About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page  

Previous Section  -   Chapters 4:12 - 19

Next Section - Chapter 5:12 - 14

To Elders And Young Men (5:1 - 11)

Peter opens this chapter by saying this.  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder."  The words "fellow elder," which Peter says he is, is translated from the Greek word "sympresbyteros," which means, "co-elder."  This is the only place in the Bible where this word is used.  "Presbyteros" is sused a number of times but not with the prefix "sym," meaning "joint or co."  Peter is stressing the point that he is an elder along with the elders he is addressing in this chapter who live in what is now known as North West Turkey.  Peter is not placing himself above these other men.  He is placing himself alongside of these other elders.

 

Before we go too far into this chapter I will explain in the following couple of verses that there are 3 Greek words that are used for the same responsibility in the church.  They are as follows.  The Greek word "presbyteros" is translated as elders in the New Testament.  The Greek word "apiskopos" is translated as overseer.  It's also translated as "bishop" in the KJV in 1 Timothy 3:1.  The third word, "poiein" is translated as "pastor" or "shepherd."  Peter uses all three of these Greek words in the following verses to speak to the same responsibility in the church, and, they are all used in the plural, not the singular.  The reason for this is because leadership in the local church of any given city was always plurality.  One man leadership did not begin to take place until near the end of the first century.    

 

The first time we read of one elder rising up into a lead elder position among the elders is seen in Ignatius of Antioch's (35 AD to 107 or 108 AD) writings.  By the end of the second century pretty well all churches went this direction concerning church structure.  In Alexandria , however, as late as 180 A D we still see plurality of elders existing in the local community of believers.     

 

What I hope to make clear in the following paragraphs is that unlike in today's church, all of the above titles for leaders in the church belong to the same function.  That is to say for example, unlike today, a bishop and an elder were the same function.

There is another point I'd like to make before I go any farther.  In the KJV of 1 Timothy 3:1 it says that "anyone who desires the office of a bishop desires a good thing."  This should be better translated as "he who desires to do the work of an overseer desires a good thing," or, "he who desires to be an overseer desires a good thing," or, "he that desires to oversee desires a good thing."  The word "office in the KJV puts the emphasis on one holding the office or the job of an overseer when in actuality the New Testament sees being an overseer less as an office and more of a responsibility to care for God's people.  Just because one holds an office of an overseer does not mean he is doing the work of an overseer from a Biblical perspective.  Being an overseer is not a career choice or a job.  It's a calling from God to function in the Body of Christ.  We should not emphasize the office.  We should emphasize the functionality of an overseer.      

 

Here are some interesting facts concerning the above mentioned words.  The KJV New Testament never uses the singular word "pastor."  It uses the word "pastors," plural, once in Ephesians 4:11.  It uses the word "bishop" singular 4 times (1 Timothy 3:1 and 2, Titus 1:7, and, 1 Peter 1:26 in reference to Jesus).  It uses the word "bishops" plural once and that is in Philippians 1:1.

 

The NIV New Testament uses the word "pastor"
singular zero times while it uses the word "pastors" plural once and that is in Ephesians 4:11.  It never uses the words "bishop" or "bishops." 

 

It's interesting to note that the word "elders" is seen 179 times in the KJV New Testament and 192 in the NIV New Testament.  In contrast the word "pastors" is only used once in both the KJV and NIV New Testament. The interesting thing for me is that our modern Evangelical church has chosen to popularize the word least used word over the most used word when it comes to church leaders.     

 

The first time we see the word "elders" in the Bible is found in Numbers 11:16 to 30 where Moses' father tells Moses that he needs to find some elders to help him in the ministry of the Lord. 

 

The simplest meaning of the Greek word "presbyteros" means an older man.  This tells us something about who an elder must be.  He must be mature, especially mature in the Lord.  I also think that he must be an older man, as the word implies, which by the way, isn't always seen in today's church.  Inherent in the word "presbyteros" or "elder" is the idea of wisdom that comes with age.          

