Sermons

October 4, 2020

As God Would Have You

Sam Crabtree (North Campus) | 1 Peter 5:1-4

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

Outline

Introduction

  1. Who writes this letter to us? It would be good to chew on that.
  2. On whose authority does he write? Ruminate on that.
  3. To whom is today’s text addressed? We’ll bite into that.
  4. What should the readers do and avoid doing?
  5. Why bother?

Summary
Communion Meditation

Main Point: Shepherd the flock.
Key Phrase: As God would have you.

Introduction

When the apostle Peter (the writer of this letter) was on the beach with the resurrected Jesus, Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Isn’t that a good question? What would be your answer to the Lord this morning? “Sam, do you love me?”

After asking Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus added, “Feed my sheep.” How could Peter obey Jesus’ command to feed his sheep? Here’s one way: by writing this letter.

This letter is food for sheep, for us. Let’s eat. That is, let’s be nourished as much as instructed. For as much as a sermon might seem to be for our brain, a sermon is for our spirit.

What then is the food from this passage with which we are to be fed? Here’s our diet for the next few minutes:

  1. Who writes this letter to us? It would be good to chew on that.
  2. On whose authority does he write? Ruminate on that.
  3. To whom is today’s text addressed? We’ll bite into that.
  4. What should the readers do and avoid doing?
  5. Why bother?

1) Who Writes This Letter to Us?

What difference does it make to ask that question? Well, if I received a phone call that asked, “What’s the account number?” it matters whether the call is from my wife, Vicki, or a telemarketer. So who is writing this letter to us?

Notice the second word: I. (It’s not in the original, but it’s implied, so the English translators give the word I to us, and it makes sense in the context of the rest of the sentence).

Who is this writer? He gives us three answers in the text:

  1. A fellow elder—a shepherd (1 Peter 5:2) operating under the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
  2. A witness of the sufferings of Christ
  3. A partaker in the glory that is to be revealed 

Why would he list these three items in his brief résumé? Well, I would think he would mention only items that have some bearing on what he 1) has been saying and 2) is about to say. He doesn’t mention what town he’s from or how old he is because those things don’t have any direct bearing on what he’s going to say to us.

So why would he mention these three qualifications? Think of what else he does not mention:

  • He is married.
  • He has a brother named Andrew.
  • He’s a professional fisherman, one time bringing in 153 large fish in one catch. (One of the other biblical writers mentions that about him, but he doesn’t mention it about himself).
  • He carried a sword and cut off Malchus’ ear as a demonstration of loyalty to Jesus.
  • He personally knew King Agrippa.
  • When in prison he was awakened by an angel while sleeping between two soldiers. His chains fell off and the angel led him out.
  • He’s one of the original twelve apostles. (We are currently interviewing an applicant to become pastor at the North Campus; if he were one of the original twelve apostles, I suspect he might mention that on his résumé).
  • His name was Simon, but he was renamed by Jesus himself. (Where did you get your name? If you used to have one name, but Jesus changed it to another, I wouldn’t blame you if you worked that into your correspondence.) I’m not aware of anyone in history having the name Peter, or Cephas, prior to him.
  • He walked on water!
  • Jesus himself sent him to prepare the Passover meal.
  • In the Upper Room he personally broke bread with Jesus. (I’ve had Communion hundreds of times, and the bread was never handed to me by Jesus himself).
  • He ate fish cooked by Jesus himself on the beach.
  • Early on Sunday morning he ran to the tomb … and it was empty!
  • With his own eyes he saw the linen grave clothes. This Peter who is writing to us was there. He was an eyewitness.
  • He preached at Pentecost, and 3,000 came to faith!
  • He said to a lame man, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And taking him by the hand, he raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong—he was walking, and leaping, and praising God. (Does your heart praise God at the hearing of an account like that?)
  • He exposed the deception of Ananias & Sapphira, and immediately they both dropped dead—and a great fear came upon the whole church.
  • When multitudes carried their sick into the streets, as Peter came by, his shadow fell on some of them … and they were all healed!
  • When arrested, imprisoned, and forbidden to teach in Jesus’ Name, Peter confidently replies to his captors, “We must obey God rather than men.”
  • When Tabitha dies, they called for Peter, who comes, sends the people out of the room, kneels, and prays, and turning to the body he says, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opens her eyes, and when she sees Peter, she sits up.

