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Shepherds and Flocks: 1 Peter 5

In Summary:

Peter concludes his letter with some personal greetings (5:12-14), but not before giving final critical instructions. These open with a “therefore” in verse 1 as Peter charges the elders to shepherd well. In this section, we see the elders commanded to shepherd, and so is one place where we get the idea of “elders” as equivalent to “shepherds” in the church. “Shepherd” being a term that can also come into English as “pastor,” and we see this as addressing (partly) the responsibilities of pastors.

We’ll come back to that, though, in a moment. The next part of the chapter gives instruction to the younger men, which lends itself to understanding “elder men” in the earlier verses as those who are simply that, elder and more mature. The younger men are addressed as needing to move beyond their arrogance and worry, instructions that clearly should be followed by all of us.

Finally, Peter gives the general instruction to be of sober spirit with a warning about the adversary of God’s people. Fortunately, we are given the promise that the adversary will flee if we resist in faith. This should make it clear, though, that our suffering over things of this world is not guaranteed to go away—after all, we’d all resist that. Instead, resistance in faith supports our spiritual walk.

In Focus:

Let’s bring the focus back on the opening verses. Peter speaks to the elders about their actions in leading the church. For the sake of argument, we’ll stick with the idea that “elders” here speaks of a specific group of leaders in the church rather than just those who have been around the longest. I would suggest, though, that in a world where church participation is opposed culturally, legally, and traditionally, those who have been around a long time likely are the most committed and should be the leaders. Also, do not forget that Peter’s writing comes in a time where there would have been older believers who were actual witnesses of the life of Christ, which would even better qualify them for leadership.

That being said, take a look at the instructions to the elders. First, the ownership of the flock. It belongs to God, not to the elders. Likewise, fellow pastors, these are God’s people not ours. Our charge is to defend and feed—the Lord God will decide when it’s time to shear. Second, consider the the statement of “voluntarily” in our service. While there is something to the idea of calling, it remains that we could do something else. So we should dial down our “I sacrifice so much” jabber and work forward. Third, not “lording” it over. The Church of God has ONE Lord. It’s not your pastor. Even you, East End, the church I serve.

What has this to do with those who are not pastors? Quite simple: do not surrender to a pastor what belongs to God. And do not expect from a pastor what only God can do. Your pastor is not to lord things over you, but likewise you cannot expect him to solve every problem like a man with the power to enforce compliance. God’s people have to work together—don’t expect the pastor to save you. Jesus did that already.

In Practice:

1. Pastors, pray for your section of God’s flock and remember you are one of them. And feed them the Word of God.

2. People, pray for your section of God’s flock and your pastors. And feed on the Word of God so that you can recognize when your pastor is right and when he’s not.

In Nerdiness: 

Two things on the nerd side.

1. There is debate about whether or not “elders” and “pastors” are the same group in the church or not. This debate extends to whether or not any of these terms apply technically, that is referring to a specific group at all. They may simply apply to whoever is or does what the term means. There’s big debate on this. Grab a book or two and study up.

2. Note v. 12’s reference to writing through Silvanus. We’re fairly certain that this is Silas, and that Peter used him as a scribe for the letter. One question is how much Silas influenced the wording/structure of 1 Peter. Compare it to 2 Peter, for example. The other is how much Silas’ presence influence Peter in general.


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