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A Community Strong for Suffering

1 Peter: A Living Hope for Holy Living in a Hostile World  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:18
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What keeps a Christian community, a local church, healthy enough to withstand persecution? - An accountable group of leaders who humbly serve like Christ and a dedicated group of followers who follow like humble servant leaders

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A Community Strong for Suffering - 1 Peter 5:1-5

In his continued discussion of how God’s people can endure unjust treatment while in fact doing good, Peter shifts his attention to address church leaders directly, instructing them to be rightly motivated in their leadership so that the church might maintain the kind of health it needs to withstand persecution.
1 Peter 5:1–5 ESV
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.”
Do we still need this today? …to understand truly that the most helpful we can be to others is to lead by following Christ’s example of humility in order to serve rather than to exert our authority. - When I botch it up as a father and husband, as an administrator and as an elder… it’s because I’m not on my knees in utter dependence on God, I’m not submissive enough, I’m not listening enough with a heart to serve, I’m not even doing the hard thing that is best for another with a clear focus in my heart that by doing so I am serving them. I’m not sacrificing my current comfort and convenience for the good of their character before God. No, I’m a poor example of a Christian leader, and I don’t look like Christ.
Do we still need this today? …with all the pressure exerted upon us from the world to forsake Christ, how will we live in order to keep our families… and our church families… from coming apart at the seams when suffering strikes us with mighty blows? - We will be as strong as our leaders are humble servants! If we will lead one another by serving one another, then we will be strong with the heart of Jesus for others, and we will be strong to follow the will of God to the finish line, when we will receive the crown of eternal life!
Listen carefully to what Peter teaches to consider how you can apply servant leadership in the small circles where God has given you opportunity for servant leadership to the praise of His glory.

Leaders, lead with a heart to serve. (1-4)

I urge the elders among you… Elders - Not simply meaning older in age, but used here in its technical sense in which the NT uses the term of office, of a leadership role in the church.
Steve Cole’s note on the topic of this role in the church provides a helpful synopsis:
In the New Testament there are three terms used to describe the same office of leadership in the church, each from a slightly different perspective. Elder focuses on the character qualities of the man, that he is a mature man of God. As 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 make clear, the main qualification for elders is not that they have impressive spiritual gifts. Rather, it is that they be godly men. Overseer (or, “Bishop”; Greek, “episkopos”) is used interchangeably with elder (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) and looks at the primary function of the office, to superintend matters in the local church. The third term, Pastor (which means “Shepherd”) looks at the function of the elder/overseer from the metaphor of the church as God’s flock. It focuses on the tasks of providing leadership, care, feeding, and protection for God’s people.
Another important factor to note in its NT usage is that these “elders” are invariably plural. In their appointment, the reference is plural, and in their function, they are plural. (As examples of this, Acts 14:23 reports how Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (plural) in every church (singular). In terms of function, Acts 20:17 tells how Paul called to him “the elders of the church” in Ephesus.) - We should not take this lightly because there is a great deal of safety and accountability for God’s people and for the leaders themselves with such a model. Some of the very vices that Peter mentions that a leader must guard against are most frequently seen being abused in situations where there are leaders functioning solo (even if there is a veneer of teamwork). By contrast, there is great help for leaders to have true accountability with fellows leaders… for everyone’s sake.
With that in mind, Peter is likely addressing small groups of leaders in various locations where this letter will be dispersed, and he urges them to lead by following Christ’s example of servanthood. … In doing so, he first models for them a sympathetic servant approach…
Peter’s perspective for exhortation (1)
Peter mentions three things about his own perspective as he gives them this instruction:
Establishing a connection with the group he addresses, Peter speaks of himself as a fellow elder, as one who understands the responsibility, who has personal experience, with serving Christ’s church in a leadership capacity. - In other words, “I’m not telling you anything that I don’t have to apply myself in the church family where God has placed me.” - He literally models here for them what he expects them to do in their own shepherding role. So he uses his own example servant leadership right at the outset.
He also says of himself that he is a Witness of Christ’s sufferings - What Peter probably means by this is not that he was there throughout everything Christ experienced, since he was not. He followed at a distance during the trial, only to deny Christ… as Jesus had foretold. But what he surely means then is that he was with Christ in his ministry and in the rising animosity that Jesus faced, leading all the way to his betrayal and arrest and crucifixion. Peter was present more than enough to say, “I personally know what Christ went through in service to us!”
And Peter was also there to be a witness to the resurrected Christ. And speaking of the resurrection of our Lord, which is the foundation for our hope of future glory, Peter continues…
That he is a Sharer in the glory still to come - The hope Peter preaches is his hope as well. Like the elders Peter addresses, he too is continuing his sojourn on this earth by giving his life as a servant of Christ’s church and as one who endures suffering knowing that he’s doing so in order to gain something far better when’s Christ returns, when his ultimate glory is revealed!
Here’s a paltry comparison, but it gives you the right idea of having a mind set on the end goal. When LSU beat Alabama a week ago, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was asked what it meant to beat Alabama. He said that it was great, but that the team had bigger things in mind than just beating Alabama in this one game before season’s end. He didn’t want that one (even big) victory to distract them from the ultimate goal of winning the college football playoff. (There’s still along way to go and a much bigger goal…)
Much more than that, Peter knows what is at stake during our sojourn here and reminds his Christian teammates that he’s one among us aiming to work together to “be found in [Christ]” (to use Paul’s terminology in Php 3) when His glory is revealed. Peter says, like you, my eyes are fixed on the Savior to follow him to the finish line.
In giving his perspective, then, Peter has not only made himself a sympathetic compatriot of his audience but has also set an example to them of how they should set an example for others. :-)
Peter instructs: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.” As he says this, he gives…
Three instructions for shepherding (2-3)
… Three particular areas where sinful motives and attitudes could easily arise among those given a position of authority
Before we get to those, however, notice that Peter plainly emphasizes, in using the command to shepherd and corresponding participle “overseeing,” that leaders must lead but that they do so by following the model set by Christ.
To Shepherd - means to be the caretaker, the guide and help, and yes at times to rule firmly enough to exercise discipline for their own good —> And Serving as an overseer… - (episkopeo) to watch over, direct, care for, and be accountable for (an assembly, a family, of believers)
The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (1) Exhortations for Elders and Younger Ones (5:1–5)

