Tuesday, April 11, 2023

2023.04.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Peter 5:1–4

Read 1 Peter 5:1–4

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom is the apostle addressing (1 Peter 5:1)? What type of address is it? What does he call himself? To what two things is he a witness? Whose sufferings, and Whose glory are they? What is the primary (one-word) command of 1 Peter 5:2? What does he call the congregation? Whose flock are they? Where is this flock? What are the elders to do as overseers? What sort of service are elders to provide? What three characteristics must NOT mark this overseeing (1 Peter 5:2-3)? What three characteristics MUST mark it instead? If the shepherds are examples to the sheep, what does this remind us that the shepherds themselves are? So, what is Christ called in 1 Peter 5:4? What will the undershepherds receive when he appears? What will not happen to this glory?

What pitfalls must elders avoid as they shepherd God’s flock?  1 Peter 5:1–4 follows up upon the morning sermon from this past Lord’s Day and helps prepare for the next one. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that since believers are always in danger of doing correct things for wrong reasons, elders must be motivated to persevere in the ministry by that which proceeds from the Lord’s own love for His people. 

Yesterday, we saw that in the Chief Shepherd’s plan to bring His flock to glory, He gives some of the flock the assignment of being elders who shepherd and exercise oversight. But overseers must take heed to their motivations, because overseeing is often unpleasant. 

It’s precisely because we need the guidance and oversight that God has given these undershepherds. And “sheep” who need such help are sinners. They sometimes bite or bully the other sheep whom the Chief Shepherd is appointed to help them—especially when the undershepherd is trying to retrieve them from going their own way and becoming easy prey for the lion. But it’s not the unruly flock that is the most danger to the elders. We can see their dangers in the three contrasting pairs of instruction in 1 Peter 5:2-3

Not by compulsion but willingly. An elder may shepherd as someone who is compelled by duty to do that which he resents. Such an elder views God’s people as a burden. But they are not a burden. They are precious. Protecting them and guiding them is a labor of love. And it’s a privilege to be called to that place. Husbands and parents must resist viewing their wife or children as a burden in the home, so also must elders in the church. Overseeing not by compulsion but willingly.

Not for dishonest gain but eagerly. An elder may shepherd not out of a desire for the glory of Christ in bringing the flock into His own glory… but twistedly, shamefully, aiming at his own glory. He must have the mind of the friend of the Bridegroom who said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Many wolf-elders have practiced oversight to increase themselves. Financially. Their reputation. Their control. Their self-satisfaction. Their influence. 

Believers’ hearts are always in danger of aiming to advance themselves rather than glorifying Christ in doing good to others. And nowhere is this more twisted and shameful than with an elder. Rather than being incentivized by something else to seek the good of the sheep, the good of the sheep should itself be what his heart seeks.

Nor as being lords… but examples. Elders must exercise authority, but it’s a bottom-up authority. It mustn’t be the domineering authority that the lords of the nations exercise, but that willingness to be made the lowest that the Lord of lords displayed (cf. Matthew 20:25–28; Philippians 2:1–11). One of the ways that believers are helped to have “the mind in them that was in Christ Jesus” is when the undershepherds among them are examples of that very same mind. 

Elders should be willing to suffer much for the good of others. It should be evident that they prefer others to themselves, that they set others’ interests above their own. When the one who oversees you is obviously sacrificing himself to do so, he is to the flock an example of what it looks like when Jesus has redeemed a sinner and is now conforming him to His likeness. This is true leadership in the church.

What Christian duties are you most tempted to approach as a burden rather than a privilege? What “gain” do you most often find yourself pursuing in a self-seeking way? How are you fostering eagerness for God’s sake rather than selfishness? How is it evident to others that you consider them more valuable than yourself, and their needs just as important as your own?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving Yourself as the greatest example of true service. Please help our elders to be good examples of what it looks like when You start making a sinner to be like Yourself. And, by Your Spirit, use those elders and all of Your appointed means to give us the mind of Christ as well, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, LORD” or TPH488 “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”

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