Food for Christ's Lambs: Chapter 8 - A Hortatory Conclusion

1 Peter 5
1 Peter 5
The apostle returns in this chapter to exhortation. In the close of the fourth he had been unfolding certain truths with regard to the government of God, because it was His house. (10, 17, 18.) Now in chap. 5, he has exhortations both for the elders and for the younger ones. Elder carries its own meaning with it. He is not speaking to official persons, but to those of riper years. This is quite in keeping with the acts of the apostles, where we read of elders. With the Jews elder was a characteristic term meaning those older. Peter says he is an elder, in the sense I have spoken of it, but no one would think of speaking of Peter as an elder in the way Christendom speaks of it. An elder was not one who necessarily possessed much gift. It was a local charge. He was an elder in the place where he was fixed, and nowhere else.
You hear of teaching elders and ruling elders. Who were these elders? They were those who had got into this official position in some particular locality, by the special appointment of the apostles or someone delegated by the apostles.
There are two simple reasons why you cannot have the official position in this day. First you have not the competent ordaining power, unless you can bring evidence that you are an apostle or an apostolic delegate, and this is impossible. A man who says he is an apostle does not speak the truth, and the apostolic successors were grievous wolves who did not spare the flock.
Supposing you had the power, where would you begin to appoint elders? The first thing you would have to do would be to shake Christendom to its center, and bring all the church of God together, and have the church manifestly one. Where would Paul, if he were here today, begin to appoint elders? He could not begin anywhere, because we have not the church of God as one.
But you get the men who do the work of elders very blessedly and say nothing about it, and serve Christ and get the reward by-and-bye too. Anything else is only hollow assumption. You have not now either the church over which elders could be appointed, or the competent ordaining power.
The Lord saw the disorder that was coming into His house, and so He forebore in His wisdom to perpetuate a system that would only keep people apart.
The actual effect would be that. Ah! what wisdom is His! He saw what would happen, and therefore let the official part of the thing die with the apostles, and now we are cast upon God and the word of His grace to go on simply with the Lord.
Verse 1. Peter takes the two ends of Christ’s history—I have seen His sufferings and I am going to see His glory, and in between these two he puts the saints in this world, and says we must go on as we can, hope filling up our hearts till we see the Lord.
Verse 2. How beautiful! “The flock of God which is among you.” Shepherd them he says. I have no doubt he alludes to the beautiful word from the Lord in his own history “Feed my sheep: Shepherd my sheep.” (John 21) When the Lord had brought him to this, that it was only the Lord Himself who searched the heart, who could know that he had any love for Christ at all, that was the moment when He put into his care His sheep and His lambs.
“Taking the oversight,” the apostle continues, “not by constraint, but willingly.” I believe the Spirit of Gad foresaw what is in Christendom today, that the so-called care of the sheep of Christ would become a profession! Here I get the Holy Ghost striking a death-blow at the whole thing. It is perfectly true the laborer is worthy of his hire. I find the Apostle Paul lays down the principle most distinctly that those who labor should be cared for, but in the very next verse he says, “But I have used none of these things; neither have I written these things that it should be so done unto me.” The whole principle is a perfect walking in faith, trusting the Lord, and He cares for His servants.
“Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind,” a spontaneous blessed desire of serving Christ, and caring for His people: and what more blessed than to be let in any measure care for Christ’s people?
Verse 3. Our translators have spoiled the verse by putting in “God’s.” It is your if there is any word at all, “Lords over possessions” literally. The Spirit of God saw the whole view of Christendom this day, the ministry of the word of God become a trade, and the church of God broken up into Mr. So-and-So’s flock, and consequently the deepest jealousy because someone has lost some of his sheep. Scripture says, “Not as baying them as your possessions.” Shepherding the sheep is more than feeding, it is going after the sheep when they have got away under the hedge, when perhaps, they are torn with the brambles, comforting them, helping to care for as well as to feed, to nurse, to tend in every way.
Every gift needed by the church of God on earth He has given, but the pride and self-will of man has come in to hinder the full flow of the grace of God.
What a wonderful difference if you look at the saints as being God’s, His flock. Suppose they are cold, you try to warm them. Suppose they do not love you much. Well, you love them the more abundantly. Do your work quietly; be an example to the flock by the way; lead them; be a guide to them; and wait for the app caring of the chief Shepherd and then you will receive an amaranthine crown that cannot fade. Here you may be despised, and thought little of; never-mind! go on, and wait till the chief Shepherd comes for your reward.
In the 10th of John, the Lord is called the good Shepherd in death, where He loved us and gave Himself for us. In Hebrews, He is the great Shepherd in resurrection. His resurrection demonstrates His almighty power, “None can pluck them out of His hand.” But besides this, He has many under shepherds, and He is the “chief Shepherd.” He loves His flock and though He has gone out of the scene, He is the chief Shepherd still, and He puts into the hearts of some to care for His flock, and He says He will not forget their service, and that by-and-bye for them there is a crown of glory that fadeth not away. I do not believe that all get this crown. There is a crown of righteousness for all those who love His appearing. I believe that includes every soul born of God, for it is impossible to be born of God and not love His appearing. Of course you would like to see the Lord; every soul born of God loves the thought of seeing the blessed Lord. So I believe every child of God will get the crown of 2 Timothy 4.
In James, we hear of a crown of life. You will get that crown too, thank God, because you could not be born of God without loving Him. For loving His appearing you get a crown of righteousness, for loving Himself, and having something of trial, you get a crown of life.
