I Peter 5:1-4

 (A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

January 9, 2013

                                                        

1.      About this time each year one of my favorite stories always comes to my mind...about an important college football game...a couple of minutes were left in 1st half and the score was tied...the quarterback for one of the teams was injured and the coach was forced to put in a freshman who was the team’s punter and also the back-up quarterback...this freshman had never played quarterback in a big time college game...the young man had good athletic ability but he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to intellect...coach told him, “We’re just going to run out the clock, go into the halftime break tied.  So here’s what want you to do...on first play run quarterback sneak... your job is just to hang onto the ball...on second play do same thing...and third play do same thing...on fourth play want you to punt the ball to the other team...” ...first play 20 yards/second play 20 yards/third play 20 yards/fourth play, to the shock of everyone in the stadium, punted ball through end zone into stands...of course, the coach was livid...grabbed by shoulder pads and screamed, “What in the world were you thinking?”...and the player looked back at the coach and said, “Well, if you really want to know, I was thinking what a dumb coach we have!”

2.      Like that little story because illustrates how difficult it is to give direction to other people…1 Peter 5:1-4 is directed primarily to those people who had leadership responsibilities in the churches located in the provinces of Asia Minor to which the letter of 1 Peter was addressed (see 1 Peter 1:1)…However, this passage contains principles that are applicable to all Christians of all times.

 

Verse 1

“…the elders…” - In the New Testament there are three words used to describe the leader of a church:

--presbuteroi which is the word translated “elders” in I Peter 5:1...this word does not necessarily refer to a person’s chronological age...this word refers to the maturity of the church leader...

 

--episkopoi which is sometimes translated “overseer” and sometimes translated “bishop”...this word refers to the responsibility, the task of the church leader...

 


--poimen which is translated “pastor” or “shepherd”...a form of this word is used in verse 2 in the phrase “shepherd the flock of God among you” and in verse 4 where Jesus is described as “the Chief Shepherd”...this word refers to the heart, the spirit, the attitude of the church leader...

In the opinions of many New Testament scholars, and I concur with them, those three words variously translated “elder, overseer, bishop, pastor, and shepherd” are used interchangeably in the NT to refer a single office, the office we refer to as pastor.

 

“…fellow elder and witness…” – The word translated “witness” is martus from which our word martyr comes.  We tend to think of a martyr only as a person who lays down his/her life for another, and the time came when Peter did just that.  But a martus or witness is also someone who tells what he has seen and heard.  Peter certainly did that as well.  It’s interesting to read the first two verses of I Peter 5 in light of Peter’s personal relationship with Christ. Throughout these verses are references to what Peter saw in Jesus and heard from Jesus.  For example, he tells us that he--

--saw the sufferings of Jesus...the phrase “witness of the sufferings of Christ” in v.1 points to Peter’s being with Jesus during his agonizing time in Gethsemane and to Peter witnessing the crucifixion...

 

--saw the glory of Jesus...the phrase ”partaker also of the glory” in v.1 points back to Peter being present, along with James and John, in Matthew 17 on the Mt. of Transfiguration when the glory of God was revealed to them in Jesus...may also be a reference to Peter’s multiple encounters with Jesus after the resurrection…

 

--heard the teachings of Jesus...the phrase ”shepherd the flock of God among you” in v.2 is an echo of Jesus’ instructions to Peter after the resurrection in John 21...there, three times Jesus told Peter to “Tend or Shepherd My Sheep”...

 

And one thing we can learn from that is that an essential characteristic of those who lead in spiritual settings is a living, dynamic, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Verses 2-3

“...shepherd the flock of God among you...” – This is the key command of this passage.  Everything else said in these verses is an amplification or explanation of this command.  It is interesting that the biblical model for spiritual leadership is not that of a—

--CEO sitting behind a desk or in a boardroom arbitrarily making decisions which impact the lives of others...

--dynamic, motivational speaker who can sway a crowd’s emotions with elegant words...

--learned scholar who is able to find spiritual truths in every word or phrase of the Scripture...

