In this sermon, Pastor Babij teaches from 1 Peter 5:1-5 on the responsibility of elders. He explains three principles elders must practice while shepherding God’s flock:
1) To feed, guide, guard and care for the flock
2) To freely give of themselves without desire for financial gain as an example of how to follow Christ
3) To look towards their future crown and reward for faithfully shepherding the flock
1 Peter 5:1-5 says:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
Lord, as we come to Your word, we thank You, Lord, that You have given us the word of God, so that we can be thoroughly instructed. Lord, even in areas that we don’t normally think about, or maybe we don’t even think is important. However, Lord, it is in Your Word, and everything in Your word that comes from You is important for us to know. Part of that is how You set up the truth and how You give structure to the church, so, Lord, we know how to organize it and what to look for. Lord, as we come to this passage, give us instruction for what responsible shepherding is. That we would be aware of it, and know what to do if there is a problem. I pray that You would teach us and instruct us in this way. In Christ’s name, Amen.
You may not know this, but when I came to Calvary Baptist Church on August 25, 1985, which is now Calvary Community Church, the very small group of about sixteen people had the one-pastor mindset. That all the attention, demands of ministry, and authority was given to that one pastor, and that also the few deacons had most of the say in the church.
On July 1987, after being here for two years, I began to preach on the Biblical form of church government – Biblical eldership. I endeavored to move away from an unbiblical form of a single elder having sole responsibility for everything, and move to a Biblical form of plural eldership, deaconship, and shared eldership.
From time to time, it is good to bring to the attention of the congregation what the Bible says what type of church government is designed and given in the word of God. A lot of people have all kinds of views on that, so this passage is focused on church order and government as well as submission and devotion. A special exhortation is given to the elders in 1 Peter 5:1:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed
At this point in the book, one reason for the Apostle Peter’s attention of elders is because in times of trouble, trial, and persecution, God’s flock must have faithful, Biblically sound, and spiritual leadership. If all Christians are to be prepared to partake in Christ’s sufferings and glory, then how much more must the shepherds of God’s flock understand suffering, especially since they are also in the crosshairs of satan, who wants to bring down the leaders, disrupt the church, and scatter the sheep.
In times of persecution, faithful, pastoral oversight is vital to congregational unity, doctrinal clarity, and to sticking power, not only with the elders, but with the sheep. Thus, Scripture gives elders instruction and encouragement to continue to do their work faithfully and responsibly.
If you read through the Bible, you will find several words that the Bible uses when it comes to elders. There are different Greek words, which sound familiar to us. The first word is elder itself, and it comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which is where we get the word Presbyterian from. The word emphasizes who the man is in the character of his heart and life. From the Old Testament, Elder includes someone who is older, has spiritual maturity, and is full of the word and spirit of God.
Then, there is the word overseer, which is the word episkopos, and that is where we get the word Episcopalian from. Epi means over, and okopos means guardian. In other words, one who guards over people. The emphasis with that word is the function of the elder.
Also, there is the word pastor, or shepherd. The Greek word poimen means that it has to do with his attitude such as how he feels toward his sheep who has been entrusted to him. A shepherd is one who takes care of the community of believers including guiding, caring, and looking after with an emphasis on the governing or administrative aspects of their rule.
In bringing that all together, we see that the overseer is a translation of the Greek word for bishop or episkopos, which is used interchangeably with elder, or presbuteros. Then, the office of overseer is the same thing as the office of elder. Therefore, bishop and elder are not separate rungs on a hierarchy of church government. Rather, they are the same office and person, and their function is to shepherd. In Acts, it includes all three words: Acts 20:17-18 says:
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18And when they had come to him, he said to them
Then, in Acts 20:28 says:
Be on guard for yourselves and for 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.
All three words come together, but they are actually speaking of the same person, which is the elder of a flock of believers. Thus, Peter exhorts fellow elders by his apostolic authority to take up the role of shepherding people seriously where he says in 1 Peter 5:1:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you…
The elders that are appointed among any congregation or group of believers are to rule over them, shepherd them, and provide their needs. So, Peter is saying to them as a fellow elder:
Listen, I have provided oversight for the whole church as an Apostle. All elders are an extension of my ministry, and you are now charged to provide oversight to whatever flock of believers you are among no matter the size.