The Lord says to Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” You are tried for my name’s sake, He says, perhaps are going, into death for me, and I have been through death for you. You are standing on one side of the river, and I on the other, and you have to come through the waters to get to me, but the moment your head comes above the waters on the other side, I will put a crown of life on it.
Perhaps it may not be unto death your trial goes. Then this crown of glory is for those who care for what He cares for, and who seek to spew their love for Him by looking after His sheep.
Verse 5. Unless I am clothed with humility I shall not be subject. “The meek will He guide in judgment, the meek will He teach His way.” The humble one is always cared for by God. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” It is a blessed thing humility, and what a little thing would puff us up. I get Paul saying that the flesh is so utterly corrupt that it would boast because it had been in glory. Because he, Paul, had been in heaven, the Lord had to give him a thorn in the flesh in order to keep him from being puffed up. And we often may be puffed up, just because of His very mercy to us, because He has brought us into this place of light and liberty. The only security of the saint is to walk lowly, to walk humbly.
The Lord will blight, and wither, and scatter all that plumes itself on having got truth and light and a right position. It is one thing to have gained that position and another thing to maintain it, for the power of the enemy is all the more brought to bear on those who have taken this position in order that they may the more flagrantly dishonor the name that is put upon them. “God resisteth the proud, but He giveth grace unto the humble.” What a solemn thing for the saint of God to get into a position in which God has actually to resist him. What a dreadful thing to have the Lord set against us because of pride allowed in the heart! God is against a proud person, and where is the room for pride, we who are the vilest of the vile?
“Only by pride cometh contention.” There never is a bit of trouble between saints, but pride is at the bottom of it! You stand up for your rights, and the Lord will shake you down. You may get what you want, but the Lord will have His hand against you. A Christian should be like a piece of India rubber, always giving way, never resisting, except it be the devil. verse 9.
Verse 6. What a much more blessed thing to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and for Him to exalt us than to exalt ourselves, and for Him to have to put us down! “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased.” That is the first man. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” that is the second man. The first man sought to make himself God, and fell into companionship with Satan, the second man who was God, made himself nothing, and God has exalted Him to the very highest glory.
There are two ways in which God humbles us. By the discovery of what is in our hearts, and by the discovery of what is in His heart, and nothing so humbles us as to discover what is in His heart, but humble myself as I may, I do not believe I ever get down to my true level to the place in which God sees me. It is a continual process.
Verse 7. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Oh, what a comfort for the heart, what a rest for the soul in all the ups and downs and vicissitudes of this life, to know He careth for you! Then why should you trouble? Is it worthwhile for two to be caring for the same thing? If you are caring you take it out of His hands, if He is caring you can afford to be without care, to roll yourself into your Father’s arms, and to rest there without fear or care. When you learn the perfectness of His care for you, then you are left free to care for His things, His interests, because He is taking care of yours. But because He is caring for you, you are not therefore to be unwatchful, no, no, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour. Here it is as a roaring lion Satan comes, because these Hebrew believers were going through persecution. In the 2nd. Epistle he comes as a snake in the grass.
“Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” That is, everyone thinks there never was a lot like mine, such a troubled pathway. Peter says, Nothing of the kind, everyone else has the same; you are not the only person who is suffering; but he commends you to the God of all grace. What can keep us going? Grace; only grace. We need grace all along the way.
He has called you to glory, and by Christ Jesus, and now after that ye have suffered a little while, He will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. It should be “a little while” here, not merely a while,—a while might seem of some duration—he shortens it. You have need of patience a little while, says Paul; you must suffer a little while, says Peter.
“Stablish, strengthen, settle.” Oh, what a place has the saint got, in the call of God, and not only in the call of God., but in that invigorating power which He makes His people to know all along the way! Himself who has called you shall make you perfect.
What have we not in God? Have we not everything which encourages our hearts, strengthens them, comforts them, sustains them. God’s purpose, God’s call, God’s sustaining grace all along the way, brings us at last into His glory.
How beautifully Peter speaks of grace in this Epistle, ending in this chapter with God giving grace to the bumble because He is the God of all grace, and, he says, “I testify and exhort this is the true grace of God wherein you stand.” The Lord give us to understand more of His grace, as we study His own word, and to delight more in Him verse 13. “She at Babylon saluteth you, and Marcus my son.”1
As you review this Epistle what beauty there is in it. The call to heaven of the first chapter, our Holy and our royal priesthood of the second, with the duties that flow from the position, the walk of subjection and suffering of the third chapter, the Spirit of God and of glory resting on you of the fourth, and now in the fifth God feeding, sustaining, strengthening you, and never leaving you till He has placed you in glory with His Son.
1. 1 “The ... at Babylon co-elect” or “She at Babylon, co-elect.” To whom does the apostle refer? The universal opinion for eighteen centuries was that the apostle here meant the congregation of the elect at Babylon. A few moderns have started the thought that it was his wife he thus designated. “The co-elect (one) in Babylon;” others think it was some local lady of position. But these are mere conjectures. Marcus also is undetermined: was he an actual son of Peter’s, or his son in a spiritual sense, being the well-known Mark, the Evangelist? My own thought – not as if teaching it – is that, “the co-elect in Babylon” means the brotherhood or company of the elect saints there; and that Marcus was not Peter’s actual son. I see that critics of weight among us wisely refrain from definite teaching on the subject.—Ed.