Elders exhorted and encouraged. (1-4) Younger Christians are to submit to their elders, and to yield with humility and patience to God, and to be sober, watchful, and stedfast in faith. (5-9) Prayers for their growth and establishment. (10-14)
Verses 1-4 The apostle Peter does not command, but exhorts. He does not claim power to rule over all pastors and churches. It was the peculiar honour of Peter and a few more, to be witnesses of Christ's sufferings; but it is the privilege of all true Christians to partake of the glory that shall be revealed. These poor, dispersed, suffering Christians, were the flock of God, redeemed to God by the great Shepherd, living in holy love and communion, according to the will of God. They are also dignified with the title of God's heritage or clergy; his peculiar lot, chosen for his own people, to enjoy his special favour, and to do him special service. Christ is the chief Shepherd of the whole flock and heritage of God. And all faithful ministers will receive a crown of unfading glory, infinitely better and more honourable than all the authority, wealth, and pleasure of the world.
Verses 5-9 Humility preserves peace and order in all Christian churches and societies; pride disturbs them. Where God gives grace to be humble, he will give wisdom, faith, and holiness. To be humble, and subject to our reconciled God, will bring greater comfort to the soul than the gratification of pride and ambition. But it is to be in due time; not in thy fancied time, but God's own wisely appointed time. Does he wait, and wilt not thou? What difficulties will not the firm belief of his wisdom, power, and goodness get over! Then be humble under his hand. Cast "all you care;" personal cares, family cares, cares for the present, and cares for the future, for yourselves, for others, for the church, on God. These are burdensome, and often very sinful, when they arise from unbelief and distrust, when they torture and distract the mind, unfit us for duties, and hinder our delight in the service of God. The remedy is, to cast our care upon God, and leave every event to his wise and gracious disposal. Firm belief that the Divine will and counsels are right, calms the spirit of a man. Truly the godly too often forget this, and fret themselves to no purpose. Refer all to God's disposal. The golden mines of all spiritual comfort and good are wholly his, and the Spirit itself. Then, will he not furnish what is fit for us, if we humbly attend on him, and lay the care of providing for us, upon his wisdom and love? The whole design of Satan is to devour and destroy souls. He always is contriving whom he may insnare to eternal ruin. Our duty plainly is, to be sober; to govern both the outward and the inward man by the rules of temperance. To be vigilant; suspicious of constant danger from this spiritual enemy, watchful and diligent to prevent his designs. Be stedfast, or solid, by faith. A man cannot fight upon a quagmire, there is no standing without firm ground to tread upon; this faith alone furnishes. It lifts the soul to the firm advanced ground of the promises, and fixes it there. The consideration of what others suffer, is proper to encourage us to bear our share in any affliction; and in whatever form Satan assaults us, or by whatever means, we may know that our brethren experience the same.
Verses 10-14 In conclusion, the apostle prays to God for them, as the God of all grace. Perfect implies their progress towards perfection. Stablish imports the curing of our natural lightness and inconstancy. Strengthen has respect to the growth of graces, especially where weakest and lowest. Settle signifies to fix upon a sure foundation, and may refer to Him who is the Foundation and Strength of believers. These expressions show that perseverance and progress in grace are first to be sought after by every Christian. The power of these doctrines on the hearts, and the fruits in the lives, showed who are partakers of the grace of God. The cherishing and increase of Christian love, and of affection one to another, is no matter of empty compliment, but the stamp and badge of Jesus Christ on his followers. Others may have a false peace for a time, and wicked men may wish for it to themselves and to one another; but theirs is a vain hope, and will come to nought. All solid peace is founded on Christ, and flows from him.
1 Peter 5:1-14 . EXHORTATIONS TO ELDERS, JUNIORS, AND ALL IN GENERAL. PARTING PRAYER. CONCLUSION.
1. elders--alike in office and age ( 1 Peter 5:5 ).
