What does 1 Peter 5 mean?
Peter closes out his letter to the scattered Christians in the churches of Asia Minor with some final instructions. He counsels the elders about how to lead, includes how and why to live in humility with each other, and gives a final warning to be clear-minded and alert.
Peter counts himself as one of the elders. And so, he passes on the same instructions Jesus gave to him: to feed and shepherd Christ's sheep. That is the role of an elder in the local church: to serve as a shepherd of the "flock of God." Peter insists that those who accept the job do so because they want to and not just for money or power. They should lead first and foremost by example, showing others in the church how to follow Christ by doing so themselves. When Christ returns, He will reward those shepherds with an unfading crown of glory.
In the same way, those who are younger are called to be subject to these shepherds. Newer believers should see more experienced Christians as a God-given authority in their lives. This, of course, also puts additional responsibility on those older Christians to live in a way deserving of this respect.
Peter then addresses all Christians with this: Put on humility toward each other out of submission to God. God is God, and we are not. We are to humble ourselves under His hand, understanding that our only significance is found in Him. We can freely stop promoting ourselves, because He will exalt us, when the time is exactly right. One such act of humility is this: cast your cares on the Father who cares for you. It is only in pride that we would insist on continuing to carry those burdens ourselves.
Peter then instructs his readers for the third time to be clear-minded (or sober-minded) and alert. The reason he offers this time is that we have a mortal enemy prowling around and seeking to devour us. The devil is portrayed as a lion, and we are instructed to engage in resisting him. This is to be done by focusing on staying firm in our faith, both in Christ, and in God's plan for us. That plan may include suffering for the brief course of this life. And yet, it also includes a permanent end to suffering and a future in which our Father—forever powerful—will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us forever.
Finally, Peter signs off with a commendation for Silvanus, who will likely deliver this letter to the churches, as well as greetings from the Christians where he was, including his son in the faith, Mark.
1 Peter 5:1–11 gives specific instructions to elders about how to lead the flock of God willingly, eagerly, and by their own example. All of us must live in humility toward each other and toward God, who opposes the proud. In humility, we cast our anxieties on the Father who cares for us. In alertness, we are to remain clear-minded, looking out for our enemy the devil who seeks to destroy us. We resist him by focusing on staying firm in our faith and trusting God to keep His promises.
1 Peter 5:12–14 brings Peter’s letter to the scattered Christians of Asia Minor to a close. He commends Silvanus (Silas), who will likely deliver the letter to the churches. He offers greetings from the church where he is, including a greeting from his ''spiritual'' son (not likely his actual child) Mark. Finally, Peter asks that they greet each other, on his behalf, with a kiss, and he signs off with a prayer for peace for all Christians.
Peter concludes his letter to the scattered Christians in Asia Minor with specific instructions. Primarily, these are targeted at those in the role of elder, about how to lead. He also provides counsel for all believers on living in humility toward each other and toward God. In humility, we wait and trust God to exalt us in His time. In humility, we cast our cares on Him. But we’re also called to remain alert, watching out for the devil and resisting him by focusing on staying firm in our faith. After this brief life of suffering, our God will bring our suffering to an end and make us strong forever.
Thus far, Peter has affirmed that Christians have been chosen by God and set aside for His purposes. We should not be surprised by suffering, and we should not respond to persecution by rebelling against our human authorities. Our suffering in both cases points the world to our hope in Christ and allows us to follow in Jesus’ steps. Peter here concludes his letter with instructions to the elders, teaching on humility, and a final warning to be sober-minded and alert.
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ, and to obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now the Christ-followers have the opportunity to follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
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