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THE ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
THE exhortations are still designed to meet the crisis in which the Churches were placed. In keeping together, preserving the Christian spirit, and serving one another in their various relations, they would be kept safely, brought through, and even sanctified by their experiences.
1 Peter 5:1. Elders.—Names of office carried over from the Jewish synagogues. Exhort.—παρακαλῶ, a very full word, including encouragement and entreaty, and even consolation and exhortation. An elder.—Fellow-elder. St. Peter puts this prominently. The sympathy of the fellow-elder, rather than the authority of the apostle. Partaker.—The word is chosen in the same spirit, and suggests “joint partaker with you.”
1 Peter 5:2. Feed.—“Tend,” implying the various duties of the shepherd. Willingly.—“According to God; “in cheerful recognition of His call and His will.
1 Peter 5:3. As being lords.—“Nor yet as lording it.” “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” God’s heritage.—There is no word in the original answering to God’s. R.V. reads, “the charge allotted to you.”
1 Peter 5:4. Chief shepherd.—“This beautiful term seems to have been invented by St. Peter. (See Hebrews 13:20). A crown.—Better, “the crown.” Of glory.—Or “crown amarantine, of the flower that fadeth not.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Peter 5:1-4
Official Models.—This direct message to the “elders” of the Church may be taken as indicating that the Churches of Christ were organised, and the term “elders” suggests that the first forms of organisation were modelled after the pattern of the Jewish synagogue. It is significant that St. Peter does not address these elders with any authority as an apostle, with any assumption of superiority as a higher official, but puts himself on their level, and makes his experience, not his authority, the ground of his persuasion. The advice of a fellow-elder, one with a longer and fuller experience, would be altogether more acceptable and effective than any commands based on claim of Divine authority. St. Paul is in full sympathy with St. Peter in this attitude towards the elders of the Churches when he says, “Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). St. Peter’s right to advise (“exhort,” a term which in the Greek includes encouragement, and entreaty, and even consolation, as well as exhortation) rests upon
(1) his official position; he also was an elder;
(2) upon his personal experience and knowledge of the fact that the Lord Jesus had to endure the severest sufferings because of His persistency in well-doing—St. Peter was a direct personal “witness of the sufferings of Christ;” and
(3) upon his actual fellowship with these elders in the hopes which cheered them under the present burdens of anxiety and suffering. St. Peter was “a partaker”—with them—“of the glory that is to be revealed. The advice concerns—
I. Good shepherding.—The Lord Jesus had given the shepherd figure to His Church, and had sanctioned it, by using it for His own relations, as in John
10. The figure had, however, been previously used by the prophets, and is a natural and suggestive one for a people who were largely concerned in the tending of flocks, and whose first fathers were heads of wandering tribes. (See, for illustration of prophetic use, Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:2-31). It will at once be seen that shepherding suggests much more than preaching, or even teaching. It suggests ruling, providing, and even tending and correcting. The older idea of shepherding we put into the term pastoral: the modern pastor is the shepherd-elder of the Early Church. St. Peter fixes one point: good shepherding has in it no taint of self-seeking. And self-seeking usually takes two forms in persons who are placed in official positions. It shows itself in using the office to enrich the self, or to attain the pleasure which comes from being able to lord it over others. But under this head the thought had better be confined to the one mark of good shepherding—wise, skilful, efficient feeding and tending of the flock of God; which may be amply illustrated by references to the various calls on an Eastern shepherd’s care, in the ever-varying daily needs of his flock.
II. Wise authority.—“Exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to God.” Sometimes a person is put into office who feels unfit for it. Sometimes a person is put into office because there is no one else who is fit for it. In either case there may be lacking that willingness which would make it a service of love. And the true Christly service never can be rendered, save as a willing service of love. Wise authority in a Church is that which he alone can wield who loves the members, seeks their highest well-being, and is ever ready to put his own advantage, and even his own preferences, aside in order to secure it. Unwilling authority is sure to be unwise and unworthy.
III. Pure motive.—“Nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you.” Impure motive is seen in using an official position for securing any personal ends. The position in Christ’s Church is essentially one of service to others. It may, indeed, bring both gain and authority to the official, but these, as belonging to the self-sphere, he must in no way seek.
IV. Attractive example.—“But making yourselves ensamples to the flock.” The official position gives personal example a special importance. The elders of a Church ought to be specimen Christians; models, not only in the administering of their office, but also in their personal character. And the chief shepherd may be relied on to recognise, approve, and reward, all under-shepherds who prove faithful, and present good models.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
1 Peter 5:2. The Pastor’s Duty.—The pastoral duty is three-fold:—
1. To feed the flock, by preaching to them the sincere Word of God, and ruling them according to such directions and discipline as the Word of God prescribes, both which are implied in this expression, Feed the flock.
2. The pastors of the Church must “take the oversight thereof.” The elders are exhorted to do the office of bishops (as the word signifies), by personal care and vigilance over all the flock committed to their charge.
3. They must be “examples to the flock,” and practise the holiness, self-denial, mortification, and all other Christian duties, which they preach and recommend to their people. These duties must be performed “not by constraint,” not because you must do them, not from compulsion of the civil power, or the constraint of fear or shame, but from a willing mind that takes pleasure in the work: “not for filthy lucre,” or any emoluments and profits attending the place where you reside, or any perquisites belonging to the office, “but of a ready mind,” regarding the flock more than the fleece, sincerely and cheerfully endeavouring to serve the Church of God. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,” tyrannising over them by compulsion and coercive force, or imposing unscriptural and human inventions upon them instead of necessary duty (Matthew 20:25-26; 2 Corinthians 1:24). Learn
1. The eminent dignity of the Church of God, and all the true members of it.
2. The pastors of the Church ought to consider their people as the flock of God, as God’s heritage, and treat them accordingly.
3. Those ministers who are either driven to their work by necessity, or drawn to it by filthy lucre, can never perform their duty as they ought, because they do not do it willingly, and with a ready mind.
4. The best way a minister can take to engage the respect of a people is to discharge his own duty among them in the best manner he can, and to be a constant example to them of all that is good.—Matthew Henry.
