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COMMENTARY ON 1 PETER Chapter 5

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Grand Finale (5.1-13).

As Peter comes to the close of his letter the thought of suffering followed by glory continues:

  • In 3.18-22 He had spoken of the sufferings of Christ which had led on to His exaltation at the right hand of God, and the submission of all things to Him.
  • In 4.1-6 those sufferings were to be reflected in His people, resulting in their walking in accordance with God in their spiritual lives (4.6), a walk which will result in their being raised to life beyond the grave in the spirit, becoming the spirits of just men made perfect (4.6; Hebrews 12.23).
  • This walk is described in 4.7-11, with the glorifying of God very much in view (verse 11).
  • In 4.12-19 it is then emphasised that they are to rejoice in sufferings knowing that, if they suffer for His sake then it indicates that His glory and His Spirit rest on them, and all this in the light of the judgment that is coming on all in one way or another, in which they are to commit themselves to their faithful and mighty Creator.

Now Peter finalises his letter by preparing them for suffering in the light of the glory that is coming. As one who had witnessed the sufferings of Christ, which had totally transformed his own view on life, and as one who was bearing witness to them, so that as a result he was anticipating participation in the glory yet to be revealed, he gives his final admonitions to the churches (5.1). Speaking to the under-shepherds of their responsibilities, he reminds them that they are under the eye of the Chief Shepherd, from Whom eventually they will receive a crown of glory, and he outlines their responsibilities (5.2-3). They are to serve faithfully, humbly and well. And this in the light of the glory that is coming (5.4).

He follows this up with a warning that there is a rampaging lion about, threatening the sheep with his roars (5.7). Thus both the under-shepherds and the sheep (Who are both guarded by the Chief Shepherd - John 10.27-28) are to be in readiness so as to resist him, so that, even though he may tear at some of the flock, they will be able to stand firm, and this because it is the God of all grace Who will establish and strengthen them, and because they have been called into His eternal glory in Christ.

And how are they to resist this roaring lion? By walking humbly under the mighty hand of God and casting all their care on Him, recognising that their faithful Creator (4.19), Who is the mighty God (5.6), is the guarantee of their security, and by being steadfast in the faith that they have received. The picture of the Shepherd King delivering his sheep from the mouth of the lion would appear to be a clear reference to David’s experiences (1 Samuel 17.34-37), seen in the light of the coming David (Ezekiel 34.23-24; 37.24; Jeremiah 23.4-6).

Note the continued emphasis on the glory that is coming:

  • ‘I -- who am also a partaker of the glory which will be revealed’ (5.1).
  • ‘You will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away’ (5.4).
  • ‘The God of all grace Who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ’ (5.10).

Peter wants all eyes fixed on the glory that is coming as they face what now lies ahead.

The Responsibilities of the Eldership (5.1-4).

5.1 ‘The elders among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed,’

Peter now calls on the church leaders, in the light of coming anticipated suffering, to be faithful. He does it as a ‘fellow-elder’ who has a special right to speak because he himself was a witness of the sufferings through which Christ went, and is thus now able to bear witness of them (2.23-24; 3.18; 4.1), recognising that God’s way is to be accomplished through suffering.

But this is also in the light of the glory of which he has partaken in limited measure at the Transfiguration, and which is to be revealed more fully in the future, a glory in which he knows that he will be a partaker (5.1, 4). So there is a reminder here that when they suffer it will be as partakers in Christ’s sufferings (4.1), which for them also will lead on to glory, as it had for Jesus (3.22).

‘I who am a fellow-elder.’ He is wanting them to accept the same responsibility as they saw him as having. Eldership was not seen by the Jews as anything other than the highest of statuses. Thus Peter is not demeaning himself by using this title rather than that of Apostle, but rather calling them to step up to where he is, not strictly as Apostles, but very much as being those who must now bear great responsibility along with him. (Papias later brings out that the Apostles were seen as the Elders supreme, giving them the title ‘the Elders’). Peter may well have had in mind here how Moses passed on some of his spirit to the seventy elders (Numbers 11.16-30). Now he is passing on some of his responsibility to them. Furthermore he does it as ‘a marturos of the sufferings of Christ’, as one who witnesses to Him in His sufferings, and has taken up the cross to follow Him, and is calling on them to be willing to be the same. Indeed he has know from the beginning of his ministry that martyrdom was already appointed for him (John 21.18).

