Sunday, October 4, 2009

The New Life In Service As An Elder

1 Peter 5:1-4

The Position

Each elder of a church, or pastor of a church, is exhorted or encouraged by Peter. He is mentioning their position before the church, a position that should not be taken for granted or one that should be boasted about or allowed to swell up the preacher's ego. The position is a good work (1 Timothy 3:1), and it is one that should be respected; but it is not one that is to be allowed to make a man arrogant or proud. It is a position of service. Paul told the Colossians that "ye serve the Lord Christ," Col. 3:24.

The Purpose

The purpose of the elder is to "feed the flock of God." This feeding comes from the word of God, Jeremiah says in 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. Each believer in a church who hears the word of God will rejoice in the truth; and those who have been in error and who have found the truth are thrilled at how the word of God itself transforms their minds and gives them contentment and consolation in God's word alone.

Another purpose of the elder or pastor of a church is "taking the oversight." This is the leadership of the pastor, and it is a tender vocation; for we as pastors are not to oversee the Lord's flock as furious lords over God's heritage but as tender nurses who take care of little babies. Paul told the Thessalonians that he was gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children (1 Thess. 2:7). Being a nurse is neither an easy nor a pleasant job, but it is a needed job. Rather than being proud, then, as elders, we should be as nurses cherishing the Lord's flock.

This job is not to be taken by constraint (by the pressure of another pastor or of mother or father) but willingly, as God would lead by his Holy Spirit, who will both prepare the heart and place the man into this ministry as he sees fit. It is not to be taken for greedy gain (filthy lucre) but of a ready mind, a mind that is intent upon doing the job and willing to study to show oneself a workman that needs not be ashamed.

The Problem

The problem with being an elder is that ego can very easily get in the way of service. Rather than being lords over God's heritage, we are to be examples of believers. Paul told Timothy in 1Ti 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. This is the duty of an elder. The problem is that our own ego and arrogance sometimes hinders us from doing this very thing.

The Prize

If we serve the Lord Jesus Christ as elders in a way that pleases God, then we shall receive a prize, which is a "crown of glory that fadeth not away." No one knows what this crown looks like or actually what it is, but we know that whatever it is, its glory will shine in our behalf because of our surrender to the service of God. It is not that we deserve this crown, but it is that God desires to reward us with this prize. We are to work for this prize, for Paul said in Phil. 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Why would God give a church elder a prize for simply surrendering to his service? It is because that is God's will for us. Notice what Paul said to the Philippians in 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Part of this surrender is to be willing to suffer for Christ's sake. If we do not suffer for him, then we will not pursue the prize of the high calling of God. Let us be true to God and make ourselves of no reputation, as Jesus did (Phil. 2:7).

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