1 Peter 5:2 MEANING

1 Peter 5:2
(2) Feed the flock of God which is among you.--By the word "feed" here is meant, not merely the giving of pasture, but the whole government. It is the verb used in John 21:16, not that in the 15th and 17th verses. There can be hardly any doubt that St. Peter was thinking of that scene when he issued these directions. Our Lord had committed into his hands all His sheep and lambs, without restriction of age or country, to be fed and shepherded; and now the time was approaching when he would have to "put off this tabernacle" (2 Peter 1:14), and he here takes order that "after his decease" the charge committed to him. may be fulfilled. He still shepherds the flock by proxy. Two other points must be mentioned, which bring this passage into connection with the charge given by St. Paul to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:28), which was very probably known to St. Peter. (1) St. Peter calls it "the flock of God." Textual critics are much divided on the reading in Acts 20:28, but, on the whole, the Received reading seems the best supported: "the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood." At the same time, St. Peter is in remembrance how Christ had said, "Feed My sheep." It may be fairly thought, therefore, when we see St. Peter's own theology in 1 Peter 1:25; 1 Peter 2:3; 1 Peter 3:15, that when he writes, "Feed the flock of God," his thoughts turn to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity rather than to the First. (2) Hooker well points out, on Acts 20:28, the unity of the flock. Though there were many elders in Ephesus, there was but one flock they fed between them. So now, all over Asia Minor, it was but one flock. St. Peter, to whom the flock throughout the whole world was committed, saw it as a whole, but the elders to whom he writes had only to look to that part of the one flock which was "among them." The marginal rendering is against the order of the Greek words, and does not suit the context so well when the context is rightly understood.

Taking the oversight thereof.--It is exceedingly doubtful whether these words form part of the original text or not. If they do, the translation unduly limits the meaning, which would be better expressed by "maintaining (or, exercising) the oversight," or "performing the duties of bishops," for he is addressing men who were already ordained. By this time the word "bishop" had not become a fixed title of one special office, though the office itself was in existence.

Not by constraint, but willingly.--Why should this exhortation be given so prominently? It is hardly to be thought that St. Peter had in view the humility which led men to adopt such strange methods of avoiding the responsibility of the priesthood as we find resorted to by Chrysostom and Ambrose. Much more probably he is thinking of the actual danger to life and property of being "ringleaders of the sect" (Acts 24:5), which would lead cowardly bishops to throw up their office. He is not treating of the motives which should lead a man to accept the position. He speaks to persons who already hold the office, and urges them not to leave the flock, like hirelings, when they see the persecution coming on. Several of the best authorities add," but willingly, according to God." It was God, that is, who put them in that station, and they must not need the compulsion of their laity, or of the rest of the episcopate, or of the Apostles, to keep them at their post.

Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.--The opposite vice to that on which he has just passed sentence. Some, who had no fears, might be tempted to retain the office by the good salary which the Church gave, or might threaten to resign if their salaries were not raised in proportion to their risk. The "ready mind," of which the Apostle speaks, means the love of the work itself, which should be the sole motive in seeking, or performing, the gospel ministry.

