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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Because we share in the suffering of Christ, as we read in 1 Peter 4, we also get to partake in the glory that is going to be revealed. To partake is to join in, play a part, or share a meal. The glory to be revealed is the fullness of Christ at His return, when we join Him in Heaven on Earth for eternity, perfected and completely conformed to His image, united with Him forever. We take a part in that future glory now because it begins now; eternal life starts the moment we accept Jesus’ Salvation by believing the Gospel and confessing Jesus is Lord.
In trusting Jesus to be God our Savior and Lord, we trust that He has given us gifts and appointments, and we live in Him, using those gifts to build the kingdom, and trusting the order He gives. Ephesians 4:11-13 reads,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Your position in the body of Christ, is not to be the stomach which rules through hunger and greed, demanding its personal desires be satisfied, and hurting the rest of the body as it is fed, causing the muscles, heart, and all the other systems of the body to fail. Leaders lead with the goal of unity in faith, gaining knowledge about Jesus, both in head and heart, assuring that those in their care are getting to know Him and so maturing to be like Him. If the elders of the church are like the stomach, they are making sure that good, healthy things go in at the appropriate times, spiritual milk, meat, and sweet honey, which will make a strong and healthy body, who can walk strong, stand firm, and exercise gifts. The stomach lets the Spirit reign and not its basal desires, so that good goes in and healthy heart means good comes out as well.
The position of leadership is not a fat cat position, it is a position of great responsibility, of burden, and immense onus. There is vast power in words, especially words from a teacher to a student. Our words affect us in the real world, we speak blessings or curses, truth or lies, and life or death. When it is the teacher speaking those words, he speaks them not only over himself but over all those following his lead, leaning on his wisdom, and seeing through his revelation. James 3:1-5 says,
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
Why are teachers judged more strictly? Because it is by their words and actions that the students learn to speak and act. We are all called to disciple (Matthew 28:18-20) and we should all become teachers (Hebrews 5:12) yet, we have to be mindful of the importance of the position the Holy Spirit gives us as we disciple and teach others. The responsibility of leadership whether of a church, a small group, or one person is not to be taken lightly.
The shepherd has to pay careful attention both to the flock’s spiritual wellbeing and their own. Paul said it this way in Acts 20:28-33
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.
As leaders, the church respects and follows you. If you live carelessly so will they. If you sin, so will they. What might not be a sin for you because you know better in your maturity, can be a sin to a young or immature believer because they haven’t learned yet (1 Corinthians 8:7-13), so pay close attention and remember what Jesus said about His precious children in Matthew 18:4-7
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
You do not want to be the reason someone sins, you do not want to be the reason someone is tempted. There is no love or humility in that. Leader, stay humble, stay aware of the eyes watching you to learn how to walk and live in the kingdom.
Elders have an obligation to those they are discipling, but the youngers also have responsibility. It is not the fault of the teacher if the student is rebellious or too prideful to hear and heed. If the person in the flock is envious, selfish, or arrogant and will not submit to the authority Jesus put in place in His stead, then that sin is on her, and she will not enjoy the wonderful joy of unity in the Spirit because she is squelching Him. Continuing in 1 Peter 5, verses 5-7 read,
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.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
We are all to clothe ourselves with humility to one another. Love revealed by unity revealing Christ is the goal. We are told to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10), pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18) and weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). We are to live as the body with one Lord, one Spirit, likeminded because we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We do not have to exalt ourselves, God will exalt us at the proper time. Remember we share in the suffering of Christ and we partake in His glory! We will be lifted up with Him. We need to emulate Jesus by His Spirit and He is the ideal of humility. Philippians 2:1-11 reads,
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The enemy is not in the body. The enemy is not the person who was chosen over you, the person who chose to serve when you didn’t, or the person who gets the attention you wish you got. The enemy is not in the world. It is not the lost, the rude, or even the wicked. The enemy is Satan, who hates you and is afraid of what we can do if we live in unity as Jesus prayed we would (John 17:21). Verses 8-11 read,
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Infighting and division are what the devil wants for us. Unity, love for one another, and understanding that we are not alone in this journey with Christ are what allow us to stand firm against those attacks and remember that Satan is defeated and we who have shared in Christ’s suffering also partake in His glory. He is the head of the church, He has called us, you, me, her, and him. He restores, confirms, strengthens and establishes. He finishes! We lean on Him, we trust Him, and He is faithful to complete what He began. The enemy is eager to destroy Jesus’ work, but he cannot touch us unless we let him in through the divisions we cause by our pride, envy, and bitterness. Our own plans as shepherds or members of the flock instead of God’s plans are what the enemy laps up. Galatians 5:13-15 says,
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Brothers and Sisters, Beloved, we are one body, a body who Jesus prayed would be one, working together and living together to build His kingdom and glorify His name. Take seriously the position and gifts God has given to you and use them to edify the body, equip the saints, and glorify the LORD. Be earnest about humility, commitment, and honor to one another as we love one another and together love others as Jesus loved us.