1 Peter 5:1
In exhorting pastors to their duty, he points out especially three vices which are found to prevail much, even sloth, desire of gain, and lust for power. In opposition to the first vice he sets alacrity or a willing attention; to the second, liberality; to the third, moderation and meekness, by which they are to keep themselves in their own rank or station.
He then says that pastors ought not to exercise care over the flock of the Lord, as far only as they are constrained; for they who seek to do no more than what constraint compels them, do their work formally and negligently. Hence he would have them to do willingly what they do, as those who are really devoted to their work. To correct avarice, he bids them to perform their office with a ready mind; for whosoever has not this end in view, to spend himself and his labor disinterestedly and gladly in behalf of the Church, is not a minister of Christ, but a slave to his own stomach and his purse. The third vice which he condemns is a lust for exercising power or dominion. But it may be asked, what kind of power does he mean? This, as it seems to me, may be gathered from the opposite clause, in which he bids them to be examples to the flock. It is the same as though he had said that they are to preside for this end, to be eminent in holiness, which cannot be, except they humbly subject themselves and their life to the same common rule. What stands opposed to this virtue is tyrannical pride, when the pastor exempts himself from all subjection, and tyrannizes over the Church. It was for this that Ezekiel condemned the false prophets, that is, that they ruled cruelly and tyrannically. (Eze_34:4.) Christ also condemned the Pharisees, because they laid intolerable burdens on the shoulders of the people which they would not touch, no, not with a finger. (Mat_23:4.) This imperious rigour, then, which ungodly pastors exercise over the Church, cannot be corrected, except their authority be restrained, so that they may rule in such a way as to afford an example of a godly life.
1The elders By this name he designates pastors and all those who are appointed for the government of the Church. But they called them presbyters or elders for honor’s sake, not because they were all old in age, but because they were principally chosen from the aged, for old age for the most part has more prudence, gravity, and experience. But as sometimes hoariness is not wisdom, according to a Greek proverb, and as young men are found more fit, such as Timothy, these were also usually called presbyters, after having been chosen into that order. Since Peter calls himself in like manner a presbyter, it appears that it was a common name, which is still more evident from many other passages. Moreover, by this title he secured for himself more authority, as though he had said that he had a right to admonish pastors, because he was one of themselves, for there ought to be mutual liberty between colleagues. But if he had the right of primacy he would have claimed it; and this would have been most suitable on the present occasion. But though he was an Apostle, he yet knew that authority was by no means delegated to him over his colleagues, but that on the contrary he was joined with the rest in the participation of the same office.
A witness of the sufferings of Christ This may be explained of doctrine, yet I prefer to regard it as referring to his own life. At the same time both may be admitted; but I am more disposed to embrace the latter view, because these two clauses will be more in harmony, — that Peter speaks of the sufferings of Christ in his own flesh, and that he would be also a partaker of his glory. For the passage agrees with that of Paul, “If we suffer together, we shall also reign together.” Besides, it avails much to make us believe his words, that he gave a proof of his faith by enduring the cross. For it hence appears evident that he spoke in earnest; and the Lord, by thus proving his people, seals as it were their ministry, that it might have more honor and reverence among men. Peter, then, had probably this in view, so that he might be heard as the faithful minister of Christ, a proof of which he gave in the persecutions he had suffered, and in the hope which he had of future life.
But we must observe that Peter confidently declares that he would be a partaker of that glory which was not yet revealed; for it is the character of faith to acquiesce in hidden blessings.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:1. The elders which are among you] Some of the better MSS. present the reading The elders therefore among you. If we adopt this reading we have the latent sequence of thought in the idea suggested by the word “well-doing” in chap. 4:19, or by the “judgment” of chap. 4:17. The work of the elders was to be directed to strengthen men in the one, to prepare them for the other. It is obvious that the Apostle addresses those who are “elders” in the special sense of the word, as in Act_11:30, Act_15:22, Act_20:17. The last passage shews, as compared with Act_20:28, that the term was interchangeable with “Bishops.” See also Tit_1:5, Tit_1:7, and the notes on verse 2.
who am also an elder] If the word was used in its official sense in the first clause it cannot well be taken in any other sense here. The Apostle, with a profound humility, strikingly in contrast with the supremacy claimed by his successors, puts himself, as a fellow elder, on a level with the elders to whom he writes, with duties to be fulfilled in the same spirit, subject to the same conditions.
a witness of the sufferings of Christ] The words bring out the one point on which he lays stress as distinguishing himself from others. He was in a special sense a “witness” of the actual sufferings of the man Christ Jesus (Act_1:8-22, Act_13:31), while they were partakers of those sufferings as reproduced in the experience of His people. As in chap. 1:11, 4:13, the thought of those sufferings leads, in immediate sequence, to that of the glory which is their ultimate issue. The Greek word for “partaker” (literally, a joint partaker, a fellow-sharer with you) implies that he is, as before, dwelling on what he has in common with those to whom he writes (comp. Php_1:7). Some interpreters of note have seen, even in the description which he gives of himself as a “witness,” not that which was distinctive, but the work which he had in common with others, of bearing his testimony that Christ had suffered, and that His servants also must therefore expect suffering.
The elders which are among you I exhort. The Vatican and Alexandrine Manuscripts omit the article, and insert “therefore” (the Sinaitic gives both), reading, “Elders, therefore, among you I exhort.” The solemn thoughts of the last chapter, the coming judgment, the approach of persecution, the necessity of perseverance in well-doing, suggest the exhortation; hence the “therefore.” The context shows that the apostle is using the word “elder” (πρεσβύτερος, presbyter) in its official sense, though its original meaning was also in his thoughts, as appears by 1Pe_5:5. We first meet with the word in the Old Testament (Exo_3:16, Exo_3:18; Exo_24:9; Num_11:16; Jos_20:4, etc.). Used originally with reference to age, it soon became a designation of office. Very early in the history of the Christian Church we meet with the same title. It occurs first in Act_11:30. The Christians of Antioch make a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and send their alms by the hand of Barnabas and Saul to the elders of the Jerusalem Church. We read several times of these elders in Acts xv. as associated with the apostles in the consideration of the great question of the circumcision of Gentile Christians; they joined with St. James in the official reception of St. Paul at his last visit to Jerusalem (Act_21:18). It appears, then, that the Christian presbyterate originated in the mother Church of Jerusalem. It was soon introduced into the daughter Churches; the apostles Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every Church during the first missionary journey (Act_14:23); and the various notices scattered over the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles imply the early establishment of the office throughout the Church. Who am also an elder ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος. St. Peter, though holding the very highest rank in the Church as an apostle of Christ, one of those who were to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat_19:28), claims no supremacy; he simply designates himself as a brother presbyter. So also St. John (2Jn_1:1; 3Jn_1:1). He exhorts the presbyters as a brother, and grounds his exhortation on community of office. The absence of any note of distinction between bishops and presbyters is, so far, an indication of the early date of this Epistle, as against Hilgenfeld and others.
And a witness of the sufferings of Christ. This was his one distinction above those whom he addresses. Like St. John, he declared unto them that which he had heard, which he had seen with his eyes. He had seen the Lord bound and delivered into the hands of wicked men; probably he had watched his last sufferings among them which stood afar off. And also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. The thought of the sufferings of Christ leads on to the thought of the future glory. Perhaps St. Peter was also thinking of the Lord’s promise to himself, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (Joh_13:36).
