1 Peter 5:2-4

Sermon preached on June 22, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

George Harrison of the Beatles fame, was attacked by a deranged fan at the end of 1999. It was either December 30 or 31st. Around 4 AM in the morning this man broke into George's house and attacked George and his wife with a knife. George was stabbed 8 times. But he and his wife were able to subdue the man and call for help. When the police and paramedics came they put George on a stretcher and carried him downstairs to the ambulance. He was awake on the stretcher and when he got to the bottom of the stairs there were 2 people there who had just started working for him that weekend. George looked at them and said,

"So what do you think of the job so far?"

(From the film George Harrison Living in the Material World by Martin Socorcese)

I love that. George obviously had a good sense of humor. To start work at a new job and have your boss almost murdered almost right in front of you—obviously it was not what they were expecting when they were hired.

Some jobs are good and some are bad. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on what you have to do in the job, what kind of people you work with, what kind of boss you have.

Some jobs are just fun. When I was 16 or 17 I got a summer job driving a truck delivering things. I was great. I loved it. Driving a truck was fun.

My mom still talks about one job she had that all the people she worked with, co-workers and bosses—and how they were all so nice. She said that she never worked in a place like that before or after. She loved the people she worked with.

I was once visiting with Debbie R, our friend who died in 1996. She told me about one job that she had that she loved because her boss was so great. She said that he was the best boss that anyone could ever have.

But a lot of people have the exact opposite experience. Their boss is horrible. Or their jobs aren't enjoyable. Or their co-workers are horrible.

What's it like to be an elder of the church? As far as the boss goes—He's the best boss ever, but He is demanding. He expects His undershepherds to do a good job. He loves His church and will enable them to do a good job if they rely on Him. As far as the job itself goes, it can be the best of jobs and it can be the worst of jobs.

This morning we're ordaining and installing Jim and Ken as elders in our congregation and so we're going to be looking at just a few aspects of their job—to help them in the job and to help us to make their job easier. Our text says, (1 Peter 5:2–4)

"Be shepherds of God's flock
that is under your care,
serving as overseers—
not because you must,
but because you are willing,
as God wants you to be;
not greedy for money,
but eager to serve;
not lording it over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away."

The first thing we see her is

the particular group that the elders are to shepherd—is God's flock.

They are told to be shepherds of 'God's flock'. The work of the elders is amazing, incredible. There's no other work like it. They take care of God's flock.

One of the things that is so amazing about it is

who the elders labor with, who your fellow laborers are.

On the one hand you're doing the same work as Peter did, not as an apostle, but as an elder. When you're an elder you're doing the same job that Peter did. Peter began chapter 5 with these words,

"To the elders among you,
I appeal as a fellow elder…"

Peter was an elder. That in itself is amazing, but it's even more amazing that we are working with God, doing His work. Titus 1:7 says,

"Since an overseer is entrusted
with God's work…"

We see this in verse 4 of our chapter. It says,

"And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away."

Elders are undershepherds, under the chief Shepherd Jesus, involved in protecting His people.

Wow. Elders are God's co-workers. As the apostle Paul said about himself and Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 3:9,

"For we are God's fellow workers;"

This is the best work. In 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul wrote,

"Here is a trustworthy saying:
If anyone sets his heart on being
an overseer, he desires a noble task."

To be an elder is to join God in His work, of caring for His church.

This leads us to the second thing that shows that the work of an elder is amazing,

consider the people that you get to serve.

Who are these people. They are the flock of God. There is no other body like the body of Christ. A moment ago I quoted from the first part of 1 Corinthians 3:9 but now I'll include the second part, where Paul tells where he works,

"For we are God's fellow workers;
you are God's field,
God's building."

God's people are God's building, an edifice that He is building to His glory. God's people are going to be so glorious. The ones in heaven now are already glorious. Hebrews 12:22–23 tells of this. It says,

"But you have come to Mount Zion,
to the heavenly Jerusalem,
the city of the living God.
You have come to thousands upon
thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
to the church of the firstborn,
whose names are written in heaven."

Wow. The church is going to be so glorious. Revelation 21:2–3 also describes this. John wrote,

"I saw the Holy City,
the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them
and be their God.'"

Ephesians 2:6–7 tells us of the reason God is building us into His building.

"And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable
riches of his grace, expressed
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Christians are a testimony to the incomparable richness of God's grace. Or, as Ephesians 1 put it, we are,

"for the praise of His glory."

The church, to all eternity will be the body that will be to the praise of His glory. Here's how it puts it in Ephesians 1:11–14,

"In him we were also chosen,
having been predestined according
to the plan of him who works out
everything in conformity
with the purpose of his will,
in order that we,
who were the first to hope in Christ,
might be for the praise of his glory.
And you also were included in Christ
when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation.
Having believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit, who is
a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance
until the redemption of those
who are God's possession—
to the praise of his glory."

The church is going to be made glorious—to the praise of God's glory. You elders have a part to play in that process.

Even now, some of the people that you serve are so wonderful. I love how Hebrews 11 ends. It talks about some of the Old Testament saints and says that some of them, (Hebrews 11:33–38)

"shut the mouths of lions,
quenched the fury of the flames,
and escaped the edge of the sword;
whose weakness was turned to strength;
and who became powerful in battle
and routed foreign armies.
Women received back their dead,
raised to life again.
Others were tortured and
refused to be released,
so that they might gain
a better resurrection.
Some faced jeers and flogging,
while still others were chained
and put in prison.
They were stoned;
they were sawed in two;
they were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins
and goatskins, destitute,
persecuted and mistreated—
the world was not worthy of them."

