A Lesson in Humility
1 Peter 5:6
by Bob Burridge ©2019
Humility doesn’t come easily.
Our fallen human nature naturally tends to promote itself first. It puts its own comfort and peace above the needs of others. It takes for it’s self what is first of all God’s. The Sabbath Day is neglected, tithes and offerings are used for our own needs, and glory is directed towards the creature rather than the Creator. Fallen souls want to do what they want, even if God says otherwise.
Humility is the opposite of all that. It puts God first. It honors him with what is his. It obeys all he says, and gives him all the glory. The Apostle Peter wrote in his First Epistle 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,”
The context of this verse is very important. Chapter 5 begins with a command from God to the Elders of the church. The Elders are not just the elderly people in the church. They are the Church officers, the Presbyters. The Greek word Peter used is “presbuteroi” (πρεσβυτέροι). This is where the “Presbyterian” churches get their name. Their highest officers are the Elders of the local churches acting together as a church Session.
This church office was defined by Scripture for Israel long before Christ came. They are the men called and ordained to teach, oversee, and lead God’s People. As each new congregation was formed after the resurrection of Jesus, local Elders were appointed by the Apostles. After the time of the Apostles, new Elders were ordained by those already holding that office. Biblically each church is to be run by these ordained officers. They should be looked to with respect for that office.
In verses 1-4 of 1 Peter 5 the Elders are told what they should be and do.
1. So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
2. shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
3. not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
4. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
The Elders are to be shepherds of the congregation. They’re to tenderly care for their spiritual needs. They are to be spiritual overseers of the congregation. The word for “overseer” is “episkopoi” (ἐπισκοποι) which means literally to watch over something. This word was once translated as “Bishops”. It’s where the Episcopal form of Church government comes from. That’s the form followed by the Anglicans (Episcopalians) and Methodists. They see this as another higher ordained position overseeing the churches. However, the word here clearly isn’t addressing a separate office, it’s one of the jobs of all the Elders.
Their work is to be done not by force, or by greed for authority, but as humble examples. Their reward will come at the time of Christ’s final appearing as the Chief Shepherd of the church. They will receive God’s reward of glory for their faithful work.
Next Peter turns to those who are to be led by these Elders in verses 5-9.
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.
The word for “younger” here is “neoteroi” (νεώτεροι). It derives from the Greek word “neos” (νέος) which fundamentally means “new”. They are the less experienced in the congregation, the members under the leadership of the Elders. They are to submit to the leadership and example of the Elders, as long as those Elders are obediently carrying out their responsibilities before God.
This verse calls you to more than just submitting to church leaders. It says you should all be submissive one to another. He’s talking about living humbly, not always promoting your own glory, accomplishments, or skills, not always trying to have your own way, not sulking or complaining when things don’t go the way you wanted. Instead you’re to wear humility as if it was your clothing.
Then Peter reminds his readers of God’s attitude toward the proud and toward the humble. He refers to Proverbs 3:34, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.”
Peter doesn’t quote it directly from the original Hebrew text here in verse 5. There it says, “toward the scorner he is scornful”, here Peter says he “opposes the proud”
Peter is quoting from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament in use then. The Septuagint has the same word that Peter uses, “antitassomai” (ἀντιτάσσομαι). It means “to oppose” or “to resist”. James 4:6 quotes the same verse in the same way Peter does here.
The meaning of the quote is clear. God is not pleased with those who are unsubmissive. His blessing of grace is to those who evidence humility and submission to God’s ways and authority. That includes respecting those God calls to represent him and respecting his authority here on earth.
Then we come to the verse that summarizes what our attitude should be in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,”
In all things we should submit ourselves to God’s rulership, particularly as we are led in the church by God’s Elders. The point is that we should follow God’s ways. The Elders are there to teach and to demonstrate those ways.
God’s promise is that he will exalt the humble. His reward doesn’t come by their own aggressive behavior to seize blessings for themselves. It’s a gift of God that he attaches to the obedience he puts in their hearts when they are redeemed by his grace through the Savior.
No one can find true peace, happiness, security, and satisfaction in life unless it comes from God as he blesses their obedience in Christ.
It’s done by casting all our anxieties upon him because he cares for us. Rather than arrogantly looking to ourselves, or to things merely made by God, we’re to put all our hope and concerns upon him who is our Loving Lord and Good Shepherd. We need to humble ourselves. We’re to lay aside our own attempts to gain glory replacing it with a desire to promote the glory of Christ and for meeting the real needs of others.
We can and should do that because he cares for us and died to make us acceptable to God and able to obey him.
Peter ends this section by turning our attention to God, the one who makes us able to obey.
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.
There is no other proper response to God enabling us than to worship and praise him. The humble will bow before God and consider him worthy of all their devotion and service. They steal nothing from him. All he calls them to do they do. They don’t put their own desires or interests before what their Lord knows is best.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)