The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Peter 5:1-4, 10-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 15, 2012

Note: This post includes the bishop’s analysis of all of chapter 5, followed by his commentary on verses 1-4. The text in purple which immediately follows the biblical passages he is commenting on are the bishop’s paraphrase. Text in red, if any, are my additional notes.

Analysis of 1 Peter 5~In this chapter, the Apostle addresses himself to the pastors of the Church, and points out the mode in which they should tend the flocks committed to their care, and acquit themselves of their pastoral functions. They should, in tending their flocks, shun three vices directly at variance with their exalted calling; these are, firstly, the performance of their functions not cheerfully, but with restraint arising from the necessity they were under of procuring thereby the necessaty means of support, so opposed to the cheerfulness which springs from viewing their flocks, according to God; secondly, the base vice of sordid avarice, so opposed to liberal and generous disinterestedness (2); and thirdly, domineering pride, so opposed to the example of humility, which every pastor is bound to give (3). By avoiding these vices and practising the opposite virtues, the pastors will merit to obtain, on the day of judgment, from Jesus Christ, the unfading crown of eternal life (4).

He next points out the reciprocal duties of the laity towards their pastors. They should be subject and obedient to them.

All, both pastors and people, should clothe themselves with humility, as their chief adornment (5). He tells them to humble themselves before God, in order that he may exalt them, by the effusion of the heavenly graces which he has in store,onlyfor the humble—and, this humility they should manifest, by laying aside all anxious cares, and casting themselves on the Fatherly Providence of God (6, 7). He, next, recommends them to practise the virtues of sobriety and vigilance—two virtues most necessary for a soldier on guard, in order to defeat the stratagems and assaults of a powerful and subtle foe, such as the devil, the sworn enemy of man, is. They should courageously resist him, by the unshaken firmness of their faith (8, 9). He next promises them the powerful protection of God to guard them, and bring them to a happy end (10).

He closes the Epistle with informing them, that Silas is the bearer of this Epistle to them; they will thus be secured against the imposition often practised by false teachers, in substituting counterfeit Epistles. He ends with the usual salutation.

1Pe 5:1  The ancients therefore that are among you, I beseech who am myself also an ancient and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as also a partaker of that glory which is to be revealed in time to come:

Since, therefore, the just man will be saved only with great difficulty, and God’s judgment is to commence with his own house (see 1 Pet 4:17-18), I, who am myself a fellow-bishop and pastor, a witness also of the sufferings of Christ, to be a sharer in that glory to be revealed at a future day, implore and exhort the bishops and pastors who preside over you;

The ancients, therefore, that are among you.”  “Therefore,” is not in some
Greek copies. It is found in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. It may be connected with the foregoing, as in Paraphrase:—therefore, since judgment commences first with God’s house (1 Pet 4:17), and in a special manner with the pastors of God’s people, it is meet, they should prepare for this responsibility. “The ancients.” The Greek word, πρεσβυτερους, viewed according to etymology, means elderly men, or men advanced in years but since the word is employed in Scripture to designate offices and dignity rather than age (the signification which the word bears here, as is clear from verses 2 and 4), the office has been expressed in the Paraphrase, bishops and pastors, or priests of the first order; for to them alone, strictly speaking, could be applied the words (verse 2), “feed the flock,” &c., in the fullest and most exalted sense. Of course, the admonition contained here applies also to the priests of the second order, charged with the care of souls. That the Greek word for “ancients,” includes not only priests of the second order, but of the first order, or bishops also, is clear from Epistle to Titus (Tit 1:. 5, 7). ‘”That are among you,” that is, that preside over you. “I beseech.” Ihe Greek word, παρακαλω), means also, I exhort. “Who
am myself also an ancient.” The Greek word, συμπρεσβυτερος, means, who am a co-presbyter; or, fellow-bishop; the word expresses the Episcopal office. Although, as Prince of the Apostles, he might call himself, chief of bishops; still, from a feeling of humility, he places himself on an equality with them. The same feeling of humility is observable in all the documents addressed by St. Peter’s successors, the Sovereign Pontiffs, to the other bishops, during the different ages of the Church: Servus Servorum Dei, (Servant of the Servants of God) they take as their ordinary title. “And a witness of the sufferings of Christ,” may mean (as in Paraphrase), that he witnessed all that Christ endured, both through life and in his sacred passion—or, a witness or martyr (by my sufferings), to the sufferings of Christ, and to the faith founded thereon. This latter mterpretation is grounded on the signification of  “witness,” in Greek, martyr. They were called martyrs, who, by their own sufferings, bore the sincerest testimony to the truth of the Christian faith. The antithesis which exists between this and the following member of the sentence, renders this latter interpretation very probable; the Apostle, by referring to his own sufferings, wishes to animate his brethren to the faithful discharge of their pastoral fuuctions, notwithstanding the violence of persecution.  “And also a partner of that glory,” &c. This may express merely a strong Christian hope, or it may be the result of some revelation with which God had favoured him. (It may be an allusion to the transfiguration, see 2 Pet 1:16-18).

