I Peter 5:1 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:
2 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;
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
In this final chapter of this epistle, Peter was directed by God to speak to the pastors. He used the word “elder” here. There are religious groups who have never bothered to study the Scriptures and they have an elders board and they have pastors and they have bishops.
In the Bible the elder is the pastor, is the bishop. The pastor speaks of the man as the one who shepherds the flock. The bishop speaks of the pastor as the one who oversees the spiritual life of the local church. The elder speaks of the pastor as the one who has the authority and respect of the local church.
God directed Peter to address the pastors as elders here. He stated that he too was an elder. Peter was a witness to the suffering of Christ. He had denied Him at His trial. He had gone out and wept bitterly. John recorded the restoration of Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter was challenged regarding his love for Jesus. He was commanded to feed Jesus’ sheep/lambs. Peter had done that after Acts 2.
Not only had Peter witnessed the sufferings of Christ, but he was also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Jesus Christ is coming back. He is coming back in the clouds to welcome the New Testament saints into heaven. Seven years later He is coming back to destroy the antichrist and his followers. He will then establish the Millennial kingdom. Peter, as one of the twelve apostles will have a special place in heaven and in God’s future work. The book of the Revelation tells us about this.
In verse 2 Peter challenged the elders to feed the flock of God which is among them. The elders were to be the leaders in the local churches. They were proven to be worthy leaders and part of that leadership was to feed the flock of God.
The elders needed to be reminded that the flock was not theirs. It belonged to God. The elders were entrusted with the task of feeding them the truth. We see in verse 2 that this feeding required the elders to take the oversight. Thus we see the close connection here between the leader’s role as the elder and as the bishop and as the shepherd. The pastor needs to care for the entire person. He needs to take the lead. He needs to know the right way and he needs to lead, not push God’s flock in the right way. He needs to be a man of God. We are told here that he does not take the oversight by constraint. He does not do so because he has to. He does so because he has the love of God in him and he desires to help the saints to know the blessings of the Lord in a greater way. He does so willingly.
We see as well that he is not in it for the money or other material gain. The elder/pastor needs to live. He has bills to pay just like others do. However, he is not motivated by the praise of men. He cannot be bribed to do his work. He needs to be called of God. He needs to have a ready mind to be a blessing to the flock of God. He needs to speak the truth whether it is in season or out of season. He needs to be a student of God’s Word so that he can help people to know the truth. God’s Word is readily available for people to read and study. One of the great problems facing us is the large number of perversions of God’s Word on the market. Many religious leaders are willfully ignorant of this problem. They promote one or more of the perversions. The sheep look for the perversion that suits them best. They try to find one that agrees with what they already believe. This is backwards. God’s Word is TRUTH. We are born lost sinners. We need the TRUTH to make us free. Once we are saved we still need to be challenged and encouraged to walk in the TRUTH. The elder needs to be willing to speak the TRUTH by using the TRUTH.
In verse 3 we see that he cannot be a dictator. He needs to know the Word of God and proclaim the Word of God faithfully. He needs to uphold the Word of God as well. The local church cannot be a democracy, when it comes to spiritual matters. There are things where the membership can have input. These would be things like the upkeep of the building and things like that. However, even there the pastor needs to be the one or one of the ones who keeps the budget from getting out of whack. He is looking to keep the people from being burdened with things that are not necessary or helpful.
He needs to lead by example. He shows the people how to walk with God. He demonstrates that in his own life and also as he leads the flock of God.
In verse 4 the elders needed to be reminded of the chief Shepherd. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd. He is in charge. The elders are accountable to Him. Peter reminded the elders that Jesus Christ was coming back. We do not know the day nor the hour, but we know He is coming back. His desire is to reward the faithful elders. Rather than seeking the praise of men, the faithful elder is looking for the blessing of the Lord now and in the future.
The apostle Paul spoke of this in II Timothy 4. He was encouraging Timothy with the reward of the crown of righteousness that was awaiting the faithful servants of God. That crown is worth more than all the material things that man can heap upon us. We need that blessing and God is willing to provide that blessing for those who serve Him faithfully. There were those in the first century who fulfilled their task before God faithfully. There were others who did not. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus addressed the pastors of seven local churches. He showed them what they needed to be doing and what they needed to do to correct the problems some were facing. Each pastor was accountable to Jesus Christ. They would answer to Him. He had the authority to examine them and to judge them. His desire then and now is for the local church to be a light in its community. The elder/pastor needs to lead the flock of God to know how to follow Him faithfully and with the right attitude.