1 Peter 5:1
The elders which are among you I exhort – The word “elder” means, properly, “one who is old;” but it is frequently used in the New Testament as applicable to the officers of the church; probably because aged persons were at first commonly appointed to these offices. See Act_11:30, note; Act_14:23, note; Act_15:2, note. There is evidently an allusion here to the fact that such persons were selected on account of their age, because in the following verses (1Pe_5:4) the apostle addresses particularly the younger. It is worthy of remark, that he here refers only to one class of ministers. He does not speak of three “orders,” of “bishops, priests, and deacons;” and the evidence from the passage here is quite strong that there were no such orders in the churches of Asia Minor, to which this Epistle was directed. It is also worthy of remark, that the word “exhort” is here used. The language which Peter uses is not that of stern and arbitrary command; it is that of kind and mild Christian exhortation. Compare the notes at Phm_1:8-9.
Who am also an elder – Greek: “a fellow-presbyter,” (συμπρεσβύτερος sumpresbuteros.) This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means that he was a co-presbyter with them; and he makes this one of the grounds of his exhortation to them. He does not put it on the ground of his apostolical authority; or urge it because he was the vicegerent of Christ; or because he was the head of the church; or because he had any pre-eminence over others in any way. Would he have used this language if he had been the “head of the church” on earth? Would he if he supposed that the distinction between apostles and other ministers was to be perpetuated? Would he if he believed that there were to be distinct orders of clergy? The whole drift of this passage is adverse to such a supposition.
And a witness of the sufferings of Christ – Peter was indeed a witness of the sufferings of Christ when on his trial, and doubtless also when he was scourged and mocked, and when he was crucified. After his denial of his Lord, he wept bitterly, and evidently then followed him to the place where he was crucified, and, in company with others, observed with painful solicitude the last agonies of his Saviour. It is not, so far as I know, expressly said in the Gospels that Peter was pre sent at the crucifixion of the Saviour; but it is said Luk_23:49 that “all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things,” and nothing is more probable than that Peter was among them. His warm attachment to his Master, and his recent bitter repentance for having denied him, would lead him to follow him to the place of his death; for after the painful act of denying him he would not be likely to expose himself to the charge of neglect, or of any want of love again. His own solemn declaration here makes it certain that he was present. He alludes to it now, evidently because it qualified him to exhort those whom he addressed. It would be natural to regard with special respect one who had actually seen the Saviour in his last agony, and nothing would be more impressive than an exhortation falling from the lips of such a man. A son would be likely to listen with great respect to any suggestions which should be made by one who had seen his father or mother die. The impression which Peter had of that scene he would desire to have transferred to those whom he addressed, that by a lively view of the sufferings of their Saviour they might be excited to fidelity in his cause.
And a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed – Another reason to make his exhortation impressive and solemn. He felt that he was an heir of life. He was about to partake of the glories of heaven. Looking forward, as they did also, to the blessed world before him and them, he had a right to exhort them to the faithful performance of duty. Anyone, who is himself an heir of salvation, may appropriately exhort his fellow-Christians to fidelity in the service of their common Lord.
1 Peter 5:2
2Feed the flock of God We hence learn what the word presbyter imports, even that it includes the office of feeding. It is for a far different end that the Pope makes presbyters, even that they may daily slay Christ, there being no mention made of feeding in their ordination. Let us then remember to distinguish between the institution of Christ and the confusion of the Pope, it being as different as light is from darkness. Let us also bear in mind the definition given of the word; for the flock of Christ cannot be fed except with pure doctrine, which is alone our spiritual food.
Hence pastors are not mute hypocrites, nor those who spread their own figments, which, like deadly poison, destroy the souls of men.
The words, as much as it is in you, mean the same as though he had said, “Apply all your strength to this very thing, and whatever power God has conferred on you.” The old interpreter has given this rendering, “Which is among you;” and this may be the sense of the words: more correct, however, is the rendering of Erasmus, which I have followed, though I do not reject nor disapprove of the other.
The flock of God, or, of the Lord, or, of Christ: it matters little which you take, for the three readings are found in different copies.
Taking the oversight, or, discharging the office of a bishop. Erasmus renders the words, “Taking care of it,” (curam illius agentes) but as the Greek word is ἐπισκοποῦντες I doubt not but that Peter meant to set forth the office and title of the episcopate. We may learn also from other parts of Scripture that these two names, bishop and presbyter, are synonymous. He then shews how they were rightly to perform the pastoral office, though the word ἐπισκοπεῖν generally means to preside or to oversee. What I have rendered “not constraintally,” is literally, “not necessarily;” for when we act according to what necessity prescribes, we proceed in our work slowly and frigidly, as it were by constraint.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:2. feed the flock of God] The word for “feed,” here as elsewhere, implies the whole work of the shepherd—guiding, directing, protecting, as well as supplying food (comp. Luk_17:7; Joh_21:16; Act_20:28; 1Co_9:7). The shepherd’s work had been from a very early period a parable of that of rulers and of teachers. Kings were to Homer the “shepherds of the people” (ποίμενες λαῶν). David was taken from the sheepfold to feed Israel as the flock of Jehovah (Psa_78:70, Psa_78:71). The sin of the kings and rulers of Judah had been that they did not feed the flock, but scattered and destroyed it (Jer_23:1-4; Eze_34:2-31). In St Peter’s use of the word we note a reproduction of the words that had fallen on his ears with a three-fold, yet varied, iteration, “Feed my sheep” (Joh_21:16). The comprehensiveness of the word must not be lost sight of. It includes more than preaching or teaching, and takes in the varied duties of what we rightly call the pastoral office. In the words “the flock of God” men are tacitly reminded who is the Chief Shepherd whom they serve, and to whom they will have to render an account (comp. Act_20:28). It may be noted as a characteristic difference that in the Old Testament the shepherds of the people are always the civil rulers of the nation (e.g. Psa_78:71; Eze_34:2), while in the New that thought falls into the background, and the shepherd of the flock is its spiritual guide and teacher.
taking the oversight thereof] The first three words are the English equivalent of the Greek participle of the verb formed from Episcopos, the “bishop,” or “overseer” of the Church. In its being thus used to describe the office of the elders of the Church we have a close parallel to St Paul’s addressing the “elders” of the Church as being also “overseers” (Act_20:28). The two terms were in fact interchangeable, and what is now the higher office of the Bishop in relation to the Presbyters was discharged by the Apostle or his personal representative.
not by constraint, but willingly] The words that follow indicate the three great conditions of true pastoral work. (1) It must not be entered on reluctantly and as under pressure. In one sense indeed the truest and best work may be done by one who feels, as St Paul felt, that a “necessity is laid” upon him (1Co_9:16), but there the necessity was that of a motive essentially spiritual. What St Peter deprecates is the drawing back from the labour and responsibility of the care of souls. The Nolo episcopari, which has been so often the formula of the pride or the sloth that apes humility, would have been in his eyes the sign of cowardice and weakness. Here, as in other things, the true temper is that of cheerful and willing service. The history of the Church presents, it is true, not a few instances, among which Chrysostom and Ambrose are preeminent, of the pastoral and episcopal office being forced upon a reluctant acceptance, but in such cases the reluctance left no trace in the after life. The work once entered on was done “willingly,” not as a forced and constrained service. It may be noted that the memorable treatise of Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, is in its form an apologia for his unwillingness to enter on the priestly office on the ground of its infinite dangers and responsibilities. Some of the better MSS. add the words “according to God,” to “willingly,” the phrase having the same meaning (“according to the will of God,”) as in chap. 4:6, 2Co_7:9, 2Co_7:10.
