The church which is His body (5)

Bible Reading 1 Peter 5:1-11

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: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Submit to God, Resist the Devil Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen

In our last lesson we were considering the revealed purpose of God for the leadership in the local church. We found that our risen Head has given and gifted certain men to be "shepherds" of the "flock." We closed the lesson by dealing with "The qualifications of the 'overseer'." We pursue this further as we look at

The work of an overseer

1) "Feed"

Acts 20:28 - "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Shepherd, that is, tend and feed and guide - Amp,)

1 Pet. 5:2 - "FEED THE FLOCK of God which is among you, taking the OVERSIGHT thereof .... "

JBP - "I urge you then to see that your "FLOCK OF GOD" is properly FED and cared for."

The word translated "feed" is the verb form of the word translated "shepherd" and beside feeding includes "protection, regulation, and the whole care of a shepherd for his flock."

Amp. - "Tend - nurture, guard, guide and fold - the flock of God that is (your responsibility)." Isaiah in speaking of the coming and ministry of the Lord Jesus, gives a beautiful picture of the blessed "Pattern Pastor."

Isa. 40:11 — "He shall FEED HIS FLOCK like a SHEPHERD: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

The prophets on several occasions referred to God's people as "a flock." Our Lord in the days of His earth ministry spoke of Himself as a Shepherd and of His disciples as a "flock."

Luke 12:32 - "Fear not, LITTLE FLOCK; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

John 10:14 - "I am the GOOD SHEPHERD, and know MY SHEEP, and am known of mine."

The responsibility of the "OVERSEER SHEPHERD" is a great one. He must not only "shepherd" EACH sheep, but also tend the WHOLE FLOCK. Probably all that we are going to consider in the seven-fold work of the "overseer" is encompassed in this word "shepherd."

In the matter of "feeding the flock" great care must be taken in providing the proper food. “The sincere milk of the Word" must be given the "newborn babes" (1 Pet. 2:2), while "strong meat" must be served "to them that are of full age (full-grown men)" (Heb. 5:14). It is to be remembered that an elder must be "able to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2). They are to labour in the Word and Doctrine" (1 Tim. 5:17).

2) "Lead"

Heb. 13:7, 17, 24 (Amp.) — "Never forget your LEADERS, who first spoke to you the Word of God. Remember, how they lived, and imitate their faith. Obey your RULERS and recognize THEIR AUTHORITY. They are like men standing guard over your spiritual good, and they have great responsibility. Try to make their work a pleasure and not a burden - by so doing you will help not only them but yourselves. Greetings to all your LEADERS and all your church members."

Amp. - (vs. 17) - "OBEY YOUR SPIRITUAL LEADERS and submit to them - continually recognizing their authority over you; for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account (of their trust). (Do your part to) let them do this with gladness, and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you (either)."

The word translated "rule" means "to lead, i.e. command (with official authority). The Hebrews are urged not to forget their former leaders and to remember how they taught, lived, and triumphantly died. These memories are to be spurs to their dedication and perseverance. They are urged also to give due recognition and obedience to the God ordained leadership which has been given them by the Lord at the time of this writing. God has ordained that the church should be led by "shepherds," such leadership to be responsibly assumed by the ”shepherd” and responsibly recognized by "the flock."

Such leaders are -

  • Those who "speak to you the Word of God"
  • "Live their faith"
  • "Stand guard over your Spiritual good"
  • "Have great responsibility"
  • "Are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare"
  • "Will have to render an account (of their trust)"

The flock should

  • "Obey your spiritual leaders"
  • "Submit to them"
  • "Recognise their authority over you"
  • "Try to make their work a pleasure and not a burden"

3) "Rule"

The word translated "rule" in the following passages means "to stand before i.e. (in rank) to preside; maintain, be over, rule."

1 Tim. 5:17 - "Let the elders that RULE well he counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

1 Thess. 5:12-13 (Amp.) - "Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to appreciate those who diligently work among you [recognize, acknowledge, and respect your leaders], who are in charge over (same word as "rule" in 1 Tim. 5:17) you in the Lord and who give you instruction, and [we ask that you appreciate them and] hold them in the highest esteem in love because of their work [on your behalf]. Live in peace with one another."