Lucre and Filthy Lucre.—The word “lucre” appears five times in the Bible; and in every case it bears a bad signification. It is remarkable that the warning against the love of lucre—of filthy lucre—is in all these cases intended for ministers of religion They are addressed, not to merchants, but to bishops, deacons, elders as such, whatever secular occupations they might be engaged in. How comes it to pass that ministers of religion should be marked out for this word of caution? Perhaps even in the time of the apostles there were symptoms of this evil in the ministry of the Church, and certainly in after times the evil became so great, so monstrous, that there was urgent need for condemnation stronger far than that expressed in the words of St. Peter and St. Paul. The word “lucre” is not in itself a word of evil signification. It simply means “gain.” No one objects to it when it appears in another form, and a business is spoken of as lucrative. Practically the distinction between “lucre” and “filthy lucre” has been lost; a curious instance of the manner in which the world unintentionally accuses and condemns itself. The world evidently feels in its conscience that generally there is something bad in connection with gain. I venture to draw a very marked distinction between “lucre” and “filthy lucre.” Lucre is gain, and gain of all sorts, mental as well as material; and the love of lucre may be a virtue and not a vice. No man is more greedy of lucre than a very studious man. But let us take the word in its commonest signification, as money, material gain—gain in the form of money, or money’s worth. The loss of the distinction between lucre and filthy lucre has, in some instances, proved disadvantageous to the world’s interest. Lucre and filthy lucre being confounded very much in the religious mind of the Middle Ages, there rose up an immense mass of mendicancy. There is lucre that is not filthy, but perfectly clean. The lucre that is made by honest labour and honest trading is nowhere condemned in the Word of God. The Word of God, indeed, rather approves of it, and encourages men in the pursuit of it. A man’s moral and religious character does not necessarily suffer through the acquisition of lucre. Job, we are told, was the greatest man of the East—he certainly was one of the best men, East or West. A conscientious but timid man of old, named Agur, prayed that God would give him neither poverty nor riches; he was afraid of the demoralising influence of either extreme. But a far wiser and better man than Agur—the apostle Paul—felt that his religion was such as enabled him to set riches and poverty equally at defiance in regard to any demoralising tendency. Religion is in a considerable measure sustained by lucre. The riches of lucre enable a man to be rich in good works; and so the quest of lucre becomes a religious duty, because its result leads to a man’s greater power of usefulness. But “filthy lucre” is quite another thing. It is gain gotten in dishonest and dishonourable ways; by violence, by fraud, by falsehood, by misrepresentation, by taking unfair and cruel advantage of the ignorance or the necessity of our neighbour. And it is to the great discredit of many professedly religious people that they are in these matters no more to be trusted than the most worldly of worldlings. Moreover, the lucre that is filthy, through being gained in evil ways, cannot be clean through spending it liberally and piously. God will graciously accept lucre, but will refuse with indignation filthy lucre. Lucre is filthy when gained wrongly, and becomes filthy, however honestly made, when wrongly used; when self and selfish indulgence is a man’s great aim and object; when it is applied to purposes of corruption, oppression, injustice, profligacy; when it is withheld from those good works which it ought to encourage and to help; when a man makes it his idol, and worships it as his god; in such cases it is defiled and defiling. Of our lucre, be it little or much, we shall have to give account to God.—H. Stowell Brown.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
1 Peter 5:5. Be clothed.—Lit. “gird yourselves.” Perhaps the word refers to the frock, or apron, distinctive of slaves. Strictly, the Greek word means, “tie yourselves up in humility.” ἐγκομβώσασθε, from κόμβος, a top-knot, as a cock’s comb, or bow-knot, or ornamental fastening by which vestments are drawn about the wearer. Make humility your outermost, conspicuous dress, that which covers all the rest, or binds all into one. (There was a peculiar kind of cape, well known by a name taken from this verb—we might call it a “tie-up”—and this kind of cape was worn by slaves, and by no others. It was, in fact, a badge of servitude.)
1 Peter 5:6. Humble yourselves.—Especially with a view to the quiet bearing of the afflictions and distresses you may be called to endure.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Peter 5:5-7
Humility in Church Relations.—It is but natural that the apostle, in giving his advice to the Church, in view of its circumstances of disability, temptation, and peril, should first address the “elders” or officials, and then address the members of the Church, dividing them into the “younger ones” and the “rest.”
I. Humility in the younger takes form as submission.—“Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder.” The very energy of activity and enterprise, that should be characteristic of young people, may make them unduly confident, and over-masterful. Young people will seldom take any advice from the older ones. But the Christian spirit should have its influence on this characteristic weakness, and make the young members humbly submit themselves to superior wisdom and experience. Humility in Church life, possessing both the younger and the elder, would enable the energetic younger to inspire the slow and sluggish elder; and the careful and experienced elder to tone and temper the impulsive younger.
II. Humility in the elder takes form as service.—“Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another.” When St. Paul would plead for Christian humility, he presents the example of Christ, saying, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”; and when we follow his illustration we see that it was a mind of humility which showed itself in service—sacrificing service. If, without asserting himself, or getting for himself, each member is supremely anxious to find opportunities for serving the others, there need be no fear whatever of the Church relations being pleasantly sustained. And St. Peter, perhaps, had especially in mind the way in which such humble and self-forgetting mutual service would help the Churches in the time of difficulty and strain, which might involve serious loss and persecution for particular members. The times provided plentiful occasions for fulfilling the injunction, “By love serve one another.”
III. Humility in all the members of the Church towards God.—This is the humility—basal humility—on which must rest all humility in the various relations of the Church. A man will never be humble-minded in his relations with his fellow-man unless he is, and keeps, humble-minded towards God. And this is the right attitude to take before God. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” But is this to be taken as vague and general, or as precise and particular? If the latter, then St. Peter means, by the “mighty hand of God,” just those circumstances of distress and peril in which the Christians were then placed, which, from one point of view, were the schemes of enemies, but from a higher point of view were the permissions, and overrulings, and discipline, of God—the “mighty hand of God”—to which they should respond in the humbling of a cheerfully gracious submission and endurance. Taken in this light, we see at once how the sentence, “casting all your care (anxiety) upon Him,” is a very tender and pathetic re-statement of the earlier sentence: “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” It is the best sign of a true humility before God that we do not try to keep our own care, as if we felt that we could, but are fully willing, in a child-spirit, to let our Father care, being quite sure that He does care. The humility of the child before God will be sure to nourish the humility of the brother, which will find fitting expression in all the relations with the brothers. “It would be a sad calamity for Christians under persecution, suddenly to find God Himself in array on the enemy’s side; and this they would find if they went against discipline.” “The humility here recommended is not merely a submissive bearing of the strokes which it pleased God to let fall upon them, but it was to be shown in their bearing towards one another.”
