Lesson 9 - 1 Peter 5:1-11 - SHEPHERD THE FLOCK AND BE ALERT
INTRODUCTION: last week, in 1 Peter 4:12-19, the Apostle Peter talked to us about how to keep the faith when trials and persecution inevitably overrun our lives, and gave us six pointers on how to handle it: (1) View suffering abuse for doing God's work as a normal Christian experience, which God allows to prove our faith so we can endure it with a positive attitude. (2) View any criticism and rejection we encounter as a shared experience that Christ endured in His early ministry. (3) When people dislike us for our faith, we should view it as a blessing rather than shame because the Holy Spirit allows us to experience the power and presence of God in ways that unbelievers do not. (4) Christians who are guilty of wrongdoing deserve to be punished and ashamed of themselves. (5) The time for Christian suffering is now, the present age as the church endures judgment by an unbelieving world. (6) The best response to Christian suffering today is to entrust our lives to God as Creator, understanding that we are His sheep in this age and will spend eternity with Him in the next age.
This week, in 1 Peter 5:1-11, Peter issues instructions on how leaders in a church-mainly pastors in the context of Baptist churches-should shepherd their flocks and how followers should submit to their God-given authority, and invokes four guiding leadership principles: (1) leaders should serve voluntarily without being pressured into the role; (2) leaders must not assume the role for personal gain or status; (3) leaders must not use their authority to enforce their will over others; and (4) "younger men" [in our context, adult men and woman of less experience] should willingly submit to church leaders. Continuing, Peter will also give us practical advice on how to 'clothe' ourselves in the virtue of humility, how to deal with anxiety, and how to effectively resist Satan, and as we do all these things, God promises to perfect us, confirm us, strengthen us, and establish us.
Read 1 Peter 5:1-4 -SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
v. 1a: "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder" - Although the title "elder" (Gk. presbuteros) isn't an office in most Baptist churches, its duties are synonymous with those of pastors (Gk. episkopos, lit. overseers), and the moral qualifications are the same as those specified for deacons (Gk. diakonos, lit. servants [1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9]). Note that Peter asserts his authority as a "fellow elder" rather than an apostle. In that capacity, he would have commissioned elders and overseers for new churches as he traveled.
v. 1b: "and witness of the sufferings of Christ," - Here, Peter points to his experience as an eyewitness to the sufferings of Christ. He personally saw the events he preached about.
v. 1c: and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed," - He also identifies himself as one who will share in "the glory to be revealed" when Christ returns, which will be shared by all Christians who have shared in Christ's sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). With this introduction, Peter will spend the next three verses telling the elders/pastors of the church how to "shepherd the flock."
v. 2a: "shepherd the flock of God among you," - Acting as a "shepherd" (Gk. poimaino, lit. to tend) to a "flock"-the local church-is the chief role of an elder or pastor. It entails the duties of feeding, leading, guarding, and caring for the needs of those in his flock-the local church-in the way a shepherd cares for his sheep.
v. 2b: "exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily," - Pastors should never serve because they feel pressured into the job, but do so willingly out of an honest desire to serve God.
v. 2c: "according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;" - Pastors should sense the call of the Holy Spirit into this leadership role "according to the will of God," and view it with honest enthusiasm as a great opportunity with which God has laid before them. While Pastors surely deserve just compensation for their labors (1 Tim. 5:17-18), they should never take the job just to earn a living or as a stepping stone just to gain status for the next job.
v. 3: "nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock." - Above all, a pastor should lead his flock by his example of a godly lifestyle that others can visibly follow, as opposed to attempting to drive people forward with authoritarian directives. In short, pastors should be leading the flock from the front, not driving them from behind. And a pastor always needs to keep in mind that his flock actually belongs to God, not to him. He's a caretaker.
v. 4: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." - A pastor is a shepherd who serves under the authority of Jesus Christ, "the Chief Shepherd." It's a role that requires a tremendous expenditure of physical and emotional energy. He must sympathize, counsel, reprove, rebuke, preach, teach, and discipline-all with love. And for all of his efforts, he will be rewarded with an "unfading crown of glory" when Christ returns. Most scholars see this award as a figurative crown given as a form of personal glory that will honor him throughout eternity.
APPLICATION 1: In a healthy church, the pastor will shepherd his flock. He's a Spirit-led man who willingly undertook his leadership role in the church as a calling from God. Foremost, He leads the church as a godly example rather than forcing his will on members through his authority.
Read 1 Peter 5:5 - THE RESPONSIBILITY OF OTHERS
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
v. 5a: "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders" - The words translated "younger men" (GK. neos) literally means younger ones and can be expanded to include young women. In ancient times, societies were more divided between older and younger age groups, and leaders were usually older men. In the context of the church, those who occupied elder/pastor and deacon positions were typically mature men of wisdom who had proven experience in their service to God. The charge "be subject to" means to willingly place yourself under the authority of another, and the term "elders" isn't necessarily limited appointed positions but to any older, spiritually mature believer in the flock.
v. 5b: "and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." - Peter uses the word translated "clothe" (Gk. egkomboomai), which literally pictures wrapping a metaphorical apron of humility around your body, with the apron being represented as a garment needed to equip for service to the flock. Notice it's addressed to "all," and describes a congregation where all the members of the flock strive to clothe themselves in humble spirits where they not only esteem others as better then themselves, but make conscious efforts to outdo each other by performing the most menial tasks needed in the church.
v. 5c: "for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." - Peter cites Prov. 3:34 to support the theological basis for humility; namely, that God is opposed to our pride and will break it; but those willing to admit their own weakness and limitations will experience God's mercy and grace.