Rom. 12:8 - "He that RULES (leads), with diligence."

JBP — "Let the man who wields authority think of his responsibility."

4) "Be Examples"

1 Pet. 5:3 - "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being EXAMPLES to the flock."

Amp. - "Not (as arrogant, dictatorial and overbearing persons) domineering over those in your charge, but BEING EXAMPLES ~ patterns and models of Christian living - to the flock."

It is instructive to note how the Word of God maintains the balance of truth. In our last point we saw the elders "ruling." Taken by itself, this might encourage "arrogant dictatorial and overbearing persons." Our present scripture, however, forbids this sort of thing. There must be authority, but it must be exercised properly.

5) "Care"

1 Tim. 3:5 - "If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he TAKE CARE of the church of God?"

The meaning of such "care" is inferred in the preceding verse. The elder "must have proper authority in his own household, and be able to control and command the respect of his children" (JBP). What he is required to do on the domestic level he must be able to do on the church level. A responsible father is concerned with the over-order, atmosphere, health, and general well-being of his family. So the elder is to have the same kind of concern for the church over which he shares the oversight.

6) "Admonish"

1 Thess. 5:12 - "Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and ADMONISH you."

Amp. — "...those who warn and kindly reprove and exhort you."

The word translated "admonish" means "to put in mind; call attention to, i.e., (by implication) to caution or reprove gently, warn." Paul is the only one to use the word in the New Testament. It is used for

a) Christians admonishing one another (Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14)

b) Elders generally admonishing the church (Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 4:14; Col. 1:28)

c) Elders specifically admonishing those who are sinning (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:14-15)

We will more fully consider point (c) when we deal with "Church Discipline."

7) "Pray For The Sick"

James 5;14-15 (Amp.) - "Is any among you sick? He should call in the church elders - the spiritual guides. And THEY SHOULD PRAY OVER HIM, anointing him with oil in the Lord's name. And the prayer (that is) of faith will save him that is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven."

Here we are considering a body of people called "the church" with properly qualified "elders." The one who is requesting prayer is of the church being referred to as "one among you." This is physical healing ministered by God through elders as they obey "the apostles' doctrine" on the matter.

The support of the overseer

1 Tim. 5:17,18 (Amp.) - "Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honour (and of ADEQUATE FINANCIAL SUPPORT), especially those who labour faithfully in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, the labourer is worthy of his hire."

JBP - "Elders with a gift of leadership should be considered worthy of respect, and of ADEQUATE SALARY, particularly if they work hard at their preaching and teaching."

MOFF. - "presbyters who are efficient presidents are to be considered worthy of AMPLE REMUNERATION .... "

The shepherd or shepherds who give themselves wholly to the care and oversight of the flock should be "amply remunerated."

The discipline of the overseer

1) Protecting the "Overseer"

1 Tim. 5:19 (JBP) — "TAKE NO NOTICE of charges brought against an elder unless they can BE SUBSTANTIATED BY PROPER WITNESSES."

Wey. - "NEVER ENTERTAIN an accusation against an Elder except on the EVIDENCE OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES."

"Elders are safeguarded even against having to ANSWER A CHARGE, unless it be at once supported by two or three witnesses. Lacking such support, THE ACCUSATION MUST NOT EVEN BE TAKEN UP OR ENTERTAINED. The reputation of the elder must not be unnecessarily damaged, and his work must not suffer unnecessary interruption."

2) Punishing the "Overseer"

1 Tim. 5:20 (JBP) — "If sin is ACTUALLY PROVED, then the offenders should be PUBLICLY REBUKED as a salutary warning to others."

Amp. — "As for those who are guilty and PERSIST IN SIN, rebuke and admonish them in the presence of all, so that the rest may be warned and stand in wholesome fear and awe."

"Elders who walk in sinful ways must not be spared. In fact, their sin must be punished even more severely than that of others. The law made the same distinction (Lev. 4:22-28). Timothy must not only bring their sin home to their conscience, but in their case he must do this not privately or in the presence of just a few, but publicly."