Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Peter 5:1-4

1 Peter 5:1–4
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

The Apostle Peter opens this portion of his letter (chapter five) by first addressing the elders amongst the believers of the dispersion; that is the elders of those believers scattered abroad from Jerusalem and the surrounding regions because of persecution by, or having being raised against believers through unbelieving Jews, hostile to the Gospel of God (consider Acts 9:22-23; 10:39; 12:1-3; 13:44-48; 14:4-7; 17:1-9, 10-15; 18:5-8, 12-13, 24-28; 20:1-3; 17-24; 21:7-11; 21:17-26:32). And so the church fellowship that begun after Pentecost, and held all things in common at Jerusalem, was soon scattered into the nearby regions of Judea and Samaria (See Acts 8:1, 11:19). But as hostility arose there they soon left for far off foreign Gentile lands (consider the church at Antioch, Syria, Acts 13:49); some of which already had Jewish settlements. Amongst these Peter lists five established centers where Christian faith and life was being practiced and flourishing: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1). Now it should be noted that though the Apostle Peter was an Apostle to the Jews, as the Apostle Paul was to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13; Gal 2:7). Neither man should be said to have strictly ministered to either. For the N.T. clearly attests to both receiving whomever received the Lord Jesus Christ when they preached the Gospel to them. Whether Jews, Samaritans, Hellinists (i.e. Greek speaking Jews); or as became the case as believers of the dispersion came into Gentile lands declaring the Gospel; increasingly more and more Gentiles. And so by the time of Peter's writing this letter to the various congregations of the dispersion it seems highly unlikely that he was only ministering to just Jews with it, as is sometimes speculated in commentaries. Indeed it should be noted that the Apostle Peter, at the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, would be called upon by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ to receive the first Gentile's into their fellowship and baptize them, when they believed the Gospel, as he preached it to them. Later Peter would defend having done so before believing Jews, who were at that point still ignorant of the Will of God in regards to the encompassing nature of Jesus Christ's Redemption for all of believing humanity (See Acts 10:1-48; 11:1-18). And so it would be the Apostle Peter who also would defend the grace of God, that saves both Jews and Gentiles at the first and only Biblical church counsel (see Acts 15, vs. 6-11). For the Jews by that time had come to accept believing Gentiles into Christian fellowship, but only on the condition that they essentially became Jews, according to their Law and custom. Something that they had always done with their own proselyte converts to Judaism.
But that is not what the Gospel of God requires of us, or anyone else. Therefore we too as believers, and especially those in leadership, must be very careful not to impose our own ideals on those who come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ through the grace of God. Since, as the Apostle Peter essentially said at the Jerusalem counsel. Laying man made burdens, or yokes of religious bondage, on the necks of the disciples does not sit well with the Lord Jesus Christ (consider Matt 11:28-30).

 Now as Peter addresses the elders of the dispersion, he is speaking to them on Apostle authority. Yet he himself does not identify himself here as such, but rather as a fellow elder with them. A diplomatic approach to leadership? Maybe? But more likely a heartfelt expression of just what the Apostle Peter knew his role as an elder in serving the Lord Jesus Christ in the church was to be, and that is a shepherd of God's people. Something that the Lord Jesus Christ laid on him as His chosen Apostle, before His ascension back to heaven (consider John 21:15-17).

Now in regards to this critical leadership role as an elder in the church. The N.T. often uses English rendered words like Elder, Overseer/Bishop interchangeably (see Titus 1:5-9). All which point us to the basic function of the local church Pastor. Though being an elder in the church does not necessarily mean that one is a Pastor of a congregation (see 1 Tim 5:1-2). Though here the context clarly is of believers who are mature in their faith, and not just elderly by reason of age, serving as elders in the various congregations of the dispersion. Now two different Greek words are translated elders/elder in verse one. The first, elders, is the plural form of the most frequently appearing word translated elder/s in the N.T. (presbuteros). The second word "fellow elder" though only appearing here in the N.T. is basically the same word with the addition of a preposition (sum, "together") to produce (sumpresbuteros), by which we have "fellow elders". For more detail on how this word is used in the N.T. see Sub-Section I at the end of this blog entry.

