October 4, 2020
Nick Roen (South Campus) | 1 Peter 5:5-9
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.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.—1 Peter 5:5–9
It’s a privilege for me to be here preaching this morning. Pastor Dave and his family are currently driving home from Florida, and he sends his love and greetings to all of you.
We’re continuing our march through the book of 1 Peter, and we are up to 1 Peter 5:5–9. Last week, Pastor David Livingston handled the first five verses, exhorting us elders to shepherd the flock of God willingly, not for shameful gain, and not domineering but setting an example. This week, the apostle Peter continues his exhortations. And he moves from exhorting the leaders of the church, the elders, to his instructions to the members of the church who are under the elders’ care. So as we consider these exhortations, it’s important for us to situate them within the book to see how they are functioning in Peter’s thought process. What do these exhortations flow from, and what is their purpose in Peter’s letter? So let me remind us all where we’ve been so far in the book and how Peter has set up this section.
What we’ve seen time and time again is that Peter’s purpose in this letter is to encourage and exhort the people of God in their suffering. And he begins to do this by telling them who they are. So, in 1 Peter 1:3–5, they are a people who have been “born again to a living hope, to an inheritance that is imperishable and kept for them in heaven.” And they are a people who has been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ from the futile ways in which they have once walked (1 Peter 1:18–19). In chapter 2, as they come to Christ, they are built up into a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, set apart as holy to God. Indeed, they are strangers and aliens here on earth. Their primary citizenship is not in this present creation but in heaven, with Jesus on the throne ruling and reigning in sovereign care and mercy. That’s who they are. The happy subjects of the heavenly kingdom of our holy Lord, awaiting our eternal inheritance.
And it’s out of that identity that Peter gives his marching orders to these suffering people. He says that when they suffer—not if, but when—they are to keep their conduct among the gentiles admirable, waging war on the passions of their flesh (1 Peter 2:11). They are to not repay evil for evil, but bless those that persecute them with tender hearts (1 Peter 3:8–9). And they are to serve, not in their own strength, but in the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will get the glory (1 Peter 4:11).
In other words, in all of their suffering in a world that is opposed to them and their Lord, believers are to show who they belong to. They are to show, in word and in deed, that Jesus is Lord, that he has bought them with a price, and that nothing is ultimately up for grabs in Christ, even in the midst of hardship, suffering, and persecution. That’s what Peter is telling them in this book.
And so we get to 1 Peter 4:19, the verse right before our section in chapter 5, and we read, “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator, while doing good.” So that’s the call of God to these people. In light of who God is, and in light of who you are, live in such a way that screams, “I’m trusting in a faithful God. He will meet my needs. He will care for me. He will bring me safely home in the end.” That’s the call of our faithful God.
And it’s out of that call that Peter gives these final exhortations, as a kind of “how to” manual of entrusting your souls to God. “Entrust your souls to a faithful creator by doing these things.” That’s where we’re at in chapter 5.
So last week, when Pastor David so wonderfully exhorted the elders to care for the flock of God, that was Peter’s instruction to the elders in the way they are to entrust their souls to God. In the midst of the hardship of pastoring this people, trust God by gladly serving, setting an example, being gentle, and always pointing your people to Jesus. And when you do that, elders, you are trusting in your faithful Creator to give you wisdom, to care for you, to lead and guide you, and to give you everything you need for the task at hand. So elders, entrust your souls to a faithful Creator by caring for the flock. That was last week.
Introduction: In Light of the Calling of God ... (1 Peter 4:19)
Application: In Light of the Promises of God
And now, beginning in verse 5, Peter turns his attention to the congregation, and tells them how they are to entrust their souls to a faithful God who has bought them and set them apart. So how can all of you entrust your souls to God? Look with me, beginning in the first half of verse 5:
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
First Point: How are the younger among us to entrust their souls to God? By being subject to the elders.
You’ll notice that Peter addresses this particular exhortation to those who are younger in the church. Why does he do that? It isn’t like those who are older are not expected to submit to the elders. “You older folks, you can just go ahead and ignore the elders and do whatever you want.” No, that isn’t the intention. So why, then, single out those who are younger?