I . . . also an elder--To put one's self on a level with those whom we exhort, gives weight to one's exhortations (compare 2 John 1:1 2 John 1:2 ). Peter, in true humility for the Gospel's sake, does not put forward his apostleship here, wherein he presided over the elders. In the apostleship the apostles have no successors, for "the signs of an apostle" have not been transmitted. The presidents over the presbyters and deacons, by whatever name designated, angel, bishop, or moderator, &c., though of the same ORDER as the presbyters, yet have virtually succeeded to a superintendency of the Church analogous to that exercised by the apostles (this superintendency and priority existed from the earliest times after the apostles [TERTULLIAN]); just as the Jewish synagogue (the model which the Church followed) was governed by a council of presbyters, presided over by one of themselves, "the chief ruler of the synagogue." (Compare VITRINGA [Synagogue and Temple, Part II, chs. 3 and 7]).
witness--an eye-witness of Christ's sufferings, and so qualified to exhort you to believing patience in suffering for well-doing after His example ( 1 Peter 4:19 , 2:20 ). This explains the "therefore" inserted in the oldest manuscripts, "I therefore exhort," resuming exhortation from 1 Peter 4:19 . His higher dignity as an apostle is herein delicately implied, as eye-witnessing was a necessary qualification for apostleship: compare Peter's own speeches, Acts 1:21 Acts 1:22 , 2:32 , 10:39 .
also--implying the righteous recompense corresponding to the sufferings.
partaker of the glory--according to Christ's promise; an earnest of which was given in the transfiguration.
2. Feed--Greek, "Tend as a shepherd," by discipline and doctrine. Lead, feed, heed: by prayer, exhortation, government, and example. The dignity is marked by the term "elder"; the duties of the office, to tend or oversee, by "bishop." Peter has in mind Christ's injunction to him, "Feed (tend) My sheep . . . Feed (pasture) My lambs" ( John 21:16 ). He invites the elders to share with him the same duty (compare Acts 20:28 ). The flock is Christ's.
which is among you--While having a concern for all the Church, your special duty is to feed that portion of it "which is among you."
oversight--Greek, "bishopric," or duty of bishops, that is, overseer.
not by constraint--Necessity is laid upon them, but willingness prevents it being felt, both in undertaking and in fulfilling the duty [BENGEL]. "He is a true presbyter and minister of the counsel of God who doeth and teacheth the things of the Lord, being not accounted righteous merely because he is a presbyter, but because righteous, chosen into the presbytery" [CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA].
willingly--One oldest manuscript, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, add, "as God would have it to be done" ( Romans 8:27 ).
not for filthy lucre--( Isaiah 56:11 , Titus 1:7 ).
of a ready mind--promptly and heartily, without selfish motive of gain-seeking, as the Israelites gave their services willing-heartedly to the sanctuary.
3. being lords--Greek, "lording it": implying pride and oppression. "Not that we have dominion over your faith."
God's heritage--Greek, "the inheritances," that is, the portions of the Church committed severally to your pastoral charge [BENGEL]. It is explained by "the flock" in the next clause. However, in 1 Peter 5:2 , "flock of God which is among you," answering to "(God's) heritages" (plural to express the sheep who are God's portion and inheritance, Deuteronomy 32:9 ) committed to you, favors English Version. The flock, as one whole, is God's heritage, or flock in the singular. Regarded in relation to its component sheep, divided among several pastors, it is in the plural "heritages." Compare Acts 1:17 Acts 1:25 , "part" (the same Greek). BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, wrote to Pope Eugene, "Peter could not give thee what he had not: what he had he gave: the care over the Church, not dominion."
ensamples--the most effective recommendation of precept ( 1 Timothy 4:12 ). Titus 2:7 , "patterns." So Jesus. "A monstrosity it is to see the highest rank joined with the meanest mind, the first seat with the lowest life, a grandiloquent tongue with a lazy life, much talking with no fruit" [BERNARD].