not for filthy lucre] The adverb is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. The corresponding adjective meets us in 1Ti_3:3, 1Ti_3:8, Tit_1:7. The words are interesting as shewing that even in the troubled times in which St Peter wrote there was enough wealth in the Church to make the position of a Bishop-presbyter a lucrative one. There was the double stipend for those who were both pastors and preachers (1Ti_5:17). There was, for baser natures, the temptation of using spiritual influence for secular ends, “devouring widows’ houses,” as the Pharisees did in Judæa (Mat_23:14), “leading captive silly women,” as did the false teachers at Ephesus (2Ti_3:6) and Crete (Tit_1:11). It may be noted that the term which both the Apostles use of the man who enters on the work of the ministry of souls from such a motive, is one which Greek writers commonly use of one who seeks gain in base and sordid ways. In their eyes the calling of a presbyter might be made, so followed, as disreputable an occupation as that of the usurer, or the pander, or the slave-dealer. In contrast with this temper, eagerly catching at emoluments, the Apostle points to the cheerful readiness that seeks eagerly for work.
Feed the flock of God which is among you; rather, tend, as a shepherd tends his flock. The verb ποιμάνατε is aorist, as if St. Peter wished to concentrate into one point of view all the labors of the ministerial life. He is echoing the word so solemnly addressed to himself by the risen Lord, “Feed my sheep ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου.” The word covers all the various duties of the pastoral office: “Pasce mente, pasce ore, pasce operc, pasce animi oratione, verbi exhortatione, exempli exhibitione” (St. Bernard, quoted by Alford). St. Peter lays stress upon the solemn fact that the flock belongs to God, not to the shepherds (comp. Act_20:28). Some understand the words rendered “which is among you τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ” as meaning” quantum in vobis est,” “as far as lies in your power.” Others as “that which is committed to you,” or “that which is placed under your care.” But the simple local meaning seems the best.
Taking the oversight thereof. This word ἐπισκοποῦντες is not found in the Sinaitic and Vatican Manuscripts. Alford thinks that “it has, perhaps, been removed for ecclesiastical reasons, for fear πρεσβύτεροι should be supposed to be, as they really were, ἐπίσκοποι. It is in the Alexandrine and most other ancient manuscripts and versions, and there seems to be no sufficient reason for omitting it. It shows that when this Epistle was written, the words πρεσβύτερος and ἐπίσκοπος, presbyter and bishop, were still synonymous (comp. Act_20:17 and Act_20:28 in the Greek; also Tit_1:5 and Tit_1:7). Not by constraint, but willingly. The word ἀναγκαστῶς, by constraint, occurs only here. St. Paul says (1Co_9:16), “Necessity is laid upon me;” but that was an inward necessity, the constraining love of Christ. Bede, quoted by Alford, says, “Coacte pascit gregem, qui propter rerum temporalium penurium non habens unde vivat, idcirco praedicat evangelium ut de evangelio vivere possit.” Some good manuscripts add, after “willingly,” the words κατὰ Θεόν, “according to God,” i.e. according to his will (comp. Rom_8:27). Not for filthy lucre. The adverb αἰσχροκερδῶς occurs only here. It would seem that, even in the apostolic age, there were sometimes such opportunities of gain (see Tit_1:11; 2Ti_3:6) as to be a temptation to enter the ministry for the sake of money. St. Peter uses a strong word in condemnation of such a motive. But of a ready mind. This adverb προθύμως occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; it has a stronger meaning than the preceding word ἑκουσίως, willingly; it implies zeal and enthusiasm.
1 Peter 5:2
TEXT: “shepherd the flock of God that is among plyou, supervising not by compulsion but voluntarily”
EVIDENCE: p72 Sc A K P Psi 33 81 104 614 630 945 1241 1739 1881 2495 Byz Lect lat vg syr(p,h) cop(north)
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASV RSVn NIV TEV
NOTES: “shepherd the flock of God that is among plyou, not by compulsion but voluntarily”
EVIDENCE: S* B cop(south)
TRANSLATIONS: ASVn RSV NASV NEB
COMMENTS: The word for “supervising” is enclosed in brackets in the UBS Greek text. It is the verb form of the word traditionally translated “bishops.” In an later age that made a distinction between “elders” and “bishops,” it was probably omitted by copyists who felt that elders should not be commanded to do the work of a bishop. Certainly it would not have been added by most copyists of that time.
1 Peter 5:2
TEXT: “voluntarily, in accordance with [the will of] God, nor from fondness for dishonest gain”
EVIDENCE: p72 S A P Psi 33 81 104 614 630 945 1241 1739 1881 2495 lat vg syr(h) cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSVn NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “voluntarily, nor from fondness for dishonest gain”
EVIDENCE: B K Byz Lect
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn RSV
COMMENTS: The expression “in accordance with God” was probably omitted by copyists who found it difficult to understand.
1 Peter 5:2
Feed the flock of God – Discharge the duties of a shepherd toward the flock. On the word “feed,” see the notes at Joh_21:15. It is a word which Peter would be likely to remember, from the solemn manner in which the injunction to perform the duty was laid on him by the Saviour. The direction means to take such an oversight of the church as a shepherd is accustomed to take of his flock. See the notes at John 10:1-16.
Which is among you – Margin, as much as in you is. The translation in the text is the more correct. It means the churches which were among them, or over which they were called to preside.
Taking the oversight thereof – ἐπισκοποῦντες episkopountes. The fair translation of this word is, “discharging the episcopal office”; and the word implies all that is always implied by the word “bishop” in the New Testament. This idea should have been expressed in the translation. The meaning is not merely to take the oversight – for that might be done in a subordinate sense by anyone in office; but it is to take such an oversight as is implied in the episcopate, or by the word “bishop.” The words “episcopate,” “episcopal,” and “episcopacy,” are merely the Greek word used here and its correlatives transferred to our language. The sense is that of overseeing; taking the oversight of; looking after, as of a flock; and the word has originally no reference to what is now spoken of as especially the episcopal office. It is a word strictly applicable to any minister of religion, or officer of a church. In the passage before us this duty was to be performed by those who, in 1Pe_5:1, are called presbyters, or elders; and this is one of the numerous passages in the New Testament which prove that all that is properly implied in the performance of the episcopal functions pertained to those who were called presbyters, or elders. If so, there was no higher grade of ministers to which the special duties of the episcopate were to be entrusted; that is, there was no class of officers corresponding to those who are now called “bishops.” Compare the notes at Act_20:28.
Not by constraint, but willingly – Not as if you felt that a heavy yoke was imposed on you, or a burden from which you would gladly be discharged. Go cheerfully to your duty as a work which you love, and act like a freeman in it, and not as a slave. Arduous as are the labors of the ministry, yet there is no work on earth in which a man can and should labor more cheerfully.
