By. Dr. Phil Brassfield
One of my favorite personalities in the New Testament is the Apostle Peter, the fisherman from Galilee who was among the first of the disciples to be called by Jesus. One of the reasons I like him is because he is so relatable, so human. I see a lot of myself in Peter. And I’m not talking about his finer qualities. Peter was a run of the mill, everyday fellow. I can relate to that. He was a first century fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, a typically coarse lot – gruff, vulgar, strong willed. To say that he was tempestuous is an understatement. It was Peter who corrected Jesus, even rebuked Him, on the road to Caesarea Philippi when Jesus told the disciples for the very first time that His destiny was the cross of Calvary, not the throne of Jerusalem. It was Peter who refused to let Jesus wash his feet along with the other disciples on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas. It was Peter who drew a sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane. Peter was a man’s man, full of himself, stubborn to a fault, and determined to have it his own way. Sound like anybody you know?
But something happened to Peter, something dramatic, something out of the ordinary. Somewhere, somehow during the course of his being called to minister, to feed the flock of God, to preach the Gospel, and to suffer persecution, he became a different man. Somewhere, somehow during the many experiences he had, through all the things he saw and heard, he took off the garments of pride and self, and clothed himself in humility, the garments of Christ. Without a doubt in the process of trying to lead, he realized he was not called to lead at all, but to serve and to suffer. He embraced his calling and was transformed. This transformation placed him at odds with the popular Roman culture of his day, but he was not deterred at all. His allegiance was to the authority of God, period. As he was transformed, he discovered a master key in the kingdom of God, the master key of humility.
It’s this Peter who writes to us, as Senior Ministry Leaders, in 1st Peter chapter five from his vast experience and wisdom. He speaks to us through the filter of his personal transformation and the things he had no doubt learned as a result of this process. His instructions and admonition have been a source of guidance and direction for Christian Leaders for 2,000 years. Let’s examine several truths from this passage.
First, read 1st Peter 5: 1-7.
V1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: V2 Shepherd the flock of God, which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; V3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; V4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. V5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to [your] elders. Yes, all of [you] be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” V6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, V7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1. Peter calls himself a fellow elder. Though he could have claimed superior authority and respect as an Apostle of the Lamb, a rock of the church, one of the three, along with James and John, who were in the inner circle of Jesus’ personal ministry. Yet, he chose to classify himself as one of the group, a fellow elder. The elders he is speaking to are probably younger and less experienced, yet, he respected them enough to say that ‘I am speaking to you as one of you.’ He also affirms them as on par with him. He viewed them as today’s leaders worthy of full respect, though they represented different generations, experiences, backgrounds and opinions. By this simple act of humility he also suggests to them that they should guard their need for honor, for position and titles.
2. Then he reminds us that we are Shepherds of God’s flock. He affirms our role as shepherds, indeed, but of a flock that is not our own. The flock belongs to God. This is underscored by his mention of the Chief Shepherd who will eventually appear and reward faithful shepherds. In this context, shepherds are stewards not owners. This communicates a sense of duty and responsibilities. It says, “the owner has rights, stewards have only responsibilities”. He uses a functional term to reinforce this idea that describes the discharge of our responsibility, “Overseers.” This word suggests accountability to a higher authority. It suggests that we should never become an authority unto ourselves, seek our own personal gain or benefit through manipulative actions. Consequently, we are to always subject our motives to the examination of the Holy Spirit. Manipulation is exceptionally corrosive to lasting relationships.
3. Peter teaches us that submission is the solution. Having a heart (posture) of deference and submission is the key to disarming selfish agendas and motives. It is the disrobing of the glory of self, the uncovering of the flesh with its self-centered desires and tendencies. Peter had learned that leaders develop and mature best under submission. When we learn through submission, we develop a confidence, security and strength through the process. Therefore we learn to always be looking for a higher authority to which we should submit. Wise lawyers look for legal precedent, successful young leaders listen to the wisdom of the experienced, and students seek the knowledge of the professor. Great leaders refuse to sit on the throne of personal authority and reign through their personal preferences. They are beholden to a greater authority, God.
4. Peter teaches us that we should be clothed with humility. Once we have surrendered to the idea of submission to authority and we have disrobed ourselves of the glory of the flesh through the process of submission, we should be clothed with humility. This almost certainly is a personal reflection of a memory Peter had from the night Jesus was betrayed. According to John, Jesus laid aside His garments and wrapped Himself with a towel (the apparel of a slave) and began to wash His disciple’s feet. Wrapping Himself with a towel is almost certainly where the phrase, “clothed with humility” comes from. The word humility means, humbleness of mind. In other words to have a “humble opinion of oneself.” This is not having low self-esteem, which is almost always pride in disguise, but rather to esteem oneself as little. Being clothed with humility is to intentionally make yourself low. This happens as a result of surrender, a submission to godly authority and choosing to prefer others above yourself and the interest of the whole before the demands of your personal interest.
5. Peter teaches us that God resists the proud. Imagine that, God actually assumes a resistant posture toward those who have a haughty attitude and a self-centered perspective. Peter had learned this from experience. He got into trouble when he acted for selfish gain or tried to ensure things were going to be done his way regardless of God’s will. He found himself in hot water with God. He says it this way, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6. Peter suggests that we surrender to God’s ultimate authority. He calls this ultimate authority the “Mighty hand of God”. What is the hand of God? It’s the power, moral right, and scope of God’s Kingdom rule. To discern its boundaries, ask yourself these questions: Where is God not God? What is beyond God’s influence and control? Who has greater power than God? The answers listed in order are: nowhere, nothing, and no one. Therefore the hand of God is the Authority of God. To humble yourself under the mighty hand of God is to surrender and submit to God as the ultimate authority in every area of life and mission.
7. Finally, Peter tells us that we should divest ourselves of mental division caused by worry, our anxieties. When he said, “casting all your care on him, for He cares for you”, he is suggesting that we accept the fact that we cannot solve our problems through our own abilities alone. We aren’t sufficient in and of ourselves. We don’t know enough; we don’t have enough. Pride will cause us to wrestle in our minds with the worst possible pressures and potential scenarios, dividing our focus and rendering us paralyzed with fear. Some call it awfulizing (imagining the worst possible situation).
In summary, what do we learn as leaders through this passage written by Peter the renegade turned Apostle? We learn that destructive attitudes driven by pride and self-reliance will always let us down in the end. We learn that self-reliance is an illusion and a deception designed to de-construct the legitimate authority of God. We learn that submission is the solution. It is the disrobing of the glory of the flesh and critical in the process of being clothed with humility. Peter helps us to understand that humility without submission won’t work. Humility is the attitude but submission is the resulting action. We learn that humility will position us to receive the grace of God, the help of God and the strength of God.
Humility and Submission are the master keys that open the doors of greatness in the Kingdom. As Christian leaders we must always turn to God as our ultimate authority to find His protection, provision, and blessing. Our humility will unlock great doors of Kingdom power in our lives.