STUDY FOURTEEN: 1PETER 5:1-14

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018

Peter’s final chapter focuses on the principle of submission.

It is applied firstly to ‘elders’.
It is applied briefly to ‘young men’.
It is applied to ‘all of you’ - to our attitudes to each other and our attitude to God.

A. INSTRUCTIONS FOR ELDERS

Continuing his theme of submission Peter now applies the principle of submission to elders. While he does not directly say ‘elders be submissive to...’ his next command, which is to young men, begins with the words ‘in the same way be submissive ....’. He is clearly applying to the young men the same principle that he has just applied to the ‘elders’.

If it seems strange to us that ‘elders’ are not exempt from this principle of submission, we should remember that Jesus Christ applied it to himself – ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ [Mark 10:45], and taught that ‘the greatest among you will be your servant’ [Matthew 23:11].

Peter uses several roles/titles to refer to ‘elders’:

Read 5:1-4. What are the three roles/titles given to these people?

 

 

Peter addresses them as ‘elders’ (presbuteros), and identifies himself as ‘a fellow elder’. The Greek word is the usual word for an older man, but in the New Testament it is also used to refer to those appointed to the role of ‘elder’ in the Church.


He instructs them to ‘be shepherds’ of God’s people under their care. The Greek word, poimaino, means to look after as a shepherd does his sheep – to feed, to care for, to protect. The related noun, poimen, shepherd, is also translated ‘pastor’ (see Ephesians 4:11).

In caring for God’s flock, they are to ‘serve as overseers’. The word used here, episkopeo, means to watch over diligently.

Although they are in a position of authority over and responsibility for the local community of God’s people, this does not make them immune from the principle of submission. For these elders/pastors/overseers Peter identifies a number of elements of submission that will mean putting the will of God and the well-being of the Christian community before their own agenda.

Read 5:1-3. List the instructions Peter gives to them. Discuss the level of responsibility and difficulty of these instructions.

 

 

 

 

They are to serve as shepherds. This immediately loads them with a doubly heavy responsibility.

It is heavy because Jesus Christ has both taught and demonstrated that he, the good Shepherd, lays down his life for his sheep [John 10]. That kind of serving is the ultimate in submission.

It is also a heavy responsibility because the ‘flock’ is not their own, it is God’s. They do not have this role because it will gain something for them; rather they are in this role for the good of God’s people. God has entrusted these people to their care.

They are to serve as overseers.

Peter says this should not be approached as a duty – ‘because you must’ – but as something that they really want to do – ‘because you are willing as God wants you to be’. It must be from the heart – first of all with a heart for God, and secondly with a heart for God’s people.

It also, Peter says, must not be with a view to financial gain, but be done with a simple eagerness to serve.

Nor must it be done with an attitude of power and authority from a position beyond correction – ‘not lording it over those entrusted to you’. Rather, the elders are to lead by example as they live among the people they serve and care for.

It is significant that Peter mentions directly two of the three things that most commonly wreck the ministry and life of Christian pastors – the pursuit of power and the pursuit money. Peter warns against the serving God and the serving God’s people that somewhere along the line transitions into serving our own quest for power and significance and/or serving our personal desire for money.

The third life and ministry wrecker, which Peter does not mention, is sexual sin, which again is serving self – not God, and not God’s people. It is the expression of a heart controlled by its own illegitimate passion rather than being passionate for God and for the well-being of his people.

Each of these portrays the very opposite of the example of Christ. Thus Peter has surrounded these instructions to elders with references to Jesus Christ:

Peter calls himself ‘a witness of Christ’s sufferings’. Because Peter was an eye-witness of Christ he knows what submission looks like. It looks like Jesus – walking incognito among his people. It looks like Jesus – serving. It looks like Jesus – scorned and rejected. It looks like Jesus – laying down his life for our sins.

Peter points ahead to ‘when the Chief Shepherd appears’, reminding them that as shepherds their role model is Jesus.

Discussion point: How do the suffering of Christ [which gained our salvation] and the return of Christ in glory and judgement impact you as motivations for submission?

 

Although specific to elders, these instructions are relevant to anyone who serves God by serving in any kind of leadership position in a local church.