We note that Peter humbly points to the fact that it is as a witness of the sufferings of Christ that he is able to speak. He makes no great claims for himself, and although he undoubtedly has what Jesus had said to him in mind (as verse 2 demonstrates), he makes no reference to his appointment by Jesus Christ as an under-shepherd (John 21.15-17). Rather he is calling them to share with him in facing up to their responsibility as those who are following a suffering Saviour. That Peter did witness much of the suffering of Christ is unquestionable.

  • He had heard His constant statements, spoken in all solemnity, and no doubt sadness, that He would shortly suffer (Mark 8.31, 34; 9.12, 31; 10.45).
  • He had listened as Jesus had established the covenant, stressing that it was at the cost of His blood (Matthew 26.27-28), and had spoken of a traitor among them.
  • He had been close to Him in Gethsemane as He had poured out His soul in prayer (Luke 22.39-46; compare Hebrews 5.7).
  • He had been present during His initial trials, full of apprehension, even though only observing from a distance, and it would have been unusual if news of the proceedings had not leaked out from the courtroom into the courtyard through servants. Thus he would have been aware of something of what Jesus was undergoing inside the palace.
  • He had been aware of the torn and bleeding figure Who towards the end of the farcical ‘trial’ had turned and looked at him (Luke 22.61; John 18.28 suggests that it was after the trial by Caiaphas).
  • And in view of his own behaviour it had all been too much for him. He had gone out and wept bitterly. He had taken more than he could bear.
  • And he had later seen the nail prints in the hands of the risen Jesus.

So he had certainly witnessed how Jesus had suffered. But his emphasis here is on the content of His witness. He not only saw His sufferings, but now bears testimony to them and what they signify.

But with that in mind he also speaks as one who anticipates being a partaker in the glory which is to be revealed. He remembers vividly his experience, along with James and John, on the holy mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9.1-8; 2 Peter 1.16-18) when they had briefly partaken in His glory. What a contrast that had been with His warning about His coming sufferings. There he had experienced Christ’s coming in glory before its time. And now he was anticipating a fuller participation. For he wants them to know that for all of His true people, after suffering comes glory.

His description of himself as a fellow-elder, and his informing of his fellow-elders that they too were responsible for tending God’s sheep, is clear evidence that he did not see himself as some special figure and supreme authority to which they must be in subjection (contrast how bishops of later centuries puffed themselves up).

5.2-3 ‘Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for base gain, but of a ready mind, neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock.

So just as Jesus had called on him to tend the sheep, he now, as he recognised that his own death was imminent, called on the leaders of the churches to fulfil the same role as had been allotted to him. They were to ‘Tend My sheep’, Compare John 21.16 for similar words said to Peter. In other word they were to ensure that the sheep received good pasture, and were kept under a watchful eye in order to protect them against any who would lead them astray. That it would be a task fraught with danger comes out in the sequel (verse 8). It is above all the shepherds who must outface the lion.

‘Exercising the oversight.’ That is what the ‘overseers (episkopoi - bishops) are called on to do, act as true shepherds. At this point in time each church had a number of ‘bishops’ (although Peter calls them elders. Compare Acts 20.17, 28 where Paul tells the elder of the church at Ephesus that they are to be overseers/bishops). It was only later that the idea of monarchical bishops arose, probably because as those who had known the Apostles died off, the few who did still remember them began to receive unique recognition. (Compare Clement in Rome). Once they then died it would be natural to replace them with some prominent figure who could carry on their testimony.

Note that we now have here the usual Petrine contrasts which so individualise his letter, ‘not as under constraint, but willingly under God; not for the sake of money but with a ready mind; not as lording it over the flock but as examples to the flock’. This is one of Peter’s traits.

‘The flock of God which is among you.’ Compare the usage in Matthew 26.31, where the suffering of the Chief Shepherd is also in mind; Acts 20.28-29, which was again spoken to church leaders, and where Paul was anticipating wolves (here it is a roaring lion - verse 8); Luke 12.32, where His disciples are ‘a little flock’, drawn from among the sheep which had had no shepherd (Matthew 9.36; 10.6). The people of God were very much seen by Jesus as His flock (see John 10.1-29) and therefore as the flock of God. Note that the emphasis is on the being ‘tended’ (literally ‘shepherded’). The depredations of the lion (verse 8) are already in mind.

