Victorious Faith

 

Week of August 17, 2014

 

Bible Verses:1 Peter 5:1-11

 

The Point:God will strengthen and restore me.

 

Clothe Yourselves with Humility:1 Peter 5:1-7.

 

[1]So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2]shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3]not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. [4]And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. [5]Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." [6]Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, [7]casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. [ESV]

 

[1-7]ďPeter now moves to the conclusion of his letter, calling his hearers to stand fast in the faith he has again declared to them, and to do so in the midst of the sufferings they must expect. His final charge calls for two attitudes that he has been describing throughout his letter: on the one hand, humility toward others; on the other, bold resistance to evil. These attitudes are fundamental for Christian living in this present world. They are by no means contradictory, as Jesus showed by His example. Peter begins by calling for humility on the part of those who lead and those who are led. In the fires of trial, the shepherdís leadership gains importance. Peter is Christís apostle, called to be a shepherd of the flock of the Lord. But his ministry will soon be over. He addresses those, therefore, who must continue to feed and guard the flock. They are fellow-elders, called by the Lord to exercise oversight in His church. They have received the witness of the apostles, and with them they confess Jesus Christ. The witness of Peter and the other apostles proclaimed the meaning of Christís sufferings and glory. Peter witnessed to the sufferings of Christ that he had seen in Gethsemane and on Calvary; he witnessed to the glory of Christ that he had seen on the mount of transfiguration and after the resurrection. As he witnessed, he tasted of both. He shared in suffering for Christ; he knew the glory of the Spirit of Christ. For Peter, there was much more to come. As he knew from the words of Jesus, final suffering still awaited him; so did final glory. Peter would prepare his fellow elders to bear their witness by mirroring the gospel in their lives. They, too, share in suffering as they proclaim the suffering Savior; they, too, taste of glory as they proclaim His return. As an apostle and eyewitness, Peter was set apart from the elders he addressed, but in the witness of his life he stood beside them. If all Christians partake of Christís suffering and glory, how much more must the shepherds of His flock do so! Peter is concerned for order and government in the church as well as for submission and devotion. He addresses the elders, those who served as leaders, administrators, and judges in the apostolic church. Peter uses the figure of shepherding, a term that includes the feeding of the flock as well as their oversight. When Peter calls the elders to be the shepherd of the flock of God, he certainly alludes to his own calling. Jesus charged Peter to feed His sheep and to tend them, the two major tasks of the shepherd [John 21:15-19]. In that charge, Jesus was calling Peter to have a part in His own care for His disciples. Jesus is the good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep [John 10:14-18]. The Old Testament used the shepherd figure for those charged with the care of the people of God, but especially for God Himself and the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah and the Lord, comes to be the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls [2:25]. He looked with compassion on the scattered sheep of Israel and gathered the remnant flock, calling His own sheep by name. He promised also to gather other sheep; the scattered flock of the Gentiles [John 10:16]. For His gathered flock, God promised to raise up faithful shepherds [Jer. 3:15]. The elders Peter addresses are themselves the fulfilment of Godís promise. The care of elders for their flock will be proportional to their care for the Lord. Love for Christ will kindle compassion for Christís scattered sheep, the little ones from whom He died. Love for the Lord will motivate elders to imitate the care of the Good Shepherd. Central to the work of the shepherd is the feeding of the flock. False shepherds are condemned for taking from the flock to feed themselves rather than giving of themselves to feed the flock. To be sure, the work of the Chief Shepherd is as distinctive as is His person. He is the only Lord of the flock; the shepherdís rod in His hand is a rod of iron, for He is the Judge of the nations; He goes before His flock, first to the cross, then to the throne. By His Spirit He gathers the sheep the Father has given Him, for He knows them, and they know His voice. At the last, Christ, the Judge of all, will divide the sheep from the goats as no merely human shepherd could do. Yet the Lord of glory calls human beings to serve Him as shepherds. By His grace, they too may taste of sufferings and glory, and so have fellowship with Him. Since the flock is the Lordís and the elder is a servant of the Lord, shepherding is ministry. Pastoral oversight is not dictatorial rule [3]. The elder has authority; he is called to exercise a shepherdís oversight. Christ the Chief Shepherd [4] has called him to exercise a shepherdís care. But the undershepherd is not a stand-in for the Lord. He presents the word of the Lord, not His own decree; he enforces the revealed will of the Lord, not his own wishes. For that reason, any undermining of the authority of Scripture turns church government into