1 Peter 5 - Feed the Flock
INTRODUCTION: In this final chapter of Peter's letter to the churches scattered throughout Asia Minor, he encouraged all those who have oversight responsibility for local assemblies to carry out in love and devotion, the same task that the Lord had given to him. The resurrected Christ had pressed Peter three times for a response that would prove Peter's love for the Lord. John 21:17 "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."
1 Peter 5:1, 1769 KJV
"1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:"
COMMENTS: Peter urges, as a fellow elder, the elders in audience to his letter to be active in their service to their local flock. Since Peter said "the elders among you", it is implied that those other than the elders in the flock would read his letter. Leaders and laity alike, then and now, are privileged to read all of the contents of Peter's letter, because they all are interdependent parts of the body of Christ (his flock), though having different functions. . Then, Peter brings together from all four previous chapters, an underlying principal that the suffering of Christ was a necessary preliminary step to establish his coming everlasting glory. The following verses show how consistently this theme HAS BEEN developed IN Peter's LETTER, regarding our fellowship in suffering with Christ. 1 Peter 1:11 "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." 1 Peter 2:21 "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:" 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" 1 Peter 4:1 "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;" 1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." Before he closes this chapter, Peter will add one more comment that we must share in the suffering of Christ , 1 Peter 5:10 "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." Peter was an eyewitness of Christ's earthly ministry all the way through the resurrection and ascension. He personally knew the suffering associated with ministry, but because of his transformation through the Spirit of Christ, he was willing to continue ministry, confidently knowing he had a glorious reward to come.
1 Peter 5:2-3, 1769 KJV
"2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
COMMENTS: All of us who are in Christ are part of the flock, for Jesus said God the Father was giving the kingdom to the flock. Luke 12:32 "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Paul made some significant points when he addressed the elders of the church at Ephesus as he was heading for Jerusalem. Acts 20:28 "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." The Holy Spirit's presence within, has made the elders overseers, responsible to feed (give spiritual nourishment). This is the flock of God the Father (not the flock of the elders), as all in the flock were purchased with the blood of Jesus. Notice, Paul's statement makes it clear (as he includes all three) that the triune God is intimately involved with his church. Peter told the elders they should feed the flock not because of feeling forced to do so, but in a willing manner. This willingness should not be motivated by desire for personal profit, but by a sincere eagerness to feed the flock. And leaders in the church are to serve, not be served, as Peter had learned from the Lord. Matthew 20:25-28 "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." So, an elder should have a similar pattern of life as the Lord Jesus, to be an example (ensample in KJV) of the effects of the indwelling of Christ.
1 Peter 5:4, 1769 KJV
"4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
COMMENTS: "Chief shepherd" is one word in the Greek, and it appears only here in all of the New Testament. Peter explained to the elders that the truly valuable reward for the faithful under shepherds will come from the chief Shepherd himself, and it will be eternal, not fleeting. This unfading crown of glory is more precious than any reward that could be obtained in this fallen world. Peter had opened his letter with this same sure hope of a non-decaying reward for all who are in Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-5 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Peter probably also well remembered that Jesus had said, Matthew 16:26 "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" What a glorious reward awaits us, from the merciful most high God!
1 Peter 5:5-7, 1769 KJV
"5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
COMMENTS: Even though Christian leaders are to serve humbly, humility is a trait that must be common to all in the body of Christ. So the flock should show respect to the elders, but the elders to each in the flock, and each person likewise to each other. It is very difficult in our fallen nature to be willing to submit to all around us: peers, or those in either higher or lower stations. Pride can surface from within us without any real effort, but humility must be cultivated. We should continually be mindful that through proper humility before God, we will be exalted in due time. Casting our cares upon him may sometimes take the form of resisting our tendency to consider ourselves more highly than we ought. We should be amazed that the creator of all that exists cares for us individually, despite our utter insignificance compared to the glory displayed throughout his marvelous creation. But, God had said, let us make man in our own image! Peter and John both were chosen apostles of the Lord Jesus, so we can compare an earlier part of Peter's letter with some of the words of John to understand further how we are to treat each other in the body of Christ. . 1 Peter 1:8 "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:" 1 John 4:20 "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Loving God and loving those who are part of his flock are inseparable.
1 Peter 5:8-9, 1769 KJV
"8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."
