An Exegesis of 1 Peter 5:1-11

Introduction

Before chapter 5, most of Peter’s teaching is on the problem of suffering. Starting from 3:13, he mainly discusses the topic of suffering due to righteous living. There are two major sources that he relies on to interpret the suffering in his reader’s present life. The first source is Christ (3:13-4:6), and the second source is the Eschatology (4:7-19). The link between eschatology and Christian ethics reaches the peak in the exhortation of 4:17. Since the Eschatology states that the judgment will start within the house of God, which is the church. Then in what follows the writer redirects the teaching to those who oversight the church because they are responsible for the spiritual developments of the church. He also talks to those who are younger in the community and then all members of the community in 5:1-11. Structurally speaking, this text serves as the conclusion of the whole book. He recapitulates by bringing together each of his perspectives on suffering that surfaced earlier in the letter.

This section also reveals the type of shepherd-leadership in the early church. In Peter’s teaching, the leaders are responsible for overseeing the church in a godly way, and the flock is asked to submit to the godly leadership. Since this teaching of the church structure follows the eschatology of judgment starting from God’s church, it is naturally to think that Peter is teaching that God’s judgment is not solely on the individual Christian’s ethics, but also on how God’s house is managed.

Appeal to the elders (5:1-5a)

1Πρεσβυτέρους οὖν ἐν ὑμῖν παρακαλῶ ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος καὶ μάρτυς τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθημάτων, καὶ τῆς μελλούσης ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι δόξης κοινωνός

1Therefore as the fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and as one who shares in the glory that is going to be revealed, I urge the elders in you:

There are three nominative singular nouns in this verse: ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος (“the fellow elder”), μάρτυς (“a testimony”, since there’s no article), and ὁ κοινωνός (“the sharer” or “the partner”). The only finite verb παρακαλῶ (“request” or “urge”) implies a first person, thus the three nominatives are appositions to the implied “I”. The accusative plural πρεσβυτέρος is the direct object of the finite verb, with the prepositional phrase ἐν ὑμῖν as modifier. There are two genitives modifying μάρτυς, it’s safer to assume that the major genitive modifying μάρτυς is παθημάτος (“suffering”), which is modified by Χριστός (“Christ”). So it’s “a witness of Christ’s suffering”, not “a witness of Christ suffers”. The same logic can apply to the modifier of κοινωνός that the genitive δόξα (“glory”) is the main genitive while the verb μέλλω (“about to”) in participle active genitive with the complement verb ἀποκαλύπτω in infinitive modifies δόξα.

The direct object is put at the beginning of the sentence. It marks a shift of the target audience. Though Peter is one of the respectful apostles, he does not use his apostle identity as Paul does in Pauline epistles. First of all, he use “fellow elders” to indicate that he is also an elder, implying that he is also going to be judged, and also takes the responsibility of the church. Secondly, as the witness of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, it is reminded that the elders serve because Jesus died for us. Thirdly, he does not mention “the glory that was revealed” which indicates his special experience with Jesus (2 Peter 1:16-18) but “the glory that is going to be revealed” which is shared among all believers. These three nominatives demonstrated Peter’s humility in his ministry.

2ποιμάνατε τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ποίμνιον τοῦ θεοῦ [ἐπισκοποῦντες] μὴ ἀναγκαστῶς ἀλλὰ ἑκουσίως κατὰ θεόν, μηδὲ αἰσχροκερδῶς ἀλλὰ προθύμως,

2Shepherd God’s flock in you, by taking care not as duty but as volunteer under God, not for greedy but willingly.

The finite verb is ποιμαίνω (“shepherd”) in aorist imperative 2nd plural. This verb is the same one Jesus used when he said to Peter in John 21:16. The direct object is accusative τὸ ποίμνιον (“the flock”) with the insertion of ἐν ὑμῖν (“in you”, or “among you”), indicating that the leaders are not away from the flock or above the flock, but with the flock.[1] There’s another verb ἐπισκοπέω (“take care”) in participle present active masculine nominative plural. It functions as modal adverbial (“by taking care”) modifying the imperative verb. This participle is modified by several adverbs showing the manner (e.g. how to take care) that are worthy of some word studies. Dubis suggests that “it’s best to understand it as a restatement, amplifying the generic imperatival clause by explaining more specifically in what way elders should do this.”[2]