‘Which is among you.’ This stresses that these are local leaders, not some far off overseer.

‘Exercising the oversight.’ For acting as ‘overseers’ compare 2 Chronicles 34.12 LXX. The associated word (‘overseers/bishops’) is one which will be used later to signify acting as local bishops over the local churches, although apparently not yet, except in places like Philippi (Philippians 1.1). These were not diocesan bishops, but local ‘overseers’, the leaders who lived locally to, and kept watch over, both the large and small house churches throughout the cities.

This oversight had to be exercised in a godly fashion:

  • Not as those who have been forced to do the job, but willingly ‘as unto God and in accordance with His will’, literally ‘in accordance with God’. They are to do it very much as God’s stewards (4.10-11), as described in Luke 12.41-48, where it was also in the light of the fire that He would send on earth (Luke 12.49).
  • Not with the base aim of receiving monetary reward, but with a mind ready to do it regardless of reward. Note the warning against the ‘baseness’ of money. You can often tell the genuineness of a man’s ministry by the size of his house and car. He is called on to be ‘an example to the flock’.
  • Not taking up the position with which God has charged them out of ambition and pride (compare Mark 10.42), ‘lording it over the flock’, but as being called on to become examples (models) of the flock. There was to be no self-seeking or desire for authority and status. Rather they were to see themselves as servants of God’s people, ministering to their needs. They were to be those who could be looked up to as models and examples.

    The word ‘charge’ mean an ‘appointed portion’. They have been allotted a part of God’s inheritance to look after (compare 1.4; Deuteronomy 9.29), just as Israel of old had been allotted their portions in the land.

5.4 ‘And when the chief Shepherd shall be revealed (in all His glory), you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade not away.’

And their reward for being faithful under-shepherds will be that when the Chief Shepherd is revealed in His glory they will receive an unfading crown of glory. An unfading inheritance was promised for all in 1.4. This is therefore referring to a part of that inheritance. It is in stark contrast to the fading crown of pride of Ephraim (Isaiah 28.1-4), and the crown of glory which will be taken away from the unworthy (Jeremiah 13.18). This is not a crown which brings glory to the wearer. It is a crown that brings glory to the One Who bestowed it (Isaiah 28.5). Note again Peter’s emphasis on glory. What he had seen of Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration was something that he never forgot (Mark 9.1-8).

‘The Chief Shepherd.’ Compare ‘that great Shepherd of the sheep’ (Hebrews 13.20); ‘the good and reliable Shepherd’ (John 10.11). The point is that He is totally reliable, and totally able.

‘Shall be revealed.’ Just as He was once ‘revealed’ on the Mount of Transfiguration, so will He be revealed in the future. That His ‘revealing in glory’ is in mind comes out in the description of the crown that He will bestow. It is a crown of glory. We should note again that this crown is not one that brings glory to the individual, but is a crown that signifies one who shares in His glory (Isaiah 28.5). All the glory is to Him, and from Him. John puts it another way, ‘We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is’ (1 John 3.2).

The Responsibilities of The Whole Church (5.5-11).

Having spoken to the under-shepherds Peter now speaks to the sheep. In the light of the coming onslaught on the flock they are to walk in readiness so that when the lion at some stage comes among them (compare Hebrews 11.3), as come he will, they are able to stand firm under their great Chief Shepherd. We can compare how Paul had spoken of wolves coming among the people of God, again depicted as His sheep (Acts 20.29; compare also Matthew 10.16). And as in James 4.6-8 their success against him will be found in being humble, and in being in true submission to God, Who alone can give victory over the Devil, in vibrant faith. And the result will be that God will bring them safely through their trials and will establish them in His glory.

5.5 ‘In the same way, you younger ones, be subject to those who are older. Yes, all of you, gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’

In the same way as the elders are to be ‘models’ of genuine humble service, so are the younger men to be humble and to give to all older men the respect that is due to them. The point is that they are to be humble to the humble. They are to respond to their teaching and admonitions (‘be subject to the one who is older’), and to their example, not as underlings but out of loyalty to Christ. The aim is to ensure total unity and togetherness, without division.