spiritual tyranny. If church governors add to or subtract from the word of God, they make themselves lords over the consciences of others. Far from being a lord and master, the elder is to be an example. That is, he is to lead others in humble obedience to God by being himself humbly obedient to God. Authority is given to the elders of the church [Heb. 13:17]. Yet the exercise of such authority is always a service, following the model of the good Shepherd, who gave His life for His sheep. Elders serve in the freedom of the gospel as they watch over the doctrine and life of Christís flock. Peter gives another qualification for the way in which the shepherd is to discharge his calling. In addition to humility, there must be eagerness [2]. Just as it is the love of the Lord that yields humble service, so it is love of the Lord that yields diligence. The love of Christ opens the shepherdís heart to share the joys and griefs of his people. Peter sets eagerness to serve over against a mercenary interest in church office: the elder is genuinely willing, but not for shameful gain. Instead of monetary gain, elders will receive the unfading crown of glory when the Chief Shepherd appears [4]. To speak of the Chief Shepherd is to remind the elders that they are only undershepherds. Their authority is not original: they minister only in Christís name, and according to His word. Peter has drawn the elders to remember the good Shepherd, their example; now he draws their eyes forward to the Chief Shepherd, their hope. For the true shepherd, as for every true Christian, the coming of Christ is the source of hope and joy. The night of suffering and labor is over; the dawn of heaven rises with the light of Christís glory. Godís full salvation, ready to be revealed at the last day [1:5], will come with Christ [1:13]. The saints will possess the inheritance that is theirs in Christ [1:7; 3:9]. To His faithful shepherds Christ gives a crown of glory [4]. Glory explains the meaning of the crown; their reward and joy are the glory of their Lord. Jesus Christ desires that those the Father has given Him should be with Him, should share His victory, His life, His glory [John 17:24]. The faithful elders who receive their crowns of blessing from the Lord will cast their crowns before the throne of Him who wore the crown of thorns for them [Rev. 4:10]. In verse 5 mutual submission is the key to the pattern of life in Christís church. Peter keeps returning to this theme. Christians are to find freedom in their submission to God, freedom in which they can submit to others for the Lordís sake. Peterís call to humility is not just for the young: clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility. The verb for clothe suggests the tying on of a servantís apron. The humility of those who serve Christ is not merely the absence of pride or the awareness of limitations. Christian humility is realism that recognizes grace. The Christian knows that he did not make himself or save himself. His humility springs from his total dependence on the grace of God. Added to that is the calling and example of his Savior, who had everything to boast of, but humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross [Phil. 2:8]. The humility that serves others is found at the throne of Godís grace. God opposed the proud, as Proverbs 3:34 teaches, not only because pride despises our fellow-creatures, but because pride rebels against Him. The proud person sets himself against God, and God, in turn, sets Himself against the proud. In contrast, God lifts up those who cast themselves utterly upon His grace. We find a close parallel to this whole section in James 4:6-10. And in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus contrasted the proud prayer of the Pharisee with the tax collectorís humble confession of sin. The humility of which Peter speaks is like that of the tax collector; it is not simply a winsome graciousness, it is the humility of repentance, of despairing self-distrust that turns to God in saving faith. Remembering the mighty hand of God should surely move us to humility. Godís hand had humbled Israel, purging out the rebels and bringing His people to repentance [Ezek. 20:33-44]. But Peter speaks of Godís hand for another reason. He would remind us of Godís power to lift up the humble. At Pentecost Peter declared that Jesus was exalted by and to the right hand of the Father [Acts 2:33]. In Godís own time, when the Chief Shepherd appears, humble believers will be lifted up to share His glory. Peter well knew the power of pride. He had boasted that although all others might deny Christ, he, Peter, would remain true. From the height of that proud boast he fell into the abyss of denial. Yet Peter had been chastened, humbled and restored. His pride had cast him down, but his Lord had lifted him up. Peter now urges his readers to cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you [7]. Peter is calling for humility in situations of hostility, betrayal, and persecution. Precisely in such situations, Christians are tempted to react in pride, perhaps even to draw the sword as Peter did in the garden of Gethsemane. It is such pride that the promise of the Lord dispels. Christians can trust the power of the Lord, for His hand is mighty; they can trust the faithfulness of the Lord, for their cares are His concerns. If the Lordís present care brings an end to anxiety, His future blessing offers a goal of hope. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you [6]. At the coming of Christ God will vindicate His servants. Glory will take the place of humbling and abasement.Ē[Clowney, pages 197-212].