He concludes that an elder has oversight and gives oversight to Christ’s flock. Also, in our passage, the elder testifies to the sufferings of Christ, which includes His message and mission. Now, that will always include Jesus’ holy life, His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His intercession right now for the saints and church, and then, of course, His second coming. This is why Peter says at the end of 1 Peter 5:1:
… and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed
He is saying that elders participate in the Glory of Christ that will be future. There are three bits of instruction for the church on responsible shepherding. The first is in 1 Peter 5:2:
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight…
In pastoral leading, the shepherd is to do four primary responsibilities, and the first is to graze the sheep. Meaning, the elder has a feeding function. Elders feed the flock with the word of God. Matthew 4:4 says:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
Ezekiel 34:2 says:
…Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?
Back then, the rebuke was that the shepherds stopped teaching the law. When the people are not getting a regular feeding from the word of God, they tend to go astray and not do what God wants them to do. Thus, as and elder and teacher in the assembly, instructing the flock is something that is vital. In 1 Timothy 3:2 says:
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach
This is the difference between a deacon and elder. A deacon doesn’t have to be apt to teach even though they may teach. However, an elder must have the qualification where they are responsible for teaching the word of God. All elders are to have an aptitude to teach the word of God. Some are given this responsibility full time, and some are not, but all elders should be able to teach. He needs to continue to grow in his God-given ability to teach the group of believers that is among him.
There are three minimum requirements when it comes to that. One, he must have a grasp on the basic content and doctrine of the Bible. Not in its entirety, but he must know the Bible so that he can hold fast to the truth and give the truth out to the people. To know the difference between what is true and false is to know the Bible. We can detect when somebody is not teaching what is true. Titus 1:9 says:
holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
A second requirement is that he must have a proven ability to clearly communicate the word of God. It says in 2 Timothy 2:2:
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Then, he goes on to say in 2 Timothy 2:15:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Today, the problem is that there are lot of people preaching or teaching that are not accurately handling the word of God. The reason why we go through books of the Bible, from verse one of a chapter to the last chapter, is because there are many things in Scripture that we all need to know as God’s children. The only way to do that is to go verse by verse and book by book, so that we may get a good grasp of the content of Scripture.
Then, a third minimum requirement is that they must have a love for the truth. They must love the truth and the people in whom they communicate the truth. Thus, an elder must be able to graze the sheep and teach them the word of God.
The second responsibility is to guide the sheep, which is the leading function of elders. Elders lead the flock to rest. The great passage of Scripture that teaches us of the great shepherd is in Psalm 23:1-3:
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Any shepherd, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament, has the same responsibility. Not only to teach, but also to lead the sheep besides quiet waters. To learn to bring the sheep to the place where they are learning the truth, and the truth is calming them down by giving them discernment to live in this confusing world.
When it comes to information, everybody is getting knocked from pillar to post, but how do you know that information is accurate? For a believer, they ought to know the word of God to know what they ought to be and do. Thus, the elders have that function, and as they teach the word of God, they continue in that process of guiding and leading the sheep.
Sheep are prone to wonder, do their own thing, and get into trouble. In fact, they are so prone to do their own thing that they don’t even recognize that they are walking at the edge of a cliff. If the shepherd doesn’t pull them back by the neck with his shepherd’s staff, which has a crook on it, then they will fall over.
The only thing that will make us strong is the word of God. The word of God is going to make us discerning and strong to live the way God wants us to live. Thus, the third responsibility of an elder is to guard the sheep. Acts 20:28-31 says:
Be on guard for yourselves and for 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. 29“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31“Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
It is the job of the elders to teach the word of God, so that people can be guarded from false teaching and on the alert. When they turn the radio on, read a blog, or go on the internet, they know if the person is handling the word of God accurately, and they are able to know the Bible well enough or pick up a Christian book and ask what the person believes doctrinally.
As you are reading through a book, you can determine what a person is believing. Because of the way they write, they will be giving you indicators on what they hold to. Thus, the elders are to guard the flock and put them on a path where they are alert.
Then, elders have a caring responsibility, which is to provide healing and restoration. We get into trouble, and we need some guidance from the word of God to be able to help our home, help our relationship with our spouses, and our neighbors. Ezekiel 34:12 says:
As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
In 1 Peter 5, it talks about the character and conduct of the shepherds of God’s flock. Really, God gives us all the information that we need in the Word to see what kind of men we should be looking for to become the future elders of the church. Those men should be aspiring, while they are young in the Lord, to be desiring the office of an elder or deacon, or to just be a faithful, strong man of God in the church. So, the character and conduct of the shepherds of God’s flock is really important to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:2 says:
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God…
First, this is telling us the manner of the shepherd. He is not to be forced to give oversight, or under restraint because no one else will do it. It is not simply a duty to the elder, but something that God has called him to. Instead, he freely gives himself over to the task because it is God’s will, and he has a sense that God has called him, qualified him, and given him the desire to give oversight to the flock under his care.
