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1 Peter 5:1-7: Leading and Being Led Through Suffering Print E-mail
1 Peter
Sunday, 13 May 2007

One of the real weapons that the enemy uses to discourage us during times of difficult suffering is to convince us that we must go through it on our own.  We have a tendency to think that we must face our trials alone.  Thus, when they come, we withdraw from others or at least try to convince everyone that we are fine and in need of no help.  Sometimes our pride tells us that there is more glory for making it through by ourselves.  Sometimes we pity ourselves so much that we would rather wallow in our struggles than find help from others (which is a symptom of pride as well).  All of us recognize these actions as the wrong way to deal with suffering, but the temptation is real nonetheless when things get difficult.

Peter tells us throughout this letter that we will suffer as Christians.  Last week we saw that the Lordís judgment will begin with the house of God (see 4:17), which, borrowing from Old Testament terminology and the temple, is a reference to the Church.  As we pointed out, Peter gives us some clear instructions for how we are to handle such suffering as Christians.  Yet, what about the community?  What is the role of the Church in times of suffering?  If we know that we are not to withdraw and try to handle things on our own, then how are we to persevere as a Church through this life that is filled with difficult days?

These are some of the questions that Peter answers for us in the first seven verses of chapter 5.  He is telling us that God has graciously given the Church under-shepherds to help lead the community in general and particularly through hard times.  These under-shepherds, or elders, have specific commands for leading the people.  Likewise, the Church has commands for being led by these under-shepherds.  By being faithful to these commands, the community can strengthen and serve one another during difficult times.  Thus, we want to examine these commands for the Church this morning that we might faithfully labor for one another.  We will begin with Peterís command to the elders.

Elders must shepherd the flock, providing oversight for the Church (v. 1-4).

After identifying with the elders in verse 1, Peter gives them their charge in verse 2a.  Look at those verses with me.  Peter commands the elders to shepherd the flock.  The main imperative in the passage for elders is to shepherd the flock, this is their charge.  He then explains that task a bit further by calling them to exercise oversight.  Peter sees the individual Churches as flocks of God and he charges the elders to look after them.  They are accountable for the care of the Church.  Peter does not identify the particular tasks that this oversight will involve, but we know from other passages that it involves feeding the sheep through preaching and teaching (see John 21:15-19, Acts 6:1-4, 20:26-27, 1 Timothy 3:2), protecting the sheep from wolves (see Acts 20:28-32), and keeping account for all the sheep (see Hebrews 13:17).  In a day when local pastors are compared to CEOís, we need to hear again Peterís charge to shepherd the flock.  It is risky and dangerous and even unpopular at times, but it is the elderís charge from God.  As one called to this task, I can only pray for Godís grace and strength to be faithful, fully admitting my shortcomings and my need for Him.

Peter goes on in verses 2b and 3 to give three warnings to the elders as they try to fulfill their calling.  Look at those verses with me.  First, they are not to shepherd under compulsion, but willingly.  An elder should never serve reluctantly or because someone forced them into the position.  Rather, they should serve because God has called them and equipped them for the task.  We should never try to talk people in to service as an elder, but trust that the Lord will raise up men to serve willingly.  Second, they are not to shepherd for shameful gain, but eagerly.  Unfortunately, Church History has taught us how men will be tempted by this.  Peter charges elders to look to the greater reward and to avoid the temptation of dishonest gain.  Third, they are not to shepherd in such a way as to lord their authority over the congregation.  The Lord knows that men in authority will always be tempted to abuse such authority.  This does not mean that authority is wrong or that elders should have no authority, but simply that elders should guard themselves against misusing such authority.

Instead of focusing on earthy gain, be it through money or power, Peter tells the elders to focus on the reward to come.  Look at verse 4.  Peter tells the elders that their current faithfulness through difficulties will lead to the unfading crown of glory.  Thus, elders are to be more concerned with the reward that comes from the Lord rather than the reward that comes from men.  Like the chief Shepherd, elders must keep their eyes on the prize as they face suffering here (see Hebrews 12:2).  He is the Head of the Church and He will reward those who faithfully oversee the flock that He purchased with His blood.  This is the charge that He has given us.