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
1 Peter 5:5-7. Service Free from Care.—Single sentences taken out of Bible passages may oftentimes suggest very beautiful and very helpful meditations and sentiments; but he would be a very limp and weak Christian, having no strengthening principles, and no strong grip of steadying truths, who should persist in living entirely on single texts. The familiar words, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you,” have made solacing music for our souls in many of the anxious times of life. We love them, as we love the friends who have put their hands gently into ours when we entered, and went through, the dark valleys of our life’s sorrows. And yet the passage into which those words are fitted lights up the familiar sentence with new meaning, and gives it a fresh, and more practical bearing on that Christian life which we are pledged to live. We may be quite sure that St. Peter dwelt much in thought upon the brief time of his fellowship with the “Man, Christ Jesus,” in whom he discerned the “Son of God.” And two scenes especially must have come up before him with great frequency. He would often see the high priest’s palace; recall again his shameful denials of his Lord; and feel afresh the “look” that melted him into penitence. But he must have tried to shut out that scene: to dwell on it too much was to bring undue depressions upon his spirit. He would turn to another scene; he would free his thoughts from weak and sinful self, and try to fix them upon Jesus. St. Peter would love to go over again and again the scene in the upper chamber before the Lord’s last Passover—though it also had its smaller humiliations for him. He would see again the surpassing dignity of his Divine Lord, as He rose from supper, laid aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself, as if He were but the servant of the house; poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Could St. Peter ever forget the look that was on the face of his Lord when He had taken His garments, and was seated again. Could He ever lose out of his soul the words that were then spoken by Him “who spake as never man spake”? They thrill us now as we read them. How they must have thrilled him who heard them fresh from the sacred Lips! “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I, then, he Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.” The scene was evidently in St. Peter’s mind, and the words were evidently in his memory, when he wrote the passage which is before us as a text. He has been, in the previous verses, giving particular counsels, precisely adapted to the “elder” and to the “younger” members of the Church. And then he thinks of something that needs to be pressed upon the attention of every one. It is the example of their Divine Lord, and his, on that solemn supper night. “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He careth for you.” Remembering that St. Peter wrote his letter to Jewish Christians scattered abroad, who were called to endure much and varied persecution on account of their faith in Christ, the point of His counsel at once appears. Such persecution was but Divine discipline. They would lose all the blessing of it if they resisted, repined, and let it make them feel hard and unloving. Better, far better, humble themselves under God’s mighty hand; submit to His providential dealings; see how the afflictions and persecutions affected them all alike, rich and poor, and were designed to draw them into a nearer and more helpful brotherhood. One thing they could do, and it would bring them the best cheer in their time of trouble; forgetting their own dignities, they could “gird themselves with humility,” and by love “serve one another.” They could fill up their lives with the joy of Christlike service; and as for the care’s, and anxieties, which persecutions might bring, or even this loving service of others might bring, they could cast all such cares on God, in the absolute confidence that He was caring for them. We may get St. Peter’s counsel duly impressed upon our hearts, and with fitting applications to our own precise circumstances, if we consider
(1) that the service of one another demands humility;
(2) that the service of one another at once relieves from cares, and brings cares;
(3) and that the cares which service brings, God bears with us.
I. The service of one another demands humility.—Our Lord’s symbolic teachings in the upper room were called forth by the failure of His disciples to serve one another. Not one of them was willing to do the lowly, kindly service of washing the feet of the others. And their failure was due to their lack of humility. They were all self-interested; each had an exaggerated estimate of his own importance. In their self-consciousness and pride they had even been disputing as to which had the claim to the most honourable offices in the kingdom which they expected to see so soon established. Each one thought he was a proper person to be served, and as long as each one thought so, he was not likely to demean himself to serve—certainly not in such lowly ways as washing feet. We can never serve one another while we keep up undue estimates of our own importance. The man who has to take care of his own dignity will never take care of anybody else’s well-being. He is over-occupied. For those first disciples the object-lesson given them was a severe and searching one. The Master Himself, whose dignity was unquestionable, took a towel, and girded Himself, as if He were a servant, and cheerfully did a servant’s work. He showed them that the humility which can serve is a distinguishing mark of true greatness, and is perfectly in harmony with the highest offices. Had He thought of what was due to Him, He never would have served humanity at the cost of self-sacrifice. Because He could humble Himself to serve humanity, therefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name. The idea—essential idea—of Christian discipleship is “service,” because another essential idea of it is “humility.” St. Augustine was right when he answered the question, “What is the chief grace of Christianity?” by saying at once “Humility.” Humility is the most striking thing in a man’s conversion. He is self-humbled in the conviction of sin; and he is self-humbled in being obliged to accept salvation as a gift of grace. And that humility is the rootage of the new regenerate character. As the new life unfolds, it will soon be evident how it brings a man into tender, sympathetic relations with his fellow-men, and inspires him to watch for and meet all opportunities of service. But let the new regenerate life fail to grow; let the old “self” come back, nourishing the old pride, and inevitably the interest in others declines, and a life of service begins to look mean and humiliating. “Gird yourselves with humility,” and keep yourselves girded, and you will want to “serve one another.” Undo that girdle, put it away from you, and then other people may wash disciples’ feet—you won’t. So far from helping disciples to serve one another, you will expect the disciples to serve you. It is a thing to set ever freshly before us, that we must be striving to gain this mind of Christ—the humility that loves to serve. St. Peter speaks of humility, in a figurative way, as a garment to be put on. The word here rendered “be clothed” is a very expressive one, being derived from κόμβος, a string, or band, with which a garment is fastened to the person; so that humility is to be put on as an outer dress, to ornament the wearer; and to be kept on (because tied in knots), and not merely to be worn on certain occasions.” There is a secret in Christian humility. It is the attitude of a man among men who has humbled himself before God—humbled himself “under the mighty hand of God.”
II. The service of one another at once relieves us from cares and brings to us cares.—It relieves us from the cares which come to us out of difficult and distressing circumstances. Many a Christian man has felt overwhelmed; every door has seemed shut up, every sphere over-weighted; every attempt results in failure, every prospect looks dark. Moved by the comforting Spirit, he just leaves it all, and goes out to serve somebody, to find some soul more sorely stricken than he is, and to cheer such a soul with the consolations of God. That man, in the service of another, finds his own cares relieved. What he has been saying, in his efforts to serve, has come right home to his own heart, and he returns upon his own cares, and they do not seem quite so heavy and so dark. He can almost be sure that there is a little break in the sky that is ushering in the dawn of a brighter day for him. What a cheer for his own sorrows St. Paul must have gained when he tried to serve the sorrowing Corinthians! He speaks of the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Many a Christian has been overwhelmed with doubts; has found himself questioning this and that, until the very foundations of truth seem to have given way, and he has not even a corner-stone left on which to rest a hope. He is a wise friend to the doubter who takes him away from study, and books, and thoughts; refuses to argue anything with him, but leads him out to the widowed, the fatherless, the sick, the lost, whom he may serve. The cares of doubt will soon be relieved, and charity will bring back faith. And there is a sense in which the cares of the spiritual life may be relieved by the humble serving of others. If we make attention to spiritual life too exclusive, we are sure to become morbid, full of moods, dependent on feelings, and insincere in reading our own experiences. It is the best relief to go and undertake some Christian work. Give up brooding over varying feelings, and go out and undertake some service of righteousness and charity. Never mind about spiritual emotions; they will take care of themselves. Become intensely anxious about good works; this good work, “by love serving one another.” Many a young Christian has begun to keep a diary of his feelings, and kept on with it until he discovered that it was making him morbid and miserable; and then he flung the diary away for ever, let God take care of his feelings, and spent himself in active service—girded himself, and set himself to do the Christly work of “serving others.” But it is also true that the service of others brings cares. It brings their cares upon us whom we serve, for all true service rests upon sympathy, upon fellow-feeling; and it means that we take the cares of others upon our own hearts and hands. But this is the holiest and most Christlike form that human care can take; and with absolute assurance of help, for us and for them, we may cast these cares of others upon God. But if we devote ourselves, in a generous spirit of self denial, to the helping of others, we shall also find the service brings cares concerning ourselves. Oftentimes they will be cares taking form as temptations. It may be suggested to us that our lowly deads may affect our reputations; our readiness to serve others may seem to prevent our getting on in life, and may even make earthly prosperity impossible. We may hear men saying of us, He is always looking after other people, but he never seems to look after himself. It is true that no man ever yet made himself poor by what he gave away for Christ’s sake, and no man ever yet ruined his life-prospects by unselfish devotion to the service of others. A man may miss what he imagined for himself, or what others have hoped for him. That is very possible. But God stands by every Christly man; takes his care upon Himself, and sees that the man gains the “best of both worlds,” just the best of both worlds for him. Does such care come pressing on any of you? Have you almost become convinced that a life of service cannot be a life of worldly success? Cast that care on God. I know how He will comfort you. He will say in your soul, “A life of service is a life of success.” To serve is heaven. To serve is angelic. To serve is Christly. To serve is Divine. And to be heavenly, Christly, angelic, and close kin with God, is success.
