1 Peter - Lesson 13

By Curt Niccum

1 Peter 5:1-14

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The class can explain the pattern of biblical leadership: Spiritual leaders lead by example.
  2. The class will perceive the importance of spiritual leaders and its need to submit to their leadership.
  3. The class will recognize the strain that even churches can undergo and what biblical principles will see them through.
  4. The class will understand the importance of the spiritual maturation process of a Christian community.


  1. Bibles for every student
  2. Copies of worksheet for lesson #13
  3. If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.


Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. Having written most of the letter about Christian relations with outsiders, Peter ends with directions on how to keep the church strong internally. He begins by reminding the spiritual leaders to lead by example. But strength and resolve require effort on everybody’s part. A biblical quote and exposition encouraging steadfastness through humility closes the letter.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)

  1. Read 1 Peter 5:1-14.
  2. Sing at least two songs (you may choose from the following)
    1. Humble Thyself
    2. Teach Me Lord to Wait
    3. Be Not Dismayed
    4. The Lord’s My Shepherd
    5. I Want to Know Christ (Philippians 3:10)
  3. Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
    1. For the elders, deacons, and ministers of the church
    2. For humility
    3. For courage for those Christians in other parts of the world who are suffering for their faith

Introduction (2 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors.
  2. Distribute study sheets.

Review (5-7 minutes)

  1. Remind the class that Peter wants Christians to fight against worldly desires (see 1:13; 2:11; and 4:1).
  2. Have the class discuss how we can live out Peter’s directives.How do Christians fight against worldly desires and yet try to maintain good relations with the world? Or, in John’s words,how can we be in the world and yet not of the world? Look for more than just principles. Move the class toward identifying specific language and actions that they see Peter challenging us to put into practice in our relationships with nonbelievers.

Learning Experiences (20 minutes)

