The Culmination of Our Hope

| 1 Peter 5:5-11

Week of July 12, 2020

The Point:  What we hope for in Christ will one day be fully attained.

Clothe Yourselves with Humility: 1 Peter 5:5-11. 

[5] Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” [6] Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, [7] casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. [8] Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. [10] And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. [11] To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  [ESV]

“Exaltation through Humility [5:5-7]. Subjection to Superiors. In the present passage, the apostle calls for all believers to respect and live in subjection to their spiritual superiors. We have noted that the term, elders, as Peter employs it in verses 1-4, does not refer so much to chronological age as to the office of spiritual leadership in the Church. However, in verse 5, Peter specifically exhorts the younger men to subject themselves to their elders. Here the age factor is clearly under consideration. Quite certainly, the young men addressed are not officers or a class within the churches, but just men who are of a young age. These are exhorted to subject themselves not only to those who are older than themselves, but specifically to their spiritual elders, who are called and equipped by God to serve as their edifying leaders and examples. There is great wisdom in Peter’s focus upon young men in this exhortation. For youths tend to be those least inclined to subject themselves humbly to others, even their superiors. Young men are often driven to exert themselves, and are least likely to sense the need to listen to and learn from their elders. The apostle, therefore, singles out those most inclined to follow their own strong passions, rather than godly principles, and tells them plainly to exercise humility and subject themselves to their wise, considerate, and spiritually capable elders. Those to whom Peter tells young believing men in particular, and other members of the Church in general, to subject themselves, are their own elders. The apostle does not commend his readers mindlessly to follow strangers or tyrants who would impose themselves upon the flock. The elders of a congregation are those who have been recognized and duly elected by the congregation to serve as spiritual leaders. As such, elders are due all the loving respect and obedient support to which their office entitles them. Furthermore, elders are charged to feed, guide, and protect those under their care. The elders of Christ’s Church are called and equipped to keep watch over the souls of the flock, and to do so as men knowing that they must one day give an account to the Lord for the fulfilment of their charge [Heb. 13:17]. We should note the wise and loving provision of our Lord in this arrangement. Elders are to serve joyfully and humbly in their charge; members are to submit cheerfully and gratefully to their elders, whose highest concern is for the spiritual welfare of those members. Christ gives a blessed and fruitful harmony to his church.

Practice of Humility. From a call to young men to submit to their elders, Peter proceeds to extend a call to all his readers to practice humility. They are to do this not simply in subjection to their elders, but also in their relationships to one another. 1. Call to all Christians. The call to practice humility is one issued to all who name the name of Christ. It is essentially a call for us to practice grace and love in all our dealings with one another. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, issues the same call when he tells us to regard others in the body of Christ as being more important than ourselves [Phil. 2:1-4]. When Peter writes that we should clothe ourselves with humility, he is not telling us to be hypocritical actors, pretending to be humble when really we are not. What the clothing image is intended to convey to us is the understanding that our first impulse or our natural feelings should not be regarded as right and loving. Humility is never natural to a sinner, and even as redeemed people we still have sinful tendencies. So Peter tells us to reflect upon our attitudes and actions towards others in the Church, and to adopt the very mind of Christ as our own [Phil. 2:5]. 2. Conformity to the Lord. The exhortation that we clothe ourselves with humility is really an exhortation for us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for our sinful, selfish flesh [Rom. 13:14]. Jesus declares himself to be meek and humble in heart [Matt. 11:29]. He is the source of humility and self-sacrifice. He assumed the role of a servant; indeed, of a criminal, pouring out his life for us so that we might have eternal life. The Son of God humbled himself because he delighted to serve his heavenly Father, who had himself determined to save sinners, though it cost him infinitely to do so. God is therefore opposed to all who, in their sinful pride, act as though they do not need to receive this exquisite gift attained by the self-sacrificial humility of the Son of God. 3. Self-control. Peter’s call for his readers to clothe themselves with humility is a call for them to exercise the gifts and graces of their new nature in Christ. It is a call that can only rightly be obeyed willingly and voluntarily. We see this in the active imperatives the apostle uses as he tells us to clothe ourselves and to humble ourselves. We are not to wait for God to humble us by his faithful and loving hand of chastisement directed against our pride. The call is to place ourselves in the lower place, the place of costly service to others, from where we deal with them as though they were more important than ourselves.