4. And--"And so": as the result of "being ensamples" ( 1 Peter 5:3 ).
chief Shepherd--the title peculiarly Christ's own, not Peter's or the pope's.
when . . . shall appear--Greek, "be manifested" ( Colossians 3:4 ). Faith serves the Lord while still unseen.
crown--Greek, "stephanos," a garland of victory, the prize in the Grecian games, woven of ivy, parsley, myrtle, olive, or oak. Our crown is distinguished from theirs in that it is "incorruptible" and "fadeth not away," as the leaves of theirs soon did. "The crown of life." Not a kingly "crown" (a different Greek word, diadema): the prerogative of the Lord Jesus ( Revelation 19:12 ).
glory--Greek, "the glory," namely, to be then revealed ( 1 Peter 5:1 , 1 Peter 4:13 ).
that fadeth not away--Greek, "amaranthine" (compare 1 Peter 1:4 ).
5. ye younger--The deacons were originally the younger men, the presbyters older; but subsequently as presbyter expressed the office of Church ruler or teacher, so Greek "neoteros" means not (as literally) young men in age, but subordinate ministers and servants of the Church. So Christ uses the term "younger." For He explains it by "he that doth serve," literally, "he that ministereth as a deacon"; just as He explains "the greatness" by "he that is chief," literally, "he that ruleth," the very word applied to the bishops or presbyters. So "the young men" are undoubtedly the deacons of the Church of Jerusalem, of whom, as being all Hebrews, the Hellenistic Christians subsequently complained as neglecting their Grecian widows, whence arose the appointment of the seven others, Hellenistic deacons. So here, Peter, having exhorted the presbyters, or elders, not to lord it over those committed to them, adds, Likewise ye neoters or younger, that is, subordinate ministers and deacons, submit cheerfully to the command of the elders [MOSHEIM]. There is no Scripture sanction for "younger" meaning laymen in general (as ALFORD explains): its use in this sense is probably of later date. The "all of you" that follows, refers to the congregation generally; and it is likely that, like Paul, Peter should notice, previous to the general congregation, the subordinate ministers as well as the presbyters, writing as he did to the same region (Ephesus), and to confirm the teaching of the apostle of the Gentiles.
Yea--to sum up all my exhortations in one.
be subject--omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions, but TISCHENDORF quotes the Vatican manuscript for it. Then translate, "Gird ( 1 Peter 1:13 , 4:1 ) fast on humility (lowliness of mind) to one another." The verb is literally, "tie on with a fast knot" [WAHL]. Or, "gird on humility as the slave dress (encomboma)": as the Lord girded Himself with a towel to perform a servile office of humility and love, washing His disciples' feet, a scene in which Peter had played an important part, so that he would naturally have it before his mind. Compare similarly 1 Peter 5:2 with John 21:15-17 . Clothing was the original badge of man's sin and shame. Pride caused the need of man's clothing, and pride still reigns in dress; the Christian therefore clothes himself in humility ( 1 Peter 3:3 1 Peter 3:4 ). God provides him with the robe of Christ's righteousness, in order to receive which man must be stripped of pride.
God resisteth the proud--Quoted, as James 4:6 , from Proverbs 3:34 . Peter had James before his mind, and gives his Epistle inspired sanction. Compare 1 Peter 5:9 with James 4:7 , literally, "arrayeth Himself against." Other sins flee from God: pride alone opposeth itself to God; therefore, God also in turn opposes Himself to the proud [GERHARD in ALFORD]. Humility is the vessel of all graces [AUGUSTINE].
6. under the mighty hand--afflicting you ( 1 Peter 3:15 ): "accept" His chastisements, and turn to Him that smiteth you. He depresses the proud and exalts the humble.
in due time--Wait humbly and patiently for His own fit time. One oldest manuscript and Vulgate read, "In the season of visitation," namely, His visitation in mercy.