 

Resist the Devil:1 Peter 5:8-9.

 

[8]Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9]Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.[ESV]

 

[8-9]ďIn a vivid image Peter warns the church of deadly danger. The psalmist often pictures his foes as lions, lying in ambush and waiting to pounce. But the danger that Peter sees does not come simply from suspicious neighbors or from hostile authorities. Lurking behind the authorities and powers [3:22] that dominate pagan life there moves a more fearful destroyer, the figure of Satan. Peter calls Satan the adversary or enemy. The term has a legal connotation; it reflects the Old Testament picture of Satan as the accuser of the saints before the throne of Godís justice. In the book of Job, Satan appears in the role of a heavenly prosecutor. In fact, he seems to patrol the earth collecting evidence. Satanís motivation is not zeal for justice, however. Rather, he seeks to discredit Godís word and destroy Godís works. Satan may threaten the church from within, masquerading as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:14; Acts 20:29]. He may rage from without, using the fire and sword of persecuting tyrants. But the Christian knows that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet [Rom. 16:20]. The danger to the Christian is not that he is helpless before the devil. He is equipped with the whole armor of God: the shield of faith will extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one [Eph. 6:10-18]. The danger to the Christian is that he will fail to resist, that he will not watch and pray, that he will not put on the whole armor of God and take the sword of the Spirit. That sword, the word of God, was the weapon Jesus used in His ordeal in the desert; it is ours to use in His name. Peter calls on us to do what he had failed to do in the garden of Gethsemane: to watch and pray. Roaring Satan is a tethered lion. He cannot tempt us beyond what we can endure, for God will not permit it [1 Cor. 10:12-13]. If Satan is to be resisted, sober watchfulness is called for. Sobriety includes both alertness and realism. Christian wisdom will recognize the seductions by which Satan would deceive the church as well as the imitations that he would substitute for it in an endless stream of sects and Ėisms. Satan can be resisted only in a firm and settled faith. Peter has reminded us that the testings do not destroy our faith, but purify it. Since the peculiar nature of faith is its looking, not to oneself, but to the Lord, it is most strongly grounded when it is most dependent. Suffering Christians who look to the Lord also gain comfort by remembering the brotherhood. There are four advantages to be gained from knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world [9]. First, there is encouragement in knowing that you are not alone and isolated, suffering in a unique way. Secondly, you are reminded that the bond that unites you to Jesus Christ also joins you to the family of God throughout the world. Suffering Christians have a caring fellowship with thosesimilarly afflicted. Thirdly, Christians are reminded that suffering is inherent in the Christian faith. Through suffering they have fellowship with Christ and their faith is purified. Christians know that the brotherhood does not suffer in vain; their experience of suffering is being brought to the victorious conclusion that God has designed. Fourthly, knowing of the sufferings of the brotherhood stimulates hope. The spread of persecution and trials points to the nearness of the consummation: the promised land is in view.Ē[Clowney, pp. 212-217]

 

Promise of Grace:1 Peter 5:10-11.