Second, he is to do it not for sorted gain, but with eagerness. Eagerness is not necessarily the opposite of sorted gain, but the shepherd’s motive is not greed or financial gain. Today, we know that there are a lot of people in the ministry for financial gain. For people on television, who are promoted to places with mansions, it is all about money, prestige, and power, not about serving God regardless of the financial situation.
The Lord and Apostles are not against anyone being paid for ministry, especially if they are full time. However, it is not a greedy thing, and you will not be rich in most ministry. It is what God has called us to; therefore, we are not shepherding to get something out of it like prestige or position, or to use people to get money or wealth from them. That is not at all what a shepherd should be.
What drives an elder is his eagerness to faithfully serve as an under-shepherd, and to use his God-given gifts, abilities, and opportunities to mature the flock with the intended purpose to multiply the joy and health of the local church. The Bible is giving us the whole-man under the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
Next, there is the attitude and behavior of the shepherd. 1 Peter 5:3 says:
nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock.
The attitude of the elder is that he is not the lord of the congregation telling you what to do and ordering you around. Rather, he wants to provide an example to the flock. The word example is the Greek word topos, which means to make an impression. If you took a hammer and hit it against a piece of wood, then the head of that hammer would make an impression on that wood. Peter uses this word because he is saying:
You, shepherds, ought to be a model or pattern that people can follow.
Even the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
In other words, the congregation must be informed enough to know if the elders are following Christ. Now, that doesn’t mean they are perfect – we are not perfect, but we are following Christ with the gifts, abilities, and opportunities God has given us. When you know that, there is a certain comfort and rest that come to the sheep when the elders model the Christian life in their home and interactions, which is something you can pattern in your life.
There are two full responsibilities of the elder found in Scripture. Number one, the elder is someone who has a ministry to the word of God. Quite literally, the elders are servants of the Word. This is the essential responsibility of the elder, and it is absolutely essential to the life and growth of the church. Elders are to lead God’s people by teaching the word of God, and this teaching must be the public handling of God’s word, the private counsel of Biblical principles, and the exemplary lifestyle that other’s may imitate.
Number two, elders are to devote themselves to prayer both for themselves and on behalf of the whole congregation. Prayer not only counts as elder work, but it is essential to elder work. We need the power of God in the things that we do. In wrapping that up, in the ministry of the Word and prayer, elders graze the flock on the Word, guard the flock from false teaching, and guide the flock on their homeward journey.
Now, does that mean being an elder is an easy thing? I have people say to me:
If I can’t do this job, I will just go into the ministry, or I will go to Bible college and become a minister.
I tell them not to do that. If you can do anything else besides this, do it. This is not an easy place to be. There are many responsibilities that you do have, and it is ongoing. There are always things to do. There are always people’s needs to meet. There are always issues.
Recently, I spoke to someone who used to come to our church. I hoped that he would become an elder here. However, he moved to Florida and became an elder in the church he is in now, and he said to me:
You know what…when I became an elder, I found out all the problems.
When you are sitting in the pews, you don’t necessarily see the problems or know the problems. Unless you have been a Christian for a long time, then you get a sense that things are difficult. People are difficult. Unraveling sin in someone’s life doesn’t happen in two counselling sessions. If you have been sinning for a long time or have been in a bad habit, then you are not going to unravel that. That is an ongoing practice of the word of God, listening to the Word, putting the principles into habitual practice, and overcoming those things by a faithful walk.
The old-time question comes up, and all elders must answer this question: is it worth it to serve Jesus? Is there anything in it for us? Following Jesus Christ will always be accompanied by some level of personal sacrifice. While Peter is writing this epistle, Peter said in Matthew 19:27:
Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
You may say that is a very bad question, but it’s a good question. It is a very human question. If I’m going to give up things to serve the Lord, if I’m going to put away sin that was pleasurable to me to serve the Lord, if I’m going to lose some family and friends to serve the Lord, if I will never get promoted in my job because everybody knows I am a believer to serve the Lord, then the question will come up: is it worth it and is there anything in it for me? In Matthew 19:29-30, Jesus answers Peter with an affirmative answer:
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
There will be many surprises in heaven. The people that seem to have everything going for them on earth such as every material need and barely any problems will be surprised. The people that are first now will be last. The people that are last now are going to be first. Jesus is answering all those who serve Christ, especially to those who become an elder like Peter. In Mark 10:29-30, it says:
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
In other words, Jesus is saying that you may lose some things, but you will gain way more. Christianity brings with it a far greater and wider family in which we all have Christ in common. We, as members of the family of God, have far more spiritual family relationships than we ever had with our own earthly family. Thus, Jesus is saying that you will have a greater community of family than you will lose.