1Pe 5:2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint but willingly, according to God: not for filthy lucre’s sake but voluntarily:

Feed, with the wholesome pastures of spiritual knowledge, with the heavenly graces imparted through the sacraments, the flock of God, over whom you have charge, superintending and caring it, not from feelings of co-action, as if force thereunto by the mercenary motive of securing the necessary means of support; but with cheerfulness, regarding it according to the will of God, which is, to promote its spiritual good, and in view of a spiritual reward–not with the sordid view of acquiring thereby wretched pelf, more enlarged incomes, but with feelings of generous and cheerful disinterestedness.

‘Feed the flock of God.” They are charged with the flock of another, to whom they shall render an account of their stewardship. “Feed,” ποιμανατε. This word is employed to signify, govern, direct, &c. It expresses a charge analogous to that which shepherds have over their flocks.  “Which is among you,” or which is given in charge to you; each one is responsible for that portion ot God’s flock, confided to his care.  “Taking care of it.” The Greek word, επισκοπουντες, literally means, Episcopizing, or superintending it; it expresses the vigilant care, which a pastor of souls should use, in guarding and tending his flock.  “Not by constraint,” from the necessity you are under of doing so in order to acquire a livelihood, while you would otherwise neglect them; “but willingly, according to God.” The words “according to God,” are not in the Greek. They are found in the Alexandrian MS. They explain more fully what the word, “willingly,” means, viz., with that cheerfulness which the consideration of the exalted nature of your functions, viewed according to God and his holy will—and that is, that we should advance the spiritual interests of souls, with a view to a spiritual reward—is apt to engender.  “Not for filthy lucre sake,” that is, from motives of sordid avarice, a vice so disgraceful in a pastor of souls; the effect of which is to harden his heart, to inspire him with low, grovelling ideas, to make him prostitute the most exalted mysteries of his sacred calling to the gratification of this wretched and unmeaning passion, and even at the awful moment of death, to blind him against the terrors of approaching judgment. “But voluntarily,” from feelings of liberal and generous disinterestedness. Detachment from early treasures should be a distinguishing characteristic of him, who, at his first step mto the sanctuary, takes God for his inheritance. “Dominus pars hereditatis mea et calicis mei, &c.,” are the words of the Cleric on his first entrance into the sanctuary. (The Latin translate as The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup. See Psalm 16:5)

1Pe 5:3  Neither as lording it over the clergy but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart.

Neither acting as persons lording it over the flocks specially entrusted to each; but exhibiting yourselves as patterns and models to them in all sincerity and truth, and with a view of advancing their spiritual interests.