 

Peter is now speaking directly to the elders of the various communities of believers to whom he is writing.  He is coming alongside them as one of them, as an elder himself.  This tells us that besides being an apostle, Peter considered himself and elder.  I would suggest that he would also be a teacher because as the Greek structure of Ephesians 4:11 states, elder and teacher are the same responsibility in the church.  It's seems to me, and others as well, that many of these terms were quite fluid in the early church.  As time went on, positions in the church became much more fixed, hierarchical, and structured, something I don't feel was good for the church, and in my thinking, probably wasn't the will of God.   

 

Peter appeals on the basis of him being a co-elder.  It might be possible, and I stress "possible" that Peter might have viewed himself as an elder at large, that is, for the churches he was associated with.  I say this because as an apostle he would have done much traveling.  We should also note that Peterís appeal was not based on any position of authority that he had over these local elders.  Translocal authority was not really something that was clearly defined in the first generation or two church, or so I believe.  That being said, I do believe there was a "certain measure" of apostolic authority in the first century church.  Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 13:6 to 10.

 

Peter also based his appeal on the fact that he actually saw the suffering of Jesus, and that he will also share in the glory that will be revealed.  Of course, the elders will share in this glory as well, but they did not actually see Jesus die on the cross as Peter did.  Peter saw the sufferings of Jesus personally when he saw Jesus hanging on the cross.    

 

It was a common belief in the early church that if you suffered for Jesus; if you suffered as Jesus suffered; then, like Jesus, you will be glorified with Jesus.  This glorification will take place at the resurrection of the dead when the righteous saints will receive their glorified bodies, like as Jesus received upon his resurrection or his ascension, depending on when you actually think Jesus received His glorified body.        

 

Peter, like Paul, appeal to his fellow believers based on many things, but not on the basis of a special high ranking position in the church.  The very nature of the word "appeal" tells us that there are strong emotions in the heart of Peter as he is saying these words.  I do not believe that Peter was appealing on the basis of his apostolic authority.   

 

I suggest that Peter might have been making this appeal to the elders because of the rough times the people of God were going through due to the conflict and persecution from the anti-Christ Roman world in which they lived.  Christians needed to be cared for.  They needed daily care from the elders.  That is what being an elder is all about.  An elder is a care giver.  He is like a father as Paul suggests in 1 Timothy 3.   

 

The Greek word "parakaleo" is translated as "appeal" in this verse.  This Greek word means "to call to one's side."  It gives the suggestion that Peter is calling these elders to his side, and in this case, to give instruction.  "Parakaloe" is made up of the word "para," meaning "alongside," "kaleo" meaning "to call." 

 

The word "witness" is translated from the Greek word "martys" which does simply mean a witness.  I mention this because it is this Greek word where we derive our English word "martyr" from.       

 

The Greek word "apokalyto" is translated into English in the NIV as revealed.  It literally means "to uncover" and that is why some translations use the word "uncover."    

In verse 2 Peter tells these elders to be "shepherds of Godís flock that is under your care."  Although my version of the NIV has the word "shepherds" as a noun, it's an aorist active imperative verb in the Greek text.  This means that Peter was telling these elders to make their minds up once and for all to shepherd God's flock.  These men were clearly told to care for God's flock.  The verb form of the Greek noun "poimain" is translated as "shepherd" here.  As a shepherd would thus care for sheep in every aspect, so a shepherd of God's flock of people would care for God's people.  Such tender loving care is more than a twenty minute sermon every Sunday morning.  It is serving God's people in whatever way is needed to build them up into mature Christians.  I suggest that most of this caring is done outside the confines of regularly scheduled meetings. The fact that the Greek word translated is a verb puts the emphasis on the act of shepherding instead of the office of a shepherd.  

When you think how a shepherd cares for sheep, in similar fashion God's shepherds or pastors care for His people.  This would require feeding, steering in the right direction at the proper time, discipline, and all else that a shepherd of sheep would do in the process of caring for his sheep.          

 

Note also that Peter says that the flock is under their care.  He did not say that the flock is under their authority.  Too often Christian leaders have seen their position in the church as one of great authority, and there is a measure of authority in their responsibility, but more than the authority, is the caring.  Pastors need to know that the people of God are under their care, not under their heavy handed authority.  They also need to know that under their care means that the flock of God's people do not belong to them.  They belong to God and God has placed his flock under the care of shepherds since He Himself is not on this planet in physical form to do the manual caring.  When a modern day pastor calls those in his congregation his flock or his people, that is not Biblical.   

