Series: Maintaining this hope
Message – From Peter to the Shepherds among you…
From Peter to the Shepherds among you…
In giving these last instructions, Peter lays out their reason for listening to and trusting his words.
This is a bit of a departure from the norm. Usually such credentials are mentioned at the introduction of a letter, but in this letter Peter almost does the opposite.
At the beginning of this letter, other than the mention of his being an Apostle, he spends most of his introduction establishing the eternal value of those he is writing too. He refers to them as chosen and set apart by the Spirit – as if he were laying out their credentials as saints.
It is only here at the closing of the letter that Peter points to reasons to heed his words. I believe the reason for this is because the first of his closing instructions are to the leaders of the local churches – the elders.
Now we have spent a LOT of time in this church teaching on elders, so I will just mention here that without ANY question elders ARE Pastors. This is often met with dissidence, but I encourage everyone to check out this article on our site and then using the scriptures ALONE for your guide to truth, come to your own conclusion. [See – Why Elders?]
Peter here begins with,
“(1) So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed,
I urge the elders among you:”
So Peter is offering instruction to elders as being one himself. He calls himself by the word Sumpresbuteros which is translated as “fellow elder” but really means an elder together with and like you.
This is a bit of a kick in the pants for Catholic dogma since Peter lays claim to no special position in the church or even among these elders other than being one of the Apostles. According to him, he is simply just “one of the guys” – a pastor, no better and no worse than themselves.
He points to where his credentials outstrip theirs in that he was an eye-witness of the Messiah’s suffering. By which, Peter had the entire landscape of Jesus’ life in view rather than just His beating and crucifixion.
You may remember how in the upper room as they were awaiting the pouring out of the Holy Spirit with fasting and praying, they appointed a replacement for Judas Iscariot. In typical fashion it was Peter who spoke up and explained how it HAD TO BE a MAN, who had been with them throughout Jesus’ ministry, beginning at His baptism by John until the time He was taken up into heaven.
He had to be an EYE-WITNESS! This offered the apostles the highest credentials one could have – a reliable account of Jesus and His teachings from eye-witness testimony.
Finally, he adds that he is one who shares in the glory that will be revealed. Peter actually goes into this quite a bit in his next letter, but he mentions it here.
The word “shares” is akin to koinonia, it is koinonos a partner, companion and partaker in the glory that will be revealed,
Whether he is referring to the glory which all believers will see and partake of as brothers and sisters in Christ, or that particular glory elders will receive I do not know, but it was on the basis of these three things that he addressed the elders among them!
- That he was a fellow elder
- An eye witness of Jesus’ sufferings
- And a partner, companion and partaker of the glory to be revealed
Also, notice how the early church thought and acted. While the elders were held in high regard, they were no more or less saints than the common sibling in Christ and were all equally accountable before one another.
Peter does not write a separate letter entitled, “FOR ELDERS EYES ONLY”. He encourages the elders to proper behavior right in front of all the sheep. This serves several purposes.
- It encourages accountability among all.
- It puts the leaders forth as servants of the sheep on behalf of Christ
- It publicly reveals the job of an elder so as to encourage the sheep to respond to their leadership property
- It also publicly reveals the job of an elder so as to inform the sheep of what to expect from an elder, since according to scripture… if an elder is known to be failing their job – sheep are encouraged to bring accusation against them to the other elders.
This encourages community and family and discourages cliches and a pious system of hierarchy in the church.
Again, there IS to be respect to the elders and that is addressed later, but this method of addressing them publicly serves to keep servant leaders as servant leaders.
Peter says TO the elders in front of the sheep….
“I urge the elders among you:
(2) Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly.”
Peter covers A LOT here with an economy of words and he was eminently qualified to say these words since they were once spoken to him in so many words by the Lord Who was encouraging a heavy hearted and defeated Peter that he still had a promising career in the kingdom – a vital role to play in leading, feeding, protecting and tending to Jesus’ precious lambs.
