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A Job Description For Shepherds

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 7, 2023 12:00 am

A Job Description For Shepherds

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 7, 2023 12:00 am

The theme of shepherding is common throughout the Bible, but it’s not really an analogy our culture can relate to like people in Biblical times. It is, however, the perfect illustration of Church leadership. In these verses from 1 Peter, the Apostle defines this divine calling of leadership, reminding Church shepherds to guard, guide, feed and love the flock. But whether a shepherd or a sheep, we must all follow the ultimate Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.


He's reminding the elders that they are leading and guiding and feeding a church purchased by the suffering of Jesus.

Think of what it took to bring her into existence. Like Paul used similar passionate words when he exhorted the elders of the church in Ephesus with the same language. He said to them, Shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood, Acts 20-28. You see, both Paul and Peter never quite got over the fact that the church existed because Jesus had died. Everyone who has a position of leadership in a local church needs to pursue that role very carefully. Every decision made that impacts the church needs to be a decision that reflects what Jesus would do. The church exists because Jesus Christ shed his blood for it.

It's his. And that thought should sober any leader who approaches his role casually. In 1 Peter 5, we find some instructions for church leaders and Stephen takes us to that passage today. With this lesson, we begin a series called Framing the Flock. Stephen's calling today's message, a job description for shepherds. The Apostle Peter is beginning to wrap up his letter to the scattered believers and their local churches. And as he does, it strikes me that his words become even more deeply personal as he expresses words of endearing commitment and encouragement.

And at the same time, he delivers some serious warnings. Peter is well aware of the difficulties of suffering and hardship and we've dealt with that often in this letter, haven't we? He's also aware of the danger of the church drifting or becoming divided or distracted from becoming all that God intended a local church to become. With that in mind, Peter is going to make a strong appeal and he'll begin with the leadership of the church. So if you'll find your way to 1 Peter 5 and verse 1, just the opening line begins this series of studies as Peter rounds the corner and heads through the last lap. Therefore, I exhort the elders among you.

Now let's stop for a moment there. You may be new to the faith or new to this assembly and the term elder is unfamiliar. It'll be helpful for you to understand that the early church in the New Testament was organized into the leadership and practical ministry of elders and deacons.

Paul spelled out their qualifications and ministry objectives as he wrote to two young pastors by the names of Timothy and Titus. As early as Acts chapter 14, we read that elders were being appointed in every church. Now this term may be new to you, but it was commonly understood in the first century. It was a common title for those in leadership. In fact, much of the pattern for church leadership of the elders, that is, came from the Jewish synagogue where they referred to their leading rabbis as elders, leaders. The term even was used for members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, they were called presbuteroi, elders. Even outside the synagogue and the early church that would adapt to that terminology, the term elder was used in the secular world for men who held political offices or were members of a ruling body in a Greek state or city.

So it wasn't any kind of stretch for the early church to understand the idea, the concept of one or more men in an assembly exercising authority and leadership known as elders. That is the term used most often in the New Testament. What the New Testament church did, however, was add a number of new elements to this term or this office as the church developed.

It would now include elements of a spiritual maturity, a theological understanding, the ability to handle the word of God along with elements and requirements of personal purity and integrity in the home and in the public community. Now if you combine your research on this leadership office in the church, you discover that there are three words actually that are used interchangeably for this one individual or this one body of men. The terms are elder, presbuterois, pastor, oimene, or bishop, episcopas. These are all biblical terms used in the early church. In fact, they're all three used of the same office in Acts chapter 20, but each word carries a little bit of a different nuance to the office.

For instance, elder relates to his maturity in leading, not necessarily age. Timothy and Titus were both very young in ministry. Pastor refers or relates to his priority of feeding. In fact, pastor and pasture are from the same family. A pastor literally pastures the flock, leading them. And it's always a tragedy to my own art to know that people leave assemblies in our country now in growing number hungry.

They're not fed the word. That is part of the role. Bishop relates to his authority in ruling. In fact, when the apostle Paul warned Pastor Timothy not to place a new believer into this office lest, quote, he become conceited and fall. In our terminology, we would put it today, lest it go to his head and it ruin him.