 

[10]And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. [11]To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.[ESV]

 

[10-11]ďVerses 10-11 together constitute the conclusion to the body of the letter and contain the message of the letter as a whole. It is likely that Peter now focused on Godís strength as the means by which believers obtain their eternal reward. The one who called believers by His grace will also enable them to persevere until the end. He begins by designating God as the God of all grace. Grace is a favorite word of Peterís [1:2,13; 2:19,20; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5,12], and here it means that God is both the possessor and giver of all grace. The sufferings of believers are intense, but Godís grace is stronger still. This grace is expressed particularly in Godís calling of believers to eternal glory. The word called has occurred previously in Peter [1:15; 2:9,21; 3:9] with the same meaning it has here. We have another indication that as the letter concludes, crucial terms used previously are reprised to remind readers of the letterís central themes. Here it should simply be said that called refers to Godís effective work by which He inducts believers into a saving relationship with Himself. That the calling is to salvation is clear since believers are called to Godís eternal glory. The eschatological character of the glory is apparent from earlier Petrine usage [1:7,11,21; 4:13; 5:1,4]. The words in Christ could be understood as modifying the entire clause, eternal glory or called. Each interpretation is possible, but on balance the latter is preferable. Peter thereby emphasized that Godís saving calling is effectual in and through Christ. The theme of calling to glory reminds the readers that endtime salvation is sure, for God Himself is the one who initiated and secured their salvation. As the rest of the verse will demonstrate, God will certainly complete what He has inaugurated. Their calling to glory is not questionable but sure. Before glory arrives, however, believers must suffer. Still, the suffering is for a short while. Saying that the suffering will last a short time does not mean that it will only last for a brief interval during the earthly sojourn of believers. The short time period refers to the entire interval before eternal glory commences. The sufferings of this life will seem as if they lasted a little while when compared to the eternal glory that endures forever. Four different verbs are used to describe Godís promise for believers: restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish. There is no need to distinguish carefully between the meanings of the verbs, for together they emphatically make the same point. The God who has called believers to eternal glory will strengthen and fortify them, so that they are able to endure until the end. He will fulfill His promise to save and deliver them. We understand from this that the exhortations to vigilance and resistance are not intended to raise questions about whether believers will receive the eschatological promise. Peter instead conceived of his exhortations as means by which believers will persevere and receive the promise of salvation on the last day. The God who has given such promises also uses exhortations to provoke His people to be faithful until the last day. The exhortations and promises, therefore, should not be played off against each other, as if the exhortations introduced an element of uncertainty to the promises. The exhortations are the very means by which Godís promises are secured, and indeed God in His grace grants believers the strength to carry out the exhortations. Still, such grace can never be used to cancel out the need for responding to the exhortations. After emphasizing the power of Godís sustaining grace, even in the midst of suffering, it is not surprising that Peter concluded with a doxology. Peter emphasized here the sovereignty and power of God, and hence he used the term dominion. The God who permits suffering in the lives of His children, and even allows the devil to rage at them, is the sovereign God and the God who cares [5:7]. The dominion belongs to Him Ė forever. He wields a mighty hand [5:6] on behalf of His people. Hence, believers should be full of comfort, knowing that they are on the side of victory and celebration. The doxology, as is typical, concludes with amen, signifying that Peter longed for the day when Godís rule will be evident to all, that he anticipated the day when suffering is past and glory and peace and joy reign forevermore.Ē[Schreiner, pp. 244-246]

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† What two attitudes has Peter called for throughout his letter? Define humility? Why is humility so essential to our relationship with God and with others? Have you learned the importance of humility in your life?

 

2.†††††††† What characteristics of good church leaders does Peter give in these verses? What example of leadership does Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, give elders?

 

3.†††††††† In these verses, Peter points out three sets of relationships for all believers: relationships with other believers, with God, and with Satan. What instructions does Peter give us for each of these relationships?

 

References:

The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney, Inter Varsity.

1 Peter, Karen Jobes, BENT, Baker.

1, 2 Peter, Jude, Thomas Schreiner, NAC, B & H Publishers.