Humble Shepherds and Sheep (1 Pet 5:2-4)
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Humble Shepherds and Sheep
The function of elders–1 Peter 5:2-4
In the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller says it is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep–the behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways. Sheep do not just take care of themselves as some have thought—no, they require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care. For example, though God created most animals with an uncanny instinct to find their way home, if sheep stray into unfamiliar territory, they become completely disoriented and can’t find their way back home. Sheep need a shepherd to guide them, provide for them, protect them and sometimes rescue them from harm.
Sheep spend most of their time eating and drinking, but if they become lost, they are helpless to find adequate food and water. Left to themselves, sheep will indiscriminately eat both healthful and poisonous plants, or overgraze and ruin their own pasture. And they need to be led to water that is not impure and stagnant, not too hot or too cold, and water that is not moving too rapidly since that will frighten them, and they won’t drink so then they die.
Sheep can’t clean themselves and must be sheared. Between shearings, sheep have to have nasty stuff cut away from under their tails or they would plug up and die. And their only defense against any enemy is to flee in terror and hope to get away. It is not surprising that Jesus compared the disoriented, confused, unclean and spiritually lost crowds of His day to flocks of sheep without a shepherd. They could not feed themselves spiritually, and had no one to lead or protect them.
Even Isaiah compared all those who are without Christ to stray sheep, Isaiah 53:6—“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” This is why God has put such high expectations on shepherds. This is why He condemns false shepherds. Have you ever read Jeremiah 23:1 to 2, “’Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ‘You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,’ declares the Lord.”
Everyone who is reading 1 Peter 2,000 years ago was totally familiar with sheep and the importance of the shepherd. So it was not a surprise when Peter commands the spiritual leaders of the churches he writes, to shepherd God’s flock.
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 5 and follow along in your outline. Peter is writing a group of churches in Asia Minor who are experiencing some persecution. Persecution has a way of purifying the church–but it also causes stress and creates challenges. Peter wants his readers to stand firm in God’s grace by living their salvation, submission, living godly while suffering, and to serve one another. But as these churches are being purified in God’s smelting oven, Peter tells the leaders, the future leaders and the entire family the secret to survival as a church–the key ingredient to a great church, a very important quality of a local church.
Do you know what it is? Read verses 1 to 5 and see if you can figure it out. “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The key quality to a healthy church is humility, and Peter tells three groups in these verses how humility must be manifested. For the elder team, the spiritual leaders of each church, humility is demonstrated through shepherding God’s sheep. And in verses 2 to 4, Peter gives elders a humility formula–2, 3, and 1. Two duties, three attitudes and one motivation–2, 3 and 1.
And lest you think only elders can benefit from these verses, every dad in this room is to shepherd his children the same way elders shepherd the church. This is the bulls-eye of the target for all spiritual leadership. This is how disciplers are to work with their disciples. This is how moms care for their children. This is a description of ministry to God’s people. Here is how ministry leaders serve their people. This is a blueprint for ushers, greeters, children’s workers, youth staff, college staff, group leaders, women’s disciplers and counselors.
Last week, the New Testament taught us why elders are important. They are spiritually chosen, qualified, mature men who together oversee and shepherd God’s flock, in unanimity. Verse 1 highlighted that elders passionately seek to live humble, focus on the cross of Christ, and long for eternity now.
Read verse 1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.” But now Peter will call each team of elders to manifest humility by pursuing two duties, three attitudes, and one motivation–let’s look at them.
I Two Duties Elders Pursue
Peter reminds elders and their congregations they have two duties they must not neglect. Here are two tasks elders must do.
#1 Duty number one—elders shepherd the church
Verse 2a, “Shepherd the flock of God among you.” The main command of the elder is to shepherd. Paul commands the elders of Ephesus to shepherd their local church. Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Earlier in 1 Peter, the apostle reminded us that God is our shepherd, and that He Himself went out to chase us down and bring us to Himself in 1 Peter 2:25, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” In 1 Peter 5, the command to shepherd is the only command given to elders–it is the one duty that must not be neglected. In the New Testament, shepherding God’s flock is the main verb given to elders.