Such things are very important, and if Peter doesn’t mention any of that stuff, then he thinks there is something else that authorizes him to say what he’s about to say.

What then are the three credentials he puts forward?

a) A Fellow Elder

One of a plurality. Not higher or lower than the others. He puts himself on the same footing as the elders everywhere, because he is going to be talking to elders. Like, “Let me speak to you grandparents as a fellow grandparent.”

b) Witness of the Sufferings of Christ

What did he witness? He saw ...

  • Jesus sweating, as it were, drops of blood in the garden.
  • Jesus arrested and bound by the band of soldiers and their captain.
  • The officer striking Jesus in the court of the high priest.
  • Jesus flogged in Pilate’s courtyard. The soldiers twisting together a crown of thorns, putting in on his head, and mocking him with a purple robe.
  • The gathered crowds crying out about his friend, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
  • Jesus carrying on his bloody back his own cross to the place of a skull, Golgotha.
  • Jesus crucified: spiked to wood, not able to scratch himself, wipe his bloody lip, or shoo flies away. Unable to visit the restroom. 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Peter was.

c) A Partaker in the Glory to Be Revealed

Peter was an eyewitness of past glory.

We were eyewitnesses of his majesty … we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.—2 Peter 1:16, 18 

That’s glory revealed in the past. But there is glory yet to be revealed.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.—Romans 8:18–23

Christian, you are not a witness of Christ’s sufferings in the way Peter was, but you shall have the privilege of being a partaker of Jesus’ glory in the same way as Peter will. 

These three, then, are Peter’s credentials:

  • A fellow elder
  • An eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ
  • A partaker in the glory to be revealed

Why are these important? Because Peter is going to speak about eldership in the context of suffering with a view to future glory.

But he is not writing merely on the authority of his own credentials.

2) On Whose Authority Does Peter Write?

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.—1 Peter 5:2

Peter writes on the authority of God. Our text this morning is God speaking to us. 

3) To Whom Is Today’s Text Addressed?

So I exhort the elders among you.—1 Peter 5:1

Peter is addressing the elders … but doing so in the presence of the entire church. 

Peter writes to elders while all the others are eavesdropping; this provides a measure of earthly accountability to the elders. It would be as if, in the presence of all the children and youth here, I said to all the dads, “Dads, commend their mother for the good things she does. That’s your job.” All the children, youth, moms, and the rest of the congregation know what the agenda is. So it is with eldership—because Peter writes openly, the entire church is made aware of how the elders should conduct themselves.

In the beginning of his letter, Peter identifies himself as an apostle, but here he exhorts himself along with the other elders.

  • Peter does not claim to be the head of the Church, a vicar, or a pope.
  • Notice that Peter exhorts. He doesn’t command. And as a fellow elder, he exhorts himself. The elders are not under compulsion.
  • He doesn’t say, “Remember now, when I speak, people drop dead.” He doesn’t pull rank.

So—Peter, on the authority of God, writes to the church. What does he say?

4) What Should His Readers Do and Avoid Doing?

All readers—elders and everyone else—should encourage elders to shepherd well. Namely ...

  1. Elders should set an example.
  2. Everyone else should follow that example as the elders follow Jesus. 

Observe: Peter’s text gives us three terms that apply to the same office:

  • Elder is an office (v. 1).
  • Shepherd is a function (v. 2). When Peter says, “shepherd the flock,” shepherd is a verb.
  • Overseer (“exercising oversight”) is a function (v. 2).

