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First Epistle of Peter 5: 1-11 (NIV)
5 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: 2 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; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards 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. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 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.
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.
Those who received the Apostle Peter’s first epistle would likely have considered Rome to be their principal enemy. Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) violently persecuted the Christian church. Peter has referred to the sufferings of Jesus’ followers (1: 6; 3:14, 17; 4: 1, 12-16, 19; 5: 9). Should we be surprised that he has identified the devil as the enemy rather than Rome?
It may assist to consider two of Peter’s experiences while with Jesus. Peter had experienced first-hand the deceitfulness of the evil one. Immediately following his confession that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 16) Peter succumbed, contradicting Jesus’ explanation that he must be killed. This drew that staggering rebuke from Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me;” (Matthew 16: 23). Then, during Jesus’ final meal with his disciples, Jesus spoke directly to Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22: 31-32).
So Peter understood that the devil was working through people and institutions to try to destroy the Church of God. The devil continues to do this today. Peter’s advice, therefore, applies to us as it did to those who received this epistle:
- be alert;
- be sober minded;
- resist the devil;
- stand firm in the faith that you have;
- know that you are not alone in being threatened by evil. Others undergo similar sufferings.
Peter reminded his readers – and us – that God himself has a stake in this. God wants his people to be strong, firm and steadfast (verse 10). He is the God of grace, he has already called us to eternal glory in Christ. He knows suffering – Jesus also suffered so that we could be in him – and he restores us because he wants us to share in the glory to be revealed.