1 Peter – Lesson Five
1. Who is Peter addressing in 1 Peter 5:1-4? How and why does Peter identify with this group?
Peter opens chapter five by specifically addressing the elders of the Church. Peter has a special pleading for them using the Greek word parakalo, which has been translated in English as exhort. The full import of the word, however, is missed in the English. It means not just to command, but also to encourage, entreat and even console. Why would Peter choose this word with which to instruct the Church leaders?
Being a leader of the Church is no easy task, as Peter can identify. He wants the elders in charge to know that he shares their leadership responsibility and can empathize with their challenges. Peter knows the dangers of such role. Leaders of the Church will suffer. Thus, Peter adds that he witnessed the suffering of Christ, not to brag, but to encourage the leaders to stay in the faith. In the midst of their persecution, Peter can personally attest to the brutal suffering Jesus endured for each of us. He reminds them of what he taught earlier, that those who suffer for their faith will partake in Christ’s glory. We can possess such glory now, albeit only fully revealed to us in eternity.
2. What does Peter “exhort” the elders to do? (See Proverbs 4:23)
Peter instructs the Church elders to feed and oversee others in the Church. We might consider such instruction obvious, asking why wouldn’t Church leaders tend to the needs of their flock? But perhaps most noteworthy are the qualifications to doing so: “not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3) Peter understands the impatient human condition and the temptation to do for oneself, disguised as helping others. Peter is making the point that God cares more about our hearts than our actions. Why? Because actions can be shallow, done under an altruistic guise. But a heart that is determined to please the Lord will do good even when there’s nothing in it for us. If our hearts are right, our actions will naturally follow.
3. What reward does Peter tell the elders comes as a result of leading the flock well out of right heart motives? When will they receive it?
In Peter’s day, the Greek and Roman cultures awarded victor’s crowns fashioned out of ivy, laurels or flowers. The crowns were temporary, eventually deteriorating; the symbol of their triumph soon forgotten. But God has much better rewards in store for faithful servants. His crowns are “infinitely better and more honorable than all the authority, wealth, and pleasure of the world.”
Those who faithfully shepherd God’s flock of believers will receive the crown of glory “that fades not away” (1 Peter 5:4). See notes in Lesson One, question 5 for the significance of the Greek word for “unfading” used only here and one other place (1 Peter 1:4) in the New Testament.
1 Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
4. Who is Peter addressing “likewise” in 1 Peter 5:5? Compare these instructions with those to the elders. Why did Peter emphasize “humility” with the younger believers? (See Proverbs 22:15)
The flesh is bent on sin from birth. That’s why our children scream and cry when we say no. They want their own way. Proverbs 22:15 says “Young people are prone to foolishness and fads; the cure comes through tough-minded discipline.” God disciplines those He loves through hardship (Hebrews 12:6). Adversity chisels us into the shape of the cornerstone, Jesus. If we want to develop wisdom and humility, we must travel the road of sanctification, which takes time. The young don’t have time and experience under their belt. We can all learn from those who are further along the road of life. Rest assured, if we don’t humble ourselves, adversity will. Best to humble ourselves while we are young so God can exalt us in His proper time. We don’t want to be victims of our own pride, which goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).
5. What animal does Peter compare the devil to? What does he suggest that the devil wants to do? How does Peter suggest the devil accomplishes his goal? What are believers to do in response? (See Zechariah 3:1)
Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion, a ferocious beast with the capacity to devour its prey in a most terrifying way. Like a lion, the devil prowls, which is to invoke the image of a calculated, cunning attack. Lions crouch so as to not be seen by their prey and pounce at a most unlikely moment when the object of their terror is unguarded. Satan could approach us with obvious temptations in his usual garb with horns and a pitchfork. But then wouldn’t we be more prepared to resist? Such approach would undermine Satan’s goal of devouring us body and soul. He is much more effective innocuously and insidiously sneaking into our lives, learning our flaws so he can pounce at the perfect moment of unguarded weakness. We must, therefore, be sober and vigilant in the faith to recognize Satan’s schemes.
6. Have you ever felt afflicted with a worse temptation than other believers? According to 1 Peter 5:9, is that even possible? (See 1 Corinthians 10:13)
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” 1 peter 5:9 confirms this, stating “knowing the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world.” Peter assures believers to encourage them to stay in the faith despite the trials of this life; despite the tribulation that befalls believers. Rest assured that whatever you’re going through, God doesn’t have an especially large target on your back to test your faith; neither has he given Satan more leeway to temp you into sin. Let this fact strengthen us for the journey. God will be faithful to provide a way out and get us through, but we first must go through. That’s where we have the opportunity to show our partnership with Christ.
7. What is the purpose of our suffering according to verse 10? Does suffering mean we are forsaken by God?
Peter makes the point that our suffering has a purpose – to make us perfect and to establish, strengthen and settle us. If I had the choice I would avoid all suffering, but it seems like that’s not the best choice (as if we even have a choice). Better for us to experience tribulation in order that we may be chiseled into perfection. When we are established, strengthened and settled, we are at peace no matter our circumstances. We trust that God will work it out. We stop worrying and we lean on our faith and the infallible promises of God. We may suffer through this life but on the other side we will experience our full inheritance, which is better than any easy road this life can offer. This life is but temporary; our inheritance is for an eternity. Suffering does not mean God forsakes us. By suffering we are in fidelity with God. We must not let our personal feelings about suffering cloud our perception of God’s goodness and love for us.
Dear God, thank you for the assurance of your love and grace even in the midst of suffering. Help us not blame others who seem to not be going through as tough of a time. Protect our hearts from bitterness and self-pity. Instead, help us lean on you and grow in our faith. Humble us so we can be used by you to help others come to faith. Keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that you are in control. We can trust you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Personal Application Questions
1. Do you appreciate the pressures and temptations that are unique to church leadership? If you are a church leader share some challenges that you have experienced or have seen others experience (no names please). Does the promise of an eternal reward reshape your perspective to want to serve in this capacity?
2. Have you ever had an experience with a younger believer who thought they knew “better” or were “entitled”? Are you a younger leader in the Church? How has Peter’s exhortation changed the way you perceive your role/approach?
3. How often to do cast your cares before the Lord? Do you fall into the trap of stewing over your circumstances and problems? You wouldn’t be alone, but what does God say can be accomplished by worry? (See Matthew 6:27) The more important question may be, do you believe what Peter says, that God cares for you? And if so, do you trust God to take care of you?