1 Peter 5:1-5
Shepherd the Flock of God
The Apostle is coming close to the end of his letter to these chosen exiles scattered throughout Asia Minor. Before finishing, he addresses the elders, those who shepherd the flock of God. It’s an awesome responsibility to serve as under-shepherd for the sake of God’s elect. No man should take it lightly. Peter offers some encouraging words and some instruction as to how to lead.
The Apostle identifies himself as a “fellow elder,” not that he was an elder in an official way as were the men he was addressing—Peter was an apostle—but a fellow elder in the sense that he shares their task and care for Church of God, their struggles and anxieties (NICNT, 176). He also identifies himself as “a witness of the sufferings of Christ,” both when he was his disciple before the Lord’s passion and as one who shared in those sufferings as an apostle. Finally, he identifies himself “as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.” We cannot be apostles and may never be elders but we can and will share in our Lord’s sufferings in the present and in the glory that shall one day be revealed in the future (Philippians 3:10-11). But it shows the heart of this great man who was commissioned an apostle of Jesus Christ, was hand-picked to live with him for three years and witness to his resurrection—for this man to refer to himself as a “fellow-anything” to ourselves shows his deep humility.
And he expects these men to behave the same way. They are to shepherd the flock with gentleness and humility. They should exercise their oversight not because they have to but willingly and gladly, and not for any sort of gain, be it financial or otherwise. And they must do all this not in a domineering manner but as examples to the flock. They are not sheepdogs who snap but shepherds who patiently lead. Indeed, leadership by example is the New Testament pattern (Mark 10:42-45; Philippians 3:17; 1 Timothy 4:12 [NICNT, 181]). But though shepherds must not dominate, sheep must be responsive and willing to follow. And so he calls on those younger (and we may assume everyone else) to be subject to the elders so that (echoing Hebrews 13:17) they may perform their ministry “with joy and not with groaning.” Humility is the chief virtue of all the saints and when it is practiced by all the brethren—we call that a church.
The reward for being a faithful shepherd is great. Hang in there pastors. One day you will get to hear, “Well done,” and all will be worth it.