III. The cares which service brings, God bears with us.—“For He careth for you.” We dwell frequently on the delightful thought that God is concerned about us, and that His loving interest wraps us round, keeps us safe, and holds us up. But we do not so often see the limitation of the assurance. God careth for you, precisely you who are girding yourselves to serve one another, and find that various cares come to you as you render the service. God careth for you, who have characters which find revealing expression in service. God is interested in you, and in yours, in your circumstances, but only in them for the sake of you. God cares for character. Do not in the least fear. God will take care of that. God will nourish that. God will reward that. Faithfully live out the Christian life, as a life of humility that loves to serve. Faithfully live it out, whatever it may seem to cost you, whatever loss it may seem to involve. Man may misread your life. He is very likely to do so. You may misread it yourselves. You are even more likely to so. But God makes no mistakes, and never misunderstands. He sees some doing service—washing disciples’ feet—in a spirit of ostentation, and He turns away from the unlovely sight. He knows whether His servants are girded with humility for their service. He estimates the cares that come upon them, He cares for them. And His care has in it a purpose of infinite love. The care shines in the smile that cheers the workers. The care reaches down “everlasting arms” to uphold the workers. The care bids the angels keep ready the “many mansions,” the resting places, until the day when those who have served others shall themselves be served. He shall bid them sit down to meat, and come forth Himself and serve them. Ministers, serving one another; casting all self cares on God, while we do His work, quite sure that He careth for us;—this many of us may have to win; this many of us may have to keep. “Gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another.” And of this be quite sure, “He careth for you.”
1 Peter 5:5. Humility.—This was not a new word when the New Testament was written. It, or its Greek equivalent, was very common, but used only contemptuously and rebukingly. It always meant meanness of spirit. To be humble was to be a coward. It described a cringing soul. It was a word for slaves. Where could we find a more striking instance of the change that the Christian religion brought into the world than in the way in which it took this disgraceful word, and made it honourable? To be humble is to have a low estimation of one’s self. That was considered shameful in the olden time. You insulted a man if you called him humble. It seemed to be inconsistent with that self-respect which is necessary to any good activity. Christ came, and made the despised quality the crowning grace of the culture that He inaugurated. The disgraceful word became the key-note of His fullest gospel. He redeemed the quality and straightway the name became honourable. What was the change that Christianity accomplished, and how did it come about? Humility means a low estimate or value of one’s self. But all values are relative. The estimate we set on anything depends on the standard with which we compare it. And so values are always varying as the standard or the object with which you compare the thing that you are valuing changes. Christianity’s great primary revelation was God. Much about Him it showed men, but first of all it showed them Him. He stood beside man’s work. And God in the world must be the standard of the world. Greatness meant something different when men had seen how great He was; and the manhood which had compared itself with lesser men, and grown proud, now had a chance to match itself with God, and to see how small it was, and to grow humble about itself. It is wonderful how the smallest man can keep his self-complacency in the presence of the largest But let that small man become a Christian; that means, let the narrow walls of his life be broken down, and let him see God, present here by Christ. At once, then, all is changed. It would be a fearful thing if the only thing that Christ showed us of God were His greatness. The pure humiliation would be too crushing. But the revelation is not only this. It includes not only the greatness, but the love, of God. The majesty is that of a father, which takes our littleness into His greatness, makes it a part of itself, honours it, trains it, does not mock it; then there comes the true graciousness of humility. It is not less humble; but it is not crushed. The energy which the man used to get out of his estimate of his own greatness, he gets now out of the sight of his Father’s, which yet is so near to him that, in some finer and higher sense, it still is his; and so he is more hopeful, and happy, and eager, in his humility than he ever used to be in his pride. The true way to be humble is not to stoop till you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that shall show you what the real smallness of your greatest greatness is. The first is the unreal humility that goes about deprecating human nature; the second is the genuine humility that always stands in love and adoration, glorifying God. Christ also rescued and exalted humility by magnifying the essential glory of humanity. There never was any life that so superbly asserted the essential worth of humanity—showed what a surpassing thing it is to be a man—like that sin-convicting life of Jesus. He showed us that the human might be joined to the Divine. He glorified human nature, and by this glorification He taught man that it was his true place to be humble. There is nothing more strange, and at the same time more truthful, about Christianity than its combination of humility and exaltation for the soul of man. Christianity puts men face to face with the humbling facts, the great realities, and then humility comes upon the soul as darkness comes upon the face of the earth, not because the earth has made up its mind to be dark, but because it has rolled into the great shadow.—Phillips Brooks.
