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I Peter 5


Teaching the Flock of God Shepherd the Flock Concluding Exhortations and Greetings The Flock of God Instructions: To the Elders
5:1-4 5:1-4 5:1-5 5:1-4 5:1-4
  Submit to God, Resist the Devil     Instructions: To the Faithful
5:5 5:5-11   5:5-7 5:5-11
5:6-7   5:6-11    
5:8-11     5:8-11  
Final Greetings Farewell and Peace   Final Greetings Last Words Greetings
5:12-14 5:12-14 5:12-14a 5:12 5:12
      5:13-14a 5:13
    5:14b 5:14b 5:14

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

5:1 "elders. . .fellow elder" There is a play on the term elder (presbuteros) in 1 Pet. 5:1 and 5. The term is apparently used as a title of leadership (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1) and a designation of age (cf. 1 Pet. 5:5). The use of this term is surprising considering that it is basically the Jewish tribal designation of leadership, while "bishop" or "overseer" (episcopos) was the Greek city-state designation for leadership. 1 Peter uses Jewish terms to address Gentile believers.

Peter calls himself a "fellow elder," the term presbuteros plus the preposition syn, which implies "joint participation with." Peter does not assert his Apostolic authority (cf. 2 John 1 where another Apostle calls himself "elder"), but admonishes (i.e., "I exhort," a present active indicative) the local leaders to act and live appropriately in the light of

1. Christ's example

2. nearness of His return

The early churches did not have paid positions of leadership, but recognized the God-given gifts of ministry and leadership within each local church. This affirmation of giftedness had to be balanced with the cultural reverence for "aged-wisdom," especially among the Jewish believing community. Therefore, Peter addresses both types of leadership.

Also notice that "elders" is plural. This may refer to (1) a number of house church leaders (cf. Acts 20:17) or (2) the different spiritual gifts among a body of leaders (cf. Eph. 4:11), which clearly states that ministry belongs to all believers. This is parallel to the concept of "a kingdom of priests" (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9).

▣ "witness of the suffering of Christ" This is an affirmation of Peter's eyewitness recollection of the life of Jesus (cf. Acts 3:15; 10:39). It may also reflect Peter's memory of Jesus' words in Acts 1:8. The term "suffering" refers to the crucifixion. Peter uses the term suffering often (cf. 1 Pet. 1:11; 2:19,20,21,23; 3:14,17,18; 4:1[twice],13,15,19; 5:1,10). This discussion about Jesus' suffering as both redemptive and as an example believers are to emulate, forms a major theme in 1 Peter.

▣ "partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed" This is not only a future reference to the Second Coming (cf. 1 Pet. 1:5,7; 4:13; 5:4), but possibly a backward eyewitness (flashback) reference to the Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17; Mark 9:2-8; 2 Pet. 1:16-18). See Special Topic: Glory at Mark 10:37.

5:2 "shepherd the flock of God" This is an aorist active imperative. "Shepherd" is an OT metaphor for God (cf. Ps. 23:1; 100:3). It became a title for leaders (cf. Ezek. 34:7-10). Sheep needed constant care, protection, and attention. Jesus is called the "Good Shepherd" in John 10 and He tells Peter to be a pastor to His sheep in John 21.

In the NT there are several titles for local church leaders.

1. elders

2. overseers or bishops

3. shepherds or pastors

These seem to be used interchangeably (cf. Acts 20:17,28 and Titus 1:5,7).

NASB"exercising oversight"
NKJV"serving as overseers"
NRSV"exercising the oversight"

Several ancient Greek manuscripts (i.e., P72, אi2, A, P, and the Vulgate) include the verbal form (present active participle) of "overseer" used in conjunction with the work of elders. Some ancient manuscripts omit the participle (i.e., א* and B). It is uncertain whether the omission is purposeful by scribes uncomfortable with mixing the offices or roles of elders and overseers.

5:2-3 This begins a series (cf. 1 Pet. 5:2-3) of contrasting qualifications for church leaders.

Positive Negative
1. voluntary
2. with eagerness
3. as an example
not under compulsion
not for sordid gain
not lording it over

One wonders how much these negatives reflect actual conditions of the leadership of some of the house churches related to the false teachers (cf. 2 Peter).

