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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

1 Peter 5:1-4: Deadly sins of the pastorate

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” NIV

It has often been said that leaders face major temptations in three areas – money, sex and power. These are not the only ‘fences’ at which pastors have regularly fallen, but they have repeatedly proven problematic.

Two of them are dealt with by Peter. Notice:

‘’…not greedy for money’’ (2); and

‘’…not lording it over those entrusted to you…’’

If God has ‘’entrusted’’ a group of people to us, they are not ours but His. He is their Lord; we are not their lords. We have a role to play in encouraging them to live under the Lordship of Jesus, but we are not to try to dominate or control God’s people.

John Maxwell has said, ‘Leadership is influence.’ It is not primarily about status, position, fame and popularity. The influence may be with just a few, or it may be with many. That is ultimately God’s decision. But nothing can magnify or diminish a person’s influence like ‘example’. Who can estimate the real power of a godly example? Who can calculate the havoc wreaked by a bad one?

To sum up, elders are called to recognise that they are under-shepherds. Jesus is ‘’that great Shepherd of the sheep’’ (Hebrews 13:20). The church is His possession. He bought it with His own blood. He is ‘’the Chief Shepherd’’ (4), and our primary motive must be to please Him.

1 Peter 5:2: ‘God’s flock’

“2 be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;”NIV

Wrapped up in these two words ‘’God’s flock’’ you have both the awe-ful responsibility and immense privilege of eldership. As we spend some days looking at these words about elders in 1 Peter, whatever else you may feel moved to do, please spend time lifting the elders of your church to God in prayer. Although they carry a burden, ask God that they will feel the delight of service; that they will be enthusiastic in their giving and caring. May they not be like people trudging heavily through a wet, muddy field in their wellies, but may they have a lightness in their step. Let it not be a case of begrudging duty.

‘’God’s flock’’

 I ‘just happened’ to read these words from Zechariah 10 this morning:

‘’The idols speak deceit, dividers see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the house of Judah…’’ (2-3)

‘’his flock’’

 Don’t mess with ‘’his flock.’’

 In Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders, he said these wonderful words:

‘’Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood’’ (Acts 20:28).

So, pray for all in leadership in the church, that they may give and not count the cost, fight and not heed the wound, labour and not ask for any reward save that of knowing that they do God’s will.

1 Peter 5:1: No big shot

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed:” NIV

I read that, one particular year, the organisers of ‘Spring Harvest’ asked themselves, ‘What would happen if we had no big-name speakers this time round, and God were the main attraction?!’

I love the humility with which Peter makes his appeal ‘’as a fellow-elder.’’ As far as I can see, the first Christian church was not hierarchical in structure. This is something man has brought about, and oh how we love to hero-worship. Some people put themselves on pedestals, but it’s much more likely to be others who place them there. Peter did not see himself as some big shot in the church. He was an apostle, and had been highly influential among the original group of disciples, but he referred to himself as ‘’a fellow-elder.’’ He was one of the original twelve; he had witnessed the ministry of Jesus, but he exemplified the humility he is going to call for in verses 5,6. He was not one to ‘Lord it’ over others (3).

Sometimes leaders need to ‘’appeal’’ to people to be a certain way, rather than pull rank and insist on it. An example of humility is in itself a powerful argument.

Again you find here the connection between suffering and glory. It’s suffering first, then glory. Holding a position of influence in the church in those times carried grave risks. As leaders in the church, we are frequently tempted to want the glory now, and avoid any form of suffering.

PRAYER: Humble Lord Jesus, graciously enable the shepherds of your flock to follow in your steps of humility.

1 Peter 4:19: Keep going

“19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” NIV

Whenever you experience mistreatment at the hands of others (and the principle can, I believe, be applied more widely than persecution), don’t let it deflect you from doing the right thing. You can’t control anyone else’s behaviour, but you can do plenty about yours! (Obviously, with Divine help).

‘Keep on keeping on.’

‘’Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’’ Galatians 6:9,10.

In the context of 1 Peter, we have the example of Jesus:

‘’When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly’’ 1 Peter 2:23 (see verse 21).

If we do what Peter says to do here, we will be following Jesus.

PRAYER: Help me to remember, Lord, that suffering is not a mistake. If I go through hard times, please cause me to recognise that if, in your will, you bring me to it, you will also bring me through it.

 

1 Peter 4:17-19: It makes you think

“17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” NIV

There is a form of ‘’judgment’’ the church experiences now. It seems to me Peter is saying if the church suffers now; if there is this testing, disciplining, chastening work going on among God’s people, what will it be like on judgment day for those who do not trust in Christ?

If God is going to refine and purify those who accept Him, what will He do to those who reject Him?

Follow the logic.

It makes you think.

It’s meant to make you think.

‘The salvation of the righteous is a task of enormous difficulty. It requires Omnipotence. Nothing less will suffice than the infinite grace of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the patience of the Holy Spirit. What will be the fate of those who refuse these?’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.617.