Not for filthy lucre – Shameful or dishonorable gain. See the notes at 1Ti_3:3.
But of a ready mind – Cheerfully, promptly. We are to labor in this work, not under the influence of the desire of gain, but from the promptings of love. There is all the difference conceivable between one who does a thing because he is paid for it, and one who does it from love – between, for example, the manner in which one attends on us when we are sick who loves us, and one who is merely hired to do it. Such a difference is there in the spirit with which one who is actuated by mercenary motives, and one whose heart is in the work, will engage in the ministry.
1 Peter 5:3
3Neither as being lords, or, as exercising dominion. The preposition κατὰ in Greek is taken, for the most part, in a bad sense: then Peter here condemns unreasonable exercise of power, as the case is with those who consider not themselves to be the ministers of Christ and his Church, but seek something higher. And he calls particular churches “lots,” (cleros) for as the whole body of the Church is the Lord’s heritage, so the churches, scattered through towns and villages, were as so many farms, the culture of which he assigns to each presbyter. Some very ignorantly think that those called clergy are meant here. It was, indeed, an ancient way of speaking, to call the whole order of ministers, clergy; but I wish that it had never occurred to the Fathers to speak thus; for what Scripture ascribes in common to the whole Church, it was by no means right to confine to a few men. And this way of speaking was spurious, at least it was a departure from apostolic usage.
Peter, indeed, expressly gives the churches this title, in order that we may know that whatever men ascribe to themselves is taken away from the Lord, as in many places he calls the Church his peculiar treasure, and the rod of his heritage, when he intends to claim his entire dominion over it; for he never delivers to pastors the government, but only the care, so that his own right remains still complete.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:3. neither as being lords over God’s heritage] Better, not lording it over the heritages. There is no word in the Greek answering to “God’s,” and it is not wanted to complete the sense. The word for “lording” implies an authority exercised both wrongfully and oppressively. Ambition, the love of power for the sake of power, is, from the Apostle’s standpoint, as great a hindrance to true pastoral work as avarice. The whole history of the Church, in particular the history of the papacy, as e.g. in the history of Gregory VII., shews how fatally it has worked on souls that had conquered, or had never known, the baser temptation. Warnings against such ambition we find again and again in our Lord’s teaching (Mat_20:25-28; Luk_22:24-26; Mar_9:34, Mar_9:35). A memorable picture of the working of such a temper in St Paul’s rivals at Corinth meets us in 2Co_12:20.
The word for “heritages” (the Greek noun (κλῆρος) is in the plural) means primarily a “lot;” then, as in Deu_10:9, Deu_12:12, the “portion assigned by lot.” So Jehovah is said to be the “portion” or “heritage” of the Levites (Deu_10:9). Here the idea would seem to be that each separate Ecclesia was thought of as the “portion” of the presbyter who watched over it. The later history of the word presents a curious series of transitions. (1) From the congregations it was transferred to the presbyters, as being, it was supposed, in a special sense, the “portion” or “heritage” of God. They accordingly were described as the clerus, the clerici, of the Church, and hence we get the common words, “clergy,” and “clerical.” (2) From the educational superiority of the clerical order in the Middle Ages, the word came to be applied to any person of a higher than average culture. So Chaucer speaks of Homer as a “great clerke,” and the legal phrase “benefit of clergy” retains a trace of the same meaning. (3) From this elevation it has come to be applied, as by a facilis descensus, to the lower forms of culture, and the “parish clerk” and the copying “clerk” at his desk, present the fallen greatness of the word that was once so noble.
but being ensamples to the flock] Comp. the word and the thought in 2Th_3:9 and Php_3:17. It is obvious that the teaching of the verse does not condemn the exercise of all spiritual authority as such, but only its excesses and abuses; but in doing this, it points out also that the influence of example is more powerful than any authority, and to seek after that influence is the best safeguard against the abuse of power.
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage; rather, as in the Revised Version, neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you. The κατά in the verb κατακυριέω is not only intensive, it implies something of scorn and tyranny or even of hostility, as also in καταδυναστεύω (Jas_2:6); comp. Mat_20:25. The literal rendering of the clause is, “lording it over the lots.” The Authorized Version, following Beza, supplies τοῦ Θεοῦ, “God’s heritage.” But if this were the apostle’s meaning, he would surely have used the singular, κλῆρος, “the lot or portion of God;” and it is very unlikely that he would have left the most important word to be supplied. Some commentators take κλῆροι in its modern sense, of the clergy, as if St. Peter was commanding the bishops not to tyrannize over the inferior clergy. But this view involves an anachronism; the word had not acquired this meaning in St. Peter’s time. It is clearly best to understand it of the lots or portions assigned to individual presbyters. The word κλῆρος originally meant a “lot” (Mat_27:35; Act_1:26), then portions assigned by casting lots, as the possessions of the tribes of Israel (Jos_18:1-28 and Jos_19:1-51), then any portion or inheritance however obtained; thus in Deu_10:1-22 : 9 the Lord is said to be the Inheritance κλῆρος of the Levites. In later times the word was applied to the clergy, who were regarded as, in a special sense, the Lord’s portion or inheritance, perhaps because God was pleased to take the tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn, saying, the Levites shall be mine (Num_3:12). But being ensamples to the flock; literally, becoming examples. They must imitate the great Example, the Lord Jesus, and, by gradual imitation of his blessed character, become examples themselves. Thus they will acquire a more salutary influence and a truer authority. “The life should command, and the tongue persuade” (Athanasius, quoted by Fronmuller).
1 Peter 5:3
Neither as being lords – Margin, “overruling.” The word here used (κατακυριεύω katakurieuō) is rendered “exercise dominion over,” in Mat_20:25; exercise lordship over, in Mar_10:42; and overcame, in Act_19:16. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It refers properly to that kind of jurisdiction which civil rulers or magistrates exercise. This is an exercise of authority, as contradistinguished from the influence of reason, persuasion, and example. The latter pertains to the ministers of religion; the former is forbidden to them. Their dominion is not to be that of temporal lordship; it is to be that of love and truth. This command would prohibit all assumption of temporal power by the ministers of religion, and all conferring of titles of nobility on those who are preachers of the gospel. It needs scarcely to be said that it has been very little regarded in the church.
Over God’s heritage – των κλήρων tōn klērōn. Vulgate: “in cleris” – over the clergy. The Greek word here (κλῆρος klēros) is that from which the word “clergy” has been derived; and some have interpreted it here as referring to the clergy, that is, to priests and deacons who are under the authority of a bishop. Such an interpretation, I however, would hardly be adopted now. The word means properly:
(a) A lot, die, anything used in determining chances;
(b) A part or portion, such as is assigned by lot; hence,
(c) An office to which one is designated or appointed, by lot or otherwise; and,
(d) In general any possession or heritage, Act_26:18; Col_1:12.
The meaning here is, “not lording it over the possessions or the heritage of God.” The reference is, undoubtedly, to the church, as that which is especially his property; his own in the world. Whitby and others suppose that it refers to the possessions or property of the church; Doddridge explains it – “not assuming dominion over those who fall to your lot,” supposing it to mean that they were not to domineer over the particular congregations committed by Providence to their care. But the other interpretation is most in accordance with the usual meaning of the word.
