Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25th - Shepherd the Flock

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Dave Sloan Preaching Next Sunday
Students going to Disney
Taste of Marietta
Tyler Preaching Next Friday
Hannah's Soccer Injury (toe)

Text – 1 Peter 5:1-5

We’re coming near to the end of Peter’s First Epistle. Peter has been exhorting us in many ways: to be holy, to entrust ourselves to a faithful Creator, to do good, to not do evil, to use our gifts to serve the church, to proclaim the excellencies of Christ, and probably most importantly to show Christ is holy in our hearts by the lives we live and the hope we have in him. So, he doesn’t give us a summation of the letter, only keeps giving exhortation, and I think you’ll see when we finish this letter in two weeks that it packages up nicely.

Our Awtrey students will be at Disney next week, so we will skip a week in Peter because I think it will be very important for everyone to be here for the conclusion. Next week we will look at Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, there is a ton to learn from it and it is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Awtrey students, after next Sunday take a look at the website because I will post the lesson and two testimonies to watch.

So the passage we’re going to look at today jumps off of the idea that there is persecution towards Christians by the world. Many who heard Peter’s Epistle would go through fiery trials and suffer for doing good. This is certainly not a thought that is confined only to Peter’s Epistles:

John 15:18-19 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

2 Timothy 3:12-13 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Matthew 24:9-11 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

So with these things happening, there is a major need for godly leadership and examples within the church, and here is what Peter is going to say now. This passage starts with “Therefore” or “So”, which ties it back to the persecution, so if you have an NIV Bible I ask you to write “Therefore” at the beginning of verse 1.

1 Peter 5:1-5 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 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. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

v.1 So I exhort the elders among you

This is to the elders, the Presbyters, which is sort of the supervisory pastors, this isn’t just the people that Summit calls Elders, but can be read as all pastors. Sort of a rabbit trail: Peter calls himself a Presbyter here, which is lower than a bishop, and this is just one more evidence that Peter gives that he was never a pope, let alone the first pope. This is very near to the end of Peter’s life, as evidenced by the end of chapter 5 and Second Timothy, so there was no time for him to become pope after writing this.

Here it is not evident that Peter is only talking to men unless we compare to Paul’s writings, but Paul is very clear that men should be the presbyters over the flock (1 Timothy 3 if you want to read it), but he also opens the office for women to be presbyters over women;

Titus 2:3-5 Women elders likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Most of your translations probably say “older” but I believe that is a mistranslation, this is “older” in faith, not necessarily in age, albeit a lot of wisdom comes with age. But this is important because the word for “younger women” and in the next verse, “younger men”, is Neos which means newly regenerate, you can be neos at 90 years old, and you can be a Presbyter at 16, like Charles Spurgeon who took his first pastorate at 16.

This is important because beloved, you are growing up to be some of the most spiritually mature people in the world. In a world where most churches are producing little girls of their youth you will excel above your peers in your biblical knowledge. For this reason it is vital that you prepare to be in this position, whether you go into full time ministry or just volunteer, you can be a Presbyter at 16: men to the church and ladies to ladies.

So pay extra close attention to what Peter is about to say:

v.1 as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

I like that Peter gives his credentials here in giving this exhortation, it is him saying that these things I’m about to say will effect me as well, so you can’t say I’m being too strict or unfair or that I don’t know what I’m saying. He is actually very close to quoting Jesus Christ verbatim.

Here Peter returns to a command he received over thirty years prior, in John 21, which we’re not going to read for times sake and because it is spread out over several verses, Jesus told Peter that if Peter loved him, then he ought to feed his lambs and sheep, and tend to the flock. Here’s how Peter paraphrases it:

v.2 shepherd (pastor) the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight (bishop)

Since I mentioned presbyter earlier I have to also point out that pastor and bishop are in this verse. This is one reason we have Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches because the Bible is not totally clear on the preferred church structure; Summit is between Presbyterian and Congregational in church government, but here in this verse Peter is almost pushing the importance of government away in order to show that the individual sheep and flocks are more important than church structure. A well run Congregation house-church or a well run Episcopal megachurch are glorifying to God if the lambs and sheep are rightly taken care of.

The way they are taken care of is in this verse, two major things, feeding (shepherding) and caring for (oversight). Sheep are interesting animals, not particularly dumb I’m told, but with some interesting mannerisms. One of the most interesting is that they have no sense of direction. If a sheep gets lost a quarter mile from home it can’t find it’s way home, someone must go find it. If a sheep with a full wool-coat falls over it can’t get back up and must be helped back to its feet. A sheep will eat where you put it, and if it eats all of the grass it will continue to eat into the dirt to get to the roots. A sheep will not drink from running water, but needs still water, but then will drink anything that is puddled, even if it isn’t water. The sheep is the most defenseless animal in the world, it has no ability to kick, bite, or run, it is at the mercy of predators. They need constant attention to make sure they are well fed, watered, taken care of, protected, and accounted for.

This is how the Bible speaks of all people; it sounds quite insulting but it is spiritually true of our souls. Having gone astray from God we have no idea how to find our way home, having fallen into sin we are helpless, consuming whatever we can find, drinking in iniquity like it was water, devoured by enemies, and desperately in need of oversight from someone who knows what they are doing.