Blessing of Humility. This call for us to humble ourselves and to honor others before ourselves may seem like a call to a performance of a grim, impoverishing duty. However, we learn from Peter that godly submission is not a form of degrading slavery. Nor is humility some kind of curse that confines us to the lowest place. 1. The exalting hand of God. The One under whom we humble ourselves is God. It would seem that assuming a servant’s place before the King of Glory would confirm us in that lowly position, for who can rise above the divine hand under which we humble ourselves? Paradoxically, however, we learn that our highest blessing comes to us as we humble ourselves under the hand of God. This is because the desire of God’s heart is to give grace to the humble. God’s hand is ever at work therefore, not in pressing down the lowly, but in lifting them up. The petty and tenuous heights that we can attain by our own proud efforts cannot compare with the towering peaks of enduring glory to which the hand of our God will exalt us. He who raised his Son, the suffering Servant of Israel, from the grave, taking him up to sit in heaven’s glory at his right hand, giving him a name above every name, will not fail to exalt all who in Christ die to selfish ambition and determine humbly to serve their God. We must note, however, that God does not necessarily exalt immediately those who humble themselves under his hand. Peter informs us that it is at the right or proper time that God exalts the humble. Thus, we must learn to exercise patience as we await the full and exalting blessing of God upon our humbling of ourselves. 2. Our casting, God’s caring. God’s delay in exalting the humble is because, in his perfect wisdom and power, he waits to bring it about at the best time for his glory and our good. Therefore, the patience that we must exercise while we wait for the Lord’s response should be filled with trusting contentment and grateful hope. We also have the blessed assurance that we need not be crushed under the burdens we undertake, in our determination to render humble service to others for Christ’s sake. The casting away of our pride brings with it the immediate blessing of being invited to cast away all our burdens of fear and anxiety. This blessing is unlimited for Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties upon the Lord. Those who humble themselves under God’s hand do so not in proud self-reliance but with a trusting reliance upon the capability of God to tend to their burdens with a competence infinitely greater than their own. This casting of our anxieties upon the Lord is no careless abandoning of responsibilities or a faithless presumption upon God. It is our Lord himself who invites us by his Word and Spirit to come to him for relief from our burdens [Matt. 11:28-29], and to let our prayerful requests to him vanquish all anxiety in us [Phil. 4:6-7]. Peter tells us that the God on whom we cast our burdens and worries deals with them with far greater care and competence than we could ever do. He also tells us something even more wonderful than that God bears our burdens. He insists that the reason God replaces the anxieties we cast upon him with his peace that passes understanding, is that he cares for us. We have a caring God, who regards us as precious in his sight and beloved in his heart. Our Lord cares for our burdens more responsibly than we could care for them. He cares for us, however, even more than for the burdens we cast upon him. Our God watches over our welfare infinitely more than we could ever do. As we go down into true humility, we go ever more deeply into the relieving care and loving exaltation of God. As the truly humble have ever discovered and testified, the way up for the Christian is down.

