************ Sermon on 1 Peter 5:2-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 26, 2002
1 Peter 5
1 Peter 5:2-4
"Be Shepherds of God's Flock"
This morning we have installed two elders and two deacons. Inspired by the Spirit, Peter speaks to those who hold office in the church. He tells them what to do and he tells them their attitude as they do it. And, he speaks to members of the church telling them how to respond to those in church office. Let's take a closer look at what he says and what he means.
I Be Shepherds of God's Flock
A If you remember, Peter denied knowing the Lord. After the resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. They caught a miraculous number of fish and afterwards had breakfast on the beach. After breakfast Jesus three times asked Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said three times, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." "Take care of my sheep." "Feed my sheep."
Peter now gives to those who hold office in the church the same command that he was given by Jesus. He says, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care."
B Many shepherds in Palestine did not own the sheep. Rather, they were hired to look after the sheep of others. In the same way those who hold office in the church are looking after the sheep for someone else – namely, God. Peter says, "Be shepherds of God's flock ..." We are reminded here that the flock, the sheep, the church, the congregation is the Lord's. Those of us in church office must always remember this. We should never behave as successful executives in a worldly business. We aren't owners or bosses. We are merely under shepherds, hired men, looking after the sheep of Another. Those of us in church office are waiting for the return of the chief Shepherd to Whom the flock belongs.
This is a reminder too that God is the true shepherd of the flock. "The Lord is my shepherd," says King David. In the same way the church can say, "The Lord is my shepherd."
We also can never forget that Jesus calls Himself the "good shepherd" (Jn 10:11,14). Jesus points to four things He does as the good shepherd. First, Jesus says,
(Jn 10:11) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."A shepherd has to guard and protect the flock even at some risk to his life. For His sheep Jesus lays down His life. For His sheep Jesus goes to the cross and the grave. He does this to save us from sin. He is the good shepherd Who cares for the sheep.
Second, as the good shepherd Jesus knows His sheep. Jesus says,
(Jn 10:14) "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me ..."The shepherd of Palestine knew his sheep. He had a favorite name for each one of them. Likewise, Jesus knows His sheep and calls them by name. As the good shepherd He has a shepherd's concern for each one of His flock. He searches them out when they are lost. He knows who belongs to Him and knows when one of His flock is missing or straying!
Third, as the good shepherd Jesus "leads" His sheep (Jn 10:3). The shepherd of Palestine had to guide and lead the sheep to green pastures and quiet waters. As the good shepherd, Jesus guides and leads His sheep to life everlasting.
Fourth, as the good shepherd Jesus "feeds" His sheep (Mt 26:26). He gives us His body and blood and nourishes our souls unto life everlasting. His life-giving Spirit feeds us the Word, which is the bread of life.
C "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care." Those in church office are called to be shepherds. They are called to do for the congregation what a shepherd does for the sheep. They are called to do for the church what Jesus does as the Good Shepherd. They are called to "care" for the sheep. What exactly does this mean?
First, like Jesus, a shepherd is to guard and protect the flock. David knew about this first-hand. To King Saul he said,
(1Sam 17:34-36) Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a [lion] or a [bear] came and carried off a sheep from the flock, (35) I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. (36) Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear ...
To keep wild animals at a distance, the shepherd carried a sling, which he learned to use with great skill. Think of David killing Goliath with one little stone. And, a shepherd wielded his rod like a club against wild beasts that attacked the flock. Undoubtedly, this is what David used against the lion and the bear.
Today, more than ever, shepherds are needed to protect the flock and people of God from the enemy. Jesus warned of false prophets who are wolves in sheep's clothing (Mt 7:15). Peter warns of the devil when he says,
(1Pt 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.And Paul warned the Ephesian elders,
(Acts 20:28-31) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (29) I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. (30) Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (31) So be on your guard!
Many Christians today are taken in by these wolves in sheep's clothing. It is the job of those in church office to guard and protect them from such enemies. Perhaps you have noticed the advertisements for the Baha'i Faith. There is nothing Christian about this faith. Yet, because it talks about God, love, and the unity of mankind many naive Christians are taken in. Think of the thousands taken in by the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, Christian Science, the New Age movement, and the Moonies.
A pastor friend of mine in Sacramento sent me an e-mail telling me of two very nicely dressed people coming into his office. They asked to leave brochures in the church building inviting his congregation to a marriage enrichment seminar. They left a video tape of what to expect at such a weekend. He watched the tape. He read over the brochure. He could find nothing wrong. Yet, something did not seem to be right. When the two people came back for the video tape a few days later he asked some point-blank questions and found, to his horror, that they were Moonies and their marriage enrichment seminar was but a trap to the unsuspecting.God's people need protection from such charlatans.