But being ensamples to the flock – Examples. See the notes at 1Ti_4:12. Peter has drawn here with great beauty, the appropriate character of the ministers of the gospel, and described the spirit with which they should be actuated in the discharge of the duties of their office. But how different it is from the character of many who have claimed to be ministers of religion; and especially how different from that corrupt communion which professes in a special manner to recognize Peter as the head, and the vicegerent of Christ. It is well remarked by Benson on this passage, that “the church of Rome could not well have acted more directly contrary to this injunction of Peter’s if she had studied to disobey it, and to form herself upon a rule that should be the reverse of this.”
1 Peter 5:4
4When the chief Shepherd shall appear Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest, then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy, — to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ. Thus it will be, that he, who seems to derive no encouragement from men, will assiduously go on in his labors, knowing that a great reward is prepared for him by the Lord. And further, lest a protracted expectation should produce languor, he at the same time sets forth the greatness of the reward, which is sufficient to compensate for all delay: An unfading crown of glory, he says, awaits you.
It ought also to be observed, that he calls Christ the chief Pastor; for we are to rule the Church under him and in his name, in no other way but that he should be still really the Pastor. So the word chief here does not only mean the principal, but him whose power all others ought to submit to, as they do not represent him except according to his command and authority.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:4. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear] The word for “chief Shepherd” is not found elsewhere, and would seem therefore to have been coined by St Peter, to express the thought which had been impressed on his mind by his Lord’s words, “I am the good Shepherd” (Joh_10:14). In his own work, as in that of all pastors of the Church, he saw the reproduction of that of which Christ had set the great example. For “shall appear” it would be better to read is manifested.
a crown of glory that fadeth not away] More accurately, as the Greek has the article, “the crown of glory.” The four last words answer to the one Greek word, “amaranthine,” or “unfading,” the adjective being a cognate form of that in chap. 1:4. The crown here is the wreath or chaplet of flowers worn by conquerors and heroes, as in 1Co_9:25, Jam_1:12, and differs from the “crowns” or diadems of Rev_12:3, Rev_19:12, which were distinctively the badge of sovereignty. It is possible, as the adjective “amaranth” was applied to the kind of flowers which we know as “everlastings,” that there may be an allusive reference to the practice of using those flowers for wreaths that were placed in funerals upon the brows of the dead.
1 Peter 5:5
5Likewise, ye younger The word elder is put here in a sense different from what it had before; for it is necessary, when a contrast is made between them and the younger, that the two clauses should correspond. Then he refers to the elders in age, having before spoken of the office; and thus he comes from the particular to the general. And in short, he bids every one that is inferior in age to obey the counsels of the elders, and to be teachable and humble; for the age of youth is inconstant, and requires a bridle. Besides, pastors could not have performed their duty, except this reverential feeling prevailed and was cultivated, so that the younger suffered themselves to be ruled; for if there be no subjection, government is overturned. When they have no authority who ought by right or order of nature to rule, all will immediately become insolently wanton.
Yea, all He shews the reason why the younger ought to submit to the elder, even that there might be an equable state of things and due order among them. For, when authority is granted to the elders, there is not given them the right or the liberty of throwing off the bridle, but they are also themselves to be under due restraint, so that there may be a mutual subjection. So the husband is the head of the wife, and yet he in his turn is to be in some things subject to her. So the father has authority over his children, and still he is not exempt from all subjection, but something is due to them. The same thing, also, is to be thought of others. In short, all ranks in society have to defend the whole body, which cannot be done, except all the members are joined together by the bond of mutual subjection. Nothing is more adverse to the disposition of man than subjection. For it was formerly very truly said, that every one has within him the soul of a king. Until, then, the high spirits, with which the nature of men swells, are subdued, no man will give way to another; but, on the contrary, each one, despising others, will claim all things for himself.
Hence the Apostle, in order that humility may dwell among us, wisely reproves this haughtiness and pride. And the metaphor he uses is very appropriate, as though he had said, “Surround yourselves with humility on every side, as with a garment which covers the whole body.” He yet intimates that no ornament is more beautiful or more becoming, than when we submit one to another.
For, or, because. It is a most grievous threatening, when he says, that all who seek to elevate themselves, shall have God as their enemy, who will lay them low. But, on the contrary, he says of the humble, that God will be propitious and favorable to them. We are to imagine that; God has two hands; the one, which like a hammer beats down and breaks in pieces those who raise up themselves; and the other, which raises up the humble who willingly let down themselves, and is like a firm prop to sustain them. Were we really convinced of this, and had it deeply fixed in our minds, who of us would dare by pride to urge war with God? But the hope of impunity now makes us fearlessly to raise up our horn to heaven. Let, then, this declaration of Peter be as a celestial thunderbolt to make men humble.
But he calls those humble, who being emptied of every confidence in their own power, wisdom, and righteousness, seek every good from God alone. Since there is no coming to God except in this way, who, having lost his own glory, ought not willingly to humble himself?
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Peter 5:5. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder] The question meets us, whether the words refer to age only, or to office as connected with age. In either case we have, of course, a perfectly adequate meaning. In favour of the latter view we have the facts
(1) that in Luk_22:26, “he that is younger” in the first clause corresponds to “he that serveth” or “ministereth” in the second;
(2) that in Act_5:6 the term is obviously used of those who were discharging duties like those of the later deacons, sub-deacons or acolytes;
(3) that it is hardly likely that the same writer would have used the word “elder” in two different senses in such close juxtaposition.
On the whole, therefore, there seems sufficient reason for adopting this view. St Paul’s use of the term, however, in the precepts of 1Ti_5:1, Tit_2:6 is, perhaps, in favour of the other.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another] The words which answer to “be subject” are wanting in some of the best MSS. and have the character of an insertion made to complete the sense. If we omit the participle, the words “all of you, one to another” may be taken either with the clause that precedes or with that which follows.
be clothed with humility] The Greek verb (ἐγκομβώσασθε) for “clothe yourselves” has a somewhat interesting history. The noun from which it is derived (κόμβος) signifies a “knot.” Hence the verb means “to tie on with a knot,” and from the verb another noun is formed (ἐγκομβῶμα), denoting a garment so tied on. This, according to its quality, might be the outer “over-all” cloak of slaves, or the costly mantle of princes. The word may have well been chosen for the sake of some of the associations which this its history suggests. Men were to clothe themselves with lowliness of mind, to fasten it tight round them like a garment, so that it might never fall away (comp. the same thought as applied to hatred in Psa_109:17, Psa_109:18), and this was to be worn, as it were, over all other virtues, half-concealing, half-sheltering them. It might present, from one point of view, the aspect of servitude. It was, in reality, a raiment more glorious than that of kings (Act_12:21), or those who live in kings’ houses (Mat_11:8). In the case of slaves, probably in all cases, the garment so named was white. (Poll. Onomast. 4:119.) This also probably was not without a suggestive significance. In Col_3:12 we have, though not the word, a thought very closely parallel.
