Over the past few days we have been examining Peter’s call for church elders to shepherd the flock of God with eagerness and humility so that the flock might receive an unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1–4). In light of Peter’s overall concern to show us how to stand firm in the midst of suffering (v. 12), these exhortations take on a special urgency. For the elders of the church have the special duty of feeding and caring for the flock, and the flock will find it hard to follow those who do not imitate the humility of the ultimate shepherd of the sheep. And if the flock cannot follow the under-shepherds, they may not receive the strength to stand firm under fire.
In 5:5, Peter moves from the elders to the young people in the congregation in order to remind them of their need to subject themselves to the elders. No elder is perfect and at times will not behave with perfect humility. This is not to be an excuse for ignoring an elder’s authority, however. The people of God must submit to their leadership unless they command us to do something God forbids or forbid something God commands. Those who are younger are likely singled out here because they would be more likely to question the authorities God has set in place in order to help His people persevere.
Again, all of this is not to say that the final salvation of God’s elect is in doubt. However, let us always remember that God uses church leaders, and all of us for that matter, as tools to work out His plan. Through our efforts on behalf of the Gospel, God brings His elect into the kingdom and strengthens them to stand firm in the faith.
This is one reason why Peter continues to emphasize the importance of humility as Christians deal with one another. In today’s passage, Peter also calls all of us to behave with humility toward one another, remembering that God gives grace to those are humble. Humility is not to be only a characteristic of church leaders; it must be true of all the people in the congregation. As we serve one another in humility, we imitate Christ and in so doing point others to Him so that they might follow His example (see 2:21) and stand firm in the midst of suffering.
Are you submissive to the elders in the church? Do you follow their leadership even when they do something you do not like, or do you seek opportunities to undermine their authority? Do you pretend to find sin in all they do so that you do not have to follow them? What about your relationships with others in the church? Do you treat others with humble love or look down upon fellow Christians? Find a way to serve both your elders and others with humility today.