Life-Study of 1 Peterby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 5:1 Peter says, “Therefore, the elders among you I entreat, who am a fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory about to be revealed.” The word “therefore” indicates that 5:1-11 is a concluding word to the preceding section (4:12-19) concerning suffering for Christ in nobly doing right. The exhortation is spread over the elders in the church in verses 1 through 4, the younger members in verse 5, and all in common in verses 6 through 11.
In 5:1-4 Peter speaks to the elders. Elders are the overseers of the church, who take the lead among the believers in spiritual things (Heb. 13:17). The apostle entreats them first, expecting that they will take the lead to nobly suffer for Christ.
Peter was the first of the initial apostles (Matt. 10:1-4; Acts 1:13), and, at the same time, he was one of the elders in the church at Jerusalem, as was the apostle John (2 John 1; 3 John 1; Acts 15:6; 21:17-18). Here, in exhorting the elders in the other churches, he does not use his apostleship, but his eldership, in order to speak with them on their level in an intimate way.
In 5:1 Peter refers to himself as a witness of the sufferings of Christ. Peter and the early apostles were witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8), not only as eyewitnesses testifying what they had seen of Christ’s suffering (Acts 5:32; 10:39), but also as martyrs vindicating their testimony by suffering martyrdom for Him (Acts 22:20; 2 Cor. 1:8-9; 4:10-11; 11:23; 1 Cor. 15:31). This is to share the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13), to participate in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10).
Peter also says in 5:1 that he is a partaker of the glory about to be revealed. Peter was first a witness, a martyr, a partaker of the sufferings of Christ. Then he was a partaker of His glory (Rom. 8:17). Christ Himself had gone the same way (1 Pet. 1:11; Luke 24:26).
In Greek witness and martyr are the same word. This indicates that we need to bear testimony as a witness even at the risk of being a martyr, of sacrificing our lives. This is what Peter did. On the day of Pentecost Peter gave a strong testimony, witnessing of the sufferings of Christ. He boldly told the Jews that they had crucified the Lord Jesus. Before the day of Pentecost, however, Peter was not bold. Rather, he was timid. The night the Lord Jesus was betrayed Peter denied that he was one of His followers. In the presence of the Lord, Peter denied the Lord. Actually, that was not Peter, a stone; it was Simon, a lump of clay. But on the day of Pentecost Peter had the boldness to rebuke the Jews for crucifying the Lord Jesus. After that, Peter began to suffer persecution. He was arrested and put into prison. He was willing to risk his life to be a witness for the Lord Jesus.
Peter, no doubt, remembered the Lord’s word in Acts 1 about witnesses. When the disciples asked the Lord about the restoring of the kingdom to Israel, He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). Peter was the first to become such a witness. He was a leading witness, a martyr, one who was willing to sacrifice his life to testify of the sufferings of Christ. Eventually, Peter himself was martyred. He sacrificed his life as part of his witness for Christ. This was the fulfillment of the Lord’s word to him in John 21:18, a word concerning “by what kind of death he would glorify God” (John 21:19). When Peter wrote his first Epistle, he was quite old. When he wrote his second Epistle, he knew that the time of his martyrdom was near: “Knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is imminent, even as also our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me” (2 Pet. 1:14). When Peter wrote these Epistles, he was reminded of the words of the Lord’s prophecy concerning him. In 5:1 we see that Peter had a threefold status. He was a fellow-elder, he was a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and he was a partaker of the glory about to be revealed.
Every elder needs to be a witness of the sufferings of Christ. This means that the elders should be ready to sacrifice their lives as part of their testimony. If a brother is not willing to risk his life, he is not qualified to be an elder. Every elder should be a martyr, one who sacrifices his life for Christ. Being a partaker of Christ’s glory depends on being such a martyr. If the elders are willing to be martyred, if they are willing to risk their lives, then surely they will be partakers of the glory about to be revealed. But if the elders are not willing to sacrifice their lives, then instead of partaking of glory at the Lord’s coming, they will probably be rebuked by Him.
As we have seen, in 4:19 Peter says, “Wherefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in welldoing to a faithful Creator.” Here, “welldoing” refers to doing right, good, and noble deeds. Committing our souls to a faithful Creator is effective only if we are engaged in welldoing, that is, if we are doing noble deeds. Nothing is more noble than dying as a martyr for the Lord. Polycarp was an example of a noble martyr. One who had learned from the apostle John, Polycarp was martyred when he was more than eighty years of age. Before he died, he was given an opportunity to save himself by denying the Lord. Polycarp refused, saying that he could not deny the One who had always been faithful to him. Surely Polycarp was not only bold and courageous—he was noble. At the cost of his life, he nobly confessed the Lord before his persecutors.
When we act in such a noble way, we have the ground to commit our souls to a faithful Creator. He is altogether faithful. But are we faithful? Are we doing noble deeds? Do we care for His testimony in a noble way? When the Lord Jesus was being tried before His crucifixion, Peter was not at all noble. But later, in the book of Acts, Peter witnessed for Christ before his persecutors in a noble way. For example, Peter and John said to the persecutors, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Peter and the other apostles committed their souls in welldoing to a faithful Creator. Surely Peter was able to say, “Lord, You are faithful to me. Now I would be faithful to You. I would be faithful to You at the cost of my life.” Certainly the Lord would honor such a noble commitment.
Because Peter was a noble witness, a noble martyr, he had the assurance that he would be a partaker of the coming glory. I would like to ask a question of the elders: Do you have the assurance that you also are partakers of the glory to be revealed? I question whether most of the elders have this assurance. Perhaps the elders can say that they are witnesses. However, whether an elder will be a partaker of the glory to come depends upon how noble and faithful he is as a witness. The point here is that an elder must be willing to sacrifice himself.
Not only the elders themselves, but the elders’ wives also need to have the concept of sacrifice in relation to the eldership. It is not right for a wife to feel uplifted when her husband is put into the eldership. Actually it is shameful for a wife to feel that way. To be an elder is not a matter of gain; it is a matter of sacrifice. Any brother who would be a good elder must sacrifice himself. He will have to sacrifice his time and even his family life. Being an elder is not a matter of gaining position or receiving personal honor. The eldership requires sacrifice. Any elder who is not willing to sacrifice will not be a qualified elder. The elders should always have the willingness to sacrifice themselves. The elders will need to sacrifice not only their time and their energy, but even their lives. If the elders are willing to sacrifice in this way, then they will be witnesses of the sufferings of Christ and partakers of the coming glory. First an elder must participate in Christ’s suffering. Only then can he share in Christ’s glory. I hope that all the elders will take this word.
I can testify that all the churches in the Lord’s recovery have been raised up, established, and built up for the most part due to the faithfulness and sacrifice of the elders. I would say that the establishing and the building up of the churches is perhaps sixty or seventy percent due to the elders’ labor and sacrifice, and thirty to forty percent due to the ministry. Seeing these percentages will help us to realize the importance of the eldership. Where there is a loyal, faithful, and sacrificing eldership, the church will be strong and established. The same ministry serves all the churches. However, some churches are strong and others are rather weak. Whether a church is strong or weak depends upon the loyalty, faithfulness, and sacrifice of the elders. We thank the Lord that in His recovery, for the most part, the elders are loyal, faithful, and willing to sacrifice.
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