Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.
Peter addresses the first four verses of this chapter to those who are pastors. He addressed this particular epistle to a number of geographical areas according to I Peter 1:1. A number of geographical areas means it is addressed to a number of churches and each church has its own pastor, called an elder. An elder is not a church officer as we have in some denominations today. The word elder is the Greek word “presbuteros,” which is a title for senior rank. A “presbuteros” is a pastor, and there is only one for a congregation; one right elder (pastor) for one assembly of believers. It is in the plural because Peter is addressing this to the pastors who are in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
There were a large number of congregations in these regions. Nero is about ready to hit that area for the persecution of Christians. This epistle is addressed at this point to those who are pastors in that area and they are called elders. It is imperative in time of disaster that the authority of the pastor be recognized by all, so Peter began by addressing them by their title of authority.
Exhort is the Greek word “parakaleo,” which means to encourage. At this time Peter is undoubtedly providing encouragement and comfort rather than what we normally think of as exhortation. Peter is anticipating the coming of Roman persecution to those areas. Therefore, he wants to encourage the pastors to intensify their efforts in the communication of doctrine.
Peter saw Christ die; he is a judicial witness, a courtroom witness to the fact that Christ died. Peter is saying that he was an expert on suffering from the standpoint of observation. A “witness of the sufferings of Christ” indicates a judicial observer.
Partaker is the Greek word “koinenos,” which generally means partner. Peter, in his relationship to Christ is a partner in the glory. This is a reference to Ultimate Sanctification. Peter is going to share with Christ His eternal future and so is every believer. So to this extent we are included at this point, not as merely a partaker but a partner. The extent to which we are partners is determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ but all believers are partners in the glory since we all have eternal life and we all are going to have a resurrection body exactly like His. The reason Peter brings it in at this point is that the glories of eternity cannot be compared with the sufferings of the present. Our future glory cannot be compared with the suffering that we have in time.
Many of the believers to whom Peter writes are going to suffer death shortly. The glory was about to be revealed to them because they were going to be absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. Therefore, there was a need for an intensification of teaching Bible doctrine because many of them would experience very intense undeserved suffering. They needed to be reminded of the doctrines related to undeserved suffering. Peter was teaching a principle here: a believer cannot get too much Bible doctrine.
Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.
In verse two we continue with the responsibility of the pastor. A pastor is a shepherd, which is the Greek word “poimaino” meaning to shepherd. This is a good translation in the sense that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to provide food by leading his flock to green pastures. In the same sense, a pastor must lead “his flock” into Bible doctrine so they can partake in spiritual food and their souls can develop according to God’s plan. Shepherd not only means to feed but to exercise authority over. A shepherd is in charge of the flock. The two connotations of the verb shepherd are authority and communication. (John 21:15)
The pastor is the leader or the shepherd of the flock but the flock belongs to God. And the pastor is responsible to God for feeding the sheep. The shepherd has authority over the sheep but he does not own the sheep; the sheep belong to God. Obviously then this is the local church and a local church is believers in a specific geographical location. Only a believer can be taught Bible doctrine and this command is to teach believers; it is not a command to evangelize unbelievers. So obviously the concept of the local church must be centered in the communication of Bible doctrine. It must also be set up so as to recognize the universal priesthood of the believer, the privacy of the priesthood in doing your job as unto the Lord, and the objective of the priesthood which is to have an edification complex through the daily intake of Bible doctrine, and at the same time to become spiritually self-sustaining. So feeding the flock with Bible doctrine should result in the individual believer orienting to the grace of God and the plan of God. Bible teaching can only be accomplished where there is teaching with authority.
If the pastor cannot take the authority over his congregation, he has no right accept the leadership of a local church. Local churches have failed because the pastor would not assume authority; would not take the responsibility. By teaching the Word of God the pastor assumes responsibility and authority. The Word of God was never intended to be “sweetness and light” and to be communicated apart from authority.
The ministry must never be associated with dishonest gain. The pastor has the right to remuneration but he must not commercialize or sell spiritual benefits of grace. Grace was never meant to be sold; grace does not have a price. A prepared mind requires constant, vigorous, eager and diligent study of the Word of God. No one should enter the ministry unless he is dedicated to the principle of constant study of God’s Word for the rest of his life.
Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
The pastor must not use his office or his authority to bully the congregation or to express vindictiveness. The pastor’s authority over the local church is based upon his spiritual gift from God the Holy Spirit and therefore he is appointed by the Holy Spirit. Teaching the Word carries with it the highest authority in the local church. Consequently the pastor must beware of power lust as a danger to his ministry. On the other hand the pastor must avoid the opposite extreme of letting the congregation run over him. He is not a doormat for the congregation. The pastor must exercise his authority through the application of Bible doctrine and the filling of the Spirit. He must be fair and just in the use of his authority.
If the congregation has the wrong pastor, that congregation is going to be miserable and unfed and unfulfilled. And if the pastor has the wrong congregation, likewise he is going to be miserable and out of place. So one of the most important concepts of guidance in the Christian life is right pastor, right congregation. The word allotment indicates that the sheep belong to God and the pastor cares for the sheep but he is under divine management. God has designed a right pastor for a right congregation. And there are all kinds of pastors and all kinds of congregations, and obviously divine guidance is of the utmost importance in bringing together the right pastor with the right congregation. Examples mean a pattern. The example for the pastor is to emulate the Lord Jesus Christ, our prototype, and execute his own spiritual life as unto the Lord. To the extent a pastor does this, the congregation is to follow.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
The Chief Shepherd is the Lord Jesus Christ; He is in charge of all the pastors. Jesus Christ is the Chief Pastor or the Chief Shepherd. So there is a line of responsibility here. All pastors are responsible to the Chief Shepherd Who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Appears which refers to the Rapture of the Church. You will receive applies to the pastor only. He will receive a special reward for doing his job as a pastor. The exact nature of this future reward is not stated. There are all sorts of speculations. All we know is that it is a crown and we know that crowns are used to indicate rewards. The word “unfading” means enduring.
There are at least four different crowns which are used for rewards in Heaven.
This is not an exhaustive study of rewards, it merely indicates some aspects. You need not be concerned about rewards but only about the intake and use of doctrine which is the basis for all reward. All rewards are based upon grace function and, therefore, rewards never depend on human merit or human ability. They always depend upon the utilization of what God has provided - the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the function of Bible doctrine in your life.
The Church is described in a number of ways. The most common and the most important way of describing the Church are two words found in the New Testament — “in Christ.” This represents positional truth or union with Christ and it describes every believer. Therefore we have the concept of the Church as a universal body; the body of Christ on earth. It has nothing to do with the local church. We have passages like 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30 which are very significant because they indicate that no matter how carnal you are you are still in Christ. The same thing is found in Romans 8:1, 38-39; II Corinthians 5:17.
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia,” which is an old Attic Greek word which simply means “assembly.” In Acts 7:38 we have “ecclesia” used for the assembly of Jews in the Old Testament, which has nothing to do with the Church. In Matthew 18:17 you don’t have the Church either, there you have a synagogue called an “ekklesia.” Many of the Greek states followed the Athenian principle and had political assemblies which they called “ekklesia” and this is illustrated by Acts 19:25.
Then we have what is known as the “local church.” That is a group of believers in one geographical location. In the ancient world the believers met in many places, open fields, catacombs, and generally they met in homes. We do have, for example, in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the church at Corinth, the local church, also 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Revelation chapters 2 and 3 where we have seven of these. The local church is made up of local believers but it must be distinguished from the universal Church made up of all believers in the Church Age, as illustrated by Ephesians 1:22, 23.
The best dissertation on structure is found in Philippians 1:1 — a church is composed of three categories. First of all, the “saints” of Philippians 1:1 are the congregation in general. Then we have also the word “bishop” and that is the pastor. And then deacons.
There are at least four different words in the New Testament for pastor. Firstly, “episkopos;” secondly, “presbuteros;” thirdly, “poimen;” and finally, “diakonia.” “Episkopos” [bishop] takes care of the pastor from the standpoint of using his authority; “presbuteros” [elder] is the principle of his authority; “poimen” [shepherd] is his function; and “diakonia” [minister] is the concept of service.
The Church exists only in the Church Age. The Church Age began on the day of Pentecost in 30 AD, and will terminate sometime at the Rapture, which could occur at any time.