Sixth Lenten Midweek

March 20, 2024

1 Peter 5

Tonight, we hear Peter’s final instructions and conclusions to God’s children redeemed by the blood of the Lamb who has been raised in glory and ascended on high.

The apostle had just finished a weighty section on suffering and persecution. So, now he turns to giving instructions to pastors who minister to Christians during these times. “I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder” (Peter here describes the pastoral office of which he was a part). He was also “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (Peter witnessed Jesus’ suffering and death. He also beheld the glory of the transfigured, resurrected, and ascended Jesus—a glory we all partake of through faith now and we all will partake of fully in the resurrection on the Last Day. Just as Christ’s suffering led to glory, so He will bring us through our sufferings into His glory.).

Pastors are instructed to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” God calls pastors to care for His own blood-bought children as shepherds care for their sheep. The congregation belongs to God, and He entrusts them to pastors. So, a faithful pastor leads his congregation to the Source of food and water and protects them from evil. The Source of food and water is Jesus and His Word. Pastors also defend the congregation from the craftiness of Satan in this spiritual war, such as when false teaching and practice or persecution may arise.

Pastors are instructed to oversee the affairs of the congregation. Paul calls on Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Pastors are to call the members of the congregation to repentance and apply God’s healing balm of forgiveness to his repentant flock. Pastors are to instruct and encourage the congregation in active, godly living as Pastor and congregation work together in God’s field.

Pastors shepherd and oversee the congregation “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” One commentor writes that pastors aren’t to act like drafted men. Instead, pastors should tend to their work like an eager volunteer. The phrase “as God would have you,” indicates the call of God placed by the Holy Spirit on a man who enters the Ministry. Also, pastors are not to be in it for fame, riches, or something else. They are to do their task for the love of God and His people, trusting the Lord to provide for them through His people.

Pastors aren’t to abuse their office over the members of the congregation as if they can take advantage of the congregation or be a little dictator in the congregation. A pastor’s authority isn’t worldly power, but the authority given them is God’s Word. Pastors are to preach and teach God’s Word—whether the congregation wants to hear it or not—and trust the Holy Spirit to work through that Word. God calls pastors to care for His flock, not mistreat it.

As pastors tend to these duties patiently yet firmly, they provide an example of service to the congregation. For just as Jesus “came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many,” likewise pastors are to serve God’s people as together they work under the Lord’s instruction.

So, it is with all of God’s people. None of us are called to lord it over others or make power moves to get control of a congregation. We are called to serve one another in love, just as Christ has done for us.

A promise is made to those who faithfully shepherd and oversee God’s children, “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Pastors are under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He has called pastors to be His representatives in congregation—preaching, teaching, administering the Sacraments, visiting the sick, seeking sheep who stray, praying for the congregation, etc. Pastors aren’t perfect. The Ministry is hard work that requires a lot of skill sets not seen in most careers—as pastors tend to the most important thing in life, the souls of those whom he’s called to shepherd. It can be taxing on the mind and spirit, but what a joy it is to see God’s faithful grow and mature in the faith, what a joy it is to announce God’s forgiveness to a person troubled by sin, what a sorrow and joy it is to minister to the dying or bereaved with the comfort of God’s Word. Some pastors have many scars from their battles in this very real spiritual warfare—and like you, they have the assurance of something special: the unfading crown of glory, the salvation promised to those who endure to the end.

Next, Peter instructs the younger of the congregation. This is not about age per se, but as some suggest, a pastor might often be older and the congregation would naturally then be younger. However, the phrase might be understood as those who are young in faith.

Peter commands that the flock be subject (or ordered under) the pastor. This is the same word both Peter and Paul use when saying, “wives be subject to your husbands.” Because of the relationship between husband and wife, and Christ and His bride, the Church there’s a bit of commonality between them. Being in subject to husbands or pastors is something wives and congregations do willingly with the help of God. If husbands or pastors demand it or force it, they have become domineering dictators in the home or church and have failed in their duties.

The members of a congregation can be subject to their pastor in many ways, such as praying for their pastor, making sure their pastor and family is cared for, being active in worship and Bible study, and assisting or serving in the congregation as possible, to give some examples.

Then both pastors and the members of congregations are addressed: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” None of us should seek to be exalted, to be considered most important, or to be at an advantage over others. As Christ sought to serve rather than be served, so we should live in godly service to one another. We should look to the needs of others over the wants of ourselves. Such an attitude is pleasing to the Lord.

