The Shepherd and the Lion
1 Peter chapter five
The last aspect of the sufferings of Christ and of His people as dealt with by Peter arises from the malice and hatred of the devil as a roaring lion.
This, the closing chapter of Peter’s first epistle, opens with an exhortation to the under-shepherds over the flock of God, and it closes with the perfect triumph of the grace of God in His flock. Let us consider the type of men the Lord appoints to leadership in the churches of the saints. We shall examine their character, spirit, work, danger, and reward.
Their character: The elders among the people of God are to be men who are matured in godly experience. The word “elder” may be used interchangeably with the word “bishop” or “overseer,” words which describe the ministry of a pastor or shepherd.
Such leaders should not only be elders in name, but men who live under the shadow of the cross. Peter speaking as an elder says, “I … am … a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” It is before the cross that Christians learn how valuable the flock is to the heart of the Lord Jesus.
Men acting among the Lord’s people as elders must be matured in godly experience, mellowed under the shadow of Calvary, and made meet for their service by a glorious transformation. The glory of their character will be revealed in the future, but in the present it is to be expressed in their conduct.
Their spirit: The elders are to serve the Lord’s people willingly, that is “not by constraint”: unselfishly, “not for filthy lucre”; and humbly, “neither as being lords over God’s heritage.” Notice, any remuneration becomes filthy lucre when it becomes the motive of Christian service. His flock is so precious to the heart of Christ that only shepherds that breathe the same spirit as the Chief Shepherd are fitted for such a charge.
Their work: There are at least five words which are used in the New Testament to describe the work of elder brethren in the assemblies of the saints. The first of these is “care.” Overseers are to care for the church of God (1 Tim. 3:5). This word is used only one other time in the New Testament; that is, in Luke 10:35 where the wounded Samaritan was to be cared for by the inn-keeper. The care of godly elders is as a healing to the wounds among the people of the Lord.
The second word is “rule” (1 Tim. 5:17). This word expresses the idea of leadership. It is going before the saints through the influence of a spiritual example.
The third word is, “feed.” The amplified meaning of this word embraces the ideas of feeding, leading, and protecting the sheep. Peter never forgot the words of the Lord Jesus by the sea-side at the time He, the blessed Master, questioned him, “Lovest thou Me more than these?” It will be recalled that Peter’s answer was, “Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” On receiving that assurance the Lord said to Peter, “Feed My sheep.” Only to those who love Him does the Master entrust the sheep of His pasture.
Still another important word is used, the word “watch” (Heb. 13:17). Watching actually is the work of overseeing. True elders watch over God’s people to meet their needs as these arise. They guard them against danger, guide them in the right channels, and take account of the welfare of each one in the flock.
The final word that we shall consider is the word “guard” (Tit. 1:9). The truth of God has been deposited with the elder and he guards it as sacred. By means of it he convinces, corrects, and reproves in regard to that which is wrong; furthermore, through it he leads the sheep in paths of righteousness.
Their danger: The Apostle Peter points out three dangers to which elders may become exposed. The first is heartlessness. There is to be so much heart in the things of the Lord that elders serve “not by constraint.” What a discouragement to the Lord’s people when men have to be forced into service for them! Such an attitude frequently results in friction among the saints, and it grieves the Spirit of God.
In the second place there is the danger of selfishness, “Not for filthy lucre.” A position in the church must never be used for personal advantage. Godly men will not monopolize either the oral ministry or the general work of God within the church; they will encourage each member to function in the place for which God has fitted him.
Finally, there is the danger of officialism, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage.” No one man or any body of men has ever been given dictatorial powers by the Risen Head of the Church. Under-shepherds rule by leadership, a leadership characterized by exemplary living.
Their reward: What an encouragement is found in the promise made through Peter: “When the Chief Shepherd shall appear ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Peter does not refer to a kingly crown, but to the victor’s wreath. The wreath of amaranth flowers worn by the victors in the ancient sport games is an illustration of this award.
