1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Again we have an exhortation to the elders in 1 Peter 5. Here it is a pain to be obliged once more to make a depreciatory remark on our common English version. It is indeed a forcible and, in general, a faithful version, but it not seldom fails in accuracy. The elders are told to feed or shepherd the flock of God which was among them, exercising the oversight, not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily, and so forth. They have to bear in mind first that the flock is God’s. If a man does not carry the sense in his soul that it is God’s flock, I do not think he is fit to be an elder or in any other office of spiritual trust: he is far from the right ground for being a blessing to what, after all, is God’s flock. In short, we find here too a guard which shows the meaning more clearly. “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage.”
It will be observed that “God’s” is inserted in italics. Now there need be no hesitation in declaring that the phrase does not mean God’s heritage at all, but another idea wholly different. The true drift is this—“Nor as lording it over your possessions.” The elders are not to treat the flock as if it belonged to them. This is exactly what modern presbyters think they may and ought to do every day of their lives. It is into this very snare that unbelief has brought men in Christendom. It is the constant and notorious source of the difficulties that one has continually to contend with, because feelings are roused by this—all sorts of jealousies and wounded feelings are created by a position so false. In short, one may find here and there a truly excellent man, and, we will suppose, a number of godly people. But then they are “his congregation”; they think so, and the godly man really believes it. He thinks they are his congregation, and they think so too. The consequence is that when minds get disturbed, it may be, about their position, then all sorts of difficulties come in. He feels exceedingly wounded because, as he will tell you very often, “Why, it is one of the best of my people. I have lost the cream of my congregation.” Accordingly he is exceedingly annoyed because one of the most spiritual of his congregation goes away, though it may be to follow God’s word more faithfully; and no doubt there is a great deal of pain and feeling on the part of the member of the congregation who is leaving his minister.
Now all this is here judged and set aside as quite wrong. The elders are exhorted and warned. There are those who guide, and it is a most proper thing. At the time of this epistle, it was in due order. Now, I need not tell you, things are in a certain measure of confusion. You may have the real substance of the truth, but you cannot have it in all official propriety at the present time. However, apart from that, on which I do not mean to enter more tonight, one thing is remarkable, that even when all was in apostolic order, and where pastors and teachers and prophets and so on were, and besides, where the elders had been fitly appointed by the apostles themselves or by apostolic men, even there and at that very time they were exhorted against the notion of considering, “This is my congregation, and that is your leader.” Nothing of the sort is ever said in God’s word but what excludes it.
What they were here directed to was to “feed the flock of God.” I repeat, it is God’s flock, not yours; and you, are not to lord over it as if it were your own belongings. If it were your heritage, you would have certain rights; but the truth is that he who stands in the position of an elder has no small responsibility. Assuredly he is to shepherd the flock, and this as God’s flock, not his own. Where this is duly weighed, it is wonderful what a change is produced in the mind, tone, and temper—a change both in those who tend the flock, and in those who are cared for; because then God is looked to, and there is no petty feeling of infringing the rights of man in one form or another. It is not then a question of wounding; for why should it hurt you, if I see a particular truth and must act according to it? Why should this be a cause for vexation? The truth is that the assumption of “my flock,” or “yours,” is the root of endless mischief. It is God’s flock; and if a person is charged of the Lord to shepherd His flock, how blessed the trust!
The rest of the chapter consists of exhortations to the younger ones, and finally to all, with a prayer that “the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, when ye have suffered a while, Himself shall make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen. By Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I suppose, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. She that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of love. Peace be with you all in Christ Jesus.”