The world was not worthy of them. Some of the people that you work with are like that. The world is not worthy of them.

Elders oversee God's flock. In one sense they are glorious and are going to be made even more glorious.

But that's only one side of their work. But there are others who are much more difficult to oversee. You've all heard the old saying,

"To dwell above with saints we love,That will be grace and glory. To live below with saints we know;Now, that's another story!"

There are lots of Christians who are not like the saints in Hebrews 11. You can't say about them, 'The world was not worthy of them.'

There is another side to the flock of God.

Most Christians need a lot of shepherding. Of course this also is the elder's job. Peter tells the elders here to

shepherd the flock of God.

To shepherd means to, (BDAG, 842)

'lead, guide or rule'.

In the other great passage about the duties of elders, Acts 20:28, where God tells the elders to be shepherds of the church of God, one of the primary duties that is laid out there is of protection. He warns them against false teachers. He warns them about keeping hold of the truth. He warns them against allowing sin in the church.

A shepherd leads his flock. He guides them to pasture. He protects them, for outside dangers and at times from themselves.

The thing about God's flock is that at times they can be very difficult. Moses knew this. God told him that the people he was leading were rebellious and stubborn. In Exodus 32:9 the Lord said to Moses,

"I have seen these people,
and they are a stiff-necked people."

The apostle Paul knew this. In 1 Corinthians 5:1–2 he said to the church at Corinth.

"It is actually reported that there
is sexual immorality among you,
and of a kind that does not occur
even among pagans:
A man has his father's wife.
And you are proud!
Shouldn't you rather have been filled
with grief and have put out of your
fellowship the man who did this?"

The apostle James knew this. In James 4:4 he wrote to Christians,

"You adulterous people,
don't you know that friendship
with the world is hatred toward God?"

Jesus knew all about this. In Revelation 2:4 He said to the church at Ephesus.

"Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken your first love."

In Revelation 2:14 He said to the church at Pergamum.

"Nevertheless, I have
a few things against you:
You have people there who hold
to the teaching of Balaam, who
taught Balak to entice the Israelites
to sin by eating food sacrificed
to idols and by committing
sexual immorality."

In Revelation 2:20 He said to the church at Thyatira,

"Nevertheless, I have this
against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel,
who calls herself a prophetess.
By her teaching she misleads
my servants into sexual immorality
and the eating of food
sacrificed to idols."

Peter knew from his personal experience how Christians can disappoint the Lord. Shortly before Jesus was arrested Peter told Him that even if everyone else deserted Jesus, He never would. Yet he then went out and denied Jesus three times.

Peter, at one point had the audacity to rebuke Jesus. When Jesus told His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, be handed over to sinful men and die and rise again, Peter took Him aside and told Him that it would never happen. Jesus rebuked Peter and said, (Matthew 16:23)

"Get behind me, Satan!"

Sometimes Christians act like they're on Satan's side. It's like what they call "Friendly Fire" in war, where someone on your side shoots at you. R. told us that when he was in Afghanistan there were two incidents where another US unit fired on his unit.

Some Christians sometimes forget what side they're on. They forget who the real enemy is. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:20 that when he came to the Corinthians,

"I fear that there may be quarreling,
jealousy, outbursts of anger,
factions, slander, gossip,
arrogance and disorder."

That's what God's flock can be like at times.

So what are some implications of this.

First, elders are to care for all the flock of God.

It's easy to care for some Christians. God's grace is strong in them and they strive to obey the Lord. Others are more difficult. It's easy to look down on them. Simon the Pharisee and his attitude toward the woman who was a sinner.

But we must not be like that. Verse 3 tells us that God's flock is entrusted to the elders. Verse 2 tells them that they must be eager to serve. Verse 3 tells them that they are to be examples to the flock.

In verse 1 Peter tells them that he has seen Christ's sufferings. Why did he say that? It was because Peter saw how committed Jesus, the Chief Shepherd was to His people. You are to have that same commitment.

How are human beings saved? It's by the work of Jesus. We're not saved by our efforts, our works—but by Jesus and His work. Jesus died to save His people—you are entrusted with their care—to lead them in following Jesus.

Being an elder is not about you, about your likes or desires—but about serving Jesus in caring for His flock. You are to be absolutely committed to them.

Secondly, Christian people, there's a lesson for you here too.

Respect the authority of the elders and obey them in the Lord.

Our society is so enthralled by freedom, by anti- authoritarianism—that it is rebelling against all kinds of authority, even the authority of the church—or to put it more bluntly, against the authority of Jesus Christ.

But it's not just our society that does that—our own sinful hearts do that. That's why freedom and anti-authoritarianism is so popular. Many of the prophets of old were put to death by the people they were serving. It's because people love their sin. When Nathan confronted David with his sin, why do you think he started out with the story about the poor man and the rich man? It was so David wouldn't kill him. He approached David in a round about way. When you confront people with their sins, even Christian people, not many react the way that David did,

"I have sinned against the Lord."

The Bible tells Christian people to obey their elders. If they tell you something in the Lord, they have the authority of Jesus Christ behind them and you must obey because, if they're being biblical, not to obey them is to not obey the Lord.

Even though salvation is very much a personal matter, that each of us has to have faith, and we're not like the Catholic church which teaches that the church saves you— we must recognize that Jesus has given you certain helps to guide you in His word. But these help that He has given you cannot just be disregarded by you. You disregard the church of Jesus Christ and its authority to your harm. Hebrews 13:17 says,

"Obey your leaders and
submit to their authority.
They keep watch over you as men
who must give an account.
Obey them so that
their work will be a joy,
not a burden,
for that would be
of no advantage to you."