Sermon: What the Church Needs (1 Peter 5:1-5)

What the Church Needs

1 Peter 5:1-5

Truth Taught- The Church needs godly shepherds to lead her into truth



What do Christians need in times of trials? What does the church need while it lives as exiles in a hostile land? What has God given to His flock to secure their safety and health during times of attack and times of peace? God has given the office of Elder.

In this section, Peter instructs the Church as to what type of elder/shepherd that is needed to assure its survival during difficult days. He is about to tell us that the leaders should oversee the Church in a godly way, shepherding the flock rather than being domineering or dictatorial.

Also, included in Peter’s closing section is the call of God to every Christian to be subject to the shepherds that lead. He gives us proper Church structure that God has set in place for the good of His people.

Why does the Church need shepherds? The reality is that the shepherd/sheep motif is very accurate. Isaiah compared sinful Israelites to lost sheep…

Isaiah 53:6 (ESV)

   All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

       and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Jesus also picked up on this theme…

Matthew 9:36 (ESV)

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Peter carries this theme over to the Church as he calls the Church the flock of God with overseers, shepherds.

God has set in place the office of elder to provide oversight and protection for the Church. Elders do not make up a board or a group that sits around and makes rulings and decisions. Elders are to be shepherds, leading the flock to good green pasture and clear still water in which to be nourished. The elder is to go to the aid of the flock rescuing it from danger.

Let’s look to see what a godly shepherd looks like and then what the church’s response should be.


1 Peter 5:1–5 (ESV)

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

  1. All Christians Including the Elders Share in Christ’s Sufferings

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

Peter continues his teaching on the theme of Christian suffering. Here, his point is that all believers share in these sufferings from the least to the greatest. No one is exempt from the pattern we learned about last week, the pattern of suffering first then glory to follow when Christ is revealed. Peter’s point here is even the apostles suffered.

Peter here connect his ministry with the overseers or what we today call elders. The word elder comes from the Greek word (presbyteroi plural). The title elder means overseer or shepherd. This term elder greatly described Peter’s ministry. This is why he calls himself a fellow elder.

As an elder, Peter also experienced trials as he shared in the sufferings of Jesus. So, Peter reminds all Christians and especially here the leadership of the Church to not forget God’s pattern that leads to glory.

The word witness here has been trouble for the Bible translators. It comes from the Greek word martys, which means a witness by association, experience or analogy. It doesn’t mean Peter was an eyewitness to the actual cross, maybe he did see it maybe he didn’t but he did see many of Jesus’ sufferings and he saw them later as he himself shared in the sufferings Jesus experienced.

I’m trying to make the point here that when we suffer we are sharing in Jesus’ sufferings.

Colossians 1:24 (ESV)

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

What does Paul mean when he says he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”?

I think it’s plain from the context and the wider teachings of Paul that he does not mean that he fills up by his sufferings what is lacking in the atoning worth of the death of Christ. When Jesus says, “It is finished” on the cross, all that had to be done to pay for the sins of all God’s people was done. And nothing could be added.

So when Paul says, “By my sufferings I fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” what he means is that the one thing lacking in the sufferings of Christ is the offer of those sufferings in person to those for whom he died. So in essence he is saying, “Alright, I will take the message of the cross—where Christ suffered for lost people—and in my own missionary sacrifices I will take that message to them and say, ‘In me behold the love of God, as I sacrifice to come to you and preach to you, and risk my life and imprisonment to preach the gospel.'” That’s the thing that he provides that is lacking.

Christ cannot personally offer himself to people today. In and through God’s people—especially missionaries—he offers himself to them. And so they fill up what is lacking, namely, the personal presentation of the sufferings of Christ in their own bodies.[1]

What we need to understand is that our suffering fills in the void in Christ’s sufferings because our suffering is a contemporary modern day suffering that the world and the Church can see. When we suffer with the mindset of a Christian our witness is magnified. Our words take on new meaning when they are spoken in affliction. This is what is meant by sharing in the suffering of Christ. It’s suffering like His for a new generation to see.

We have an example of a Church under persecution in Acts. Listen to what Jesus says about their affliction…

Acts 9:1–5 (ESV)

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Saul was persecuting the Church but Jesus knew that the early Church was an extension of Him in a real sense. So closely is Christ tied to His Church that to persecute His Church is to persecute Him. They were sharing in His sufferings.

One scholar writes, Jesus asks why Saul persecutes Him, although Saul does not yet know who is speaking. This curious remark is unexplained at first but points to Jesus’ corporate solidarity with the Church. To persecute the Way is to persecute Jesus. Jesus closely identifies with His own.[2]

I pray we feel the weight of this enormous truth. When you suffer, when you are persecuted, when you enter into a trial or affliction you are sharing in Jesus’ suffering and He is sharing yours. This is what the apostles are seeking to get us to see.