The first adverbial phrase makes a contrast between ἀναγκαστῶς (“by compulsion”) and ἑκουσίως (“voluntarily” or “willingly”). It means that not doing the ministry simply due to obligation, but because of having willingly chosen to carry out the work. There are many cases that a minister serves the church under pressure from the congregation simply because he is the most mature Christian among them. Peter is probably warning about the same trend. The second adverbial phrase is making contrast between αἰσχροκερδῶς (“greedily”) and προθύμως (“eargerly”). Both adverbs indicate willingness for the ministry, but with different motivations. The adjective format of αἰσχροκερδῶς is αἰσχροκερδής which is used in 1 Ti 3:8 and Tit 1:7, meaning “shamelessly greedy for money”. BDAG (870) suggests that “the contrast indicating that officials are to be eager to meet the needs of others rather than seek gain for themselves.” It is also implied that there was some financial or material reward for elders, but they are not supposed to be the motivation for serving. Therefore the first contrast emphasizes that the choice of serving should be made freely, and the second contrast emphasizes that the motivation of serving is the eagerness in the heart for God or for the flock.

3μηδ᾽ ὡς κατακυριεύοντες τῶν κλήρων ἀλλὰ τύποι γινόμενοι τοῦ ποιμνίου•

3Do not like those who lord over the assigned people, but become the examples of the flock.

There are two participles in this verse. The one in nominative is γίνομαι in present middle masculine participle. It functions adverbially in parallel with adverbs in the previous verse modifying the previous participle ἐπισκοπέω (“become”), showing manner. An elder is supposed to take care of the flock by becoming the τύπος (“example”, predicate nominative) of them. Another participle in this verse is κατακριεύω (“become master” or “rule over”) in present active masculine nominative plural. It functions as another modal adverbial modifying the participle ἐπισκοπέω in verse 2, as the contrast to “become the examples of the flock”. The term carries a nuance of a harsh or excessive use of authority. It is used in the context of military conquests as well (Num. 21:24, 32:22, LXX). Grudem suggests that Peter forbids the use of excessively restrictive rule and it implies that elders should govern not by the use of threats or authority, but rather by the power of example whenever possible. [3] It can also be used in preaching to remind the audience that authority comes from being the example to the flock.

NIV translate τῶν κλήρων to “those entrusted to you”. κλῆρος usually refers to a “lot” used to make a decision or to gamble (BDAG, 548). Here it is refer to a responsibility that is assigned. Similar usage can be found in Col 1:12 and other early church fathers’ works. We ministers cannot pick what sheep we’d like to love and take care, but assigned by God “as it hath pleased him” (1 Cor 12:18).

4καὶ φανερωθέντος τοῦ ἀρχιποίμενος κομιεῖσθε τὸν ἀμαράντινον τῆς δόξης στέφανον.

4When the Chief Shepherd is appeared, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The finite verb in this verse is κομίζω in future middle indicative 2nd plural with implied subject “you”. The accusative direct object is τὸν … στέφανον, modified by a genitive adjective (ἀμαράντινος) and a genitive noun (δόξα). Another participle is φανερόω in aorist passive masc genitive singular. It is a genitive absolute with temporal meaning (“when … is revealed”). τοῦ ἀρχιποίμενος is the genitive subject of the participle. This term occurs only here in NT but it’s natural to link it to Christ, considering 2:25 and Hebrew 13:20. This time should refer to Christ’s second coming to the earth.

The “crown” does not indicate kingship. It’s “a wreath made of foliage or designed to resemble foliage and worn by one of high status or held in high regard” (BDAG, 943.1). Because the foliage will fade away, the glory associated with the foliage is not everlasting. However the glory on the crown by God is eternal. Here Peter is echoing what Paul has said, “they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” (1 Cor 9:25)

5aὉμοίως, νεώτεροι, ὑποτάγητε πρεσβυτέροις•

5aIn the same way, young people, submit to elders.

Michaels think that according to the transition from wives to husbands in 3:7, it is a reciprocal use of ὁμοίως as the household duty codes. [4] Thus it can be translted as “in turn” or “for your part”. The finite verb in the sentence is ὑποτάσσω (“submit”) in aorist middle imperative. The subject is the vocative plural νεώτερος. I agree with Achtemeier who suggests that term is referring to the rest of the church, the non-elders, considering the usage of ὁμοίως earlier in the verse.[5] Epistle of Plycarp 5:3 uses the same word and the context clarly indicates that church officers and the congregation are in view. The NIV translation makes the contrast between younger and those who are older, indicates a contrast in age not church office. I think this translation ignores the context indication.

