Lecture 3: An Urgent Call to Shepherd (part 3)
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Peter's charge to the elders of the church and a call for them to shepherd God's flock in God's way. 1 Peter 5:2-3
Course: Urgent Call to Shepherd – Lectures 1-5
Lecture 3: An Urgent Call to Shepherd – Part 3
Peter’s charge to the Elders of the church and a call for them to shepherd God’s flock in God’s way.
1 Peter 5:2-3 – Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
A. Shepherd God’s Flock in God’s Way
Now, Peter has said to shepherd the flock of God. I want you to notice that sheep are called God’s flock. In other words, they are special and very valuable. They are God’s flock; this is a very important concept and is also a beautiful image of the church. We are God’s flock. There are two major ideas associated with this image: the first is ownership. Notice in Acts 20:28 when Paul wanted to motivate the elders to shepherd the flock of God. He said the flock which he obtained with his own blood. In other words, it is a blood bought flock. Christ could not have paid a higher price for the church. He gave his life because he loves the church and he sacrificed himself for the church. And so we need to see that the people we are shepherding are invaluable to God. We need God’s perspective; it is God’s flock and God’s people and we have been given the privilege to shepherd them. Charles Cranfield wrote these words: a church that could be ours would only be a false church. So the sheep are not ours to use or misuse as we like; if we lose one, we lose someone’s property, not our own. And he is not indifferent to what becomes of his flock; we need to always keep that before us. It is God’s flock; it is an invaluable worth to him. He paid the highest price; so shepherd the flock of God that is among you. Let’s keep that image before us because it will encourage us during the discouragement and heartache and the frustrations for caring for God’s people.
B. The Church is Dependent on the Shepherd
The second concept has to do with dependence. Sheep are the most unusual animals; they are one hundred percent dependent upon a shepherd. There would be no sheep in the world today; they would be extinct if it wasn’t for the fact that there are shepherds. First of all, they would have been eaten by wolves or they would have died of disease. They would have killed themselves or died of emotional trauma as they are easily emotionally traumatized. There would be no sheep today. So God teaches us an important lesson; sheep are dependent upon a shepherd for their very existence to have water and land and to be cared for and to be managed. Of course God is teaching that to ourselves; we are dependent on God for the very breath we have and there is no spiritual life without God’s redemptive work. We are dependent people. So the sheep needs you; they are dependent upon you. They need you for guidance and for comfort and for feeding. Sometimes they are directionless as they look to you. Sheep are dependent and they are easily loss. That is why Peter says, please do the job that is requires of a shepherd because the sheep needs you to do this job. It is important to get this vision in our heads. We are needed and we have a great influence over the church of God.
C. The Shepherd Exercises Oversight
He also says to exercise oversight. That is how we can conclude this section. Shepherd the flock of God that is among you; exercising oversight. This is the verbal form of the word overseer. When he says to exercise oversight, he is saying the same thing as shepherding the flock. He is using the literal term and this is to give overall supervision to the flock. In a way this sort of defines and clarifies what he means by shepherd the flock of God. That is the figurative term, this is the literal term and it has the idea of watchful care of the flock. This is a spiritual work we are involved in, not a literal shepherding of sheep. It is shepherding God’s flock, watching over their souls. Hebrews 13:17, we care for the souls of people. And so we supervise, we watch over and guard God’s flock, exercising spiritual oversight. So we can say that the job of the elders is pastoral oversight of the flock.
D. Shepherd with the Right Motives and Attitude
The next major point to shepherd God’s flock in God’s way; the unique teaching of Peter says to shepherd not under compulsion but willingly as God would have you to do this. Don’t do this for shameful gain but instead to do it eagerly. This is not for domineering those in your charge, but by being an example to the flock. God is very concerned how you do the job. It is not doing the job just in any old way; not just the way you like, you have to do it God’s way. This is what Peter is saying, this is special teaching. We don’t even get this in Paul. Peter sets up a series of contrasting statements. This deals with motives and attitudes of how we deal with God’s people. We should not do it under compulsion but willingly as God would have you. In other words, God doesn’t want unwilling shepherds to care for his people. He says to not be under compulsion. In other words, he doesn’t want you to do this because you have been forced to or you have to because someone tells you to do this. You need to do this in the church because other people are doing it. You should not be forced to do this in any way, for that would be compulsion. It would be like a drafted soldier. God doesn’t want forced shepherds. He wants us to be willing and that means freely, voluntarily. It is a free choice. Now it adds an interesting phrase, ‘according to God.’ This means according to God’s will. God’s standard is that when you shepherd God’s people, you do it because you want to do it. You desire to do it. That is the way Christ does it; he gladly shepherds us, willingly. No one is forcing him to do it. We know this is God’s way because we read in 2 Corinthians 9:7 when he talks about financial giving; don’t do it under compulsion; don’t be forced to give. God loves a cheerful giver. He wants a cheerful elder also, a joyous elder, someone who wants to do this. I desire to do this. If you aren’t doing this willingly and according to God’s standard, you will not do the job. You will not shepherd the people; your mind will be someplace else. You will not have the energy or desire to do this. It has to be willingly. It has to be from a cheerful heart, a joyful heart.
The second series of contrasts, he says not for shameful gain but eagerly. Cranfield calls it the spirit of hiring. This is a worldwide problem; people who want to get into positions in the church want to get their hands on the money. For years I have been collected newspaper articles on how many pastors, elders and church leaders getting caught embezzling money from the church. It is a huge problem. If you don’t believe it, just ask any missionary. So often we see religious leaders using the people to get money. Someone said that money and religion don’t mix. A lot of people are robbing the Lord’s people and often poor people, making false promises. The poor will be poorer and the rich will be richer. They are robbing the poor. Peter is saying this. Getting your hands on the money should not be a motivation. Instead, we are to do this eagerly and this is a stronger word than willingly. It has the idea of zealously and enthusiastically. A great example of this is in the apostle Paul who in Acts 20 tells us that he went out and worked, providing for his own needs and those who were with him. He did it eagerly, providing for himself. He coveted no one’s silver or gold. Notice what he said: I didn’t even covet your money. I provided these things myself, eagerly and willingly to care for you. Let us be very careful of that motive of getting something for this and putting our hands on money and petty thievery. Let me tell you, you may not say that I’m going to steal, but there is a thousand ways you can misappropriate the Lord’s money. I heard of a pastor who was caught by the church, using the churches’ credit card to go golfing. And when the church confronted him about it, he said that it was Christian ministry and then he was using money for gasoline, for food. He had justified the whole thing as being ministry.
The only problem was that, he didn’t tell the church he was doing it. Now if they all had agreed to it beforehand, that would have been okay. There was no real accountability and when they tried to call him into account, he got very angry. He thought that it was evangelism. That was great if it was agreed upon by the church. So, there is a lot of ways to misappropriate money and it is really stealing. There needs to be strict accountability whenever we deal with money. We can easily deceive ourselves and fool ourselves with wrong motives, thinking that it is perfectly right what I’m doing but it isn’t. Watch those motives; there should be an eager spirit in which we are willing to spend our money, sacrifice what we have. There are people, many who have a full time job serving the Lord’s people at their own expense. The Lord will reward them someday for that. There should be a cheerful and joyous attitude, freedom and a volunteer spirit of shepherding God’s people, whatever the cost. Even if you get nothing; so please don’t covet what you can get from people; this was Paul’s whole attitude and he is the example to us, having the power of the Spirit working in him. Let us have the motivation of willingness because that is the standard of God. Let us be eager and zealous and enthusiastic to do the job of shepherding God’s precious blood bought flock, just as he would do it. Let me an example of the Lord Jesus.
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