The words “God’s flock” remind the elders that the congregation does not belong to them. It is God’s church, and they are given the privilege and responsibility of shepherding it.

So Peter tells them to shepherd, to oversee, and he instructs them in three ways, each one carrying a warning of wrong motive versus the right motive and way of approaching said leadership:
Not under obligation, but willingly (not grudgingly, not because you have to, but voluntarily, with a willingness to serve)
If someone is serving not because they want to but because they have to, does that not eventually shine through in some way? And for the sake of your own spirit in serving others, which one gives you contentment, joy, and fulfillment?
Not in disgraceful greed, but eagerly desiring to do good
1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary 1. Elders: Shepherd God’s Flock Rightly (5:1–4)

Greed and selfish interest are so near at hand in all human hearts that especially in this work they must be constantly guarded against.

Eagerly desiring is parallel to the previous willingness, but has an even more forceful positive connotation: Do it not because you expect to gain by it, but eagerly desiring the good of others to the glory of God.
Not lording it over them, but setting the example of humble service
Peter almost certainly here recalls when Jesus’ disciples were in an argument jockeying for position, Jesus set them straight according the his values in leadership:
Matthew 20:25–28 ESV
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus said, I’m asking you to lead like I am leading you, to lead by sacrifice and service. Lead by following my example. - And so we are to do today, to lead in a way that copies and pleases the chief Shepherd.
And so Peter demonstrates in v. 4 that…
The overarching motivation for servant leadership (4)
Lead in such a way as to please the Chief Shepherd, who is returning... and he will reward you.
The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (1) Exhortations for Elders and Younger Ones (5:1–5)

The designation of Jesus as the Chief Shepherd reminds the leaders that they are fundamentally servants, not autocrats. Their positions of leadership are a responsibility, not a privilege by which they advance their own status. As shepherds they serve under the authority of the Chief Shepherd, doing his will rather than theirs.

