1 Peter 5:1-5 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. According to the apostle Peter, how are the elders of the church to view themselves and how are they to view the church? See 1 Peter 5:1-2a (printed below)

I exhort the elders among you—I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ and also one who has a share in the glory that is going to be revealed—(2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you. Do not exercise oversight merely because you must do so, but do so willingly for God. Do not do so for material gain, but with a willingness to serve. (1 Peter 5:1-2)

Peter indicates that the elders are to serve as shepherds to the church that is viewed as being God’s own flock. The role of the shepherd was not a glamorous nor a prestigious position (note 1 Samuel 17:28); in contemporary terms, it would be more the equivalent of a caretaker or custodian as opposed to a business executive. A true shepherd sacrifices himself for the sheep (cp. Genesis 31:40) and risks his life for them (cp. 1 Samuel 17:34-35). The elder must view the congregation as a flock that belongs to God and that He has entrusted to the care of the elders.

2. What negative command and what positive command does Peter give to the elders? See verse 2 (printed above under question #1)

Peter informs the elders that they must not exercise the oversight of the congregation merely out of a sense of necessity; viewing it as a job they are obligated to perform. On the contrary, they should fulfill their responsibilities willingly as an act of devotion and service rendered unto God. Furthermore, the elder should not be motivated by the prospect of material gain; he should be motivated by the desire to serve Christ by ministering to His people.

3. What warning and instruction does Peter give to the elders in verse 3 (printed below?)

Do not lord yourselves over those who are under your care; on the contrary, be examples for the flock. (1 Peter 5:3)

The elder is commanded to “exercise the oversight.” But the elder is exhorted, “Do not lord yourselves over those who are under your care.” The elder must be careful that he does not imitate Diotrephes, a leader in one of the early churches of whom the apostle John writes, “Diotrephes…loves to have the pre-eminence” (3 John 9). Peter urges the elders to be “examples for the flock.” The elder must heed the exhortation the apostle Paul issues to Timothy, “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

4. What exhortation does Peter give to the younger men in the church? See 1 Peter 5:5a (printed below)

Likewise, younger men, be submissive to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another; because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)

Just as the elders are to exercise the oversight in a spirit of humility, not flaunting their God-given authority nor exploiting it for personal gain, so, likewise, the younger men are to be submissive to their elders. There is to be respect for the authority that God has ordained and under which He has placed us: in the home (Ephesians 6:1-2) and in the church. Hebrews 13:17 instructs us, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

5. What exhortation does Peter give to the whole church in verse 5b (printed above under question #4?) What reason or motivation does he provide as to why we should heed this exhortation?

All of us are exhorted to “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” We are to conduct ourselves in that godly spirit of humility and submissiveness in our relationships with one another within the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In one form or another, pride is the natural tendency of the sinful human heart; and that sinful attribute still seeks to manifest itself in the Christian’s life. The apostle Peter counters that tendency with this command: “Clothe yourselves with humility.” We must take serious this command and seek to heed it because “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”