Feed the Flock of God: An Ordination Sermon1 Peter 5:1-4
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, December 10, 2017
Copyright © 2017, P. G. Mathew
In 1 Peter 5:1–4, we find Peter’s exhortation to elders in Christ’s church. Peter previously denied Jesus three times. But after his resurrection, Jesus found Peter (John 21) and asked him three times, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yes, I do.” Then Jesus three times gave this charge to his apostle: “Feed my sheep.”
In the same way, in 1 Peter 5:1-4, the apostle is charging his fellow elders to feed the flock of God, that is, to take care of the people God has entrusted to their care. We will look at three points from this passage: Peter the counselor; elders, the counselees; and the Chief Counselor, Jesus Christ.
Peter begins, “Therefore, I counsel the elders among you as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that will be revealed” (v. 1, author’s translation). Peter wrote his first epistle as an apostle of Jesus Christ to the churches of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. In this passage, he is exhorting the elders of these churches not as apostle but in great humility as a fellow elder.
The word “therefore” connects this section to 1 Peter 4:12–19, which spoke about the sufferings every Christian will experience. We must not be surprised when fiery trials come upon us, as though something strange were happening to us. It is not strange. It is the norm for a Christian, and especially for a true minister of the gospel, to suffer. People hate a true minister because he preaches the gospel.
When he wrote this, Peter was about to suffer crucifixion, as Jesus had predicted (John 21:18–19). In the same way, the elders of Christ’s churches may suffer for their faith in a greater degree than others. But the Holy Spirit is also resting on them to comfort them, counsel them, and empower them to endure hardship to the end. Suffering is an aspect of the work of elders (see 2 Cor. 1:8–9; 4:8–10; 6:4–10; 11:23–27, 12:7–10) so we have to tell the truth about it, just as Jesus told the truth to all his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” to death (Matt. 16:24).
Peter, however, was not only a fellow elder; he was also an eyewitness to Christ’s sufferings at Gethsemane and Calvary. In several places in the New Testament, he gives witness to Christ’s sufferings, which achieved the salvation of the elect:
- Acts 3:15: [Peter was preaching]: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”
- 1 Peter 2:21–24: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ 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. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds [we are] healed.”
- 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”
- 1 Peter 4:1: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
- 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
- Luke 24:45–47: [When Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples,] “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’”
Peter was also going to partake of the glory soon to be revealed when Jesus Christ comes again in glory to glorify his people. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory” (Matt. 25:31). So Peter writes, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that is unfading” (v. 4, author’s translation). Elsewhere Paul stated, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21).
Ministry involves suffering now and glory later. Cross now, then crown. We must not believe in Jesus to make ourselves rich and famous. Suffering awaits us, even today.
Peter was giving his counsel to his fellow elders. In every church, there will be a plurality of elders with various gifts received from the Holy Spirit. There are teaching elders, preaching elders, and ruling elders. Each one must minister only with the gifts he has been given.
Throughout the New Testament, we read about a plurality of elders:
- Acts 14:23: “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
- Ephesians 4:11–13: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
- 1 Timothy 5:17: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
- Titus 1:5–9: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” And now the qualifications of an elder: “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
- Acts 20:17: “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.”
- Acts 20:28–30: “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. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:28: “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”
- 1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” God uses the elder’s mouth to preach the words of life.
- Romans 12:6–8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
In 1 Peter 5:2–3, Peter speaks of the duty of God-called, God-gifted and God-appointed elders: “Shepherd the flock of God under your care, overseeing them, not out of compulsion but because you are willing, not as a hireling who loves only his wages, but you are eager to do God’s will; not abusing your authority but being examples to the flock.” John Calvin wrote, “In exhorting pastors to their duty, [Peter] points out three vices especially which are often to be found, namely sloth, desire for [financial] gain, and lust for power.” A God-called elder will avoid these sins.
The duty God gives his elders is to care for the flock among them, the flock belonging to God, whom God redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, the flock whom God loves, even as he loves his own eternal Son. They must understand that they are made responsible for this flock, which has been bought with the highest possible price, the blood of Christ. They are to take care of them, feed them, protect them, lead them, and go after the wandering sheep to bring them back to the fold. Elders are to be pious and learned. They are to feed the sheep with the bread of life, which is the word of God.
Paul also writes about these duties in his second epistle to Timothy. He tells his young disciple “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 3:15–4:4).
Elsewhere Paul instructs, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:13–16).
Christ’s elders are not to kill the sheep to eat them; rather, they are to lay down their lives for them, as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has done (see Ezek. 34). Jesus spoke about this in John 10:1–18. Five times in that passage Jesus himself said, “I will lay down my life for the sheep.” A hireling does not love the sheep. He will run away when the wolf comes.
Jesus instructed Peter how to care for his sheep. If an elder loves Jesus with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, he will love Christ’s sheep. He will feed Christ’s lambs, take care of his sheep, and feed his sheep (John 21:15–17). So Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these? Then you will feed and take care of my sheep.”
A leader will do these things when he lives a Spirit-filled and word-filled life, fixing his eyes on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who watches over all his sheep and over all his assistant shepherds. He is coming to reward his shepherds who care for and oversee his flock.