I think there are a couple factors in play here. In the ancient world, “elder” was a term reserved for those who were older in any given community. And so within the church, those belonging to the office of “elder” were likely to be older themselves. Which means this admonition to those who are younger, in contrast to the church elders, likely covers more of an age range than we might typically think of as “young” in our day. In many ancient cultures, the dividing line between older and younger was somewhere around the age of 40, and in some cases stretched up to the age of 60. So if you are 59, hey, you’re a young person.
However, more than the specific age range of who is young or not, I think even more importantly, Peter knew what we know about young people. If we’re honest, oftentimes young people are more likely to be self-reliant, independent-minded, and prone to buck against authority. And I am including myself in this category. We younger folks can be pretty headstrong at times.
And so Peter is reminding those younger among us that authority—and especially authority in the church under God—is a good thing. So submit to your elders. As they are entrusting their souls to God, and seeking to care for the flock in a Christlike way, so you younger folks entrust your souls to God by submitting to the elders. Trust God that the elders have been appointed by him, have your best in mind, and are seeking your good. Trust that there are areas of life where you lack experience and hard-earned wisdom. That’s OK, and that isn’t a bad thing! Youth has many advantages, but it also has its limitations. So trust God by trusting the leadership that he has placed over you. Submit to them with a glad and grateful heart.
Now, maybe you are a young person here today, and you bristle at being singled out in this way. “How dare he call me out like that. How can he say I’m strong-headed? He can’t say that about me. I don’t buck against authority.” And my caution to you would be, “Don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Receive the word, and examine yourself. Do you have a submissive heart toward your elders? Are there ways you might be prone to individuality and self-reliance and dismissing wisdom? Just be honest with yourself, and then with God. And when you do, what are you doing? You’re entrusting your souls to a faithful God. In submitting to the elders, you are ultimately submitting to the one who cares for you perfectly and will never fail you, ever.
Now, just a couple words for the older folks here. This exhortation to the younger folks must not be held against the young people in the church. This isn’t a free pass to shake your fist at those rebellious young kids who dress weird and listen to weird music and really could use a haircut. Remember Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, to not let anyone look down on him because he is younger. So my hope and prayer for us as a blood-bought family would be that we would value the members of other generations among us. Younger folks, submit to your elders and seek wisdom from those in our church who are seasoned by many years. Learn from them, respect them, watch their way of living. And older brothers and sisters, be filled with joy that we are a people that has so many young people among us. There are dying churches all over with no young people. Be encouraged and spurred on by their passion and zeal, and come alongside them, encouraging and admonishing them in love. When young and old can love and encourage one another in the church, it paints a beautiful countercultural picture of our unity in Christ.
And remember, it isn’t as though this principle of submission to the elders is only for the young among us. Indeed, as one commentator pointed out, if those who are more likely to be independent and even at times rebellious toward leaders are called to submit, then it follows that certainly everyone else is expected to submit as well. And that takes humility. It means that you need to admit, “It is good that there is someone watching out for my soul in authority above me, because I can’t do it on my own.”
And that leads us to the next verses. Look with me at verses 5b–7.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
So all of us, not just us young’uns, but everyone, clothe yourselves in humility. And not just toward the elders, but toward one another. In all of our interactions with one another in the blood-bought family of Christ, we are to put on humility. The call to each one of us is to recognize that we are not the center of the church’s universe. It isn’t all about us, we are not the most important member, and our call is to go low in service to others. We are to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 10:12). We are to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2–3). Indeed, we are to walk in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Listen to Philippians 2:3–8:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We know what it’s like to be part of a family, right? We sinful humans can be arrogant, we get annoyed, we can be rude with our family members. We can think, “Well if I was in charge, I’d do it this way.” We can insist on our own way, our own desires, our own agendas. And the call to us as a blood-bought family is to consider others more important. To put our own desires to death and to consider others’ desires before our own. To empty ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters, following the very example of Christ.
And what if someone irritates you? What if someone disagrees with you? What if someone gets their way when you should have gotten yours? Humility says, “I will not act in spite or harshness or belittling, because Christ did not act that way with me.” He went low, humbling himself even to the point of death on a cross.
Brothers and sisters, what kind of example would that be to the world around us, in our time and culture? Look around. Everyone is insisting on their own agenda and their own special interests and their own ways to do things. And when someone disagrees with them, canceled. They’re done. The whole of their being is written off and dismissed and discarded. You oppose me? I’ll tear you to pieces!