You may be thinking to yourself, ĎWilliam I am not an elder so how does this passage apply to me?í  Let me offer two responses.  First, hold me (and any other elder) accountable to be faithful to this text.  Do not let us waver from the charge in this text.  When I was preparing my sermon to preach at Mikeís ordination, I was really struck with the weight of this task by something that Paul says to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.  He states: Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  The charge to elders is to care for that which Christ purchased with His own blood.  I can only tremble at such a thought, which leads me to my next response.  Second, pray that God would give me (and others) grace to carry out this task.  I plead with you to pray hard for such grace.  May the Lord indeed raise up faithful men to shepherd His people. 

Peter gives further instructions for the congregation in the remaining verses.  Letís turn our attention to these.

Young people in particular and others in general are to submit to the elders (v. 5).

Peter addresses younger people in particular in verse 5a.  Look at that with me.  Even though some argue that Peter is calling for younger men to submit to older men in this passage, most see this as a particular charge to those who might struggle in submitting to those who hold the office of elder in the Church, or to the younger men (which could include younger women as well).  It is hard to know exactly why Peter would address the younger crowd, but since younger people often struggle with submission, it seems that Peter addresses them particularly. 

If he addresses the younger crowd in the beginning of the verse, he moves to the rest in the second part.  Look at verse 5b with me.  Here we see the charge to those who are under the care of the elders.  They are called to humble themselves under the care of the elders.  If the elders are laboring to shepherd them and offer oversight, then it will do them good to submit to their care and protection.  Peter adds that failure to submit out of pride and arrogance will be met with opposition from God.  As we have said in the past, this does not mean that people must submit no matter what.  Rather, it means that people cannot fail to submit simply because of pride.  God will oppose such action because He opposes the proud.  Yet, He will give grace to those who humble themselves under the authority of those that He has placed over them.  Peter continues to build on this idea as He addresses the whole Church in verses 6-7, which leads to our last point.

All of us must humble ourselves before God (v. 6-7).

Look at verses 6 and 7 with me.  The elders are to humble themselves by shepherding the flock of God faithfully.  The flock is to humble itself by submitting to those who are charged with overseeing them.  Both of these groups are called to humble themselves under Godís mighty hand.  It is God who gives the elders authority and they are to exercise that authority according to His commands as revealed in His Word.  Likewise, the flock is to recognize Godís care for them in providing elders and to humble themselves before Him in His provision.  Through this, the whole Church is humbling itself under the mighty hand of God.

As Peter has said again and again, we submit to God knowing that any present suffering will result in future reward.  Our humility here will result in future exaltation at the proper time.  As we struggle through difficult times together as the Body of Christ, we can trust that God, our faithful Creator, is preparing us for future glory.  Thus, we can cast all our anxieties upon Him knowing that He cares for us.  Peter calls us to trust in God over and over again because he knows that the Lord cares for us and is trustworthy.  Our worry and anxiety is a result of our lack of trust in God.  God cares for His people by ultimately redeeming them through the sacrifice of the chief Shepherd.  Yet, going even further, God cares for His people by providing under-shepherds to keep watch over them as they struggle through enemy occupied territory here on earth.  Thus, as we consider the glorious privilege of being a part of Godís people, may we continually humble ourselves before Him and cast all our cares at His feet.

If we are at all familiar with the life and teachings of our chief Shepherd, then this call to humility should not surprise us.  We began our service by reading from Luke 18, where Christ teaches us to be humble like the tax collector when we pray and to receive the Kingdom like a little child.  Likewise, before Christ was arrested in the garden, we read of Him clothing Himself with humility and washing the disciples feet, even the feet of Judas who would soon betray Him (see John 13).  Of course, the washing of the disciplesí feet was not Jesusí final or greatest act of humility.  No, that came at Calvary, when the Son of God willingly gave His life to redeem the Church.  Every time we are tempted by pride and arrogance, every time we are tempted to refuse to submit, may we remember the cross.  When I am tempted to be unfaithful in carrying out my charge to care for the sheep, I must be reminded of the Lamb who was slain to purchase our redemption.  If you are struggling this morning to clothe yourself with humility, then I encourage you to remember that Christ was clothed with nothing as He hung on that tree.  May the grace that He bought us there, that has brought us safe thus far, be the grace that leads us home.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 May 2007 )

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