1Pe 5:1-4 “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
Peter has, up to this point, addressed a broad audience of resident foreigners. Now he is speaking to a limited number among this broader group. He is imploring (exhorting) the more senior among them to feed the flock of God. Why is he reaching out to this more senior group to do this? Because they have had more contact with the workings and the impact of the life of Jesus.
Peter tells us that he is also an elder, or senior, in his experience with Jesus. He goes on to describe what that means. Peter declares that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ. While we have examined how we may have fellowship with His suffering in our service here, Peter was a first-hand, eye witness. He was there when Jesus went to the garden to pray. He was there when Judas came and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. He was present in Pilate’s court. No doubt he saw the beating that was administered to this man who had taught him so much and loved him so deeply. He watched as they nailed Him to the cross and lifted His battered body to hang between heaven and earth. He saw the mocking crowd and the triumphant attitude of those that hated Jesus. He knew what Jesus had born for resident foreigners! But he also tells us that he is something else.
Peter says he is also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Notice that he claims to be a partaker (present tense) of the glory that shall be (future tense) made manifest. Peter acknowledged that things might not look too good right in that moment (since he had talked to them quite a lot about suffering), but he was also assuring them that he was already enjoying fellowship of something that was not yet commonly seen. What a joy it must have been to Peter to look back at the suffering he had witnessed and to know that his Lord was alive and triumphant over those that gloried in His death. What a peace it must have brought to Peter as he looked back and considered his visit to Cornelius’ house. How glorious it must have been to Peter to realize that He was, even with this letter, fulfilling Jesus’ command “…when thou art converted, strengthen the brethren.”
Peter has established himself as having close fellowship with those he is exhorting. Now he tells them not only what is expected of them (feed the flock of God) but also with what attitude they are to approach this task. First of all, as elders, we need to remember that the flock we are tending is not our flock. The flock belongs to God. For elders to behave as though we have any degree of possession is to make ourselves rustlers (thieves). Secondly, we are not to feed the flock as though it is something we are forced to do against our will. We are to undertake this with a desire to see the flock of God flourish to His glory. It is not to be with any thought of “What’s in it for me?”, but rather with the attitude of seeing God glorified in His flock. Finally, as elders, we are not to set ourselves as having any type of dominion over God’s heritage. The flock where we labor belongs to God and Him alone. We have no claim over them in the sense of holding power, but rather we have the charge to be a pattern to the believers (flock) of how to walk before and with God. It is no small matter to be a senior member among the flock of God, neither is it something to be taken lightly.
Thankfully, we have not been left to our own devices. We have the assurance that the chief Shepherd shall appear; not if, but when! Notice that it does not say He will come, but that He will appear. I don’t believe that Jesus ever leaves us, but He is sometimes hidden from us. He will always manifest Himself (appear) according to His own pleasure. We have all had the experience of someone we love and respect being nearby without our knowledge. When they make their presence known, it is either an occasion of great joy or great despair, depending on how we are behaving at the time. Peter has given us clear instruction on what our labor and attitude should be so that we can rejoice when the chief Shepherd manifests Himself. Elders who take the oversight of the flock for filthy lucre’s sake look for a glorious crown (something that will impress other men). Those who take the oversight with a ready mind rejoice when they are counted worthy to receive a crown of glory. The approval of the chief Shepherd does not fade!
May we always seek to look after the flock with the sure knowledge that we have been given responsibility toward that which belongs to God and Him alone!