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Encouragement for Elders


Encouragement for Elders

1 Peter 5:1-4
You can imagine that Peter’s readers, people who are living under the threat of death by severe persecution will need some pastoral care. They’ll need church leaders who will be there for them, to encourage them and pray with them and weep with them. So it’s no coincidence that this letter, written to prepare Christians for the persecution to come, includes an exhortation to elders to do the work for which they were called. Let’s look at the passage…

The Elders’ Collective Charge. v1
Now, first we need to establish who it is that Peter has in mind here. Who are these elders? Well, they are not necessarily ‘old people’. The Greek text describes them as πρεσβυτερους and later in verse two he describes their work as επισκοπουντες. They are the overseers, the spiritual leaders and guides whom Christ has set in his church. They are ELDERS and SHEPHERDS.
What right has Peter to advise elders and exhort them in their work?

  • He is one of them! Peter is not asking the elders to do anything that he himself is not engaged in. He’s not the first pope as the Roman Catholics falsely believe, he is just a Pastor, writing to his fellow workers. Yet…
  • He is an Apostle! There is of course a difference in Peter’s ministry for he is an Apostle, and as such he is a direct ambassador of Christ, and when he writes these words he is writing with the authority of God himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    He will be with them in glory. Peter will be a partaker of the glory that lies ahead for the saints, for the martyrs of the age, for every Christian. He will be in heaven… but so will we!

So Peter has every right to make his exhortation. He too is a shepherd, with the same responsibilities, doing the same work, but as an apostle he speaks with the divine authority of Christ. So, what words of exhortation and encouragement will he give to his fellow elders?

The Elder’s Chief Concerns. v2 -3
So what is Peter strongly urging these church leaders to do in this exhortation? What are the duties of the elders outlined here? Now notice the importance of the second term used – επισκοπουντες – SHEPHERD. The elder is to shepherd the Lord’s flock. How will he do that?

  • Lead, feed, shield. 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, An eastern shepherd had very clearly laid out responsibilities and tasks. The shepherd would:-
    • LEAD the Flock. The eastern shepherd didn’t drive his flock – the sheep would have followed him. They had a relationship where the sheep knew the shepherd, recognised his voice and followed him where he went. That’s the task of the elder, to establish a relationship with his flock, so that they will follow him, trust him.
    • FEED the Flock. That’s the role of anyone who loves his flock. It is the elder’s role to nourish the flock with the Word of God. Paul tells us that one of the qualities of an elder, is that he must be ‘apt to teach!’ 1 Tim 3:2,
    • SHIELD the Flock. The ancient shepherds lived in a wild environment. They would defend the sheep against wild beasts, and do so at the risk of their own lives. This job of a shepherd was a total commitment. Acts 20:29
  • Volunteer for the task. not by compulsion but willingly. Now, despite the enormity of the overseer/shepherd/elder’s task, Peter is telling them that they are to volunteer for it! No one should ever serve God in the capacity of elder because he has been conscripted or forced into it. Peter says…
    • Don’t do it for earthly reward. not for dishonest gain but eagerly; Now notice that he doesn’t say that the elder is to get no financial reward. There is a biblical principle that a labourer is worthy of his hire. What he does say is that the elder is not to use his position to get rich, or to make a dishonest gain from the flock.
    • Don’t abuse the flock. nor as being lords over those entrusted to you. It’s so easy for a pastor or elder to become abusive – to brow-beat the flock, to derate them from the pulpit for their lack of giving, or lack of commitment or lack of prayer etc etc… It happens more frequently than we think for elders to see only the faults in the flock, and forget that they are the recipients of God’s love and grace.
    • Do it by example. but being examples to the flock. Paul also believed that preaching and example are closely related. He wrote Philippians 3:17 (ESV) Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 1 Corinthians 11:1, Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.


The Elder’s Comfort and Compensation.  v4
There’s a reward for all this hard labour. It’s not an earthly reward, in the sense that world would understand a reward. But it is a far greater compensation…

  • We have an ‘Over-Shepherd’ in Christ! The elder’s role as a shepherd, remember is a pale reflection of the work of Christ, who gave his life for the sheep. John 10:11  This ‘Great Shepherd’ is the One of the 23rd Psalm, who restores our souls, and brings us his peace, his protection and his prosperity all through life, and a home in heaven with him forever.
  • We have the promise of the Lord’s Return! In the midst of their great persecutions, the Christians of Peter’s letter and their elders and pastors have a hope, that one day the Lord Jesus will return.
  • There is a crown awaiting in glory. Those faithful elders, who have faithfully discharged their calling before the Lord will receive something that is far better than all the earthly temporal blessings of the world, an everlasting crown!
    What an encouragement Peter brings us in this verse. Eldership is not easy – but there are great rewards.

So, let’s sum up this passage. Peter is writing to spur on the men who lead the flock, to encourage them to do the work to which they have been called, to be shepherds of the flock He’s not handing down orders, – he’s speaking to them as a fellow elder. He knows that they wont have an easy job, not in these end times – so he brings them the encouragement of knowing that they are serving the one who is the great shepherd, who has promised to return for his people, and who will, himself, reward them for their work.

© BobMcEvoy November 2018

From → 1 Peter, Bible Study

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