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Tending the Flock of God 1 Peter 5a

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1 Peter 5:1-9

Stephen Caswell © 2001

Sheep Follow Someone

A television documentary showed a lot about the behavior of sheep. One scene was of a packing house where sheep were slaughtered. The sheep had to walk from their large pen up a narrow ramp and then turn right. In order to get the sheep to move up the ramp, a Judas sheep was trained to lead the sheep up the ramp and to their death. The sheep was placed among the other sheep and then walked confidently to the ramp as the nervous sheep watched. After the Judas sheep had gone about five feet up the ramp, he stopped and looked confidently at the nervous sheep, who then began to follow. Near the top of the ramp the Judas sheep turned left as a gate was opened only for him and then closed. The sheep however continued up the ramp and turned right, to their death. Sheep are easily lead astray as we are told in Isaiah 53:6. That is why God sent the Good Shepherd to save the lost sheep. The Lord has provided pastors to care for the flock of God.


Last week Peter shared with us the truth about trials. Believers can rejoice in trials because they help us to grow and they bring glory to God. One day we will receive glory for them too. Today, Peter gives instructions for the flock of God. He has commands for both the shepherd  and the sheep. We will see :  Instructions For Shepherd's,  &  Instructions For The Sheep.


Firstly      Instructions For The Shepherd    


The Perfect Pastor


After years of research, the profile of the perfect pastor has been developed. The perfect pastor preaches for exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sin, but never embarrasses anyone. He works 8:00 am until midnight and is also the church janitor. He makes $60 a week, wears good clothes, drives a new car, and gives $50 a week to the poor. He is twenty eight years old, and has been preaching for twenty five years. He is wonderfully gentle and handsome, loves to work with teen agers, spends countless hours with senior citizens. He makes fifteen calls a day on parish families, shut ins, hospital patients, and he is always in his office when needed. The perfect pastor meets all expectations of everyone in his flock. He hasn't been found yet. Fortunately God doesn't require these qualities. He has a better, more practical list.

a. Shepherd the Flock Of God


1 Peter 5:1-2a 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


Look After The Lambs


A farmer pointed out to a friend his thriving crops and healthy livestock. His companion was especially impressed with the beautiful sheep in the pasture. He had seen the same breed before, but never such attractive animals. Curious, he asked the farmer how he had managed to raise such outstanding sheep. The answer was straightforward but profound: My friend, I just take very good care of the lambs.  

Peter had received his pastoral commission directly from the Lord. In John 21 the Lord instructed Peter how to care for His flock. The Lord gave Peter three commands, feed My lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Peter was to care for all the sheep from young lambs to mature sheep. Now at the end of his life Peter passes this teaching on to a new generation of shepherds. Peter gives pastors one command; Shepherd the flock of God. The word shepherd poimainw means to tend a flock, feed, lead, rule and pasture. The flock belongs to the Lord not the shepherd. Remember, Jesus commanded Peter to feed My sheep. All of the instructions regarding pastoral ministry come under this one command to shepherd the flock. 

1. Be Willing Overseers  -  1 Peter 5:2b serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;


Firstly, Peter tells shepherds to take oversight of the flock. This refers to the pastors responsibility to watch over the flock. Oversight involves three particular ministries, leading, feeding and heeding. Hebrews 13:7 lists these qualities: Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. 1. The pastor is responsible to lead the flock in a hostile environment. Sheep need to be lead by the shepherd herded by sheep dogs. The shepherd walks before the flock leading by example. 2. The pastor is responsible to feed the flock with suitable pasture. They provide the sheep with a balanced diet from God's Word. 3. Pastors must also watch out for wolves that come to ravage the flock. Jesus warned of wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders about grievous wolves that would seek to devour the flock. Acts 20:28-29 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. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Wolves can come from with in and without! Because sheep tend to go astray, God provides Pastors to care for the flock. Therefore Peter commands pastors to willingly care for the flock. They mustn't do it out of compulsion or reluctantly. Jesus asked Peter if loved Him when He made him shepherd of His sheep. Pastors must love the sheep and eagerly serve them


2. Be Examples


1 Peter 5:3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;


Power is another wrong motive. Here, Peter hones in on authority. Pastors must not abuse their authority and act like lords over God's flock. A shepherd is not a king. People serve kings, whilst shepherds serve the sheep. Their leadership is to be gentle and loving. The sheep should follow the shepherd out of love and respect, not fear. Peter asked the shepherds to be examples to the flock. They were to practice what they preached. The flock should be able to follow the shepherd's example.   


