"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER"
Peter's Exhortation To Elders (5:1-4) INTRODUCTION 1. At all times, but especially during persecution, the people of God need good leadership 2. In His Divine wisdom, the Lord saw fit to organize His church in such a way that the condition He witnessed during His earthly ministry ("like sheep having no shepherd" - Mt 9:36) should not last for long 3. His plan calls for local congregations to be overseen by qualified men, known as "elders", and whose responsibilities were to "shepherd the flock of God" 4. In our text (1Pe 5:1-4), we read of such men, and Peter's exhortation to them. In this lesson, we shall... a. Briefly summarize what is said about elders in the Lord's church throughout the Scriptures b. Consider the exhortation given by Peter to the elders in 1Pe 5:1-4 [We begin, therefore, with...] I. A BRIEF SUMMARY CONCERNING ELDERS A. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH... 1. Local congregations as soon as possible were organized under the leadership of elders - cf. Ac 14:23 2. In every example we have, there was a "plurality" of elders in each church, never just one elder - e.g., Ac 20:17; 21:17-18 B. THE WORK OF ELDERS... 1. Can be seen by the use of terms that are used interchangeably in the Scriptures a. Such terms as "elder, pastor, bishop, shepherd, overseer" b. That they refer to the same position is evident by their use in: 1) Ac 20:17,28 -- where elders are called "overseers" (bishops), and charged to "shepherd" (pastor) the church 2) Tit 1:5-7 -- where "elder" and "bishop" (overseer) are used together 3) 1Pe 5:1-2 -- where "elders" are told to "shepherd" (pastor) the flock of God, serving as "overseers" (bishops) 2. As "older men", therefore, they are to watch over (bishop, overseer) the flock, and to tend (shepherd, pastor) the sheep C. THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERS... 1. With such an awesome responsibility to watch over and tend the flock of God, one can understand that it takes men with who are truly qualified 2. Two lists of qualifications for elders are found in
1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9 D. OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ELDERS... 1. Is to recognize and respect them - 1Th 5:12-13; 1Ti 5:17-20 2. To obey and be submissive when they lead scripturally -
He 13:17; 1Pe 5:5 [Think of elders, then, as your "spiritual advisors", as "shepherds"; who are to be mature, experienced Christian men charged by God to "watch out for your souls"! With this brief summary fresh in our minds, let's now consider...] II. PETER'S EXHORTATION TO ELDERS A. THE BASIS FOR THIS EXHORTATION... 1. As coming from one who is a fellow elder a. Peter could have "commanded" them, using his apostolic authority b. But practicing what he will preach in verse 3, Peter chose to "exhort" them as a "fellow elder" 2. As coming from one who is a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that will be revealed a. He has certainly been an eyewitness of Christ's suffering b. But he has also been a personal partaker of the suffering of Christ as described earlier in 1Pe 4:13; cf. Ac 5:40-41 c. And so will be a partaker of the same glory referred to later in verse 4 B. THE EXHORTATION ITSELF... 1. "Shepherd the flock of God" a. To tend (pastor) to the people of God; for this reason, elders must be... 1) "able to teach" - 1Ti 3:2 2) "able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict" - Tit 1:9 b. As Paul told the elders of the church in Ephesus, this involves "taking heed" to themselves as well - cf. Ac 20:28-30 2. "which is among you" a. Their responsibility is for the sheep in the congregation where they serve b. Even as Paul told the Ephesian elders: "the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" - Ac 20:28 c. The concept of one or more elders (bishops, pastors) over a plurality of churches is foreign to the New Testament 3. "serving as overseers" a. Here the work of elders is summarized: to oversee the flock of God b. But notice that Peter calls such oversight as "serving" c. In keeping with what is said later, the role of elder is one of a servant, not a lord 4. "not by constraint but willingly" a. A man cannot be appointed to serve against his will b. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with "desiring the position" - cf. 1Ti 3:1 c. But the moment he loses the desire to serve willingly, he should step down, for he will not be able to serve as he ought 5. "not for dishonest gain but eagerly" a. An elder may be financially supported for his work - cf. 1Ti 5:17-18 b. But the motive for service is not to be money, but an eagerness to save souls! 6. "nor as being lords over those entrusted to you" a. As implied before, the oversight is a position of service, not to be abused by assuming a dictatorial role b. A sobering thought is that elders are "entrusted" with the souls under their care, and they will be called to give an account! - He 13:17 7. "but being examples to the flock" a. Just as sheep are best led, and not driven, so it is with the people of God b. Qualified elders will have less problem getting people to follow them and submitting to their care c. When elders do not provide examples of spirituality, the flock is more likely to rebel against their leadership C. MOTIVATION TO HEED THIS EXHORTATION... 1. First, perhaps a subtle reminder that "elders" are also under authority... a. There is one who is "the Chief Shepherd" (Jesus) who will one day appear b. One to whom they will have to give an account - He 13:17 2. But more positively, a promise of recognition for faithful service... a. "you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" b. Like the "inheritance" reserved in heaven that "does not fade away" - cf. 1Pe 1:4 CONCLUSION 1. Those who serve well as elders are certainly worthy of "the crown of glory" that awaits them 2. Hopefully, as we better understand the exhortation given by Peter, we will appreciate the work they do in the kingdom of God... a. We will "esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (1Th 5:13) b. We will "obey", and "be submissive", so they can watch out for our souls "with joy and not with grief" (He 13:17) In our next lesson, we shall consider Peter's exhortations to those who are younger (1Pe 5:5-9)...