1 Peter 5:1-14: Standing Strong: A Life of Humility


Maryam and Marzieh are two Iranian Christians. On August 9 they appeared before an Iranian judge who asked them to deny their faith and return to Islam. The women have been held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since March 5.
When both women refused to recant their faith, the judge sent them back to their prison cells “to think about it.” 
They re-appeared in court on Oct. 7. The anti-state charge was dropped but they still face charges for “apostasy” and “propagation of the Christian faith” which theoretically carry the death sentence. The women have undergone intense interrogations including sleep deprivation.
They share a cell with over 20 other women and both have deteriorating health. Please pray for Maryam and Marzieh and others like them. Last week, October 26th, the U.S. State Department designated Iran, along with seven other countries, as “Countries of Particular Concern” for their religious repression.

This month our mission focus is on Open Doors, serving persecuted Christians worldwide. After North Korea and Saudi Arabia, Iran is ranked No. 3 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most severe persecution. This evening, in at least 50 other countries around the world, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Indeed up to two thirds of Christians worldwide live under governments more repressive that the Roman Empire of the 1st Century. That makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world. As I mentioned in September, research on which parts of the Bible most Christians prefer has shown that there are regional variations. Western Christians especially enjoy the Psalms and identify with Luke’s Gospel or Philippians. Counter cultural types prefer the Sermon on the Mount. Academics like Romans. Charismatics like Acts. Practical types like James. But one of the favourite NT book of many Christians in countries like Indonesia and Yugoslavia is 1 Peter. There is a simple reason.

The world which Peter describes, of marginalisation, exclusion from society and persecution, is their daily experience. Christians in the first-century church had much more in common with our two-thirds world sisters and brothers. That is one of the reasons we have been studying this book together since September. Near the end of his life, the Apostle Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit to write a letter to believers who found themselves scattered all over present day Turkey.

The Purpose of 1 Peter
We saw in the opening verses, Peter’s purpose in writing (1 Peter 1:1-2). Peter summarizes his purpose at the end of his letter. “I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” (1 Peter 5:12). We have discovered that Peter had three reasons for writing:

1. To encourage suffering Christians (1:6-7; 5:8-9, 5:12). 2. To prepare them for severe trials ahead (4:12-13).
3. To offer practical instruction to fulfil their calling and not give the enemy ground for complaint (4:15-16
. 5:1-11).

As we have already seen, this letter has much to say to us too, living in an increasingly secular, amoral and materialistic society where Christianity is marginalized, expressions of faith ridiculed and biblical values undermined. Tonight we bring this series to a close with practical instructions first, to those who aspire to leadership, and second, to all who love the Lord Jesus.
How to be Faithful Shepherds of Christ (5:1-4)
How to be Fruitful Servants of Christ (5:5-11)

How to be Faithful Shepherds of Christ

 “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.” (1 Peter 5:1)

Notice how this apostle of the Lord Jesus, one of the three apostles from the inner circle, Peter, James and John, who witnessed not only sufferings and resurrection of Jesus but also his transfiguration, notice how Peter describes himself – a “witness” and “fellow-elder”. Peter shows great humility and he expects humility of those similarly called by Jesus to lead. Peter here specifically refers to the elders.

Clearly these were people appointed to a recognised leadership role because of their age, their spiritual gifting and maturity. The equivalent in our church would be the Church Council members and the Staff Team. Would you please stand so that we can honour you in this role? 
Now I take this role of Elder as more functional than positional, and therefore I would extend it to others who fulfil leadership roles such as our Service Leaders and Preachers, our Home Group Leaders, our Sunday Club Leaders and Music Leadership Team. If you fulfil one of these roles would you please stand also? Thank you. Please sit down. Christian leadership is clearly shared and multi-dimensional. Christian leadership is also to be discerned in young and emerging leaders and nurtured through prayer, mentoring and training. That is why our mission is to win – build and send. That is why I apply passages such as this to those who have a passion to serve Jesus, when ever, where ever and in whatever way he chooses. If that is you, then listen up. I believe we are all called to lead because we are all called to serve.
How do we all become faithful shepherds of Christ?

1. Develop your Personal Relationship with Jesus

“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.” (1 Peter 5:1)

No doubt Peter had in mind his own calling on the shore of Galilee. Imagine how he felt. He had denied Jesus not once but three times before the crucifixion. A failure.
He had witnessed the resurrection in Jerusalem but then returned to his fishing business in Galilee. There he encountered the risen Jesus again. From the shore Jesus called and Peter recognised his Master. He couldn’t wait for the others to row the boat back to shore so he dives into the water and swims back to be with Jesus. How did he feel? A mixture of joy and embarrassment, shame and despondency. What does Jesus do? He cooks them a meal – good therapy for failures. Notice that it is only,

When they had finished eating, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep….” Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 20:15-19)


Peter had been restored and recommissioned as a shepherd because he reaffirmed his love and commitment to Jesus. Clowney says,

“The care of pastors for their flock will be proportional to their care for the Lord… Love for the Lord will motivate elders to imitate the care of the Good Shepherd… The elder-shepherd is not a cowboy, driving his flock like cattle. He leads them as a shepherd would, walking on ahead”.