Unfortunately there have always been pastors who don't follow these guidelines. Some are harsh and rule like dictators, not shepherds. Power is their primary motivation for service. Others are in the ministry only for money. They are often dishonest to gain more wealth. As a result the sheep are neglected and left to fend for themselves.

Paul lists the qualifications of pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus chapter 1. Pastors must have a good reputation in their family life, community life and in the Church. Pastors mustn't fight with their fists or their words. They mustn't be greedy for money or covetous. They mustn't drink. Generally these passages have been ignored today. I have heard of some pastors who are in it for the money. I also know of some pastors who drink and even get drunk. This is an indictment on the Christian Church. What sort of example are they setting by doing this? Should the sheep follow shepherds who are motivated by money or drink?  I think not!


b. Serve The Chief Shepherd


1 Peter 5:4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Peter reminds pastors that Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd. All pastors are undershepherds serving Him. Christ owns the flock of God. He purchased the sheep with His own blood. Therefore pastors are accountable to Him. One day the Chief Shepherd will examine the service of pastors to see if it is worthy of reward. Those that have served faithfully will receive a crown of glory that never fades. Christ will crown all faithful believers. The crown of glory is one reserved for faithful pastors. This should motivate pastors to please God.




Peter's instructions to shepherds are clear, shepherd or care for the flock. This involves leading feeding and heeding. Then Peter explains that pastors must not serve reluctantly. They must not use their position to pursue power or money. Rather they are to serve willingly and eagerly. They are to lead the flock by example. Shepherds who serve well will be rewarded with a crown of glory by the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.


Secondly   Instructions For The Sheep

Having instructed the shepherds, Peter then turns his attention to the sheep. He gives them a number of commands to obey and then the reasons for them.

a. Be Submissive


1 Peter 5:5a Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another,

The first command for the sheep is to be submissive to the shepherds. The word submit u&potassw means to be subject to, to arrange oneself under. It's a military term referring to soldiers marching in ranks behind their commanding officer. You might think that this refers to children respecting their elders. Whilst this principle is true I believe that the context refers to the shepherd and the flock. Verse 1 uses the term elder to refer to pastors. So I see no reason to think it refers to a different group here in verse 5. Having explained the duty of the pastors or spiritual guides of the church, the apostle comes now to instruct the flock. How to behave themselves to their ministers and to one another.

He calls them the younger, as being generally younger than their grave pastors. Since Peter has just laid down the shepherd's responsibilities, wouldn't it be wise to also lay down the sheep's responsibilities?

Hebrews 13:17 says this too: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.


One day pastors will give an account to the Lord for the sheep in their care. Wouldn't it be better for them to give joyful report of their sheep than a sad one? Unfortunately some sheep will have their pastors say that although they had potential to serve they didn't do it. They were absent more than they were present. They wouldn't listen to their shepherd and continually went their own way. Other sheep will bring joyful reports from their grateful pastors. What sort of report do you want to receive? Peter then asks all the sheep to be subject to one another. They are to submit and learn from each other. Submission encourages unity in the flock, independence doesn't.

One Goat Lied Down

During the great Reformation in Europe, Luther and Zwingli found themselves at odds in their concern for the movements they were leading. Early one morning, Zwingli walked out on the mountains of Switzerland and a soul-stirring sight confronted him. He saw two goats making their way over a narrow path on the mountain. One was ascending the trail, the other descending. He also noticed that they must pass at a point where the trail was so narrow that there was room for only one goat. He watched to see what would happen.