for God resisteth the proud] We have here another passage quoted from the Old Testament (Pro_3:34, from the LXX. version with “God” substituted for “the Lord”) without the formula of quotation. It is interesting (1) as taking its place in the list of passages from the Book of Proverbs, which St Peter quotes both in the First and Second Epistles; and (2) as being quoted also by St James (4:6). The parallelism which we have already traced between the two writers (see notes on chap. 1:6, 7, 24) makes it probable that St Peter may have derived his quotation from his brother Apostle of the circumcision. In Jam_4:6 the promise is cited with more special reference to the grace which gives men strength for the combat against evil, here in its wider and more general aspect.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Is St. Peter still using the last word in its official sense? or is he passing to its ordinary meaning? It seems impossible to answer the question with certainty. Some think that the word νεώτεροι, younger, had also acquired an official meaning, and that it is used here, and in Act_5:6 of assistant-ministers who were employed to help the presbyters and apostles. Others think that it had a meaning nearly equivalent to our “laity” as distinguished from the presbyters. But, on the whole, it seems more natural to suppose that the word “elder,” when once used, led St. Peter on from one meaning to another, and that here he is simply speaking of the respect due to age.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another. The word ὑποτασσόμενοι, rendered “be subject,” is omitted in the most ancient manuscripts. If their reading is adopted, the dative, ἀλλήλοις, “one to another,” may be taken either with the previous clause,” Submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you, to one another;” or with that which follows, “Be clothed with humility one towards another.” And be clothed with humility. The word rendered “be clothed” ἐγκοβώσασθε occurs here only, and is a remarkable word. It is derived from κόμβος, a knot or band; the corresponding noun. ἐγκόμβωμα, was the name of an apron worn by slaves, which was tied round them when at work, to keep their dress clean. The word seems to teach that humility is a garment which must be firmly fastened on and bound closely round us. The association of the slave’s apron seems also to suggest that Christians should be ready to submit to the humblest works of charity for others, and to point back to the lowliness of the Lord Jesus, when he girded himself, and washed the feet of his apostles (Joh_13:4). It may be noticed that the Greek word for “humility” ταπεινοφροσύνη is used only by St. Paul, except in this place. For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. St. Peter is quoting from the Septuagint Version of Pro_3:34, without marks of quotation, as in other places. St. James quotes the same passage (Jas_4:6), and with the same variation, substituting “God” for “Lord,” as St. Peter does. The Greek word for “resisteth ἀντιτάσσεται is a strong one: God rangeth himself as with an army against the haughty.
1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, ye younger – All younger persons of either sex.
Submit yourselves unto the elder – That is, with the respect due to their age, and to the offices which they sustain. There is here, probably, a particular reference to those who sustained the office of elders or teachers, as the same word is used here which occurs in 1Pe_5:1. As there was an allusion in that verse, by the use of the word, to age, so there is in this verse to the fact that they sustained an office in the church. The general duty, however, is here implied, as it is everywhere in the Bible, that all suitable respect is to be shown to the aged. Compare Lev_19:32; 1Ti_5:1; Act_23:4; 2Pe_2:9.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another – In your proper ranks and relations. You are not to attempt to lord it over one another, but are to treat each other with deference and respect. See the Eph_5:21 note; Phi_2:3 note.
And be clothed with humility – The word here rendered “be clothed” (ἐγκομβώμαι egkombōmai) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from κόμβος kombos – a strip, string, or loop to fasten a garment; and then the word refers to a garment that was fastened with strings. The word ἐγκόμβωμα engkombōma refers particularly to a long white apron, or outer garment, that was commonly worn by slaves. See Robinson, Lexicon; Passow, Lexicon. There is, therefore, special force in the use of this word here, as denoting an humble mind. They were to be willing to take any place, and to perform any office, however humble, in order to serve and benefit others. They were not to assume a style and dignity of state and authority, as if they would lord it over others, or as if they were better than others; but they were to be willing to occupy any station, however humble, by which they might honor God. It is known that not a few of the early Christians actually sold themselves as slaves, in order that they might preach the gospel to those who were in bondage. The sense here is, they were to put on humility as a garment bound fast to them, as a servant bound fast to him the apron that was significant of his station. Compare Col_3:13. It is not unusual in the Scriptures, as well as in other writings, to compare the virtues with articles of apparel; as that with which we are clothed, or in which we are seen by others. Compare Isa_11:5; Isa_59:17.
For God resisteth the proud … – This passage is quoted from the Greek translation in Pro_3:34. See it explained in the notes at Jam_4:6, where it is also quoted.
1 Peter 5:6
6Humble yourselves therefore. We must ever bear in mind for what end he bids us to be humble before God, even that we may be more courteous and kind to our brethren, and not refuse to submit to them as far as love demands. Then they who are haughty and refractory towards men, are, he says, acting insolently towards God. He therefore exhorts all the godly to submit to God’s authority; and he calls God’s power his hand, that he might make them to fear the more. For though hand is often applied to God, yet it is to be understood here according to the circumstances of the passage. But as we are wont commonly to fear, lest our humility should be a disadvantage to us, and others might for this reason grow more insolent, Peter meets this objection, and promises eminency to all who humble themselves.
But he adds, in due time, that he might at the same time obviate too much haste. He then intimates that it is necessary for us to learn humility now, but that the Lord well knows when it is expedient for us to be elevated. Thus it behoves us to yield to his counsel.
1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves therefore – Be willing to take a low place – a place such as becomes you. Do not arrogate to yourselves what does not belong to you; do not evince pride and haughtiness in your manner; do not exalt yourselves above others. See the notes at Luk_14:7-11. Compare Pro_15:33; Pro_18:12; Pro_22:4; Mic_6:8; Phi_2:8.
Under the mighty hand of God – This refers probably to the calamities which he had brought upon them, or was about to bring upon them; represented here, as often elsewhere, as the infliction of his hand – the hand being that by which we accomplish anything. When that hand was upon them they were not to be lifted up with pride and with a spirit of rebellion, but were to take a lowly place before him, and submit to him wish a calm mind, believing that he would exalt them in due time. There is no situation in which one will be more likely to feel humility than in scenes of affliction.
That he may exalt you in due time – When he shall see it to be a proper time:
(1) They might be assured that this would be done at some time. He would not always leave them in this low and depressed condition. He would take off his heavy hand, and raise them up from their state of sadness and suffering.
(2) This would be in due time; that is, in the proper time, in the best time:
(a) It might be in the present life.
(b) It would certainly be in the world to come. There they would be exalted to honors which will be more than an equivalent for all the persecution, poverty, and contempt which are suffered in this world. He may well afford to be humble here who is to be exalted to a throne in heaven.
1 Peter 5:7
7Casting all our care He more fully sets forth here the providence of God. For whence are these proverbial sayings, “We shall have to howl among wolves,” and, “They are foolish who are like sheep, exposing themselves to wolves to be devoured,” except that we think that by our humility we set loose the reins to the audacity of the ungodly, so that they insult us more wantonly? But this fear arises from our ignorance of divine providence. Now, on the other hand, as soon as we are convinced that God cares for us, our minds are easily led to patience and humility. Lest, then, the wickedness of men should tempt us to a fierceness of mind, the Apostle prescribes to us a remedy, and also David does in Psa_37:5, so that having cast our care on God, we may calmly rest. For all those who recumb not on God’s providence must necessarily be in constant turmoil and violently assail others. We ought the more to dwell on this thought, that God cares for us, in order, first, that we may have peace within; and, secondly, that we may be humble and meek towards men.