1 Peter 5:6-7. Perfect for Service.—The “captain of our salvation” was “made perfect through sufferings.” “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” If we would be like Him in His glory, we must first be like Him in His sufferings. Good things come after trouble. It is well to try and look upon life aright before we are forced to do so by the pressure of outward misery. We are to imitate Christ, so far as it is possible, in the particular sort of employment which He chose—namely, in the mixing with other men; neither for business only—that is, in the way of our calling; nor yet for pleasure only—that is, in common society; but for charity in its largest sense—that is, from a desire to do good to the bodies or souls of others. This Christ-like employment is most suited to our state on earth, and especially helps us to make that state happy, by enabling us to rid it of its carefulness. Half, and more than half, of the practical faults in the world arise from looking upon life in a false view, and expecting from it what God does not mean us to find in it. He to whom all things future are as present, suited both His life and His words to what He knew would be ever the chief error of mankind. He knew that social and civil activity were sufficiently natural to man to need no encouragement. He knew that knowledge would be pursued, and arts and sciences cultivated. But He knew that the kingdom of God and His righteousness would not be sought after; He knew that men would look carefully enough on the things of this life, but would care for little beyond it. He therefore made that so valuable which could help us forward to our real and eternal life, and that so trifling, when received in faith, which can but give joy and sorrow for a moment. Life is before us as a trial-time of uncertain length, in which we may fit ourselves, if we will, for an eternal life beyond it. We may be thankful to God when He makes our training for eternity consist in the doing great and useful actions, in bringing forth much fruit; but we, each of us, are doing our business as thoroughly, are answering as completely the purposes for which we were sent into the world, if we are laid for years on a bed of sickness, and made incapable of action. It is not true that our great business or object in this world is to do all the good we can in it; our great business and object is to do God’s will, and so to be changed through His Spirit into His image that we may be fit to live with Him for ever. His will is declared to us by the course of His providence, putting us into different situations of life where different duties are required of us. But these duties are duties because they are His will; and if performed without reference to Him, however good our motives may be, the great business of life is left undone. To keep this end in view is a wonderful means of ridding life of its carefulness. If simply to be useful in our generation be our main object, our happiness cannot but greatly depend upon outward circumstances. Weakened health, and early death, spoil usefulness. When we recollect what is indeed our real business here, we cast at once all our care on God, and resign ourselves contentedly to His disposal. It is with reference to this view of life especially that Christ’s particular employment, the mixing with others, not for business, or for pleasure, but to do them good, is so exceedingly useful. It is surprising how much pleasure may be given every day, how much suffering relieved, and how much good done. But how can we secure such a life? We may not be able to imitate Christ exactly in this point, but we must find opportunity to do sometimes what He did always. In every station or employment, we must find opportunity, or make it, if we would not deprive ourselves of what may well be called the path of daily living. And God will enable us to make a great deal even of our common intercourse with others; and here we all have our opportunities, unless we choose to neglect them. Such, then, is Christ’s daily lesson to us; not to be idle or slothful in our work; and to sanctify it all by doing it as to Him, and not to man.—Thomas Arnold, D.D.
1 Peter 5:7. Casting Care.—This familiar verse is more suggestive studied in its connection. The apostle is commending the great grace of Christian humility; first on the younger members of the Church in all their relations with the elder, and then on all the members in their various Church relations. Then follows this striking expression: “Be clothed with humility,” or “Gird yourselves with humility.” The picture presented to us is that of the Eastern gentleman, whose long, loose, and flowing garments are not held in place, or properly set off, until the handsome folded girdle is skilfully adjusted about the loins. St. Peter would remind us that there is a dress of Christian graces with which we should be clothed; but the various graces will not take orderly forms and relations, nor will they be complete, unless we are girded about with the sweet grace of Christian humility. Then the apostle reminds us that there is a foundation humility upon which our humble relations one with another must depend. It is the humbling of the self before God. Our text, taken with the immediately previous sentence, reminds us that the same truth may need setting in different forms, in order to meet the needs of various classes of persons. There are strong, energetic persons, who need to have truth stated strongly, and in tones of command. To them St. Peter says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” But there are also gentle souls, to whom the truth comes most effectively when it sounds like a “still small voice,” and falls like the night dews. To meet their case St. Peter repeats his command; and now it is, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Humble souls find it easy to “cast their care.” They who can “cast their care” must be humble.
I. Think of man’s care.—“All your care.” By “care” is meant “anxiety” rather than “affliction.” Anxiety suggests the daily worry, the care about a thousand things. Care arises from:
1. Our frequent misunderstandings with our fellow-men. It comes because we persist in estimating things from our own points of view.
2. Our business and family claims. For these we need the word “harassed.”
3. Our religious claims. There should be grave anxiety as to the spirit of our life, and the tone of our example. And there should be constant watchfulness to find out, and willingness to respond to, all the reasonable demands made on our time or on our money.
II. Think of God’s care.—“He careth for you.” One is surprised to find the same word used for God as for ourselves. His care cannot be quite like ours. There can be no fretfulness, no worry, in it.
1. See His care of all the creatures He has made.
2. His precise knowledge of our anxieties.
3. His care of us in the midst of our anxieties.
III. God’s care of us is a persuasion to cast our care on Him.—“For.” He cares; then why should we? He is able; He is wise; He knows all; He loves with an everlasting love; He is our Father. Why should we not be as calm as the sailor boy in the wild storm, who knew that his father held the helm? If we would see precisely what is meant by “casting our care on God,” let us think of the prophet lifting up holy hands, and saying that most full, most touching, of all Bible prayers, “O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake Thou for me.” Is this “casting care” difficult? It is life’s great lesson. Yokes cease to rub and press when God bears them with us. Crosses are lightened when God bears them with us. And He always takes the heavier end. Some, however, do not know God well enough to trust Him thus simply, thus perfectly. Of all the burdens He would have cast upon Him, the first is that of the unpardoned soul. That! Yes; that greatest of all our cares we may “roll off” on Him “who careth for us.”
The Care of One Who Loves.—The care which God has is the care of one who loves, and therefore takes on his own heart the troubles of his beloved one. And what does He do with our care when thus we cast it upon Him? He does not take it and put it right away, hiding it for ever from our view. We wish He would do that. He does something altogether better. He takes the burden of care and puts it gently back on our shoulders, saying, “Remember, it is My care now; it is yours no longer. And now I want you to carry it for Me.” Then the yoke feels easy, and the burden is light.
Human Cares and the Divine Care.—The value of the injunction in the former half of the text depends entirely upon its latter half. For until we can get men to believe in the care of God for them, we shall never persuade them to cast all their care upon Him. It must be confessed, however, that it is not easy for any of us adequately to realise what these words, “He careth for you,” mean.
I. There are those who declare that the words have no meaning.—They see no “He” in the universe. True, they speak of nature with reverence, and in terms so warmly personal that we are sometimes tempted to think that their science has found what their faith had lost; but, if we may trust their own assertions, it is not so, for they find no evidence in nature of a living God. No man can cast his care upon an IT. The materialists’ creed fosters an inhuman quite as much as an ungodly type of character. If ever the presence of care becomes too heavy for him to bear it alone, one of two results will follow: either the creed will break down, or the man will. Hence suicide is so often the consequence of atheism.
II. We may find it difficult to realise that God really cares for us.—
1. Easier to believe that He cares for the universe at large, than that He takes any interest in us as individuals. Too prone to think of Him as exercising some kind of care over us, as a general does over his troops. He is not a general, but a Father. To rightly understand this text we must read, “He cares for me”; or,
2. Some one may say, “I cannot think God cares very much for me, or He would not allow me to suffer as I do, and give me this weary burden of care to bear day by day.” Like a child complaining of having hard lessons to learn. Very often trials and anxieties are the pledge and token of God’s love. If we had no care we might begin to doubt whether God cared for us.
III. If we lift the burden of our care at all we are to lift it for the last time, that we may cast it upon God.—Once there, it becomes God’s care, not ours. Because God cares for us, He will care for it.