--charismatic personality who just naturally inspires the loyalty of others...

The primary biblical model for spiritual leadership is that of a shepherd tenderly nurturing, protecting, providing for the flock under his care...

 

In the Middle East, in biblical times as well as to this very day, shepherds and their sheep are a common sight...and because it is so common to see shepherds caring for their sheep in that part of the world, the imagery of the shepherd and his sheep occurs time and time again in Scripture—

--in Psalm 23 God is described as a shepherd who abundantly provides for all of the needs of His sheep...

--in John 10 Jesus described Himself as “...the good shepherd [who] lays down His life for the sheep...”

--several times in the NT the task of pastors is described in terms of shepherding the flock of God...

 

Now, specifically, what does that mean?  If you’ll look carefully at this passage you’ll see that Peter makes three statements explaining the command to “shepherd the flock of God among you...”  Each of the statements are in the same grammatical form. They are contrasts.  Notice the repeated use of the words “not” and “but” in the last part of v.2 and the first part of v.3.  Not this way, but this way...

--”...not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God...”

--”...not for sordid gain, but with eagerness...”

--”...nor yet as [or not] lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock...”

 

Each of those statements explain the command “…shepherd the flock of God among you…” and each can also be summarized in a single word.

 

--First statement, “...not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God...,” speaks to our attitude about serving others...this statement can be summed up by the word “willingly”...Shepherding the flock of God means serving others willingly  - There is a vast difference between serving others because you feel you have to and serving others because you genuinely want to…

 

--Second statement, ”...not for sordid gain, but with eagerness...,” speaks to our motive in serving others...this statement can be summed up by the word “selflessly”... Shepherding the flock of God means serving others selflessly...a leader can--

--look out for self or others...

--exalt self or others...

--build up self or others...


--use people or serve people...

Albert Speer was the chief architect on who Hitler relied to design the buildings of his Third Reich...after the war Speer was tried at Nuremberg as a war criminal and sentenced to prison...after serving his term, Speer wrote a book which gives a fascinating look from the inside at the Third Reich...the book is entitled Inside the Third Reich ...in the book tells of an event that took place on November 7, 1942...Hitler was sitting down to supper in his elegant rosewood paneled diner on his special train...his train was stopped at a switching station, and a freight train pulled up and was stopped on the adjacent track...one of the cars of the freight train stopped just two yards from the widow of Hitler’s dining car...crammed in the freight car were starving, wounded German soldiers being returned from the eastern front...they stared in astonishment at the Fuhrer only a few feet away from them...and here’s how Albert Speer described what happened next...”Without as much as a gesture of greeting in their direction, Hitler ordered the servant to close the shades.”

True shepherds focus on the needs of those they are leading, not their own personal needs...

 

--Third statement, ”...nor yet as [or not] lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock...,” speaks to our method of serving others...this statement is summed up by the word “graciously”... Shepherding the flock of God means serving others graciously...in the spiritual realm, leaders have a responsibility to lead, but they are not to lead as dictators... we lead by example...we must never expect other people to do what we, ourselves, are unwilling to do...Peter makes it clear in v.2 that the leader is not just over the flock but also “among” the flock...we should--

--listen to those whom we lead...

--be responsive to them...

--learn from them...

--not to assume that we know it all and have nothing else to learn...

                                                        

I don’t know of a better model for healthy interpersonal relationships than the one set forth in these verses.  Christian are to care for each other like a good shepherd cares for the flock, and we should do so willingly, selflessly, and graciously.  Where did Simon Peter, a common Galilean fisherman, learn such a model?  No doubt he learned it from Jesus, Himself.  In verse 4 Peter calls Jesus the “Chief Shepherd.”  For three years Peter walked with Jesus.  He watched Jesus.  He heard Jesus teach.  He saw how Jesus related to others.  And in this passage, Peter tells us to relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ in that same way.  Be willing.  Be selfless.  Be gracious.  That’s the way it should be in a Christian fellowship.

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