APPPLICATIION 2: In a healthy church, the flock will submit to its pastor. In a healthy church, members, regardless of age or gender, humbly and willingly place themselves under the authority of the pastor and other appointed leaders in the church. A healthy church will also be characterized by members who seek to clothe themselves in humility by putting the interests and wellbeing of others above themselves.
Read 1 Peter 5:6-11 - HUMBLE YOURSELVES UNDER THE MIGHTY HAND OF GOD
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
v. 6a: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," - "The previous verse spoke of exercising humility towards one another, but now Peter urges his readers to humble themselves "under the almighty hand of God." In Peter's day, his Christian audience was passing through the fires of affliction, and although God had not sent these trials, He had allowed them to take place. Using imagery of God's all-powerful "hand," Peter tells them to humbly submit to God's working in their lives like clay being fashioned in the hands of a heavenly potter.
v. 6b: "that He may exalt you at the proper time," When the "proper time" comes, God will exalt (or praise) us either here, or in the life to come, or to some extent, maybe in both.
v. 7: "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." - This is a further step of humble submission to God-casting all our worries on Him. This isn't a promise that God is going to fix everything that worries us. It's a promise that God cares about us and will sustain us through the things we worry about. When we allow our worries to overcome us, it can seriously impair our ability to think clearly and distract us from the things we should be thinking about. Since God "cares for" us, it is not His will for His children to continue to live under these self-imposed burdens. And I can tell you from personal experience that this takes lots of practice covered with heartfelt prayer.
APPLICATION 3: As Christians, whenever our trials and worries seem to overwhelm us, we should (1) humble ourselves under God's hand and (2) cast all our anxiety on Him. First, God allowed our trials and is using them to strengthen our faith and second, God cares about us and will sustain us through all the things we worry about. When we allow our trials and worries to overcome us, it can seriously impair our ability to think clearly and distract us from the things we should be thinking about. Since God cares for us and intends to build us up, it's not His will for us to live under these self-imposed burdens.
v. 8a: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil," - This is the flip-side of v. 7: One of the reasons we shouldn't allow ourselves to be distracted with needless worry, is we can be of "sober spirit"-serious-minded-and be "alert"-ready to act-for attacks by our spiritual adversary "the devil." Peter wanted his readers to know that there was a deeper agenda against them, far beyond the people who were persecuting them. The devil, not the men or women who might oppose, oppress, or even physically harm us, is the real enemy of the Christian believer.
v. 8b: "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." - We must understand that the devil pursues us relentlessly, cleverly assessing how we can most easily be tempted by things that impair our work for the gospel or steer us into things that will discredit our Christian witness.
v. 9a: "But resist him, firm in your faith," - The devil's goal is to get Christians to doubt, disregard, or disobey what God has purposed for them. But we aren't defenseless. The key is to "resist" (Gk. anthistémi [anth-is'-tay-mee]. lit. to withstand something) him, which means to defend yourself rather than attack. How do we do this? By standing firm in our faith. It means saying 'no' to whatever evil temptation the devil casts at us. We make our stand by refusing to go where the devil is leading, and refusing to allow the temptation to overwhelm us. God will enable us to resist.
v. 9b: "knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." - Persecution in the form of harassment, discrimination, and even physical abuse is a common tactic used by the devil. Peter tells his audience that many in the world at the time were facing the same kind of suffering. And many continue to do so in the world today. The devil may attack our faith in other ways, too, but the strategy for resisting attack stays the same: Trust God by staying firm in your faith, increase your reliance on Him, and say "no" to the devil. And there are practical ways we can defend ourselves from the devil's wiles. Traditional spiritual disciplines will help, e.g.: regular worship in church, private prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading. We would also do well to choose our friends carefully, friends who will help us to act in accord with God's will instead of tempting us to act against it. In the same situation, the apostle Paul directed members of the Ephesian church to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." (Eph. 6:11-13). And James likewise advises, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 6:7-8).
APPLICATION 4: A Christian must always be prepared to resist the devil. We must understand that the devil pursues us relentlessly and stands ready to attack us in a moment of weakness. The key to "resist" is being ready to defend yourself by "standing firm in your faith," which in practical terms, means saying 'no' to the devil's temptation and refusing to go where the devil is leading you. Other practical steps are regular worship in church, private prayer, Bible study, devotional reading, and being careful about who we choose to as friends.
v. 10a: "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ," - In this verse, Peter contrasts a "little while"-the short time we will be expected to endure suffering-compared to the timeless eternity in which we will share God's "eternal glory in Christ."
v. 10b: "will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." - Here Peter describes the process by which God is training us up-making us spiritually fit to reign in eternity with Him:
v. 11: "To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." - Peter concludes with a doxology (a short hymn of praise). God's all-encompassing "dominion"-His sovereign control of everything in creation-means we're safe in His hands, not just now but "forever." Peter's statement affirms that He has the power to perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us even while He allows us to be in the fires of the suffering. Because of this, he absolutely has us covered-we have nothing to fear.
APPLICATION 5: Because of God's sovereign "dominion" of everything, we Christians have nothing to fear. The word "dominion" means we're entirely safe in God's hands-forever. In the midst of the trials, tribulations, and worries we may be facing today, God promises to use them to perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us to live with Him in eternity. We just have to wait "a little while."