If you are called to shepherd God’s flock, you have no choice but to obey the charge from our Lord. Moses had no choice. Isaiah had no choice. Jeremiah had no choice. Ezekiel had no choice. Hosea had no choice. Amos had no choice. Paul had no choice. And a sinner like me had no choice, but to obey the command, “Feed my sheep by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” So I came from South India all the way to Davis, California, led by the Spirit to preach the gospel. And I do so willingly and freely; I am not doing so to get rich in this world.
A pastor may ask, “What about my needs?” Let me assure you, God will provide. He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” I have learned that he is Jehovah Jireh; he has always provided exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine. I have also learned that happiness is not a bigger house, finer clothes, and more eating; happiness is doing the will of God.
A true pastor or elder is not a hireling. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.” I have known men who have left their pastorates and gone elsewhere simply to get more money or fame. (PGM) Such men are hirelings. Jesus said about them: “Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:10–13). A true pastor will be like Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us.
We do not serve God for money. Paul writes, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 6:6–8). Elsewhere he says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). We are not like Judas, who stole the offering and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. What happened to Judas? He hanged himself and died. He went to hell.
Our God will supply all our needs. I have seen him do so throughout my life. Jesus said in Luke 10:7, “The worker deserves his wages.” We work for Jesus, and Jesus provides for all our needs. He is my employer, and he pays my wages.
We serve the flock of God in humility, and we serve as examples to them. Paul writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). If a man cannot say that, he cannot be an elder. Paul also says, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3:17). We must not concoct our own pattern. Our pattern is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:11–12). Paul also says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity [and] seriousness” (Titus 2:7).
Ministers have authority that has been given them by Christ, who himself has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He governs the world by three institutions. First is the family, and the symbol of authority in the family is the rod (Prov. 22:15). The father is to govern as prophet, priest, and king under Jesus, who is the Prophet, Priest, and King. So children are to obey their parents. To be disobedient to parents is to be disobedient to Christ. And wives are to be submissive to their own husbands. The head of the wife is the husband, and the head of the husband is Christ, and the head of Christ is God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3). Our feminist culture rejects this, but we declare it because we speak what the Bible says, whether the culture likes it or not. And the husband’s job is to rule, to provide, to protect, to discipline, to teach, and so on. There is no end to his work.
The second institution is the church. Elders rule the church by Christ’s authority. What is the symbol of authority in the church? It is the keys, by which the pastor and elders admit believers and excommunicate the wicked.
All three Persons of the Trinity appoint elders in the church. Paul says, “It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). He also says, “And in the church God has appointed . . .” (1 Cor. 12:28). And in Acts 20:28 we read that the Holy Spirit appointed elders. Therefore, we are to listen to the elders and do what they say. The Hebrews writer exhorts, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. . . . May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great [mega] Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:17, 20). The idea is that he appointed these leaders. The same idea is found in 1 Peter 5:4: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Jesus himself commissioned his disciples, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
I have no choice other than to tell you to obey whatsoever things Christ has commanded you. My job is to teach it. Jesus also said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Some say that a pastor has no authority. That is a lie. Paul writes, “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:4–5).
Professor Edmund Clowney says this: “The elder has authority to exercise a shepherd’s oversight. Christ, the chief shepherd, called him to exercise a shepherd’s care.” He also said, “Authority is given to the elders of the church (Heb. 13:17).” He also says, “Clearly Peter would have us respect God-given authority and submit to it, in the church as in the state.” Dr. Daniel Doriani says, “Peter commands elders to shepherd the flock that is among you, that is, under the elder’s charge.”
The third institution is the state. Do you think it has any authority? It does, and the symbol of its authority is the sword. Jesus himself spoke about it. Pilate asked Jesus, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” The state has power. In the Greek, “given” is in the perfect tense, meaning that is permanently given until Christ comes again. Jesus continued, “Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:10–11).
Paul also spoke about the authority of the state. He began, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities,” meaning parents, pastors, and the state. Paul continued, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience” (Rom. 13:1–5). Autonomy is demon-possession. Everyone obeys either God or the devil.
The Coming of the Chief Pastor
Peter concludes this passage saying, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that is unfading” (v. 4). All faithful assistant pastors appointed by Christ to serve in his church must give an account of their faithful service to the Good Shepherd, the Mega Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:17).
Our Chief Shepherd is coming soon. Paul writes, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16–18).
When the Chief Pastor, the head of the church, comes again, his faithful assistant pastors will receive from him a crown consisting in glory that will not fade. The glory of this world, given and received, fades away quickly. It is like the leafy crown Paul speaks about: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last” (1 Cor. 9:25). They are falling blossoms. They are meant for a day, sic transit gloria mundi (thus passes the glory of the world).
But faithful pastors who preach the gospel will receive from the head of the church, the Chief Shepherd, an unfading crown of eternal glory. In Revelation 4:10–11 we read, “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’”
Isaiah says: “In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people” (Isa. 28:5). True believers will worship and glory in our God. The greatest happiness we can experience is eternal life, fellowship with God. John writes of the future that is awaiting us:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:1–4)
In God’s presence, there is fullness of joy and on his right hand pleasures forevermore. May God help us to seek first his kingdom and righteousness until we arrive in his presence to dwell with him forever.
 Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 188.
 Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), 202, 203, 204.
 Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter, Reformed Expository Commentary series (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2014), 207
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