1 Peter 5 Commentary

vv.1-4 “The fundamental reminder to the elders is that the flock to which they tend is God’s flock, and they are its caretakers, not its masters. Within that understanding the specific responsibilities of the elders are sketched out briefly. They are to serve ungrudgingly (not under compulsion) and gladly, not for personal gain but so that others might gain, not by haughtiness but in humility. The great chain of exemplary behavior continues. Christ is the example for Peter; Peter is the example for the elders; the elders are the example for the flock.”[1]

“The elder has authority; he is called to exercise a shepherd’s oversight. Christ the Chief Shepherd has called him to exercise a shepherd’s 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.”[2]

v.5 “The advice to this group is to listen to the wisdom of the elders and live in accordance with their instruction; that is, they are ‘to submit.’  The term submission should be understood as ‘living according to some constituted order’ – here, the order established by the directives of the elders. And since they have already been instructed to lead, not by domination but by example, we can assume that submission here was not some onerous task. Rather, it was joyfully acceptable to those who wanted to live in accordance with God’s will. […]  Whether leader or laity, whether old or young, Christians are to develop a deferential and humble attitude toward one another. Peter hinted at this in 3:8-12 and 4:7-11; he now makes it more explicit. The elder is not to arrogate himself to the position of dominant partner, nor are the younger members to rebel against the authority of the elders; rather, they are to respect one another mutually. The elder’s service is by way of leadership while the younger members’ service is by way of conformity to the norm of the elders.”[3]

vv.6 “The Christian must humble himself under his mighty hand. The phrase the mighty hand of God is common in the Old Testament; and it is most often used in connection with the deliverance which God wrought for his people when he brought them out of Egypt. ‘With a strong hand,’ said Moses, ‘the Lord has brought you out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:9). ‘Thou hast only begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand’ (Deuteronomy 3:24). God brought his people forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand (Deuteronomy 9:26). The idea is that God’s mighty hand is on the destiny of his people, if they will humbly and faithfully accept his guidance. After all the varied experiences of life, Joseph could say to the brothers who had once sought to eliminate him: ‘As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20). The Christian never resents the experiences of life and never rebels against them, because he knows that the mighty hand of God is on the tiller of his life and that he has a destiny for him.”[4]

vv.8-9 “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. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So the Lord said to Paul, and Paul could therefore say: ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ In order to resist the devil we draw near to God.”[5]

“The exhortation to stand firm in v.8 now finds a new grounding and reason.  Not only has Christ suffered, but other Christians throughout the world are also suffering; the koinonia of persecution included Christ and the company of Christians throughout the world.”[6]

“Belief in the sovereignty of God and in his fatherly concern for us (vv. 6-7) does not permit us to sit back and do nothing. We are to ‘work out [our] salvation’ because ‘it is God who works in [us]’ (Philippians 2:12-13). So here Peter warns his flock of the danger of making the fact of God’s sovereign care an excuse for inactivity. ‘Be sober, be watchful’ perhaps reflects Peter’s own experience in which Satan had ‘sifted’ him (Luke 22:31) and he had failed to ‘watch’ (Matt 26:38; Mark 14:34). God’s sovereignty does not preclude peril to the Christian life. Peter calls Satan ‘your enemy the devil’ and likens him to a lion in search of prey. The word ‘enemy’ (antidikos, ‘adversary’) meant an opponent in a lawsuit (BAG, p. 73; cf. Job 1:6 ff.; Zech 3:1; Rev 12:10). ‘Devil’ (diabolos) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew ‘Satan’ (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 2:1), which means `slanderer’ (cf. TDNT, 2:71-81; 7:151-65). According to Scripture, he has great power on earth, ‘being the prince of this world’ (John 14:30) and ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air’ (Eph 2:2). But God has limited his activity. Through his captive subjects (Eph 2:2; 2Tim 2:25-26), the devil attempted to destroy the infant church by persecution.

“The Christian response to satanic opposition is not panic or flight but firm resistance in faith (v. 9). ‘Resist’ (antistete) is the same word as that found in Ephesians 6:11-13 and James 4:7 in contexts of struggle against hostile spiritual forces.”[7]

vv.12-14 “‘She who is in Babylon’ almost certainly refers to the church in Rome. Babylon became a code word for Rome for early Christians, as it was in some Jewish literature of the time. The use of the term here also reminds us that it is not just the Christians in Asia Minor who are aliens and exiles. Babylon was the place of Judah’s exile, and in Babylon as in Asia Minor, Christians are still outsiders, exiles, until Christ returns in glory.[8]

“Therefore, as we come to the end of a marvelous letter, we too are confronted with the same call to responsible living in our world. We are called to live honorably in our society so that there are no grounds of accusation against us and we can make the biggest possible impact on our world. We are called to live a holy life, abstaining from sin. We are called to live in light of God’s judgment, making sure that everything we do will be approved by God in that final hour. Our identity is not to be wrapped up in our social location, whether that be low or high, but in the fact that we are God’s family and are related to him as such, we are to serve one another with the gifts God has granted and live orderly and lovingly with one another. No matter how many adjustments we have to make as we read Peter’s letter in our world, we are anchored to his world by the fact of the common salvation that transforms our behavior (1:3-2:10), we are challenged to live circumspectly in our society (2:11-3:12), and we are expected to live as the family of God ought to live (3:13-5:11). When we live like this, people will glorify him on the day he visits us (2:12).”[9]


[1] David L. Bartlett, “The First Letter of Peter,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 315.

[2] Clowney, Edmund P., “The message of 1 Peter,” The Bible Speaks Today, (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1988) 202.

[3] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 264.

[4] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 314.

[5] Clowney, Edmund P., “The message of 1 Peter,” The Bible Speaks Today, (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1988) 211.

[6] David L. Bartlett, “The First Letter of Peter,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 316.

[7] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[8] David L. Bartlett, “The First Letter of Peter,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 318.

[9] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 286.

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