Peter comes to his final words of exhortation and encouragement. The holiness under pressure that he has been encouraging them in is a holiness that is arrayed in humility. This humility is characteristic of the entire Christian body, including the head of the body.
“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 examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away . . .” (1 Pet. 5:1-14).
Summary of the Text
Peter concludes his letter by exhorting the elders among them. He does so as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and a partaker of the coming glory (v. 1). His charge is that they are to feed the flock, exercise oversight of the flock (v. 2). They should not be compelled to the task, but should be willing for it. They must not be in it for the money, but rather because their mind is ready and eager for it (v. 2). Oversight does not mean “lording” it over the heritage of God, but rather should be offered through example (v. 3). When the Chief Pastor appears, such elders will receive a crown of glory that never fades (v. 4).
While the elders must not domineer, those who are younger should be submissive toward those who are older (v. 5). Yes, and everyone should be subject one to another, and more than that, should be clothed with humility. Why? Because God resists those who are not clothed with humility, and He gives grace to those who are (v. 5). So the clothing of humility must be put on in the presence of God (v. 6), so that you might be appropriately dressed as you wait for your exaltation in due time (v. 6). When you are clothed in humility, it is easy to feel vulnerable. Consequently, cast all your care upon Him. He will carry it; He cares for you (v. 7).
Be sober and pay attention; the devil wants to eat you (v. 8). He is a roaring lion, but when you resist him, you are doing nothing but what your brothers all over the world are also doing (v. 9). Hang tight. The God of all grace will have you suffer for a bit, but after that it is time for you to be established in an eternal glory (v. 10). The glory for all of this goes to Him, forever and ever (v. 11).
Silvanus, a faithful brother, was Peter’s secretary, enabling him to write, exhort, and testify to the true grace of God (v. 12). The church in Babylon, exiles and pilgrims together with the recipients, send their salutation, as does Marcus (v. 13). They should greet one another with the kiss of love, and peace is extended to all who are in Christ Jesus (v. 14).
Back in chapter 2:18, the domestic slaves were told to be subject to their masters (hypotasso). Christ submitted to the will of His Father, and the indignity of suffering at the hands of insolent men (2:21). Wives are told to be in subjection to their own husbands (again hypotasso, 3:1). The husbands are told to treat their wives likewise (3:7). Elders are told to oversee the flock, but in a way that is careful not to be domineering (5:3). The younger saints are told to submit themselves to the older (hypotasso). And then, as the crowning glory, absolutely everyone here is told to be subject to everyone else (hypotasso).
We see something similar in Ephesians, where Paul tells the saints not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This filling with the Spirit is followed by a series of participles—speaking, singing, making melody, giving thanks, submitting yourselves one to another (hypotasso). This applies to everyone. Everyone sings and everyone submits. The instruction goes on to tell wives to submit to their own husbands (hypotasso), telling them to be deferential in a particular way.
Clothed with Humility, Clothed for Glory
The word glory comes up in this chapter more than once. Peter spoke to the elders as a partaker of the glory that is going to be revealed (1 Pet. 5:1). The elders are promised that if they discharge their office well, they will receive a crown of glory that will never fade (1 Pet. 5:4). God is a God of all grace, and He has called us into His eternal glory through Christ (1 Pet. 5:10). And the final doxology mentions it as well—to Him be glory and dominion forever (1 Pet. 5:11). Amen.
The idea is referred to in places where the word does not directly appear. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). We are not supposed to humble ourselves because we are worms seeking our level, but rather because we are hungry for glory.
True humility is ambitious for glory. What makes it humility is the willingness to pursue glory the way God instructs us to. It is not humility to refuse glory; it is self-centered arrogance. God “will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. 2:6–7).
The Spirit of Glory
The spirit of humility is the spirit of Christ. The spirit of glory is the spirit of Christ. When you clothe yourself with humility, you are putting on Christ. When God clothes you with glory, it will be because you have been completed in Christ. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
Apart from Christ, there is no humility. And with Christ and in Christ, the coming glory is inexorable. Do the nations rage? Are the intoleristas filled with spite? Let them be. The spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Pet. 4:14).