Such humility is to be the attitude of all. Peter no doubt remembered how, before the crucifixion, he and his fellow-disciples had fought over who was going to be the greatest (Luke 22.24-27; Mark 9.33-34; 10.42-45). But they had soon learned that that was not the way of the cross, and Peter had remembered the lesson well. He had been brought to see that they must all rather strive to be the humblest servant of all as Jesus had said. Each must ‘gird himself with humility’. Each must gird himself with his apron so as to humbly serve (compare Luke 12.35). There must be no thought of self-importance. It is quite probable that Peter has in mind how Jesus ‘girded’ Himself with a towel in order to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13.1-11).

‘For God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Compare Proverbs 3.34. ‘He (God) scorns the scorner but gives grace to the lowly.’ (We have already noted how regularly Peter cites the Book of Proverbs. He had clearly taken it to heart). The point is that God has no time for the proud and the wayward, the ones whose pride of heart prevent them from submitting humbly to God. Indeed He resists them. It is they who are the disobedient. All His grace, His unmerited favour and blessing, is bestowed on those who are humble and seek Him and take up a true position as servants. (Compare Jesus’ words about the little children - Mark 10.15).

It should be noted in this regard that the position of shepherd was itself always a humble one. A shepherd was not someone who was respected, and looked up to and admired. Rather he was the opposite. He received no adulation. He was seen as a lowly man with a lowly task. But the point here is that he performed a worthwhile function and cared about his sheep. Lowly in the eyes of the world he was important to the sheep. This contrast between the proud and the humble was one that Peter had often heard on Jesus’ lips (Matthew 23.12; Luke 14.11; 18.14; 6.20 with 24)

5.6-7 ‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.’

So all are to allow themselves to be humbled under the mighty hand of God, and to give themselves to the humble task, rather than seeking status and earthly recognition, thus becoming strangers and pilgrims on the earth (1.1; 2.11). They are firstly to recognise Whom they serve, the Mighty God, Who had delivered His earlier people from bondage (for ‘the mighty hand of God’ at the Exodus compare Exodus 3.19; Deuteronomy 3.24; 9.26, 29; 26.8), and was doing the same today. It is the same mighty hand of God that is at work for them at the present time as the one that was exerted when His first people had experienced similar deliverance and had been brought to their inheritance. And as Israel had had to do, they are to accept whatever He sees fit to bring upon them (note the exhortations in Hebrews 3.7-4.13), allowing it to fashion and mould their lives (compare 1.7; 2 Corinthians 3.18). Then in due time, at His appearing, when they receive their inheritance, they will be exalted.

And one advantage of such a position of humility will be that they will be able to cast their anxieties on Him, knowing that He cares for, and is watching over them. They will be able to enter into His rest (Hebrews 4.1-13). For such an idea compare also Matthew 6.25-32. We have already noticed how these connections with the words of Jesus abound.

5.8 ‘Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour,’

And this is especially so because of the one who is rampaging around with his eye on the flock. The likening of the Devil to a lion waiting to attack the sheep may well have arisen from the abundance of lions in the region to which he was writing, given substance as an illustration by David’s defeat of a lion when protecting his sheep (1 Samuel 17.34-36). Now the servants of the greater David will face a greater lion. That there is a fear of them being ‘mauled’ comes in the reference to sufferings that follows. It is an apt picture so that in spite of 2 Timothy 4.17 there is no good reason for connecting it with Roman persecution. At that time lions regularly prowled around roaring and at the same time looking for sheep. And to Christians the hostile shouting of anti-Christian crowds must often have seemed like roaring, especially in the light of Psalm 22.13.

‘Be sober, be watchful.’ Shepherds would often be half drunk and careless. But Christ’s under-shepherds were not to be like that. They must be sober and ever vigilant, as must the flock. Compare 4.2-4, 7, and see Luke 12.22, 37.

