Dear Brother G.
I would refer to the letters which appeared in The Forum for February, regarding the sphere of service for the elders. Surely any true shepherd would have a tender heart to care for all the sheep that are the Lord’s, seeking to do what he can to feed them, and restore those that are out of the way. The sphere of the immediate responsibility of such an elder, however, would be confined to his own assembly, the “little flock” over which the Holy Spirit has made him an overseer. For their souls he watches, and for them he must give an account. Is this not the thought in 1 Peter chapter 5?
Yours in Christ,
Dear Brother E. S.
Many thanks for your first communication to The Forum. Your remarks are interesting, but before making any reply to your closing question, let us both understand the teaching of God’s Word relevant to the relationship among all members of the Church. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, the Spirit of God suggests the proper attitude to be maintained within the Body of Christ. First, there is the recognition of being mutually necessary the one to the other (vv. 21-22), even the weakest member is necessary. Second, there is the mutual esteem to be manifested toward each (vv. 23-24), honour is due to the apparently less honourable. Third, a mutual sympathy exists, or should exist, toward those in adversity, and toward those in success (vv. 25-26), “All the members should have the same care one of another.” If these three principles were made real practices among all Christians, we, every one of us, would be the keeper of our brother.
In a very special and more specific manner, God has provided capable and spiritual men to watch over the sheep of Christ’s pasture. The New Testament calls such men elders. Yes, it seems clear that 1 Peter 5 teaches the first responsibility of the elder is to the local company of saints with which he gathers. There are one or two significant renderings in the Revised Version, “Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight thereof, not of constraint, but according to God, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock.” The clause rendered by the R. V. “Neither lording it over the charge allotted to you,” is rendered by Mr. Darby, “Not as lording it over your possessions.” The word “possessions” is definitely in the plural number, and, therefore, suggests that there are many possible charges, or, to use your own expression, many possible “little flocks.” Definitely, the flock is the flock of God, but the different possessions, or portions, or charges, have been allotted according to God to the care of under shepherds, and these under shepherds are responsible to God for their own “little flock.”
Dr. Leighton, in his commentary on the First Epistle to Peter, states, “In these words we have: First, the duty enjoined, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight of it.” Second, the due qualifications for the duty, “Not by constraint, not for filthy lucre, not as lording it over God’s heritage, but willingly of a ready mind,” and as “being ensamples to the flock.” Third, the high advantage to be expected, “An unfading crown of glory, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear.”
How precious is the figurative language of Holy Scripture! How descriptive the words, “flock” and “shepherd”! They carry a connotation of weakness and strength respectively; a weakness embracing the need of inspection, guidance, defence, and feeding; and a strength embodying the ability to do all these with the tenderest possible care.
The saintly Bernard says, “Had I some of that blood poured forth on the cross, how carefully would I carry it! Ought not I to be as careful of those souls that it was shed for?”
Sincerely in Christ,
* * *
A gentleman once took an acquaintance to the upper porches of his house to show him his estate. Waving his hand around he said, “This is all mine.” His friend said, “Do you see that little village yonder? Well, there lives a poor woman in that village who can say more than you.” “Why, what can she say?” “She can say, ‘Christ is mine!’” She was an heiress of the riches of Christ.
* * *
A prisoner at the bar smiled when hard things were said against him. One asked him why he treated the matter so lightly and he replied, “It is no matter what they say, so long as the judge says nothing.” It is of little importance what others say, so long as God approves.
“Men may misjudge thy aim,
Think they have cause to blame,
Say, “Thou art wrong!”
Hold on thy quiet way,
Christ is the Judge, not they,
Fear not! Be strong!