1 Peter: Lesson 13: Concluding Encouragement to Shepherd and Flock

Peter begins this section with a “so” or “therefore,” connecting this section to the previous one.  He ended chapter 4 with “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”  Now, Peter explores how pastors are to live out their vocation as they “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

The Old-Testament background for this is Ezekiel 9:5-6.  In Ezekiel’s vision, God judged Israel for being idolatrous.  Punishment was meted out: “‘Begin at my sanctuary.’  So they began with the elders who were inside the house.”  God’s judgment began with the elders at the Temple (in other words, those serving as Priests).  In this section, Peter moves in the same direction:

  • beginning in the house of God,
  • after which he refers to the elders. 

Peter encourages the elders not to shrink away from shepherding their congregations.  God chose them to serve in this way, though by doing so, they may become targets of persecution.

Suffering as a Pastor

Read 1 Peter 5:1-3

  • Although Peter is an Apostle, what does he call himself?  Discuss the implications of this after the Apostles are all dead?
  • Who is the owner of the flock: The elder, the congregation, or God?
  • Thus everything runs according to whose design?

Peter, an Apostle, uses three words to describe what we Lutherans call “pastors.”

  1. “elder”: presbuteros: This doesn’t describe what we call elders in our congregations.  In the LC-MS, “elders” are closest to the biblical term of “deacon.”  Peter uses the word for presbyter.  Although Peter is an Apostle, all apostles are also presbyters (but the presbyters to follow will not be apostles).
  2. “shepherd”: This is a verb telling what pastors are to do.  This is the word for pastor as a verb.
  3. “exercising oversight”: This is the word for “bishop” as a verb.  This is also a pastoral function, to be “bishoping” a congregation.

Based on Peter’s words, we see that a presbyter, bishop, and pastor all exercise the same office and function.  By using all three terms, Peter brings out the nuance of what a pastor is to do.

Elder: This was the term generally favored by Jewish Christian congregations.  In Judaism, elder designated a leader who was usually older in age.  “Elder” did not mean that only older men could be pastors, but that a pastor should carry himself with wisdom and not be a “hot headed” youth.

Shepherd: Usually used as a verb in the New Testament.  This tied back into Israel’s shepherding culture.  A pastor was the equivalent of a spiritual shepherd for a flock.  However, instead of sheep, the pastor watched over, protected, led, and guided a congregation.

Bishop: This denotes someone who watches over something, a supervisor, a leader.  This was the favored term by Gentile Christian congregations.  Though Jews who grew up speaking Greek as their first language also used “bishop.”  The Septuagint referred to the leaders of ancient Israel (Exodus 24:1) and the religious leaders during Maccabean times (1 Maccabees 14:20) as “elders.”

Peter next tells how pastors are not, and are, to “bishop” a congregation. 

Don’t Be this Way Instead, Be this Way
Not under compulsion [anakostos] “I suppose I have to …”Feel forced to do it   Willingly [hekousios] Of your own free will [kata Theon]As God would have you do it  
Not for shameful gain [aiskrekerdos] Not “money grubbing”   Eagerly [prothymos] Enthusiastically  
Not domineering over your portion [hos katakyrieuontes ton kleron] Being insolent in rulingRuling with arbitrary sway   Being an example, a pattern, for the flock [typoi ginomenoi tou poimniu] Leading by example  

Employing Asiatic style Greek, note Peter’s use of rhyme, concluding with “os,” “on,” and “oi” endings.  Through his use of rhetoric, Peter emphasizes the right and wrong ways to serve as a pastor.

  • Discuss: That Peter uses such descriptions means what concerning pastor?

Listen to what Polycarp (circa 120 AD), a student of the Apostle John, wrote about how pastors should carry out their duties:

And the presbyters also should be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, bishoping [looking after] all [the] ailing, not neglecting [the] widow, the orphan, [and] the poor, but doing what is honorable before God and people.  [They should] stay away from all anger, favoritism, unrighteous judgment, being far removed from [the] love of money, not quick to believe [accusations] against someone, not abrupt in judgment, knowing that we are all in debt because of sin.

Read 1 Peter 5:4

  • Who is the Chief Shepherd?  When will He appear?

“chief Shepherd”: archi [as in archangel] poimen [shepherd]: The “elders,” [presbyters] didn’t just try to emulate Jesus in their duties.  They were to recognize themselves as underlings of Christ, the Chief Shepherd, to whom they are responsible.  Christ will recognize those who worked for Him and not for themselves.

  • Discuss the implications of “appears,” which is in the passive voice (better translated as “is revealed”)?
  • How does this encourage pastors?

Read 1 Peter 5:5

Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 from the Septuagint, written by Solomon, a former king of God’s people.  Let us not miss Peter’s implication.  If Solomon, the “wisest” and wealthiest of Israel’s kings says God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” how much more does this apply to us?

At first, we may think Peter has switched from using “elders” to mean pastors to, instead, mean “older men” (since he used the masculine gender).  Not so.  Peter is showing how everything in the Church orders itself under Christ, the “Chief Shepherd.” 

  1. Understanding “elders” [presbeteroi] and “youngers” [neuteroi] referring to pastors and their congregations is a play on words.  “Youngers” refers to those who are not “elders,” that is, pastors.
  2. In 96 AD, Clement, the 4th Bishop of Rome, used “youngers” to refer to the laity in relation to their pastors.  1 Clement 3:3, a letter to Corinth, he mentioned an uprising of “those who are younger [neuteroi] against the elders” [presbeteroi].  Later, he explained this as “the steadfast and ancient church of the Corinthians rebelling against its elders” (1 Clement 47:6).