7. Casting--once for all: so the Greek aorist.
care--"anxiety? The advantage flowing from humbling ourselves under God's hand ( 1 Peter 5:6 ) is confident reliance on His goodness. Exemption from care goes along with humble submission to God.
careth for you--literally "respecting you." Care is a burden which faith casts off the man on his God. Compare Psalms 22:10 , 37:5 , 55:22 , to which Peter alludes; Luke 12:22 Luke 12:37 , Philippians 4:6 .
careth--not so strong a Greek word as the previous Greek "anxiety."
8. Peter has in mind Christ's warning to himself to watch against Satan, from forgetting which he fell.
Be sober . . . vigilant--"Care," that is, anxiety, will intoxicate the soul; therefore be sober, that is, self-restrained. Yet, lest this freedom from care should lead any to false security, he adds, "Be vigilant" against "your adversary." Let this be your "care." God provides, therefore do not be anxious. The devil seeks, therefore watch [BENGEL].
because--omitted in the oldest manuscripts The broken and disjointed sentences are more fervid and forcible. LUCIFER OF CAGLIARI reads as English Version.
adversary--literally, "opponent in a court of justice" ( Zechariah 3:1 ). "Satan" means opponent. "Devil," accuser or slanderer ( Revelation 12:10 ). "The enemy" ( Matthew 13:39 ). "A murderer fro m the beginning" ( John 8:44 ). He counteracts the Gospel and its agents. "The tempter."
roaring lion--implying his violent and insatiable thirst for prey as a hungry lion. Through man's sin he got God's justice on his side against us; but Christ, our Advocate, by fulfilling all the demands of justice for us, has made our redemption altogether consistent with justice.
walketh about--( Job 1:7 , 2:2 ). So the children of the wicked one cannot rest. Evil spirits are in 2 Peter 2:4 , Jude 1:6 , said to be already in chains of darkness and in hell. This probably means that this is their doom finally: a doom already begun in part; though for a time they are permitted to roam in the world (of which Satan is prince), especially in the dark air that surrounds the earth. Hence perhaps arises the miasma of the air at times, as physical and moral evil are closely connected.
devour--entangle in worldly "care" ( 1 Peter 5:7 ) and other snares, so as finally to destroy. Compare Revelation 12:15 Revelation 12:16 .
9. ( Luke 4:13 , Ephesians 6:11-17 , 4:7 .)
steadfast--Compare established in the truth," 2 Peter 1:12 . Satan's power exists only in respect to the unbelieving; the faithful he cannot hurt ( 1 John 5:18 ). Faith gives strength to prayer, the great instrument against the foe ( James 1:6 , &c.).
knowing, &c.--"encouragement not to faint in afflictions": your brethren suffer the same; nothing beyond the common lot of Christians befalls you ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ). It is a sign of God's favor rather than displeasure, that Satan is allowed to harass you, as he did Job. Your fellow Christians have the same battle of faith and prayer against Satan.
are--are being accomplished according to the appointment of God.
in the world--lying in the wicked one, and therefore necessarily the scene of "tribulation" ( John 16:33 ).
10. Comforting assurance that God will finally "perfect" His work of "grace" in them, after they have undergone the necessary previous suffering.
But--Only do you watch and resist the foe: God will perform the rest [BENGEL].
of all grace--(Compare 1 Peter 4:10 ). The God to whom as its source all grace is to be referred; who in grace completes what in grace He began. He from the first "called (so the oldest manuscripts read for "us") unto (with a view to) glory." He will not let His purpose fall short of completion. If He does so in punishing, much more in grace. The three are fitly conjoined: the call, the glory to which we are called, and the way (suffering); the fourth is the ground of the calling, namely, the grace of God in Christ.
by--Greek, "in." Christ is He in virtue of whom, and in union with whom, believers are called to glory. The opposite is "in the world" ( 1 Peter 5:9 , John 16:33 ).