Christians cannot act like that. We cannot live like the world in our interactions with one another, even when we disagree. Humility doesn’t mean covering over our differences or not seeking truth. But it does mean that when you differ with someone, when your opinions or interests come into conflict in the church, you are going to handle it like a Christian. You’re going to assume the best of the other person, you’re going to seek full understanding, you are going to consider how you might serve the other person and win them with love. Because that is what Christ did for us! He won us with the greatest act of service imaginable. What humility displayed in the God of the universe nailed to a cross. That is our example. Crucify your pride, and love one another in humility. That’s different than the world.
And the stakes are high. Look at what Peter says about the proud in verse 5. He quotes Proverbs 3, and echoes James 4, and says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” My friends, we do not want God to oppose us. You want to talk about motivation to be humble toward one another. The God of the universe will oppose you.
You want an illustration of this? Think about what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. He has a dream about a great prosperous tree being cut down with only a stump remaining in the field. And Daniel interpreted the dream and said, “That tree is you, O King, and unless you humble yourself and repent, you will be turned to a beast of the field.” And King Nebuchadnezzar did not repent, but remained proud. And what happened? God opposed him. He humiliated him by turning him into a beast, and he ran out into the field, and lived on all fours and grew hair and claws, and became a beast. That’s what it looks like for God to oppose you. So you can either clothe yourself with humility, or God will do it for you. You will be humiliated in your pride. And that will be much more painful. Instead, clothe yourselves in humility.
Now, there is a positive motivation here as well. “He gives grace to the humble.” We’re going to skip that for just a minute and come back to it, so don’t think I’ve forgotten it. But let’s move on for now. Not only are we to clothe ourselves in humility toward one another, but toward God as well. Look with me at verses 6–7:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
If humility is necessary in our important human relationships, how much more necessary in our most important relationship, with our heavenly father. And if we are supposed to defer our wants and desires and agendas to the people in our lives, how much more are we to submit those things to the ruler of heaven and earth, who holds everything in the palm of his hand, the one who declares the end from the beginning, the one who, if he ceases to speak, the universe blinks out of existence. Indeed, there is no room for pride in our relationship with God. He always gets his way, he holds all the cards, and nothing happens apart from his will.
And that is a good thing. It says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” His hand is powerful, in complete control. And it is the same “mighty hand,” we are told in Exodus 32:11, that delivered the people of God out of their bondage of slavery in Egypt. It says, “Your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand.” God’s mighty hand is a caring, freeing, liberating hand. And his care for his people is mighty. And it is under that hand that we are to humble ourselves. Why? Because he cares for us. Look at verse 7, “Casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”
Why would Peter tie casting our anxieties on God with humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand? He ties them together because casting our anxieties upon God is humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand.
Think about the things that make you the most anxious in life. Job, family issues, health issues, political or social issues. When we cast them onto God, what are we doing? We are admitting, “I can’t handle this. You have to care for me here. You have to be sovereign here, because I’m not. You need to take control here, because I am not in control.” So Peter is keenly aware that when we cast our anxieties onto God, we are trusting him to care for us, to keep us, to hold us. Just like he did with Israel from Egypt, we are putting ourselves under his mighty hand for deliverance and comfort and all the things that our good God has for us.
In other words, when we clothe ourselves in humility, both toward others and toward God, we are entrusting ourselves to our faithful creator. We’re trusting him for the outcome, so we can lay ourselves down to receive whatever his mighty hand will bring.
So, entrust your souls to God 1) by submitting to the elders, 2) by clothing yourselves in humility, and then 3) by resisting the devil with watchful sober-mindedness. Look with me at 1 Peter 5:8–9.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
It’s clear who our enemy is, isn’t it? And Peter does not want us to be ignorant of his schemes. Satan is presented as a man-eating lion, roaming around the earth, seeking people to devour and destroy. That’s real. That’s why the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6, says that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil.
