In this chapter, we will study what Peter has to say on humility in church leadership, humility in the church members themselves, and finally humility in life itself. True humility leads to salvation and freedom in Christ...
The Shepherds: (1-4)
Peter was an elder in Jerusalem, handed over to James and the body of elders. He knows what it's like, you can't say he doesn't. And his concern? That all elders serve with the right heart, the right character (lists in 1 Tim 3.1-7 and Titus 1.5-9 are less about status and gifts, but CHARACTER):
- not unwillingly/under compulsion, but WILLINGLY
- not greedy for money, but EAGERLY
- not lording or domineering, but EXAMPLES
The word here “shepherd”, poimaino, refers to not just herding or just feeding, but the whole range of a shepherd's oversight: Elders are not meant to be mere administrators or policy-makers, but truly SHEPHERDS: Shepherds lived with their sheep, cared for them; tended to the weak, the injured, the lost; ensured the safety of the flock; protected the flock: Acts 20.28-35, Paul: “after my departure Fierce wolves will come in among you” – shepherds always went before the flock and searched out the land to ensure it was safe; normally worked in groups...
It is a calling: Acts 20.28 goes on to say “Pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock, in which the HS has made you overseers” – not simply for those who aspire to it and have ability, or in right place at right time.
Elders need to be learning and growing so they are continually moving forward; else, they stagnate and so does the flock they are leading – if the shepherds don't keep moving forward, neither do the flock. (“leaders = readers”!)
Elders' leadership = about relationship: AMONG and OVER flock (re Jesus, Lk 22.27: “I am among you as one who serves”): not aloof but in authority (hence not LORDING but CARING) – an imbalance of either causes problems – requires a balance of confidence to lead with true humility
The flock: (5-11)
v5-6: ...HUMILITY (here it is again!): humility is a recognition of position and perspective: “under the mighty hand of God”
Humility is not a demeaning of yourself. It is not thinking less of yourself, but of yourself less. It is the willing submission to trust the sovereign King of all things and seek HIS will in all things, HIS heart in all circumstances, HIS character in our own, HIS glory and praise and not ours...
v6 leads into v7 = TRUSTING GOD: Peter continues to say cast your anxieties on Him – he should know! Jesus healed Peter's mum-in-law (Mk 1.29-34), helped Peter to catch fish (Lk 5.1-11), enabled him to walk on the water (Matt 26.47-56) and delivered Peter from prison by sending an angel (Acts 12.1-19; v11=“the Lord has sent an angel and rescued me”).
Casting our anxieties upon Him is not a frivolous act. It is a clear, conscious act. Thus, Peter says: Be sober-minded. Why? The devil “prowls... a roaring lion”... “to devour”. The devil is real, and a far greater theologian than any of us. He knows the Bible inside out, He knows our weaknesses, He knows the lies we'll pay attention to. HE CAN'T READ YOUR MIND, but don't be complacent either. Be sober-minded because He's on the prowl. DO NOT FEAR. But true humility reminds us of Who's in charge here. It ain't us, and it ain't the devil. Just don't be ignorant to His ploys.
v9 “resist” = conscious effort, sober-mindedness again. Be aware, avoid places, times and people where you're weak. Be accountable. Don't play games.
“firm in your faith” - firm in your faith means reminding yourself who you really trust, and following His counsel (via Scripture, HS and church). This verse is also an encouragement to know you aren't alone (“throughout the world”). Then v10 “...called you to His eternal glory in Christ will RESTORE, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN, ESTABLISH” = IRREVOCABLE! Be encouraged!
So, thus far we understand true humility (submitting all to God) as exhorted in our identity (ch1-2), the workplace (2), our home life (3), our social lives (4), now specifically in our church leadership and our submission to that, and Peter reminds us once again of the core Truth that generates true humility. Here's a Truth that underpins this passage, this letter, this Book in my hands:
Peter quotes a proverb in v5: (Prov 3.34 Septuagint version [Greek version of Hebrew Bible]=) “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.
How can we learn humility? Remember this: none of us deserves to live, or deserves another breath. I'm sure we're all very aware that life can be gone just like that. Age bears no relevance. Ecc 12.6 describes life as a silver cord that can simply snap. Why did you wake up this morning? It's because God sustained you through the night. The Bible says so. (Ps 3.5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me”)
But why do we deserve to die? Rom 6.23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wages = something we've earned. But it's so much more than simply because of what we do, it's who we are. Which all boils down to pride again. Pride is us placing ourselves before anyone or anything else., the opposite of submission, the opposite of humility. Pride wants to be in control; pride thinks we know better. Pride got us into this mess in the 1st place...
God hates the sin of pride (Prov 16.5: “Everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord”). Isa 14 described how pride turned Lucifer into Satan. Pride is the reason for Adam and Eve defying God: placed their own desires first, thought they knew better than Him, and defied Him, ripping apart that perfect communion they'd had with Him and fouling it in every way. Sin entered the world and and it's been decaying since.
God opposes the proud. He is SO perfect, SO just, that anything short of perfect is intolerable to Him. Being perfect, He can't settle for anything less than perfection in His character, and that includes setting His heart on His own glory. He's the only Person Who can't be accused of being selfish. So it's impossible for us to please God on our own. Because that's where you stand if you don't have Him. Isa 64.6!
So Peter quoting from Proverbs is not some helpful sound-bite... “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” = The Gospel!
Isa 53.6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” - My pride blames anyone but me, passes the buck, thinks I know better an God. That brings, as we've just seen, judgement and consequences. Humility accepts the truth about ourselves even when it hurts and leads us to God's Good News for us. What Good News? (Isa 53.6 continues): “...and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Glory of the Gospel= the Chief Shepherd (v4) became the sacrificial Lamb.
Heb 9.22: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (remission/ amnesty/ acquittal) of sins.”
Sin is dealt with in Christ's death; TRUSTING in Him as our Lord results in sins washed away through His blood, and we are raised to new life through His resurrection. Here's why Peter, writing to people dispersed and suffering, can say “peace to you” (v14)
TRUE HUMILITY recognises:
- we are under the mighty hand of infinitely wise, holy, good God
- we can never claim amnesty for our sin and pride
- we cannot save ourselves
- Have you ever considered yourself as someone prone to pride? Has Sunday's sermon changed your perception of yourself, either way?
- Do you find it easy to let go and trust God? Why do you think you can or can't?
- Do you find it easy to give up control of things to other people?
- What's the one thing that's most significantly struck you during our study of 1 Peter?