Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1 Peter 5 – Elder Shepherds

[Topics in 1 Peter – Election and inheritance, Separation, Submission, Suffering]

I Peter 5:1-7

About 20 years ago a funny piece was written called "The Perfect Pastor". It's a wonderful composite of the expectations that every pastor feels from his people:

"After hundreds of years the perfect pastor's been found. He is the leader who'll please everyone. He preaches exactly 20 minutes and then sits down. He condemns sin, but never steps on anybody's toes. He works from eight in the morning to ten at night, doing everything from preaching sermons to sweeping. He makes $400 per week, gives $100 a week to the church, drives a late-model car, buys a lot of books, wears fine clothes, and has a nice family. He always stands ready to contribute to every good cause, and to help panhandlers who drop by the church on their way to somewhere. He is thirty-six years old, and has been preaching forty years. He is tall, on the short side; heavyset, in a thin sort of way; and handsome. He has eyes of blue or brown (to fit the occasion), and wears his hair parted in the middle – left side dark and straight, right side brown and wavy. He has a burning desire to work with the youth, and spends all his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time while keeping a straight face, because he has a keen sense of humor that finds him seriously dedicated. He makes fifteen calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing nonmembers, and is always found in his study if he is needed. Unfortunately he burned himself out and died at the age of thirty two."

Now that's a heavy burden to carry! While the exaggeration of "pastoral expectations" is humorous, the effect of them can be painfully real. In his book "Pastors at Risk", H.B. London quotes some startling statistics from a survey of pastors conducted in 1991 by the Fuller Institute:
80% believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively
33% say that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job
90% feel they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

This suggests that Satan is still targeting the "shepherds" to trip up the sheep. In 1 Peter 5:1-4, the apostle relates to his "fellow elders" by reminding them of particular rules that apply to their calling as shepherds of God's flock. He then goes on to address rules for the sheep that are under their particular care in verses 5-7.

I . Rules for Elders (5:1-4)

1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:

[Throughout Scripture, the Holy Spirit affirms that the spiritual leadership and responsibility of the church belongs to elders. The first mention of elders is in Acts 11:30, where they are described as the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Subsequent references (Acts 14:23; 15:4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4, 20:17, 21:18) continue to make clear the elder role within the church. In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul identifies them as those men who rule while laboring "in the word and doctrine". Titus 1:5 establishes that elders were to lead every church in every city. The qualifications for such men appear in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

The word for elder is (presbuteos; cf. 1 Tim. 5:19; 2 John 1; 3 John 1).

The word "elder" emphasizes the man's spiritual maturity necessary for such ministry.

2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;

[The task of the elder to "shepherd the flock" carries with it an unequaled responsibility before the Lord of the church. While it includes the positive elements of spiritual leadership toward maturity and Christ-likeness, and spiritual guardianship to protect the flock, its chief objective is the feeding of the flock through the skillful preaching and teaching of divine revelation, which is the source of all those positive elements.

Some manuscripts add "according to God" after "willingly", highlighting a willing response to the call of God to leadership. In John 21:15-17 we remember the encounter on the sea shore between Simon and His Savior. Jesus asked Simon Peter three times if he loved Him, and following Peter's affirming response Jesus commanded Him, "feed my sheep" 3 times but used slightly different words to convey 3 tasks – feed the young lambs, shepherd the flock, feed the flock. Peter warns the elders about three dangerous temptations in ministry leadership: 1) laziness (not by compulsion), 2) the love of money (dishonest gain), and 3) lording their position over others (being lords over those entrusted to you – suggesting a prideful heart).

They should instead serve the flock of God "willingly", "eagerly", and humbly; knowing that it is Christ Who has called them, commissioned them, and will hold them accountable. ]

3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;

[Peter, then admonishes the elders to "be examples to the flock". Pastors are to establish a pattern of godliness for their people to follow. The most important aspect of spiritual leadership and the best test of its effectiveness is the power of an exemplary life (see the Apostle Paul's application of this in Acts 20:17-38; 2 Cor. 1:12-14; 6:3-13; 11:7-11; 1 Thess. 2:1-10; 2 Thess. 3:7-9; 2 Tim. 1:13-14). Paul even went so far as to exhort his "sheep" to be imitators of him (I Cor. 4:16; 11:1; 1 Thess. 1:6)!]

4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

[Peter reminds his fellow elders that one day (Christ's revelation at the Second Coming) the Chief Shepherd (Jesus Himself) will appear and reward them with the "crown of glory". In the Greco-Roman world of Peter's day, crowns rather than trophies were the awards for victory at athletic events. Paul speaks of the imperishable crowns that await believers who run the race of faith in 1 Cor. 9:24-25.

James wrote of the crown that is life (James 1:12). Paul wrote of the crown which is righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8), and the crown that is rejoicing (I Thess. 2:19). Even the finest of earthly crowns will eventually rust, or fade away, but all facets of these crowns are of eternal blessing and are imperishable!

The reward of eternal glory ought to be all the reason any shepherd needs for desiring to serve faithfully. The full expression of a shepherd's eternal, glorious crown will be in proportion to his faithful service on earth (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Rev. 2:10).

Shepherding the flock is a serious, sobering responsibility, and elders are accountable to God for their ministry. James was fully aware of that accountability when he wrote, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).

Not only does Peter admonish the Shepherds in this passage, he admonishes the sheep under their care. ]

II. Rules for the Sheep (5:5-7)

5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
      " God resists the proud,
gives grace to the humble."(Prov. 3:34)

[Peter uses homoios ("likewise" or "in the same way") as a transition word. The word marks a change of focus from one group to another. In verse 1-4 Peter addressed church leaders; now he turns to the congregation. As shepherds submit to the Chief Shepherd, so the flock submits to their shepherds.

Submission is a fundamental attitude of spiritual maturity (1 Cor. 6:15; 1 Thess. 5:12-14; Titus 3:1,2; Heb. 13:7, 17).

Although no one is exempt from Peter's exhortation that everyone is to be submissive to their "elders", he targets specifically the "younger people". Though it is not stated in this context why he singled them out, he probably did so because they generally tend to be the most aggressive and headstrong members of any group.

The term that Peter uses for "submit" in this verse is a military terms which means to "line up under". He calls everyone in the church to put aside self-promoting pride and willingly and respectfully place themselves under the leadership of their shepherds (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 3:7).

Given the previous context of verses 1-4, "elders" clearly refers to spiritual leaders, the shepherds and pastors, not merely to older saints. That the entire church has the obligation to submit to those God has placed in authority over it, is also a theme in Paul's letters:

"Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors" (1 Cor. 16:15-16).

"But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another" (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

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