In order for the elders to shepherd the flock, the younger men of the flock must show a spirit of respect through submission. The elders cannot function if the younger do not show their respect to their elders through submission. In the context of elders leading by example, the younger are to follow the example of the elders who have dedicated themselves to servicing the needs of others. It may have been that the young rose up against some of the elders because some of the elders had moved out of their ministry of serving the needs of the people to lording with commands. Peter, therefore, first corrected the lording of the elders, and then he corrected the young in that they must submit to the servanthood example of the elders. It is interesting to note that when elders start lording, the younger often start rebelling.
The wisdom of the younger is manifested by their desire to learn from the example of serving that is given by the shepherds. Autocratic shepherds will lead the church into a hierarchy of competition for power. But the elders’ leading the younger by example, trains the younger to be future shepherds who will also serve the flock.
A. A community of slaves:
The church is a community of slaves. Peter takes the submission of the younger to the service of the elders beyond the younger men. He does so by stating that “all of you be submissive to one another.”5:5 Paul also stated that we are to be “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ep 5:21). In this submission, we must not assume that one member has authority over other members. Reference is to our submission to one another’s service. The church is a community of slaves with dirty towels. It is a community of people who are going about looking for dirty feet to wash, not kingdoms to build. Slaves have no kingdoms. Lords are always in some effort to build one.
Elders lead by serving the needs of the body. The body exalts the shepherds, therefore, by submitting to their care and example of service. This is not a matter of who has power over others, but who is the greatest slave among the sheep. Concerning the organic function of ministry and submission thereof, we must always keep in mind the mandate of Jesus:
You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority over them. But it will not be so among you. But whoever desires to be great among you will be your servant (Mk 10:42,43).
Lords cannot exist without authority and kingdoms over which they can rule. It is for this reason that Jesus is our only Lord (Ep 4:4-6). He is our only Lord because “all authority has been given” to Him in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18). Some shepherds to whom Peter was writing were seeking to claim some of the lordship authority of Jesus. By doing so, they were seeking to submit others by the compulsion of command. Such behavior, however, is contrary to Jesus’ mandate for the leaders who serve among us. When individuals seek to be the slaves of the needs of others, then there is no problem with a thirst for authority. But when little men try to wear big hats, they are always blinded.
B. A community of the humble:
Servants are to “be clothed with humility.”5:5 The reason they should be so clothed is that “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble”5:5 (Js 4:6). And for this reason, every disciple must humble himself “under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt” us when we can handle His exaltation.5:6 Confucius was right: “Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.” In Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan wrote,
He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall,
Have God to be his guide.
Someone correctly said, “The hard way to learn humility is to act so foolishly as to be humiliated.” We must keep in mind that it is a truth of human behavior that if we humbly walk with God, we are sure to be exalted by Him before all men. Only the humble, therefore, can survive the exaltation of God.
C. A community of trust:
Christians trust in God’s care. If one has little faith in the care of God, then he will often cast few of his worries into the caring hand of God. In fact, we can determine if we really believe in God’s care for us by how often we cast our burdens into His care. Peter exhorts that we should be “casting all” our cares on Him.5:7 His assumption is, therefore, that the life of the disciple is to be lived totally under the comfort of God’s care for us.
It is not surprising that in a context where service, submission and humility are discussed, there is a statement concerning the casting of all our cares into the helping hand of God. The proud, arrogant and self-sufficient feel little need for the help of God. When one feels that he can do everything his own way, then he does not consider the help of God. The more one depends on himself, the less he depends on God. In this way, therefore, the life of a commanding lord and the life of a humble slave are entirely different. Those who have built themselves up with all the successes of life find it difficult to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.
D. A community of the cautious:
Because our “adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,”5:8 it is imperative that all Christians take seriously his threats. We should thus be on the watch for his tricks. A good study for every Christian is to learn how Satan works. We are very familiar with the behavior of Jesus, but usually very ignorant of how Satan works to take us down. When Peter exhorts us to “be sober, be vigilant,”5:8 he means that it is the responsibility of every disciple to understand how Satan works in order to devour us. We must know our enemy.
He “walks about … seeking.”5:8 It is Satan’s mission to seek and to devour. We must keep in mind that he has no power outside his realm of search. Jesus has bound this old serpent with the power of the gospel (Rv 20:1,2). Therefore, as long as one stays outside his realm of captivity, then Satan cannot of his own will touch the Christian.
In this context of submission and service, one places himself in the realm of Satan’s devouring by not humbling himself before God. The souls of the arrogant are always torn by the devouring teeth of the devil.
E. A community of faith:
We can “resist him” by “standing firm in the faith.”5:9 Peter uses a military word here that refers to resisting another military force. What James stated is true: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Js 4:6). We cannot say that we believe this passage, and at the same time, be fearful of walking through a graveyard. If we are afraid of spooks and goblins that are generated in our own imagination, then we are not standing firm in the faith. There is hypocrisy in the one who says that he is standing firm in the faith, and yet, is fearful of the senseless incantations of some voodoo priest. And while we seek to justify our imagined spooks and demons, we need to remember that man always has a problem of trying to be politically correct, and by doing so, we become spiritually incorrect. Philosophers call our sin irrational thinking. Our sociologists among us call sin cultural dysfunction. Our psychiatrists call sin social maladjustment. And then our psychologists call sin behavioral disorder. But the Bible calls sin to be sin.