Can’t you hear Jesus speaking to Peter after the resurrection in this command? Remember John 21, “Peter do you love me?” Then tend my lambs, shepherd my lambs, tend my sheep, Peter. Tend has to do with grazing the sheep, feeding the sheep, and Jesus’ word shepherd is the same word used in 1 Peter 5. Almost as if to say, no matter what you do Peter, do not fail at this task–make certain you feed and shepherd my people.
Peter gives that kind of command here–a general command, aorist, telling elders to make certain this task gets done no matter what. Every time you read the word “pastor” in the New Testament it is the word shepherd. No matter what you have experienced or thought was true before–after today, adjust your thinking to be biblical. It is elders who do the work of shepherding, pasturing–the elder team pastors the local church, never one man.
The imagery is clear–elders are shepherds who are feeding, leading, caring for, protecting and loving God’s flock. Sheep need healthy food, not junk food, comfort food, fun food. Shepherds who don’t feed the flock well are bad pastors–apply that. How do you feel about parents who starve their children? That’s how you should feel about pastors who don’t teach the Word accurately to their churches.
Sheep also need to be led according to God’s Word. Sheep must be protected from wolves and disease, and sheep need to be cared for and loved even when they bite back. What kind of care are elders supposed to give? First Timothy 3:5, “(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).”
What kind of care do elders give to the church of God? That exact same word “care” in 1 Timothy 3:5 is used to describe the kind of care the good Samaritan gave to the man beaten on the road in Luke 10:34, “and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” The care elders give the church is the same kind of care the good Samaritan gave to the beaten man.
Part of what drives true elders to care for the sheep in this tender manner is this truth–the sheep are not their sheep. This is not my church–as a part of the eldership, this is not our church. Grace Community Church is not MacArthur’s church, and FBC is not Mueller’s church. This church is God’s church–His bride.
Peter says in verse 2, “Shepherd the flock of God.” The true Church is God’s sheep, and the price God paid for them shows you just how valuable these sheep really are to Him. Acts 20:28 again says, “Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Peter says elders are stewards, elders are under-shepherds–elders shepherd under the Great Shepherd of verse 4. They are His sheep–Christ died for them to make them His own.
I pray every Sunday, “Lord, let me love Your sheep. Lord, these are Your people–help me feed them well.” And there are times I have prayed, “Lord, these are Your sheep, You change their hearts–You do something, I can’t fix ‘em.”
Elders know Christ is ultimately responsible to change hearts, so elders have to depend on Christ to work among His flock. That’s why humble leaders are men of prayer and men who recognize only God can change a life, not techniques, strategies or programs. All humble elders know they are dependent upon God to change lives, (“They’re your people, God”).
And even though sheep can be stinky and can bite hard, the true shepherd can’t remain distant. Again verse 2 says, “Shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherding is never from a distance. That doesn’t mean you are best friends, nor does it mean every elder knows every sheep, but elders are not distant from the church family–elders are among the flock, around the flock, in the flock.
The Greek word translated among is ev, meaning in the sphere of, in the flock. Why does Peter say in the flock? Simple, you can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact them up close. That’s true for dads and disciplers, moms and ministry leaders–you can impress people from a distance but can only impact them up close. Peter says eldership is not shepherding from on high, but shepherding among the stinky, dirty, bitey, baa-a-a-ad sheep. So elders are relational and personal–they are among God’s people. But that doesn’t mean elders look and act like a sheep—no, they are commanded to be shepherds who feed, care for, protect and lead God’s flock. Two duties, #1 elders shepherd, and
#2 Duty number two—elders lead the church
Verse 2 says, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” Make no mistake, elders lead the family of God. Hebrews 13:7, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” The Greek word led or lead means to continually govern, to make decisions and set direction after careful consideration.
First Thessalonians 5:12 to 13, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” To have charge over you is to be the head, the one responsible, the one who directs or one who rules. Elders are those who lead you, as Peter says in verse 2, “exercising oversight.”
