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Stand firm (1 Peter 5)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1. The nearness of the end

When time is short you should get on with what you are meant to be doing.

Shopping for work boots

A couple of days after the lockdown ended for the vaccinated, one of the things that I did was to go to K-Mart and buy a new pair of work boots for the garden. I had to retire my old boots the last week before the lockdown ended because they were falling apart. As soon as lockdown finished, I went to K-Mart to get a new pair.

As I was still a bit cautious, I left going to K-Mart until after 9 pm. Arriving at around 9:20pm I headed around to the men’s department but on the way, I got distracted for I hadn’t been shopping for a while there were lots of other things on sale and I started looking around because I love bargains. I wanted some long T-shirts, and they were on sale so I grabbed 3. But then suddenly over the store speakers came that announcement that the shop would soon be closing, and we need to be finalising our purchases (or at least something like that). Suddenly I was a man back on his mission and got on with what I was meant to be doing because I was keenly aware that I didn’t have long to pick out a pair of work boots. I stopped being distracted and started trying on boots.

Being alert and sober minded

In chapter 4 and verse 7 the call went out that the time was short for the end of all things was near. Since then, Peter has been reminding the believers that in whatever time they had left they needed to be alert and sober minded, and he does this by pulling together the threads of what he has said throughout the letter about living as God’s holy people in this world.

Today we come to chapter 5 and the nearness of the end continues to be the backdrop to Peter’s final words to the believers. Sadly, the NIV and the CSB has omitted the word “so” or “therefore” in the first verse of the chapter which would make the links with the previous chapter more obvious. But another obvious link with chapter 4 is the call for sobriety (or clear mindedness) in verse 8 of chapter 5.

1 Peter 5:8-9

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings[i].

The whole reason Peter has written this letter was to rouse the believers so that they might be alert and sober minded in the face of opposition. He wanted them to stand firm in the faith despite the opposition and the suffering they would experience in these times before the end would come.

In this last chapter that we are looking at today, Peter reminds the elders among God’s people of what they needed to be doing in these times before addressing all the believers in Asia Minor with a final word of exhortation. This morning we want to look at this final chapter of the letter to understand what we all should be doing to remain alert and sober minded in these times.

2. Be shepherds of God’s flock

Peter in verses 1 to 4 addressed the elders among God’s people as a fellow elder (one who had the same sort of responsibility) and called them to be shepherds of God’s flock.

1 Peter 5:1-4

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]

Shepherds = leaders who take care of God’s people

The term “shepherd” has a long history of being used of the leaders of God’s people who have the responsibility of shepherding the flock. For instance, it is used of the leaders of Israel in the 8th century BC when the Lord told the prophet Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.

Ezekiel 34:1-4

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

The problem with Israel’s leaders at the time was they weren’t doing their job. The weren’t shepherding the flock and the Lord was going to hold them to account for this (see Ezekiel 34:10). They should have been taking care of God’s people but instead they were exploiting them, using them for their own gain, to take care of themselves.

Be willing and eager

Peter called the elders in the churches of Asia Minor to be the sort of leaders that weren’t out to take care of themselves but to get on with the job of watching over the flock. They were to get on with the job of caring for the flock doing it willingly, not because of what they might gain out of it, but eager (to serve) on account of God, because God want you to be (as the NIV has put it).

Don’t do it for personal gain

Too often those who lead others are doing it for the wrong reasons. We are tempted to seek short term gain or reward. It’s about what we can obtain now by serving in this way whether it be financial gain or recognition or a sense of self-worth or power and influence over others. It might not start out that way but over time if we don’t’ resist the devil and his schemes we begin to do things for the wrong reasons. However, Peter makes it plain that the glory is to come. Our reward is not here and now but when Christ comes and all of us get to share in his glory. It’s when the Chief Shepherd appears that we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

With the end being near, we need leaders who aren’t about personal gain, who aren’t about personal glory or honour who don’t do things to be notice or appreciate by others or for monetary gain or for whatever gain it is that they might be tempted to seek. This applies to all leaders whether you be a congregational pastor/shepherd caring for the flock at large or a discipleship group leader or a youth or a KLAG or leader caring for a few little ones. We do it because God would have us do it and we want to please him.