“Shepherd the flock,” Peter says. How are we like a flock?

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32

According to Jesus, the flock has fears that it need not fear. Sheep can be skittish. The Chief Shepherd says, “I’ve got this; I’ve got you.” Good under-shepherds remind the flock of what the Chief Shepherd said and did—what the Chief Shepherd says and does.

Peter gives elders three pairs of exhortations regarding shepherding:

DO NOT                                   BUT DO

Shepherd under compulsion     willingly

Do it for shameful gain             eagerly

Be domineering                         be an example

How are elders to exercise oversight? Willingly, eagerly, and as models.

What do elders get out of this? We’ll come back to that in a moment.

What does it mean for an elder to pay attention to the flock? I get help from Paul speaking to the elders in Acts 20:26–31.

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things [things not according to the whole counsel of God], to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert ….

Do you see  (1) his willingness,  (2) his eagerness, and  (3) his modeling of vigilance to guard the truth? 

Back to Peter. He exhorts elders to become examples … of what? The Bible offers us several answers, but allow me to point to just one. Peter points to it in 1 Peter 5:5–6, which we consider next week, Lord willing. Of humble service: Humility is what elders should model. Are elders the only believers who are to model humility? Clearly not. But elders are exhorted to lead by example. 

Humility wisely suffers.

When Peter was an eyewitness of all that suffering of Jesus, he didn’t just see blood and agony; he saw humility. He saw the One who did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient even to death on a cross. And Peter saw it as beautiful, something to replicate.

Throughout Peter’s letter, there is a pattern: suffering precedes glory.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 1:6–7

He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.—1 Peter 1:10

Who raised him from the dead and gave him glory.—1 Peter 1:21

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. … if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.—1 Peter 2:19–20

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.—1 Peter 3:14

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.—1 Peter 4:13

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,—1 Peter 5:6

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.—1 Peter 5:10

Bethlehem, you are my flock, but you are not my flock. Every under-shepherd has a Chief Shepherd. 

We currently need many under-shepherds. We need new small groups and new leaders of small groups. For one thing, the social distancing brought about by COVID-19 has had the effect that many groups which were “open” are now “full” simply because their living rooms are maxed out. You can do it. You can host a small group within your comfort level, as God gives you enablement. There is a spectrum of options—Zoom, in-person, hybrid, various sizes of groups, and so on. Orientation for new leaders of small groups is Sunday, October 11, at 6:30pm.

If eldering is not a matter of perks, privilege and power, but a matter of humility, of taking on the responsibility for guarding the deposit, of hard work and long hours, of suffering with the sheep (yes, elders know suffering personally—dear flock, don’t keep your anguish to yourself; God uses means to shepherd the flock, elders being one of the means)—if eldering is difficult, then why shoulder that yoke, that load?

5) Why Bother? 

Why bother to shepherd the flock willingly, striving to become a godly example? Because there is a reward. See verse 4: “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” The reward is unfading—durable, perpetual, abiding, enduring, imperishable.

Summary

This text is written by a fellow elder, an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed. He writes with God’s authority. He addresses the elders, and you. The elders should shepherd well as good examples. Why bother? Because when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

 How shall we then live? As models of humility as God would have you.

And how shall we grow in humility? Observe Peter … who observed Christ.

And what shall you gain? The unfading crown of glory.

Communion Meditation

As we remember the crucifixion of Jesus at this moment, we can see that Jesus fulfilled all three aspects of Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 5:1–4.

  • Not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.

Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels.

  • Not for shameful gain, but eagerly.

For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross.

  • Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Peter said, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus humbly washes the feet of his small group and tells them they ought to do the same for others.

Sermon Discussion Questions

  1. What authority does Peter have to write what he writes?
  2. What is humility? How can you cross-reference your answer with other texts in the Bible?
  3. What is the significance of Peter inserting the phrase “as God would have you”?
  4. In what ways might a person pray for elders?
  5. In what ways might a person pray for the flock?

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