Oversight is where the term bishop comes from, reminding us that elders are overseers who do the work of shepherding. All three terms–elder, overseer/bishop, and shepherd/pastor refer to the same group of men. Overseer means to have scope over or look upon–the picture is of the shepherd on the hill having scope over and looking upon the sheep to protect them, lead them, guide them and feed them. Elders look over the flock for the purpose of leading–it is spiritual oversight.
So biblical elders are among you, but they are also over you. And the flock is commanded to obey their elders like children obey their parents, and the church is to submit to their elders like a wife submits to her husband and like Christ submits to God the Father. And if you hate submission to elders or obedience to elders, then consider this–the only people who can truly obey and submit to their God-appointed authorities from their heart are those who have submitted to Christ and obeyed the Gospel in their heart.
Our culture hates obedience and submission, but God loves obedience and commands His true sheep to submit to their God-appointed shepherds. Hebrews 13:17 could not be more direct–God is speaking, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Of course elders are not to lord it over the flock, but they definitely lead the flock. And elders, dads and all spiritual leaders must embrace the responsibility, trust in God’s resources, rely upon the Spirit and continually remain vigilant in their leadership.
The participle “exercising oversight’ is ongoing present tense–there are no breaks. Oversight is not a long season like baseball, it is all year long, every day, 24/7, no breaks oversight. Elders must remain alert and lead. What is leading? Spiritual leadership is spiritual initiation, giving biblical direction, initiating a spirit-empowered response, actively waiting, watching, modeling, setting a pace to follow, making choices to be imitated, keeping the priorities as the focus, not allowing distraction from God’s glory, the cross, the Gospel, the Word, making disciples, loving the Lord or loving one another.
Elders are not to be uncertain, they are to lead with convictions. They don’t ever say, “Oh, whatever.” They say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Peter says in verse 2, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” So how do elders manifest humility in the body of Christ, especially when experiencing persecution and suffering? Duty #1, elders must shepherd, Duty #2, elders must lead. But to demonstrate true humility, elders and all spiritual leaders must pursue.
II Three Attitudes of Elders
Look carefully at the rest of verses 2 and 3–there are three “nots” followed by a “but”, three necessary attitudes are highlighted by a “not”, then followed by a contrast “but”–circle them as I read. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”
Peter now tells elders how they are to act, listing three sins to which elders are especially prone, and three antidotes to which they should give their attention. Reformer John Calvin introduced these verses with this perceptive comment. Simplifying his quote Calvin states, “In exhorting pastors to their duty, Peter points out three vices that are often found in shepherds, namely sloth, desire for gain and lust for power.”
I have tensions in my life–one side of the tension is knowing that neither I nor our elders are above such temptations–we are not. Another tension I have is to see pastors in our region fall to these temptations because of lack of humility, a lack of depth in the Word, and a lack of true plurality in leadership. And a final tension that breaks my heart is to see Christians in churches have no expectation at all that their pastors would be models of obedience and Christlikeness.
Yet Peter calls elders to manifest three godly attitudes, while exhorting them to avoid certain leadership sins. You all should look for this in your leaders, and expect this of your leaders, whether you go to FBC or some other church. No elder is perfect, but he is expected to have a certain kind of heart attitude–what is that?
#1 Attitude number one—willingness
Elders have a heart that wants to shepherd and lead, so the elder does so voluntarily and biblically. Look at verse 2 again, “not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” True elders have a strong, genuine passion, a true emotion to shepherd God’s sheep. In fact, their emotional desire to shepherd is so strong it is described as lust.
Look at 1 Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” The word desire in 1 Timothy 3:1 is epithumeo, the basic word for lust, strong emotion–a true elder desires with a strong lusting emotion to do the work of a shepherd and lead. Don’t ever say, “Well, if my career path doesn’t work out, maybe I will go to seminary and be a pastor.” Or, “I lost my job, maybe the church will hire me as a pastor.”
