1 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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Hopefully, as we continue to study the bible together we are learning about some important writing styles and definitions. In this weeks example, the beginning of verse 1 with “So” should have triggered us to read the previous context to know what the verse is based on. It is similar to the word “therefore”.
This chapter continues on from the end of chapter 4, where Peter was talking about the suffering faced as a Christian. In context, he is saying we are going to suffer, but realize it is not a worthless torture. When we suffer for God’s will, it will be for His good purpose. Christ himself showed how to serve through torture. He was humble through all the world’s opposition with one objective in mind, love, lead and save His people.
Peter’s relationship with the church and with God is laid out in an amazing way as he opens chapter 5. Peter declares that he is an elder of the church, much like the ones he is writing to. He is clearly attempting to align with his readers, as being one of them.
For decades the church has organized itself in a variety of ways using the terms “elders”, “pastors”, and such. Peter does not throw around his apostleship at this point, but humbles himself to relate directly with his readers. To fully grasp this we need to understand what an Apostle is and what makes it different than an elder or even a disciple.
The bible uses the term elders many times and it is a reference to a church leader, one that can lead, teach and assist the church members. Peter calls himself an elder even though he was an Apostle in the church at the time. In the hierarchy of the structures of authority in the New Testament, at the top is God the Father, who then delegated all authority in heaven and on earth to His son, Jesus, who was the head of the church. Jesus then in turn, authorized some to speak with His authority, and those were called Apostles.
Apostles are sometimes referred to as disciples, but they are not the same. A disciple is a student, but an Apostle is is one selected and sent as a delegate to speak with the authority of Christ Himself. To be an Apostle, one first had to have been a disciple under the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ and an eye-witness of the resurrection. Notice how Peter frames his identity as an elder?
“a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed”
He casually clarifies that he has been with Jesus and that he has witnessed the resurrected Christ, the glory we would all love to see. This would have been really evident to the readers about Peter’s authority.
There has also been much discussion about Paul’s authority, since he wrote over half of the new testament yet did not meet the criteria outlined. It was clear that Paul was not a disciple of Jesus during His earthy ministry, nor had he been an eyewitness of the resurrection. Jesus did not appear to Paul until after His ascension into Heaven. Three times in the book of Acts it is recorded Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and being called by Christ to be an Apostle.
We find the names of the 12 apostles in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:14-19, and Luke 6:13-16:
16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
For a challenge this week, check out who you think has been appointed as an Apostle with authority for Jesus and see how that maps back to the scripture we just read. Is someone once an Apostle always an Apostle? How do the authors of the New Testament map out to Apostleship defined in scriptures?
No one today could possibly meet the criteria of apostolic authority set forth in the New Testament, because nobody alive today was a disciple during the earthly ministry of Jesus. No one alive today was an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection in the first century. Some people today think that they have been called to be an Apostle but they merely have a charismatic gift of apostleship, but they do not have the authority of Jesus as given to the first Apostles.
Shepherd the flock
Being called as leaders, Peter reminds the leaders of their role. They are to tend to the body of the church, often referred to as a flock of sheep. Peter puts it very well and we should always take note that the flock belongs not to a church, denomination or pastor. It is God’s flock. The owner for the sheep is God himself, the church leaders are called to take care of God’s sheep. Does that sound familiar in Peter’s story?
The Restoration of Peter (also known as the Re-commissioning of Peter) is an incident described in John 21 of the New Testament in which Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, and spoke to Peter in particular. Jesus restored Peter to fellowship after Peter had previously denied him, and told Peter to feed Jesus’ sheep. Do you think that the metaphor of feeding and tending sheep may have meant a little more to Peter than most people?
What has been your thoughts and approach to the scriptures about tending or feeding the sheep?
Motivation to Serve
Peter reminds those who shepherd the flock of God to serve not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly. Ministers are not to shepherd from a sense of duty but from delight. Ministers, pastors, whatever title you want to give them do not have a high salary. The draw to ministry is definitely not one for money. Very few clergy are rich. There are some, but over 16,000 pastors leave their position each year.
That concept of tending sheep seems simple, but we must realize that sheep are needy. Pastors are called to be a psychologist, theologian, biblical scholar, administrator, preacher, teacher, counselor and even community leader. Many times ministers get so busy in all the secondary responsibilities that they forget their primary role of feeding (preaching and teaching) the sheep. The greatest service your minister can do for you is to feed you, not with his opinion, but with the Word of God.
Even though most controversy in church about the pastors is around salary, most leave because it is implied that their work is of little value.
So why are many drawn to serve professionally in the church if it is not for money? There is an inward desire. A magnetism that is intriguing. There is a hunger and adrenaline pull to see what God can and will do.
What are some of the main motivations you see for shepherds?
Have you ever had the situation where you felt that the pastor, minister, was domineering? Where they just came into the room and had the aura that it was about them? Maybe not so much your pastor or minister, but what about a special speaker or maybe even a musical artist.
What was your reception, responses to such a situation?
Peter clearly says do not be domineering, do not put people to shame, but be examples to the flock. It is interesting that the basic understanding Peter using is the same concept we get the term supervisor. We have all had supervisors, some good, some bad. What has made a good supervisor, one who oversees? Most likely you were not drawn to a supervisor when they are domineering, not to the ones that are arrogant. Generally, people are excited and drawn to supervisors that empower, encourage and lead them to accomplish great things. Whether it is working on a construction project, managing an office or getting materials delivered, people love to work for people that are good supervisors. Why should the church be any different?
In verse four, the word shepherd is capitalized and emphasis is spotlighted with the term “chief”. The chief Shepherd is Jesus Christ, and when He returns again he will reward with glory every pastor who has served faithfully. Christ is going to bestow a crown upon His servants who feed His sheep, that is if they execute the office according to the Word of God. We must be reminded, a pastor must feed Christ’s flock with the Word of God.