A word in conclusion, 5:1-11
Having encouraged his readers in the face of suffering, 3:13-4:19, Peter now gives instructions to elders on godly leadership, v1-4, and then to younger men on the issue of accepting the authority of their church leaders, v5a, concluding with a general exhortation to church members on suffering and steadfastness, v5b-11.
v1. A congregation set in the midst of an antagonistic society needs a sound leadership team, so Peter addresses those who exercise leadership in the church, explaining that he wants to encourage them in their task. Of course, he has every right to do this because of his own leadership authority as an apostle, also his own participation in the troubles now affecting the Christian church throughout the Roman empire, and above all, his eternal standing as a believer.
v2-4. Peter's advice to leaders is that they must shepherd their flock. Leaders are to guard and guide: not as slaves to the job, but as willing volunteers; not as grasping money-mongers, but keen for the job itself, irrespective of the pay; not as dictators who love telling others what to do, but as willing models for imitation. All this needs to be played out in the perspective of eternity, of the crown of glory that transcends all earthly struggle.
v5a. Having counseled church leaders, Peter reminds those under their authority to respect that authority.
v5b-6. Peter now addresses all his readers, encouraging deference as against the natural tendency to put on airs. He supports his call for humility by quoting Proverbs; "God sets himself against the arrogant, but grants grace to the humble." If we want to appropriate the fullness of God's mercy and kindness, his "grace", then our approach to him must be devoid of any claim to self-worth.
v7. This attitude of accepting our humble status before God needs to infuse the way we face the circumstances of life. The pressures of life promote anxiety, but a knowledge of God's eternal love promotes carefree living.
v8-9. The Great Deceiver, Satan, is out to undermine our standing with God, so in the face of life's circumstances, its temptations and trials, we must keep a cool head and stay alert. Above all, we must constantly refocus our faith in Christ; rest on him alone.
v10. We must never forget that life's troubles are for a moment, but God's blessings are eternal, and he will equip, stabilize, strengthen and establish us to that end.
v11. In a final word Peter gives praise to God, the one who has the power to carry through his intentions on our behalf.
During my time at theological college I got into a discussion with the principal concerning preachers at chapel. I suggested that there would be value in inviting local clergy to preach. He said he had tried this on a number of occasions, but they always wanted to preach on Paul's instructions to Timothy, or First Peter chapter 5. There are only so many times a person can, with patience, here sermons on this subject - usually beginning with: "I remember when I attended these hallowed halls ...... blah, blah." Still, the subject of leadership in church is important so we do need to take note of Peter's words.
Peter opens with some specific practical advice to leaders, and then some important general advice which he extends to all his readers. On the practical side he makes four points about leadership:
i] Peter's first point concerns a positive attitude. Christian ministry is something we should want to undertake, not something we are coopted into. There is nothing worse than someone who has lost their calling, but has no other life options, and so struggles on with feigned enthusiasm.
ii] Next, the problem of greed. Most people who enter full-time ministry give up on wealth-acquiring professions, but then, as the years pass by, money-grubbing can easily take hold. Beware!
iii] Next, the small man syndrome. The pastor, priest or elder is to provide an example for their congregation, rather than create a spiritual concentration camp. Church is not the place for frustrated managers.
iv] Finally, Peter has a word to say on perspective. A person's ministry should be played out in the perspective of eternity. The rewards of full-time ministry are many, but the crown of glory that transcends all earthly struggle is the only reward worth aiming at. Let this be our focus.
So, this then is Peter's advice to all who exercise a ministry role in church. As for the many who are the recipients of that ministry, let us respect those who are over us in the Lord.
Consider Peter's practical ministry advice in v1-5 and apply it to ministry roles within your own church.
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