We will continue to believe that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rm 8:31). There is almost a spirit of defiance in these words of Paul. After listing all the possibilities that might separate us from God, Paul concluded, “I am persuaded that …[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8:38,39).
It is spiritual immaturity not to feel the impact of the preceding statement of Paul. Paul added, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Ph 4:13). This means that one can overcome all his childhood fears of spooks and goblins and witches through the power of God that works in us (Ep 3:20; Ph 2:13; Cl 1:29). If our imagined demons still haunt our thinking, then we must continue to overcome such by the strength of Christ. We must continue in our minds to repent of past thinking that was formed according to the thinking of the world.
And so Peter concluded with the statement in reference to their struggles, “after you have suffered a while.”5:10 His meaning is that the suffering under which his readers were about to go would pass. He is not talking about the lifetime suffering of living as a disciple, but something specific in his readers’ future that would soon pass away. In other words, the wars of Rome against national Israel would soon pass. But the result of their suffering through these times of turmoil would be the perfection, establishment, strengthening and settling of their faith.5:10 What would happen would be the same as what James said to encourage his readers. They must understand that “the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:3). A tried faith is patient to wait on God’s deliverance from any trial. Therefore, “let patience have its perfect work so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing” (Js 1:4).
The example of Peter’s audience is applicable to the times in our lives when we must individually pass through times of struggle. While enduring struggle, we must always remember that it will eventually pass. We must always remember that struggle is producing patience in our character. In the body of this flesh “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven” (2 Co 5:2). However, we must be patient for the final coming of Jesus when he will relieve us of all suffering that is common with this fleshly body (Rv 21:4). We are, therefore, as John, who concluded the Revelation of encouragement to struggling Christians. We pray, “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20).
It was “through Silvanus, our faithful brother,”5:12 that Peter wrote the letter we call 1 Peter. Consider the fact that Peter was a young man when he was initially called by Jesus to be an apostle (Lk 6:13). This calling was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, which was about thirty-five years before these words were written. Peter, indeed, was an old man at this time. He was probably somewhere in his middle sixties. So it is understandable that Silvanus functioned as his stenographer to put his Spirit-inspired message into a Greek manuscript.
Peter had “written briefly,”5:12 though we wish he had written much more. But all his immediate readers needed at the time was a brief message of encouragement from the Holy Spirit that would spiritually empower them to make it through the brief time of suffering they must endure.
“She who is in Babylon”5:13 could possibly be a reference to the church in Babylon. But we would prefer that the pronoun “she” was a reference to his beloved wife whom he had led throughout the world since the time Jesus called him to be an apostle (See Mk 1:30,31). She was a faithful woman who followed Peter to the ends of the earth (See 1 Co 9:5).
We do not conclude that this was a reference to the church simply because the church is globally one body. Those to whom he was writing were a part of this universal body, and thus, it would have been misleading and denominational to assume that the body was divided because of the distance between Peter and his readers.
We assume that the pronoun “she” was a reference to Peter’s wife because of the personal reference to another individual in the context. This was “Mark my son.”5:13 This was not John Mark who was the cousin of Barnabas, and temporarily part of the team that left with Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first mission journey (Cl 4:10). Since Peter would have converted many where he was at the time of writing, this Mark could have been one of his converts, though we would question why he would single out only this one convert that his readers did not personally know. We could conclude, therefore, that this was actually the son of Peter, which son was in the presence of his aged father and mother in order to care for them. Peter wanted his readers to be reassured that he and his wife were cared for by their son at this evening time of their lives.
We have sometimes been too ecclesiastical and theological in our interpretation of what should be personal texts of the Bible. We forget that the inspired documents of the New Testament were written by real people in reference to real and personal people who were certainly not ecclesiastical and theological. The early Christians were people who were struggling through life and needed words of encouragement from the Holy Spirit. I have traveled throughout the world with and without my wife. When she is not in my company, the brethren always ask, “How is Martha?” Why would we not think that the brothers and sisters to whom Peter wrote would not be asking the same thing in reference to the wife of Peter, who had followed her husband from country to country for over thirty-five years. It would take a great deal of interpretive gymnastics to read Peter’s wife and son out of this context.
“Greet one another with a kiss of love.”5:14 Not to bind a custom of the day on the disciples, but to encourage them to continue with this most affectionate signal of fellowship, Peter enjoins on them an expression of their love for one another. We might conclude how far we have moved away from one another in our fellowship in comparing our distant handshake with this kiss of love. We remember when we lived in Brazil for many years where we learned that in every greeting men customarily hugged one another and the women kissed. It became a natural manner of greeting for us. Whenever we met a brother, the men hugged and the women kissed. When we returned to the states, and attended the first assembly of the saints we encountered, I hugged the men and Martha kissed the women upon greeting. The members took a step back in some shock. America was a culture of distant handshakes, not hugs and kisses. Regardless, “Peace be to you all who are in Christ.”5:14
[End of Lecture Series 111. The book is now available on the website www.africainternationa.org
Go to the Biblical Research Library, and download Book 67, Survivors.]