That all said (and I hope your still with me) the Apostle Peters exhortation to all believers and the elders amongst them in verse one is given through his own testimony of being an eye witness to the sufferings of Christ, "and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed." Peter's heart stating as much here might have been to reaffirm that though believers will suffer for their faith, it was the Living Son of God who suffered and died in our place, for all our sins remission. That Peter here states that he is also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed, is saying like all brethren and ruling elders who are also partakers of Christ's glory here and now by the Spirit of Christ indwelling us. Nonetheless there will be Day when we will both see the Lord Jesus Christ and each other in all of His Glory, and so we will not only see Him in it, but we all be partakers with Him of it! Therefore Peters exhortation to the ruling elders, who like himself are an elder of God's people, is too: "2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." vs. 2-4 

The Apostle Peter lists several things here that an elder is to do and not do. The first is to shepherd the flock of God amongst you. That is to lead, guide and protect in the faith, those entrusted to your care, that's paramount. Doing this as Peter says here as overseers, that is fulfilling the Biblical role and mandate of a Pastor. Doing this Peter says not by compulsion, that is not of an obligation, as if doing this to satisfy someone's desire or wishes for him. But rather if truly called to serve God in this wonderful capacity, willingly! And not for dishonest gain, but rather as Peter says here, eagerly! For truly no man called to serve Christ in this capacity should ever be compelled to do so. For if he does not have a willing heart to serve Him eagerly in the easy times, how well will he fair in the bad? For the role of a Biblical elder is a demanding one, requiring much self-sacrifice, as well as having a heart of love and concern for God's people. Thus the church is never well served when one does this out of some kind of grudging obligation. Nor should he be motivated by financial gain, if he is, he is definitely in the wrong position (consider Matt 6:24; 2 Cor 2:17; 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7 etc.).
Now since a ruling elder in the church must do more than just manage the affairs of the church. He must also possess, and be able to convey, spiritual truth, knowledge and wisdom to God's people. Therefore ones selection as a ruling elder in the church should be based in part on their abilities to do this (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 22:2; 24). Though not removed from this must also be ones character and their level of maturity (consider Exodus 18:21). And so how they manage themselves, other people, and or crises, should also weigh in on ones selection (or not) for such a function. Though truly all who are Spirit gifted to lead in the church are equipped so by the Holy Spirit to do so, not all will mature at the same time. And so Spiritual giftedness though critical to ones selection to lead in the church, still needs to be governed by experience (1 Tim 3:6) and maturity (1 Tim 3:7). Therefore elders in the church though given a seat of authority must not abuse it, as the Apostle Peter says here, serving not as "lords" over God's people (consider Prov 28:16). But rather as examples to the flock; of Christ like service, faithfulness, compassion and love. For truly the example the elders set in the church (of living by integrity or not) will be emulated and justified by those who observe their conduct amongst them. Therefore the Apostle Peter concludes by saying that when one does serve Jesus well as an elder they will receive from Him, from the Chief Shepherd of the flock the crown of glory that does not fade away, and thus they will be honored for eternity who honor and serve the Lord Jesus Christ well, here and now (consider Daniel 12:3).

Sub Section I
In the N.T. the word translated elder here has several connotations; all of them connected with the general meaning of "aged one". The first is one who by reason of birthright precedes another and thus is their elder (Luke 15:25; Rom 9:12). Next is one who by reason of their age is considered an elder, i.e. an "aged one" and thus is a title of respect (Acts 2:15; 1 Tim 5:1-2). Third and related to this is the official title of a ruling elder, whether in the general community at large, as was common practice in ancient Israel, or as is the case here, a ruling elder in a church assembly. The fourth usage is that of the ancient Biblical forefathers (i.e. elders) who had faith in God and believed His Word and Promises, and thus helped to set the stage for Christ's arrival (see Heb 11:2). Similarly the Pharisees had their own forefathers whose traditions that they both kept and upheld (Matt 15:2).
Now in the N.T. the word translated elders here appears 67x. In the Gospel 23x it used of the Jews elders, and in the Book of Acts 7x (basically those ruling elders who opposed Christ). Beyond that all it's usages pertain to the King and His servants. And so beginning in the Book of Acts it is used of church ruling elders, appearing 10x. From there out it is an exclusive term of those in the church, whether ruling elders (1 Tim 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5; 2 John 1; 3 John 1) or believers by reason of their age, who were elders in the church (1 Tim 5:1-2). Except in Heb 11:2 where it used once of our Biblical forefathers who had faith in God as an example that we are to follow, and then in the Book of Revelations where it is used exclusively of the twenty four elders around the throne of God (Rev 4:4, 10; 5:5, 6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). Now only in 1 Tim 5:1-2 is the word translated elders here used of both Genders, and that in a none-leadership role. In other words there were no ruling women elders in the N.T. Congregations.

