1 Peter 5:5

1 Peter 5:5  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The apostle was fond of the word “likewise” in a spirit of grace where nature would never have thought of it but rather resented. Thus the latter part of chap. 2 in this epistle is addressed to domestics; and as he had pressed on the saints in general submission to every human institution for the Lord's sake, so he urges it on them particularly to their master in all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the crooked. For this is grace; and we are called, every one of us, to walk in it as we were saved by it. As law characterized Israel, grace should stamp the Christian, even as Christ was full of grace and truth; and who walked submissively as He? To endure when sinning and buffeted, what glory is it? But if when doing good and suffering ye shall endure, this is grace with God. And there too throughout His life Christ is the model, and above all in His death, where He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that being dead to sins we might live to righteousness: an all-important issue, to convict those who misrepresent, hate, and deride grace. “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands” (chap. 3:1), says the apostle, and in ver. 7, “Ye husbands, likewise, dwell with them according to knowledge.” Such was the order in which the Holy Spirit appealed.
Here the exhortation was first on the apostle's part as fellow-elder to the elders among them; and then he adds, “Likewise, ye younger, be subject to elders,” which evidently goes beyond those in official place to all whose years clothed them with title to moral respect if spent in faithful service to the Lord. Indeed it is to be noticed that among the Jewish saints, and in Jerusalem itself, we have no record of a formal introduction by apostolic authority as ruled in the Gentile assemblies (Acts 14:2323And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23), Titus 1:55For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Titus 1:5)). They are first mentioned as subsisting in Acts 11:3030Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:30) and recognized in their place by Barnabas and Saul. The fact is strikingly confirmed by Acts 15 wherein they are repeatedly mentioned with honor. Yet the peculiarity alluded to is no less plain in the critical text of ver. 23, which is the opening sentence of the decree determined at the council. It runs, if we heed the Vatican MS., the Alexandrian, the Sinaitic, the Rescript of Paris, and Beza's of Cambridge with other good support, not as in the A. V., “The apostles, and the elders, and the brethren,” but “The apostles and the elder brethren “; and this is adopted in the Revised Version, as by Alford, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, &c. The reading of the later copies, seems due to conforming the phrase with ver. 22. But this was implied here, as it was there expressly asserted to be “with the whole assembly.” Nor was it the least likely that the ecclesiastical copyists would have dared to introduce a phrase so alien to their habit of helping on hierarchical distinction. Even Luther, Calvin, and others down to our day have felt constrained to yield to the larger sense of elders and youngers in this context.
“Likewise, ye younger, be subject to elders; and all of you bind on humility to one another; because God setteth himself against haughty ones, and giveth grace to lowly” (ver. 5).
Both exhortations have fallen too often on deaf ears. When the apostles passed away, the presbyters easily persuaded themselves, that order called for one of their number to receive or take a chief place over his fellows in a city; especially as the angels of the seven Asiatic churches in the Apocalypse could by a ready mistake be thus construed, until it rose by degrees to be a diocese of any extent. A presbyter, says a grave commentator (in loco), is not called a bishop by ancient ecclesiastical writers, but a bishop is often called a presbyter. Had he overlooked the fact, that the Holy Spirit in Acts 20:17, 2817And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)
28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
does call the elders of the church in Ephesus “bishops” (ἐπισκόπους)? Does not inspiration outweigh all ecclesiastical writers put together and demonstrate their unsoundness when they venture to differ? So the apostle addresses the saints “in Philippi with bishops and deacons.” Titus 1:5-75For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; (Titus 1:5‑7) is almost equally plain. No doubt it is as much opposed to Dissent as to Episcopacy, “the minister” being as antiscriptural as the traditional trio, bishop, priests, and deacons. After the death of the apostles the lawlessness secretly working before grew apace and became bold. The sole divine authority as to this attaches to what they authenticated in the scriptures.
As the elders by unbelieving development sunk into various sorts of clerical irregularity, so did the youngers lose all sense of their due place of subjection. It was an early error that they began to choose bishops on the plea that the multitude of the disciples were allowed to choose men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom for the apostles to appoint over their diaconal work. For where elders or bishops were appointed among the Gentile churches, the disciples never chose, but the apostles for them, as in Acts 14:2323And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23); or if an apostle could not go, he wrote (not to any church but) to an apostolic man like Timothy or Titus, to appoint elders. For the principle is as plain as it is important. As the church contributed its means, it was allowed to choose those it confided in for due administration. But apostles, not the church, had spiritual discernment of the qualities suitable to preside or rule; and they therefore chose elders. Besides, there were endowed with power men that were the gifts of Christ, such as evangelists, pastors, teachers, &c., who were never appointed (like elders locally), but acted freely in their work as they were led by the Spirit in the unity of Christ's body, the church.
In our day both the clerical spirit and the democratic are so rampant that there is all the more need to heed the gracious appeals of the apostle. Let those who guide never forget that the flock is, not theirs, but God's; and that they are to be models to the flock, not lords. Let the younger be subject to elders on principle, instead of seeking their own will or innovations so natural to youth. No doubt blind guidance ends in a ditch; but such direction is not of a Christian type, which is rather the seeing leading the seeing, with eye and heart fixed on Christ, who thus gives singleness of purpose.
“Yea, all of you bind on humility to one another.” The more numerous authorities read “all of you, being subject to one another, bind on humility,” but some of the best MSS. and versions drop “being subject,” which results in what has just been given. “Clothed” is too vague here. It is a word unique in N. T. usage, and occurs but rarely elsewhere. The figure is taken from the apron a slave girt on to do his work earnestly without soiling his dress. The Lord from a far different motive stooped lower still when He girded Himself with a linen towel to wipe the feet of His own which He washed clean from defilement. This was holy love; and this alone constrains us to bind on lowly-mindedness, to which we are all exhorted by the apostle who had not forgotten his sad ignorance and error on that memorable and touching occasion.
But he also fortifies the call with the solemn admonition, that God opposes Himself to haughty men, and gives grace to humble, the same quotation word for word as in James 4:66But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6). See Prov. 3:3434Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. (Proverbs 3:34), and Rom. 12:1616Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12:16). Thus indeed it is a moral principle on both sides which runs through scripture; and it is a lesson for every soul in the church from day to day which none can afford to overlook. It is the more needed, because there is a ready danger of being haughty under a misapplied idea of position and duty, and of losing the grace God is so willing to bestow through failure in cherishing that lowliness which is only found perfectly in Christ.