Another pastor friend was invited to attend a religious seminar. He discovered it was nothing but a money making machine. The guests were expected to pay $200 per person to hear a renowned speaker; the hotel room and food was extra. The big name speakers received $5000 - $20,000 per weekend. The whole weekend he was subjected to advertisements for upcoming weekends and was urged to buy books and supplies at the various booths set up in the back.
Second, like Jesus, a shepherd must also know his sheep. He has to know them for if he doesn't, he cannot care for them.
Topic: ChurchGreat advice. A crowded church isn't necessarily a healthy or a spiritual church. To find out people's spiritual condition, you must "look them in the eye." You must know them. Then you can minister to their needs.
Subtopic: Compared to a Flock
A young man worked on a farm. Each day he would count the 32 head of cattle, then turn his attention elsewhere. One day an old farmer told him that if all he did was count the cattle, they wouldn't flourish. Sure enough, one day he counted 31; one was dead in the bushes. Now the young man understood the farmer: you must watch the quality of each animal. "Look him in the eye; study the sheen of his coat. You may not know how many cattle you have, but you might save the life of one that is sick."
Third, like Jesus, a shepherd is to also lead or guide the flock. To do his job of guiding and leading the sheep, the ancient shepherd used a rod and a staff. When a lamb entangled its foot in the underbrush, the shepherd hooked the staff around the lamb's leg to tenderly ease it out of its prison of thorns. When a sheep or a little lamb would wander from the path or the flock, the shepherd would hook his staff around the sheep's neck and pull it back, or he would wave his rod to direct it back to the path. Though the rod was wielded against hostile beasts that sought to devour the sheep, it was also used to beat a path through briars, thistles, thorns, and weeds that stood in the way. In the same way, those in church office must lead and guide the sheep through the thorns and thistles and trials of life – especially those wandering from the path.
Fourth, a shepherd also feeds the sheep. He leads them to green pastures and beside quiet waters. Three times in the New Testament the verb form of pastor is used, each time with the meaning of providing food. In the Greek the word "shepherd" comes from the verb "to feed." Literally, a shepherd is the "feeder of sheep." Through Jeremiah God said that the shepherds of His people were to feed them "with knowledge and understanding" (Jer 3:15). Those in church office must feed the people of God. They feed them, of course, from the Word of God.
II Have the Right Attitude
A Peter doesn't just tell those in church office what to do but he also tells them what their attitude should be as they do it.
First, Peter tells those in church office to serve "not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be." More than once I have heard those in church office say they would rather not be in office. God's will is that those in church office be "willing" to be in church office. God does not want under shepherds who take on their office grudgingly.
B Second, Peter says those in church office are not to be "greedy for money, but eager to serve." At that time, just like today, the under shepherds control the purse strings of the church. At the time of Peter some of those in church office used the church's money for their own benefit or for the benefit of family. No one is to hold office because of what they can get out of it. Rather, they are to serve for the sheer delight of it.
C Third, Peter says serve "not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." Throughout the ages there have been those in church office who have gone off on power trips. They rule the church with an iron hand and what they say goes. Jesus tells us that
(Lk 22:25-26) "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. (26) But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves."There is no room for tyrants in the church. There is no room for dictators. There is room only for servants whose life of service is an example to the entire flock.
D Those in church office who do what they are supposed to (be shepherds) and who do it the way they are supposed to (willingly, eager to serve, being examples to the flock) receive a promise: "when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." Peter is thinking of the wreath given to those who win events in the Greek Olympic games. They work, and they work hard, to get a wreath made of flowers that wilt and die. Those who are faithful in church office, on the other hand, will get a crown that will never fade away. They will be rewarded in heaven. To them the LORD will say, "Well done my good and faithful servant."
A Peter speaks not only to those in church office but also to the congregation. So let me end with what he says to the sheep. He says, "Be submissive" (vs 5).
In the Greek language the word that is used here is also used to describe a ship sailing before the wind. A boat can no more resist the wind than can a falling object resist gravity. In the same way those in the congregation are to obey, they are to be subject to those in church office.
B Submission never comes naturally to us sinful, fallen human beings. For this reason Peter adds a word about humility. He says, "clothe yourselves with humility" (vs 5). You see, only the humble are able to submit. Only the humble have the grace to listen and obey. Humility is not a gesture we make now and then. It is a garment in which we are clothed. Maybe Peter was thinking of the time Jesus humbled Himself before His friends, dressed in a towel, to wash their feet.
C The Christian community must present a dramatic contrast to our worldly society. Christians don't climb over each other; they help each other. They don't envy each other; they rejoice with each other. Humble people don't resent it when the under shepherds admonish and encourage. Humble people don't resist when the under shepherds try to guide and lead the church. Humble people don't complain when the under shepherds warn of sin and evil and falsehood.
The job of those in church office, then, is to be shepherds of God's flock. And, the job of the flock is to submit to the under shepherds. When this is done, God is praised and the church is strong, firm, and steadfast (vs 10-11).
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