B. AN INSTRUCTION FOR YOUNG MEN

For the third time Peter uses the phrase in the same way in relation to the principle of submission. Look again at his instructions on submission:

2:13-17: ‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority ...’
2:18ff: ‘Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters ...’
3:1-6: ‘Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands ...’
3:7: ‘Husbands, in the same way be considerate ...’
3:8: ‘Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another ...’
5:1-4: ‘To the elders among you ... not lording it over those entrusted to you ...’
5:5: ‘Young men, in the same way, be submissive to those who are older.
5:5: ‘All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another ...

In his instructions to the ‘elders’ Peter did not use the words ‘submit’ or ‘submission’. However, his instructions involve a high degree of humility and self-denial in fulfilling the role of elder/shepherd/overseer. The fact that he now tells young men ‘in the same way be submissive ...’ indicates that the principle of submission was in his mind as he instructed the elders.

Discussion point: Suggest how the submission required of ‘young men’ will look different from the submission required of ‘elders’.

 

 

 

 

C. ALL OF YOU ...

This is third time that Peter has given a general instruction to all believers about humility/submission. Here in 5:5b-9 the humility/submission required of all of us has two directions – towards each other, and towards God.

From the following texts, how does Peter define the humility/submission that should characterize all of us? Note particularly how it relates to our attitudes to each other as believers.
2:13-17

 

3:8-9

 

5:5b

 

As well as the humility/submission that should characterize our relationships to our fellow believers, Peter extends this submission to our relationship to those who mistreat us.

What does ‘submission’ look like when we are suffering mistreatment?
2:13-15

2:18-23

3:9

3:13-17

4:1

4:12-19

 

C.1 Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand
Underneath all of Peter’s instructions about submission and humility there is a foundational submission to the will of God. For Peter, submission in any of our relationships is an expression of our submission to God – a recognition of his will and his sovereignty.

There is an aspect of Peter’s command in 5:6 to ‘humble yourselves’ that is not evident in English translations. The English, ‘humble yourselves’, is commanding something we have to actively do. But the Greek puts it passively – ‘be humbled’ (or ‘let yourselves be humbled’) under God’s mighty hand. In other words, it is God who is humbling us, and Peter is commanding us to let God do it. God is the active person, and his actions are directed towards us.

God in his sovereign authority has permitted whatever situation we are experiencing, so we must not let his purpose for us in the situation be wasted by refusing to trust ourselves to him and to depend on him in the situation.

Behind this command to ‘be humbled’ is trust in God’s good purpose:

Peter tells us that God will lift us up in due time [verse 6]. And James says the same thing – ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up’ [4:10], with the same passive sense of the verb.

Peter has already taught us that ‘all kinds of trials ... come so that your faith ... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ [1:7].

The letter to the Hebrews states ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’ [12:11].

And Paul in a long passage on suffering [Romans 8:18-39] assures us that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ [verse 28].

Read these verses. How do they connect submission in various contexts to submission to God?
2:13-15

2:19-20

2:23

3:4,5

3:15

3:17

4:2

4:11

4:17-19

5:5-7

Through all of his instructions Peter encourages us to live all of our lives in all of our relationships with an awareness of God’s presence, God’s sovereignty, God’s will and, above all, God’s amazing love and grace in saving us through the substitutionary, sin-bearing death of his Son.

When Peter commanded us to submit to the ruling authorities it was ‘for the Lord’s sake’ and ‘God’s will’ and ‘as servants of God’ [2:13,15,16].

When Peter commanded us to be submissive under unjust suffering it was because we are ‘conscious of God’ and because it is ‘commendable before God’ [2:19,20].

In giving us the example of the submissive spirit of Jesus under unjust suffering Peter tells us Jesus ‘entrusted himself to him who judges justly’ [2:23].

When commanding wives to be submissive to their husbands he explains that this quietness of spirit ‘is of great worth in God’s sight’ [3:4].

When commanding husbands to be considerate and respectful of their wives he indicates that this had implications for their reliance on God [3:7].

When he commands us to be humble in our relationships with our fellow-believers he taught that such a submissive mind is consistent with God’s call, God’s inheritance, God’s blessing and God’s care [3:8-12].

When he commands elders to serve the community of believers in an attitude of humble submission he explained that the people they are serving are God’s flock and that their service should be done how God wants it to be done [5:2].

And generally, when he commands humility it is because of God’s opposition to the proud and graciousness towards the humble [5:5].