The Bible says to be an elder means you want to be an elder. You may work at a secular job, but your heart is given over to being a shepherd of God’s people. You are willing. Spurgeon said, and I paraphrase, “If you can do anything else other than be a pastor, then do that other work and don’t be a pastor.” Wayne Grudem says an elder is not doing the job simply out of obligation or because someone has to do it, but because the elder has freely and willingly chosen to carry out this valuable work. John MacArthur says a shepherd must be diligent rather than lazy, heart-motivated rather than forced to be faithful and passionate about his privileged duty rather than indifferent.
Under compulsion means constraint, pressured–an irritating duty. Elders under compulsion are like Al Capone’s famous saying, “You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.” In other words, you’re forced. Verse 2, to be under compulsion is the reluctant draftee joining the eldership because the committee voted you in, or the pastor pressured you to do it–but in your heart it’s an irksome task. Rarely in those cases is eldership anything more than a board meeting of pseudo rubber stamp decisionmakers, instead of a team of qualified shepherds who care for God’s church together.
Elders are passionate to shepherd, they want to lead–never because they’re required, never because of title, position or power, but because they have Christ’s heart passion to shepherd and lead His people. How do you recognize that heart? Peter tells us, “but voluntarily.” That’s willingly, as a volunteer. No one is forcing you or paying you. One of the reasons the USA won World War II is because most of our army was made up of volunteers–citizen soldiers. In the Church, our elders shepherd and lead voluntarily. There is no other motive except the love of Christ and love for Christ.
It is like Paul’s heart expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.” You want to shepherd because Christ made you to shepherd. You lead because you want to represent Christ’s leadership. Peter makes this clear in verse 2 when he adds “voluntarily”, according to the will of God.” Humble elders desire to show off Christ as the Great Shepherd and lead God’s people the way Christ wants, described in His Word–God’s way.
True elders shepherd and lead obediently, biblically, according to God’s Word–the way God wants. The word “will” here is want or desire—His way, as God would have it. Key point: humble elders are not pursuing the latest techniques, nor do they imitate the ministry of another pastor they knew once, or duplicate the ministry of another church, no matter how successful it is. Humble elders are not looking for new methods, they are looking at God’s revealed will found in God’s Word, according to the will of God. They’re passionate about shepherding God’s people God’s way. This is not a burden to them, but a blessing. They will do it without pay, and they will labor more than expected because they want to–they are attitude number 1, willing.
#2 Attitude number two—eagerness
Verse 2 says, “Not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.” True elders not only want to shepherd–they are enthusiastic. Elders are excited, fervent, ready to go, “eager” to shepherd. They were made by God to shepherd His sheep and with that comes a heart that wants to do the job, even when it hurts, is stinky, catty, painful or doesn’t pay well—“not for sordid gain.”
Humble elders are not motivated by money–they don’t do their task of shepherding and feeding the flock for a salary. Now before you get all excited about slashing our church budget, the phrase “not for sordid gain” does not mean you should not pay some of your elders a salary, nor does it mean you should not be generous when you pay them. Jesus says in Luke 10:7b, “for the laborer is worthy of his wages.” And Paul reaffirmed in 1 Corinthians 9:14, “The Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”
So who are those the church should hire? Paul is clear that those elders gifted at oversight, and especially those gifted at preaching and teaching can receive a salary–double honor in 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Yet money is never to be the motivation of an elder–and get this, money is never to be the motivation for any true Christian.
I know Christian families who move away from a great church and good job in order to earn more money–for what? They use up all their discretionary time so they can have more. They don’t minister, care for the needy, share the Gospel, or disciple because they’re too busy trying to get ahead with temporary things that are all going to burn. That’s just like you working two jobs, as waiter and engine mechanic, just so you can afford the expensive ticket in order to move up to the upper deck–on the Titanic. How dumb is that? This world, like that ship, is going to sink, burn and die. It is temporary, you can’t take it with you–what are you doing? Be content, and be thankful for what you have.