He become full of himself and it hurt him. It hurts him and the church. First Timothy three verse six. So the issue as it's developed isn't so much about physical age.

It isn't about business success or acumen. It's about spiritual maturity and humility along with the ability to handle the word of God and accept as you follow the chief Shepherd as Peter will point us at the end of the paragraph, which we will not get to. I'll warn you ahead of time to take on the responsibilities and the pressures and the unique temptations that come to this office. So as chapter five opens and he deals with the flock and gives us photographs, as it were, of individuals in the flock, it's no surprise that he begins by addressing the key leaders in the church. Let's go back and read again now verse one. 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. Now before we go any further, I want you to notice that Peter here isn't assuming some kind of hierarchical power over the elders of individual churches out there. He isn't even commanding the elders. He isn't even reaching in and saying, let me remind you I'm an apostle.

No, none of that. The church is aging. This letter is written late to a church that had fully developed in places. You could translate it, I am appealing to the elders among you. In fact, notice how he identifies himself here simply as who? As a fellow elder. In other words, I'm just one of you. I'm one of many elders.

There's no stratosphere that I occupy. In fact, the term fellow elder is a term found only here in the entire New Testament. And Peter essentially places every elder on the same level as himself.

I'm just one of you men. Of course, it will be early on in the corruption of the church where the bishop of Rome will be given that hierarchy, that power which is certainly not assumed even here by Peter. But even though it isn't a command and even though he isn't assuming a higher role than any other elder, he is passionate in this appeal as we're going to discover. Before he gets into the specifics, notice in verse 1, it's as if he reminds the elders through his own eyewitness accounts that he has seen the suffering of Jesus. He's reminding the elders that they are leading and guiding and feeding a church which was purchased by the suffering of Jesus.

You don't want to mess with her. Think of what it took to bring her into existence. That's the idea. Like Paul used similar passionate words when he exhorted the elders of the church in Ephesus with the same language. He said to them, shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood, Acts 20, 28. You see, both Paul and Peter never quite got over the fact that the church existed because Jesus had died, because he had suffered.

By the way, I can't help but pull over for a moment. Would you look at that text and that stunning declaration here where Paul clearly refers to Jesus as God? Shepherd the church of God which he, God, purchased with his own blood.

God incarnate. By the way, one of the reasons God the son took on a body was so that he could bleed and die like a Paschal lamb, he the final lamb. God the son literally purchases the church.

He buys her for himself and the price is his own blood. Again, Peter doesn't want the elders to forget who they're leading. You're leading and guarding the bride of Christ who was purchased at such an incredibly high price. How serious should this be to you elders?

That's his idea. How important is it for you to take on this stewardship? You're guarding and guiding God's precious possession, the bride which cost the life of his son. Peter adds, he also mentions that he's a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed. The church is not only purchased by Christ's blood, the church is now awaiting Christ's return and the glory which is coming. And again, he wraps up the paragraph by talking about the fact that Jesus is coming back for his bride. And again, there is that subtle implication that the elders are simply keeping her, taking care of her, guiding her, protecting her until the one to whom she belongs comes back for her.

Now with all that as background, that's sort of the back story. Peter essentially gives us verse one to lay the groundwork for his passion and appeal in verse two. And what he's going to do following these eternally significant truths of the value of you, the bride, of you, the flock of God, the Christ. What he does next is remind us through Peter, the under shepherd, and we under shepherds as well, what we are actually supposed to do.

Here it is. This is a true shepherd's calling. And I'm going to use the term shepherd here simply because this is the analogy which Peter makes.

This is the metaphor. He's using the concept of a pastor, pasturing the flock, tending the flock. Notice verse two as Peter begins his appeal. Shepherd the flock of God among you. Calls elders, shepherds, and he calls the church a flock of sheep. Now this is where we need help, because I've never raised sheep.

How about you? I can read about it, and I appreciate those who take care of it, them, the flock, literally. I used to pass on Penny Road this flock of sheep, and that land has been sold.

