Peter the Partaker (verse 1)
Peter identifies himself as a “fellow elder.” He puts no emphasis on his apostleship and writes as an equal rather than a superior. In doing so, he indicates his solidarity with those he is exhorting. Basically, he is writing to (i.e. preaching to) himself, not asking anything from the elders that he himself is not doing. Peter also identifies himself as a “witness of Christ’s sufferings.” He had an intense awareness of the price paid for our salvation and knew that seeing Christ crucified with spiritual eyes was a key sustaining ingredient for a minister of the gospel. Additionally, he is a “partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.” Peter is simply applying to himself what he had already written in the previous section of the letter, that “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13). The path to heaven is witnessing Christ’s suffering, sharing in that suffering, and then soon experiencing the glory that is to come.
Shepherd the Sheep (verse 2a)
There are at least five elements included in the expectation that the elders will “shepherd the flock.” First, they are to provide spiritual nourishment (John 21:15-17). For the pastor/elder, preaching is pastoral. The goal of preaching is to expose sin, point sinners to the Savior, strengthen the weak, relieve the burdened, and grant clarity to the confused. Second, they are to protect the flock (cf. John 10:11). Protection is not only from the worldly wolves out there, but also from the wayward wolves among the church (Acts 20:28-30). Third, they are to care for the sick and injured (cf. Ezekiel 34:2, 4-6). Fourth, they are to seek the lost sheep (cf. Luke 15:4). Pastors are to “do the work of an evangelist” and thereby fulfill their ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). Fifth, pastors are to separate the sheep from the goats (cf. Matthew 25:31-33).
The work of the shepherd is inseparably connected to the sheep that he is called to serve. Everything that a pastor does should be done with the sheep in mind. They should have the sheep in mind, knowing that it is the “flock of God.” It is God’s flock! Even in weakness and wanderings, they belong to God. It’s significant that Christ did not ask Peter “do you love my sheep?” While it is important and necessary to love the people, the question asked was, “Do you love Me?” If you love Christ, you will be able to love and shepherd His people.
A shepherd should be “among” the people. Adequate preaching requires intimate knowledge. A pastor is to be a specialist in caring for people. As one who is to be “exercising oversight” he must analyze and assess the situation of the congregation. He must diagnose and deal with the various issues. He must discern conditions and apply the right remedies. A minister who is not well informed about the people is in a poor position to feed them properly.
Not This But That (verses 2b-3)
God is not only interested in what we do, but also in how and why we do it. Peter makes three contrasting statements. First, a pastor is not to pastor the church reluctantly or with resentment, but voluntarily with joyful consent (cf. Colossians 3:23-24). Second, he is not to pastor the church for sordid gain, but eagerly. The sinful desire for sordid or dishonest gain may involve money, and it may also involve things like prestige and power. Third, he is not to pastor by lording his authority or domineering, but by being exemplary (cf. Mark 10:42-45). More men are disqualified because of lack of exemplary character than by lack of desire or giftedness. Many can describe the details of doctrine and often evidence some gifts, but they do not deal well with the daily duties of life. They prove to be unsafe examples and patterns for the flock. On the other hand, limited ability, steady desire, and decent giftedness, accented with the fragrance of Christ, is a powerful and lasting influence in a church.
Crowned at His Coming (verse 4)
Pastors are to shepherd the flock in light of the moment when the chief Shepherd appears. In doing so, they will avoid the temptation to scratch the itch of societal trends and will instead keep the coming of Christ ever before the church. The fact that Christ is the “Chief Shepherd” is a reminder that any pastor in a local church is merely His servants doing His will. The Master Shepherd is far more involved in the church’s oversight than we are and much more committed to caring for them than we could hope to be. As pastors serve with an eye toward the coming of Christ, as they remember that the church belongs to Him and that He is the Chief Shepherd, they will also have the assurance of the “unfading crown of glory” that they will receive at His coming.
- What does it mean that Christ is the Chief Shepherd of the church? In what ways does He Shepherd His flock? What are some reasons why it is important for all members of the church to understand the nature of pastoral ministry and the roles given to pastors in the local church? How can you pray for pastors this week?