Verse 2. - Feed the flock of God which is among you; rather, tend, as a shepherd tends his flock. The verb ποιμάνατε is aorist, as if St. Peter wished to concentrate into one point of view all the labors of the ministerial life. He is echoing the word so solemnly addressed to himself by the risen Lord, "Feed my sheep ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου." The word covers all the various duties of the pastoral office: "Pasce mente, pasce ore, pasce operc, pasce animi oratione, verbi exhortatione, exempli exhibitione" (St. Bernard, quoted by Alford). St. Peter lays stress upon the solemn fact that the flock belongs to God, not to the shepherds (comp. Acts 20:28). Some understand the words rendered "which is among you τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν " as meaning" quantum in vobis est," "as far as lies in your power." Others as "that which is committed to you," or "that which is placed under your care." But the simple local meaning seems the best. Taking the oversight thereof. This word ἐπισκοποῦντες is not found in the Sinaitic and Vatican Manuscripts. Alford thinks that "it has, perhaps, been removed for ecclesiastical reasons, for fear πρεσβύτεροι should be supposed to be, as they really were, ἐπίσκοποι It is in the Alexandrine and most other ancient manuscripts and versions, and there seems to be no sufficient reason for omitting it. It shows that when this Epistle was written, the words πρεσβύτερος and ἐπίσκοπος, presbyter and bishop, were still synonymous (comp. Acts 20:17 and 28 in the Greek; also Titus 1:5 and 7). Not by constraint, but willingly. The word ἀναγκαστῶς, by constraint, occurs only here. St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 9:16), "Necessity is laid upon me;" but that was an inward necessity, the constraining love of Christ. Bede, quoted by Alford, says, "Coacte pascit gregem, qui propter rerum temporalium penurium non habens unde vivat, idcirco praedicat evangelium ut de evangelio vivere possit." Some good manuscripts add, after "willingly," the words κατὰ Θεόν, "according to God," i.e. according to his will (comp. Romans 8:27). Not for filthy lucre. The adverb αἰσχροκερδῶς occurs only here (for the thought, comp. 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7). It would seem that, even in the apostolic age, there were sometimes such opportunities of gain (see Titus 1:11; 2 Timothy 3:6) as to be a temptation to enter the ministry for the sake of money. St. Peter uses a strong word in condemnation of such a motive. But of a ready mind. This adverb προθύμως occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; it has a stronger meaning than the preceding word ἑκουσίως, willingly; it implies zeal and enthusiasm.

5:1-4 The apostle Peter does not command, but exhorts. He does not claim power to rule over all pastors and churches. It was the peculiar honour of Peter and a few more, to be witnesses of Christ's sufferings; but it is the privilege of all true Christians to partake of the glory that shall be revealed. These poor, dispersed, suffering Christians, were the flock of God, redeemed to God by the great Shepherd, living in holy love and communion, according to the will of God. They are also dignified with the title of God's heritage or clergy; his peculiar lot, chosen for his own people, to enjoy his special favour, and to do him special service. Christ is the chief Shepherd of the whole flock and heritage of God. And all faithful ministers will receive a crown of unfading glory, infinitely better and more honourable than all the authority, wealth, and pleasure of the world.Feed the flock of God which is among you,.... Some read, "as much as in you is"; that is, to the utmost of your power, according to your abilities, referring to the manner of feeding the flock, doing it in the best way they are capable of; but the phrase is rather descriptive of the flock to be fed, which points it out, and distinguishes it from all others, and for which they should have a particular regard; it being the flock, as the Syriac version renders it, which "is delivered unto you"; which was committed to their care, and they were made overseers of, and stood in a special relation to; wherefore it was incumbent on them to regard them, so as they did not, and were not obliged to regard, any other distinct flock: by "the flock of God"; or, "of Christ", as some copies read, is meant, not the whole world, which Philo the Jew (r) calls the greatest and most perfect, , "flock of the true God"; but the church of God, over which they were elders or pastors, consisting of Christ's sheep and lambs, he ordered Peter to feed, as he now does his fellow elders; and because they are the flock of God, which he has chosen, distinguished, and separated from the rest of the world, and has made the care and charge of Christ; put them into his hands, whence they are called the sheep of his hand; which he has purchased with his blood, and effectually called by his grace, and returned them to himself, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, who before were as sheep going astray, and folded them together in a Gospel church state; all this is a reason, and a strong one, why they should be fed; not with every wind of doctrine, which blows up the pride of human nature, and swells men with vain conceits of themselves; nor with the chaff of human doctrines; nor with trifling and speculative notions; but with knowledge and understanding of divine and evangelical truths, with the words of faith and sound doctrine, with the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ; with the Gospel of the grace of God, which contains milk for babes, and meat for strong men; and with a crucified Christ himself, who is the bread of life, and whose flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; by directing them to his person, blood, and righteousness, to live by faith on; by preaching the doctrines of peace and pardon by his blood, atonement and satisfaction by his sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation by his obedience and death: in short, feeding includes the whole of the pastor's work, the ministry of the word, the administration of ordinances, and the rule and government of the church, in the several branches of it; for the same word signifies to rule as to feed; and which work is further expressed by

