Living HOPE Series
  • When Jesus asked his disciples. "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus promised Peter that upon the Rock of that confession He would build His church. The truth of who Jesus is empowers common man to speak the message that opens the doors of heaven to sinners. Join us to learn strong principles for Godly living and reach new heights in our faith as we work our way through Peter's writings which evangelize the lost and instruct the church.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God has provided for oversight leadership in the church. – I Peter 5:2 & 3
  • Oversight leadership is to be exercised in humility as God’s servant. – I Peter 5:2-4
  • All in the body of Christ are to be humble and live with self-control, looking to God whose mighty hand will accomplish His purposes, including bringing His own children to glory. – I Peter 5:6-11
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What is the function of oversight leadership in the church? How are leader to lead, and what are they to do for the people in the church?
  • How do you see the leaders in your church leading? How do you react and respond to your leaders? What does it mean to be humble?
  • What is the end purpose of God in everything and how does that motivate you to live in the present?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What do you think of when you see the term “elders” as it relates to the Church of Jesus Christ?
  • What is the foundation on which Peter bases his admonition to church elders?
  • What does it mean for Peter to call himself a “fellow elder?”
  • Describe the responsibilities (indeed, the calling) of church elders. Try to write one sentence that encompasses that description.
  • How are people in the church to react and respond to church elders?
  • What is the importance of faithful church leadership for people in the church to live out the principles Peter is writing about in this letter?
  • Why is humility so important to God?
  • Why should we cast all our anxiety on God? What should happen to our anxieties when we have cast them on God?
  • What is to be our mind-set in the face of the lurking Satan? What does he have to do with suffering, and how can we resist him?
  • What is in store in the end, after we have suffered in this life for a “little while?”
  • What does it mean to “stand firm” in God's grace in this life?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Who do you think are the elders at your church? How would you describe them in terms of their character and spiritual walk?
  • What is your attitude toward the elders in your church?
  • What is the most important responsibility of an elder? How does the carrying out of that responsibility by your elders affect you?
  • How are you doing with humility? What changes do you have to make in your life in that regard?
  • How can you stand firm in the midst of suffering for your faith? What is God's promise to you from this text and how does that promise affect how you live?
  • How are you doing in resisting the devil? What things might you have to do differently?
  • Do you get anxious over things? Over what things? What should you do with those anxieties (read: Philippians 4:4-7)? Can you trust God with your anxieties, and why?
  • What is God's promise to you regarding your life after your earthly life? Do you believe that promise? If you do, how should that promise affect the way you live?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
As he brings his letter to a close, Peter shifts gears a bit to give encouragement and instruction to the leadership of the church. At the same time, he counsels everyone in the church especially as they relate to their leaders and to what is happening to them in their circumstances of suffering. Two key themes in this text are humility (which we have seen in the letter previously – I Peter 3:8) and self-control, and both are certainly key ingredients to living in a hostile culture while reflecting God's glory.

In directing his words to the leadership of the church (the elders), Peter is careful to identify himself with them, calling himself a “fellow elder.” This is not meant to diminish his standing and authority as an apostle which was already asserted at the beginning of the letter (I Peter 1:1), but rather to indicate that he, too, is subject to the teaching he is about to impart, even as he is the one with special qualifications to impart such teaching. And these qualifications are that Peter was a witness of the sufferings of Jesus and is a “partaker” in Jesus' glory that is going to be revealed. As to the former, it is not clear from the gospel record what portions of Jesus' actual beating and crucifixion Peter witnessed. However, suffice it to say that he clearly witnessed Jesus' rejection at the hands of the religious authorities, Jesus' suffering as He prayed in the garden, and His arrest. Beyond that, given his denial of Jesus three times, and being in Jerusalem for the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, Peter undoubtedly was a witness to Jesus' sufferings in a most general, if not specific, sense. He was also on the mount with James and John when Jesus was transfigured and showed His glory to the three, and he saw the resurrected Jesus being lifted up into heaven at His ascension. Peter thus had a glimpse of Jesus the King and Lord in His glory, the One whose kingship will be revealed to the entire creation one day in the future when He returns, and through the events following His return (see Matthew 24:30 & 31; 25:31-33; John 17:24; Philippians 2:9-11). Peter therefore not only saw Jesus' glory, but understands himself to be a “partaker” in Jesus’ glory. The word translated “partaker” can also be translated “participant” or “sharer;” the root Greek word is “koinos” which means common or shared by all. Thus, because of His relationship with Jesus and having witnessed His glory, Peter knows that he will share in, and participate in, Jesus' future glory at the time of its revelation, as indeed will all believers (cf. I Peter 1:7-9).