 Now beginning in Gospel of Matthew it is first used by the Pharisees who find fault with Jesus and His disciples for not washing their hands before eating. There they cite the example of their religious elders as always hand washing before eating, and thus as an authoritative and binding act on Jesus and His disciples as well. Nonetheless Jesus does not submit to their elders self imposed "tradition", but instead strongly rebukes them for their hypocrisy in holding to such a tradition handed down from their elders, while openly disobeying the commandments of God. As if righteousness comes from obeying the examples of man, rather than the written commandments of God (See Matt 15:1-9, vs. 2).
The next usage in the N.T. is of Jesus warning His disciples that He must suffer many things from the Jewish elders, chief priests and scribes before His Crucifixion and Resurrection from the dead (Matt 16:21). From this point on every use of the word elder/s in the Gospel is in the context of their direct opposition and hostility towards the Lord Jesus Christ (see Matt 21:23, 26:3-4, 47, 57, 59; 27:1, 3, 12, 20, 41-43; 28:11-14 vs. 12). (also see Mark 7:3, 5; 8:31; 11:27; 14:43, 53; 15:1; Luke 7:3; 9:22; 15:25; 20:1; 22:52; John 8:9). Only in John 8:9 is this word used of Jewish elders who were moved by Jesus's reasoning to put down their stones and not kill the women they caught in adultery.
Now the Book of Acts is where this word begins to reveal it's Christ centered foundations; though it's use of Jewish elders and their opposing the church, and or the Apostles preaching the gospel, is still found through out it (see Acts 4:5, 8, 23; 6:12; 23:14; 24:1; 25:13). Nonetheless most of it's usages from here on out until the Book of Revelation pertains to Christian ruling elders: Of sending relief by Saul and Barnabas to the churches in Judea to be distributed amongst the brethren in need through them (Acts 11:29-30); of Paul and Barnabas appointing elders in every city where they had made disciples of Christ (Acts 14:23). Critically for the New Covenant both of the Apostles and ruling Church elders making an affirmative decision for the grace of God, as the Apostles Paul and Barnabas were in fierce disputes with Jewish Pharisees who believed but were now requiring Gentiles believers to be circumcised and keep the law, something that is not required of us (see Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23). Of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas distributing the Jerusalem decree to the various congregations that forever liberates Gentiles believers from having to serve God through Moses and the Old Covenant (Acts 16:4-5). Of the Apostle Paul assembling the elders of Ephesus before giving his farewell exhortation and address to them (Acts 20:17-38). Of the Apostle Paul meeting with the Apostles and church elders at Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-18). Of the Apostle Paul commanding that Timothy (and us all) treat elders in the church with respect and care (1 Tim 5:1-2). Of the Apostle commanding that we give double honor to church elders who rule well (1 Tim 5:17-18). Of not receiving an accusation against a ruling elder unless backed up by two or more witnesses (1 Tim 5:19). Of publicly rebuking those elders who are sinning (1 Tim 5:20). Of the Apostle Paul commanding Titus to appoint ruling elders in every city where brethren are (Titus 1:5). Of the Bible attested Jewish elders obtaining a good testimony in the sight of God by their faith in Him (Heb 11:2). Of the Apostles exhorting that church elders are to pray over and anoint with oil in the Name of the Lord those who are sick amongst them (James 5:14). Of the Apostle Peter commanding ruling elders to shepherd the flock of God amongst them (1 Peter 5:1). Of the Apostle Peter commanding younger believers to submit themselves to their elders in the church (1 Peter 5:5). Of the Apostle John addressing himself as an Elder to the church (2 John 1; 3 John 1 It's interesting to note that as both the Apostle's Peter and John became aged both in years and in the faith, that they began to address themselves as Elders and not just Apostle's). Finally of the twenty four elders around the throne of God (Rev 4:4, 10; 5:5, 6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11;16; 14:3; 19:4).

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Note: this is a draft version

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