 

Peter continues in verse 2 by using the phrase, "serving as overseers."  The Greek word "episkopos" is translated as "overseers" here and elsewhere in the New Testament.  The word is made up "epi," meaning "over," and "skopeo," meaning "to see."  Thus, the English word "overseer" is a good word to help describe the duty of an overseer or elder.  The Greek word also has the idea of visitation or visit built into its meaning. An overseer is one who watches over God's people, or looks out for them.  The thought here is to keep an eye on the flock of God to make sure no wolves devour them and to make sure they are where they aught to be.

 

An overseer is one who "serves," so Peter says here.  An overseer is not one who sees himself in a lofty position in the church.  He is one who sees himself as the lowest in the church, as a servant, to do his best to build up the Body of Christ, the flock of God he is to care for.     

 

I previously mentioned the word "shepherd" in the NIV is a noun.  In fact, in the Greek text it is a verb, placing the emphasis and the action of shepherding instead of the office of a shepherd.  In like fashion, the noun "overseers" in this verse in the NIV is not a noun in the Greek text.  It is a participle, also putting the emphasis on the action of overseeing instead of the office of an overseer.  You, thus, might translate "overseers" here as the "overseeing ones."       

 

Peter then goes on to say that the elders must serve, "not because they must, but because they are willing."  There must be am eager willingness on the part of an elder to serve, with the emphasis on the word "serve."  If there isnít such an eager willingness, then the elder most likely shouldn't be an elder.  It's my personal opinion that there are more true elders in pews of churches these days than behind the pulpit.  Another way to say this is that there are more pastors sitting in pews than preaching in pulpits. I believe many pastors behind the pulpit should be people in the pews.

 

In the context of being a willing elder, Peter says this is what God wants.  He wants willingness on our part. Some people have said that God calls us to do things we often do not want to do.  I suggest that if God has called you to do something He will help you with the willingness.  I believe I am called to be a teacher of the Bible.  I don't begrudge teaching the Bible.  I thoroughly enjoy it.  

 

Peter goes on to say this.  "Not greedy for money, but ready to serve."  Again, the emphasis is on serving.  Back in Peter's day, some elders got some kind of financial remuneration for their serving while others didn't.  How much money they got, and how often, I really donít know.  I donít think anyone really knows.  Peter says that you should not be doing the work of an elder for the money.  Being an elder is not a career choice like being a lawyer.  It is a calling from the Lord, and whether you get paid lots or little, that should not be the determining factor in you doing the work of an elder.  This is one big problem in today's church.  Pastoring is seen as a career, a career that you work your way up the ladder of success to the top.  That's far from what the New Testament teaches about church leaders.   Pastoring is a call to serve, not a call to be served.  

 

Concerning elders or pastors being paid I refer you to 1 Timothy 5:17 and 18 where Paul says that those elders who care for the church well and especially those who teach and preach should receive double honor.  Verse 18 specifically says the double honor is financial.

 

In verse 3 Peter continues to say, "not lording it over those who are entrusted to you."  National dictators of Peter's day, like Nero, lorded it over the people to whom Peter wrote.  They were authoritarian dictators who were out for their own self interest.  Elders who care for God's people are not to be such dictators.  They are care givers.  God has entrusted His people to them.  Note the word ďentrusted.Ē  This means that the people belong to God, and God has chosen the elders to care for His people.  Way too often I hear pastors call those who God has entrusted them with "their people."  Pastors don't have people they can claim as their own.  The people in the pews don't belong to pastors.  They belong to God and that's a serious matter.  

 

Instead of lording it over Godís people elders are to be examples as Peter says in verse 3.  This should always be true with any leadership situation.  If you are not a good example, then how can you motivate others to follow your leadership?  You might as well not be a leader.  Being a living example to the life of Jesus is part of serving the people God has entrusted you with. 

