Be Self-controlled and Alert- 1 Peter 5:8

In this verse, Peter gives a very direct command, in the form of two imperatives, as to how believers can prevent themselves from falling prey to the wiles of the devil, commanding us here to be “self-controlled and alert”. This command consists of only two Greek words, the aorist imperatives of nepho (self-controlled) and gregoreo (alert). The aorist tense has no time significance in the Greek language, it does not limit this command to any particular point in time, which has the effect of making this a command which is to be adhered to at all times. We are first commanded to be self-controlled (nepho), which in the Greek language refers to the opposite of intoxication. Peter here, however, uses the idea of self-control which is derived from the Old Testament, in which self-control referred to a readiness to render obedient service to God. It referred to a clear understanding and following of God’s revelation, of an understanding what God has revealed in His word and an earnest endeavor to live according to that revelation, to live as a sheep who follows the shepherd (more on the shepherd metaphor shortly). The second command is to be alert (gregoreo). This Greek word refers to one who has his eyes wide open, who is watchful, who is vigilant. This refers to one who is aware of his surroundings, who remains focused clearly on something and whose eyes are not closed due to lack of vigilance or averted through distraction. It must be noted here that Peter places this command immediately following his command for us to “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (verse 7). Peter here shows us a direct link between the presence of anxiety and the absence of self-control and vigilance. Here we discover that anxiety (worry and fear) are the primary hindrance to self-control and vigilance. It is fear and worry which keep us from following God’s direction for our lives, and which also cause us to take our eyes off what we are supposed to focus on. It is at this point in which the shepherd metaphor returns, for Peter tells us next that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. We must remember that the context of this entire passage, from verse one through verse eleven, is of shepherds (verse 2, 4) and their flock (verse 3). Peter here gives us instruction as to how we are to live as those who will be “insulted because of the name of Christ” (1 Peter 4:14), and he also tells us here that we have an enemy who will seek to prevent us from living for the name of Christ, or, to return to the shepherd metaphor, to keep the sheep from following the shepherd. This is why Peter compares our enemy (the devil) to a roaring lion, because the lion here is prowling around looking for a sheep to devour. Peter tells us here, through his two commands, exactly which sheep become easy prey for the lion, it is the sheep who lack vigilance and self-control. This refers to the sheep who have, first of all, failed to be watchful. This does not mean they failed to be watchful for the lion, but that they failed to be watchful for the shepherd. It is the job of the shepherd to watch for the lion, and the only job of the sheep is to keep its eyes on the shepherd , and it is those sheep whose eyes are somehow diverted or distracted from the shepherd who become those the lion “may devour”. This also refers to sheep who lack a clear understanding of the Word of God, who become intoxicated (the opposite of self-controlled) by the things of this world, who become enamored of the world’s philosophies and run off after some other “revelation”, wandering too far from the shepherd, and also become those whom the lion may devour. So Peter tells us here how we are to go about avoiding becoming prey for our enemy, and we are to do so by continually doing two things. First, we are to devote ourselves to developing a clear understanding of God’s direction for our lives, of God’s revelation to us through His word, that we may not be led astray from hearing His voice and following Him (John 10:27), wandering off to become easy prey for our enemy. Second, we must be vigilant, keeping our eyes wide open and focused upon our Shepherd, not being diverted or distracted by the wiles of the devil to take our eyes off the Shepherd even for a moment. It is only as we continue to follow these two commands that we will be able to follow the Shepherd to green pastures and still waters, and keep from being devoured by our enemy.

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