▣ "according to the will of God" This phrase is present in many ancient Greek manuscripts (i.e., P72, אi2, A, and P), but it is omitted in MSS B, K, and L. It is present in most modern English translations, but absent in the KJV. Peter uses this phrase often in 1 Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 2:15; 3:17; 4:2,3,19). Therefore, it was probably original.

"examples" See Special Topic following.

5:4 "the Chief Shepherd" Peter's terminology for Christ as Shepherd (cf. 1 Pet. 2:25) may have come from his conversation with the resurrected Lord recorded in John 21:15-17. Here Peter calls Christ by the compound term archi plus poimen, meaning the high or first shepherd (cf. John 10:1-18). In Heb. 13:20 Christ is described as "the great Shepherd." All other leaders ( "elders" or "overseers") are under-shepherds.

It is possible that Peter is alluding to Isa. 63:11, where Moses is called "shepherd."

▣ "appears" This is another reference to the Second Coming (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1; 1:5,7; 4:13).

▣ "unfading crown of glory" In context (i.e., 1 Pet. 5:1-5) this refers to the "under shepherds." Peter mixes an athletic metaphor (cf. 1 Cor. 9:23) with a floral metaphor. This unfading crown of glory may refer to the believer's inheritance guarded by God in 1 Pet. 1:4. It is parallel to

1. Paul's "crown of righteousness" in 2 Tim. 4:8

2. James' "crown of life" in James 1:12

3. Jesus' "crown of life" in Rev. 2:10; 3:11

It is a symbol of the believer's victory in the battle against sin, self, as well as their patient, faithful suffering for Christ's sake.

5:5 "you younger men" In Jewish society a man was considered young until forty years of age. There was to be no generation gap or warfare within the believing community, but mutual respect (i.e., "likewise" of 1 Pet. 5:5).

▣ "be subject to your elders" This is an aorist passive imperative describing a settled manner of life. The context implies that the "elders" of 1 Pet. 5:1 are the same as the "elders" of 1 Pet. 5:5. However, "younger" must reflect an age contrast (cf. 1 Tim. 5:1, which refers to an older person, while 1 Tim. 5:17 refers to a church leader). See Special Topic: Submission at 1 Pet. 2:13.

▣ "and all of you" Peter is moving from admonitions to church leaders and other men of the congregation to all members of the church (cf. Eph. 5:21). It is crucial that believers understand their personal responsibility for peace and unity in the fellowship (cf. Eph. 4:2-3).

▣ "clothe yourselves" This is an aorist middle imperative. Putting on and taking off clothing is a biblical idiom for believers' ethical lifestyles (cf. Job 29:14; Ps. 109:29; Isa. 61:10; Eph. 4:22,24,25,31). They are to put on the characteristics of God and strip themselves of any competitive spirit.

The Greek term for "clothe" is literally "gird." It is possible that Peter is reflecting on Jesus' actions in the upper room, recorded in John 13:2-11 (Jesus girds Himself with a slave's apron and washes the disciples' feet). Peter had seen true humility and now calls on believers to emulate Christ (cf. Phil. 2:8; James 4:10).

"humility" This is a compound term of "humility" and "mind." See note at 1 Pet. 3:8.

"toward one another" This is an emphasis on community (cf. 1 Pet. 3:9; Eph. 5:21). Believers are given (and gifted, cf. 1 Cor. 12:7) for one another. We stand or fall together!

"for God is opposed to the proud, but gives Grace to the humble" This is a quote from Pro. 3:34 (cf. James 4:6). The term "grace" is used in its OT sense of "favor."

 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

5:6 "humble yourselves" This is an aorist passive imperative. This is a characteristic of Jesus (cf. Matt. 11:29) which becomes a standard for His followers (cf. James 4:10).

▣ "the mighty hand of God" This is an anthropomorphic phrase (cf. James 4:6,10) which speaks of God's care, provision, and faithful love, even amidst persecution. He is the "unseen hand," as in Esther!

▣ "that He may exalt you" This reflects Jesus' words in Matt. 23:12 and James' admonition in James 4:6. YHWH is regularly depicted as resisting the proud and exalting the lowly (cf. Job 5:11; Ps. 138:6; Pro. 3:34; Ezek. 17:24; 21:26).

NASB"at the proper time"
NJB"in due time"
TEV"in his own time"

In context this serves two theological purposes: (1) currently these readers are going through persecution, not exaltation and (2) the time of exaltation is at the Second Coming. Alertness, humility, and lack of anxiety are crucial in the face of Satanic-inspired persecution.

