1 PETER SERIES – NR 10
Theme : Submit and live
Scripture : 1 Peter 5: 1 – 7
At times when Christian believers (the church of the Lord Jesus) are persecuted and suffer hardship, strong spiritual leadership is imperative. It is always necessary, but more so when the church is struggling.
And the New Testament knows only ONE kind of spiritual leadership and that is the election and appointment of elders who serve as overseers, give spiritual guidance and preach the Word of God.
The Apostle Peter is also GIVING guidance by mobilizing the elders – as being a fellow-elder. Although a true authentic Apostle, Peter was certainly not elevated above the elders. He regards himself as an elder like the others because the leadership in the earliest church consisted of elders/ overseers/ shepherds/ caretakers. Generally, a small council of elders (therefore the plural here) some of whom taught and preached (1 Tim 5:17).
Peter however had authority as Apostle, which other elders did not have because he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension. He was there. It was not possible to be an Apostle without having been an eyewitness of the Saviour’s work of redemption (Acts 1:21). That is why (incidentally) it is impossible to still have Apostles today. All present-day so-called Apostles are false and self-proclaimed. Today – indeed the entire past 2000 years – we only have elders who, as faithfully as possible, preach and teach the message of the authentic Apostles (as contained in the NT).
Therefore we still today have an Apostolic ministry. The MESSAGE of the authentic Apostles is preached. And in THAT way God is building His church on a solid foundation.
But now take note of the two wonderful truths in verse 1:
ONE: There is a glory to be revealed. There is an assured future set aside for Christian believers. And that is God the Father’s future when Christ appears again with His second coming. An all-surpassing glory when all faithful shepherds/elders will receive their REWARD. It is a future reality that should urge the elders onward when things become tough. A future which we keep in view.
TWO: Take note of Peter’s personal assurance of glory/salvation. He is saying that he KNOWS that he WILL share in the future glory. And that is exactly the same assurance which each Christian must and can have. No more doubt: I truly AM saved. I AM His. And my life testifies of it in a very practical way.
Peter’s assurance was certainly not based upon something exemplary in himself. No good qualities. With pain, he could think back to how he had denied Jesus. No, his assurance was solidly built upon the perfect atoning work which Jesus vicariously performed. His trust is based upon THAT. And so too every true Christian right up to our day.
That, in short, is the teaching of verse 1. Let us now move on to verses 2-3 where the Apostle addresses the elders specifically.
In the NT the words elder/shepherd/bishop/overseer is used intermittently for the same office. They were the only leaders in the NT churches and sometimes also deacons.
One can see that the elder is a shepherd because Peter talks about them looking after the “flock”. As shepherds did in antiquity in the Middle East. It is purely about caring and supervision. Not dominating. Leadership in the Church of the Lord does not operate like leadership in a 21st-century company or business. The elders are caring people with shepherd’s hearts. It is indeed the heart and disposition of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. A shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep is worth following. The sheep gladly follow such a shepherd.
That is why Jesus’s Kingship is something to which we WANT to subject ourselves because He is the King who gave His life for us. An elder who has a heart like THAT shall lead a blessed flock.
Because now look closely: The flock is given and entrusted to the elders. By whom? By God the Father! With the blood of Christ, the Father bought the flock, says Acts 20:28. First bought and then entrusted to shepherds. Too wonderful for words.
In the equipment of the elder, there is nothing of the SELF and lust for gain. Also nothing of compulsion, but merely willingness because of love for the Lord. Christ is THE example and His example reflects the flock through the elders. The Holy Spirit says so. That is why the elders serve the flock out of a deep devotedness. What is more splendid than someone who is truly DEVOTED to the Lord and His flock?
In verse 4 we see how vigorously the Apostle encourages the elders by pointing out the future that awaits them – particularly those who were faithful and followed in Christ’s footsteps. A glorious future is waiting for them. An ETERNAL future.
But, of course, it is a future to which ALL the Lord’s people may look forward to. Yes, there surely is a day coming when the Great Shepherd – the Shepherd of all shepherds – shall appear. It is of course the Lord Jesus Christ himself. In the OT He was already foretold as the Shepherd for example in Is 40:11 and Zech 13:7. But also in the NT in passages like John 10:2, 11, 12, 16 and Heb 13:20-21. The Scriptures are full of it.
The Scriptures is also very clear about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – when He does NOT return as Saviour, but as Judge. And 1 Cor 3: 9-15 says that those whom He appointed as shepherds to be pastors of His flock, shall particularly be evaluated and rewarded.