The first and most important lesson we learn here is that leadership is about serving Jesus. Our calling comes from Jesus, is with Jesus and is for Jesus. The Scriptures know nothing of independent, self appointed leaders. Specifically, Christian leadership is about witnessing to Jesus sufferings and serving his flock says Peter.
You may not consider yourself a leader but like Peter you have been called to be a witness to Jesus. Jesus has called you to lead people to Jesus and help them grow to know Jesus better just as you are. This is leadership.
The first step is to develop your personal relationship with Jesus. 

2.    Devote Yourself to Caring for Christ’s Flock

“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; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-4) 


The image of the shepherd is used frequently in Scripture to describe those charged with the care of God’s flock. Peter develops three aspects of the shepherd’s role. A shepherd’s calling, a shepherd’s motive and a shepherd’s reward.


A Shepherd’s Calling: To Feed and Protect


A good shepherd feeds and protects the flock. Jesus condemns false shepherds for taking from the flock to feed themselves rather than giving themselves to feed the flock (John 10:10, Ezekiel 34:3, Acts 20:28-35). Jesus told Peter “feed my sheep”.  How? When he refuted Satan, Jesus insisted, “It is written: ‘People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4). The principle role of the Christian leader then is to feed or “teach” God’s word - to “teach, exhort, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). We do this by formal teaching through sermons, but also in our small group bible studies, where together we gather round an open Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide and teacher. This is how we both feed and nurture one another. This is also how we inoculate and protect one another from false teaching and learn to detect and avoid false shepherds. The Shepherds Calling: To Feed and Protect God’s Flock.

A Shepherd’s Motive: Eager to Serve

“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; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-4) 


The verb “be shepherds” is the same one Jesus used when he recommissioned Peter “Tend my sheep” (John 21:16) Clowney says, “Since the flock is the Lord’s and the elder is a servant of the Lord,” there is absolutely no excuse or justification for arrogance, exploitation, manipulation or abuse. He goes on, “The dreadful mass suicide in Guyana of the followers of Jim Jones showed how a cult leader can compel idolatry. Television viewers watched with horror: Jones sat enthroned on a wooden platform while his subjects drank poison and died at his word. The phenomenon is not limited to bizarre cults like the People’s Temple movement. It begins whenever anyone ascends a religious throne and starts to draw to himself the obedience that is due to the Lord. Peter develops the role with a series of simple contrasts – do’s and don’ts or rather not’s and but’s

Not because you must

but because you are willing

Not pursuing dishonest gain

but eager to serve

Not lording it over those entrusted to you

But being examples to the flock


True, the elder has authority; he is called to exercise a shepherd’s oversight. Christ the Chief Shepherd (5:4) has called him to exercise a shepherd’s care.
But the elder or undershepherd is not a stand-in for the Lord. He presents the word of the Lord, not his own decree; he enforces the revealed will of the Lord, not his own wishes. For that reason, any undermining of the authority of Scripture turns church government into spiritual tyranny. If [elders] add to or subtract from the word of God, they make themselves lords over the consciences of others.
”  No says Peter, “Far from being a lord and master, the elder is to be an example. That is, he is to lead others in humble obedience to God by being himself humbly obedient to God. Our one Lord and Master made himself an example to his disciples when he wrapped a towel round his waist and washed their feet.2 The shepherding elder lives among those he serves (God’s flock that is—literally—‘with you’, 5:2).”
Sheep cannot be truly pastored through TV programmes, through the internet or even by email… The elder envisaged by Peter can only be an example because he or she is seen and known by those for whom they care.
A Shepherds Calling: To Feed and Protect God’s Flock.
A Shepherd’s Motive: Eager to Serve.

A Shepherd’s Reward: The Crown of Glory

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4)


Peter reminds us all whom we serve, irrespective of our position, role, title or office - The Lord Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, the Church is his flock. We minister only in Christ’s name. The Christ who was revealed to Peter in the fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee is reigning in heaven and one day soon will be revealed from heaven.

Clowney helpfully observes, “Peter has drawn the elders to remember the good Shepherd, their example; now he draws their eyes forward to the Chief Shepherd, their hope.” The return of “the Great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20) reminds us all of our accountability.

This is what distinguishes the hireling who is only in ministry for what he can get, from the faithful shepherd who serves willingly and eagerly to please his Lord.

What the wicked most dread, and the redeemed most desire will be revealed – in the face of the Lord Jesus (Proverbs 10:24).

This is our future hope which makes the present suffering endurable.  C. S. Lewis writes: ‘In the end, that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.’

A Shepherds Calling: To Feed and Protect God’s Flock.
A Shepherd’s Motive: Eager to Serve.
A Shepherd’s Reward: The Crown of Glory

We have considered how to be Faithful Shepherds of Christ (5:1-4). We have dwelt on these verses because we all need to know what to expect in our Elders, as well as what is expected of us who aspire to Christian service. Peter’s final exhortation, in verses 6-11 has this same motivation. “All of you clothe yourselves with humility towards one another” (1 Peter 5:6). Since these closing verses are written to us all I’d like us to read them out loud to each other.  As we wrap up all we have learned from this short but very challenging Epistle, let us commit ourselves to helping one another be fruitful servants of Jesus Christ.

2 Jn. 13:15. See also Paul’s example, 2 Thes. 3:9.