  1. Although most of the letter deals with holy living in an unholy world, Peter has occasionally spoken of the need for Christians to work at maintaining the proper relationships within the church. Obviously persecution, or any type of outside pressure,can have adverse effects on the Christian community.Christians must “make every effort to preserve the unity of theSpirit” (Ephesians 4:3).
  2. This section begins with an admonition to Christian leaders.Elders have a responsibility to the congregation. Elders are mentioned, not because Peter sees a leadership problem that needs addressed, but because in times of distress the leaders must (and should) often take the initiative. Less matureChristians will tend to stumble and fall. They need positive examples to follow and respectable figures around whom to rally. Note that the emphasis here is on leading by example.
    1. Christ, as always in 1 Peter, is the primary example.Christ is the “Chief Shepherd,” (5:4) and the one who suffered and who also was glorified (5:1).
      1. The language of verse 1 refers back to the prophets foretelling the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1:10-11).
      2. The language of verse 4 looks back to 2:21-25.All Christians at one time were lost sheep. Now they follow their Shepherd and Overseer (2:25),even to suffering and death. They will also follow him to resurrection and vindication (3:21-22 and5:4).
    2. Peter offers himself as an example since he is a “fellow elder” (5:1).
      1. Q: Peter calls himself a “witness” to Christ’s sufferings. In what way does he mean that? A:He cannot mean that he watched the death ofJesus. All the disciples fled from fear. He probably does not mean that he has merely talked about Jesus’ death, for the emphasis in the next clause is on participation, not proclamation. He probably means that he too has suffered as one who bears the name of Christ.
      2. Note that Peter considers his future as real as his present. Peter does not say that he “hopes” to share in the coming glory. He “will” share.(Compare Philippians 3:10-11.)
    3. The leaders themselves are to offer themselves as examples. Church leadership is the opposite of worldly leadership. Have the class give examples of horrible world leaders (preferably foreign leaders to avoid arguments over American politics). World leaders typically manipulate and defraud their constituents.
      1. Church leaders are shepherds and overseers.(Note that all three terms used of elders occur in this one passage. Here we clearly see that the terminology is not titular but descriptive. There are no titles in the church.) “Elder” refers to an older person who has the wisdom that comes with age.
      2. “Overseer” refers to one who looks over the work and well-being of others. It could easily be translated as superintendent or guardian.
      3. Shepherd refers to the biblical metaphor ofGod’s people as sheep, and God as the mainShepherd (Psalm 23). Sheep require tremendous amounts of love and care. This metaphor stresses the high level of love needed for the job.
      4. These descriptions contrast sharply with the practice of world leaders. In three pairs Peter makes this contrast even clearer.
        1. Leadership is not compulsory but compelling (5:2a). Spiritual leaders have a desire that is focused on people.Leadership is the hardest when trouble appears. An attitude of resentment can develop if one’s heart is not set fully on the needs of one’s charges
        2. Leadership is not serving to proffer,but offering to serve (5:2b). In the early church elders were provided a salary so they might minister to the church’s needs.This, of course, provided a temptation. In times of trouble, one who served only for the money could find himself either opting out of service or ignoring the needs of the saints.
        3. Leadership is not in the imperative, but in the indicative mood (5:3). True leadership is shown by example not in giving commands. Jesus said it best; readMark 10:42-45.
      5. True leaders will win in the end, even if suffering in the present. When persecution arises, people usually don’t single out the weak Christians for punishment. Logic dictates that the strongest should be punished or killed. Destroy the leadership and the followers will scatter. To be a leader is to choose to put one’s physical life at risk for the spiritual lives of others. Such an imitation of Christ will not go unrewarded.
  3. Just as distress can make leaders question their desire to serve, it can make others, often the younger generation(s),question their ability to serve. Peter reminds the young that they need to submit to those in authority to maintain unity in the church (5:5).
  4. Peter closes by reminding all of Proverbs 3:34 (quoted in 5:5b).This passage calls Christians to action and assures them ofGod’s favor.
    1. The action Christians need to take has two parts. They are the same two actions to which Peter has given greater treatment throughout the letter.
      1. Oppose the proud (vv. 8-9) - Christians oppose the proud because God does. The real enemy is not world powers or non-Christian masters or husbands. Satan lies behind every prideful action and statement. He is to be opposed. As Peter has shown, the best offensive stance is the doing of good.
      2. Be humble (vv. 5-7) - The Lord will exalt the humble. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who show humility. Note that this humility extends to fellow believers and not just to God.
    2. The end result is that God will take action for us.
      1. He will oppose the proud - the defeat of Satan and all evil powers is suggested, even if not completely spelled out. Peter’s focus throughout the letter has been on the future of the saints. He pays little attention to the status of the sinners.
      2. He will give grace to the humble - In a closing prayer Peter notes that the God of all grace, will give it in the form of strength after temporary suffering. The extent of the strength is emphasized through the use of four synonyms. (In Greek, one could heighten the impact of an idea by piling up synonyms.) God will exalt the lowly by imparting His strength to them (vs. 10).
      3. Thus it is only appropriate that Peter, and the entire church, ascribe power to God (vs. 11).

Application (10 minutes)

  1. Have the class share examples of good, spiritual leadership they have seen in the congregation. (This can work even in congregations that do not have elders, for their will still be people who have proven themselves as leaders.)
  2. Since this is the last lesson of the quarter, allow the class to reflect on what was learned.
    1. Have members discuss what aspects of Peter’s teaching they found most challenging in their personal lives.
    2. In order to end on a positive note, have the class discuss what aspect’s of Peter’s teaching they found the most encouraging.
  3. Challenge the class to stand fast in “the true grace of God”(5:12), and pray for the class to live holy lives in an unholy world.


1. Although many civic leaders in the Roman Empire served for the good of the city (and with expectations of receiving honor), the imperial leaders typically served to get rich. It was stated that it took three fortunes to be a governor; one to purchase the position from the emperor, one that the governor would steal from his province during his tenure, and one to pay the defense lawyers (or for giving bribes) to avoid being prosecuted for the crimes committed as governor. (See Acts 24:26 for an example.)

2. Some English translations suggest that the advice is less specific: young people should respect older people in general rather than the elders (as church leaders) in particular. Although a perfectly acceptable translation, the context seems to point to elders specifically.3 Peter may be alluding to verses in Psalm 22, a song that applies to Jesus’ death on the cross. It may be that Satan’s attacks are more than just temptations placed in the path of God’s people. Peter may be attributing all persecution of good to him.

Download Worksheets

Back to 1 Peter

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.