“humility”: tapeinophrosune.  In the Greco-Roman world, humility was something negative.  It was being “base minded,” like that of a slave or servant.  This humility was associated with the bowing and scraping behavior of slaves, which the elite ridiculed and parodied in their comedies.  

  • Why should we as Christians clothe ourselves with humility?

Read 1 Peter 5:6-7

“clothe yourselves”: A “middle” form, exhibiting characteristics of both an active and passive.  A Christian does participate in clothing himself but what he “wears” does not originate from himself.

“humble yourselves”: An imperative but also a passive in the Greek, better translated as “Be humbled.”

  • What is to be the state of the Christian?  Why?

When Peter used the expression, “the mighty hand of God,” he recalled God’s deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 6:21, Septuagint).  As the Lord delivered His people of old, so will He continue to deliver those who are humbled before Him.

Matthew 13:22: [Jesus said, explaining the Parable of the Sower,] “But the worries of this age … choke the word, so it produces nothing.”

  • Do Christians have anxiety like non-Christians?
  • If we do have anxiety, what are we to do?

Read 1 Peter 5:8-9

“Be sober-minded”: nephate,avoiding the effects of intoxication.

“Be watchful”: gregorasate, wake up, shake off the effects of sleep (not stay awake). 

In Peter’s use of Asiatic-style Greek, he employs matching endings to produce a memorable rhyming effect, meant to leave these imperatives ringing in his recipients’ ears.  Both active verbs require the Christian’s active participation. 

  • Why are we to be sober-minded and watchful?

“Your adversary the devil: “Adversary” is antidikos is a legal adversary.  “Devil” is diabolos, a slanderer or accuser.  The imagery is a courtroom where the devil accuses and slanders you before the judge.  The question is if his accusations “will stick”: “The teeth of sin are the teeth of a lion, slaying the souls of men” (Sirach 21:2).

  • Peter warns Christians about the devil who prowls around, seeking someone to devour.  That he warns about this means what?

Read 1 Peter 5:10

  • What will God do after our suffering is over?

We see two streams of thought forming with four verbs that Peter lists.  With all four verbs, God is the doer.  The grammar of the verbs is future tense, and so they propel the reader forward to eternity, after the time “you have suffered a little while” is over.  However, the context and content of these verbs also point the reader to having a meaning now (as Peter does throughout this letter).  In other words, during our time of suffering, God will accomplish these verbs for us in part.  But we are to see their ultimate fulfillment in its future-tenseness, in eternity.

And so, after we “have suffered a little while,” God Himself will call us to His eternal glory.  Then, He will:

  1. restore us (the same verb is used to describe James and John “mending” their nets in Matthew 4:21), wiping away every tear from our eyes.
  2. confirm us.  This is fixing us firmly.  In eternity, we cannot fall because we will be confirmed in our sinlessness.
  3. strengthen us, nurturing us to full strength after the exhausting “race of faith” that we have run. 
  4. finally establish us fully in Him.  The meaning for “establish” (themelioo) has the idea of being “foundationed” in Christ.  We will be brought into the fullness of our divine union with Him, which will take place fully on Last Day, when we “will reign forever” with Christ (Revelation 22:5).  Peter mentions our divine union with Christ at the beginning of his 2nd Epistle.

That’s why Peter can state what he writes in verse 11: “To Him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”

Excursus: God as the Doer

Though we might miss this, Peter used “God” 10 times in 1 Peter 4:12-5:11.  He focused on phrases denoting what originates from God, what belongs to Him, His identity, and our identity in Him.  We find:

  • Spirit of God (4:14),
  • household of God (4:17),
  • gospel of God (4:17),
  • will of God (4:19; similarly in 5:2),
  • flock of God (5:2),
  • mighty hand of God (5:6),
  • and God of all grace (5:10). 
  • God is also the object of glory (4:16, and implied in 5:10-11).

God’s activities include:

  • anointing his people (4:14),
  • judging all people (4:17),
  • opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble (5:5),
  • exalts the faithful and cares for them (5:6-7),
  • calling the faithful to share in his eternal glory (5:10),
  • and restoring, supporting, strengthening, and establishing the Christian (5:10).

Peter brings out God’s initiative, provision, and rule over all things, as our Creator and faithful God (4:19).  When these truths and realities set deep into our bones, this helps:

  • Keep us from becoming self-absorbed when we face opposition.
  • Enable us to console those who are ostracized and treated with malice.
  • Us understand our reasons to live as God desires of us.
  • Fills us with a full-bodied Christian hope.


Read 1 Peter 5:12-14

  • What does Peter tell us Silvanus (Silas) was doing for him?

“stand firm”: an active imperative.

  • What are they to stand firm in?  Why?

1 Peter 1:1-2 1 Peter 5:12-14
Peter I
to those who are elect exiles who is likewise chosen
of the Dispersion she who is at Babylon
Peace Peace

  • Who is the “she who is in Babylon”?

“greet”: an active imperative, a command.

The “kiss of love” is also the “holy kiss” of which the Apostle Paul spoke (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26).  This kiss expressed a shared divine love, faith, and state of peace.  It was also a liturgical practice in the early New Testament Church, which expressed the forgiveness and reconciliation the Christian has, brought about by Jesus reconciling us to His Father.

  • What is the equivalent (or should be) of the “kiss of love” in our liturgy?