‘Your adversary the Devil.’ Ho antidikos -- diabolos.’ Both words mean ‘adversary’, the duality emphasising the idea, and could be used to translate the Hebrew Satanas (Satan). Compare LXX of 1 Chronicles 21.1; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3.1-2, which are the first references to the Devil in Scripture. Job 1-2 pictures the Devil as ‘walking around’ looking to cause trouble in a similar way to here, and in the end inflicting suffering on one of God’s people (Job 1.7, 12). And Jesus Himself indicates that Satan holds in thrall the rest of mankind, plucks God’s word from men’s hearts and is the great deceiver and murderer (Matthew 12.29; 13.19; John 8.44). Indeed, as Peter had himself been told, ‘Satan has desired to have you’ (Luke 22.31). There is no need therefore to look for any further background to the idea.

That the reference is to persecution is brought out in verse 9, a persecution instigated by Satan. And he is pictured as being like a lion, roaring and searching for victims, constantly ready to arouse public feeling against God’s people as he comes across different sections of the flock of God. The baying of persecuting crowds (see Acts 19.28) must often have seemed to be like a lion roaring. Compare Psalm 22.13.

5.9 ‘Whom withstand steadfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brothers who are in the world.’

Resisting the Devil is a concept also found in Ephesians 6.11-13; James 4.6-8. In the former case it is by faith in God through His word, and in the latter case it is by humility, submission to God and faith, as here. In Ephesians 6 it is expanded in terms of being clothed in the armour of God, in other words it is through trust in God’s word and promises, so again by faith. Jude stresses how necessary it is to depend on the Lord totally in dealing with Satan (Jude 1.9). According to Jude it is the foolish who treat him lightly (Jude 1.8, 10). We must deal with him in the Lord’s strength.

And as they make their stand against persecution they are to recognise that all their brothers who are still in the world are subject to similar persecution. Only the saints in glory (4.6), who are not in the world, escape it. Thus it is confirmed that it is ‘no strange thing’ that is happening to them (4.12) for it happens to God’s people everywhere. This may suggest that some had panicked when persecution arose, feeling that it contradicted the onward march of the Gospel of Christ. Unlike the Jews they were not used to it.

‘In your faith.’ The question often raised with regard to this is whether it is their personal faith that is in mind or the body of faith that has been preserved by the churches. Whichever it is it really means the same. Peter would not have exhorted them to any other kind of faith than faith in God and His promises, and that would be faith in ‘the faith’. And being steadfast in the faith would necessarily indicate being steadfast in personal faith.

5.10 ‘And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after that you have suffered a little while, will himself make whole, establish, strengthen you.’

But Peter assures them that they have nothing to fear from such persecution, for it is the God of all grace Who will be their strengthener and upholder. Let them then also remember that He has called them to His eternal glory in Christ, and has sufficiency of grace for every situation. We can compare, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12.9; and see also 9.8).

So by His sufficiency of grace He will ‘make whole, establish and strengthen them’. The verbs tend to intertwine with each other. The first (katartizo) means to ‘make whole, restore, give a sure footing, establish, prepare in readiness, refresh’. It occurs for example in Psalm 18.33 LXX, ‘He establishes my feet like hind’s feet’, in other words gives me a sure footing (compare also Psalms 17.5; 29.9); in Psalm 40.6 LXX, ‘a body have you prepared for me’; in 68.9 LXX, ‘O God, you will grant to your inheritance a gracious rain, for it was weary, but you refreshed it’; in 74.16 LXX, ‘The day is yours, and the night is yours; you have prepared (made ready, set in place) the sun and the moon’; in 80.15 LXX, ‘restore what your right hand has planted’ (restore because it has been devastated); in 89.37 LXX, ‘and as the moon which is established for ever, and as the faithful witness in heaven’. So the idea behind it is to make sure and strong, to restore and refresh.

The second (sterizo) is found in Psalm 51.12 LXX, ‘renew (restore) a right (directing) spirit within me’; in Psalm 104.15 LXX, ‘and bread which strengthens (nourishes) man’s heart’; in 111.7-8 LXX, ‘The works of His hands are truth and judgment, all his commandments are sure, established for ever and ever’; in 112.8 (LXX), ‘His heart is established, he will not be afraid’; in Proverbs 15.25 (LXX), ‘he establishes the border of the widow’; 16.30 LXX (compare 27.20 LXX), ‘and the man who fixes his eyes devises perverse things.’ These examples demonstrate that it covers a similar area to katartizo.

The third (sthenein) is not found in LXX but means ‘to strengthen, make strong’. Thus He will firmly and strongly renew, refresh, establish, make sure, and strengthen them for what lies ahead.

