Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
And “if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?”
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
1 Peter 4:12-19
Peter ends the fourth chapter by once again mentioning those under persecution for their faith. Since he is repeating the thought here, I thought this might be a good time to reflect upon those who suffer for other reasons. We all know people who suffer with chronic disease, mental and emotional problems, financial hardship, disabilities and other conditions or circumstances that cause pain, hurt and despair, and these need our loving support. It is for us to reach out to offer help, to nurture and to bring comfort; may we not forget this.
For those who might find themselves in such a situation, Peter offers encouragement and guidance. We should be cheerful and hopeful. Always we should keep our trust and hope in Him, that we might give Him glory and impress those around us, not with how great we are, but so that they may see how great He is.
Yes, it is true that this life has been called a “vale of tears.” There are certainly times like that, but our hope, our joy and our strength in Christ has overcome all that. It is rather for us to have our eyes, minds and souls fixed upon Jesus through any hardship, so that His glory, power and love might be made manifest to the whole world around us.
Peter is winding up his letter now with some insight that he shares with local church leaders… and the younger men. First for the leadership:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
1 Peter 5:1-4
The words that are usually translated into English as “elder, pastor, shepherd, bishop and overseer” are used interchangeably in the New Testament to refer to the leaders of each local church congregation; what I like to call the Leadership Team. I realize that many who read this come from church backgrounds that have a structure different than that of the first century church, so in that case, the principles and application should apply to your church leaders, whatever they might be called.
The thing that really jumps out to me is the fact that a leader is not at all a big shot, he is instead the servant of all. Notice that Peter emphasizes humility, rather than position, service, rather than rank and sacrifice rather than personal gain. An elder is to be an example of servant-leadership, as Jesus Himself was our example of servant-leadership. So often churches go wrong because the leaders of the church seek to exalt themselves above their flock, rather than to serve in humility, forgetting entirely that the crown of glory does not come in this life, but when Jesus returns.
Next, Peter has insight for the younger ones…
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:5-7
Younger people are not famous for being submissive to their elders. We must understand that in context, Peter isn’t referring only to those who are young in years, but also to those who are spiritually young. When my kids were teenagers, they knew everything. They knew that getting along in life, paying bills, managing finances and maintaining a household was really easy, and that I wasn’t very good at it; they all could have done a better job than I did. Now they are grown and have their own households… and they all, each in his or her own way, have admitted that it isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. As a leader in the local church for more years than I’d like to count, I can recall many times when younger Christians of various ages were quite vocal about things they knew much more about than the leadership; they didn’t hesitate to point out everything we did that was wrong in their eyes… and then later had to admit that there had been so many things they hadn’t understood before. Peter, of course, is aware of all of this, for little has changed in human nature.
He advises the younger to submit to the leadership of their leaders. His instruction for all of us is to be clothed in humility, as Jesus was humble. In time, as the younger in faith grow in their understanding and maturity, they will be lifted up in the congregation. Until then, we must always remember that you aren’t in a position to make disciples until you are mature enough to become a disciple yourself.
As a final observation, have you noticed that Peter’s message in this context is essentially the same as that for slaves, wives, husbands, good citizens and those in suffering? Humility, service, putting the needs of others first and giving glory to God. These can all be summed up in a phrase: Love one another.