Humble Service

Text: I Peter 5:1-7

Study Questions:

  1. What does the “therefore” in verse 1 draw a conclusion about?
  2. What three qualifications does Peter cite for his exhortation?
  3. Why should men serve as elders?
  4. How are elders to serve the congregation?
  5. What benefit will they gain?
  6. How are elders to be treated?
  7. How are Christians to treat their fellow Christians?
  8. How are Christians to behave toward God?
  9. What benefit will they gain?

Humble Leadership - I Peter 5:1-4

Because of the persecution that must be endured, we all need as much help as possible in getting through them. Christ has given duties to men in the church in order to make its members stronger (Ephesians 4:11-16). In this section, Peter focuses on addressing the elders in the church. These men are also known as bishops or pastors (but not in the denominational sense). The Greek word presbuteros refers to an older person (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5). Peter also states that these people exercise oversight. The Greek word episkopos refers to a superintendent, someone who watches over and directs others. Peter also says they are to shepherd the flock of God. The noun form of the Greek word for shepherd is translated as “pastor.” It refers to someone who watches and protects those given to his charge. The elder’s duties are limited to the flock that they are among. Since elders were appointed over every church (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23), this means that elders are responsible only for the people in their congregation.

Peter mentions that he is also an elder, which means he met the qualifications for the office that are listed in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. As an elder, he has the experience to give advice to other elders. Moreover, he was one of the followers of Christ while he was here on earth and had personally witnessed Christ’s suffering. Peter has insight into what is needed to endure persecution. Finally, he is a faithful follower of Christ and knows he will be in heaven after this world. For all of these reasons, he has advice for other elders.

An elder’s primary duty is like that of a shepherd. He is there to watch over his fellow Christians (Acts 20:28), to protect them from harm (Titus 1:9-11), and to make sure they are nourished on God’s word (Ephesians 4:11-16; John 21:15). An elder is most effective when he is giving willing service and not because he feels he is being forced to serve. He must be eager to work and not working to make money off of the congregation (I Timothy 3:3). Nor does an elder serve to gain power over others. He does not dictate what others do but leads through his example. Notice that even in talking with the elders, Peter exhorted them as a fellow elder and did not command their obedience as an apostle of Christ (Philemon 8-9).

It is difficult work, but it is richly rewarded in the end by Christ himself (I Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 13:20). The “crown” here refers to a victory garland given when a runner wins a race. These were typically woven from branches that eventually fell apart. But unlike earthly prizes, there is a permanent crown awaiting us. Notice the use of “unfading” echoes Peter’s starting statement in I Peter 1:4.

Humility Toward Leaders - I Peter 5:5

Young men are often eager to make their mark in the world. Such can lead them to be rebellious, but Peter reminds the young men to subject themselves to their elders. While the male gender is used here, it could be referring to both men and women.

In fact, all Christians should clothe themselves with humility toward each other (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3). The word “be clothed” refers to putting on a slave’s apron in preparation for serving. In other words, when someone sees you, the first thing they notice is your humility and your willingness to serve. Peter reminds us that God opposes the proud and gives gifts to the humble (Proverbs 3:34).

Humility Toward God - I Peter 5:6-7

If we are to show humility to our brethren here on earth, then it becomes even more important that we humble ourselves before God who commands our humble behavior (Micah 6:8). We cannot let pride push us. At the appropriate time, God will exalt us (Proverbs 15:33; 22:4).

Meanwhile, we live under God’s mighty hand. God is in control of our lives. We might not like circumstances at times. We might think the tasks assigned to us are too difficult. But we must submit to what God sees is best.

We have to deal with persecution, so we are urged to cast our anxieties upon God (Psalms 55:22). He is the chief shepherd and God cares about each one of us.

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