Note firstly that He is the God of all ‘grace’ (in this context this refers to ‘gracious strengthening and power’). In other words He is the source and provider of unlimited supplies of His gracious and powerful working on behalf of all who are His own (compare Ephesians 3.16-19).

Note secondly that His aim is to perfect, establish and strengthen them, through the testing of their faith (1.7), so that they can face the future with calmness. And this is so even though for a little while they may be called on to suffer. For as a result of that suffering they will be made all the stronger (1.7; 4.1-2). It should also be noted that having a vision of the eternal glory, Peter then brings them right back to earth. Their pilgrim journey has still some way to go, but the God Who has called them to His eternal glory, will now sustain them for the rest of the way.

Note thirdly, however, that this royal summons (‘called’) from the One Who has all dominion (5.11) is a call to eternal glory. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1 Corinthians 2.9), ‘for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ (2 Corinthians 4.17). And the promise is that through His grace it is all to be theirs.

Note fourthly how this ties in with their being sojourners in 1.1; 2.13. It explains why they are seen as sojourners. It is because they are travelling onwards to the eternal glory, with their eyes fixed on the One Who died for them and rose again in order that they may be with Him in glory. The whole letter is aiming towards this. And yet it confirms that their journey is not yet over, but that they will be given full strength and sustenance in the way (compare Isaiah 40.31; 43.2).

‘Called --to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus.’ It is this that makes whatever we have to face worthwhile, and confirms all that Peter has pointed to previously. Compare in this regard 1.4-5, 9, 13, 11, 21; 3.15; 4.13. It is describing our inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled which is reserved in Heaven for us (1.4-5); it is the final consequence of the salvation of our ‘inner lives’ (1.9); it is the culmination of the glories that will follow the sufferings of Christ (1.11); it is the consequence of the gracious and abundant outpouring of His love which is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1.13); it results from the glory given to Jesus Christ at His resurrection (1.21), the glory which He had had with the Father before the world was (John 17.5); it is the glorious hope of the saints of God (1.21; 3.15); it is one reason why, at the revelation of the glory of Christ, we will rejoice with exceeding joy (4.13), not only because He has received His glory, but because He has graciously dispensed it upon us.

In 1.2 we were ‘chosen by God the Father, through sanctification in the Spirit, unto the obedience of Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of His blood’, with the result that we had become just sojourners in the world (1.1; 2.13), called by Him into His most marvellous light (2.9), but with the recognition that we must be purified in the crucible of life (1.7; ). And here now we find the final end of that calling (2.9), a participation in His eternal glory in Christ Jesus (1.11; 5.1, 4; compare Hebrews 2.10). It is the final consequence of being made partakers in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1.12). Compare for this participation in His glory Revelation 21.23; 22.5, ‘and there shall be night no more, and they need no light of flaming torch nor light of sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they will reign for ever and ever’. And see 2 Corinthians 3.18-4.6 which is preparation for it.

But even as we rightly rejoice in that glory let us not overlook the fact that we are to enjoy some of it now. For we have even now ‘been called out of darkness into His most marvellous light’ (2.9), while ‘the glories that will follow’ (1.11) include the triumphs of His people in the present age, as He sees the incoming of His seed and the bringing about of God’s pleasure (Isaiah 53.10). And the reason that we can show forth His excellencies (2.9) is precisely because we ourselves have seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6), a vision that has transformed our lives. Thus for to a certain limited extent we are already enjoying the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1.12; Ephesians 5.8-10; John 8.12; 12.46).

So it is fitting that the one into whose heart the glory of Jesus had been burned by his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, should now be the one to make known to God’s people the promise of participation in the eternal glory that he had momentarily experienced there. Neither Peter (2 Peter 1.16-18) nor John (John 1.14; Revelation 1.13-16) could ever forget the vision of glory that they had been privileged to see, and they wanted to pass it on to others. Meanwhile James had already gone to experience it for himself (Acts 12.2), and Stephen also had seen it as the first martyr (Acts 7.55-56).

‘In Christ.’ Along with verse 14 this is the only mention in Peter of this very Pauline idea. But its double mention in these verses emphasises how much Peter also saw us as ‘in Christ’. It is indeed because we are ‘in Christ’ that we can enjoy the certainty of this promise. It is just that he has been expressing it differently.