1 Peter 4:12-16: Insulted!

“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” NIV

When I was in my later years at secondary school, God helped me to become much more open, and verbal, about being a Christian. Previously, I’d found it easier to keep fairly quiet, but I’d also felt guilty about doing so. Once I became bolder, I had many good opportunities to speak to a number of my peers about Christ. But being mocked in some way, or laughed at, tended to go with the territory.

When I try to imagine the sufferings endured by Peter’s first readers, and when I think about the privations and persecutions many Christians in the world today experience, it’s easy to feel that I’m in a different league; that I’m small fry. But when Peter writes: ‘’If you are insulted because of the name of Christ…’’ (14), I realise I’m included in this. You may feel the same way too. Because anyone who identifies with Jesus’Name (16) in this fallen world is likely to experience some measure of derision being heaped upon them.

Jesus said, ‘’Blessed are you when people insult you…’’ (Matthew 5: 11).

 We read in Acts 5:41 how: ‘’The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name’’ (Compare this with verse 16 in today’s reading).

Sometimes, as I travelled home from school, I felt I could identify with the apostles. No, I was not facing imprisonment or beatings etc, but I had a deep sense of fulfilment – of contentment and joy – that sprang from identifying publicly with ‘’the Name.’’ I believe that, as a teenager, I was aware of ‘’the Spirit of glory and of God’’ resting upon me, and that felt good.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you hung publicly on the Cross for me, bearing shame and disgrace.Help me to never be ashamed of you.

1 Peter 4:12-16: The fellowship of His sufferings

“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” NIV

In verse 13 Peter says:

‘’But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…’’

 This reminds me that Paul’s stated ambition was:

‘’I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…’’ (Phil 3:10).

Way back, when Paul was still Saul, and he headed for Damascus to persecute the Christians, the Lord Jesus confronted and apprehended him. He questioned him:

‘’Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’’ (Acts 9: 4).

 The truth is that because the believer is in Christ and Christ is in them, what you do to him or her you do to Jesus. The Lord is one with His people. The church is His body. He knew that Saul was really after Him. It was Jesus this Pharisee hated; Jesus He wanted out of the way.

The truth is Christ continues to suffer in His suffering people. The sufferings are still Christ’s, but we ‘’participate’’ in them. (This may explain Paul’s rather mysterious words in Colossians 1:24).

Of course, you can suffer because you are stupid, or rude – unnecessarily offensive. If you’ve brought it on yourself, by your own folly, don’t dare call that persecution. It isn’t.

‘’However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name’’ (16).

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we pray today for all our brothers and sisters who are suffering in some form precisely because they are Christians. May they know ‘the Spirit of glory and of God’ resting on them.

 

1 Peter 4:12-14: A special blessing

“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” NIV

‘The consequence of having seen God is madness, not in the sense that one becomes mentally ill, no, but that a kind of madness is set between you and others: people cannot nor will not understand you.’ Soren Kierkegaard.

No-one, naturally-speaking, wants to be persecuted for their faith. But no-one should ‘’be surprised’’ if they are. It is to be expected.

Here is a pattern we find in the New Testament: Suffering first – then glory. We see the principle exemplified in Jesus. As He said to the two on the way to Emmaus:

‘’Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’’ (Luke 24:26).

The glory is, ultimately, resurrection beyond death (Easter Sunday following Good Friday). But Peter writes about a foretaste of that glory even now for those suffering for their faith (14).

Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, pronounced a special blessing on the persecuted. It’s counter-intuitive to want to have a hard life. Who would? But many who go through the mill for their faith testify to this special blessing, and they wouldn’t trade it for anything.

1 Peter 4:10-11: ‘Not by might…’

“10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. ” NIV

10‘’God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.’’ (New Living Translation).

Just a further word on this passage. I was reminded of something I read recently in ‘The Care of Souls’ by Harold L. Senkbeil:

‘I can guarantee you’ll be strung out, tapped out, and burned out in the ministry very quickly if you don’t grasp this one central truth: By your own strength or power you can do absolutely nothing as a servant of Christ and steward of his mysteries. I’ve seen it over and over again: A bright, gifted young pastor is driven to despair and the brink of emotional and spiritual collapse simply because he set out to do ministry relying on his own ingenuity and internal resources. Please get this straight: It’s not that you do part of the work and God does the rest; it’s not that you do a little bit and God does a whole lot. Rather, in Christ’s church the Holy Spirit does everything…from beginning to end, the life of the Christian is a gift of God’s Spirit.’

He wasn’t meaning that there is nothing for us to do. But he was underlining our total dependence on God’s Spirit.

I read an article the other day by Lee Eclov. In it he wrote about the importance of ‘Wordwork’ for pastors. He described how in his previous church he had set up a group simply to pray for his ministry of preaching. That’s how important he deemed it.

We must have God’s power in our ministries, whatever they may be, otherwise all we do will amount to nothing.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please show us how to use the gifts you have given us in your strength, for your glory, and for the good of others.

 

 

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