"A Shepherd’s Character"
The presbyter,or elder, of the church is to be a pastor or shepherd of the flock. In that role God has placed upon him the oversight or authority of a bishop to spiritually tend the souls of the people. That role is limited and seen through the example of Jesus, who is the Chief Shepherd.
A Shepherd’s Character
(1 Pet. 5:1-4)
A. After the death of Gideon his son Abimelech wanted to become king. He talked the people of Shechem into making him king and proceeded to kill his brother. One escaped. His name was Jotham. On the day the people were going to crown Abimelech king, Jotham climbed up Mount Gerizim and shouted (Jdg 9:7-15).
B. Quite a story. Jotham warned the people that if they had not acted in good faith to Gideon’s family then may fire come out from Abimelech and consume you. Leadership is something that is desirable, poor leadership is devastating.
C. The Christians to whom Peter was writing had been dispersed. They were told to live as aliens in the world. They were told to learn to submit to authority, suffer for their faith and live in love like Jesus was coming today. But here, at the end of his letter, he begins to talk to them about how to live as a church family. How to deal with all the struggles of life by living in the love the church. But to live as family, it is greatly helpful to have good parents. Children need guidance and God knows that spiritual children need spiritual guidance. So Peter turns to men whom the church has already appointed as spiritual leaders and addresses their role in the body. Today, I speak to all of us as we look to our elders and address their role and authority within this local body.
I. To the Elders
A. The church needs good spiritual leaders. There are so many attacks upon the church that without spiritual leadership, the flock will simply scatter or worse, be taken by the thief. The difficulty you have in leadership defining the role and style of a spiritual leader. In the Greek language we are given three words to both define and title the spiritual leader. Peter uses the root of all 3.
B. Let me quickly share them with you before we examine the text. The first word is “presbuteros” and is normally translated “elder” or sometimes “presbyter.” The word itself simply means “older.” Jews had elders in their communities who were spiritual and often teachers. They gave the traditions that Jews were to follow.
C. Another word in Greek is “poimen.” In English translation this word is normally written as “shepherd or pastor.” In our day many denominations call their preachers, pastors. Peter does not use this word to define preachers but to define the role or action of what the elder does. It is not so much used as a title as it a description. He is to feed the flock, to shepherd this flock and keep it safe. But Peter wants them to understand that these elders are to look to the example of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus, who will appear and reward these men for tending the flock of God.
D. The third word used to describe this office of spiritual men is “episkopos” and is translated either as “bishop or overseer.” The point of this word is to give the elders spiritual responsibility and therefore spiritual authority over the flock that belongs to Jesus.
E. Peter has already used these last two words to talk about Jesus (1 Pet. 2:25). Peter wants to bring spiritual leaders back to the example of Jesus as a spiritual leader. So with a much deeper understanding of the words that are used, let’s come back to our text.
A. Read the text again. While Christians fight about authority and how much an eldership should or should not have, Peter focuses on the very character of these men. He starts by telling them that he is one of them. He doesn’t use the term apostle here, but a fellow elder who witnessed the suffering of Jesus. It is that picture that Peter hold in his mind as he talks to these men.
B. You see, there was a leadership style in the Jewish sects that was very authoritative and domineering. There was a leadership style in politics of the Romans that desired power so much they would kill for it. God doesn’t want church leadership to take is understanding from the warped views of the Jews or the evil of the Romans. But when that style of leadership is what is modeled for you, how much different will you be? Today our struggle is to get away from the business style of leadership to the biblical style shown to us by the Chief Shepherd himself, Jesus.
C. Peter reminds these men that they are guardians of God flock. Look at the wording. These men are to care for, serve, and be an example of spiritual. I will be a better Christian when I see faith in action. Peter says “be that faith in action.”
D. Peter puts the character in sets of opposites. Not this way but this way. Not because you must but because you are willing. Not because you want money but because you want to serve. Not because you want power to lord it over, but because you want to be an example for others to walk like you walk. These men have really one great job – be as close to Jesus in all areas of your life as possible. Every decision elders make should be made with a reflection on how Jesus would lead others.
E. Spiritually parenting this many children is difficult. So Peter turns to the younger, the new, the less spiritually mature and tells them to submit to the elders.
A. Let me take you back to 1 Pet. 2:13, 18, 3:1. Submission is not a new topic. But in the church we are more like a family than we are a government or master/slave. In a good marriage, submission is not as much of an issue as respect. When a husband acts like Jesus towards his wife, willing to lay down his own life for her, to lead her to Jesus, to make sure her needs are met, submission is not much of an issue.
B. When Christians are commanded by Jesus we don’t have a problem with the word submission because we know how much he loves us and what he has done for us. We also know that he knows better and only has our best interest at heart.
A. Leadership in the local church is by God’s design and in accordance with God’s will. Our elders are not CEO’s of the church. They are not the CFO’s of the church. They are not a board of directors. Instead they are shepherds and guardians taking care of us, God’s flock. They are protectors, examples, and people who look to Jesus as the Chief Shepherd.
B. I pray that God will not limit this church to two men. My prayer continues to be that God will raise up spiritual leaders. I pray that the men of this congregation would desire to let God mold their life so that one day they my serve in a greater capacity than you are right now. To Him be glory in the church.