You remember… Jesus beach
Jesus was investing trust in Peter by placing the care of His sheep into his hands which is why Jesus began each encouragement with the question, “Peter do you love Me more…?”
I have absolutely no doubt that Peter carried that conversation he’d had with Jesus that morning on the beach throughout his entire ministry and that it played a huge part in shaping the man of God he became.
So here I’m sure in his own letter to these elders, Jesus’ words were freshly remembered as he encouraged them along the same lines as his Lord had encouraged him.
He tells them what they are to do:
- Give a shepherd’s care
- This was something well understood in that part of the world. A shepherd’s job was to devote their lives to the care, management, upkeep, protection and feeding of the flock.
- Peter later mentions how satan is like a predatory lion, looking for that one straying sheep which might be easy pickings. A good spiritual shepherd will take a proactive role in defense of the sheep like the natural shepherd David did in his protection of his lambs.
He reminds them:
- These sheep are precious because they belong to God – they don’t belong to you!
He reminds them that their authority has limits:
- They have the oversight – NOT dictatorship
- They have oversight of the sheep AMONG THEM not ALL sheep. This is one of the reasons why I have a problem with “Pastors” who have a “traveling international reach”. If they are true shepherds their place is with their sheep. I’ll leave that right there.
He tells them the kind of heart they HAVE TO HAVE in their leading:
“exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly”
What did he mean by this?
Exercising oversight not because you have to, but willingly?
I think this is much like the Old Testament command of being willing AND obedient.
Paul said this of his own calling and motive for service. Also of some significance is that Paul talks about this directly alongside being paid for the work of the ministry – just like this passage does. Let’s look at it.
It’s found in 1Cor. 9:1-18,
“(1) Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? (2) If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (3) My defense to those who examine me is this: (4) Do we have no right to eat and drink? (5) Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? (6) Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? (7) Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? (8) Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? (9) For it is written in the law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE AN OX WHILE IT TREADS OUT THE GRAIN.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? (10) Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. (11) If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? (12) If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. (13) Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? (14) Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (15) But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. (16) For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! (17) For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. (18) What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”
If I do this willingly: this phrase may or may not be connected to the issue of payment. I’m inclined to think it isn’t.
If it is against their will that they serve (whether with or without compensation), then they have been entrusted with a stewardship.
This is not saying that stewardship is bad, but simply that God knows how we are made, and this statement is as close to the idiom, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” as you are likely to find in the bible.
God does not just want obedience, He wants hearts. I understand this perhaps better than most.
Person Testimony of WILLING obedience…
Before my encounter, I was so frustrated in my Christian walk and ministry work that in order to cope I determined to not seek enjoyment at all. Just do the work and get it over with – was my inner mantra.
I wanted to “get the prize” without giving my heart. I literally said to God, “Listen just tell me what to do…I don’t want any of your earthly rewards for service – that just makes me feel like a dog who gets a treat for fetching a stick. I’ll do what you say, I’ll teach the truth as best I know how – but I don’t want your blessings – you can keep them for some other lap dog. I’m in this to do whatever I have to do and then I want this life to end – and the quicker I can get it over with the better!] Needless to say I was not a model minister or even child at that point. It took God wrecking my heart and bringing me to absolute ZERO before I was broken and open to receive His overwhelming love flooding into my heart which caused me to see His heart and everything changed!
I wasn’t some pet, performing for His entertainment for which he condescendingly threw a treat (a blessing) for a good performance. I am His son and co-worker in the kingdom. We do life together and He shepherds through me. I do not perform FOR I labor WITH! Arm-in-arm as joint heirs of the kingdom in true koinonia. What a distorted perspective I was saved from – and that is just one arena of my heart that got rescued that day. Jesus really is my rescue story!
