) .

Peter now speaks to the laity generally (vss. 5b-ll), saying three things in particular. First, he says, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another" (vs. 5). Already (1 Peter 2:13-17) such humility has been set in the context of God’s over-all sovereignty with reference to "every human institution" (1 Peter 2:13; see Proverbs 3:34). To observe such "humility toward one another" is actually to place oneself "under the mighty hand of God" (vs. 6). And Peter proceeds to suggest, very much after the manner of Jesus himself (Mark 10:35-45), that those who thus submit to the sovereignty of God are to expect that "in due time" he will "exalt" them.

Second, after the manner of Matthew 6:25-34, Peter suggests: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (vs. 7). In view of the providential care of his Creator, the Christian is to live his life without undue anxiety.

Third, the Christian is to "be sober, be watchful" (vs. 8). This is like the teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 — a letter which Silvanus had a share in writing, as he did in the case of the present letter (vs. 12; see 1 Thessalonians 1:1). Such teaching, however, is found in numerous other passages in the New Testament and can be traced back to our Lord himself (Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:32-37), The need of such sobriety and watchfulness is associated with the fact that "your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." It seems clear that Peter here equates the work of "the devil" with the "experience of suffering" of which he has been speaking throughout the letter (vs. 9; see 4:12-14). This suffering is occasioned of course by men, and it would seem therefore that Peter uses the term "the devil" in a metaphorical sense to refer to the general and corporate evil of humanity with which the Christian "brotherhood throughout the world" has to deal.

The Christian is to remember that such suffering is for only "a little while" (vs. 10; see Hebrews 10:37), that is, throughout the period remaining until "the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you." The teaching here is very similar to that in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, the two letters in which Silvanus also had a part. The hortatory and didactic portion of the epistle now ends with a suitable doxology in verse 11.

Verses 12-14


1 Peter 5:12-14

As we have already noted, this letter is almost exclusively exhortation (vs. 12; see also Hebrews 13:22). "Silvanus," the name of Peter’s amanuensis or stenographer, is a Latin form and probably is to be equated with the Greek "Silas." This Silas was originally a man of prominence in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22; Acts 15:27; Acts 15:32). He became a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys (Acts 15:40; Acts 16:19; Acts 16:25; Acts 16:29; Acts 17:4; Acts 18:5), and Paul associated him with himself in his preaching (2 Corinthians 1:19) and writing (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). That Peter should use the Latin form of his name may have some connection with the fact that "Babylon" is possibly a pseudonym employed by Peter for "Rome" (vs. 13; see Revelation 14:8). The "Mark" referred to is the John Mark of Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5; Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37. His mother Mary maintained a house in Jerusalem which was a center for the early Jerusalem Christian community (Acts 12:12). He was a relative of Barnabas and accompanied Paul on some of his missionary labors (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24). Later tradition associates him also with the work of Peter, and identifies him as the latter’s interpreter.

The "kiss of love" or "holy kiss" (vs. 14) is also suggested by Paul as appropriate among Christians (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). It was apparently a form of salutation or greeting taken over by the Church from contemporary Judaism (Luke 7:45; Luke 22:48). Peter’s closing greeting ("Peace to all of you that are in Christ") is a variation of the usual contemporary Semitic formula, "Peace be with you," or "Peace to you" (see 1:2).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Peter 5". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-peter-5.html.
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