Don’t do it out of compulsion

We also don’t do it out of compulsion because we feel we must have to do it. It isn’t to become a chore that we begrudgingly undertake with grumbling and complaining resenting being put out. We need to be willing believing this is what God wants us to do to please him in the time that he has given us. We, who lead others, need to keep on reminding ourselves that this is why we do what we do. We need this sort of leader among us for leaders are meant to be an example to the flock.

Be examples to the flock

In verse 3 Peter explains that this was how the elders were to lead or shepherd the flock. They weren’t to lord it over the flock but to be example to the flock and the sort of example they were to be was one that shows us that it means to follow the Chief Shepherd who willingly suffered and gave himself for us. Peter in chapter 2 has already made it clear that this example is the one that we are all meant to following.

1 Peter 2:21

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.

What the elder is meant to do is to show the flock what it means to follow in his steps, the steps of the good shepherd who willingly laid down his life for the sheep. They do this by living a life which is commendable to God by doing good and loving and serving others even though it demands sacrifice and hard work and suffering is in the offering. Being shepherds means imitating Christ, who is the Chief shepherd.

There is more to leading than just teaching well

There is more to leading than just teaching well. It isn’t just about saying the right things, it is also about setting the right example being eager and willing to serve others because you know this pleases the Lord. It’s about who we are for we are meant to be imitating Christ.

Don’t just think your job is done when you’ve got your sermon or Bible study, or lesson prepared. What you teach isn’t enough, we also need to think about the example that we are to be to others. As Paul could write, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

3. Submit yourselves to your elders

Leaders like this should be easy to follow but regardless of whether they are or not Peter calls the young among God’s people to submit to their elders.

1 Peter 5:5

5In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.

In these times we are living, the time before the end of all things we need to be submitting to our elders. This verse raises a few questions. Firstly, “What does he mean by “in the same way”?” What is similar about what the young men and women are called to do and what he has just told the elders to do?

“In the same way” = willing and eager

While these words could reach all the way back to all the other examples of submission that have gone before I believe that what links verse 5 with what Peter has just said to the elders is the willingness and eagerness to do what the Lord has called them to do. They aren’t to do it begrudgingly or under protest like a child who slams the door and throws everything into their cupboard because they have been told to clean up their room before they can go out and play with their friends. Rather they are to do it willingly and eagerly for they know this is what pleases the Lord.

The young perhaps particularly needed to hear this.

The second question that sometimes gets raised is, “Why does Peter single out the young calling on them to submit to their elders?” Why doesn’t he call all God’s people to submit to their leaders as they writer of Hebrews does? In Hebrews everyone is called to submit to the authority of their leaders because they keep watch over them and they (the leaders) will have to give an account of themselves and so that the work of their leaders might not be a burden but a joy (see Hebrews 13:17). Why this emphasis here on the young? I think the simplest answer is that which Wayne Grudem offers which is that the younger men and women were those who perhaps needed to hear it most[ii].

It’s arrogance and pride that gets in the way of submission

As a young man I was enormously arrogant (you may still think that I am, but it was much worse when I was younger). I thought that I knew better than my elders. But I was young and naïve for I really didn’t understand how much that I didn’t really know or understand. I remember times when thinking that I knew better, I did exactly the opposite of what I was advised to do and ended up at times paying for it. It’s arrogance and pride that gets in the way of submission. It takes a certain amount of humility to submit to others. This is why the apostle Peter calls all of us to clothe ourselves with in verses 5 to 7. What keeps us from submitting to others is pride.

4. Clothe yourselves with humility

Everyone is to clothe themselves with humility.

1 Peter 5:5-7

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.” 6 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.

What we all need in these times that we are living in is to be clothed in humility towards one another. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3) but we are to serve and to submit to one another as to the Lord.

God opposes the proud

We are not to be proud and arrogant for as Peter explained using the words of Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. It’s because of human pride and arrogance that God’s judgment is coming on the world. God’s promise is that on that day he will humble the proud and arrogant (see Isaiah 2:6-18). It will be the humble who are to be lifted up.

We are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand

We are therefore to learn humility and humble ourselves now under God’s mighty hand. We are not to lift ourselves up using others for our gain or advancement in this world, but rather, we are to humbly serve them as stewards of God’s grace using whatever gifts that we have received from God for their good. That’s what Peter explained in chapter 4 and that is what we are to get on and do and we aren’t to be too proud to be doing it.