So the pastor must have a good grasp of the scripture and be able to teach it and be willing to look after his people. Notice that in chapter 4 it was a sin to be involved in others business, to be a gossip, but here the pastor is to be overseeing his flock, it’s nearly the same word. I want to make sure you understand the distinction; the gossip spoken of in chapter 4 is things which have nothing to do with you, unimportant things to you about others, but the oversight of the pastor are the important things that do concern him and the spiritual health of his flock. For example, it is good for a shepherd to watch out for predators:

1 Samuel 17:34-35 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.”

On the other hand, sometimes problems are internal and the pastor can’t see it, in which case it is vital that you bring it to our attention so that we can address it. For example I read one story of a real sheep that died because one day it wouldn’t walk anymore, the shepherd went and looked and found that the sheep had cut its leg and it had gotten infected and the infection killed the sheep. If the sheep had limped or shown some sign of injury then the shepherd could have probably saved the sheep. We’re on the look-out for limping, but it’s easier if you tell us. If you have questions about the Bible or doubts or whatever, I promise there is an answer, but I can’t answer it if you don’t ask it.

The idea of a shepherd is listed all through the Bible, and when it speaks of the church it is a command that the shepherd loves the flock so much that he would even die for them,

John 10:11-14 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…

Peter seemingly remembers this idea of not being a hireling in the rest of the verse;

v.2 not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;

Peter is saying that this isn’t something to be done just to do it, but because it is a high calling, a worthy calling, a job with eternal rewards. God doesn’t want pastors who do it because they think it should be done or because they have to, but willing participants who love their job and love the flock.

v.2 not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Various places in the Bible say that the pastor should be paid, but here Peter is saying that this is not the motivation of the pastor. I love my position because I do everything I do at Summit voluntarily and beloved let me tell you that the benefits far outweigh the time. We’ll see why in a few verses.

v.3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

This is beautiful language, because you drive cattle, behind them forcing them to go where they go, but sheep cannot be driven, sheep have to be led, but when led they will follow their shepherd anywhere. The Amish church believes that only the pastor has the authority to evangelize, but this passage is clear that the pastor sets the example. In my evangelism I hope you are motivated and desirous to proclaim the excellencies of your Saviour.

Likewise, have you noticed that I say, “This is my favorite verse.” A lot? Why do you think I say that? Is it just to be silly? No, it’s because every verse is inspired by God for a purpose, and I love every word in this Bible because none of it is superfluous, none of it is there on accident, all of it is there for doctrine, reproof, and training in righteousness. I want you to be excited about it so that you may be competent and equipped for every good work.

I hope you see my example of how seriously I take God, the Bible, and souls, and that you will follow me as I follow Christ. This is why various scriptures say that the person who will be punished the most in Hell is the one who has led souls astray; this extends from bad pastors to false religious leaders to teachers who don’t teach with God in view, and so if you become a teacher/leader in any capacity I pray that you will do everything you do with Christ as your final goal. And that leads to my favorite verse:

v.4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

When Jesus Christ returns to call of his sheep to himself then the shepherds will be rewarded for their good work, not good work leading to Heaven, but good work of stewardship. This is the fruit of repentance, and Paul identifies this crown as dealing directly with converts and the church. I’m fairly certain this will be both a physical crown and symbolic of something worth more than gold, which is the souls of the flock. If you could choose between the most beautiful and valuable crown in the world or a good friend for eternity which would you choose? In Heaven you get both, but the point I’m making, and I believe Paul makes is that the eternal soul is our true reward; let’s read my all time favorite verse:

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

The word for “chief Shepherd” is neat, it is archipoimenos, it’s the ultimate shepherd, the greatest shepherd, the head of shepherds. Think of every good thing a shepherd does, from finding good pastures and still water, to overseeing what every sheep needs, to protecting them from all danger, and Jesus Christ performs all of these to perfection in his coming, which means the day this age ends and eternity begins.

v.5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

And now for your direct application for today before you become presbyters, is that those who are neos, those who are new or younger, be subject to the mature and the older. The implication is that the elders must do everything in verse 1-4, and in their obedience and care, the younger will be raised up. In this it is vital that you make sure your elders are teaching from the Bible, for example if I tell you to shave your head, or worse to do something against God, you ought to ask the reason and the Bible verse, because your chief shepherd is not me, it’s not Dave, it’s not Pastor Aaron, it is Jesus Christ, the archipoimenos whose command and authority far overrides ours.

Your obedience and subjection will greatly facilitate your growth. And in this, you ought to pray for your pastors that they are blessed with the gift of teaching, discernment, and love so that in their blessing they pour out on you their lives and holiness so that you may grow into this high calling for pointing others at Heaven, feeding the lambs and tending the sheep, and willingly and eagerly loving the church who ought to be your joy and crown of boasting at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

Prayer – Psalm 23:

Lord Jesus, I pray that you would be the chief shepherd of these precious lambs,
That they should not want.
Make them lay down in green pastures.
Lead them beside still waters.
Constantly restore their souls.
Lead them in well-worn paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.

Even as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, let them fear no evil, knowing that you are with them;

May your rod and your staff comfort them.
Prepare a table before them in the presence of their enemies;
anoint their heads with oil;
may their cups overflow with every good thing.

May goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their life,
and may they dwell your house forever.

I pray all of these things because you are the Chief Shepherd of our souls, who sought us and bought us, and who will lead us home, amen.