Peter instructs all of God’s children to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” As foolish as it is to think we are so great when comparing ourselves to fellow brothers and sisters for whom Christ has also died, it’s even more foolish to be proud in heart as creatures of the Lord God almighty. We are all called to be ordered under and willingly subject ourselves to the Lord. In the end, we are all sinners deserving of hell, who have been shown God’s mercy in Jesus by His grace. In God’s good time, He will exalt the humble faithful, particularly on the Last Day, when God’s children fully receive the crown of life and the eternal inheritance of His kingdom.

In the meantime, as we journey the wilderness of this life in the valley of the shadow of death, we can do one very, very important thing. We can cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. Prayer is not a last resort but the first important undertaking. Putting our worries into the hands of the Lord is not one option, but the option. As I have been trying to drive home in the Monday evening Revelation Bible study the past couple weeks, the Lord is in control. This is true even when (and especially when) things don’t look like it. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He does care for you, and you will see it with your own eyes. If not in this life, then certainly in the life to come.

All of God’s children are called to be “sober-minded” and “watchful” because our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” You ever watch a nature program about lions? They’re loud and powerful, which has earned them the nickname “king of the jungle.” That’s how the devil and his legion of demons are. He makes a big roar as he prowls. He wants to scare you. He wants to intimidate you. He wants to harm you any way he can. He seeks a soul to devour—the Greek word is quite graphic with the idea of drinking someone up. During the time Peter wrote this letter, Christians in various places of the Roman Empire were suffering persecution, sometimes by being put into arenas with roaring lions—a very gruesome and bloody death. So, for the Christians hearing this letter, the image would be so vivid and terribly frightful.

Martin Luther writes in the Large Catechism: “The devil tries every trick and does not stop until he finally wears us out, so that we either renounce our faith or throw up our hands and put up our feet, becoming indifferent or impatient.”

Living in this reality, God’s children are soberminded and watchful. Our minds ought not be intoxicated by the ways and ideas of the world, but our minds ought to be renewed by the Word of God. We are watchful for the fulfillment of all things, praying for Christ’s return as we fix our eyes on Jesus. When we are doing these things—by the power of the Holy Spirit—then we are kept firm in the faith, firm in the doctrine of Scripture we have been taught, resisting the devil’s attempts to pry us from our salvation in Christ.

Then, we are given news that is meant to comfort. We already heard previously that we are to rejoice in our sufferings because we share in Christ’s sufferings, which means we will share in His glory. Now, we learn that we’re not alone in this world. You’re not suffering all by yourself. “The same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” The entire Church on earth is experiencing various kinds of sufferings, and we are promised by our crucified and risen Lord that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church. These sufferings are not our downfall. In fact, Paul makes the statement that when one member rejoices, all rejoice together, and when one member suffers, all suffer together. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” That is the greatest promise of all, because it entails everything God has promised and done for you in Christ Jesus. The Lord your God, your Savior and Redeemer, has promised to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Remember what we were told back in chapter two… You are living stones built upon the Cornerstone who is Christ. Even though the devil, the world, and your own sinful hearts seek to use various means to destabilize and knock you down to rubble, God in Christ strengthens you as a spiritual house for Himself. The sufferings of this life last but a little while compared to the eternity of what is promised you and me in Christ Jesus. We will live and reign with Christ in His kingdom unto all eternity. This is the glory that follows all of our various sufferings.

God has promised it. He will do it. Therefore, “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Next is the conclusion to the letter. “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you.” Silvanus, better known as Silas, either wrote the letter as dictated by Peter or delivered the letter written by Peter or both.

The purpose and theme of the letter is revealed: “exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” At the time the letter was written, Christians were suffering persecution. Peter reminds God’s people that enduring under persecution is worth it in the end, even though it may not feel like it. We should stand firm in the salvation of Christ rather than give in to the pressure to renounce Jesus. God grant us to remain firm in the true grace of God during our sufferings—whether they be persecution or otherwise.

Then we hear a bit of code language. “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings.” Peter likely wrote this letter in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, who heavily persecuted the church. Both Peter and Paul were put to death under Nero.

With that background, “Babylon” is a reference to the Roman Empire and “she” is a reference to the congregation in Rome, which sends greetings to the recipients of this letter.

Mark—the author of the Gospel of Mark and a friend of Peter—also sends greetings.

Peter says, “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting for friends and family and still is in various locations. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” The apostle bestows a blessing of Christ’s peace to his brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we draw upon Holy Week and Easter, we take comfort in hope and rejoice, even in the midst of all our sufferings, because we do have peace through the blood of the Lamb who has risen in glory yet to be revealed. Amen.