One can imagine a podium upon which the winners stand AFTER the race and receive awards. In antiquity, it was crowns or wreaths. But, at Jesus’s second coming it shall be THE CROWN OF GLORY, says Peter. Everlasting. That means that it will never, ever decay or pass away. Eternal glory. Never-ending. That is the crown that is waiting, and that makes everything worth it. It is worth the trouble to endure the hardship in this brief life for the sake of eternal glory. Many prefer the glory on earth. But that is foolishness. Because the Great Shepherd’s crown exceeds everything in glory.
Can you hear how the Apostle is busy comforting and encouraging committed Christians who suffer as a result of their firm stand for Christ and their firm stand on the Truth of the Word? The same is valid for their elders.
And also for children and young people – verse 5.
What is the perfect will of the living God for young people and children within the church – who grew up within the atmosphere of God’s covenant and who came to faith and repentance – embracing the promises of God’s covenant. What is God’s will for them?
Answer: Humble submission to the guidance of the elders – and those who are older, in general.
Remember: verse 5 is linked to the previous verses where he spoke to the elders.
Of course, young people can have viewpoints – which may differ from the leaders and other people. But differences must never be out of an attitude of perverseness. Children and young people are not narrow-minded and restricted. What makes the difference is always the heartbeat of the Lord Jesus. And HIS disposition in the heart and life of His people – that is exactly what Peter is saying here. Submission is the opposite of rebelliousness and the setting of self against others. Yes, it is the natural inclination of man, but it must be laid down to honor the Lord.
It is a fact that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. That is written in Proverbs 3:34 amongst other places. Indeed it is because of pride that Lucifer became conceited and came to a fall (1 Tim 3:6). But, Jesus’s heartbeat is the exact opposite.
And then Peter says a surprising thing. ALL must be subjected to one another and be of assistance to each other. It is not only young people but everyone! And if everyone is so inclined, it helps everyone to be so inclined!
It is like what Paul says about marriage in Eph 5:21. Husband and wife must submit to one another. Then it is easy for the wife to follow the husband’s God-given role of captaincy. What is valid in marriage, is therefore valid to all believers in the church towards each other. That is why it is so imperative that all Christians MUST belong to a good Bible-funded church and not wander about as individuals.
But now: If it is true what is says in verse 5 namely that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, what then is the logical further instruction of verse 6?
THIS: Submit! Submit yourselves in humility to His mighty Hand, because He is very well able to lift you in due time.
Remember that the Apostle is writing to discouraged Christians who are suffering as a result of their devotion to the Lord. It is an Old Testament symbol that he has in the back of his mind of God’s mighty work in the lives of His people to reach His sovereign object. One reads about that in for example Exodus 3: 19-20 and in Job 30: 20-21 and in Micah 6:8. When the Lord God’s sovereign hand leads a child of God through trials/affliction, it is senseless to fight or rebel against Him. Christians who suffer tangible hardship of course feel the hand of the Lord IN THAT. Yet it is God’s will and Divine Providence that they suffer. We believe – according to Scripture – that there is nobody and nothing else that have dominion over us. Not the sinful man, not satan, not nature, not fate, not blind sinister powers. Nothing and no one. ONLY the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ONLY HIM. And, to be in HIS hand, is the best place ever. The upliftment SHALL take place – the hardships shall not have the final say. Even if it has to be at the second coming and on the new earth. But, the Lord has a destined time! Our task is NOT to look into His hidden Will, but to faithfully and devotedly serve Him, even though the shells explode all around us!
Thus: Of trouble and hardship, Peter’s first readers had plenty. It had to be very difficult for them to remain standing. However, the Apostle is writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and come to them with living hope. We see it in verse 7.
When a child of God receives troubles, affliction and humiliation from God’s hand, he/she may, and must cast it upon the Lord in faith! Submission, humility and trust are the three foundation stones of a victorious, triumphant Christian life. About the first two (submission and humility) he spoke in the previous verses. In verse 7 it is about the third: trust.
It can be hard to reach the point of submission. To accept that persecution and hardship come from the hand of the Lord. But when a Christian – by grace – reached the point of submission and humility, then trusting becomes easier. When you realize that the Lord is completely sovereign and you received the trial out of His hand, then you suddenly realize that He is in any case also the one who cares for you. Even if you do NOT cast your anxiety upon Him!
Look how well the Apostle puts it: He is NOT saying: “Cast all your troubles upon Him and then He will care for you”. He is saying: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He CARES for you”. A given fact therefore, immaterial whether you cast your anxieties on Him or not.
It makes an enormous difference. His solicitude is already a given fact. Therefore you and I can/may/must cast ALL our anxieties on Him. Not SO THAT the Lord can do something, but BECAUSE He does it in any case. He cares.
The word “cast” means to throw something upon something else. As the disciples threw their clothes on the donkey upon which Jesus entered Jerusalem (Matt 21:7).
Bring your anxieties and troubles. All the things that keep you awake at night. Cast it on HIM who cares in any case!
Translated by Marthie Wilson