Appeal to the Congregation (5:5b-9)

5bπάντες δὲ ἀλλήλοις τὴν ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐγκομβώσασθε, ὅτι [ὁ] θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.

5band all of you, dress yourselves with humility toward each other, because God opposes the arrogant but gives grace to the humble.

Peter then moved from a discussion of relationship between elders and others to more generally an appeal to the whole church. The vocative πάντες should refer to the entire community, including elders and the rest of the church. The finite verb in the first clause is ἐγκομβόομαι in aorist middle imperative 2nd plural. This term does not appear anywhere else in NT and even LXX. Achtemeier suggests that this verb derives from ἐγκομβωμα, a term “probably identifying a garment or apron a slave tied over other garments in order to perform certain menial tasks.”[6] The accusative direct object is ταπεινοφροσύνη (“humility”), with an indirect object the dative ἀλλήλοις indicating the focus of internal relationship in the church.

The second clause starts with ὅτι indicates a causal clause as the motivation ground of the urge. The clause is a quotation from Proverbs 3:34 and it follows the LXX exactly “except for the initial usage of [ὁ] θεὸς instead of κύριος. The finite verbs are δίδωμι and ἀντιτάσσεται in present tense. The present tense indicates that this grace (TEV “shows favor” might be an more appropriate translation considering the contrast verb “oppose”) might not refers to the grace of salvation (which is unconditional) but the grace in Christian living.

6Ταπεινώθητε οὖν ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὑψώσῃ ἐν καιρῷ,

6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand, so that he might lift you up in (due) time.

The verb in the main clause is ταπεινόω in aorist middle imperative 2nd plural. This verb is traditionally taken as passive but here the middle voice clearly indicates an action on the subject themselves. After asking the congregation to submit to the elders, all people need to be submissive to God. ὑπὸ usually means “under” or “below” while working with accusative, but here this prepositional word is used as a “marker of that which is in a controlling position” (BDAG 1036.2). Michaels suggests that this metaphor adopts the biblical imagery of God’s “mighty hand”, which is “a phrase used especially in connection with God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.”[7]

ἐν καιρῷ in the result/purpose clause literally means “in a time”, but it can mean “the right time” in an indefinite sense like Matt 24:45. Since Peter mentioned many times in the letter regarding the “end of all things” (4:7) when “the chief shepherd appears” (5:4) and “when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1:7, 13). Michaels stated that καιρός normally takes definite article when used in this eschatological sense but not in prepositional phrases.[8]

7πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρίψαντες ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν.

7by throwing out your every worry on him, because he cares for you.

There’s no finite verb in the main clause, but only ἐπιρίπτω in aorist active masc pl participle. It could be understood as taking on the imperatival force from ταπεινόω from previous verse, or modifying ταπεινόω in the previous verse as participle of manner. Given the following causal clause that “because God cares for you”, I think it’s reasonable to treat it as a participle of manner. Because God cares for me, so I can throw the worries to God, and I thus can move from self-centered mindset to care for others, and humble myself to others. As Grudem suggests, “casting all your anxieties on God is the path to humility, freeing a person from constant concern for himself and enabling him or her truly to be concerned for the needs of others.”[9]

8Νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε. ὁ ἀντίδικος ὑμῶν διάβολος ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος περιπατεῖ ζητῶν [τινα] καταπιεῖν•

8Be sober and be watchful. Your enemy, the devil, is walking like a lion, roaring and seeking someone to eat.

The two imperatives at the beginning of the verse indicate a new appeal. The double imperatives also occur in 1 Thess 5:6, stressing the importance of being alerted in a dangerous environment, where the devil is walking around. The second clause functions as the motivational grounds for the exhortation. Some manuscripts (P72 L Ψ 33 M) adds ὅτι at the beginning to indicate that it’s a causal clause. Peter used two participles to modify the verb περιπατεῶ, making the metaphor very vivid. Grudem comments that “just as a person walking down a dangerous road might be advised to be alert and careful, so Peter’s readers are warned.” [10]

9ἀντίστητε στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει εἰδότες τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων τῇ ἐν [τῷ] κόσμῳ ὑμῶν ἀδελφότητι ἐπιτελεῖσθαι.