I suppose perhaps the owner has passed away. And I used to just be marked by that site as I came to church. Those sheep were dirty, smelly, haggard. I was not thinking of you, by the way, when I thought of that. But what used to mark me was that old donkey out there, which I would find out later was used as a natural protector of sheep. And I thought, well, that's me. So I kind of look at him, talking about old and scraggly. I was that mule missing one ear.

It had been a tough life. At any rate, you have this idea, this metaphor, and out of that, he says, here's what you're to do. Shepherd the flock. In fact, the term shepherd here implies everything, not just feeding. It implies everything related to tending sheep.

The caring, the guarding, the feeding, the rescuing, reproving, corralling, whatever. And there's a sense of urgency here in the verb. Don't slack off. How can you when this body belongs to Jesus who died to redeemer?

How could you ever be lazy? How could you ever shirk it? Don't take it lightly, right? By the way, since we've pulled off on the side of the highway, when you read Luke's gospel account of that evening sky over Bethlehem that is suddenly filled with the brilliance of an angelic host and they're chanting to the glory of God, to whom are they delivering first the announcement that God the Son has been born?

Tell me. Shepherds, temple shepherds, guarding Paschal lambs destined for slaughter there in Bethlehem, outside, nearby. These shepherds who are disqualified from worship will be the first ones to be invited to worship. These shepherds who are not allowed to worship will be the first to worship the good shepherd.

I mean, you can just go on and on, imagine. Then they leave and they tell the message to everybody. So the first messengers of the gospel were shepherds. By the way, every true shepherd today hadn't really changed the message. To this shepherd and this day, it's still the gospel of Jesus Christ, right?

How sweet the grace of God to include them and certainly me. I think it's fascinating that this lowly occupation, this undesirable occupation would become the illustration, would become the metaphor, would become the backdrop, would become the character of a true shepherd's calling in the church. Shepherd, the flock of God with this kind of passion, with this kind of affection, and I think he deals first of all, first and foremost, with that kind of affection. The term for flock is in the diminutive form, easily lost English translations. It means little flock, little tender flock.

It's an endearing term. It's like saying the beloved, the well-loved, the sweet flock of God. You happen to be the beloved, sweet, little flock of God. So the shepherd mirrors the affection of Christ for the flock. The church is to be shepherded by those who love the flock and out of love for the good shepherd. In fact, that is the foundation for all of it, not only those who shepherd as elders, but those who teach and serve in any ministry in this church. The foundation for it, the root of it, the source of the strength for it is love for Christ.

Whenever we get beyond that, whenever we move too far away from that, we are in trouble and so is the church. In fact, I can't help but think as Peter wrote this, he's really simply quoting what he had already been told. You see, he would see the resurrected Christ. The Lord would visit that seashore and he'd have breakfast ready and Peter would be there and Jesus would recommission him into the ministry and he would ask him a series of questions.

In fact, one author called this his ordination examination and I couldn't help but think I was ordained and I was examined by professors and pastors. I was asked two hundred questions and I don't think they asked me this question. Do you love me, Peter? Do you love me?

Do you love me? Then shepherd my sheep. Aren't you glad he didn't say, Peter, will you promise never to fail me again? Peter, will you promise you're going to hold steady from now on? No more doubt, no more denial, no more betrayal. You make this commitment here.

I've got a little thing for you to sign right here. Now do you love me? And if you do, feed my sheep, tend my lambs, shepherd my flock.

He'd heard it before. In fact, one fifth century church leader named Hillary, no relation to anybody you know, he connected the dots and wrote that Peter is telling the leaders of the church exactly what the Lord told him. Feed my sheep. This is the true shepherd's affection. Secondly, Peter not only addresses a shepherd's affection but a shepherd's administration. Notice again, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.

Exercising oversight. That term is akin to the noun form episkopos translated bishop. It expands on the idea of the authority in Aaron in the office whereby the elder pastor bishop provides spiritual oversight and direction to the flock. By the way, the term elder is always in the plural form and there's wonderful safety when the church reaches a size where it can have more than one man serving as a shepherd. But lest it go to your head. It's as if Peter reminds every elder with this phrase.

