1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to your elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Coming off the heels of Peter’s exhortation to the elders, he briefly shifts his focus to the younger, followed by a final address to all the people. In 1 Peter 5:5 we see a call to humility. Let’s look at each of these charges Peter gives.
Charge to the Younger
Recall from the previous few verses how Peter has characterized the elders’ task. He charged them to shepherd the flock willingly and eagerly and to be examples to those in their care. He also reminded the elders of their reward, the appearing of the chief Shepherd and the crown He will give them. This is important to know because Peter begins his brief address to the younger people with “Likewise.” “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to your elders.”
Peter is essentially saying, “Just as I have given the elders their charge, so now I give you your charge.” Many people take this passage to mean that young-aged people are supposed to be subject to all older-aged people, or physical elders. It is certainly true that young people should respect and learn from older saints. Many of the older saints in our churches have walked with the Lord longer than some of us have been alive. We would be foolish not to develop relationships with them and spend time hearing their stories, gleaning from their godly wisdom and maturity. In this passage, Peter is speaking of being subject to the elders of the church, not regarding age, though that certainly plays a role, but primarily as those who are shepherding the flock, gifted by God to lead the church.
In our churches, there should be a deep respect for the elders who labor to care for us. Insofar as they are striving to fulfill their charge in a way that is faithful to Scripture, we should trust and follow their leadership. We should respect their decisions and trust that, even if they do something in a way we would not particularly have done it, they are following the Lord and being led by the Spirit. Young men, in the elders of the flock the Lord has given you examples to follow. It is a good thing to aspire to teach like an elder. It is even better to aspire to have the character of an elder.
A Charge to All
Finally, Peter gives a charge to all the people, including elders and the younger. He writes, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (1 Peter 5:5). The phrase “proud Christian” is an oxymoron. Pride has no place in Christianity. According to Peter in this passage, to exalt yourself in your own eyes is to put yourself at opposition with God. You cannot be both proud and Christ-like. Nowhere in Scripture do we see a clearer picture of humility than in the Lord Jesus. Paul, in Philippians 2, grounds the believers call to humility in the person and work of Christ. “Do nothing out of 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,” (Philippians 2:3-5a).
Paul then writes one of the highest Christological passages in all of Scripture. In Philippians 2:5-11, we see that Jesus Christ, the sovereign, preeminent Son of God, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The One who is the radiance of the glory of God and upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3) is the one who humbled himself to be born in the likeness of men, taking on the form of a servant, even coming as an infant! The One who was in the beginning, the One by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were made stoops to save His people! He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). As we see the humility of our Lord, I pray we humbly bow before the Lord in repentance of the residual pride in our hearts, for He gives grace only to the humble.
If we are to be Christ-like, we must embrace and pursue humility. We must pray and ask the Lord to conform us into the image of Christ. We must also daily remind ourselves of the gospel, that even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We cannot do this apart from the transforming grace of God and the power of His Spirit. So, may we behold the glory of the Lord in His Word (2 Corinthians 3:18). May we look to our Lord who suffered in our place. Though he suffered in our place and humbled himself to the point of death, He also has risen triumphantly from the grave. He now sits interceding for us before the throne! His prayer to the Father on our behalf was and is still today, “that they may be one,” and “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth,” (John 17:11, 17). In our churches, may we be one, united in Christ and clothed in the humility that He modeled in His life and death for His people.