What, then, is Peter's exhortation to the church leaders (the “elders”)? It is in essence that they be good shepherds of the flock God has given them. A word about elders before going on, however. The New Testament identifies and calls the leadership in the local church elders. The precurser to that leadership picture is the elders in the Jewish religion and practice. At least Jewish believers seem to have adopted the elder structure in the early church, and it is probably safe to say that leadership in the church developed “at different rates and in different ways in different places.” (quoting Ben Witherington II from his Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Vol. II, at p. 221) The church in Jerusalem adopted the institution of elders for leadership (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4), and Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the churches they founded (Acts 14:3). Paul wrote instructions concerning elders in his letters to Timothy (I Timothy 3:1-7) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9). Thus, elders are those who oversee the local church, providing spiritual leadership to those in the church. Indeed, one of the Greek words translated “elder” is episkopos which is also translated as “overseer” and “bishop. That word is used interchangeably with the Greek word in I Peter 5:1, presbyteros, translated “elder” in the text. As we look at the terms, it seems that the word “elder” is much like a title and the word “overseer” is much like a job description. In any case, the function of the elders is clear in the New testament, including in I Peter 5:1-5, and it is to watch over the flock, to give oversight to the flock, to lead the flock – literally to ‘pastor” the flock.

Notice that Peter addresses “the elders among you,” and thus emphasizes the level ground on which all believers stand; the leadership is not “over” the church as much as it is a part of the church body with certain responsibilities. The admonition to the elders is that they “shepherd the flock of God.” The flock does not belong to the elders; it is God’s flock, and the elders are given a responsibility to watch over what belongs to God. And again, Peter emphasizes the level ground by referring to the flock “among you.” What is shepherding? It is the taking care of, protecting, watching over, instructing, leading, feeding spiritual food to and encouraging of the people of the church. The shepherd picture is apt, as that is what a shepherd does for his sheep. In the circumstances in which his readers were living, it was crucial that the elders carry out their shepherding responsibilities faithfully so that the church and its people could continue to shine forth the gospel and the kingdom to the culture in which they lived. This responsibility was to be carried out voluntarily, not as if being forced (I Peter 5:2), not with financial gain in mind, but with eagerness to serve and be models to the people of how to live. The reward to the elders in such service is the “unfading crown of glory” that will be given them by Jesus, the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5:4). In Peter’s day, the victors in the athletic games received a crown of flowers which would indeed fade. The faithful Christian leader will one day share in the glory of having participated in Jesus’ ministry while on earth, an honor which will last and which will redound to Jesus Himself.

The overall attitude of the elders in their leading was to be one of humility from the heart of a servant. Such a leadership approach was quite in contrast to the secular leaders in the culture of Peter’s day (and our day as well!), in which leaders sought to build themselves up at the expense of others (“lording it over” per I Peter 5:3). The non-leaders, referred in I Peter 5:5 as “younger men” in some translations, are to be subject to the elders. This attitude fits in with what Peter has already written about submission. It appears that the phrase is not necessarily dealing with chronological age, though it certainly can include those of younger years; rather, it seems to refer to “the rest of the congregation” and the approach they are to have with respect to their leaders, the elders. But Peter doesn’t leave it at that; instead he underscores the general principle of mutual submission in verse 5. All within the body of Christ are to be dressed, as it were, with humility in their relationships and interactions one with another. Peter even paraphrases Proverbs 3:34 in support of the proposition, and as a reminder that God is the God of the humble, giving them grace to serve, and is against the arrogant. In this humility, Jesus’ followers are like Him, as He came not to be served but to serve and give His life (Mark 10:43-45).

