God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:2-3 shepherds of God’s flock
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 19, 2022
2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (NIV)
There are a variety of duties and functions of the office of a pastor (whether he is called apostle, prophet, evangelist, elder, overseer, pastor, teacher, minister or deacon ): There are “different kinds of ministries, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5). These various forms or duties are described in several New Testament books:
1, Shepherding and feeding (preaching and teaching): John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2.
2, Teaching, equipping: 1 Timothy 3:2, 4:11, 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:2.
3, Watching, oversight: Acts 20:28,31; 1 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:17.
4, Managing, ruling (directing): 1 Timothy 3:5, 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:3.
5, Rebuking (calling out sin): 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9-11, 2:15 (see also 2 Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 57:3, although those are not specifically about ministers).
We conclude: “The one public ministry of the Gospel may assume various forms, as circumstances demand. The specific forms in which Christians establish the public ministry have not been prescribed by the Lord to his New Testament Church” (WELS Doctrinal Statements, p. 50).
Neither Peter nor any other New Testament author imposes any one form of ministry upon the church, but Peter warns all preachers (remember that he referred to himself in verse 1 as “an elder,” and “a fellow-elder,” one and the same office with all other preachers). He warns them about temptations, dangers, and pitfalls in this kind of ministry.
1, “Not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be.” Ministers of the church should not be forced into what they do, but be willing, in the same way that a bride and groom must be truly willing to enter into their marriage, otherwise there is no marriage. In former times, pastors were sometimes actually forbidden by their own churches from retiring, even when they had trouble walking, using stairs, or were going blind. A pastor who needs to step down and retire must be permitted to do so. On the other side of that coin, no minister can impose himself on a congregation, whether he wants the pulpit or any other form of ministry, without the (mediate) divine call issued by the congregation.
2, “Not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). “Keep your lives from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
3, “Not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock.” The spirit of Christian unity must not be usurped by any one person, stealing away the gospel from the others. Jesus said, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:26). At the same time, the pastor is also responsible for many things, especially doctrine. He is responsible for determining who is eligible for membership and to receive the Lord’s Supper; he is generally responsible for admonishing and disciplining, although some of this is shared with the elders. He is also responsible for the doctrine taught in the pulpit, in the classroom, the children’s classrooms and Sunday school rooms, Bible classes, and even in the hymns and songs the congregation sings. They do this according to their individual abilities and knowledge, which is why one song might be allowed at a wedding (for example) in one church, but not allowed in another. Members who bring up questions about this will ultimately help their pastors in such practices. (Judging wedding and funeral music as well as dozens upon dozens of new contemporary songs can be so draining and take up so much time that a pastor might simply say, “We cannot use this; I don’t have the time or resources to inspect it with proper care and concern.” Even if a member is willing to help, that member is not responsible; the pastor is).
All Christians become examples to one another of a life of faith in Christ, but the pastor is especially an example for his flock, just as teachers are for their classes. Paul said this very simply: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Augustine, pastor of Hippo in North Africa, said: “With you O Lord is rest assured, and a life never to be disturbed. He that enters into you, enters into his Master’s joy. He shall have no cause of fear… I slid away from you and I went astray, O God. Yes, too much astray from you… and in my youth I became to myself a wasteland” (Confessions II:10). Pray for our young people and the examples they follow; pray that God will give them the wisdom to trust in him and to walk according to his will.
Pastor Timothy Smith