COMMENTS: Though our souls are secure in Christ, Peter nevertheless warns us to be sober and vigilant, because the enemy of God's purposes in our lives is not going to rest. Satan is a spirit being who is far more powerful than man, here being pictured as a roaring lion, aroused with fierce intent to destroy. He is not a powerless spirit, nor an imaginary enemy, so therefore we must be alert with the Lord as our defense. And we must not forget that others in Christ, all around the world, face the same threat from within and without. Our chief shepherd was protecting his own even before the point in time when he completed his work on the cross. Psalms 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." And his comfort and peace remain with us after his resurrection. John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 5:10-11, 1769 KJV
"10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you]. 11 To him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
COMMENTS: During periods of intense suffering, what is only a little while in light of eternity, can seem like an unbearable stretch of time when experienced hour by hour: Peter knew this, as did Paul. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." The God we serve is a God of all grace. He is able to make us complete, firmly established in Christ through whom we are called to eternal glory, so we can be strengthened and settled while we remain here in this very unsettled, but temporal world.
God's grace is the only effective means for making us perfect: that is, to be made complete as we our called to God by Christ Jesus. Paul knew the same truth as Peter, as he wrote the following words to encourage the elder of one of God's local flocks, explaining that the means for our salvation from sin existed before the foundation of the world, but was brought before us bodily in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:" In Hebrews we have another view of God's plan foreshadowed in the law before the appearance of the one who fulfilled the law in our behalf. Hebrews 10:1 "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." Then we have an agreement in Hebrews, with Peter and Paul about the shepherd of our souls, including further direction for our proper response. Hebrews 13:20-21 "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:12, 1769 KJV
"12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand."
COMMENTS: The Greek word used here (by in the KJV) is a primary preposition that can easily be taken as indicating the conduit through which an action is carried. Silvanus was likely the secretary and/or the carrier of Peter's letter to churches throughout Asia Minor. Silvanus is of Latin origin, and appears 4 times in the New Testament. Silas is a contracted form of Silvanus, and appears 13 times, the first time being in Acts 15. At that time, Silas is referred to as a “chief man among the brethren” in the Jerusalem church. He returns with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to confirm verbally, the written message for the gentiles as prepared by Peter and James. Paul also refers to him as Silvanus in first Corinthians, and in first and second Thessalonians. As Peter draws his brief letter to a close, he urges with his personal testimony that his readers realize that their Christian standing is in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 5:13-14, 1769 KJV
"13 The [church that is] at Babylon, elected together with [you], saluteth you; and [so doth] Marcus my son. 14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace [be] with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen."
COMMENTS: There is no complete clarity about the "greeting" from Babylon, or any more identifying detail about the Marcus here mentioned. the Latin name used in Peter's letter appears only eight times in the New Testament, translated as Mark for five, and Marcus for the other three, most likely all referring to the same person. Peter was probably using the term son in the sense of a spiritual understudy. When an angel released Peter from a prison in Jerusalem, we first find mention of Mark in scripture. Acts 12:12 "And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying."
Some have suggested that Babylon is a metaphoric reference to Rome or to Jerusalem. Others believe there was actually a church at the Babylon of the Euphrates, which at the time of Peter's writing was (by secular historical record) very diminished in size and importance, as a city having been conquered centuries earlier by the Meads and the Persians. There is no clear scriptural evidence that Peter had traveled to Rome, or that he was himself part of a church in Babylon. Possibly Silvanus (or Silas) had come from Babylon, and would now carry Peter's letter to the churches scattered throughout Asia Minor, as addressed in Peter's opening. Since Babylon had been the place of captivity for an initial seventy years for Jews carried off from Jerusalem and Judah, perhaps Peter wanted to be sure to remind his readers that the church there, as with all true churches, were elect in Christ, and as such they wanted to send their greeting to other churches. Peter used a compound word not used anywhere else in the New Testament, and here translated as "elected together with." Peter's closing reminds all who will read the letter, to greet each other with "a kiss of charity", that can be applied in any culture, as a warm salutary expression of brotherly love. Then after a warm opening greeting, peace should remain as the underlying atmosphere for all who are in Christ Jesus.
--- Reflections in prayer ---
Lord, help me to keep in mind the metaphor of the flock, a group of believers led by shepherds from among their own number, who are to be examples as they perform their oversight. You are the chief shepherd, but also the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. May I follow the exhortation of Peter to let humility be my course, in whatever capacity you place me by your spirit. As I graze in the green pastures of your word, and have my thirst quenched by the living water; may I encourage others to do likewise. I know we can cast all our cares upon you because you care for us. I pray that the shepherds of local flocks will have the pure motives to lead willingly for their future reward, and that their flocks will not be scattered by the roar of the lion. You have many flocks all over the earth, and they all have the same challenges to their unity and safety. During any times of suffering we may encounter, convince our minds and hearts of the truth of the incorruptible and unfading reward set in store for each of us when you confirm, restore, strengthen, and establish us because of your great mercy and love. As we await our reward, may we honor you by expressing our brotherly love to each other, and continually rest in the inner peace you provide. Amen.
Bible Studies for the other 4 chapters of 1 Peter
Published 15 February 2006