God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:4 Christ the Chief Shepherd
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 20, 2022
4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (NIV)
When the Bible describes God as our Shepherd, it is always describing Christ and his work. He is the Shepherd who saves his people: “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:9); “O Shepherd of Israel… come and save us” (Psalm 80:1-2). He is the Shepherd who lovingly tends and cares for his people. “He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10).
In some few cases, “shepherd” is a word God uses for himself without any reference to which person of the Trinity is being described; in these cases God is not dividing his work according to Persons, but assuring us that he works as a unified whole God in this labor (Jeremiah 17:16; Ezekiel 34:12,16,23). But the Shepherd as King of Israel; King of God’s holy people, is God is the Son. Here we see the prophecy: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd” (Ezekiel 37:24). “Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth” (Psalm 80:1).
The Shepherd provides for us: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). This is not limited to the daily bread we pray for in the Fourth Petition, but we must recognize that it also includes the whole Lord’s Prayer, especially: “Forgive us our sins,” and “deliver us from the evil one” (Luke 11:4; Matthew 6:13). It was Christ who rescued us from sin and from sin’s consequences in eternity.
The Lord guides his sheep, feeds his sheep, and gives rest to his sheep. Jesus took up all of this work onto himself, and he said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This was Christ’s suffering and death, by which he opened the path of righteousness for us and provided us with his own righteousness. He also protects his sheep from wolves, false teachers, who work for hire and who don’t care about the flock at all. In this way we also see him as the Chief Shepherd (archipoimen, ἀρχιποίμην), as Peter calls him. This is because he is over all other shepherds, that is pastors. We in our fellowship like to describe ourselves as “undershepherds,” no matter what office or title any of us has—pastor, minister, professor, doctor, president—since Christ is the Chief Shepherd. No one should add to his words or subtract from them (Deuteronomy 4:2), but we are commanded to teach his flock to obey and believe all of his word (Matthew 28:20; John 15:20).
A shepherd does not work for reward, because the reward for the shepherd is identical to the reward for the sheep: eternal life with Christ in heaven. This is a crown that will never fade away (John 10:28; 1 Peter 1:4). False teachers put heavy burdens that the people “can hardly carry” but they themselves won’t lift a finger to help them (Luke 11:46). Christ calls his true undershepherds to lead and guide the flock, not putting new burdens on them or forcing them into unfamiliar pathways, but taking them into the familiar green pastures where Christ leads us all in his holy word. Therefore do not despise preaching or God’s word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.
Pastor Timothy Smith