To refuse to clothe ourselves with humility in this way is to ultimately refuse to humble ourselves before God[iii], for he called us to do this and Christ has given us this example to follow.

Be careful

This is what God calls you to be doing now while you wait for his coming. We are to humble ourselves under God and learn humility towards others so that we might serve them. You’re not to live life just worrying about yourself and taking care of your own interests. In fact, we are people who Paul says that in humility we are to value above ourselves and look to their interests (see Phil 4:2:3-4). Just like the shepherd is to take care of the flock we are to take care of one another. This is what we are to be getting on and doing.

Wait for God to lift you up in due time

You well may ask “Who will take care of you?” Peter’s answer is that at the right time God with his mighty hand will lift us up. He will take care of us and we don’t need to be anxious because he cares for us.

Humbling ourselves under God’s might hand means trusting him with our lives, entrusting ourselves to him (see 4:19) and waiting for him to lift us up. Instead of worry about our lives and what will happen to us, we are to cast all our anxieties on him knowing that he cares for us. We shouldn’t let our fears control us. We aren’t to return evil for evil. We are to keep on doing good even if we might suffer for it because we can trust God to take care of us and lift us up in due time.

This is what Peter assures the believers of just before the end of the letter in verses 10 and 11.

1 Peter 5:10-11

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

5. Stand firm

How sober and alert are you? Are you still on task or have you been distracted by all that is going on around you? Just as the announcement that comes over the speaker at the shops jolts us to be about what have come to do, so this letter of Peter ought to rouse us so that we are alert and sober mind, clear about what we ought to be doing.

1 Peter 5:8-9

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

What we need to be doing in these times is standing firm in the faith – holding on to what is true. In these times, we are not just fighting against our own internal selfish desires, but we also have an external enemy. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Resist the devil

The devil is likened here to a lion. We need to be careful, for the devil seek to devour God’s people through tempting us to move from the hope that we have in Jesus. He often devours his prey a little piece at a time undermining our confidence in what God has said. It’s not usually all at once. It’s gradually done by either offering you more and more so that you trade your hope in Christ for what you have here and now. On the other hand, at times he will make threats and through the evil going on in this world will bring suffering into our lives.

Stand fast in the grace of God (5:12)

But we are to resist him and stand firm in the faith.  Peter has written this letter to remind us of this faith. He wrote that he had written it to remind his readers of God’s grace so that we might stand fast in it (5:12) despite the hardship and suffering we experience in this world. This is how you resist the devil. It is by standing fast in the grace of God and casting all your anxiety on God and waiting for God to lift us up in due time. It’s by letting nothing move you from trusting in the grace of God.

Peter has reminded us of this grace throughout the letter. He has reminded us of God’s great mercy that has given us new birth into a living hope. He told us that we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade for it is being kept in heaven for us. He explained that the end result of our faith is the salvation of our souls.  He has reminded us that through God’s mercy and Christ’s sacrifice, we are now God’s chosen people, his royal priesthood, his special possession. He has explained that we shouldn’t be surprised by the fiery ordeal that may come upon us, but we are to rejoice because just as we participate in Christ’ suffering so we will also one day share in his glory when he comes again. He has reassured us that in due time he will lift us up. He will restore us and make us strong again, firm and steadfast.

Sober up

But while wait for that day to come we need to be sober and alert. We need to sober up and rouse ourselves from any slumber that has overtaken us and stand firm in our faith by holding on to our hope in the Lord Jesus and entrust ourselves to faithful Creator and continue to do the good has called us to do.

We aren’t to live like the people in this world. We aren’t to be all about making ourselves as comfortable as everyone else and trying to fit in. We need to sober up. We are to live like Christ and humbly follow his example. We need our leaders to do this and set the example because we are all called to do this. We are to live such good lives among the pagans that though they might accuse us of doing wrong, they might see our good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. This is true grace of God, wrote Peter, stand fast in it. Let nothing move you.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (1 Pe 5:1–4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[i] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture reference are taken from the New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[ii] Wayne Grudem, “1 Peter” TNTC, page 193.

[iii] All through the last two chapters the reason or the motivation for doing good, showing proper respect to others, and submitting to governing authorities and slave submitting to master and wives to husband has been because we are God’s servants, and these things are God’s will (2:15; 3:17; 4:2) and we are doing them for his sake (2:13).