In all of these inter-personal situations, it is not a question of whether or not the other person is worthy of our submission. Nor is it a question of whether or not the other person is demanding or enforcing our submission. It is the question: Are we, in this good or bad relationship or situation, seeing ourselves to be under God’s mighty hand? Or, as Peter put it in 4:15, are we, in our hearts, setting apart Christ as Lord in this situation or relationship?

Our attitudes, words and actions in each of our human relationships reflect the nature and quality of our relationship and response to God. Although, in Christ and because of Christ, our relationship with God is one of knowing God, peace with God and acceptance by God, how we live our lives reveals an on-going inconsistency between who we are in Christ and who we are in our daily lives.

We do believe in God and we do believe God, but we do not always trust God.
We do acknowledge Christ as Lord, but we do not always obey him as Lord.

Practically speaking, our trust and obedience have not caught up with our identity and position as children of God. Because our trust and obedience towards God are challenged in our various relationships we do not find it easy to be humble and submissive towards others. It is not something that comes naturally to most of us. [Indeed, the issue of submission to God is at the heart of the original sin in Genesis 3.]

C.2 Casting all your anxiety on him ...
Again, the English fails to express the Greek meaning. In the NIV, ‘Cast all your anxiety’ is a command, a second thing we have to do. But in the Greek, it is a participle ... hence the KJV translation ‘casting’. However, even ‘casting’ does not accurately convey the meaning of the Greek, which means ‘having cast’ (it is an Aorist participle). It refers to a decisive action that has preceded the main verb. The command ‘be humbled’ assumes that this ‘having cast’ has already been deliberately done. The Greek tells us ‘Be humbled ... having cast ...’ The only way we are going to ‘be humbled’ under God’s mighty hand is to have first cast all our anxiety on him.

Simply, this two part command – be humbled, having cast – is a command to trust God. If we have not made the deliberate decision to trust him with the totality of our lives, we will not be trusting his good hand upon us.

Note: ‘all your anxiety’ [NIV], or ‘all your care’ [KJV], does not mean that we have individually cast each item of concern that comes up, but the whole of it – a total throwing of it all upon God in one decisive action. In addition, the word translated ‘anxiety’ or ‘care’ is the word used in the parable of the sower - ‘the worries ... of this life’ which distract a person from pursuing faith in Christ. It is a reference to a division of the mind, a pulling of our attention away from God, and a focusing on these concerns as if the outcome depended totally upon us, as if God was not there and as if God was not for us.

C.3 Motivations for this trust
To encourage us to live under the mighty hand of God with trust and obedience in every relationship and situation Peter tells us:

‘Be humbled ... under God’s mighty hand.’ God is in control. It may not look like it. It may not feel like it. But he is. In due time he will lift you up. So do not give up trusting him, do not give up obeying him, regardless of the situation.

‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ It may not feel like it at the moment. There may be every reason for anxiety. But remember what Peter has told you about the glorious and secure salvation that you have in Christ and know that God cares for you. God is interested in you. God is concerned about you. It matters to him what happens to you. You are extremely precious to him.

Note: the English ‘for he cares for you’ does not seem to have the strength of the Greek: literally, ‘because to him it matters about you.’ What happens to us might not matter to anyone else, but to God, it matters.

And this is the key truth in these two verses: it matters to God what happens to us.

Because it matters to God what is happening to us we have permission to throw all of our cares – all of the worries of this life – onto him.

Because it matters to God what is happening to us we can trust him in and with all the circumstances of our lives.

Because we can thus trust him with all that concerns us, because we know that he is wholly for us, we can be wholly for him.

And this brings us back to the beginning: that we are humbled under his mighty hand.

All of this – this being humbled by God, this having cast all our worries on him, this realisation that it matters to God about us – can be stated in one word: trust.

Paul expresses this humble, confident trust: ‘I am suffering ... Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day’ [2Timothy 1:12].

These two truths – the power of God and love of God – each multiply the impact of the other. If God were powerful but did not love us, that would be a frightening thing. If God loved us, but was powerless to do anything for us, that would be a useless thing. But both are true. The death of Jesus Christ for us proves and demonstrates God’s love for us. The resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ demonstrate and prove the power of God that is active in saving us and keeping us saved.

Peter commands us to respond to this amazing God with appropriate submission/trust in all the relationships and circumstances of our lives.

C.4 Why trust God?
The question here is ‘Why live our lives with a constant awareness of God’s presence, God’s sovereignty, God’s will and God’s amazing love and grace?’