5:7 "casting all your anxiety on Him" This is an aorist active participle used as an imperative and may be an allusion to Ps. 55:22 in the Septuagint. This is an idiom of mentally placing one's concerns on Christ (cf. Matt. 6:25). He carries them for us even amidst persecution and suffering. He bore our sin and now He bears our anxiety and fear!

Believers can do this because we know He cares for us. We know this from:

1. His death (cf. 1 Pet. 2:22-24; 3:18)

2. His intercession (cf. 1 John 2:1-2)

3. His shepherding (cf. 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4)


5:8 "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert" These are aorist active imperatives. Believers are to make a decisive choice to be mentally alert (cf. Matt. 24:42; 25:13; 26:41; Mark 13:35,37; 14:38; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:13; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:6,10; Rev. 3:2-3; 16:15). Peter has emphasized these (i.e., sober and alert) before (cf. 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7). Alertness and proper thinking can overcome anxiety and temptation.

▣ "Your adversary, the devil" The term "adversary" reflects the Hebrew title for Satan (used 36 times in the NT), which means adversary. The title "devil" (used 37 times in the NT) is a Greek compound "to throw across" meaning to cast aspersions. See Special Topic below.


▣ "prowls around like a roaring lion" This animal metaphor for Satan probably comes from the OT.

1. symbol of powerful enemy (cf. Ps. 7:2; 10:2; 17:12; 22:13,21; 2 Tim. 4:17)

2. one of God's ways to judge His people (cf. 2 Kgs. 17:25; Isa. 15:9; Jer. 50:17)


"seeking someone to devour" Satan's ultimate purpose is revealed—destruction and death. He is an enemy of all that is good, godly, and true.

5:9 "resist him" This is another aorist active imperative. In Jesus believers have the power to resist evil and the evil one! In James 4:7 this same admonition is linked to Satan fleeing, but here it is linked to ongoing suffering and persecution. Victory over the devil is not the absence of suffering!

"firm in your faith" Believers must continue in their faith (cf. Col. 2:5). Prosperity and health are not always signs of God's blessings (cf. Job, Ps. 73). Believers must exercise their faith in any and all circumstances. Continuance is crucial (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17).


▣ "knowing that the same experiences are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" Peter uses the common experience of believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire as an encouragement to these persecuted believers. Their experience was not unusual, but normative.

5:10 "After you have suffered for a little while" This refers to this life (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6).

"the God of all grace" The hope of all believers is the settled, unchanging character of a loving, gracious, merciful God. Although we live in a fallen world of evil and rebellion, when we trust Him nothing can separate us from Him (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).

The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 78-79, has a wonderful list of the genitive phrase used to describe God.

1. God of peace – Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 1 Cor. 14:33; 1 Thess. 5:23; Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:20

2. God of mercy – Luke 1:78

3. God of all comfort – Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:3

4. God of all grace – 1 Pet. 5:10,12

5. God of love – 2 Cor. 13:11

6. not the God of confusion – 1 Cor. 14:33


▣ "who called you to His eternal glory in Christ" This is another emphasis on our identification with Christ. We are identified with Him now in His death (cf. Rom. 6:4) and suffering (cf. Rom. 8:17), but also His resurrection and glory (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:10). This eternal glory only comes experientially at physical death or the Second Coming!

5:11 "will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" God's goal for all believers is Christlikeness through suffering and struggles (cf. 1 Pet. 4:13; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5,7; Phil. 3:19; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 2:10; 5:8). Yet it is He Himself who provides all that is necessary. Here again is the paradoxical covenant concept. God does His part and we must do our part!

"to Him be dominion forever and ever" This restates 4:11, except here there is no verb. So many of the themes of 1 Peter (like 1 John) are like patterns in tapestries or melodies in music repeated with slight variation. God is in control of all things (cf. Rom. 11:36).

 12Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14Greet one another with a kiss of love.

5:12 "Through Silvanus" This is the Silas of Acts 15:40. This man was Peter's source, along with John Mark, of Paul's theology and writings. Peter's writings are very similar to Paul's in many ways.