taking the oversight thereof; that is, of the flock; or "take the care of it", as the Syriac version renders it, and adds, "spiritually"; in a spiritual manner; which is an interpretation of the phrase: an acting the part of a bishop or overseer of it, as the word signifies; looking diligently to it, inspecting into the various cases of the members of the church; using diligence to know the state of the flock, and performing all the offices of a careful shepherd; as feeding the flock; and not themselves; strengthening the diseased; healing the sick; binding up that which was broken; bringing again that which was driven away, and seeking that which was lost; watching over them that they go not astray; and restoring of them in the spirit of meekness, when they are gone out of the way; and overlooking both their practices and their principles; admonishing, reproving them for sin, as the case requires; and preserving them, as much as in them lies, from wolves, and beasts of prey; from false teachers, and from all errors and heresies: all which is to be done,

not by constraint; or with force, in a rigorous and severe manner; for this may be understood actively of pastors not forcing their flock, over driving them, or ruling them with force and cruelty, complained of in Ezekiel 34:4 or passively, of their being forced to feed the flock, and superintend it; as such may be said to be, who enter into the ministry, and continue in it, because obliged to it for want of a livelihood, and not knowing how to get one any other way; or through the pressing instances of relations, acquaintance, and friends; this ought not to be a matter of necessity, but of choice; they should be induced to it by no other necessity than what Christ has laid upon them, by calling them to the work, and furnishing them for it with the gifts of his Spirit; and should engage and continue in it by no other constraint than that of his love; wherefore it follows,

but willingly. The Vulgate Latin version adds, "according to God", and so some copies; according to the will of God, and agreeably to his word; and the Ethiopic version renders it, "with equity for God"; with all uprightness and integrity, for the sake of the honour and glory of God; this should be done with all a man's heart and soul, and should spring from pure love to Christ; for no man is fit to feed Christ's lambs and sheep but those who sincerely love him; see John 21:15, and from a cordial and affectionate concern for the good of souls; and from, an hearty desire unto, and delight in, the work itself; otherwise all he does will be as a task and burden; he will do it grudgingly, and with negligence, and will murmur under it, at least secretly. The Arabic version renders it, "watching, not forced watches, but willing ones". This contrast of phrases seems to be Jewish, or Rabbinical (s); it is a tradition of the Rabbans;

"blood which is defiled, and they sprinkle it ignorantly, it is accepted; presumptuously, not accepted; of what things are these said? of a private person; but of a congregation, whether ignorantly or presumptuously, it is accepted; and of a stranger, whether ignorantly or presumptuously, , "whether by constraint or willingly", it is not accepted:''

it follows here,

not for filthy lucre; not from a covetous disposition, which is a filthy one; and for the sake of gaining money, and amassing wealth and riches, as the false prophets in Isaiah's time, who were never satisfied; and the false teachers in the apostle's time, who, through covetousness, made merchandise of men, and supposed that gain was godliness; whereas there is no such thing as serving God and mammon; and as the work of the ministry should not be entered upon, and continued in, with any such sordid view; so neither for the sake of gaining glory and applause, a presidency, and chief place in the churches, and a name among the ministers of the Gospel, and credit and esteem among men:

but of a ready mind; or, "from the whole heart", as the Syriac version renders it; and in a cheerful view of reproaches and persecutions, of the loss of credit and reputation, of worldly substance, and of life itself; and with a sincere concern for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls; being ready to do everything with cheerfulness, that may contribute to either of these. The Ethiopic version renders it, "in the fulness of your heart with joy".

(r) De Agricultura, p. 195. (s) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 25. 1. Vid. T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 54. 1. & Maimon. Hilch. Issure Mizbeach, c. 4. sect. 5, 6.

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