 

Note in verse 4 that Jesus is called the Chief Shepherd, meaning that all earthly shepherds are under the Chief Shepherdís authority.  This goes along with the word "entrusted."  Pastors are simply entrusted with the people the Chief Shepherd has asked him to care fore.  This means that the shepherds, the pastors, the elders, the overseers, are all subject to the Chief Shepherd Jesus. 

 

In these first few verses of 1 Peter 5 we see the words elders, shepherds, and overseers.  All three of these words are used for the same task in the New Testament.  All three of these words are used interchangeably.  In our English Bibles the Greek word "presbyteros" is translated as "elder."  The Greek word "episkopos" is translated as "overseer" and "bishop."  The Greek word "poimen" is translated as "shepherd" or "pastor."  If you understand what Peter says here, and you understand Acts 20:17 and 28, along with Titus 1:5 and 7 you will see that all three Greek words and all five English words are used for the same responsibility in the church.  They are not separate callings as is the case in modern church life. 

 

We should also note that all these words are in the plural.  I believe in what has been called "the plurality of leadership."  In the first generation church a body of elders was appointed to care for God's people.  One man was not in charge.  Throughout time, this has obviously changed, and, it's my opinion that this change is neither Scriptural nor good for the church.

 

In general terms, by 100 A.D. one man began to rise up from this body of elders to become a lead elder.  Some suggest that the Apostle John was one such lead elder.  By the end of the second century in many localities this lead elder became God's representative to the flock of God.  Roughly by the end of the third century this lead elder became the representative of the flock of God to God, thus destroying what is called the priesthood of the believer.  The church went back to Old Testament thinking which needed a priest as a mediator between God and man.  Thus Catholicism was born.  In one real sense of the word, the priest replaced Jesus, who is clearly the only mediator between God and man as seen in the New Testament.  The very foundation of Catholicism is unbiblical.  

 

Some people will disagree with the idea of plurality of elders was the way it was in the first generation church.  They point to James who appears to be the leader, the lead elder in the church at Jerusalem .  James might have been a lead elder, although that can only be implied in the book of Acts.  It's not clearly stated, or so I think. If James was officially the lead elder, then, some suggest his pro Jewishness might be the reason.  On the other hand, people might have seen James as a one man leader.  He might not have seen himself as a one man leader.  He might have viewed himself as one among equals.       

 

To support my point that James might not have been a lead elder I refer you to Acts 15:2 where Paul said that he went up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders.  Although this may not be conclusive, elders are plural and there is no mention of James.  Verse 4 says that Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by the apostles, elders, and the church.  No specific mention of James here.  Verse 6 says that the apostles and elders met to consider the question at hand.  There is no mention of James as yet.  After this, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had their say in the matter.  Finally, in verse 13 we see James take some leadership, but was this because he was a leader elder?  I don't think we can conclude that with any certainty.  In verse 22 we see apostles, elders, and the church again.  All of the above being said, Acts 21:18 says that Paul went to Jerusalem to see James and the elders.  Does this suggest that James might have been a lead elder?  Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't.  Acts 12:17 also uses the term "James and the elders."  My point is simple here.  I do not think we can conclude either views from Scripture.  There is just not enough information to base a concrete decision on. 

 

As verse 4 tells us that those elders who serve well will receive a crown of glory when Jesus is revealed for their service to those Jesus has asked them to care fore.  The word "revealed" is in reference to Jesus' return to earth as King over all things.  This speaks to the reward system that the Lord has set in place for those who serve Him well.  God is just.  Just as justice demands that sin be punished, it also demands that works done in faith and love for Jesus will be rewarded.      

 

In 1 Corinthians 3:10 and following you will read that each Christians will be judged by Jesus for what he has done in the service of the Lord.  He himself will not be judged because the cross of Christ has taken care of that, but, his works will be judged.  Those works that have been performed out of love, faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be rewarded.  Those works done in pure human effort will burn in the fire of judgment.  What these rewards are we don't know.  Peter calls them crowns here in verse 4, as does other Biblical passages.  I think there will be a variety of rewards, so much so, that everyone might well have his own personal reward. 