after that ye have suffered--Join to "called you": suffering, as a necessary preliminary to glory, was contemplated in God's calling.
a while--short and inconsiderable, as compared with the glory.
perfect, &c.--The two oldest manuscripts, and Vulgate and Coptic versions, read, "shall perfect (so that there shall be nothing defective in you), stablish, strengthen," and omit "settle," literally, "ground," or "fix on a foundation." ALFORD reads it in spite of the oldest manuscripts The authority of the latter I prefer; moreover the climax seems to require rather a verb of completing the work of grace, than, as the Greek means, founding it. The Greek has, "shall HIMSELF perfect you": though you are called on to watch and resist the foe, God Himself must really do all in and through you. The same God who begins must Himself complete the work. The Greek for "stablish" (so as to be "steadfast in the faith," 1 Peter 5:9 ) is the same as "strengthen," Luke 22:32 . Peter has in mind Christ's charge, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." His exhortation accords with his name Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." "Stablish," so as not to waver. "Strengthen" with might in the inner man by His Spirit, against the foe.
11. To him--emphatic. To Him and Him alone: not to ourselves. Compare
glory and--omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
dominion--Greek, "the might" shown in so "perfecting," you, 1 Peter 5:10 .
12. Silvanus--Silas, the companion of Paul and Timothy: a suitable messenger by whom to confirm, as Peter here does, Paul's doctrine of "the true grace of God" in the same churches (compare 2 Peter 3:16 ). We never meet with Silvanus as Paul's companion after Paul's last journey to Jerusalem. His connection with Peter was plainly subsequent to that journey.
as I suppose--Join "faithful unto you [STEIGER], as I suppose." Silvanus may have stood in a close relation to the churches in Asia, perhaps having taken the oversight of them after Paul's departure, and had afterwards gone to Peter, by whom he is now sent back to them with this Epistle. He did not know, by positive observation, Silvanus' faithfulness to them; he therefore says, "faithful to you, as I suppose," from the accounts I hear; not expressing doubt. ALFORD joins "I have written unto you," which the Greek order favors. The seeming uncertainty, thus, is not as to Silvanus' faithfulness, which strongly marked by the Greek article, but as to whether he or some other would prove to be the bearer of the letter, addressed as it was to five provinces, all of which Silvanus might not reach: "By Silvanus, that faithful brother, as expect, I have Written to you" [BIRKS].
briefly--Greek, "in few (words)," as compared with the importance of the subject ( Hebrews 13:22 ).
exhorting--not so much formally teaching doctrines, which could not be done in so "few words."
testifying--bearing my testimony in confirmation (so the Greek compound verb implies) of that truth which ye have already heard from Paul and Silas ( 1 John 2:27 ).
that this--of which I have just written, and of which Paul before testified to you (whose testimony, now that he was no longer in those regions, was called in question probably by some; compare 2 Peter 3:15 2 Peter 3:16 ). 2 Peter 1:12 , "the present truth," namely, the grace formerly promised by the prophets, and now manifested to you. "Grace" is the keynote of Paul's doctrine which Peter now confirms ( Ephesians 2:5 Ephesians 2:8 ). Their sufferings for the Gospel made them to need some attestation and confirmation of the truth, that they should not fall back from it.
wherein ye stand--The oldest manuscripts read imperatively, "Stand ye." Literally, "into which (having been already admitted, 1 Peter 1:8 1 Peter 1:21 , 1 Peter 2:7 1 Peter 2:8 1 Peter 2:9 ) stand (therein)." Peter seems to have in mind Paul's words ( Romans 5:2 , 1 Corinthians 15:1 ). "The grace wherein we stand must be true, and our standing in it true also" [BENGEL]. Compare in "He began his Epistle with grace ( 1 Peter 1:2 ), he finishes it with grace, he has besprinkled the middle with grace, that in every part he might teach that the Church is not saved but by grace."
