Today we return to 1 Peter and resume our study at the beginning of chapter 5. As we begin to look at this chapter today, let us first of all note the importance that Peter has placed on the virtues of humility and submission. We have seen that even in the midst of suffering, Christians are to submit themselves to all authorities (2:13–20). Marriages are to be characterized by the humble submission of wives to husbands and by the gentle and godly love of a husband for his wife (3:1–7). Within the church at large, humble love must also define the relationships between believers (2:1–3; 3:8).
This humility, of course, is only possible when we remember that the great benefits we have in Jesus come not as a result of what we have done. For it is God alone who has brought us into the living hope of salvation (1:3–5). Furthermore, it is God alone, apart from any goodness in ourselves, who has mercifully granted us the right to be His people (2:1–10). Only the work of Christ, which we benefit from if we are united to Him, can procure our salvation (3:18–22).
In today’s passage, Peter again discusses the need for Christian humility, especially as it pertains to church leaders. At first glance, this passage seems disconnected from the previous verses. However, since Peter warned us about judgment beginning with the house of God in 4:17, it makes sense that he would now give instructions to the leaders of that house. After all, the elders in the church are specially charged with maintaining the purity of the church, which purity is the end for which God judges His house (see 1:6–7).
In 5:1–3 we read that the elders of the church are to shepherd God’s flock willingly and as an example — not as a domineering lord. Those in leadership must always remember that their people belong to God and thus must be dealt with just as God deals with all His people — gently and lovingly. This is not to say that the sting of church discipline is never to be meted out. It does mean, however, that when discipline is necessary, it is conducted in order to restore the erring brother (Matt. 18:15–17), always remembering that even the elders are sinners saved by God’s amazing grace.
Today’s passage is addressed primarily to the elders of the church. So if you are one, make sure you lovingly look after the people under your care, even when they are unlovable. We can also apply this teaching to those who are not ordained. Are you a parent and have children for which to care? Perhaps you are a teacher or employer? Whatever authority you may have, shepherd those under you eagerly and gently just like Jesus shepherds you.