Neither as lording it over the clergy.” By “clergy,” are meant, according to some, the subordinate ministers of religion, subject to the bishop. The Greek word, however, των κληρων, lot or inheritance, renders the opinion which understands it of the particular congregations which fell to the lot of each pastor to superintend, by far the more probable interpretation. In it is contained an allusion to the usage observed among the Jews of old, of receiving by lot their different inheritances. Hence, the word, clergy, is generally applied to the sacred ministers who are especially the inheritance of the Lord.  “A pattern” (in Greek τυποι, types or patterns) “of the flock;” these latter words show that it is to the flock, the word “clergy” refers here.  “From the heart,” is not found in the Greek. It means, not by a false, hypocritical show of virtues; but by an exhibition of real, genuine virtues, or from a sincere regard for their spiritual welfare and the glory of God.

1Pe 5:4  And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.

And when the prince of pastors, Jesus Christ, by whom both pastors and people were purchased, shall appear, to pass sentence on all mankind, you shall receive an unfading, ever-blooming crown of glory–or, the glorious crown of eternal life.

And when the prince of pastors,” Jesus Christ, to whom belong pastors and
people, purchased by his blood, “shall appear,” come in his glory to judge the world, to reward and punish, according to man’s deserts, “you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.”  A crown, the reward of merit, “never-fading,” αμαραντινον, the amaranth, a flower so called, because it never fades, is employed as an image of heavenly bliss, unlike the crown given to the victors in the Grecian games, made of bay, laurel, &c., this shall always remain the same, ever-blooming and unfading (see 1 Cor 9:24-27). Such is the reward which the Apostle wishes the ministers of the gospel ever to keep in view in the discharge of the arduous and exalted functions of their sacred ofhce. It is disputed whether the “crown of glory” regards the essaitial happiness of the blessed, the “corona justitice” which St. Paul expected (2 Tim 4:8), or, the aureola, or accidental reward, which in heaven is reserved for the Doctors, who, after instructing many unto justice, ”shall shine as stars for ever.”’—(Daniel). In the preceding passage, can be seen how strongly the Apostle enjoins on pastors the avoidance of three vices, so much at variance with the pastoral state, viz., performing their spiritual functions solely with the view of avoiding poverty; avarice (verse 2), and pride (verse 3); or, it should rather have been said, that he points out the vicious ends and motives that destroy the good effects of the pastoral ministry.

1Pe 5:10  But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you and confirm you and establish you.

But God, the source and author of every good gift, who, out of his pure and gratuitous mercy, has called us through the merits of Jesus Christ, to a participation in his eternal glory, and has given so many pledges thereof by his grace, will himself bring you to consummate and perfect glory, and confirm and establish you unalterably in its eternal enjoyment, after you shall have borne comparatively light and trivial crosses, for a short time here below.

But the God of all grace,” from whom proceed all gratuitous gifts, “who hath called us unto his eternal glory.” The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. have, ο καλεσας υμας, called you. Among his gratuitous gifts is to be reckoned our call to a share in his eternal glory, of which he has given us an earnest in the manifold graces he bestows upon us, “in Christ Jesus.” This call, and the graces consequent on it, are allowing to the merits purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.  “After you have suffered a little.” “A little,” probably refers both to the duration of their sufferings, “for that which is at present momentary and light,” &c. (2 Cor 4:17), and the comparatively light nature of them. ” The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come.”—(Rom 8:18). “Will himself perfect, confirm, and establish you.” In some Greek copies the words are read optatively, thus: “may he perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you;” the sentence being thus composed of four members, instead of three, as in our version. But the Alexandrian and Vatican manuscripts, as also the Syriac version support the Vulgate reading. The words are nearly synonymous; and the idea derived from the material building is applied to the spiritual edifice of virtue and grace, which the Apostle here prays that God would perfect in them, unto the unchangeable state of glory.

1Pe 5:11  To him be glory and empire, for ever and ever. Amen.

To him is due all glory for his gifts, and all power over creatures, for ever and ever. Amen.

“To him be glory and empire.” That is, all the glory of his gifts, and power over all his creatures, for ever and ever. Amen.

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6 Responses to “Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Peter 5:1-4, 10-11”

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