Peter goes on to say an elder’s service not only needed to be a matter of heart like Jesus asking Peter about his love for Him before commissioning him to the work of shepherding, but also they are to do it “under God’s direction”
This addresses not only what an elder does, but also ARE they are CALLED to do it. Are they really an elder at all?
Is being an elder a calling or a choice?
This is something which is actually questioned biblically about elders period. Is it a calling or just something one does who meets the qualifications and wants to do it?
I believe the answer is… Most likely both.
If we turn to Acts 20:28-35 it reveals one side of the debate and then we will read another passage that addresses the other side of the issue.
“(28) Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers*, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. (29) I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. (32) And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (33) I have desired no one’s silver or gold or clothing. (34) You yourselves know that these hands of mine provided for my needs and the needs of those who were with me. (35) By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
So here Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sees elders as a calling. The Holy Spirit is said to be the One who MADE THEM overseers to shepherd the flock.
Now the word overseer or guardian is a term which was taken over in Christian communities in reference to one who served in the capacity of a supervisor, with special interest in maintaining and guarding against the corruption of the doctrine of the apostles who in turn received it originally and directly from Jesus Himself. It really isn’t a “title” it is more of a functional term describing the role of the elders (see v. Act_20:17). They were to guard and shepherd the congregation.
Now when Paul was writing to Timothy he makes a statement which spoke of someone desiring the position of a bishop – as if that desire in itself might open the door to becoming one.
It’s found in 1Tim. 3:1, let’s read it.
“This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.”
The idea behind this statement is more like this: “This is a good, noble, honorable work. Timothy, you need to look for good, noble, honorable men called of God to fill this role.”
The word aspires, seems tricky on the surface. If used literally means to stretch oneself, reaching after something. If used metaphorically as it is here in this common phrase, it means to covet, long after, desire be ambitious regarding.
As such it speaks to desire. It is very likely just saying that any man who lovingly longs to lead and feed God’s people has directed the affections of his mind towards an excellent labor and employment.
It does NOT mean that the desire alone equates to a calling.
Back to our passage in 1 Peter 5…So far he has told them,
“(2) Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction,
not for shameful profit but eagerly”
As I said earlier, Paul addressed the issue of payment alongside the issue of service when he said his reward was that he, may present the gospel of Christ without charge.
First off, let me say that there is a difference between “charge” and “pay”.
It is sometimes erroneously taught that Paul would not receive payment and that is simply not the case. In his letters, he speaks of those churches who partnered with him in his work. Paul received financial assistance from several churches throughout his ministry – he simply did not CHARGE for his spiritual leadership and teaching.
One commentator had this to say about this-
In Paul’s day, there were a lot of religious entrepreneurs, who were out to preach some message to get money. Paul was happy to distance himself from such by never taking an offering, so no one would think he might abuse [his] authority in the gospel. This was Paul’s reward!
We may not ever be faced with the same decision Paul faced – to accept or deny support for the good of the gospel. But we each have a critical question to answer: what rights are you willing to sacrifice for the cause of Jesus?
Next Peter tells them…
“(3) And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock.”
As important as this is, it is self explanatory and has already been addressed when he referred to sheep as belonging to God in the previous verse.
We also see here that it really is a stewardship, but it is one of the heart, not solely of duty. Just like we read in Acts 20, the Holy Spirit placed them as overseers to shepherd the flock OF GOD. Just like Jesus talking to Peter – making his love for the Lord a primary qualifier for serving Him especially in this capacity. He is entrusting His sheep to these men.
Jesus in His teaching said that a hireling does not care for the sheep – which had direct implications for their care for and protection of the sheep.
God promised Israel through Jeremiah long ago that when the New Covenant was established He would, “give you shepherds according to My heart, who will be faithful to Me. They will lead you with knowledge and insight.” ~ Jer 3:15.
As to the reward…
“(4) Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away.”
Next week we will wrap up Peter’s first letter with the final “in the same way” statement he addresses, which has to do with how we all live together in submission and humility.
“(5) In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”