“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:1-14
In the final chapter of First Peter, we are given some basic instructions as we continue on life’s journey. These concluding instructions focus on life in the local church. The reason for such a focus is important to note here. In light of all that we have been taught previously in the book of First Peter, the most important place to receive encouragement during difficult days, is the local church. Every believer should involve themselves with a local church. It is that close-knit community of believers found in a good Bible-believing church that gives us the strength to carry on in a difficult world. Peter, therefore concludes his letter with some instructions concerning life in the local church.
Instructions for elders. In verses 1-4, we see instructions for the elders of the church. The term ‘elder’ in scripture can refer to those who are aged. The scriptures also teach concerning the office of elder in the local church. The office of elder is the same office as pastor or bishop. These terms are interchangeable in relation to the local church. It is the office of the elder that Peter has in mind when he gives these instructions.
The first instruction given to the elders is to feed the flock of God. The primary responsibility of the pastor is to preach and teach the Word of God. This is a responsibility that must not be neglected. The most important part of life in the local church is when the man of God stands behind that sacred desk we call the pulpit and proclaims the Word of God. In Ephesians 4:11-12, we find that God places certain people in the church in order to equip us for the work of the ministry. This equipping ministry is primarily the responsibility of the pastor. In Acts 6, we see the appointing of the first deacons. These men were chosen to serve and take care of the needs of people in the church in order that the apostles may give the majority of their time to the ministry and study of the scriptures. Throughout the New Testament we see an emphasis placed on the importance of the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Pastors must feed the flock that God has placed them in.
The second thing Peter mentions concerning the elder or pastor is to oversee the work. The pastor has the responsibility of the general oversight of the entire life and ministry of the local church where God has placed him. This oversight should not be done in a way that benefits the comfort and reputation of the pastor; but rather it should be done in a way that is best suited for the church. The pastor is not to lead as a dictator, however, he is to lead by example. The oversight work of the pastor carries great responsibility as everything rises and falls on leadership. The pastor must be a man of vision and have a clear understanding of God’s desire for the church.
A final instruction that Peter gives to the elder or pastor is to lead by example. The pastor should set a good example of what it means to be a follower of Christ. He should live such a life that others may follow to become more like Christ. The pastor should be a good example in every area of life. He must be careful to practice what he preaches. He should also not ask others to do something that he himself is not willing to do.
Instructions for the church. In verses 5-9, Peter gives instructions for the church. There are three basic things we see in this passage that the church is instructed to do.
The first instruction given to the church is to submit to God and to each other with humility. This is seen in verses 5-6. Peter mentions that the younger is to submit to the elder. Certainly, those who are younger should submit to the wisdom of those who are older. It is wise even for a young pastor to submit to the wisdom of those who are older and more experienced in the church. However, there is also another way to consider this. The elder may be those who are elder in the faith, not just in age. The younger in the faith should submit to the elder in the faith. In other words, younger Christians should submit to those who have been Christians longer and who have more experience in their walk with God. Ultimately, however, everyone in the church should submit to each other. Together, we are to humble ourselves before God realizing that no one is greater than the other and that we all need help in our walk with God. Therefore, we are to learn and grow together.
In verse 7, we see that we are also to trust in God completely. Here Peter tells us to cast all of our cares upon the Lord. This basically means that we are to surrender all to Christ. We are to give Him all of our cares and concerns. We are to allow Him to fight our battles for us. We are to submit to His Lordship and to His plan for our lives and for the church.
A final instruction for the church is seen in verse 8-9 and that is to be ready for battle. Throughout the book of First Peter, we learn how we are to live in a world that is against us. We receive instructions that prepares us for facing persecution. The real enemy is not the persecutor. The real enemy is Satan. We need to realize that Satan is doing and will do everything he can to hinder our walk with God and destroy our witness to the world. Therefore, we must take heed to all that we have been taught in order to be prepared for battle. We are encouraged by the thought given in verse 9 that we are not alone. Christians all around the world have the same enemy and is fighting the same battle. We are in this together.
A final prayer. The final five verses (v. 10-14) of First Peter is a simple prayer of praise to God and a blessing on all those who read this book. Peter’s prayer is that as Christians suffer for a time that they will be strengthen, established, and perfected in the faith. Persecution is inevitable for those who faithfully follow Christ. However, we must not allow persecution to destroy our faith. Peter has given us wonderful encouragement as to how we should live in a world that is against us. May we take heed to all that we have learned so that our lives may bring honor and glory to God.