Then, in Mark 10:30, we will have this along with persecutions. Here is the paradox, reality, and honesty of the call to a real disciple of Jesus Christ. Right up front, Jesus never offered an easy road. He never says to us that it will be fine, well, and dandy. He tells us that we will have persecutions, and the whole 1 Peter is about suffering.
He puts before those, who will repent of their sin and believe in Jesus Christ, that there will be a cost, some loss, some suffering, some uncomfortable easiness, some humbling of self, and some killing of our passions, desires, and personal goals. For the sake of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, we give things up. However, in Mark 10:30, Jesus says that there will be future reward in this age, and the age to come will be eternal life.
In the Jewish mindset, the way they viewed time was this age and the age to come. In a sense, we are still in this age, but from the Cross onwards, the age to come is in play. So, it is a vast, unending sense of existence. Eternal life is not a reward for forsaking our relations, inward affections, or enduring other difficulties for Christ’s sake. Eternal life is always and only out of the mercy and pure grace of God. The reward is certain during our earthly lives, and it will be fully paid out in the life to come.
Again, if I were to say to you: is it worth it to serve Christ? The answer must be, for those who love Christ, yes. No matter what you have to lose, sufferings you might go through, promotions that will not be passed over, and no matter what your situation is in life, it is worth it to serve Christ. Christ does say to us that there is something in the future that is there and that He promises we will have. In 1 Peter 5:4, it says:
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
This is what He promises to all faithful elders of the church. Of course, there are several other crowns that are given in Scripture, but this one is direct, so He is saying to the elders that it is worth it to be an elder and serve faithfully. Jesus will recognize them when He appears as the Chief Shepherd. He will say to the world that these are His faithful under shepherds, and He will give them an unfading crown of glory, which is something that cannot wither away.
Brethren, if you will faithfully follow after Christ and serve Him anywhere and everywhere, and continue to the end, then the Father will delight to honor you. The Father will say:
Make room for him you cherubim and seraphim. Back up all you host of heaven. Here comes the person. He was poor and afflicted while serving my Son. He ran the race diligently while following my Son. He was with my Son. He was ridiculed with and for my Son. He endured persecution with and for my Son. He loved and served Him until the end. He was with my Son, and he became like my Son.
That is not only for shepherds, but for all faithful believers. The Father will say:
Come, come here, man! Take your crown and sit with my Son in His glory. For you were with my son in His shame. Now you will be with Him in His honor and His exaltation.
In John 12:26 says:
If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
I will not get into it this time, but notice what it says in 1 Peter 5:5:
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
During times of suffering and persecutions, young men want to fight their way out of it, not submit. However, Peter is telling them to learn how to submit to your fellow elders, the word of God, and your Lord, and let God take care of things you cannot.
According to Scripture, it is the congregation’s job to submit and work with the Lord, His elders, and His shepherds to build the church. It is well for us to recognize that the Bible presents authority and leadership in the church as good and necessary things. Hebrews 13:17:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Lord, as I think about Your word and this passage, it is not a passage that we would read over and keep going, but it is something that You want us to know. I pray, Lord, that You would make our congregation instructed in the whole counsel of God, especially of church eldership and leadership. I pray, Lord, that You would raise up young men that would be the future deacons and elders of this church. Lord, You have been doing that since 1855. There has always been a Gospel witness in this church. I pray that You would continue that until the day You come. Lord, we want to submit to Your authority over us as the Chief Shepherd. We thank You, Lord, for Your patience with us as the Shepherd. Thank You, Lord, for leading us and giving us the word of God. Thank You, Lord, for rescuing us and guarding us by the truth and Your spirit. I pray, Lord, that You would continually bring to our mind the things that please You even in things on how to order the church and how the church should function. I pray that we would be aware of it and discerning in that. I pray, Lord, that the congregation would submit to those who are in authority, and those who are in authority would follow this example in Scripture on how they should be. I pray that You would bring it all together, so that all the glory and honor would be brought to Your name, and someday, in the future, when You come again, we will be honored by the Father as people of God and the under shepherds. Thank You, Lord, for that great promise. I pray, in Christ’s name, Amen.