Lecture 1: An Urgent Call to Shepherd (part 1)
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The introduction of Peter's charge to elders of the church in 1 Peter 5:1-2.
Course: Urgent Call to Shepherd – Lectures 1-5
Lecture 1: An Urgent Call to Shepherd – Part 1
This is an Introduction of Peter’s charge to Elders of the church in 1 Peter 5:1-2
1 Peter 5:1-2: ‘Therefore, as a fellow elder, a witness of the Messiah’s sufferings, and one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you: be shepherds of God’s flock that is among you, watching over it, not because you must, but because you want to and not greedily but eagerly, as God desires.’
Our series is an urgent call to shepherd God’s flock. I’d like for you to take your Bibles and look at 1 Peter 5:1-2. We are going to expound this passage. So exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a par-taker in the glory that is going to be revealed. Here is the charge: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.
I want you to notice that I have my shepherd’s tie on. It is my sheep and I often wear it on Sunday morning and people often wonder what it is. People ask what the figures in back of me are about. All over the world, I have collected things about shepherd and sheep. I have one here with a little sheep, he is carrying the sheep and here is the shepherd with his crook and here is a little sheep with his bell. I also have this shepherd’s cup from Ireland. It is good to have this constant reminder that I’m a shepherd, a shepherd of people. There are sheep and God has called me to care for them and also for you to care for his flock. This is a tremendous privilege and so today we want to look at 1 Peter 5:1-2.
Sadly Peter is so over-shadowed by Paul a lot in the New Testament. When people think of church eldership, they immediately think of Paul as in Acts 20 and 1 Timothy 3. I want to remind you that Peter has some very important things to say about eldership and shepherding God’s people. So often in theology we just talk about Paul’s theology or Paul’s concept of leadership. I want to remind you that Peter is an apostle, trained by the Lord Jesus Christ and commissioned at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry to shepherd his sheep. So often we forget that it was Peter and the eleven disciples that held the early church together in those early days. They preached and taught and often times were in prison and suffered for Christ. Peter was a very great man and a great preacher and a great leader. He wasn’t an armchair general. So we are getting council from a prime shepherd of God’s people.
A. Connecting with Your Audience
In reading through the Book of 1 Peter, we read about suffering. That is the theme of this book: hostility and persecution. In 1 Peter 5 where Peter turns to the leaders; because when persecution arises, it is often the leaders who first experience this hostility and persecution against the church. When the communists took over in Ethiopia, they literally killed all the pastors and bishops and elders; they killed the leaders. This is so often true in the world where leaders will be imprisoned and killed. They will not be able to get jobs; their families will be isolated from society. But in persecution, leaders make all the difference and that is why Peter is addressing them in such a serious way. Peter knows that as the leaders go, so goes the people. If they are courageous, the people will be courageous and if they are fearful, the people will be fearful. If they trust God, the people will trust God. If they are loving, then the people will be loving and if they run and hide, well, the sheep will be scattered. You can see Peter’s urgency as he turns from speaking to the whole body of churches to speaking directly to the leaders.
Peter was a great preacher. On his first day of preaching after Pentecost, three thousand people responded and so good preachers know the importance of drawing the audience to themselves and to connect with those people. This is very important in teaching; you need to connect with your audience. So in this lengthy introduction, Peter is going to connect with his audience; he is going to draw these elders to his side. He does this in three ways. First of all he includes himself as being a fellow elder. At the beginning of the letter, he exerts his apostleship, but not here in 1 Peter 5; instead, he speaks of his eldership. This is a great technique to communicate to those you are speaking to. Peter was literally an elder; he served with eleven other men in the early church in the city of Jerusalem where there were twelve apostles. They were the first eldership and they led the church and taught them. They did suffer there; Peter was in jail waiting to be executed, but an angel delivered him out of jail. James was killed. They knew about persecution; they knew all the trials and problems of leading a large congregation as a team of elders. When he says that he was an elder, this isn’t an exaggeration. Even at this time, Peter is in Rome and still on the front line of battle and still leading people in churches. So Peter is writing from long experience; he is a veteran shepherd of God’s people. He is on the front line of a spiritual warfare as mentioned in Ephesians 6; He has had thirty five years of experience and so he is a well-seasoned veteran shepherd. He knows the temptations of leadership and the abuse of it. He knows the dark side of leadership which you often don’t hear of. He knows the weaknesses and frustrations, but he is not an arm-chair general. He is not a heady author giving theoretical advice. He knows what he is talking about and sympathizes with their fears and weaknesses. He has empathy for these people and he feels their daily pressures. So, if Peter was here now, he would tell us to do the job of shepherding sheep and do it with the right spirit and right attitude. What he is doing here and I want you to see this; it is shared experience. And so, he is immanently qualified to speak.
