Peter was exhorted by Jesus to tend and shepherd His sheep (John 21:15-17), and this is what Peter is doing in this chapter by encouraging the local shepherds in Asia Minor!
He speaks to older men (elders) and younger men in 5:1-5. When he is talking to older men, he is specifically talking to appointed officials who have a shepherding role in the local church (See the posts on 1 Timothy 5 and Titus 2 for more about elders). He encourages the elders to shepherd voluntarily and humbly with no desire to control the flock or to gain financially. The younger men are to humbly submit to their elders.
He ends the letter with many exhortations for living the Christian life:
1) Humble Yourselves
Pride is the biggest killer in the church, and we must look for it in our own lives. Peter quotes James 4:10 which had been written 13-14 years prior to this letter. I have already addressed the issue of pride in James 4, but it does not hurt to review:
In this diatribe James gives us a path from proud to lowly by submitting to God, taking a stand against the devil (who exploits the evil desires within by worldly temptations from without), drawing near to God, and confessing, with deep sorrow, your sins (1 John 1:9). This is all part of the process of humbling ourselves before the Lord (Micah 6:8). I had a pastor who used to say, "The way UP is DOWN!" Amen!
(Since I wrote this post, I contacted that old pastor and had a lovely email exchange. He had quite a humbling experience when he was "let go" from my old church, but God has certainly given grace to him since this happened back in the 90's and blessed his ministry! Praise God!)Our best example of humility is Jesus. :)
2) Caste Your Anxieties Upon a Caring God - See Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 8:28-32; Philippians 4:6-7, 19.
3) Be watchful for and resist the devil - Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:31; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:10-17 (try to look for parallels between Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5). He is real, but there is more power in one drop of the shed blood of Jesus Christ than all the power the devil can muster (Luke 10:17-20; Ephesians 1:18-23; 1 John 4:4). Notice how Jesus resisted the devil with the word of God in Matthew 4! If you resist (to set oneself against), he WILL flee (James 4:7). You can depend on our faithful God!
If we suffer at the hands of the enemy, we have the promise that God will perfect (equip, adjust, fit together; Amplified says "complete, make you what you ought to be"), confirm (make stable, set firmly), strengthen, and establish (lay the foundation, make stable) us!
He ends the letter and mentions Silvanus who probably personally delivered Peter's letter and is the Silas that traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). The "she in Babylon" is probably the church in Rome. Mark is probably John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, since Paul places him in Rome at that time (Colossians 4:10).
What a great promise that God will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us when we have suffered (1 Peter 4:10). I remember quoting that verse over and over as I went down to Southern California to say good-bye to my dad when he was dying and having to face my two older brothers who were loud, outspoken, alcoholics, and doing cocaine! Talk about double suffering! I was so afraid of them, but God was my comfort and strength to where my older brother declared, "Carol, you have been a ROCK through all of this!" With this I was able to testify of the ROCK inside of me!
We have learned a lot about suffering through the book of 1 Peter. The Daily Walk calls it "A Survival Manual for Suffering Saints" stating, "Persecution can cause you to grow or grumble in the Christian life. It all depends on your response"(December 2008, p. 22). I would have to wholeheartedly agree.
So how do you respond to "fiery ordeals'? Do you allow God to grow you through the suffering? Do you run away? Do you freak out and rely on your own strength to resist?
The Daily Walk states this about the book of 1 Peter:
It presents God's time-tested strategy for holding up rather than folding up, during difficult times.
If you want to get in shape physically, there are some helpful steps you can take: Eat properly, get adequate sleep, take a multivitamin every day. But there is no substitute for exercise -- working against resistance. The same is true in the Christian life. Proper nourishment from the Word is essential, but so too is "exercise" -- in God's strength, facing and conquering trials and difficulties. God, the perfect Coach, knows the perfect "workout" you need to turn an area of weakness into an area of Christlikeness.
Before you go to bed tonight, write out the words of 1 Peter 1:7 [I suggest 5:10 too.]. Tomorrow, let that note remind you that God wants to tone up your faith today -- and trials may well be part of the workout.
Getting into hot water occasionally has a way of keeping us clean. (p.22)The way to respond to suffering is to humbly submit to God, resist the enemy with the Word of truth, and just hold on rather than run away! God is on your side coaching you all the way!!!
Lord, help us to rely on Your resources to respond to suffering. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.