There has been much speculation concerning this phrase's relationship to the authorship of 1 Peter. I think there is no doubt Peter used a scribe, but was it Silvanus? An interesting article in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 417-432, entitled "Silvanus Was Not Peter's Secretary" by E. Randolph Richards, has convinced me that this phrase probably refers to Silvanus bearing the letter to its readers, not necessarily penning it for Peter.


▣ "the true grace of God" By the date of Peter's writings, other views of Jesus had developed. Peter asserts there is but one true grace—gospel. Peter has emphasized the grace of God often in 1 Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10,13; 2:3; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5,10,12). The gospel of Jesus Christ truly reflects the heart of YHWH. It is called "true" here because it has been experienced in the lives of these suffering believers!

"stand firm in it" This is an aorist active imperative. This was significant in a day of persecution. "Standing" relates to "firm in your faith" in 1 Pet. 5:9. It is an attitude towards God, towards Christ and away from sin, self, and Satan. It is a military term in Eph. 6:11,13,14. Paul uses it in several different ways.

1. gospel summary in 1 Cor. 15:1

2. explanation of "justification by faith" in Rom. 5:2

3. admonitions to Gentiles to keep the faith in Rom. 11:20

4. warning about spiritual arrogance in 1 Cor. 10:12

Believers have a covenantal responsibility to stand firm ! See Special Topic: Perseverance at 1 Pet. 5:9.

5:13 "she" Churches were often personified as female (cf. 2 John) probably because of the OT concept of YHWH as husband and Israel as wife (cf. Hos. 1-3). The church is the bride of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:21-31).

"Babylon" This is probably a cryptic reference to Rome (cf. Rev. 14:8; 17:5; 18:2,10; Sibylline Oracles 5:143,152; Baruch 9:1). Rome, in Peter's day, was emblematic of the world powers of the OT (i.e., Assyria, Babylon, Persia). It was typical of a world system of power, arrogance, and idolatry apart from God (cf. Eph. 2:2a).

Peter was writing from the lair of the beast itself. God's church was established in the enemy's territory.

"Mark" This refers to John Mark. The early church met in his family's house in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12:12). It was also the site of the Lord's three post resurrection appearances and the coming of the Spirit.

John Mark accompanied Paul and his cousin Barnabas (cf. Col. 4:10) on the first missionary journey (cf. Acts 12:25-13:13). For some reason he deserted the team and returned home (cf. Acts 15:38). Barnabas wanted to include him on the second missionary journey, but Paul refused (cf. Acts 15:36-41). This resulted in Paul and Barnabas separating. Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus (cf. Acts 15:39). Later, while Paul was in prison, he mentions John Mark in a positive way (cf. Col. 4:10) and still later in Paul's second imprisonment at Rome, just before his death, he mentions John Mark again (cf. 2 Tim. 4:11).

Apparently John Mark became part of Peter's missionary team (cf. 1 Pet. 5:13). Eusebius' Eccl. His. 3:39:12 gives us an interesting account of John Mark's relation to Peter.

"In his own book Papias gives us accounts of the Lord's sayings obtained from Aristion or learnt direct from the presbyter John. Having brought these to the attention of scholars, I must now follow up the statements already quoted from him with a piece of information which he sets out regarding Mark, the writer of the gospel:

This, too, the presbyter used to say. 'Mark, who had been Peter's interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord's sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter's. Peter used to adapt his teaching to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord's sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only— to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no misstatement about it'" (p. 152).

In this quote Papias refers to "John the elder," in Against Heresies 5:33:4, Irenaeus says "and these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp." This implies Papias heard it from John the Apostle. John Mark reworded Peter's memories and sermons about Jesus into a Gospel.

5:14 "a kiss of love" This was the typical cultural greeting among family members. It was initially adopted by the family of God (cf. Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:6). By the fourth century a.d. this kiss was limited to the same sex because of the abuses within the church and misunderstandings from outside the church. This ritual fellowship act was a regular part of the Lord's Supper or Love Feast.

 14bPeace be to you all who are in Christ.

5:14b Only those in Christ can have peace (cf. Luke 2:14). Those who have Christ's peace usually do not have the world's peace (cf. Matt. 10:34; Luke 12:49-53; John 14:27). 


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List and explain the NT terms used for the leader of local house churches.

2. List the four admonitions to pastors in 1 Pet. 5:2-3.

3. List allusions to Peter's personal contact with Jesus that are mentioned in this chapter.

4. How is suffering related to Christian maturity? To the Devil?