So the second thing he says after telling them that he was a fellow elder; he is a witness of the suffering of Christ. Some think that this means the actual crucifixion of Christ or the suffering that Christ experienced. Well, shared experienced is the theme within the context of what he is saying. So he is saying that he has shared in the common sufferings that all believers have experienced as a result of confessing Christ in a hostile world. In 2 Corinthians 1:5 where Paul says, we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. So this is what I think he means. In 1 Peter 4:13, it says to rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. In other words, he is talking about the joyous anticipation of the glory when the Lord Jesus appears. In fact you can go back to chapter 1 where he already starts this theme of Christ’s appearance, the Day of the Lord and the glory that is our suffering and then will come glory. This is a word of encouragement where we are going to share in the marvelous glory of when the Lord Jesus returns. The point of this lengthy introduction is that he is immanently qualified to speak to these men and to us. Let us listen to what he says.
B. Do All That A Shepherd Should Do
Now, we come to the main charge; his main command to the elders and to us today. Very tactfully, drawing them to his heart, he says to do all that a shepherd should do. He says to shepherd the flock of God that is among you. What he means by this, do everything that shepherding requires. Be what a good shepherd should be. Do the full shepherding path: the leading, the teaching, the protecting, the caring for; do the whole job. I want you to feel Peter’s passion and the urgency in which he is saying this. Don’t be cold as we read this. He has led us up to this point because he knows what these churches are going through. He turns to the leaders and says to them and appeals to them to do what a shepherd should do because the people are depending upon you. Be all that a shepherd should be and don’t neglect the sheep; don’t fall asleep and fail the people. You are needed, don’t be passive and don’t be a minimalist. Now Peter knows people, he has had thirty five years of experience. He knows that leaders often do fail and they don’t push themselves to grow and change. They are often preoccupied with the wrong things. I remember an elder told me, confessing to me that he putters a lot on the computer while the church was falling apart. He was what I would call a minimalist, doing just enough to get by. Peter was speaking to that person. We are to do all that shepherding requires. Often we are passive and we are not the leaders that we should be.
My dear fellow shepherds, let me tell you that reality is often very sad and Peter knows that. When you look at your New Testament, you will see the Galatian elders who Paul and Barnabas appointed. You see the Ephesian elders who Paul trained for almost three years. They failed to protect the churches from false teachers when they came into these churches. Two thousand years of church history is good evidence that many times, we elders have failed to protect the church; to defend and to be clear about the Gospel. That is why Richard Baxter long ago wrote the Reformed Pastor. He was challenging pastors from being minimalists and not doing the full job and not being energetic and diligent in what they were to do. So Peter’s words to us today are extremely relevant; don’t miss the intensity and the urgency of this. The churches are under hostile forces; they are in a secular Godless world, a world full of polytheism. It is a world that hates and rejects this message that the church needs you. It is dependent upon you. If Peter was here today, if he was your speaker today, he would say to you to do the job; be effective and diligent and skilled and know what you are doing. You should be to the church what a shepherd should be to a flock of sheep. If you had a literal flock of sheep, how would they be doing today? So after Jesus was raised from the dead, he spoke to Peter giving him a three-fold charge. Peter had denied the Lord and had fallen apart under persecution and under stress. He denied the Lord three times, but the Lord restores him saying, Peter, shepherd my sheep, attend to my sheep, do the job because the People need you. So, thirty five years later, Peter is giving the same charge to the Asian elders of all these different churches that he writes to. He says to them, will you shepherd the sheep? They need you; do the job, be skilled and be diligent and care for my flock. The Lord loves the church for he gave himself for it. Will anyone care for his precious flock, will you do that. Shepherd the flock of God among you.
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