Or how about the parent that sends their 18-year-old away to college? Why–because they got a scholarship? Yet too many parents sadly do not give enough thought to their child’s spiritual lives–being involved in a healthy local church is a rarity today, an afterthought, no support base of solid believers, no ministry to serve Christ, no mission to glorify God. They just go to college on an academic or sports scholarship—it’s all about the money, and if the truth be known, pride. You’re paying for it–send them to San Jacinto and San Marcos and serve Christ.
Jesus makes His will clear to you–the question is, will you follow Him or the money? Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” What is the answer? Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Elders must lead in their example to not be motivated by money. If elders are paid, they should be paid well enough so that money is not a distraction–they should not have to constantly think about how they are going to pay their bills. Yes, there should be an expectation that they budget, use coupons, are good givers and are sound stewards, but they should not be squeezed to survive either.
The lay elders do a great job taking care of John P and myself, but some of my friends in other churches are forced into debt or forced to minister outside their church to supplement their income, which puts them in a scary place men of God do not want to be in. It makes the question, “are they teaching for money or teaching for the Lord?” more difficult to answer.
My mentor taught me, and I practice–never ask for an honorarium, never set an amount, never suggest an amount, never. So when I minister elsewhere, at least it is free from the love of money. This is serious since one of the distinguishing marks of the false teacher is their lust for money. Paul is pointed in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” Peter later describes the false teacher in 2 Peter 2:3a, “In their greed they will exploit you with false words.”
So Peter says in verse 2, “Not for sordid gain”–some versions say “filthy lucre”, or “dishonest gain”. It’s God’s warning to elders against the sordid preoccupation with material advantage. They’re not to be pre-occupied with the stock market, working the angles, scheming how to make more, or engrossed with making money. Why? Genuine elders don’t serve because of money, but shepherd because it’s their joy to be used of God to teach His Word.
That’s why Peter says in verse 2, “with eagerness”, meaning humble leaders are excited, serving freely and truly enthusiastically. Like a football player who loves the game–even when they get hit hard, they jump back up and join the huddle with a “Let’s go guys.” The word “enthusiastic” comes from two words, ev theos, meaning “in God”–when you are in Christ you’re enthusiastic, eager, excited, willing to be used of God, finding your satisfaction in serving Christ and not trying to get more money.
So elders display willingness and eagerness, and . . .
#3 Attitude number three—meekness
Verse 3, “Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” Elders are servant leaders, not tyrants. Inside every good father in this room is a tyrant. Good dads understand authority, responsibility, headship, leadership but they also battle with being bullies, barking orders, not being patient–in a word, they battle with being lord instead of representing the only Lord.
I told you I was watching videos of when my boys were small, hearing myself on tape barking orders at them–I was lording and it broke my heart and changed my life. Humble leadership is different than the leadership of the world. Elders are different than a soldier or a police officer, different than an elected official or a king. This is why Jesus said in Mark 10:42 to 43, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”
In some churches, one leader is a lord, or all the leaders are mini-dictators who lead with high-handed, autocratic rule. Sadly, these same leaders abuse godly actions, like submission and obedience, to force people to follow their will over God’s will. No leader is perfect, and elder teams will make mistakes, but humble leaders will not lord it over the flock continually. The verb helps you understand that lording is not one-time, but ongoing. There may be some authority pressure from your elders, but it will not be ongoing.
You should expect your elders to exhort you, confront you, give you strong counsel, be hard on wolves, not let you do whatever you think is best, nor adopt all your ideas or start the programs you want to see–and they will press you to follow God’s Word. But true elders will always try to shepherd the flock with truth and grace and love. They seek to be meek.
Verse 3 adds, “those allotted to your charge.” That’s a portion of God’s flock–Peter speaks to various churches and the elder teams in each one of those churches. Humble elders are shepherding a portion of God’s people, and they know they will give an account to God for those people. That is why Hebrews 13:17 says that you as God’s people are to make it easy and not difficult for elders to shepherd.