9 The devil is the one you should resist strongly in your faith, since you know that your brothers and sisters in the world are enduring the same suffering.

This is the last appeal in this text. The imperative is ἀνθίστημι (“resist”) in imperative 2nd plural active. Though the devil is eagerly seeking people to eat like a lion, Christians can still resist the devil. We don’t need to be afraid of the devil. The adjective with the prepositional clause of “στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει” together modifies the imperative epexegetically. Michaels (300) comments that this phrase serves to interpret ἀνθίστημι while Dubis (169) think that there’s an implied participle ὄντες here functioning as a participle of manner (“resist him being strong in the faith”).

Then we have another verb οἶδα in participle nominative modifying the imperative verb, function as causal participle introducing a motivation for the preceding exhortation. It is followed by the infinitive clause functions as the complement of οἶδα. Peter is speaking that suffering for righteous is common for Christian everyone, not just for the readers. It’s an encouragement to the readers because the suffering is not readers’ fault, but the part of the nature of being a Christian.

Benediction and doxology (5:10-11)

10 δ θες πσης χριτος, καλσας μς ες τν αἰώνιον ατο δξαν ν Χριστ [ησο], λγον παθντας ατς καταρτσει, στηρξει, σθενσει, θεμελισει.

10But the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after your suffering for a little while.

Peter used “but” (δὲ) to indicate a transition in this verse. This verse is no longer a urge or exhortation but a comfort and encouragement to end the letter. First of all, it uses four future indicative verbs to describe God’s work. Michaels suggests that they formed a “cumulative effect to reiterate and reinforce the aorist subjunctive ὑψώσῃ of verse v6 and complete Peter’s interpretation of Proverbs 3:34 cited in v5. But I think Dubis’ suggestion of treating them as a four-term “doublet” of adding rhetorical emphasis makes more sense. [11] The second encouragement is in the genitives modifiers about God that He is the one “called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus”. The accent of the past calling and future destiny remind readers of God’s faithfulness and His almighty deeds. The third encouragement is that the suffering is a little (ὀλίγον παθόντας). “a little” is a contrast to the “eternal” earlier. This contrast is similar to Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 4:17 that (NIV) “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Comparing to the glory prepared in the eternity, Christian suffering is light and temporal.

11ατ τ κρτος ες τος αἰῶνας, μν.

11The power belongs to him forever. Amen.

This is a shortened doxology from 4:11. It looks to God’s power and sovereign, reminds the reader that though they are under present temporal suffering, God is in control in the eternity.

Conclusion and Reflection

This text carries several strong messages that are still applicable to our ministries today. Every topic can be a good sermon. For the first topic of elder-congregation relationship, Peter urges the leaders to examine the inner life, and examine our passion to serve (obligated or volunteered), our motivation to serve (because of money or because of eagerness), and our methodology of serving (through practicing of authority or through being example). For the second topic of Christian life in a persecuted world, Paul’s urges includes being humble, being sober and resist the devil. Christians’ earthly life is connected with the eternal and heavenly life, but Christians are also in the spiritual battlefield. Peter’s revealing of the spiritual warfare helped the readers to see the scene behind the visible suffering, and be able to fight the good fight because they are at God’s side, with support and assurance of victory from God.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J. 1 Peter. Minneapolis: Fortress Press1996

Aland, Barbara, Kurt Aland, et al. Novum Testamentum Graece. 27th ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994

Dubis, Mark. 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text, Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2010

Elliott, John H. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009

Longman, Tremper Ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews – Revelation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006

Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1988

Jobes , Karen H. 1 Peter. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005

Porter, Stanley E. Idioms of the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Sheffield: Academic Press, 1996

Schreiner, Thomas R. The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2011


[1] NRSV/NIV/TEV treats it as effectively distributive in force (Elliott, 824) and translated it to “in your charge”. KJV/ESV/NET takes this phrase as pointing to association: “among you”.

[2] Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2010), 160

[3] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 196

[4] J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1988), 288

[5] Grudem does not agree. He suggests that it is probably because the younger people were generally those who would most need a reminder to be submissive to authority within the church (Grudem, 199).

[6] Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 1996), 332-33

[7] Michaels, 295

[8] Michaels, 296

[9] Grudem, 202

[10] Ibid., 202

[11] Dubis, 172

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