Verses 6-11 serve to round out and sum up the message of this letter. They underscore the theme of humility by telling all of God’s children to humble themselves under the “mighty hand of God.” Such an admonition undoubtedly stood out to Peter’s audience as they were daily bombarded with the claim of the might of Rome and its emperor. But as powerful as Rome was, God was more powerful; His mighty hand had delivered the Jewish people from Egypt; His mighty hand had raised Jesus from the dead; He is the one to whom all honor is due and who will exalt His children in due time in the end (I Peter 5:6). In short, we are to place ourselves under God’s sovereign control, and trust Him in His purposes and will. In that, we can throw all our anxieties on Him, in the sure and certain knowledge that He cares for His children (I Peter 5:7). Notice that the casting of one’s anxieties on God is not limited to just the big issues; verse 7 says casting all one’s anxieties, big, little and every one in between. This must have been a great encouragement to Peter’s audience. God could be trusted with everything because He cared personally for each of them in what they were going through. It is a picture of God the Father to be sure. But in living out one’s daily life, Peter again calls his audience to self control and thoughtful, intentional living (note I Peter 4:7). Peter’s words here are really a “wake-up” call: something more like, “Be up and ready; shake it off and pay attention!” But Peter then reveals the real enemy, namely Satan himself. It is the devil who is roaring around trying to trap and devour God’s children and wreak havoc on God’s purposes and plans. The antidote to the devil? Resist him by standing firm in your faith knowing that such faith is founded on the reality of the risen Jesus and the mighty hand of God bringing about the fulfilment of salvation. But that resistance is also placed in the context of the larger body of Christ, and knowing that there are others going through the same thing. In short, we are not alone; suffering for Christ is not limited to only some locations but is worldwide.

But the biggest encouragement, and thus perhaps the greatest stimulus to Godly victorious living in the midst of suffering, is the reality that the suffering is for only a “little while” (I Peter 1:6; 5:10) in light of eternity, and that the God who calls His children out from darkness into glory will personally “restore, confirm, strengthen and establish” His children. Note the order: the establishing follows after the first three steps have been accomplished by God. There is a sure and certain promise in these words; God will accomplish it; it will happen; no matter what is going on, God will bring His will to pass all to His glory. So, hang in there, Peter writes; God will take care of you in the end even while being with you in the midst of life. He can be trusted; He is faithful; and “to Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:11) What a way to end the letter; words of promise and power to a people who were suffering for Jesus. It will all be worth it in the end because God will establish His people and His glory!

Verses 12-14 serve as a postscript and greetings. Peter does this with a definitive statement of what his letter does – it provides testimony to the walk of grace, to the living hope that is found in the grace of God, and the final exhortation to his audience to stand firm in their faith. Peter references the aid of Silas in the writing of the letter (likely Silas was more than a mere scribe, but helped shape Peter’s words into more effective form), gives greeting from the church in Rome (“she who is at Babylon”) who stand together with his audience, and from Mark (most likely John Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark). Peter closes with a beautiful reminder to the church to greet each other with a “kiss of love” (or “holy kiss”) which was a familial way to express Christian love one to another, and showed not only respect but the attitude of mutuality and unity to which Peter had called these believers in his letter. Finally, Peter extends his peace to the churches.

What a glorious finish to this letter! It started with a reminder of the greatness and depth of salvation that is found in Jesus through His resurrection, a salvation which is an imperishable inheritance. And it has ended with a promise that God will establish His people in their inheritance. To Him be the glory indeed. Our salvation in Jesus is what is real, no matter what is going on around us, and no matter how much resistance we might face. Any such suffering is temporary, and it will cease; our salvation in Jesus is forever and we will one day share in His glory. As we live our lives before the watching world, then, let us truly live for Him, the One who cares for us, the One who died for us, the One who loves us, the One who will bring all things together in the end to His glory. There’s no better place to be in this life than in His mighty hands! To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.