Resistance and Relief [5:8-11]. Called to Vigilance. Having just called us to humility in our Christian living and service, Peter now teaches us that vigilance is necessary for prevailing in spiritual warfare. The enticements and intimidations of Satan are unavoidable. No believer can elude or escape him, nor is any follower of the Lord exempt from the wiles of the devil. What Peter teaches in this passage is not so much how to avoid our great, unseen spiritual foe, but how to stand against his evil onslaughts. 1. Carefree, not careless. It is instructive for us to note that this call to spiritual vigilance follows immediately upon the call to cast all our anxieties upon our caring God. Our being freed from all worrying cares might be misconstrued, so that we might think we can live our Christian lives in a heedless, careless way. The truth is that although the Lord Jesus calls us to himself to receive rest for our souls, he also calls us to bear his easy yoke and light burden [Matt. 11:28-29]. The rest that we receive from our Redeemer results from his lifting of the crushing burden of our sin, with all its miserable consequences. The yoke of the Lord refers to the diligent service to others to which he calls us, and for which he equips us. It also refers to our union with him in his priorities; to our guidance by him by means of his revealed will; and to our enabling by his gracious provision. Therefore, there is no contradiction between the fact that our Lord bears our cares and the fact that he calls us to a careful walk as we endure the attacks of Satan. We may think that we cannot find rest, peace, or security so long as the enemy of our souls lives to afflict us. But God makes his triumphant provision for us in the face of this enemy [Ps. 23:5]. Our Lord provides for us the very spiritual armor he himself wore in his victory over Satan [Isa. 59:15-17; Eph. 6:10-18]. It is as we carefully apply to ourselves this divine provision that we experience continued freedom from fear and anxiety, and we enjoy peace that passes understanding. 2. Sobriety. Peter defines what he means by vigilance under two headings. The first heading is sobriety, and it is negative. The second heading is alertness, and it is positive. The apostle has already in this letter called his readers to be sober [1:13]. Here again, he exhorts us to arouse ourselves from those distractions that intoxicate our spiritual senses, making them dull in perception and slow in response. Such things as the fearful burdens mentioned in verse 7, and the carnal allurements mentioned in 2:11 can smother our spiritual vitality, giving Satan an advantage over us, and the Lord would arouse us from such a state. 3. Alertness. When Peter tells his readers to be on the alert, he is speaking of the positive action of a sober saint. Our attention should be high, and focused on our Savior, and on all that he tells us in his Word. Part of what Jesus tells us is that his followers should expect and prepare for spiritual battles against Satan. If our faith is rightly fixed on Jesus, he will direct us so that we keep an eye on Satan and do not fall for his wiles. Our security is not undermined by such spiritual alertness, but enhanced by it.

Resisting the Enemy. Peter has shown his readers that their main concern should be more to resist sin rather than to avoid suffering. From the consideration of indwelling sin and pride, the apostle turns his readers’ attention to the person of Satan, the exploiter of the sins of believers, whose deceptive wiles lay snares for the saints so that they fall into sin. Peter offers some brief but very incisive and practical teaching on the nature of the devil, how he acts, and how we can prevail against him. 1. Who is he. Peter refers to our great spiritual enemy as our adversary. It should be our settled understanding that Satan is always against us. Because he is a liar however, he often approaches us as a friend and good counselor. Even though Satan can appear to us as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:14], it is vital that we always remember that he is our adversary, and that he is at his most dangerous when his advice and devices appear to be for us. Peter also refers to our enemy as the devil. This word literally means someone who trips others up by throwing something between their moving legs. Satan does not prefer to wrestle with diligent Christians, for he knows that if he comes into the grasp of the sons and daughters of Jacob he will be defeated. Instead, the devil prefers to throw some accusation against us to discourage us, or to hurl some tempting thought or troubling fear at us, so that we stumble and lose our standing in the Lord. 2. How he acts. Peter describes our great spiritual adversary’s methods when he tells us that the devil prowls around. Scripture consistently portrays Satan as restless and on the move. He may not be near us today, but with stealth he seeks an opportune time to draw near to us, pouncing upon us with his fiery darts when we least expect him. The fact that Peter represents Satan as a roaring lion should alert us to the fact that the devil is hungry for the ruin of souls, and this is why he is ever on the prowl. Satan ever roars with a gnawing emptiness driving him to desperate attempts to find satisfaction in our destruction. That the devil aims at nothing less than our destruction is emphasized when Peter writes that Satan is seeking someone to devour. The devil does not intend to annoy or wound us only. He aims deadly missiles at our heads and hearts, seeking to darken our thinking and depress our feelings so that we succumb to despair. 3. Resistant faith. This passage not only draws a lurid and sobering portrait of the devil, but also teaches us how we may prevail against such an awful foe. The apostle does not provide for us an arsenal full of all types of weapons. Instead, he points us to the single resource that alone can vanquish this enemy. We are called to resist the devil, firm in our faith. From Satan we can neither run nor hide; we cannot reason with the devil; nor appeal to his mercy; nor buy him off. We must stand against him united to our victorious Lord by faith. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 on this point, noting in that passage how Paul repeatedly calls upon his readers to stand firm against the devil in the evil day [Eph. 6:11,13,14]. Exercising the faith that God has given to us, by which we are united to Christ in his victory over all the works of the devil [1 John 3:8], will not only sustain us, but will also compel Satan to flee from us [James 4:7]. For by faith we not only perceive the prowling lion, but we behold and cleave to the Lion of Judah who has overcome the devil for us [Rev. 5:5].

