13 September 2017

1 Peter 5:1-14

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.” (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 80


Instead of speaking generally to the believers in the Church, Peter now addresses the elders, justifying his comments with the fact that he himself is an elder as one of those who witnessed the suffering of Christ. He reminds those involved about the roles they are to play within the church, and indicating to the elders how they should exercise their responsibility of leadership.

Although the word shepherd does not appear in the text it is clear that he is reminding them of their position as a shepherd or a pastor of the flock. This imagery would be familiar to his readers both from the Old Testament and also from the words of Jesus himself where he speaks of himself as the good shepherd (John 10:11). It cannot have been easy pulling together the assortment of people who had come to faith from the community and there might well have been a tendency for those in leadership to become somewhat tyrannical in the role. However, Peter warns them that they should not lord it over the people but be an example to them, living as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus.

Moving to the younger members of the burgeoning church, Peter writes firmly that, in the light of such an example, they should accept the authority of the elders. The whole body of people elders and others should in the words of Peter "clothe themselves with humility in [their] dealings with one another" for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (v. 5).

The last verses of this letter prompt the believers to be steadfast and true in their faith. Even if suffering comes their way they are not to despair but cast all their anxieties on to God so that they can resist again, in Peter's words, "the devil [who] prowls around, looking for someone to devour." The people can then be comforted to know that after their suffering they will find peace through the presence of Christ.

To Ponder

  • What has this chapter got to say to the Church today about relationships between those in authority and those who see themselves without power?
  • How easy is it to be submissive in the way Peter describes, if a person feels that the leadership has got it not made the right decision.
  • Is the church, the people of God, always as humble as they might be when faced with the world in this generation? How might they modify their behaviour?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.