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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

April 24, 2013

1 Peter 5:1-5

  1. Introduction. The main section concerns the leadership of the elders in their local congregations. A very brief word of instruction is then given to the younger men. The elders are instructed by God to take charge, and the duty of the younger men is to obey, to follow their leadership. Then in verses 5b-7, Peter focuses on the attitude or mindset which should characterize both leaders and followers—a humble spirit, which prompts leaders to lead lovingly and sacrificially and followers to graciously submit to and support their leaders. It is interesting that Peter would follow his long discourse on suffering for Christ with an admonition to elders. I like to think that Peter has come to realize after many years of ministry that being a true leader for Christ will inevitably bring a great deal of pain. It is not easy serving the people of God. Often times leaders take the blame when things go wrong, are overly criticized, are forced to bend for the needs of others, and must often carry a greater burden. Christian leaders sometimes appear to be weak, ineffective, and certainly unimpressive, because God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise (Acts 4:13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 3:18-23), because of the methods they employ or refuse to employ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2, 10-11), and because of their convictions (e.g. 1 Corinthians 9; compare 2 Corinthians 11:7). They also do not commend themselves (2 Corinthians 3:1f; 5:12; 10:12, 18; 12:11). How ironic that suffering is the badge of a true apostle, and yet it is what causes many to reject their apostleship for smooth-talking, easy-living false leaders (see 2 Corinthians 10-12; Philippians 1:12.). So it would stand to reason that a discussion on suffering would conclude with a word to the leaders, who Peter calls elders. Notice that the term Elders is plural. The church is not led by one, but by many.

  2. Verses 1-2. The elders are called to be good shepherds to God’s flock. Basically leaders are to be good stewards over something that is not theirs but Gods. Peter lays down in verse 1 the basis for his exhortation in the verses that follow. Peter’s authority as an apostle is evident as he refers to himself as a "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (see also Acts 1:8, 21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1). The word "witness" sometimes takes on the sense of "martyr," which is virtually a transliteration of the original term (see Acts 22:20; Revelation 2:13; 17:6). And in light of his apostolic authority, Peter is remarkably humble, for instead of merely stressing his authority over them he also emphasizes his association with them as a "fellow-elder," who "exhorts" them rather than issuing a decree. How much easier it is to embrace these words, spoken by the "new Peter," rather than the power- seeking Peter of the Gospels. Peter’s first command of our text is found in verse 2: "Shepherd the flock of God among you…" The imagery of shepherding often includes different functions, such as leading or ruling (see Matthew 2:6), feeding (see John 21:15-17) and guarding (see John 10:27-30). Peter’s call to the leaders is to take charge and lead knowing that those in leadership might face the biggest persecution. Shepherding necessitates the exercise of an elder’s God-given authority which is not easy in times of persecution. We know that power corrupts, even those Christians in positions of authority. This is why our Lord strongly rebukes the scribes and Pharisees concerning their abuses of leadership in Matthew 23. Peter therefore clarifies how elders should exercise authority by contrasting the fleshly temptations leaders face with the spiritual characteristics of leadership which were evident in our Lord and which should be exemplified by elders and all others who exercise authority. Leaders should lead because this is God’s desire and call on their life and not because they feel pressure to lead. Leaders should be eager and willing to serve with zeal and enthusiasm. But this willingness must not be out of selfish gain or evil intent.

  3. Verses 3-4. Peter teaches that the true leaders are not to lead like the world leaders who lord over those under them (Ezekiel 34, Matthew 23), but to lead like Christ who was servant to all. Too often people seek to lead so that they might be in power over others. This is not the way real believers lead the body of Christ. True leaders for Christ must set an example for the flock by leading like Christ would lead. Peter reminds them that when the Lord returns they would be rewarded based on leading like Jesus. This would mean that they would have to suffer in the short run to receive an eternal reward.

  4. Verses 5. The first half of this verse is a command to the young men. In the early church, and even today drama is between the old and young. Peter tells the young men to submit to the elders. Real simple and sweet. This often times takes a humble spirit. That is why the second half of the verse and the next verse call for the elders and the young men to be humble. It takes humility to be an established leader and it takes humility to be an up and coming leader or young person. In humility, leaders exercise their God-given authority self-sacrificially, laying down their lives for the sheep. In humility, younger men follow the leadership of their elders. Both submit themselves to God in humble dependence, looking to Him for their eternal reward at the proper time. Each casts their cares upon Him who is the Great Shepherd. The elders cast their shepherding cares on Him, knowing their task is impossible in merely human strength. The younger men cast their cares upon God, looking to Him for their strength and reward as they submit to their leaders.

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