In the last chapter of First Peter, Peter spends some time writing to the elders in his audience. The first word in the chapter is missed in some translations including the NIV< NRSV and NKJV – “Therefore.” This reminds us that what Peter is about to write is connected with what he was just talking about. 1 Peter 4 ended on a note of the reality of the final judgment of humanity. Therefore, elders have a very important job to do that has eternal consequence. Elders are shepherding people who are going to one day be judged. What an awesome, insane responsibility! How can one do such a thing with any degree of effectiveness?
First Peter speaks to them as a fellow elder (5:1). Next, Peter reminds them that they have the perfect example, not himself, rather Jesus who is the Chief Shepherd (5:4). When he appears is the same as when he comes to judge the world from the end of chapter four. Next, we see it is God who has placed the congregation under the care of the elders. God expects the elders not to rule over the flock but to care for the flock. They don’t serve begrudgingly but willingly and lovingly. Peter says “eagerly.” Next, we see the elders need to keep an eye on what is going on as they “watch over” the flock. I almost wrote “their flock” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. The flock belongs to Jesus and the elders have been entrusted to care for the flock until Jesus comes back. Last, we see that the elders are not to domineer the flock (lord it over, become master of). This word is used four times in the Greek New Testament: Matt 20:25/Mark 10:42 (rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them but not so with you), Acts 19:16 where a demon possessed man overpowers people and here in 1 Peter 5.
What is the result of elders behaving in a way in line with Christ and the words of Peter here in chapter 5? The result is eternal reward when Jesus, the Chief Shepherd appears.
Peter then gives instructions specifically to the younger men that they are to submit to the leadership of their elders. Keep in mind these are elders who are not lording it over anyone but are watching over instead and are doing so willingly and lovingly. These are the kind of leaders that make it easy to submit to their leadership. There are no perfect elders but elders can make it easy or hard for people to follow them based largely on how well they embody what Peter teaches in this chapter.
Next they are to show humility not only to each other (5:5) but also to God (5:6). When you do that God will lift you up (5:6), receive your anxiety (5:7) and bring you glory and restoration (5:10).
The elders should lead through all of these things by example. It is important that we treat our elders with love and respect and that they do so toward the congregation as well. This is why mutual humility is necessary because we all make mistakes and we are all working toward the same goal in Christ.