1 Peter 5:1-4: November 4—Leading with humility
Oct 28, 2012

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The church faces numerous crises at the dawn of the 21st century, both from without the church and within the church. One of the greatest crises relates to leadership. Because some pastors only view themselves as preachers, some congregations must ask, “Who is the leader?” Other congregations experience leadership from a pastor that adopts an unbiblical leadership model. Numerous pastors and individual church members have never experienced positive, healthy relationships within the body of Christ. Leadership is crucial to the church; the local congregation will never reach its divine potential without proper leadership.

As the Apostle Peter began to conclude his letter to Christians scattered throughout the northern provinces of Asia Minor, he provides helpful counsel about the role of a pastor. The Bible provides detailed counsel about the role, function, and methods of ministry that blesses the people of God.

First, Peter reminded Christians of the need for humble, godly leadership (5:1). The little word “therefore” establishes a connection between the crisis faced by the church (1 Pet. 4:12-19) and the role of leaders. The church is an alien minority group facing opposition and suffering from the enemy. In the United States, Christian suffering does not consist yet of physical persecution. Our suffering arises from the clash of worldviews. The church battles on a fourfold front: postmodern relativism, naturalistic secularism, New Age spirituality, or militant religions. The dire circumstances we face require godly leadership.

Second, Peter emphasized the functions of humble, godly leaders (5:2). Peter ascribes a threefold function to leaders that corresponds to the interchangeable biblical titles for leaders: pastors, bishops, and elders. Paul summoned the elders of the church at Ephesus and admonished them to bishop and shepherd God’s flock (Acts 20:17, 28). Likewise, Peter addressed the elders and encouraged them to shepherd and to oversee.

Elders, a title common in Southern Baptist life a century ago, refers to the dignity of the position. Bishop means “overseer” and points to administrative oversight. As oversee-er, the pastor helps the congregation discover the purpose God has for the local congregation. Our English word “pastor” derives from the term “shepherd.” Yet, the flock belongs to God. At best, the pastor is a mere undershepherd. As shepherd, the pastor protects, guides, leads, and feeds God’s flock. The primary responsibility of the pastor-shepherd is the spiritual feeding of the flock (John 21:15-17).

Third, Peter addressed the behavior of humble, godly leadership (5:2-3). Peter set forth three contrasts between ministerial vices to avoid and virtues to imitate. The particular vices Peter lists are specific ministerial temptations: sloth, greed, and power. If leaders serve out of a sense of compulsion, then ministry becomes a mere job. When ministry becomes a mere job, then, the minister becomes slothful in his time management. I personally have never known anyone that entered the ministry because of financial reasons. Yet, the New Testament provides numerous warnings about a leader’s attitude towards money (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7). Furthermore, the New Testament indicts false prophets for their improper desire for money (1 Tim. 6:5-10). Spiritual leaders are not to abuse the flock by asserting their authority over the sheep (overlord). Peter encourages leaders to serve out of divine calling (according to God’s will), with a zeal for God’s work (eagerly), and by setting an example for the flock to follow.

Finally, Peter comments on the outcome of a humble, godly leader’s ministry (5:4). Jesus is the Chief Shepherd; a leader is the undershepherd. When the Chief Shepherd appears at the second coming, He holds the undershepherd accountable. Faithful leaders receive the unfading crown of a victory, that consists of glory.          

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