 

In verse 5 Peter now begins to speak to young men.  He tells them to be "submissive to those who are older."  There are a couple of points to be made here.  One point concerns the word "submissive."  It is translated from the Greek word "hopotaso" as we have seen before in Peter's first letter.  Hopotaso means to "rank or arrange under."  Simply put, Peter is telling the younger men to arrange themselves under the older men. 

 

Hopotasso was a military word back then.  That being said, we know that Jesus told us that the dictators of this world lord it over those under their authority.  They dictate to those under them.  Jesus then said that this should not be the case in the Christian community (Luke 22:25).  With this understanding, the submissive relationship that the young men have with the old men is not an authoritarian, heavy handed, style relationship.  It's a respect that young men have for older men so they can learn what older men have to offer them.  As with the word "submit" as seen in Ephesians 5 where wives are to submit to husbands, the New Testament softens the Greek word "hopotaso" to mean a submission based on love and respect.  It's not based on authoritarian dictatorship.    

 

The Greek word "presbyteros" that was translated as "elder' in the first few verses of this chapter is translated as "older men" here in verse 5 in the NIV.  You might wonder why the difference.  I suggest it's a matter of context.  The context is in reference to younger men submitting to someone, and in this case older men.  You would have the choice to either use the English word "elder" or the English words "older men," even though the NIV just uses the word "older."  Since we're talking about "young men," "older men" is the better way of translating "presbyteros" in the minds of some translators.  You will note that there are some English versions of the Bible that does translated "presbyteros" here as "elder;" that is, elder in the sense that it was used in verse 1.  These translators would use the same argument of context, although their thinking about context is the first five verses, not just verse 5.           

 

Peter then says that everyone should live humbly towards one another because "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  This is a direct quote from Proverbs 3:34.  We note again, even though Peter was a so-called unlearned man, he still knew the Scriptures.  As I've said earlier, Peter wasn't really unlearned in the Scriptures, especially at this age in his life.  What he was unlearned about was all the legal details of Jewish Rabbinical Law.

 

We should note again that God does oppose people.  In this case He opposes the proud.  I believe He opposes both the proud individual and the proud nation.  The idea that God opposes anyone is foreign to our new age generation and secular thinking, but He does and He will continue to oppose the proud.

 

The word "clothe" here is important.  Humility is something that we need to put on, we need to ware, and we need to cover our whole selves with.  Our actions should demonstrate to all that we are humble.  As people see what we ware to clothe our bodies, so they should see our humility that clothes who we are.  We think of others over ourselves.  We serve instead of asking to be served. 

 

Note the words "humility" and "submission" are in the same verse.  As I've said, "hopotasso" is the Greek word translated as "submission" here and elsewhere in the New Testament.  It's a military word. It was often used in a very harsh, cold, and even dictatorial way, but Peter uses it differently here.  Christian submission is a matter of humbling one's self before another.  Christian submission isn't cold, harsh, or dictatorial.  It's soft, humble, and loving.  It prefers others over one's self.  When it comes to submission to church leadership, we submit to those who serve us from a position of love, respect, and humility.    

 

Verse 5 tells us that God gives grace to the humble.  The simple Biblical truth is that if you want God's grace to be affective in your life then you must be a humble person.  This verse clearly says that if you are not humble, God's grace will not be given to you.  Again, there are two definitions of grace found in the Bible.  One is God's unmerited favour and the other is God's divine ability to work out His will in your life.  Both will be absent in the life of a proud and arrogant person.  As a matter of fact, Peter says God will oppose such a person.     

 

Repentance is fundamental to salvation.  Repentance takes humility.  To admit that you are wrong, which many have a hard time doing, which is fundamental to repentance, takes humility.  So, humility is clearly important to the process of salvation and growing to maturity as a Christian.  

 

We should not view humility as being weak.  It is actually a proof of strength.  Humility is not inherent in much of human nature.  It takes a strong person to be humble.  The Greek word "tapeinnoo" is the word translated as "humble" in this verse.  It means to "bring low" as in bowing low to someone.       