So be alert. Be watchful. Be sober-minded. Do not be naïve about the devil’s schemes. Don’t get lulled to sleep in the waves of the world. What this means is we can’t just walk around this world with our eyes closed and ears plugged, hoping to stumble our way into holiness and faithfulness. No, Jesus says, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
We live in a culture that is being ruled by the prince of the power of the air. And there are so many subtle, and not so subtle, ways that Satan is seeking to entice and lure and devour and destroy. So, in order that we might be alert and watchful and sober-minded, here is a short list that came to my mind in about 30 seconds of the ways Satan is seeking to destroy us: pervading sexual immorality, the ubiquity and celebration of pornography, political idolatry and division, the denial of authority and moral relativism, abuse and oppression, slander and harshness outside and inside the church on social media, physical suffering and death, cancel culture, the devaluing of human life, increased isolation. And that barely scratches the surface. The devil is prowling around, seeking to devour.
So, as we are sober-minded and aware of his schemes, what are we to do? Resist him. Resist the devil and his schemes by standing firm in your faith. I read this, and I have James 4:7–8 ringing in my ears as an echo, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” So, as Christians we stand against evil. We stand against suffering. We stand against all the brokenness of the world, by standing firm in our faith. And he will flee!
And notice the second part of verse 9. We resist him “knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” So Peter is tying the sufferings of the people of God to the schemes of the devil. He’s admonishing us as God’s children that the devil would love nothing more than to bring you suffering, and for that suffering to cause you to fall away and into his traps of sin. To grow despondent and apathetic. To forsake God and turn to empty cisterns that hold no water. He knows that we’re prone to flee to comfort when we get hurt.
So he encourages us, “You are not alone! Christians all over the world, indeed throughout time, have experienced the same kinds of suffering as you have, and worse. They’ve been persecuted like you have, they’ve been tempted like you have.” Everywhere that Jesus is proclaimed, his people are persecuted. Everywhere that the church embodies Christ, his church suffers. Brothers and sisters, your suffering and temptation is real and significant and hard. And you are not unique in your suffering and temptation. You aren’t! There is nothing new under the sun, so be encouraged that there are Christians all over the world that have been persecuted and tested and tried and tempted like you have, and they have stood strong in their faith! So resist Satan, and stand firm in your faith.
So the question then becomes: How? “I’m supposed to stand firm in my faith. Okay. How? All of these exhortations, submit, be humble, resist Satan, those are hard!” I don’t want to pretend that entrusting our souls to God in these ways is a walk in the park. So how do we do it? And that leads us to the application.
Application: In Light of the Promises of God
We stand firm in our faith in light of the promises of God. I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a promise of God’s faithfulness attached to each one of these exhortations in chapter 5. So Peter is showing us that at every step, God is promising to be a faithful creator. Entrust your souls to God, and here are promises of his faithfulness at every step.
Look at last week’s text. Elders, shepherd the flock of God among you. How? That’s hard. We do it by trusting verse 4, “When the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” He will appear, and we will receive that unfading crown. He is faithful, he has never failed you, and he never will.
And then, you who are younger, humble yourselves under the elders, and all of us humble ourselves toward one another and to God. How? That’s hard! We do it, because “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He promises to be gracious, to give us grace and only grace, to show us undeserved loving care and compassion and love. And he says that at the proper time—verse 6—at the proper time he will exalt you. He will! Whether in this life or in the life to come, he will lift you up out of your lowly estate, and exalt you! He is faithful, he has never broken his promise, and he never will.
And then resist the devil in your suffering. Reject his schemes. How? It’s hard, right? Temptations on every side, sufferings bearing down on our souls. How do we stand firm in our faith?
Pastor Dave is going to talk about this in detail next week and show us everything that it means, but just take a peek at 1 Peter 5:10. Here is our promise. Resist the devil in your suffering, and then as verse 10 says, “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.” Does that promise remind you of anything we’ve already read in 1 Peter? Yes, 1 Peter 1:6–7. The end of the book hearkens back to the beginning of the book with the same promise. These are the bookends of the letter. Remember this?
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 1:6–7
That will happen. It’s coming! He will give us our promised inheritance. He will bring us home at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and our faith will result in praise and glory and honor! He will strengthen, and confirm, and establish us, either now, or in eternity. He is faithful, he has never failed, and he never will!
Friends, God is so faithful to keep every single one of his promises. And how can we be sure? Because they’ve been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. And not one drop of his blood is wasted. So in the moment of your deepest suffering, he hasn’t failed you. He’s with you, keeping his promises to care and to comfort and to love. He’s never left.
So, in light of the promises of God, we entrust our souls to a faithful creator. His promise still stands. Great is his faithfulness. He’s never failed us, and he never will.