This Sunday we will be continuing our study of 1 Peter, as we look at chapter 5, verses 1-5. In these verses, Peter lays out some very important principles for elders. These principles reveal God’s design for church leadership, teach elders what their leadership should look like, and instruct church members on their relationship to elders. As usual, these 5 verses contain way more than what I can capture in a 40-minute sermon, let alone a few paragraphs in an email. So let me summarize some key insights that will help us see the heart of Peter’s words here:
1) Peter addresses his charge to a plurality of elders, not to one primary leader. This is consistent with the pattern of the NT. The church is led by a plurality of elders. It is not run by a figure-head or CEO.
2) Peter calls upon these elders to shepherd the flock out of genuine love and humility. The office of elder is not an administrative position. Nor are the elders a detached board of directors. Rather, they are shepherds who are to collectively lead and care for God’s church.
3) Peter reminds those under the oversight of elders to be subject to them and to clothe themselves with humility.
4) Peter reminds elders that they serve under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
That fourth insight is also a reminder to every local church that ultimately it is led and upheld, not by any earthly leader, but by the One who is Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus is the perfect shepherd. He has laid down His life for His sheep. He is present with us by the Holy Spirit. And He is not limited by weaknesses, sin, or life circumstances.
This should give great hope both to elders and the congregation. To elders, it frees them to serve faithfully while trusting that Christ will lead them as they seek to lead others. The Chief Shepherd even works through our mistakes and failures for His glory and the good of His people.
To the congregation, this frees them to submit to the leadership of elders, knowing that ultimately they and their elders are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ. Elder leadership is not infallible. Nor is their authority ultimate. Rather, they serve as those who are accountable to the Chief Shepherd, whose authority is ultimate, and whose leadership is infallible.
The future of the church is bright and full of hope, not because of any human leader, but because the Chief Shepherd holds us in His hand and leads us in His perfect wisdom.