The animals rounded a turn in the path which brought them in full view of each other. They backed up, as though ready for a lunge, and then the most amazing thing happened. The goat on the trail below laid down in the path, while the goat above him walked over his back. The first animal then arose and continued his journey up the trail. To Zwingli this meant that the way down is the way up. Christ humbled Himself so that men could walk over Him into the Kingdom of light, knowing that afterward He would be exalted.


b. Be Humble


1 Peter 5:5b-7 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.


Peter's second and third commands both relate to humility. You might think that this is the same as submission. No it's not. Although it is impossible for a proud person to submit themselves to anyone. In the Greek language, the word clothed ejgkomboomai referred to a slave putting on an apron before serving. Believers should be servants of Jesus Christ. Pride keeps most people from serving another. Service is bellow someone who considers them self superior to another. Fellowship teas and working bees usually reveal the submissive sheep. They are the ones giving a hand. The ones who aren't submissive think such service is bellow them. Why should believers humble themselves? Because God resists the proud. He opposes them. Proverbs says: Pride go before a fall and a haughty spirit unto destruction.

But on the other hand God blesses the humble. Peter lists three benefits here for those who humble themselves. Firstly, He gives them grace to stand firm in all of their trials. Secondly, God exalts those who humble themselves. Thirdly, He lifts their burdens when they pray. God cares for His children and He helps those who humble themselves under His mighty hand. God doesn't ask us to humble ourselves under another person, but under Himself. When we do the Lord promises to exalt us in due time. Humility is not weakness. Moses was the meekest man in all of the earth, yet he was powerful. If we don't humble ourselves God will resist us. Lucifer sought to exalt himself to be god. But God cast him down and he fell. Jesus Christ is God and yet He humbled Himself and became a bondservant. He even died in obedience to God's will. But then God exalted Him to the highest position.

A proud sheep that won't submit to the shepherd is heading for trouble. Pride leads to a fall. It is the responsibility of the sheep to flock together under the shepherd's leadership. How can the shepherd lead and feed sheep who won't submit to his authority? Is it the pastor's fault if they are continually absent from Church or Bible study? They must come to be fed. Paul warned the Corinthians about pride. 1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? Believers have no reason to boast since everything we have comes from God. We ought to humble ourselves before our Master.

Sweetest Music From Smallest Birds

Have you ever thought of it, that only the smaller birds sing? You never heard a note from the eagle in all your life, nor from the turkey, nor from the ostrich. But you have heard from the canary, the wren, and the lark. The sweetest music comes from those Christians who are small in their own estimation and before the Lord. God exalts the humble. He gives them grace and waits for them to cast their cares upon Him.


c. Be Alert


1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.


Peter's last three commands relate to the enemy. Peter describes him with three names. As our adversary he is against us. As the devil he accuses us. As a lion he seeks to destroy us. Lions are hunters and natural enemies of sheep. Peter describes three traits of this hunter of our souls. He says the devil is like a lion that, roams, roars and ravages.


Firstly, he roams around looking for lost sheep. Satan is constantly looking for someone to trap. Sheep on their own are easy prey for him. There is safety in numbers. When the sheep stay near the fold the shepherd can watch over them. He can protect them and help them. However, it's the nature of sheep to go astray.

Secondly, he roars to frighten the sheep. Old lions roar when hunting to frighten their prey into the clutches of the younger lions. A lone sheep away from the shepherd is easily intimidated by a roaring lion.

Thirdly, he ravages the sheep. The reason Satan roams and roars is to corner sheep so he can devour them. The word devour katapinw means to swallow up, destroy, drink downSatan hates Christ's sheep and is always looking for ways to destroy them.


How can sheep stand against a roaring lion. Firstly, they must obey the commands to submit to authority and humble themselves before God. James 4:6-7 links these commands together. But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. It's impossible to resist the devil without first submitting to God and His servants. Proud stubborn sheep are headed for disaster.


1. Be Sober And Vigilant


1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.