Consolation of Vigilance. Being called to spiritual vigilance is not a grim necessity of the Christian life, but part of our blessed pilgrimage by grace to glory. God makes sinless use of Satan’s sinful attacks against us. We grow in trusting gratitude to God as we find his provision to be more than adequate in enabling us to persevere and prevail in our spiritual battles. We also draw nearer to our brethren when we find ourselves under common attack. There is great divine consolation for us in the fires of spiritual combat. 1. Shared suffering. We should be encouraged to know that we are not singular victims of the devil’s attacks, but serve rather as a glorious band of brethren in a great and supremely significant spiritual war. Peter not only tells us that we share the experience of the devil’s attacks with our brethren, who are also targets of the evil one; he also informs us that these painful spiritual conflicts accomplish something. We do not merely endure our sufferings, but our experience of them accomplishes many wonderful things for God’s glory and our good. 2. Limited suffering. Relief is added to encouragement when we read that our spiritual conflicts have limited duration. Peter tells us that we must suffer only for a little while. The enticements and intimidations of Satan may seem to us, when we are in their midst, to have no end. But they are limited, not by Satan’s mercy, but by God’s will. This perspective of faith makes the duration of our sufferings to be seen as but a little while and as producing for us an eternal weight of glory [2 Cor. 4:16-18]. 3. Sanctifying suffering. Peter concludes this passage with words of supreme consolation. He speaks of the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ. These magnificent truths remind all who suffer in Christ that the grace of God is at the beginning of their course of spiritual conflicts, sustaining them until they reach the end to which he has effectually called them, namely, his eternal glory. We can prevail against the devil because our God himself perfects us, despite Satan’s accusations; he confirms and strengthens us by his grace; and establishes us in his glorious presence blameless and with great joy [Jude 24]. Our God will not let us fail or fall in our contests with Satan. For it is neither persecuting men nor the prowling devil who have dominion over the lives of those in Christ. It is the God of grace and glory who has dominion in our darkest days as well as in the days of light. We stand by, and in, the God who has dominion over all things through all time and eternity.” [Harrell, pp. 141-151].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why is God opposed to the proud? Why does God exalt the humble? What determines when God will exalt the humble? How are we to show humility in our church relationships, especially to our leaders?
  2. Explain how you can cast all your anxiety upon the Lord. Why is there no contradiction between casting our cares upon the Lord and being carefully alert and prepared for spiritual warfare?
  3. List the aspects of preparation for spiritual warfare given by Peter, and define each one, explaining why it is vital for our standing in the evil day. Peter tells us that we have one effective tactic to employ against Satan. What is that tactic? Explain how it operates, and how it fits in with what Paul describes as the full armor of God [Eph. 6:10-18]. What four things should you trust that God will do for you [10]?

References:

The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney, InterVarsity.

Let’s Study 1 Peter, William Harrell, Banner of Truth.

1 Peter, Karen Jobes, BENT, Baker.

1, 2 Peter, Jude, Thomas Schreiner, NAC, B & H Publishers.

The purpose of this article is to provide additional reference resources for those Sunday School teachers who use Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life material.