But we are not thus bidden to cast all our care on God, as though God wished us to have strong hearts, and to be void of all feeling; but lest fear or anxiety should drive us to impatience. In like manner, the knowledge of divine providence does not free men from every care, that they may securely indulge themselves; for it ought not to encourage the torpidity of the flesh, but to bring rest to faith.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:7. casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you] The English version effaces a distinction in the Greek, the first word for “care” implying “distracting anxiety,” as in Mat_13:22; Mar_4:19; Luk_8:14, Luk_21:34, the latter conveying the idea simply of the care that foresees and provides, as in Mar_4:38; Joh_10:13, Joh_12:6. The thought expressed is accordingly that our anxiety is to be swallowed up in our trust in the loving Providence of the Father. Here again we have a quotation somewhat altered from the LXX. version (Psa_55:22), “Cast thy care upon the Lord and he shall nourish thee,” and in the warning against anxiety we may find an echo of the precepts against “taking thought” (where the Greek verb is formed from the same noun) in Mat_6:25-34.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1 Peter 5:7
Casting — once for all: so the Greek aorist.
care — “anxiety? The advantage flowing from humbling ourselves under God’s hand (1Pe_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 Psa_22:10; Psa_37:5; Psa_55:22, to which Peter alludes; Luk_12:22, Luk_12:37; Phi_4:6.
careth — not so strong a Greek word as the previous Greek “anxiety.”
1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon him – Compare Psa_55:22, from whence this passage was probably taken. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Compare, for a similar sentiment, Mat_6:25-30. The meaning is, that we are to commit our whole cause to him. If we suffer heavy trials; if we lose our friends, health, or property; if we have arduous and responsible duties to perform; if we feel that we have no strength, and are in danger of being crushed by what is laid upon us, we may go and cast all upon the Lord; that is, we may look to him for grace and strength, and feel assured that he will enable us to sustain all that is laid upon us. The relief in the case will be as real, and as full of consolation, as if he took the burden and bore it himself. He will enable us to bear with ease what we supposed we could never have done; and the burden which he lays upon us will be light, Mat_11:30. Compare the notes at Phi_4:6-7.
For he careth for you – See the notes at Mat_10:29-31. He is not like the gods worshipped by many of the pagan, who were supposed to be so exalted, and so distant, that they did not interest themselves in human affairs; but He condescends to regard the needs of the meanest of his creatures. It is one of the glorious attributes of the true God, that he can and will thus notice the needs of the mean as well as the mighty; and one of the richest of all consolations when we are afflicted, and are despised by the world, is the thought that we are not forgotten by our heavenly Father. He who remembers the falling sparrow, and who hears the young ravens when they cry, will not be unmindful of us. “Yet the Lord thinketh on me,” was the consolation of David, when he felt that he was “poor and needy,” Psa_40:17. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up,” Psa_27:10.
Compare Isa_49:15. What more can one wish than to be permitted to feel that the great and merciful Yahweh thinks on him? What are we – what have we done, that should be worthy of such condescension? Remember, poor, despised, afflicted child of God, that you will never be forgotten. Friends on earth, the great, the frivilous, the noble, the rich, may forget you; God never will. Remember that you will never be entirely neglected. Father, mother, neighbor, friend, those whom you have loved, and those to whom you have done good, may neglect you, but God never will. You may become poor, and they may pass by you; you may lose your office, and flatterers may no longer throng your path; your beauty may fade, and your admirers may leave you; you may grow old, and be infirm, and appear to be useless in the world, and no one may seem to care for you; but it is not thus with the God whom you serve. When he loves, he always loves; if he regarded you with favor when you were rich, he will not forget you when you are poor; he who watched over you with a parent’s care in the bloom of youth, will not cast you off when you are “old and grey-headed,” Psa_71:18. If we are what we should be, we shall never be without a friend as long as there is a God.
1 Peter 5:8
8Be sober This explanation extends wider, that as we have war with a most fierce and most powerful enemy, we are to be strenuous in resisting him. But he uses a twofold metaphor, that they were to be sober, and that they were to exercise watchfulness. Surfeiting produces sloth and sleep; even so they who indulge in earthly cares and pleasures, think of nothing else, being under the power of spiritual lethargy.
We now perceive what the meaning of the Apostle is. We must, he says, carry on a warfare in this world; and he reminds us that we have to do with no common enemy, but one who, like a lion, runs here and there, ready to devour. He hence concludes that we ought carefully to watch. Paul stimulates us with the same argument in Eph_6:10, where he says that we have a contest not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness, etc. But we too often turn peace into sloth, and hence it comes that the enemy then circumvents and overwhelms us; for, as though placed beyond the reach of danger, we indulge ourselves according to the will of the flesh.
He compares the devil to a lion, as though he had said, that he is a savage wild beast. He says that he goes round to devour, in order to rouse us to wariness. He calls him the adversary of the godly, that they might know that they worship God and profess faith in Christ on this condition, that they are to have continual war with the devil, for he does not spare the members who fights with the head.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1Pet 5:8. Be sober, be vigilant] The two words are found in a like juxtaposition in 1Th_5:6. The tense used here implies an immediate act, as though he said, “Rouse yourselves to sobriety and watchfulness,” rather than a continuous state. The first word has the strict meaning of abstinence from that which inebriates. See note on chap. 4:7.
because your adversary the devil] The word for “adversary” is the same as that used in Mat_5:25, and carries with it the sense of a plaintiff or accuser in a trial before a judge. The Greek word for “devil’ (διάβολος), uniformly used in the LXX. for the Hebrew “Satan,” expresses the same thought, with the implied addition that the charge is false and calumnious. The comparison with the lion has its starting-point, perhaps, in Isa_38:13, where, however, it is used of God as visiting men with pain and sickness; or Psa_22:21, where its use is more closely parallel with the present passage. The use of the same verb for “roaring” in the LXX. of Psa_22:13 confirms the inference that that Psalm—the first words of which, it will be remembered, had been uttered by our Lord upon the cross—was present to St Peter’s mind. The word for “devour,” literally, gulp down or swallow, implies the thought of total destruction. It is probable, wide and general as the words are in themselves, that the special form of attack of which the Apostle thought was that of the persecution then raging, and of which, though human agents were prominent in it, Satan was regarded as the real instigator. Comp. 2Ti_4:17. When Christ is named as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev_5:5) we may probably see the suggested thought that in the conflict which His followers have to wage they have with them One who is stronger than their adversary.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober – While you cast your cares Upon God, and have no anxiety on that score, let your solicitude be directed to another point. Do not doubt that he is able and willing to support and befriend you, but be watchful against your foes. See the word used here fully explained in the notes at 1Th_5:6.
Be vigilant – This word (γρηγορέω grēgoreō) is everywhere else in the New Testament rendered “watch.” See Mat_24:42-43; Mat_25:13; Mat_26:38, Mat_26:40-41. It means that we should exercise careful circumspection, as one does when he is in danger. In reference to the matter here referred to, it means that we are to be on our guard against the wiles and the power of the evil one.
Your adversary the devil – Your enemy; he who is opposed to you. Satan opposes man in his best interests. He resists his efforts to do good; his purposes to return to God; his attempts to secure his own salvation. There is no more appropriate appellation that can be given to him than to say that he resists all our efforts to obey God and to secure the salvation of our own souls.
