In the beginning of I Peter, chapter 5, the apostle provides the church with a "how-to" manual for the execution of the office of elder. The Christ-honoring performance of the calling of elder is not left up to the person called, nor to the congregation, but is laid out for us in the Scriptures.
The preeminent function is noted first: to feed (lit. shepherd) the flock of God. Shepherding (as opposed to merely feeding) also includes tending to the flock's needs, guiding the flock to good pastures and protecting the flock from predators. All of this activity is summarized in the phrase in verse 2, "taking oversight thereof." They are responsible to be watchful over and careful about the flock entrusted to them. In fact, elders are called to a double responsibility and accountability. They are responsible to the flock and to the Chief Shepherd. They must give an account for those entrusted to them. These are grave and serious responsibilities. Who in their right mind would agree to have this kind of responsibility? Peter more or less asks the same question by addressing the question of motives. First, no one should serve because it is their "turn" or there is no one else. Rather, one should accept the weight of office in a sober and voluntary way. Not that there are not doubts; there will always be doubts. Secondly, one ought to be eager, but eager for the right thing. Personal gain of any sort (money, stature, etc.) must not be the motive. Much damage will befall the flock which is overseen by those who have the wrong motives.
Elders are also examples to the flock and not the lords of the flock. (Notice the assumption is that they are examples, not that they should be examples.) The rule of the elder is to be one of persuasion, exhortation and correction; not violence (physical or spiritual). An elder must remember that his responsibility is to be a steward over God's heritage: it belongs to Him, not to the elders. This means that the goals and methods are to be according to the owner's goals and methods, and for His glory. The ministry of the elders is one of humble service and of showing the shepherd's heart, not the heart of an earthly monarch. The ministry of the faithful under-shepherd always points to Christ and reflects the care of Christ for the flock. If this is not happening, it may indicate that the shepherd has lost his sense of place. He may have forgotten that he is an under-shepherd.
Notice the focus of the inspired apostle throughout this text is the Savior. It is all about the one who laid down His life for the sheep ‚Äď the one who suffered (verse 1). It is His flock; it is His heritage and inheritance. Peter also yearns for the appearance of the Chief Shepherd. The faithful under-shepherd must keep his eyes on the Savior and have an eternal perspective. If he does not, the weight of office, and the sacrifices required, can be overwhelming. The faithful elder must follow the Savior's example of faithfully performing his calling as he shepherds in His name. The pressures of the day, or the effects of the latest controversy, can bring despair if one does not have his eyes on the Savior.
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