DAILY DEVOTION - JUNE 5
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
1 Peter 5:1–5
Most Protestant Christians refer to their church leaders as “pastors.” Often the word is used in reference to their job title (e.g., youth pastor), but it can even be included as part of their vocational name (e.g., “See Pastor Jackson for details.”). But, do you know what pastor means and why church leaders are called pastors?
In Latin, pastor means “shepherd” or “shepherd of souls.” In French, the verb form pascere means “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat.” Embedded in the meaning of pastoring is leading, feeding, and guarding the flock of God. These meanings are very apt, including the significance of leading the flock to a secure place where they can feed on green grass (living, thriving, life-giving nourishment; see Psalm 23:2).
Peter knows the importance of feeding the flock of God. When Peter was reinstated in John 21:15–19, Jesus thrice asked him one intriguing question: “Peter, do you love me?” When Peter responded positively, Jesus responded: “[Tend to/Feed] my sheep.” To love Jesus is to care for those he loves. Now Peter is issuing this same call to the elders of the church: tend to and feed Jesus’ little lambs.
As a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s suffering, Peter is exhorting the leadership over these scattered saints to willingly and lovingly lead, feed, and guard God’s people. Here again, the elders are to “listen up” while the whole church “listens in” and hears how they are to be treated and cared for. This message is a call to all Christians for accountability, gentleness, loving care, and humbling ourselves to be led—in essence, living a good life. It is a call to once again look to the example Jesus set for us to follow. And, it is another design of order for the family of God, set up to ensure that the earthly leaders to whom God entrusted his lambs would indeed tend and feed them.
The concept of eldership didn’t originate in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Moses raised up elders (Exodus 18:25; Numbers 11:16– 30), and in Jeremiah 23:4 the Lord said, “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”
Thus, long before these scattered saints Peter addresses were in need, eldership was established to shepherd, comfort, and guide God’s people. The elders themselves were to be humble and compelled to serve by the love of God shown to them. And those “who are younger” (those not in oversight roles in the Church) can trust and submit to those who have been called to render care. The flock can have confidence and joy, knowing this kind of care is beneficial to them, and that those called to oversee them will be held to account for their leadership (Hebrews 13:17).
In verse 3, we see the complementary opposite of hypotássō (submission) discussed in 2:13—3:7. Elders are to oversee lovingly, not overpowering or cowering people into submission, but instead using goodness and servanthood as modeled by the Good Shepherd in tending his flock. They are to exercise “watchful care” willingly, not begrudgingly. They are to serve others eagerly, not for personal gain or shameless greed. And, they are to lead good lives serving as an example for the flock. Their good lives are a part of their qualification for the position of elder and they should continue to fulfill the standards set for them (see 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). They are to know their flock and minister to them in personal ways, taking their lead from the Good Shepherd who calls his lambs by name.
Our Chief Shepherd is the Shepherd over all the under-shepherds, and is their example to follow. In John 10, Jesus described how he is the Good Shepherd, perfectly leading, feeding, and guarding his sheep. He is not some hired hand who is in it for self-gain, nor is he unloving, allowing harm to befall his flock. He leads his sheep, he knows their names, and they follow his voice. He himself became the impenetrable barrier between them and evil by laying his life down.
It doesn’t take much for a little lamb to get lost, and it doesn’t take much for us to get lost either. We often wander away. But in the case of these elect exiles, they have literally been scattered and displaced. It likely felt as if thieves had come in and disbanded the flock. But, their Good Shepherd knows where they are. He has called them by name and they are his. He is gathering them—none shall be lost! Peter’s letter operates as Jesus’ voice to them, tending and feeding them, encouraging them to continue following their Good Shepherd and guide.
Though this little flock may feel as if wolves are all around, their Good Shepherd guards them; evil will never snag them from him. Jesus will lead them to green pastures and they will feast forevermore. So, in line with “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10), elders are to embody and administer the kind care Jesus gives, living out his will. They are to be the earthly reminders that Christ is tending his sheep still.