I PETER 5: 1 – 4
JESUS CHRIST pledged Himself to build His church. He always does things orderly. Therefore, He has organized His church. The text lists three primary group exhortations. This shows the church to have been well organized. Consider these traits of the pastor and the people in a church functioning as intended.
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5: 1 – 4).
THE PASTOR’S CHARGE
There are three words in the Greek text used here to refer to the office of pastor:
PRESBUTEROS – “Elder”
EPISKOPOS – “overseer” or “bishop”
POIMAINO – “Shepherd”
The last of these terms is the one used by the resurrected Christ when He said to Peter “Tend (poimaino) [Shepherd] My sheep” (John 21:16).
Parenthetically it is interesting to note Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder.” If he had been the head of the church, the first Pope, this would not have been the title chosen. In verse one he makes even more emphatic his togetherness by using the word “partaker.”
The first two titles noted refer to the same person as the third. Two internal, Bible evidences indicate the first two to be the same as the third:
In Philippians 1:1 Paul greeted the Bishops and deacons. If the elders were a separate body, surely he would have greeted them also.
In Acts 20:28 Paul sent for the elders (PRESBUETROS) and told them God had made them overseers (EPISKOPOS).
In I Peter 5: 1 and 2 Peter greets the elders (PRESBUETROS) and tells them to “feed,” that is, “shepherd the flock.” The verb “to shepherd” is a translation of the same Greek root from which we get our English word “pastor.” This word was doubtless in Peter’s mind from the post-resurrection seaside charge Christ gave him after three times asking him if he loved Him.
The modern pastor is to be the same as the shepherd-elder of the early church.
Inherent in the meaning of the expression “to shepherd” are four requirements.
1. Love the flock as an undershepherd of Christ. A pastor is not allowed by God to love selectively. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd did not know which sheep was lost; but he loved all of them enough to go after one of them — any one. Only one who loves the flock can exercise wise authority over them. Such a one seeks the flocks highest good and is even willing to put aside his own welfare to secure the highest good of the flock.
2. Protect the flock as a prophet. Believers need to be protected from teachers of false doctrine, and charlatans who seek to steal or mislead the sheep.
3. Feed the flock as a preacher/teacher. Nothing is important enough to afford a preacher an excuse for being unprepared in the pulpit. Incorporated in the word “feed” are all the responsibilities of our word “tend,” implying various duties.
4. Lead the flock as a capable administrator (overseer).
According to Acts 20: 28 the pastor is made the overseer “by the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he is directly responsible to God for leading. He must not quench the Spirit in his life.
When a church puts the pastor under the oversight of a committee they have usurped God’s position. If the pastor is the undershepherd of Christ charged by Him to take the oversight of His church he, the pastor, is accountable to Him, Christ. No group within the church should assume the role reserved for the Chief Shepherd in relation to His undershepherd.
This is a sacred calling and a holy trust given by the Chief Shepherd of His flock.
It is “the flock of God” and should be overseen as He prescribes. The pastor should live mindful that it is “the church of God” not his flock. If the pastor ever views the flocks as “his” he is in serious trouble. The pastor is the steward of God’s flock.
There is no room in this for the pastor to be egotistical. He shall someday have to stand, rather kneel, before God and give an account of that stewardship. Others will have to account for granting him that oversight and supporting him in the role.
Of the undershepherd it is said, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Corinthians 4:1).
The pastor should seek wise council and advice from the flock in making decisions. He should consult with various responsible bodies within the flock. He should network with the total flock and be attentive to their needs.
I Peter 5: 1 – 5 teaches the pastor must do this “willingly” and “not of constraint,” that is, he must not be made to do it. Any pastor who does not accept the charge to lead is not fulfilling his role. He must seek heavenly wisdom, obtain wise council, study diligently, and use his own creativity to envision and initiate as a leader.
1. Negative, “Neither as being lords…” (Vs. 3a). A pastor can’t be self-seeking. When one is, it usually manifests itself in one of two forms:
a. The term “lords” implies an ego flight. There is no place for this in ministry. He is to lead by “serving.” He should not have to be constrained to lead nor restrained from leading as the Lord guides. The pastor, like the Good Shepherd, must be a servant leader. He like Christ does not come “to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
Such pastors do not simply tell the flocks what to do they lead by “being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5: 3). The word “examples” means a “model,” “pattern,” or “prototype.”
b. The other term is “dishonest gain” or “filthy lucre.” These terms are used five times in the New Testament and in each case refer to ministers. “Gain,” “lucre,” that is, money is not bad. If it is “filthy,” or “dishonest,” that is obtained in a dishonest or dishonorable manner, it is.
2. Positive, “…being examples to the flock…” (Vs. 3b).
The pastor should be a specimen Christian, a worthy templet, Exhibit A. This term “examples” is used in I Thess. urging all believers to be “examples” of Christ.
Show yourself as a model. The pastor is not only to be a model in character but in administrative conduct. Leadership is not achieved by coercion or compulsion but by character and compassion. That does not mean that the pastor will not have to be assertive, proactive, and even aggressive at times.
1. “The crown of glory,” a stephanos. “Glory” is one of the most common words in the epistle. Here it is a synonym for that final salvation associated with Christ’s second coming (vs. 1).
2. “…that does not fade away.” (Vs. 4). The expression also comes from a word used as the name of a flower from which floral crowns were made, the ARARANTINE. A characteristic of the flower was it did not permanently wilt. If it temporarily withered, it could be revived by being moistened. Thus, the illustration is of eternal life. This “crown of glory” is eternal life.