IV. The little word “all” includes even the trivial and passing anxieties of each day.—To suppose that some cares are too insignificant to take to God in prayer is not to honour Him, but unnecessarily to burden ourselves. It has been said that “white ants pick a carcase quicker and cleaner than a lion does”; and so these little cares may even more effectually destroy our peace than a single great trouble if, in our mistaken reverence for God’s greatness, we refuse to cast them upon Him. G. S. Barrett, B.A.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
1 Peter 5:7. God’s Love Inexhaustible.—Suppose a meadow in which a million of daisies open their bosoms, all at one time, to the sun. On one of them, while it was yet a bud, a little stone has fallen. At once crushed and overshadowed, it still struggles bravely against all odds to expand its petals like the rest. For many days this effort is continued without success. The tiny stone, a mighty rock to the tiny flower, squats on its breast, and will not admit a single sunbeam. At length the flower-stalk, having gathered strength by its constant exertion, acquired force enough to overbalance the weight, and tossed the intruder off. Up sprang the daisy with a bound; and in an instant another floweret was added to the vast multitude which in that meadow drank their fill of sunlight. The sun in heaven was not incommoded by the additional demand. The new-comer received into its open cup as many sunbeams as it would have received although no other flower had grown in all the meadow—in all the earth. Thus the sun, finite though it be, helps us to understand the absolute infinitude of its Maker. When an immortal being, long crushed and turned away by a load of sin, at length, through the power of a new spiritual life, throws off the burden, and opens with a bound to receive a heavenly Father’s long-offered but rejected love, the Giver is not impoverished by the new demand upon His kindness. Although a thousand millions should arise and go to the Father, each would receive as much of that Father’s love as if he alone of all fallen creatures had come back reconciled to God.—Rev. William Arnot.
Providential Care.—When a child (says Mrs. Mary Winslow, in her diary, then Mary Forbes) I accompanied my parents, during the French war, on a visit to England. Our vessel was a light barque, carrying a few guns, and but ill furnished for severe conflict with the enemy. On entering the Channel, midway between the English and French coast, a ship of war bore in sight. It was toward night, and as she appeared to bear down upon us, our captain prepared for action. My mother and I were hurried from the cabin to what was thought a place of greater safety below. My father remained on deck. All was confusion above us, while I was astonished at being thus suddenly removed from my comfortable berth to the dismal quarters beneath the decks. We had not been long there when I observed a boy come occasionally to the place of our imprisonment, and, with a large horn in his hand, take something from out of a barrel, having first fixed a lighted candle upon its edge, and leaving it there. Observing, as I sat upon my mother’s lap—who was too much absorbed in anxiety to notice the circumstance—that the piece of candle was nearly burnt to the edge, I got down, put out my hand, and took it away, saying, “Mamma, this will burn the barrel.” It was a cask of gunpowder. Had I not removed it that moment, or in removing it had a spark fallen from the lengthened wick, the vessel and all on board must have been blown to atoms.
God’s Care of His servants.—Paul Gerhard was, many years ago, a great preacher in Brandenburg, Germany, and he loved to preach from his heart what he saw and believed in the Word of God. But the “Great Elector” of Brandenburg did not like his preaching, and sent to say to him, “Paul Gerhard, if you cannot preach differently from that, you must leave this country.” Gerhard sent back a message that it would be very hard to leave his home, his people, his country, and his livelihood; but he could only preach what he found in God’s Word, and as long as he lived he would preach that. So he had to go into banishment with his wife and little children. At the end of the first day’s journey they came into a wood, and rested at night at a little inn they found there. The little children were crying and clinging to their mother, and she too, who had kept up all day, now began to weep. This made Gerhard have a very heavy heart. So he went alone into the dark wood to think and pray. While he was in the wood this text came to his mind and comforted him: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.” “Yes,” he thought, “though I am banished from house and home, and don’t know where to take my wife and children for shelter to-morrow, yet God, my God, sees me in this dark wood. Now is the time to trust Him. He will show me the way through. He will bring it to pass.’ ” He was so happy that he remembered that text, and so thankful to God, that he tried to make the text into a hymn as he paced up and down between the trees. Every verse begins with a word or two from the text, so that if you read the first words of each verse you just read the text. When he went into the house he told his wife about the text, and began to repeat to her his hymn. She soon dried her tears (the children bad already gone to sleep), and become as hopeful and trustful as Gerhard himself. They had scarcely retired to rest when they heard a great noise at the door. It seemed as though some important person were knocking there. When the landlord opened the door, a man on horseback said aloud, “I am a messenger. I come from Duke Christian of Merscberg, and I am in search of Paul Gerhard. Do you know whether he has passed this way?” “Paul Gerhard,” said the landlord. “Yes, he is in this house.” “Then let me see him instantly,” said the Duke’s messenger. And the messenger handed to the good man a large sealed letter. It came from the Duke Christian, and it said, “Come into my country, Paul Gerhard, and you shall have church, and people, and home, and livelihood, and liberty to preach the gospel to your heart’s content. Gerhard’s hymn commenced thus:—
“ ‘Commit thy way,’ O weeper,
The cares that fret thy soul,
To thine Almighty Keeper,
Who makes the world to roll;
“ ‘Unto the Lord,’ who guideth
The wind and cloud and sea;
Oh, doubt not, He provideth
A pathway, too, for thee.”
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
1 Peter 5:8. The devil.—Thought of under the figure of a wild beast that, at any moment, may put the flock in peril. Those who fall into sin are often surprised at the sudden and overwhelming character of their temptation. Adversary.—See Matthew 5:25. διάβολος term in LXX. for the Hebrew “Satan,” with special idea of “making charges against.” Devour.—“Gulp down.”
1 Peter 5:9. The faith.—Better, “your faith.” Are accomplished.—Are being accomplished.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Peter 5:8-9
The Common Enemy.—The figures in this passage are evidently suggested to St. Peter’s mind by his reference to shepherds and shepherding, and by his conception of the Church as the “flock of God.” “These are the sudden cries (‘be sober, be vigilant’), of warning from a shepherd to the other shepherds, who spies the lion prowling round the flock in the darkness, while the guardians of the flock lie drowsy and asleep.” Whether St. Peter is to be understood as affirming the existence of a personal devil, or as speaking here in a figurative manner, personifying the calamities and evils which were proving such serious temptations to the Christians of the Dispersion, need not be decided. Evil, taking form as disability, reproach, and persecution, is a distinctly active and mischievous force; it was seriously imperilling the Christian faith and life of the disciples, and precisely what they had to watch against was the subtle and constant and varied influences of these calamities and anxieties. They resisted the devil by resisting the things which were his agencies.
I. Temptations of evil are always on the watch for opportunities.—To impress this fact the figure of the prowling wild beast is taken.
II. Temptations of evil are always active.—This is said to impress the necessity of wakefulness. The Christian while on earth is always on the battle-field, in face of the enemy. All are subject to some kind of suffering.
III. Temptations of evil always work with a bad design.—What they want to devour is the faith which is the very foundation of Christian life. When there is so much to bear, it is hard to keep trust in God.
IV. Temptations of evil must be met by a watchfulness and activity greater than that which they exhibit.—“Whom withstand, stedfast in your faith.” Steady; ever ready, clothed in the whole armour of God.
