Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wearing the Victor’s Crown

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. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

Everything Peter has said up to this point has been for believers in general. Now he has a few words for the elders, leaders in the churches to whom the people would naturally look, especially in times of crisis. “Shepherd the flock of God,” he tells them. This is the same charge Jesus gave to Peter in John 21:16, “Tend My sheep.” It is the charge Paul gave to the elders at Ephesus: “Take heed to yourselves and to 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” (Acts 20:28). It is the pastoral function — the Greek word for “shepherd” is also same word translated “pastor.”

The role of shepherds is simple, though not always easy even in the best of times. They see that the flock is fed, keep it from straying, and protect it from wolves, snares and other dangers. They “exercise oversight.” The Greek word is episkopeo, which means to watch over, look after and care for the flock, being alert to danger or problems. The author of Hebrews uses this same term in a way that emphasizes its diligent nature: “Looking carefully [episkopeo] lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (Hebrews 12:15-16).

To be a good shepherd and properly exercise oversight requires the motivation of a pure heart. Peter breaks this down by way of three contrasts:

  • Not under compulsion, but willingly. No shepherd should feel pressured into this work but should be able to serve with a willing heart, for it can be a very difficult and risky business in perilous times.
  • Not for shameful gain, but eagerly. Elders who rule well are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17) and those who are taught in the Word should share with their teachers (Galatians 6:6), but this is not to be the motivation for elders and teachers. They are not to be lovers of money, as were some of the Pharisees (Luke 16:14). They are not to be eager for gain, calculating a return, but eager to serve out of love and devotion. True shepherds lay down their lives for the sheep, but hirelings run away when trouble comes (John 10:11-13).
  • Not domineering, but being an example. Shepherds are not to act as lords over an allotment, or masters over a possession. Their job is not to overcome, subjugate, subdue or force the flock into submission. Rather, they are to lead the flock God has entrusted to them by the example of their own faithful lives.
As shepherds, elders are accountable to the Chief Shepherd, and when He comes again, those who have served faithfully will receive the “unfading crown of glory.” This is the victor’s crown, the wreath given to those who have won their race. Paul spoke similarly as he came to the end of his own apostolic career: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). It is an unfading crown, like the incorruptible inheritance God has reserved for all who trust in Him (1 Peter 1:4).

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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