Look again. It happens to be the flock of God. It's not yours. God has simply delegated to his under shepherds the responsibilities of managing and directing and leading and overseeing the flock. The flock belongs to God. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying our church, right? Even though we know Jesus said I will build my church.

Ultimately it's his. There's nothing wrong with saying this is my church. We say that. But you will not hear me say from this pulpit I will not refer to you and have not as my people because you're not mine. You don't belong to me.

Aren't you glad about that? No amens. I think it'd be a hallelujah somewhere sprinkled around here. You belong to the chief shepherd. I'm just along with other elders guiding you on his behalf.

So what does that guidance, what does that administration look like? And by the way, again, the analogy and I've been talking about the elders, I've been talking about us. Let's turn it around and who are you? You are sheep. You are a flock, which isn't necessarily a compliment. In fact, has it ever occurred to all of us, and we're all sheep, even shepherds are, has it ever occurred to you that the biblical expression for straying, the biblical expression for wandering is acting like sheep. Isaiah the prophet said, all we like sheep, just like sheep, we've gone astray. All of us have turned to our own way.

We got a better way. Never mind the shepherd. David writes, I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Jeremiah quotes God saying, my people have become lost sheep. By the way, my people, he's saying, I'm shepherding and they've gotten lost. They've gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place. Every man considering the office of pastor, elder, bishop ought to study then the rigor and the effort and the patience of God, our shepherd, as he shepherds all of us and his elder shepherd, their flock. Sheep can't smell water.

They don't sense it. It's not a throwaway line that he leads us beside still water. We couldn't find it without him. Green pastures don't just, there it is. Is the effort of the shepherd to till and to uproot and to plant and to irrigate and to lead them to green pastures.

It's the result of hard work, providing oversight that is no small undertaking. In fact, the appeal to provide oversight really has more to do with revealing the character of the shepherd than the character of the sheep. Peter isn't saying shepherd the flock if they don't create any trouble. Shepherd the flock if they stay in line. Shepherd the flock if they love you back. Shepherd the flock if they reimburse you. Shepherd the flock if they applaud you. Shepherd the flock if they don't bite you. Shepherd the flock if they don't make demands beyond normal business hour.

There are men that shepherd like that and the New Testament calls them hirelings, not shepherds. They're not interested in feeding the flock. They're interested in fleecing the flock. They're not interested in investing.

They're only interested in withdrawing. And when times get tough, they withdraw completely. Jesus made this kind of comparison and oversight when he said, he who has a hired hand and not a shepherd, what's the difference? Well, let me describe it, he says. He sees the hireling, the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees, he runs because he's a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. He's only in it for what he can get out of it.

And if he doesn't get anything out of it, he's out of there. Here's your example, beloved. The Lord said of himself, I am the good shepherd, here's the right kind of shepherd, lays down his life, gives his life for the sheep. Peter appeals for true shepherds to accept their calling. It is a calling of affection for the flock, but undergirded by an affection for the chief shepherd.

A calling that is demonstrated by faithful, diligent, persevering oversight of the precious little flock of God. And I couldn't help but think as members of the body of Christ, my faith in Jesus, isn't it wonderful to know that as our shepherd, he is never asleep. He is never distracted. He is never uncaring. He is never unconcerned.

He is never out of touch. He gave his life for us. And even now is vigilant and alert and faithful and gracious and loving to all of us who can call ourselves members of this beloved little flock of God. The theme of shepherding is common throughout the Bible, but it may not be an analogy that you can easily relate to. As Stephen just taught, shepherding is the perfect illustration of church leadership. If you'd like to share this lesson with some of the leaders in your church, we've posted it to our website, which is This lesson is called a job description for shepherds. Each day's broadcast is on the homepage, so you'll find this lesson on our homepage today. But it's also posted in our library and can be accessed anytime. Once again, our website is, and I hope you'll visit there today. Tomorrow Stephen will continue through this series from 1 Peter. Until then, continue pursuing wisdom for your heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-07 00:45:52 / 2023-03-07 00:54:51 / 9

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