5.11 ‘To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.’

And the certainty of this promise is guaranteed by God’s eternal dominion (3.22; 4.11; Psalm 22.28; 93.1; 97.1; 99.1). With God sovereign over all, what have His people to fear? Amen.

The similarity of this verse with 4.11 will be noted, although here ‘the glory’ has been omitted. Having already described the glory in verse 10 he clearly wants the stress here putting on His dominion in the bringing of His people to that glory (compare and contrast Hebrews 2.10 where their bringing to glory is through Christ having been made a perfect Trek Leader through suffering). So we share in the glory and the dominion.

Conclusion.

5.12 ‘By Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I account him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand you fast in it.’

This probably means more than that Silas (Silvanus) simply delivered the letter. It was quite regular for someone not skilled in letter writing to use an amanuensis who would put their thoughts into good written Greek. It appears that Silas, skilled in such things, does that here. Compare how he was involved with the Jerusalem letter to the churches (Acts 15.22) and with Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1.1; 2 Thessalonians 1.1; note 2 Thessalonians 3.17 which indicates the use of an amanuensis by Paul in these letters).

5.13 ‘She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you; and so does Mark my son.’

‘She who is in Babylon’ is almost certainly referring to the church from which he writes (ekklesia is feminine, and if he had meant his wife he would probably have said ‘she who is with me’ or some such personal phrase) . We know so little of Peter’s later activities that there is no reason why we should not take this as literally meaning Babylon in Mesopotamia. Indeed that might partly explain the lack of information about his later ministry. We know that initially he ministered in Jerusalem and the surrounding area (Acts 1-12), that later he was found at Syrian Antioch (Galatians 2.11) and possibly for a short time at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1.12), and we know from this letter that he had at least some ministry in north west Asia Minor (1.1). It is certainly not therefore against the balance of probability that he then ministered in Mesopotamia, and wrote from there.

The majority, however, see ‘Babylon’ as symbolic of Rome (compare Revelation 17-18, although there the context is very different), and used in case the letter was seen by representatives of the authorities. But there was in fact at this time no reason why Peter should see Rome as an enemy (depending on when we date the letter), and there is nothing incriminating in the letter. Furthermore ‘she who is in Rome’ would hardly have been incriminating. It would more likely have raised sniggering laughs. Nor is there any suggestion elsewhere in the letter of such apocalyptic imagery (it might have been seen as more significant in 2 Peter). Thus it is difficult to see why he should take up such imagery at this point.

Partly in favour of it signifying Rome are later Syriac traditions of a ministry by Peter in Rome, but that does not exclude the possibility of a prior ministry in Mesopotamia, even though there are no traditions of such a ministry. He may not have ministered there for very long. Furthermore, we must remember that the identification of Babylon with Rome came about only after a series of persecutions by Rome, and after John had written Revelation. There is no early evidence of it (Eusebius mentions Papias as holding the view, but Papias was very interested in apocalyptic and would tend to think that way).

The issue is not, however, of great importance, apart from for those who try to make a big thing of Peter having been in Rome for some years. The later tradition that Peter was in the end martyred in Rome is not affected by this and must be seen as very probable, although any long sojourn as not.

(Indeed we could argue that if he is speaking of Rome he clearly sees the Roman church as having little authority, writing of it as though it were merely a refugee church in the lascivious and corrupt world of ‘Babylon’. He certainly does not give it any pre-eminence).

‘Elect together with you.’ Compare 1.1. They share together in the gracious working of God on equal terms.

‘Mark, my son.’ Here we have confirmation that Mark at some stage accompanied Peter. It was probably as a result of this that he gathered material for his Gospel.

5.14 ‘Salute one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.’

This is not a call for formalities, but a plea for oneness. They are to reveal their chaste love for one another by a meaningful symbol of love rather than with a pretence that has no meaning. ‘By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another’ (John 13.35). Note that it is not sufficient to formally kiss one another’s cheeks, it must be a kiss of genuine love.

‘Peace be to you all who are in Christ.’ Peter finishes on this sublime thought. We who are His people are ‘in Christ’. That is why we will be carried safely through the billows of life borne up in Him as the Ark of God (3.20), with a certain landing in His heavenly Kingdom. And that is why we can enjoy His peace.

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