From 5:6-8 identify three commands and the reasons given for obeying these commands.
Verse 6:

 

Verse 7:

 

Verse 8:

 

These verses command humility and submission in the presence of God:

Be humbled under God’s mighty hand.
Having cast all your anxiety upon him.
Be self-controlled and alert.

Each of these forces us to think about where our suffering fits in the ‘bigger picture’.

A submissive, humble attitude to God in the context of suffering because of his name recognizes his sovereignty, his power and his goodness. Yes. The suffering may be undeserved and intense. But it is not all there is. God’s purpose for us is far, far greater than this. There is an end to the suffering. In due time, Peter says, God will lift you up.

Yes. There is every reason for anxiety. But our present circumstances are not all there is. There is also the love of God for us. God does care for us. He is interested in us. It matters to him what is happening to us.

There is the enemy. And he is an active and aggressive enemy. His intention is the destruction of anything and anyone that belongs to God and that God loves.

C.5 The ever-present enemy
Peter has written a lot about the principle of submission, which includes commands to humility. But there is one point at which submission is utterly inappropriate. That is, we must never be in submission to ‘your enemy the devil’ [verse 8].

In 5:8,9 find:
The commands Peter gives us because of the presence of our enemy.

 

 

The nature of our enemy and his activity and purpose.

 

The geographic extent of his activity.

 

Peter’s reminder of the presence of our enemy helps us to understand the bigger picture. Note:

[1] The devil is our enemy only because we are loved by God and he is God’s enemy. He is deliberately intent on the corruption or destruction of anything or anyone God approves. Consider:

In Genesis 1:31 God affirmed that everything he had made was ‘very good’. In Genesis 3 Satan moved to destroy that perfection.

In Job 1:8 and 2:3 God affirmed Job’s faith. Satan immediately accused Job of fake faith and sought his destruction.

In Matthew 3:17 God affirmed Jesus. Immediately Satan pressured Jesus to disobey God.

[2] Although the devil might insinuate otherwise, our suffering as Christians is not due to some lack of faith or presence of sin in us, but is common to all believers throughout the world:

‘you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering’ [5:9].

As Paul wrote in Romans 8:

Neither the devil, nor anyone on his side, has any legal right to bring any charge against us, because God acquits us [8:33].

Neither the devil, nor anyone on his side, has any legal right to condemn us, because Christ has died for us and is our legal advocate [8:34].

No matter how hard he tries, no matter what suffering he loads upon us, neither the devil, nor anyone on his side, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord [8:35-39].

It is not the absence of faith that attracts the devil’s attacks, but the presence of faith.

[3] The words Peter uses to refer to this enemy are instructive.

‘enemy’ is the Greek antidikos. This word refers to an opponent in a lawsuit, a legal adversary. Note anti which means ‘over against’, and dikos which refers to punishment or vengeance.

‘the devil’ – ho diabolos: which means the accuser, the slanderer, the one who misrepresents us. He casts accusations upon and against us. [‘bolos’ is derived from ballo – to throw or cast.]

Both of these refer specifically to the devil’s efforts to undermine Christ’s work of salvation. One way or another he tries to get us to see ourselves as if Christ had not died for us, as if we were not hidden in Christ. Sometimes the enemy does this with deceptive false teaching. Sometimes, as with Peter’s readers, he does it by inflicting suffering. In the former, and often in the latter, he does this using human agents, so that he does not appear to be involved.

Up to this point, Peter has not mentioned the enemy. He has focused on our immediate and on-going challenge of honouring God in all of our human relationships, including our relationships with those who mistreat us. And that is what we should focus on.

But now Peter wants us to understand the significance of it all:

Firstly, as we have seen, how we respond in these human relationships exposes whether or not we are submissive to God.

Secondly, as he indicates in 5:8,9 that the difficulties we experience in these human relationships and in the context of suffering generated by our allegiance to Christ are either directly or indirectly being used by the enemy in his attempts to undermine our faith in Christ and our obedience to Christ.

In all of the situations in which Peter has commanded submission, the enemy wants the opposite:

He wants us to disobey those in authority over us.
He wants us to retaliate when we are mistreated.
He wants us to be difficult to get on with.
He wants us to be inconsiderate and disrespectful.
He wants us to be divisive, unsympathetic, unloving and proud.
He wants us to be domineering and ego-centric.
He wants us to be proud.
He wants us to forget God’s mighty hand.
He wants us to be overwhelmed by anxiety.
He wants us to water down and modify ‘the faith’.
Ultimately, he wants us to disobey and deny Christ.