13. The . . . at Babylon--ALFORD, BENGEL, and others translate, "She that is elected together with you in Babylon," namely, Peter's wife, whom he led about with him in his missionary journeys. Compare 1 Peter 3:7 , "heirs together of the grace of life." But why she should be called "elected together with you in Babylon," as if there had been no Christian woman in Babylon besides, is inexplicable on this view. In English Version the sense is clear: "That portion of the whole dispersion ( 1 Peter 1:1 , Greek), or Church of Christianized Jews, with Gentile converts, which resides in Babylon." As Peter and John were closely associated, Peter addresses the Church in John's peculiar province, Asia, and closes with "your co-elect sister Church at Babylon saluteth you"; and John similarly addresses the "elect lady," that is, the Church in Babylon, and closes with "the children of thine elect sister (the Asiatic Church) greet thee"; to Second John). ERASMUS explains, "Mark who is in the place of a son to me": compare Acts 12:12 , implying Peter's connection with Mark; whence the mention of him in connection with the Church at Babylon, in which he labored under Peter before he went to Alexandria is not unnatural. PAPIAS reports from the presbyter John [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39], that Mark was interpreter of Peter, recording in his Gospel the facts related to him by Peter. Silvanus or Silas had been substituted for John Mark, as Paul's companion, because of Mark's temporary unfaithfulness. But now Mark restored is associated with Silvanus, Paul's companion, in Peter's esteem, as Mark was already reinstated in Paul's esteem. That Mark had a spiritual connection with the Asiatic' churches which Peter addresses, and so naturally salutes them, appears from 2 Timothy 4:11 , Colossians 4:10 .
Babylon--The Chaldean Babylon on the Euphrates. ON THE PLACE OF WRITING this Epistle, in proof that Rome is not meant as Papists assert; compare LIGHTFOOT sermon. How unlikely that in a friendly salutation the enigmatical title of Rome given in prophecy (John, Revelation 17:5 ), should be used! Babylon was the center from which the Asiatic dispersion whom Peter addresses was derived. PHILO [The Embassy to Gaius, 36] and JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 15.2. 2 23.12] inform us that Babylon contained a great many Jews in the apostolic age (whereas those at Rome were comparatively few, about eight thousand [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 17.11]); so it would naturally be visited by the apostle of the circumcision. It was the headquarters of those whom he had so successfully addressed on Pentecost, Acts 2:9 , Jewish "Parthians . . . dwellers in Mesopotamia" (the Parthians were then masters of Mesopotamian Babylon); these he ministered to in person. His other hearers, the Jewish "dwellers in Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia," he now ministers to by letter. The earliest distinct authority for Peter's martyrdom at Rome is DIONYSIUS, bishop of Corinth, in the latter half of the second century. The desirableness of representing Peter and Paul, the two leading apostles, as together founding the Church of the metropolis, seems to have originated the tradition. CLEMENT OF ROME [First Epistle to the Corinthians, 4.5], often quoted for, is really against it. He mentions Paul and Peter together, but makes it as a distinguishing circumstance of Paul, that he preached both in the East and West, implying that Peter never was in the West. In 2 Peter 1:14 , he says, "I must shortly put off this tabernacle," implying his martyrdom was near, yet he makes no allusion to Rome, or any intention of his visiting it.
14. kiss of charity-- Romans 16:16 , "an holy kiss": the token of love to God and the brethren. Love and holiness are inseparable. Compare the instance, Acts 20:37 .
Peace--Peter's closing salutation; as Paul's is, "Grace be with you," though he accompanies it with "peace be to the brethren." "Peace" (flowing from salvation) was Christ's own salutation after the resurrection, and from Him Peter derives it.
be with you all that are in Christ Jesus--The oldest manuscripts omit "Jesus." In Ephesians 6:24 , addressed to the same region, the same limitation of the salutation occurs, whence, perhaps, Peter here adopts it. Contrast, "Be with you all," Romans 16:24 , 1 Corinthians 16:23 .