V. Temptations of evil made the same trouble and conflict for our fathers.—It is but a common lot. Our fathers conquered, so may we; our Divine Lord and Master conquered, so may we, in His strength.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
1 Peter 5:8-9. Malign Spiritual Influences.—Man’s soul carries in it the elements of all good, and of all evil—for every faculty has its good and its evil side, its temperate and its excessive use; and there is no outward evil in the world which is not made so by something which represents it in man. There is no evil under the general designation of sin, which has not its origin within. There is that in man which answers to whatever is good and whatever is evil. This is itself a sufficient reason for forethought and for vigilance. But the sacred Scripture declares that there is a power of temptation in evil spirits; that man, in this mortal state, is surrounded by a sphere filled with spirits that are perpetually tempting him to evil. Many, indeed, disbelieve in spirit agency. It is inconsistent with their conception of a benevolent God, that He should permit a devil to exist. Inquire into the nature of this influence called temptation. Temptation holds a parallel and analogic course with inspiration. It is simply a stimulus, coming from wherever it may, applied to a faculty, or to classes of faculties, in the human mind—faculties of which men have, or should have, might have, full control. Temptation never works out anything. It merely gives impulse, suggestion, stimulus. If any evil is wrought out through you, you work it out wholly and absolutely. If, being impelled, men do evil, as when, being impelled, they do right, the right or the wrong is their own act, for which they are responsible. For, although they were pushed to it, tempted to it, they had plenary power to do it or not to do it. No man, therefore, is carried away under termptation or by temptation. Many men carry themselves away. No man is overborne by temptation in any literal sense, although figuratively the language is employed properly enough. Temptation does not destroy self-control. It may intensify its difficulty, but it does not invalidate plenary power. The strength of the temptation lies wholly in the faculty which it tempts. Temptation goes with the strongest faculties. See some of the conditions of mind which make temptations by evil natures fatal and dangerous. Every right and good tendency of the soul draws to itself food for goodness. A good man attracts goodness, and is sensitive to goodness. The better you are, the more qualities there are in life helping you to be good. It is easy to be good, after you have received impulsion towards goodness. A bad man finds that which is bad. He carries it with him. An irritable man finds not only irritable men, but occasions for irritability. Selfishness finds everywhere occasions for selfishness. The moral condition which you carry into life constitutes the first great ground of susceptibility to inspiration on the side of good, and to temptation on the side of evil. To this must be added the want of fixed and ruling purposes by which you meet and resist evil tendencies. There is much in life that is easily overcome, if there be a positive and steadfast resistance to it. But if we are languid, if we are pulseless, we become a prey to it. Physicians tell us that there is such a thing as predisposition to epidemic. Also the habit of doing wrong makes it more sure that temptations will be victorious over men. And the social element enhances the power of temptation. Consider, then, how many adversaries are moving upon every single point of your nature. Consider what special temptations, over and above the general tenor of society, are marching out upon you from your business. Consider, too, all the temptations which spring upon you from individual men. Consider the evil fellowship which you have in the company in which you go at large. Consider that you have secret and open sins, which are themselves like cancers draining the body of its strength and stamina, and eating at the very vitals. Upon all these temptations there descends that malign influence which sweeps in from the great spirit-world, against which God bids us take heed.—H. Ward Beecher.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
1 Peter 5:12. Silvanus.—See Notes on Verses.
1 Peter 5:13. Babylon.—Precisely, the sentence reads: “the co-elect one” [fem. sing.] “in Babylon.” This makes it the greeting of an individual, not of a Church. It might be the message of St. Peter’s wife. Whether the term “Babylon” is descriptive or symbolic is disputable. A new city had arisen near the old one, and a considerable population dwelt in it. There is no good reason for resisting the conclusion that the letter was sent from this town. There was a military fortress in Egypt named Babylon, but it is not probable that St. Peter was there.
1 Peter 5:14. Kiss of charity.—Or love (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12). “This was an accompaniment of that social worship which marked Christianity, and arose from the tendency of the Christian religion to encourage honour towards all men, as men, and to cherish the softer affections of the heart.” The early custom almost only survives in the use of the Osculatorium, or kissing token, known as the Pax (sometimes a relic, sometimes an ivory or metal tablet, with sacred symbols cut on it), which was passed through the congregation, and kissed by each in turn.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Peter 5:10-14
Soul-Strength out of Life-Strain.—“The God of all grace … shall Himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you.”
God can.—For He is the God of all grace.
God meant to.—For He called you with that very purpose in view.
God does.—For the present stablishing is with a view to future perfecting.
God is keeping on doing.—Though He may be pleased to put the completion, the perfecting of His work into the future, and make you wait awhile, and make the waiting time a time of sore trial, of this you may be absolutely assured, there is some needs be for the delay; but the work is in steady progress, all through the time of delay, and the issue will be in every way higher and better because of the delay. We have to suffer awhile, and God knows best how long the “while” should be.
The Promise.—“He Himself” is the emphatic language of the apostle here; for from the same fountain of grace as the call to eternal glory came, will come all the gifts essential to its attainment.
I. He will perfect you.—The believer is at first, and for a while, very deficient in many respects—in wisdom, prudence, charity, patience, and all other virtues of the Christian character. Must those defects remain in him? and must he carry them to the grave? No; ere he enters the “eternal glory” he must be blameless, harmless, and without rebuke, and therefore made perfect in every good word and work. He cannot, however, make himself perfect. God must do it; and He will do it, never leaving His servant until He has done for him all that He has promised.
II. He will stablish you, or make you fast.—“He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings,” said David; and Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” There are Christians who, when the storm sets in, are like trees which wave to and fro in the wind, and which, having but a slender hold of the soil, are in danger of being blown down; but God can give them such support that they shall be like majestic oaks that defy the fiercest blast, or like a lighthouse on a rock that stands unmoved amid the billows of the raging sea.
III. He will strengthen you.—For ordinary warfare, bodily strength is necessary; for the warfare in which the Christian is engaged, spiritual strength is essential. A feeble, timid Christian will fly before the enemy, but one who is strong in the Lord and in the power of His might will go and meet him with all confidence. And God gives strength to His people. They are strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, and when temptation comes they are able to resist it, and in every conflict they come off victorious.