Beware Of Wandering From The Fold


Phillip Keller in his book on the 23 rd Psalm relates a story from his own experience as a shepherd. On several occasions these cunning creatures came in among the sheep at night working terrible havoc in the flock. Yet despite the damage, despite the dead sheep, despite the injuries, and fear instilled in the flock, he never actually saw a cougar on his range. So cunning and skillful were the raids that they defy description. However it was always the distant sheep, the roamers, the wanderers that were picked off by the predators in an unsuspecting moment. Generally the attackers were gone before the shepherd was alerted by their cry for help. 

In the same way Christians need to stay near the Good Shepherd. They need to keep close to God's flock for mutual encouragement, protection and nourishment from their shepherd. 1 Peter 2:25: For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Here, Peter gives three commands for sheep to obey.

Firstly, Christians must be sober. The word sober nhfw means to abstain, to be calm and temperate. It's the opposite of being drunk. People who get drunk are an easy prey for the devil. This is because they can't think clearly or rationally. They aren't in control of their faculties and are much more easily deceived. Christians must have a sound mind if they would defeat their enemy. Whenever the Bible records drunkenness it never has a good word to say about it. When Noah got drunk he lost his self control and was found naked. Lot's daughter's got him drunk before they committed incest. Nadab and Abihu got drunk and then served in the tabernacle. Because they were drunk they acted improperly and God killed them. Belshazzar got drunk and acted foolishly by drinking out of the vessels dedicated to God. He lost the kingdom and his life on the same night.

Secondly, Christians must be vigilant. The word vigilant grhgorew means to be watchful, awake, alert and cautious. This describes a soldier keeping watch. This word is often used in the Bible with prayer where it is translated watch and pray. Believers must be alert to the enemies attacks. If we become drowsy we won't see our adversary approaching. You cannot be watchful if you are drunk. Those who drink usually become drowsy and sometimes go to sleep because their drunk.  


1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

2. Be Steadfast And Resist Him


Thirdly, Christians must resist him. The word resist ajnqisthmi means to withstand, oppose, to set oneself against. This describes a soldier ready to oppose the enemy when he advances. Believers must be determined to resist him. If we don't stand firm with God's resources we will be devoured. We must resist him steadfast in the faith. It was the faith of these people that Satan aimed at. If he could overturn their faith, and draw them into apostasy, then he knew he could gain his point, and ruin their souls. Therefore, to destroy their faith, he raises bitter persecutions, and sets the rulers of the world against them. This strong trial and temptation they must resist, by being well-grounded, resolute, and steadfast in the faith. The sure Word of God can enable us to withstand the devils attacks.


Ephesians 6:17 says: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; That is how Christ overcame him in the wilderness. Christ said to Satan, it is written. He used the appropriate verse of Scripture to strike at the enemy. We also have the encouragement that our brethren are experiencing the same trials that we are. Satan wants us to think that we are suffering more than anyone else is. But that's a lie. Many other believers are standing firm against Satan's attacks.  We can be encouraged by their steadfastness!!



Peter's gives three groups of commands for the sheep.


Firstly, sheep must be submissive. Are you a submissive sheep? Have you submitted to the Good Shepherd? Do you submit to His undershepherd? Do you listen to the shepherd's instruction? Or are you often absent from the services? Do you follow his leading and example? Are you submissive to your fellow sheep? Or are you acting independently?


Secondly, sheep must be humble. Do you humble yourself under God's mighty hand? Will you clothe yourself with humility like a servant putting on an apron? Or are you too proud for service? God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. He exalts them in due time and lifts their burdens from them.

Thirdly, sheep must be alert. Our adversary is roaming around seeking to devour stray sheep. Are you sober and watchful? Are you staying near the Good Shepherd and fellowshipping with the flock? Or have you wandered off on your own? We must never underestimate Satan's attacks. Are you ready to resist him when he attacks like a roaring lion? You can be if you will stand firm in your faith. You can be if you submit to God and rely on His strength!


Today we have seen Peter's instructions to the shepherds and the sheep.

Firstly      Instructions For The Shepherd  - To willingly care for the flock.  

Secondly Instructions For The Sheep - Submit to the shepherd and fellow sheep.

Benediction    Hebrews 13:20-21

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