 

In verse 6 Peter says that if you indeed humble yourself before God now, He will lift you up or exalt you in due time.  To humble one's self is to simply bow down to another in submission.  In this instance we bow down before God and submit to Him.  In due time He will raise us back up.  He will exalt us.  Jesus humbled Himself by becoming human but eventually He was exalted to the right hand of God.  In like manner, at some future date which I believe is the return of Jesus to earth, He will exalt us.  During the thousand year rule of Jesus on earth those of us who have humbled ourselves in this age will rule with Jesus in that age.      

 

Pride is the original sin that satan tempted Eve with.  Pride is basic and central to our human nature.  Pride should have no place in the life of the Christian or the church, but in today's church, there is much pride.  God will surely deal with us over this matter.  I suggest the very way in which a traditional Sunday morning Christian meeting is set up, makes pride possible.  The elevated platform, the pulpit, and the pews, centers all of the attention on the pastor.  It's not much different than a secular rock concert.  With all of this attention, pride is surely possible.  That being said, I understand the logistics of the way a meeting is structured.  It has to be this way if someone is going to teach in a larger gathering.  Also, it doesn't have to be a prideful event.  It's just that pride is basic to human nature and the way things are set up make an expression of pride easier.

 

Note the words "mighty hand of God" in verse 6.  Whether God actually has a hand or not is debatable.  I view these words as anthropomorphic in nature, meaning, they are words spoken in human terms to help explain God who is not human.  Nevertheless, God is mighty.  There is no doubt about that.               

 

In verse 7 Peter quotes Psalm 55:22.  "Cast all your anxieties on Him for He cares for you."  The Greek word translated as "cast" here means "to commit," as in committing one's care to Jesus.  I see this verse clearer than ever because of its context of this letter.  These Christians had all sorts of anxieties because they were suffering from an anti-Christ culture.  Many were most likely anxious even for their very lives.  Peter tells to throw these anxieties onto Jesus, because He cares for them.  The process of casting oneís cares on Jesus is hard at times.  Sometimes we're successful and sometimes we aren't.  This casting is really trusting Jesus.  When anxieties come, turn to Jesus in trust, and let Him help you.  If Jesus is who He says He is, and I know He is, then He will take care of us in the way in which He sees fit, and that might even mean death. 

 

So many Christians get mad at God when someone they love dies, but if that loved one has committed all of his cares, all of his life to Jesus, then whatever happens is what Jesus wants, even if it is death.  Besides, death is not the end of the matter.  We should view death as God views death.  It's a doorway into the next life to be with Jesus.  Many of those to whom Peter was writing were facing death on a daily basis. They definitely had to throw their anxieties onto Jesus.

 

Verse 7 is one very often quoted verse in our Evangelical church today.  I think if we understand the context of this verse and to whom it was written, as I have described above, we'll appreciate it better than we do.      

 

In verse 8 Peter says to be "self-controlled and alert."  The KJV uses the word "sober" instead of "self-controlled" and that is a good word because the Greek word Peter uses here means to be free from an external intoxication.  What you don't read in the English text but is plane in the Greek text is that we are to be self-controlled "in spirit," or, in our spirits.  This speaks to being spiritually self-controlled, free from any and all external intoxication which would defile your spirit.  

 

 

Being alert in this context suggest not being sleepy or lazy.  It means to be keenly aware of what is going on around you, especially in the anti-Christ culture in which you live.  Many Christians these days know little or even care little about how their anti-Christ world influences them.  For this reason, they will have a hard time resisting the devil's involvement in the anti-Christ world that is luring them away from Jesus.  We need to understand how the devil uses culture to lure us away from God's will in our lives.   

 

Being alert presupposes that we are Biblically literate because the reason for being alert is being able to interpret and understand the significance of what is happening around us from a Biblical perspective, especially a Biblical prophetic perspective.  Our present age of Biblical illiteracy is destroying the church.  This is one reason why I believe the 1 Peter 4:17 judgment will come to the western world church.   

 

The reason why we should be alert and in charge of our situation is because the "enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  The Greek word translated as "enemy" is a legal word used back in Peter's day.  The devil tries to trip us up with legalities.  That's why he is called the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12:10.