And when he appears, they will receive the unfading crown of glory - Peter contrasts here, metaphorically, the “crowns” (garlands, wreaths) that were given to victors of athletic contests, to those valiant in battle, or to other heroes… and they were perishable. He contrasts that with the eternal, unfading crown of glory (that is, entrance into heaven itself). - I say this because the other “crown” passages refer to the crown this way (cf. 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10; 3:11) Here are two examples:
2 Timothy 4:8 ESV
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
James 1:12 ESV
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
So the motivation is that the Chief Shepherd is the one who has bestowed this responsibility, and so we look to him and follow him willingly, eagerly, aiming to set an example like the one he set. And we know that our efforts are not in vain because we look forward to the greatest possible reward… eternal life in the presence of the glory of God.
And this should motivate all of us because such is the case for everyone who believes and endures.
Consider the lyrics to the song many of you know, “When We See Christ” (by Esther Kerr Rusthoi): “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus...”
Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear, We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair; But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away, All tears forever over in God's eternal day.
Refrain It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ; One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase, So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
In order for us as a Christian community, a band of brothers and sisters battling together, to be able to endure unjust treatment and continue doing good, our leaders must have that same focus.
Peter briefly shifts his attention to those who are younger, and then to everyone.

You who are younger, submit. (5a)

It’s probably too simplistic to dismiss the word younger as referring to everyone else simply because the earlier reference to elder is clearly speaking in context of the leadership. I think it’s best to understand that this is genuinely referring to those who are younger as a prime example of the need to submit to leadership. - Is it not often the case that those who are younger are still learning to follow well, and might have a prideful inclination to think their way of thinking is probably smarter and better than what they are being told (or asked) to do by the current leaders? - Peter is saying that he gets it, and “Don’t be like that, be submissive.”
Now of course none of this means that even those who are under the leadership of others stand idly by and wait to be told what to do. There is opportunity to lead by serving at every turn in a church family. It also doesn’t mean that you have no responsibility to help the leaders be accountable to the letter and the spirit of God’s word. In other words, there are respectful ways and proper channels for being a part of the accountability process.
But the overall concern is the lack of humility that causes those who are younger to struggle with submission. - The overall context is, if you want help enduring through trying times, then stop assuming you have all the wisdom; instead, listen and submit to those that God has seen fit to place as leaders in a healthy church.

All of you, be humble toward one another. (5b)

This catches everybody, from the leaders to the younger, to everyone in between. - Tie about you the servant’s apron of humility. … Because God is in fact opposed to the proud, but his favor is on the humble.
The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (1) Exhortations for Elders and Younger Ones (5:1–5)

Smooth relations in the church can be preserved if the entire congregation adorns itself with humility. When believers recognize that they are creatures and sinners, they are less apt to be offended by others. Humility is the oil that allows relationships in the church to run smoothly and lovingly.

Can attitude of humility and of service to others when i don’t prefer the way something is being done?
Furthermore, if we clothe ourselves in humility and serve, we will all be leading in various ways by following Christ’s example. And God will raise up some from among us to the task of shepherding, and others of us will humbly submit and keep them accountable for the glory of God and the strength of the church... to withstand persecution and the schemes of the devil. - One of the devil’s most conniving, and most successful ploys is to get us to self-destruct with selfish ambition. All he has to do is dangle the world’s lies in front of our already deceitful hearts and we will fall prey to our own sin. We must guard against this with the prayerful and sincere intention to serve humbly in whatever capacity the Lord desires.
Don’t you find it interesting that a gospel communities health and strength is built on humility? …This shouldn’t surprise us because our health and strength is built on the sufficiency of God and not ourselves, built on humble service to one another according to God’s will.
A final summary:
What keeps a Christian community, a local church, healthy enough to withstand persecution? - An accountable group of leaders who humbly serve like Christ and a dedicated group of followers who follow like humble servant leaders
When times get tough, does it help to have someone lead, and to lead by example?
If you don’t have an official leadership role, remember that leadership is more about influence than it is about a position of authority.
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