God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:1 Here I come, Father!
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 18, 2022
5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: (NIV)
Peter’s first word, oun (οὖν) “therefore,” goes untranslated here, but it draws a conclusion or a logical continuation from what went before. He addresses the elders as guides, leaders, preachers and examples for the churches in Asia Minor. He begins with “therefore” because of the persecutions detailed throughout chapter 4. On account of their position, the elders of Asia Minor will be looked up to as examples for everyone else going through such difficult times. An elder (presbyteros, πρεσβύτερος) is similar to an overseer (episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος). In the New Testament, an episkopos or bishop is one who oversees the work and doctrine of a subordinate or oversees a congregation (Acts 20:28). Perhaps in some cases an elder was more what we would call a local pastor (Paul makes a distinction in Titus 1:6-7), but in this chapter the two words are interchangeable (see verse 2). In his shorter letters, John does the same thing Peter does here, preferring to use elder as a title over apostle (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1).
Peter calls himself a “fellow elder,” not placing himself into the rank of a disciple of Jesus nor even as an apostle, although he could have done so. Instead, he says, “I’m a preacher just like you. I care for a flock, and you are a part of my flock.” Peter adds that he is “a witness of Christ’s sufferings,” and this has two meanings. One we know from the context of the whole New Testament, and the other we apply from the immediate context of these closing chapters of the epistle.
First, Peter was one of the men who witnessed the suffering of Christ. He was there in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed and when he was arrested, and Peter was even present in the courtyard of the high priest and in the gate of the same place.
Second, Peter was also subject to suffering on account of Christ. He was warned by the Sanhedrin not to preach Christ (Acts 4:18) and later he was flogged by them (Acts 5:40). Later still, Herod had him arrested, although an angel set him free (Acts 12:4,9). These are the kinds of persecutions he has been warning about all along, although other Christians may have other crosses to bear.
Why doesn’t Peter say “witness of Christ’s resurrection”? He wants to emphasize that we all suffer on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He, Peter, has suffered for it. Jesus himself suffered for it to the point of death and even crucifixion. Shouldn’t the Minor Asians (people of Asia Minor) expect suffering for the gospel, since Christ also suffered?
The final thought of this verse (which is not a complete sentence) is that we who have faith in Christ, sometimes even suffering on account of Christ, will also share in his glory to be revealed. We will not merely see this glory, for the damned will also see it, to their shock and horror (Matthew 25:31-32), but we will “share in it.” Paul says the same thing to the Romans: “We are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). Also Asaph, David’s chief musician, says: “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered… you hold me by my right hand, you guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Psalm 73:21,23-24).
In an Advent sermon, Martin Luther said: “For the one who rejoices in God and exercises forbearance in his life, the devil will raise up a cross calculated forcibly to turn his heart from that way. The Christian should therefore be well fortified, placing his peace beyond the devil’s reach—in God. Let him not be anxious to rid himself of what the devil had forced upon him. Let him suffer Satan’s wantonness until God’s coming shall exterminate it. Thus will the Christian’s heart, mind and affection be guarded and preserved in peace. His patience could not long endure did not his heart exist above its conditions, in a higher peace—were it not satisfied it has peace with God.”
Be alert, Christian: The devil wants to trouble and worry you. Be alert, pastor: The devil knows what you guard against and he’s going to attack you right there where you are tempted most. But remember, Christian and minister alike: God has commanded you to pray for his help, and he promises to help you. “You can hold this up to him” (Luther says) “and say, ‘Here I come, Father! I don’t pray because I’m worthy but because of your command and promise, which cannot fail, and which cannot deceive me” (Large Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, Address, par. 21). The devil will come, but your heavenly Father is already with you.
Pastor Timothy Smith