 

The Greek word "katapino" is translated here as "devour".  It literally means to "drink down."  The devil wants to drink us down like a thirsty man in the desert would drink down a mug of water.    

 

The Greek word "diabolos" is translated into English as "devil."  "Dia" means "cross, through, or over."  "Bolos" means "to throw."  This would suggest the job of the devil is to throw something across our path to get us sidetracked from the will of God.  He wants to get us sidetracked, onto another path that leads us away from the Lord.  He's prowling around like a hungry lion.  At just the right moment, a time of weakness, he will pounce on us and show us another way to live. 

 

If you go back to the Hebrew view of the devil you see the idea of one "who slanders."  He is one who provides us with a false view of life.  He is one who accuses us falsely to God and to others.  He is a slanderer.  He tells lies about us.   

 

This is how it works.  You're minding your own business.  The devil throws something across your path; thrown in front of you.  You probably don't even realize it's from the devil.  It gets your attention.  You get fixated on it, and while you're sidetracked with what has been thrown in front of you, the devil attacks you from behind.  The devil works this way on an individual level as well as a church level.  He is always throwing things of interest in front of us to get our minds off our real purpose in life.  Once our attention has been away from the Lord, the devil attacks us and devours us.  This can also be true on a national level.  The devil works in every aspect of life and from every conceivable angle.

 

Peter is very much aware of the devil.  Some people in that which we call church either don't believe in the devil's existence or they underestimate him.  Peter believes the devil is real and he warns us to pay attention to him and understand how he works.  I admit, there are some Christians who make way too much of the devil, but that shouldn't make us go to the opposite extreme.  

 

With all this in mind, we need to realize that the devil is a created being.  He is not like God.  He can't do anything against your will.  He is not omnipresent, meaning he is not in all places at all times like God.  He is simply a created being, a fallen angel.     

 

In verse 9 Peter says to "resist" the devil.  Resist here from the Greek text means to stand up against.  It's more of a defensive posture, not an offensive posture.   How do we resist the devil?  Peter says that we resist "by standing firm in the faith."  That means we resist by trusting Jesus in every circumstance that the devil brings our way.  We look to Jesus for help.  Trusting in Jesus means to hand your life over to Him.  So, in times of satanic attack, we hand that attack over to Jesus.  As we yield to Him He gives us the ability to stand against the attack.  

 

It's my contention that the Christian world these days doesn't understand some of the basic precepts of the Bible, and faith is one such precept.  If someone has faith in Jesus, that means he has handed his life over to Jesus.  Faith is not a leap into the unknown.  Faith is trust.  Therefore, the best way to resist the devil is to trust Jesus more than you presently do.   

 

Peter then says that those who are reading this letter should not think that they are the only ones that need to watch out for the devil.  All Christians throughout the empire were facing the same difficulties.  Peter most likely viewed the persecution that Christians faced was from the devil and it was because of the effect the gospel of Jesus was having on people's lives.  Many Christians are hoping and praying for another great revival, and there will be one massive world wide revival before this age ends, but, it will be in the midst of the tribulation period that ends this age as seen in Revelation 7.  The point to be made here is that revival always brings satanic opposition, so, if you are praying for revival, pray for spiritual strength to stand against the satanic attack that will accompany the revival.    

 

We see that this persecution was a form of an attack from the devil.  We have also noted that this was a form of judgment from God, and, a means to test the faith of the believers.  This means that God uses the devil as a tool for His purposes, and sometimes His purpose is judgment.  God always uses the devil as a tool, and especially for judgment.  This will really be apparent at the end of this age when the anti-Christ comes onto the world stage.  We need to know that the anti-Christ cannot come onto the world stage without God's permission.

 

Note that Peter says that these particular Christians, who as I've said live in what is now present day western Turkey , aren't the only suffering saints in the world.  His definition of world would be much smaller than ours.  When Peter speaks of the world, he speaks of the Roman Empire and maybe a little bit beyond.

 

Before Peter makes his closing statement he says in verse 10, "the God of all grace, who called you into His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." Peter states that God is the God of all grace. All grace flows from Him to all people, but as all New Testament writers believed, this grace and the subsequent eternal glory could only be found in Christ.  Once again, Jesus is what makes Christians different than anyone else. 