As a sheep, don’t be Larry Lambo, Walter Wayward, Bitty Biter, or Ba-a-a-ad Barbara. Don’t make it tough. The author of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Humble leaders love people, and God’s people love them back.
In some churches, when leaders see someone caught in a ditch, they dump more dirt on them. They shoot their wounded, tear at each other with criticism, focus on each other’s faults, become harsh, demanding, take themselves too seriously, stop laughing, and make the Christian life as unattractive as possible. But humble elders seek to have Christ saturate God’s flock. And what is the most powerful form of leadership at your work, in your home with your family, and in the church of Jesus Christ?
Look how Peter concludes verse 3, “Proving to be examples to the flock.” I love this phrase–the word “proving” actually is the word becoming, which is a great encouragement to me since I know I have not arrived as a husband, father or pastor. I am still becoming–you too? God says keep becoming an example, which is a type, a stamp that makes an impression that can be copied by others to follow. This is why elders must be qualified, to be an example for others. Again, Hebrews 13:7, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”
JC Ryle said this to parents, but it should be applied to every discipler, every staff person, children’s teacher and elder. “To give children good instruction and a bad example is but beckoning them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them the way of hell.” Humble elders are not tyrants, but always growing, always learning, always becoming a model, a pattern for others to follow. Elders lead with willingness, eagerness and meekness–two duties, shepherding and leading–three attitudes, willingness, eagerness and meekness, and finally . . .
III One Motivation of Elders
Humble shepherds are motivated to please their Shepherd. Read verse 4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Who is . . .
First The person who motivates elders
Verse 4, “And when the Chief Shepherd”–elders look to Christ. He is our model and the head of our church. Peter says He is the Chief, meaning the lead, the highest rank. That’s why Christ is the senior (chief) pastor at FBC. The under-shepherds are motivated by the Senior Shepherd. He is our Savior, our first love, our greatest passion and our Lord. Christ is the Shepherd of the shepherds and the shepherd to all.
Elders never stop being Christians, never stop battling with sin, never stop needing Christ every moment of every day. And the great motivation of all true elders is the person of Christ, like Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” It’s Christ, the Chief Shepherd, who motivates elders.
Second The timing which motivates elders
Verse 4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears.” Never forget, elders, your finish line is not now. Elders and future elders (and their wives), be a faithful shepherd. Stay serving, stay ministering–if God called you to a flock of sheep, stay with it. If it’s fifty, stay with the fifty. If it’s 500, stick with them. Sure it’s tough, sure you get thrashed—yes, people talk about you, run over you, criticize you and they hurt you. So what? That’s the ministry to stinky, smelly sheep–that’s what it’s all about. No pain, no gain, no growth. Stay in the trenches, because someday the Chief Shepherd will appear (be seen) and it’ll be worth it. How?
Third The reward which motivates elders
Verse 4, “You will receive the unfading crown of glory.” God through Peter motivates elders to stay faithful in ministry through a coming future reward–the unfading crown of glory. In the future, Revelation 4:10 to 11 describes elders casting their crowns before the throne of God, as if a crown were a heavenly ability to worship Christ in a greater way. Every true believer will be evaluated and rewarded in the future. Second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Most believe rewards are a greater capacity to worship Christ. Like a Thanksgiving meal, some can eat more than others, but all are full. All believers will be full for eternity, but some will have a greater capacity to reflect Christ and glorify Him. And faithful elders are promised a greater capacity to honor Christ and reflect His glory with the crown of glory. I am looking forward to that day–like many of you I am longing to hear, “Chris, well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s all I am asking for–the look of approval. “Chris, you fulfilled your purpose in your generation–well done.” I can’t wait for that day.
And it is that day that motivates all true elders to shepherd and lead, to be willing, eager and meek, to model, teach and care.
And it is that day that should motivate you to give your life to Christ, to repent of your sins and follow Christ.
And it’s that day that must motivate you Christians to serve in the church, to give generously to Christ’s work, to love the saints around you and submit to your leaders. Christ is coming soon–are you faithful to His Word now? Let’s pray.