As a roaring lion – Compare Rev_12:12. Sometimes Satan is represented as transforming himself into an angel of light, (see the notes at 2Co_11:14); and sometimes, as here, as a roaring lion: denoting the efforts which he makes to alarm and overpower us. The lion here is not the crouching lion – the lion stealthfully creeping toward his foe – but it is the raging monarch of the woods, who by his terrible roar would intimidate all so that they might become an easy prey. The particular thing referred to here, doubtless, is persecution, resembling in its terrors a roaring lion. When error comes in; when seductive arts abound; when the world allures and charms the representation of the character of the foe is not of the roaring lion, but of the silent influence of an enemy that has clothed himself in the garb of an angel of light, 2Co_11:14.
Walketh about, seeking whom he may devour – “Naturalists have observed that a lion roars when he is roused with hunger, for then he is most fierce, and most eagerly seeks his prey. See Jdg_14:5; Psa_22:13; Jer_2:15; Eze_22:25; Hos_11:10; Zep_3:3; Zec_11:3“ – Benson.
1 Peter 5:9
9Whom resist As the power of an enemy ought to stimulate us and make us more careful, so there would be danger lest our hearts failed through immoderate fear, except the hope of victory were given us. This then is what the Apostle speaks of; he shows that the issue of the war will be prosperous, if we indeed fight under the banner of Christ; for whosoever comes to this contest, endued with faith, he declares that he will certainly be a conqueror.
Resist, he says; but some one may ask, how? To this he answers, there is sufficient strength in faith. Paul, in the passage which I have already quoted, enumerates the various parts of our armor, but the meaning is the same, (Eph_6:13,) for John testifies that faith alone is our victory over the world.
Knowing that the same afflictions, or sufferings. It is another consolation, that we have a contest in common with all the children of God; for Satan dangerously tries us, when he separates us from the body of Christ. We have heard how he attempted to storm the courage of Job, “Look to the saints, has any one of them suffered such a thing?” — Job_5:1.
The Apostle on the other hand, reminds us here that nothing happens to us but what we see does happen to other members of the Church. Moreover a fellowship, or a similar condition, with all the saints, ought by no means to be refused by us.
By saying that the same sufferings are accomplished, he means what Paul declares in Col_1:24, that what remains of the sufferings of Christ is daily fulfilled in the faithful.
The words, that are in the world, may be explained in two ways, either that God proves his faithful people indiscriminately everywhere in the world, or that the necessity of fighting awaits us as long as we are in the world. But we must observe that having said before that we are assailed by Satan, he then immediately refers to every kind of afflictions. We hence gather that we have always to do with our spiritual enemy, however adversities may come, or whatever they may be, whether diseases oppress us, or the barrenness of the land threatens us with famine, or men persecute us.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 5:9. whom resist stedfast in the faith] The word for “resist” is the same as that used in the parallel passage of Jam_4:7. “Faith” is probably used in its subjective rather than its objective sense, for unshaken trust in God rather than unwavering orthodoxy. Comp. the “shield of faith” in Eph_6:16.
knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren] Better, that the same sufferings (as keeping up the continuity of thought with chaps. 1:11, 4:13, 5:1) are being wrought out for your brotherhood (the same collective term as in chap. 2:17) that are in the world. The Apostle appeals to the thought of sympathy with other sufferers as a ground of steadfastness. Those to whom he wrote were not isolated in their afflictions. Far and near there were comrades fighting the same battle. It was at once their duty and their privilege to follow all examples of steadfastness of which they heard elsewhere, and to set that example, so that others, cheered by it, might be strengthened to endure even to the end.
1 Peter 5:9
Whom resist – See the notes at Jam_4:7. You are in no instance to yield to him, but are in all forms to stand up and oppose him. Feeble in yourselves, you are to confide in the arm of God. No matter in what form of terror he approaches, you are to fight manfully the fight of faith. Compare the notes at Eph_6:10-17.
Steadfast in the faith – Confiding in God. You are to rely on him alone, and the means of successful resistance are to be found in the resources of faith. See the notes at Eph_6:16.
Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world – Compare for a similar sentiment, 1Co_10:13. The meaning is, that you should be encouraged to endure your trials by the fact that your fellow-Christians suffer the same things. This consideration might furnish consolation to them in their trials in the following ways:
(1) They would feel that they were suffering only the common lot of Christians. There was no evidence that God was especially angry with them, or that he had in a special manner forsaken them.
(2) The fact that others were enabled to bear their trials should be an argument to prove to them that they would also be able. If they looked abroad, and saw that others were sustained, and were brought off triumphant, they might be assured that this would be the case with them.
(3) There would be the support derived from the fact that they were not alone in suffering. We can bear pain more easily if we feel that we are not alone – that it is the common lot – that we are in circumstances where we may have sympathy from others. This remark may be of great practical value to us in view of persecutions, trials, and death. The consideration suggested here by Peter to sustain those whom he addressed, in the trials of persecution, may be applied now to sustain and comfort us in every form of apprehended or real calamity. We are all liable to suffering. We are exposed to sickness, bereavement, death. We often feet as if we could not bear up under the sufferings that may be before us, and especially do we dread the great trial – death. It may furnish us some support and consolation to remember:
(1) That this is the common lot of people. There is nothing special in our case. It proves nothing as to the question whether we are accepted of God, and are beloved by him, that we suffer; for those whom he has loved most have been often among the greatest sufferers. We often think that our sufferings are unique; that there have been none like them. Yet, if we knew all, we should find that thousands – and among them the most wise, and pure, and good – have endured sufferings of the same kind as ours, and perhaps far more intense in degree.
(2) Others have been conveyed triumphantly through their trials. We have reason to hope and to believe that we shall also, for:
(a) Our trials have been no greater than theirs have been; and,
(b) Their natural strength was no greater than ours. Many of them were timid, and shrinking, and trembling, and felt that they had no strength, and that they should fail under the trial.
(3) The grace which sustained them can sustain us. The hand of God is not shortened that it cannot save; his ear is not heavy that it cannot hear. His power is as great, and his grace is as fresh, as it was when the first sufferer was supported by him; and that divine strength which supported David and Job in their afflictions, and the apostles and martyrs in theirs, is just as powerful as it was when they applied to God to be upheld in their sorrows.
(4) We are especially fearful of death – fearful that our faith will fail, and that we shall be left to die without support or consolation. Yet let us remember that death is the common lot of man. Let us remember who have died – tender females; children; the timid and the fearful; those, in immense multitudes, who had no more strength by nature than we have. Let us think of our own kindred who have died. A wife has died, and shall a husband be afraid to die? A child, and shall a father? A sister, and shall a brother? It does much to take away the dread of death, to remember that a mother has gone through the dark valley; that that gloomy vale has been trod by delicate, and timid, and beloved sisters. Shall I be afraid to go where they have gone? Shall I apprehend that I shall find no grace that is able to sustain me where they have found it? Must the valley of the shadow of death be dark and gloomy to me, when they found it to be illuminated with the opening light of heaven? Above all, it takes away the fear of death when I remember that my Saviour has experienced all the horrors which can ever be in death; that he has slept in the tomb, and made it a hallowed resting-place.