 

There are two aspects to Biblical grace.  One is well known, and that is God's unmerited favour towards us.  He extends love and grace towards us even though we don't deserve it.  This grace is extended to us when we genuinely repent and hand our lives over to Jesus. This grace was demonstrated to humanity on the cross of Christ.   The other definition isn't so well known.  It's the ability that God gives the believer to properly do His will.  

 

Before we reach our eternal glory some of us will suffer.  Those to whom Peter was writing were obviously suffering pretty severely.  Not all Christians in history have suffered to the same extent.  Some have suffered very little, but those to whom Peter was speaking suffered a lot.  Their eternal reward would be great for them.  God is just.  Because He is just He does not only punish the unbelieving sinner, He rewards those who trust Him and those who have trusted Him in times of persecution will be rewarded more than those who have not suffered so much.    

 

I imagine some believers in Peterís day fell away.  They could not withstand the trials.  I wonder about Christians who have not suffered like those people.  They did not have such severe trials to test their trust in Jesus.  I wonder why they get off so easy.  Some of them, if they had have gone through these same trials might not have made it. 

 

Even though some of us have not suffered unto death, God does test each person's trust in Jesus to one degree or another.  Not one Christian has lived without these tests.  It is only a part of the Christian life.  Not all pass these tests. 

 

It's important to understand that many of these persecuted saints ended up being executed for their allegiance to Jesus.  So the restoration that Peter is speaking of here is not found in this life.  It's found in the next life.  What Christians lose in this life will be made up for in abundance in the next life.  Restoration here does not mean being restored to what we once were or what we once had.  It means to be restored to God's view of who He wants us to be and what He wants us to have.  We will be restored in the next life to something totally new and never seen before.  We get a brief glimpse of this in the last 2 chapters of the book of Revelation.   

 

Peter speaks of the results of suffering in verse 10.  We are strengthened.  We become mature in the Lord.  We need to understand that suffering as a Christian is one prime way in which Jesus helps us grow up into the mature Christian he expects us to be.  Maturing spiritually is not some kind of magic thing the Holy Spirit gives us.  It's a process, and a tough process at that.  It comes by trusting Jesus through the things we suffer.  There is no easy way around the maturing process.       

 

Concerning this suffering, the exact suffering Peter has been speaking of in his first letter was persecution from an anti-Christ culture.  I believe the principles that Peter sets forth for such suffering can be applied to any kind of suffering, and that includes sickness.  For this reason, if you aren't suffering from persecution, but are suffering from sickness, what we've learned from Peter applies to you.  In one way or another, we all suffer to one degree or another.  Therefore, Peter's advice is very important to all of us. 

 

Verse 11 is a doxology, something someone says to speak well of someone, and in this case the someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.   

 

The term "forever and ever" needs a bit of attention.  The Greek word translated as "forever" is " ies," meaning unto the end and beyond.  The Greek word translated as "ever" is "ion" meaning "an age."  It's the same Greek word that is translated as "eternal" in verse 10.  It's a set period of time.  The Greek language didn't really have a word specifically for "eternal."  This has caused much theological difficulty in some doctrinal issues over the years.  The best way that Greek can say "eternal" is to say "aion upon aion," meaning, age upon age.  To be clear, the Greek word "aion" is not an endless period of time.  It has and end point in time.   

 

Because of the precise meaning of "aion" there are some who believe that eternal punishment is not eternal.  There is a set end to it and after that those who have been punished will be restored along with the believers.  I don't believe this.  If you want to understand eternal punishment in this way then your logic fails when it comes to God.  The Bible teaches that God is eternal.  In other words he is "aion upon aion."  If you believe that eternal punishment is not eternal but has a set time limit then you must carry that thinking over to God and say He is not eternal.  His duration is limited, and of course, no Christian believes that.  We have to be consistent here in how we understand the word "aion."  We can't have it meaning one thing when we think of God and another way when we think of eternal punishment

Next Section - Chapter 5:12 - 14

   

Previous Section  -   Chapters 4:12 - 19

 

Home Page