He wants to be able to say to God ‘See. I was right. Their faith in you is fake. Their love for you is fake. You are not the most important thing in their lives.’

Just as he wrongly accused Job [Job 1 & 2].

Read 1Peter 1:3-9 again. Focus on verses 6-9. How does Peter’s mention of ‘your enemy the devil’ and his destructive intentions in 5:8,9 give added meaning to this section of chapter one?

 

 

 

 

Note: When Peter says ‘standing strong in the faith’ [verse 9] he is not commanding us to stand firm in our faith, but in ‘the faith’, that is, in God’s truth – the truth of the Gospel that was given by Christ to the foundational apostles and upon which the Church is founded.

D. THE PROMISE

Having reminded us that Christians everywhere are undergoing the same kinds of suffering, Peter now closes off his letter with words of strong assurance.

Read 5:10. List all the things in this verse that are intended to encourage you to remain faithful and obedient to Christ no matter what suffering you are experiencing.

 

 

 

 

 

‘The God of all grace’

[For additional comment on 'the God of all grace' click here.]

For the Christian, God is always ‘the God of all grace’. Never again will he judge the Christian on the basis of the works of the Law. This means that all the accusations of the enemy, even if they are actually true, have no legal basis. God has acquitted us of all charges. God relates to us on the basis of grace, because all that the Law demanded of us has been fully met by Jesus Christ in his living and in his dying.

Check these verses. How do they refer to the permanence and power of grace?
Romans 5:21

 

Hebrews 4:16

 

‘who called you to his eternal glory in Christ’
We have already seen Peter’s repeated references to the ‘glory’ that is the present and future possession of all who believe in Christ. Here Peter sees eternal glory as the final destination or state of believers, and the end purpose of God’s calling.

Check these verses about God’s call. What does Peter say God called us to or for?
1:15

2:9

2:21

3:9

5:10

‘will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast’
Because God is always a ‘God of grace’ for the believer, because the end point of God calling/saving us is for us to share in his eternal glory, he will always be true to this grace and this call: he will make sure we are still with him at the end, regardless of the difficulties and struggles that challenge and threaten our faith and our obedience along the way. The enemy will attempt to destroy us and our faith. Our survival does not depend on us, but on God: God himself will:

Restore us – katartizo - to ‘mend’.

Make you strong – sterizo - to ‘establish’, to fix firmly, to render immovable. [The same verb is in verse 9 ‘standing firm’.]

Make you firm –sthenoo - to fill with strength.

Make you steadfast – themelioo – to consolidate, to lay a foundation.

This is the promise: neither the suffering nor the enemy can succeed in destroying those whom God has made his own. God’s mighty hand is over us. God’s grace reigns. God’s purpose for us will be accomplished. The suffering cannot thwart or undo God’s purpose for us. Rather, God strengthens us through the very suffering that the enemy intended for our destruction. He reaches right into our weakness, our fears, our failures, and stands us back up again, secure on the solid foundation of his grace. As he did with Peter [John 21].

Note: The words ‘after you have suffered a little while’ have been understood in two different ways:

Either [1] That after we have suffered a little, God will restore us, strengthen us, etc. This limits the suffering to specific times in life, after which God will restore, strengthen us etc.

Or [2] That after we have lived here on earth, with its suffering, then God takes us to his eternal glory. This sees the whole of life as ‘a little while’ during which we suffer, and during the whole of which, God restores, strengthens us etc.

The second way of understanding verse10 seems to fit in with what Peter has said in 1:5-7. There he taught us that God is keeping us safe for the salvation that will be revealed in the last time [verse 5]. In the meantime, we ‘suffer grief in all kinds of trials’ [verse 6], which is understood to be a process of refining and proving our faith in anticipation of the eternal glory [verse 7].

E. THE FINAL WORDS

Peter’s final words contain both an affirmation and an exhortation:

‘This is the true grace of God.’
‘Stand fast in it.’

In this he restates what he has already said in 5:9 in his instructions to resist the devil – ‘standing firm in the faith’.

Reflections:
[1] How has 5:6-10 challenged you?

 

 

 

[2] From Peter’s first letter, what are the most important things God has been teaching you?