The allusion in the opening words of this chapter is to the threefold charge given to Peter by the Risen Lord, on the shore of the Lake of Galilee. “Lovest thou Me?” then “Feed My lambs,” “Shepherd My young sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” This, for many years he had done, and now as the aged apostle, soon to end his labours and depart to be with Christ, as had been foretold him, he passes on the charge and exhorts others to continue the same work, for it is not the will of God that His flock should ever be without shepherd care. So long as there are sheep and lambs to be fed and tended, the Lord will raise up under-shepherds—not a shepherd, but shepherds, plural—to care for them. Notice too how affecting is his way of apostrophizing them, “I a witness of the sufferings of Christ. I saw a little of what the Good Shepherd bore ere the sheep could be His; I then learned how much He loved them.” Then he adds “a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” The “sufferings” and the “glory” here again appear together—for God delights to so present them to us. The “elders” here addressed are not contemplated as being distinct from the flock, but of it, and in it, all one, differing in gifts and attainments, but on an equality before God as His own. These elders do not seem to have had any special appointment, as others evidently had (Acts 14:23: Titus 1:5), but were senior believers who had hearts for the flock. Such are to be found still, doing the same work, and though there is no apostle to single them out or appoint them, the saints will easily discern them by their work (1 Thess. 5:12) and own them. “Shepherd the flock” —as the word is, and the extent of such work is well described in Ezekiel 34:4. To have a heart for the flock, feeding and caring for the sheep publicly and privately, entering into their difficulties, sharing their joys and sorrows, is the mark of a true shepherd. “Taking the oversight,” acting the bishop. There must be rule in the church, and rulers; not to extinguish godly liberty but to conserve it. It is arduous work. See what “agony” (Col. 1:28-29: 2:1, 2) Paul had for the welfare of the saints, and how he yearned over them (Phil. 4:1). It is a work that requires much labour, often gives much sorrow, and yields little present return. People have much interest in the evangelist’s work, and there is a present joy in seeing sinners saved, but the shepherd’s work is more arduous and often little in it to cheer. It is because of this that the “crown of glory” with its dazzling brightness, is promised from the Chief Pastor’s own hand. He knows all the toil, has seen all the tears, and fully estimated all the labours spent upon the sheep for whom He gave His life. That crown of unfading glory will tell to all how much He appreciated the service of which men thought so little. But such work is not to be “by constraint, but willingly” —not to be done because it has to be, but out of love to Christ. “Not for filthy lucre,” for well He knew that carnal men would become bishops and clerics for the sake of gain, “neither as being lords over God’s heritage.” Love of power as well as love of money is in the apostasy, of which the bud, the blossom, and the fruit are all seen in Peter’s Epistle.
Verses5-7.—“All of you be subject one to another.” There is no communism, no democracy, no monarchy or oligarchy in the church; one is as bad as the other. There is one Lord, one Head, and all fill their places as before and under Him. Subjection one to another here, is like love in 1 Cor. 13, the oil which lubricates the whole; when it is absent confusion reigns. The Lord’s way is very beautiful, but the clerical element, wherever it gets in, spoils all. “Be enscarfed with humility:” wrap it around you; learn to take the lowly place. The flesh likes to get up, to be at the front, when it ought to be silent, for it is not subject to God nor will it ever learn His ways. Thus it is that “God is drawn up against the proud.” God is opposed to them but “He giveth grace to the humble;” true of all, but here spoken specially to the elder brethren doing shepherd work in the flock of God, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God”—a striking and solemn word. That mighty hand is near, ready to be put forth to cast down the proud, to raise up the humble; to put down in the church what He does not own, to raise up and strengthen what is of Himself. O, that mighty hand! how near, how real! “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” What a good God we have, to allow us to cast our cares upon Him thus, and to exercise Himself so about us.
Verses 8-9.—“Be sober:” see things distinctly, clearly, in heaven’s light. “Be vigilant:” there is a watchful foe, ever seeking, ever watching to catch you off your guard. “Your adversary the devil.” In this epistle where the saints are viewed as in the wilderness, suffering, Satan is presented as “a roaring lion:” in the second epistle he appears as a subtle serpent, deceiving and beguiling by means of false religion. “Walketh about:” in Ephesians the devil is seen seeking to cast us down from our high position (Eph.6:12): here in the wilderness where the ills of life are met, he seeks to make us question God’s love and care. He walks about “seeking whom he may devour.” He first seeks to get us to sin, then accuses us to God. Happy for us it is, that we have an intercessor at God’s right hand who get’s nearer to God than he. And how good it is to know that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron. 16:9), watching and guarding those whom Satan so eagerly seeks to devour. Our adversary is not more anxious to devour than our God is to deliver, and when he would insinuate that our path is more thorny and our lot harder than others, in order that we may murmur against God, let us remember that “the same afflictions” have been and are endured by “the brotherhood” —as the word here is—and are no more than the Lord promised (John 15:19-20).
Verses 10-11.—“The God of all grace:” one of His seven New Testament titles, all so full of blessing to His own. O to have hearts saturated with grace; all “grace,” every kind, in full measure. “Called us to His eternal glory.” Grace and glory are closely linked. He will “give grace and glory” (Psa. 84:11). Grace tells of what God is, and the manner in which he deals with a sinner for His own Name’s sake. He visited Adam in Paradise: He dwelt with Israel in the desert: He came nearer still when “the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us.” But men sent Him away: the world would not have Him. Now He “calls” His own to His eternal glory. His own home. And the pilgrim eyeing the end of the wilderness can say “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever “(Psa. 23:6) “After that ye have suffered a while.” That uncreated glory must be reached through suffering—which after all is but “light affliction” and “for a moment “in comparison with “the eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17), awaiting us. “Make you perfect, stablish, settle you.” Perfect here means “perfectly fitted together;” our sufferings should draw us closer to Christ and to each other. Suffering strengthens and stablishes, like the tree after being stricken in the storm, the roots take firmer hold and the props can be taken away. Peter was told by the Lord, “When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). In this epistle he fulfils this ministry, and now he casts it back upon the God of all grace.
Verses 12-14.—Silvanus or Silas, Paul’s companion in labour (Acts 15:40), the bearer of the letter; in Peter’s account a faithful brother. There is no jealousy, no rivalry between the Apostles. Peter writes to Paul’s spiritual children (chap. 1:1; Acts 16:6) and it is his aim to magnify “the true grace of God,” the common standing of all saints. “She at Babylon”—there is nothing said by Peter about the church. Church truth is Paul’s theme; kingdom truth Peter’s. Here some Christian woman sends salutations. “Marcus, my son”—once a fickle servant who left the path (Acts 15:37-40), but who was evidently restored and made “profitable” through Paul’s faithful dealing (2 Tim. 4:11). There is a time for severity and firmness as well as for grace.