Sheep needs shepherds. Left to their own, sheep will wander, starve, and be wide open to attacks from predators. To lead His sheep, Jesus appoints shepherds that will guide, feed, and protect them. True, Jesus will always be the “Chief Shepherd” of His church (1 Peter 1:4). He is the head and we are His body (Colossians 1:18). He alone is our Lord and Savior, the “Good Shepherd” who has given His life for His sheep (John 10:11). But in today’s passage, the apostle Peter reminds us that Christ chooses earthly shepherds to lead His church on His behalf. Pastors (another term for shepherds, who are also called “elders” and “bishops” in the New Testament) are appointed to oversee or guide the church. The church members are charged to humbly submit to the leadership of the pastors, who in turn are charged to humbly lead their churches by setting a high standard of spiritual maturity and grace.
Pastors shepherd their flocks mainly by feeding them from God’s Word. Pastors should faithfully and accurately teach and oversee the teaching of the Bible. A flock’s spiritual strength is directly related to the quality and depth of the Bible teaching that it regularly receives. Strong preaching and teaching of the whole counsel of God leads to strong believers living out the will of God in their daily lives. When a church receives a steady diet of explanation and real life application of the Bible, they are given guidance in how to walk on the path of life and protection from the false ideas and desires that would lead them down the path of death. Pastors should do this work of teaching, guiding, and protecting Christ’s church with gladness. Though they face many hardships in ministry, they should experience joy in teaching and guiding God’s people. While churches should pay their pastors fair salaries for their service (1 Timothy 5:18), pastors should not serve the Lord just to make money. And while pastors must exercise authority and oversight in leading their congregations, they must do so with humility, knowing that they have a Boss in heaven who will hold them to a stricter standard of judgment when He returns.
As the younger people that Peter describes at the end of today’s passage, your job is to follow the shepherds that God has given you. This begins with becoming part of a healthy church with godly leadership. Not perfect pastors, but godly ones who are humbly and faithfully teaching the Bible so that their church members can grow spiritually. Such churches do exist in the North Raleigh area! Any of your teachers would love to help you and your family find a church home. It is our heart’s desire as a Christian school to see all of our students and families joyfully participating in the life of a local church. Some of you are members of good churches, but you aren’t going often enough to let Christ guide you as He desires. You’re missing out on the abundant life that Jesus promised His followers because your connection to the body is too loose, which means that your connection to the cares of this world is what’s really leading your life right now. Christians living apart from the body are going to wander and starve spiritually and may fall victim to the wolves of the enemy if they spend too long alone in the wilderness. God’s message to you is to spend more time with the flock where He has placed you so that He can lead you by the still waters and into the quiet green pastures where His sheep belong (Psalm 23). Finally, to those of you who are well-connected to a biblical church, the challenge is to not just go through the motions each week during services and Bible studies. Every time that we gather with the body of Christ to worship and hear the Bible taught, we choose to either submit to the Lord with a willing heart or to ignore Him and reject His Word. The reminder at the end of today’s passage should be powerful motivation for us to keep trusting and obeying the Lord, to keep surrendering to God’s leadership of our lives: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
The Text (1 Peter 5:1-5)
1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Background and Observations
• It is important to note that in verse 1, Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder” with the church leaders to whom he is writing. Even though he was one of the 12 disciples and an apostle, Peter does not claim any special authority over these pastors and churches. Rather, he speaks to them as fellow followers of the real “Chief Shepherd,” Jesus Christ.
• In bigger churches, students and parents can sometimes feel anonymous and not have personal relationships with the pastors. Most of these churches encourage families to participate in small groups or Bible study classes. If you feel disconnected at your church, consider getting involved in one of these smaller subgroups of believers. These groups or classes are usually led by godly men and women who have closer relationships with the pastors and act as “mini-shepherds” to help the pastors guide their large flocks.
Questions to Think About
1. In what ways have you and your family allowed your pastors to shepherd you? How could you do a better job of letting your pastors lead you spiritually?
2. Have you ever imagined what it must be like to be a pastor? What do you think are some of the greatest challenges and frustrations that pastors face in trying to do the jobs that God has given them?