IV. He will settle you.—The word θεμελιώσαι means He will ground, or fix you, as on a sure foundation, so that, like a mighty fortress, you shall stand unmoved, even though assailed by hosts of foes. A precious promise this; for our enemies sometimes come upon us like an army set in array, threatening to storm a citadel, and to take possession of it by force. But our citadel will prove too strong for them, and they shall be driven back, like the armies of Sennacherib when they threatened to invade the Holy City. In these several words there is a striking rise and development. The believer’s character is first perfected, then he becomes firm in the faith; he is then strengthened to endure the assaults of the foe, and then he becomes settled or made fast, and is as a tower of strength which none of his enemies can shake.—Thornley Smith.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
1 Peter 5:10. Stablished, Strengthened, Settled.—The word “settled” is sometimes used in describing a building which comes to rest securely on its foundations. In common phraseology we speak of the “settling” of a house when the structure consolidates and comes to abide surely and immovably in its place. It takes years, in some instances, for that process to complete itself; and, as it goes on, flaws are discovered, and rents are sometimes made, showing clearly where the strength of the house lies—not in the mere walls, but in that firm foundation on which they rest, and on which the several parts settle themselves broadly and wholly. We cannot but remember in this connection the one ultimate foundation of a sinner’s trust, other than which no man can lay—Jesus Christ, and the truth as it is in Him; and that the whole great process of Christian life and education is with a view to solidify the trust, and fix the faith immovably on Him. God’s first work in a man is largely potential. He builds the framework of a new life. He gives enough, when used, to supply all the need. Yet, when the need arises, it is many a time very great. Through hunger, and thirst, and weariness, and storm, and battle, the soul makes way—often apparently with extremest difficulty—“troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down”—bearing about in the body the death-pains of the Son of God. But lo! by means of all this searching and conflict and endeavour, there comes by degrees the growing fulness of the better life. Temptation brings increase of strength; assaults of the enemy, repulsed, give new courage; change carries away many a treasure, but, to fill the void, brings ever more and more of the “unsearchable riches.” Castles in the air, built on vain confidence, melt from the sight, and the heart, convinced of its folly, comes to rest, with a child’s simplicity of trust, and yet with a man’s certainty of conviction, on Him who is able to keep that which is committed to Him, and is “stablished, strengthened, settled,” at last. It is literally at last with many a one. The final settlement is often just before the dying. It sometimes takes God a lifetime to teach us to flee from false refuges—to teach us to be humble, and to trust entirely in His Son, and in His own love, as brought near in Him. From many a pale, bloodless face there looks out at length the calmness, almost celestial, of a perfect trust. On many a dying bed you see the features which have been seamed and scarred and almost worn away by earthly care, and by spiritual sorrow and fear, which seemed, never-ending, smoothed at last into a serenity and a beauty caught directly from heaven. And from many a low voice, sinking into the last, murmurs, you might, if you were near, catch the whisper of the departing one: “I am at peace now; ‘settled’ at last!” We may all have “settlement” in Christ; it is intended and promised that we should have it, if we will, before the end of life comes. God grant that, if we have not this good thing earlier, we may all have it then.—A. Raleigh, D.D.
1 Peter 5:12. The True Grace of God.—St. Peter affirms that, no matter what disabilities may attach to their Christian profession, it was the true grace of God in which they stood, and in it they must still stand steadfast. “The position they now occupied was one which the favour of God had brought them into.” The expression, the “true grace of God,” may be opened and illustrated in three relations.
1. True grace regarded as Revelation—in the Song of Song of Solomon 2:0. True grace regarded as Redemption—in the self-sacrifice of the Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. True grace regarded as Sanctification—in the power of the suffering innocence of the Son.
The Gospel of the Grace of God.—
1. That the economy of the gospel is, throughout its constitution and influences, a grand display of Divine grace.
(1) The announcements of the gospel, as to the methods by which blessings are meritoriously secured.
(2) The influence by which blessings are actually imparted.
(3) The nature of those blessings themselves.
(4) The extent to which these blessings are to be diffused.
2. That the economy of the gospel, as such, impresses important demands on all to whom it is proclaimed.
(1) It should be cordially believed.
(2) It must be steadfastly adhered to.
(3) It must be zealously diffused.—James Parsons.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
1 Peter 5:13. The Church at Babylon.—The rendering of this verse in our Authorised Version probably results from the old ecclesiastical figment that Peter was founder and Bishop of the Roman Church, and that he here says Babylon mystically for Rome. But for the influence of this idea it is improbable that our translators would have supplemented the verse by introducing the word “Church.” Neander renders it, “Syneclecte, who is at Babylon, greets you, and so does my son Marcus.” By Syneclecte he understands Peter’s wife, whom here he mentions by name. That he was married we learn from Matthew 8:14. That his wife accompanied him on his journeys is implied in Paul’s language, 1 Corinthians 9:5, “Have not I a right to take a believing wife (ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα) with me on my journeys, like … Cephas?” Neander quotes Clem. Alex. Strom., to the effect that Peter, seeing his wife led by to martyrdom, called to her by name, and said, “Oh, remember the Lord.” I can hardly think, however, that Neander is right in his idea that Syneclecte is a proper name. Probably the word should be translated. Its equivalent would be some such phrase as “your sister in the faith.” The verse would then read, “Your sister in the faith, who is at Babylon, salutes you, and so does my son Marcus.” This, of course, would leave Neander’s view of the passage untouched, that it is his wife and son, then with him at Babylon, who send greetings, and not the Church.—Baptist Magazine.
Babylon.—Three places have claimed to be understood under this name:
1. A little place called Babylon in Egypt, which has nothing to plead for itself except the unlikelihood of St. Peter ever being at the Oriental Babylon, coupled with the difficulty of supposing that the name is used quite figuratively. Perhaps, also, we should mention the traditional connection of St. Mark with Egypt. No one now, however, maintains this view.
2. The literal Babylon in the East. This has for itself the simple way in which St. Peter uses the word, without any circumlocution. But it has nothing else for it to set against all the overwhelming arguments in favour of the third claimant; besides which we learn from Josephus of a great expulsion of Jews from the Oriental Babylon a few years before this date. These Jews might, of course, however, have gathered there again, as they did at Rome, in spite of frequent expulsions.
3. It may be called the established interpretation that the place meant Rome. We never hear of St. Peter’s being in the East, and the thing in itself is improbable, whereas nothing but Protestant prejudice can stand against the historical evidence that St. Peter sojourned and died at Rome. Whatever theological consequences may flow from it, it is as certain that St. Peter was at Rome as that St. John was in Ephesus. Everything in the letter also points to such a state of things as was to be found at Rome about the date when we believe the letter to have been written. It is objected that St. Peter would not gravely speak of Rome under a fanciful name when dating a letter; but the symbolism in the name is quite in keeping with the context. St. Peter has just personified the Church of the place from which he writes, which seems quite as unprosaic a use of language as to call Rome “Babylon.” And it seems pretty clear that the name was quite intelligible to Jewish readers, for whom it was intended. The Apocalypse (Revelation 17:18) is not the only place where Rome is found spoken of under this title. One of the first of living Hebraists told the present writer that no Hebrew of St. Peter’s day would have had need to think twice what city was meant, when “Babylon” was mentioned. And on the mention of the name all the prophecies of the vengeance to be taken on the city which had desolated the Holy Land would rush with consolation into the minds of the readers, and they would feel that St. Peter, though supporting St. Paul, was still in full sympathy with themselves. Finally, as M. Renan suggests, there were reasons of prudence for not speaking too plainly about the presence of a large Christian society in Rome. The police were still more vigilant now than when St. Paul wrote in guarded language about the Roman Empire to the Thessalonians. It might provoke hostilities if the epistle fell into the hands of a delator, with names and places too clearly given.—A. J. Mason, M.A.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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