Chapter 5 is the final chapter in the book of 1 Peter. In the last 5 sessions of this series on 1 Peter, we meditated on the reward of Christ, holiness, love, submission and suffering. In this last chapter, we have a final word to bring it all together in the context of the church – a word to shepherds (those who are elders and overseers), and a word to the people of the church generally.
1. “Shepherd the Flock”
This is the title my Bible (NKJV) gives to this short section of 1 Peter. The text reads:
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
First, Peter reminds the elders of their shared hope in Christ – we are witnesses of the suffering of Christ, and partakers of His coming glory. With that in mind, Peter then gives instruction for the heart of a shepherd:
- Recognise that the flock belongs to God
- We serve as overseers (ie. It is a position of servanthood)
- NOT by compulsion, BUT willingly – we serve voluntarily and our service is given freely, not forced or with an attitude of resentment
- NOT for dishonest gain, BUT eagerly – our reward is not recognition of high position or talent, nor is it the praise of men. We are partakers of Christ’s coming glory and we serve eagerly as we look forward to His return and seek to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. The reward is in growing closer to God.
Finally, Peter explains that a shepherd, or leader in the church is NOT akin to a Lord, but rather, is an example to the flock. A lord manages affairs and has many servants beneath him to delegate tasks to. He protects his people with an army. The shepherd oversees his flock and knows each one. He protects the flock himself and leads them. A shepherd is more personally in touch with those he leads. 1 Timothy 3 gives an overview of the qualities expected in an overseer, and the fruit that should be seen in the way they lead their own family:
(v.2-7) – “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony with those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
1 Timothy 3, then reiterates these qualities and speaking about the example of a deacon’s life. Peter describes the Chief Shepherd, speaking of Jesus, who ultimately guides and protects His church. Jesus is the perfect example in His leadership – it was willing, eager, exemplary and God-focused. He loved us selflessly and desired for all to come to knowledge of Him. When He returns, He will share His crown of glory to those who love Him, and those who have obeyed Him.
2. Submission to God – Humility and Resisting the Devil
Peter finishes this first letter with two important comments:
- Submit to one another, and humble yourselves before God
- Be alert and on guard to resist the Devil
These aspects are vital to the protection of the church. Submission to leadership, and to one another breeds a culture of humility. As Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition of conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Humility recognises God’s strength, and is secure in identity. We can cast all our cares upon the Lord, knowing that He does indeed care for us, and will protect, provide and lavish His love and grace upon us.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” – [1 Peter 5:5-7]
There is much more than can be said about submission to leadership – it is part of character building, accountability and humility. My father once told me that, in my youth, I should go out and learn from as many people as possible. He also encouraged me to discern – to sift out the good parts and ignore the bad, and to always seek God first and test all things against His word. Part of this involves discernment of course, and part involves having a teachable spirit – to be able to change old habits, grow in discipline and allow sharpening of our character.
We need to recognise and resist the Devil! Satan is pretty smart and he uses enticing tools, specially catered to our weaknesses. Yet, when we are alert and sober in Christ – both physically and spiritually, we are equipped to recognise his schemes and resist them. He have the additional support of the church, and the enduring knowledge that Christ has complete victory.
“Be sober, vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – [1Peter 5:8-11]
One important defense and offensive against the Devil is identity. When I know my identity in God, I can clearly recognise the accusation of the devil. I am able to declare the truths that God speaks over me, and to declare His power and His love which has rescued and redeemed me. The devil cannot touch me, because I belong to Jesus and he cannot take me out of my Lord’s hand. Revelation 12:10-11 is another favourite verse of mine:
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
1 Peter ends with further encouragement. I love reading the endings of the letters in the New Testament because they resound with a sincere love for God, and for all the brethren. Even when letters rebuke a church or group of people, the writer remembers to encourage the church in Christ. First and foremost, last but not in any means least, love is the foundation.
“By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him. I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does my Mark my son. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” – [1 Peter 5:12-14]
May we all grow in our love for Christ, and our love for each other.