Peter, having made several interesting and instructive remarks about the elders, now considers the Lord’s people as servants, soldiers, and pilgrims (Vv. 5-9). Linked to these three aspects of the believer’s life are three graces: humility, vigilance, and patience. Peter would teach the servant the lessons of John 13:4-17. He would also remind the soldier of the need of vigilance. In this respect Dr. Leighton says, “Faith sets the stronger Lion of the tribe of Judah against this roaring lion of the bottomless pit; that delivering Lion against this devouring lion.” In the pathway of life the child of God must learn to be patient, for reproach on behalf of Christ is common to all the saints. These three graces: humility, vigilance, and patience are provided by the God of all grace. They constitute the power that overcomes the devil. God will give grace to subdue the flesh, resist Satan, and to bear reproach for Christ. The expression, “all grace,” intimates the great variety of divine grace and succour. When our service is finished, the battle over, and our race run, we shall discover that our victory is His victory, and shall declare with Peter, “This is the true grace of God.” “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The final triumph of the God of all grace in His people will be manifest in their eternal perfection.
There is no doubt that the four verbs used in this great statement, “God … make you perfect, stablish strengthen, settle you,” refer to the final activities of the Lord in accomplishing our glorification. Let us look at these four aspects of divine perfection.
Defects of character will be healed: The verb “to perfect” occuring here is a commercial term. It is used for the repairing of the net of the fisherman (Mk. 1:19). It likewise is an ethical term, and is used in the restoration of a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1). It is also a medical term indicating the setting of a dislocated bone (1 Cor. 1:10). The God of all grace will bring the broken threads of our lives together again; He will heal the wounds that were caused by our many defections; and adjust what has been wrong in our lives in order that they redound to His glory throughout eternal ages.
Deviation from truth will cease: There is a very close connection between the verb “to establish” and the verb “to be steadfast” in verse nine. How often we have fallen before the assaults of the evil one! What vacillations we experience when contrary winds blow upon us! The devil attacks the mind with doubts; he weakens our best endeavours with appeals to our baser nature. He would turn us aside with discouragements. At such times the God of all grace steadies us; He keeps us by His power, and guides us toward the desired haven where no variations will ever be known. If we trust Him, He will hold us fast. If we open our hearts, the river of His grace will flow in. When our journey is over here, He will, in the words of Dr. Maclaren, “Make us partakers of an inviolable and unshaken evenness of soul, which is a faint shadow of God’s own unchangeableness.”
Decrepitude will be overcome: Sin has a weakening influence on every part of our being. Apart from His grace we are impotent to meet the demands of life for work, warfare, or trial. “He giveth power to the faint.”
The Spirit is the Comforter who comes alongside to strengthen. We may be “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” The weakest saint may repeat the exploits of those noble men and women of faith of whom it is recorded, “Out of weakness were made strong, waxed valient in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Doubts will be banished: We shall be settled or fixed as on a firm foundation. It is true that, as the Church of Christ, we are built upon the Rock and the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. It is also true that as individuals, we are to build our lives on the solid foundation of Holy Scriptures (Matt. 7:24-29). How neglectful we are in this duty! When the storms burst and the winds of adversity blow, we fail to discern the mind and the will of God, and we are tossed to and fro with doubts and fears.
In that day we shall be firmly fixed. The mind and will of God will be known perfectly and the doubts and fears will never again disturb the repose of the soul in God.
In closing his epistle Peter associates Silas and Mark with him. These were his co-labourers as they had been of Paul. These two formed the link between the two great apostles; they manifest the unity and harmony that existed among the fellow-workers of those early days of Church history.
“She that is at Babylon … saluteth you.” Was this a sister church? Was this a reference to Peter’s own wife whom Paul says was his frequent companion? Whatever the expression means, we know from it that the Lord knows exactly where all of His own are, and that not one of His elect will be missing on the Day of Christ.
The last verse pronounces a benediction and peace upon all the saints.