We all have had the experience of having someone say something nice to us. They go on and on, showering us with praise. But somehow in the back of your mind, you are waiting for them to say something NOT so nice. With some folks, if you recall that old expression, “You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop!”
I have two Sundays left here at Hillcrest. Trust me, next week will be nice, but God has told me to pass along some other comments to you before I leave. Instead of saying all my nice things this week, then dropping the other shoe next week, this week I am dropping the other shoe first.
In our reading this morning, the Apostle Peter is addressing both the leaders, and the followers of the church. In the passage, he refers to the leaders as elders. The Greek word for “elder” is presbyteros.
In fact, there are a few of you who may actually suffer from presbyopia, also known as farsightedness.
Having a group of older and wiser persons provide direction and rule goes back to the early days of Israel as a people. After the Resurrection, the office of elder was adopted by the Jerusalem church.
As the gospel spread, Paul, Barnabas, John, and Peter instituted the office of elder in the local congregations they founded on their missionary journeys.
In the first century, and for almost 1,900 years, the leaders of churches were men. In our own denomination, women were not ordained as elders or deacons until the 1930s, even later in more conservative Presbyterian denominations. Even today, the Presbyterian Church in America does not ordain women.
Let’s read the first 4 verses, 1 Peter 5:1-4: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Peter’s exhortation to the elders has three parts: First, he is their fellow elder. In John 21, Jesus charged Peter with the care of his sheep. As Presbyterians, we still hold onto this idea.
I am an ordained elder, but as pastor, I have merely been set apart, not above. In fact, all those who have been ordained are set not above, but apart. More on that later…
Second, Peter declared that he was a witness of Christ’s sufferings. His point is NOT that he had special credentials by being one of the twelve, but that as Christians, we should not be afraid to face suffering in our response to Christ.
Third, Peter is a sharer of the coming glory. Again, as followers of Christ, we all look forward to sharing the inheritance that will be ours when Christ returns.
Peter commends the elders to “shepherd” or tend to God’s flock. The comparison of God’s people to a flock of sheep, and of the Lord to a shepherd is well-known in Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, the word shepherd brings to mind protecting, leading, guiding, feeding, etc. Peter reminds the elders that the flock is God’s and that they are responsible for its loving care.
Let’s continue, verses 5-6: In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
The text refers to “you who are younger.” Scholars are divided about to whom Peter is referring; it could be folks who are actually younger, or it could be those who are “spiritually” younger.
Just a comment – by addressing those who are spiritually younger, Peter is inferring that the elders, those whom he has just addressed, are spiritually more mature!
How about it, elders? Do you consider yourselves more spiritually mature than your followers? This might be something for all of us who are ordained to work on. Regardless, Peter is telling his young church, and us, submission to leadership is not just for the other guy, but for all Christians.
Clothe yourselves with humility. This is a rare word that refers to a slave putting on an apron before serving. As Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, we are to imitate Christ, who girded himself and served.
Continuing, verse 7: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. As believers who live in a fallen world, we face difficulties. Peter is telling us to cast onto Christ the anxieties that will surely come. “Casting” entails an act of the will and would be done prayerfully and in obedience to Jesus’ teaching about anxiety.
“He cares for you” means that God is not indifferent to our sufferings. The living Christ, the incarnation, points to a loving, interested, involved, and caring God. Christ’s teaching about his heavenly Father stresses his intimate concern for his children.
Verses 8-9: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Even though God is sovereign, and he cares for us, does not mean we should sit back and do nothing.
Peter is warning us – God’s sovereign care is no excuse for sitting back and doing nothing.
Also, God’s sovereignty does not preclude peril to the Christian life. Peter calls Satan “your enemy the devil” and likens him to a lion in search of prey. He’s looking for someone to devour! According to Scripture, and as we all know, Satan has great power on earth. Jesus calls him “the prince of this world.”
Paul calls him “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.”
Our Christian response to satanic opposition should not be panic or flight, but firm resistance in faith.
And finally, verses 10-11: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
As Christians, even though we may have to suffer, God has promised to call us to his eternal glory in Christ. God will restore, support, strengthen, and establish us. The eternal glory contrasts with the temporal trials Christians suffer.
So what does God have to say to us this morning?
WOULD ALL THE ELDERS PLEASE STAND…
Even if you are not currently serving on session, you have been ordained to a lifetime office. God called you out of the body to be servant leaders of that body. Even if you were not called out of this particular congregation, you still hold the lifetime office of elder.
Let me repeat Peter’s words: I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve
My fellow elders – this great church is on the threshold of being even greater. I encourage, I beg, I admonish all of you who have been ordained, set apart by God, not to forsake your ordination vows. This is your opportunity to respond to the call of Christ to fulfill those vows.
LET’S TALK ABOUT OUR OTHER ORDAINED OFFICE, THAT OF DEACON…
WOULD ALL THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ORDAINED TO THE OFFICE OF DEACON PLEASE STAND.
As I have said before, the first nine questions for all ordained persons are the same. If you are a Deacon, do not think for a moment that somehow your office is lower or less important than that of elder or minister. You have been ordained to a lifetime office, just like me and just like your brother and sister elders.
You are ordained leaders, set apart by God, to a particular ministry. As I said before, now is the time for you to remember and fulfill your vows, even if you are not currently actively serving on the Board of Deacons.
Now, how about those of you who didn’t stand?
Again, verses 5-6: In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Followers, submit to the authority of your leaders – if you must disagree, do so with humility and love.
A few more comments, if I may (and like it or not, I MUST!)
First, I ask you to take a hard look at how you participate in the worship, work, and life of the Body of Christ called Hillcrest Presbyterian Church. I would encourage you to pray about what God has done in your life, and how you’ve been responding to that gracious activity. Now, I am the first to realize that you have other lives. But is spending less than one percent of your week with God really the best way?
Speaking of that less than one percent, how is your giving? Jesus Christ, God himself, died for you, and you have received the promise of eternal life; God himself, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, lives in you.
Are you just tipping God as the plate goes by? Do I need to remind you what the minimum, the commandment of God is regarding giving back of our finances? That’s right, one-tenth, a tithe, off the top.
It’s not so bad – one for you, God, and nine for me – thanks for dying on the cross.
Finally, with all respect for organized labor – this is not a union shop. I have spoken before about the mutual importance of the various body parts in the Body of Christ. My friends, if you were at home, and you saw something that needed to be done, would you say, “That’s not my job!” Of course not!
So why do you do it here?
What happens when you say, I’ve been doing that for too long, and I don’t want to do it anymore – let someone else do it. When that happens, and I can promise you it has happened more than a few times in the past 50 years, who do you think is happiest when he hears those words?
Verse 8: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this great church will go NOWHERE until everyone shakes off the natural human tendencies and commits themselves to the loving commands of Jesus Christ.
Yes, everyone is excited about September 7, when the Messiah, also known as Aaron Gordon, arrives.
But this great church will collapse without the empowerment and guidance of God.
I have said this before – if I have made you angry, I apologize. But if the Holy Spirit has convicted you, if he has given you a nudge or a foot in a particular place, thanks be to God.
The next shoe to drop will be much better