Saturday, September 18, 2021

Led, Fed, Watched, and Warned - 1 Peter 5:1-4 - September 19, 2021

 1 Peter 5:1-4 Led, Fed, Watched, and Warned

Good morning! We are returning to our work in 1 Peter this morning, we will be looking at 1 Peter 5:1-4, page 1016 in the pew Bibles.

Today we are going to be dealing with one of the most important subjects in the whole Bible, not to oversell it because you’re already all here. The topic at hand in 1 Peter 5:1-4 is the responsibilities of church leadership. I bet that’s exactly what came to your minds when I said it was one of the most important subjects in the Bible, wasn’t it?

Well, it is!

I’d like to begin first with a passage from the Gospel of John and then we’ll pray and dive into 1 Peter.

John 10:11-16:

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Let’s pray

The Lord as a shepherd is a recurring theme in Scripture, Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm is one that everybody used to memorize and is recited at every funeral. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.

The New Testament refers to Jesus also as the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, He called Himself the Good Shepherd there in John 10.

And just as Jesus is our One Great Shepherd, He has called men throughout the ages to serve as His under-shepherds to follow His example of servant leadership, to feed and lead, to watch and to warn His sheep, and that is Peter’s concern in 1 Peter 5:1-4, not  the qualifications for theses under-shepherds, those can be found in the letters to Titus and Timothy, but Peter writes of the responsibilities of these men.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Peter begins with a reminder of the basis of the authority with which he exhorts the leaders within the churches, that he was a fellow elder with them, not prince of the Apostles, not the Vicar of Christ on earth, and certainly not the Pope, a fellow elder.

He was also a witness of the sufferings of Christ. He was there for the betrayal, the denial, the trial, beatings and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. But he was also a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed. He was there on the Mount of Transfiguration, he was a witness of the risen Christ and of His ascension back into Heaven.

Peter had been there through the whole ministry of Jesus Christ culminating in His death and resurrection and ascension. He was someone to be listened to. And now, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he earnestly appealed to the elders of the churches, as it says in verse 2, shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…

Now here in these opening verses Peter uses the three interchangeable words that the New Testament uses to describe those whom the Lord appoints to look after His church, “pastor, elder, overseer.”

I say that they are interchangeable because they are. 

The Greek words are: poimen, which means shepherd, the Latin word is Pasteur, where we get the word pastor; presbyteros, which means elder; and, epsikopos, which means overseer. You may recognize those words, they are where we get our words Presbyterian and Episcopalian, but why those words are used to describe some churches or denominations is a discussion for another day. 

What’s important is the role. As I said, Peter was not concerned at this moment on the qualifications but on the responsibilities of these men. I do want to point out just one qualification so that we avoid confusion, and that is that according to the Bible, pastors and elders are to be men, this is not a role in the church that is assigned to women. Don’t get mad and walk out, if you want, we can talk about it later, but for now bear with me. Elders were also not always the oldest in years, but rather those most experienced and mature among the churches. Age is no guarantee of maturity, I can prove it!

So what does Peter exhort the elders to do? Shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight.

There’s a lot to be learned just from that statement.

The flock, first of all, belongs to God.

As a pastor, I often get asked about “my church.” “How big is your church? Where is your church?” And I know what people mean, and I’m sure you do too, but the truth of the matter is, that the church belongs to God our Father, we were purchased with the blood of His Son, Peter himself called us “a people of His own possession.”

The church, individual churches do not belong to their individual pastors. The responsibility of pastors and elders is to shepherd the flock of God.

Now, not to put words into your mouths or thoughts into your brains but you may be wondering at this point, “what is the difference between pastors and elders?”

Biblically speaking there is no difference, I am an elder here at CrossRoads just like Kraig and Mr. Aron, I am only supported financially because my primary work is in preaching and teaching, but as you have all witnessed all of the elders are able to teach and do so on a regular basis. Not necessarily from here all the time but in daily and weekly interactions with you all.

The work of a shepherd, according to Alistair Begg, is to feed, to lead, to watch, and to warn.

A shepherd’s work is to lead the sheep entrusted to him to the wholesome pasture of the Word of God, to guard the sheep from the poisonous weeds of false doctrine, and wolves, that are false teachers, that would gobble them up or carry them off, and to go before the flock by their own example of love and good deeds.

19th Century French psychologist Claude Bernard said, “Tend [the flock] with your mind, with your mouth, with your work, tend it with prayer, with exhortation, and the exhibition of your example.”

And we have a remarkable pattern to follow, Jesus, the Good Shepherd! I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He is our example.

Paul wrote in one of the passages about the qualifications for elders, Titus chapter three, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

The task is indeed noble, but Peter warns against motivation that may not be so noble in verses 2-3.

…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

A warning against three terrible motivations to want to be a pastor or elder: compulsion, greed, and power.

I’ve often counseled young men who wanted to be pastors that if they could do anything else, if they could be anything else, do it.

Some even listened. But if God has truly called a person to this ministry they won’t be able to stay away from it for long. I praise God that those who listened to my counsel eventually found their way back and did so cheerfully. There is a lot of pressure on pastor’s kids to walk in their father’s footsteps, and some have been gifted for it and called to it but to be pressured into it by the expectations of their parents or others in the church is wrong.

There is also great temptation to use the office of overseer for shameful gain. Gilded thrones on tv sets and air conditioned dog houses come to mind, but even on smaller scales using titles and influence in the church family to get what you want when what you want has nothing to do for shepherding the flock faithfully is just as wrong.

The abuse of power is the third warning Peter gives, domineering over those in your charge. Just getting people to do what you want, controlling people, controlling churches, somehow feeding some psychological need to get what you want by ordering people around is a great temptation in the ministry of church leadership.

Martin Luther wrote, “Where the love of gain reigns, the shepherds are apt to become hirelings, even wolves… Those who pamper their body seek the milk and wool of the sheep.”

The church is not just some resource to exploit as so many have, but a family to lead and feed, to watch and to warn.

But Peter doesn’t just say “don’t do it this way,” don’t serve under compulsion, or for shameful gain in your never ending quest for power. Shepherd the flock willingly, cheerfully, by being examples for the flock.

Verse four reminds us that this ministry comes also with accountability and reward.  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Under-shepherds will give an account of their work to the Chief Shepherd when He comes, and He is coming, and that, right soon.

The reward He brings for faithful service is not sordid gain but noble gain, a true prize, an unfading crown of glory. This is also a team effort, nowhere in Scripture are the pastors/elders/overseers alone in this ministry, it’s always plural, there’s always a group.

This  ministry is critical for the church, and it’s critical that we do it according to the Lord’s pattern that He describes for us in His Word. 

Many flocks have wandered off and got lost because their shepherds weren’t faithful to follow the Great Shepherd and refused to feed the flock God’s true Word. 

Many sheep have gotten lost because their shepherds got distracted by other things, programs, buildings, publicity, and lost touch with individuals.

Here in the CrossRoads family there is room for improvement, and there is room for expansion. If any man should desire to be an overseer he desires a noble task, and the elders would like to hear about it.

I’d like to close with another quote from Alistair Begg, 

“I want to say to you again that if you care about [the] Church—not today—if you care about [the] Church, should the Lord not return, ten, twenty, thirty years from now, understand something: the election to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is nothing in comparison to the election of local leadership in a church so that generations yet unborn will be nurtured, led, fed, watched, warned, as a result of decisions made in a moment in time now that have longevity in history and then actually are eternal in their significance.”