This is the application essay from a Bible study that I was assigned to for my Spiritual Formation class.
In 1 Peter chapter 5, Peter instructs elders as their fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, (1 Peter 5:1) clearly establishing his authority but also setting up his next topic: being an example.
He gives the elders one instruction: shepherd the flock of God among you, and then lays down how they are to carry that out (5:2). He instructs them that they are to exercise oversightin three ways; not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God (5:2); not for sordid gain, but with eagerness (5:2); and not as lording it over those allotted to [their] charge, but proving to be examples to the flock (5:3).
In the preceding passage, Peter draws out the idea of setting an example but applies it to the entire body of believers. He urges the church to do what is right, saying, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler (4:15).” This is a point that he has been making throughout his letter. He then gives instructions for those who suffer as Christians, saying that they are not to be ashamed, but [are] to glorify God in this name (4:16) and that those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (4:19, emphasis mine).
Why does Peter say these things? His reason is in verse 17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” Even—perhaps especially—in the midst of suffering it is the church’s responsibility to set an example by doing good. Peter goes on to say, “[A]nd if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (4:17-18). Peter seems to be saying that if the church cannot even set a godly example, how then will the unsaved come to know the gospel?
Peter writes these things to his first century readers, but they are just as applicable to the body of Christ today. Though persecution, for the most part, is something that we are unfamiliar with, there are other kinds of suffering that we face. To some extent, even our responsibility to deny ourselves the pleasures of our sin natures can be painful though it is for our good. Peter calls the believers to live lives of conformity to the example of Christ, setting His example forth for those who are unsaved so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
*All Scripture quotations come from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.