Peter goes on to state that this part of the pattern comes first then comes glory.

as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

We partake in His suffering and then we partake of His glory. I do think in one sense Peter had a benefit he saw the Lord’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now whether that was an advantage or not is under question but at least he knew what he was talking about.

Peter could endure affliction as an elder and encourage all the Church and especially his fellow elders to endure trials because not only are we sharing in Christ’s sufferings but one day we will also share in His glory.

Matthew 17:1–2 (ESV)

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Peter is giving us motivation to endure to the end. When we are one day glorified, at the coming of Christ, we too will be like Him. When we are glorified we will be separated from sin forever and able to worship and love Christ unhindered.

So, beloved, don’t be discouraged by affliction but believe what God tells us that this is just the preliminary step to glorification.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV)

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

  1. The Suffering Church Needs Biblical Shepherds

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

We learned that there are none in the Church exempt from suffering. The elders must shepherd the flock even if they too are suffering. God shows us what kind of shepherds He’s looking for.

The elder must follow Christ’s example of leading.

  1. The Elder Serves Willingly Not Under Compulsion

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly

The godly elder doesn’t serve because he has to or is forced to but because he loves Christ and His Church. The flock needs a shepherd who is lead by the Master Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The undershepherd is to oversee and lead like Jesus did. Jesus was never forced to do anything but led because He wanted to, out of love for His Father and for His Father’s elect.

John 10:18 (ESV)

18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

  1. The Elder Serves Eagerly Not for Financial Gain

not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Those who serve as the leaders within the Church should not be motivated by financial gain. A godly shepherd is not a hired hand but one who truly loves the flock.

John 10:11–14 (ESV)

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

If an elder serves for the money he will leave at the first sign of hard times. So, a godly elder serves the flock like Christ did not as a hireling.

  1. The Elder Leads Lovingly Not by Control

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

There is a world of difference between sacrificial service and forceful authority. Jesus led by love and example and that’s how elders are to led and serve.

Mark 10:42–45 (ESV)

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. Be Subject to Your Elders

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

This translation is good but somewhat confusing today. Peter is not saying that younger people be subject to the elder as in age. The original language literally means that all who are not elders in the Church be subject to those who are.

One scholar writes, The term neoteroi (younger) therefore refers to those who were not elders, that is to say all other Church members.[3]

To be subject to the Church leaders takes an act of true humility. Peter realizes what’s involved in this kind of leadership. The leaders must be those that the Church can follow consistently and the Church must follow as an act of humility not only to the leaders but to the Lord Who instituted the office of elder.

Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

If you desire to grow as a Christian; If you desire for the Church to be effective; if you desire a healthy Church; then your role is to follow consistently and obey what the elders of the Church teach and counsel you. Your life will be so much better, the Church so much healthier when you listen to the instruction of the Church leadership.

In order to do this, you must, as Peter writes, Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another. Literally make humility your garment so that you will be a good follower of the Great Shepherd and then of the under shepherds you have in this Church.

As you are subject to the leaders God will also be at work in your life. God is looking for good Church members who in humility follow their leadership. God will bless that type of humble service.


What does this kind of following look like? How do you support the elders of Grace Community Church?

  1. Attend Church Regularly
    You, as a baptized Christian and a member of the church, are responsible to attend church regularly. Scripture could not be clearer about this fundamental responsibility so that you can give yourself to love and good works and encouragement.
    Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The author threatens final judgment if you do not attend (vv. 26–27). The stakes are high indeed. Your Christ growth depends on your faithful attendance. Schedule all other activities around Sunday mornings and Wed. Evenings. Be here all the time your very soul depends on it.
2. Pray for the Church Leadership Every Day
Pray that we are following Christ like we should. Pray that we are fulfilling our god given tasks to our utmost ability for His glory and your good. Pray for the worship services, sermons, music, visits etc. Pray consistently for the elders.
3. Follow Your Leaders

It’s the job of the pastors or elders to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12).

Christian, this means that you’re responsible to avail yourself of the elders’ instruction and counsel. Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching you’ve learned from them (2 Tim. 1:13). Follow their teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, love, and endurance, along with their persecutions and sufferings (2 Tim. 3:10–11).

Be the wise son or daughter in Proverbs who takes the path of wisdom, prosperity, and life by fearing the Lord and heeding instruction. It is better than jewels and gold.





*Resources Used:

Teaching 1 Peter by Angus MaCleay

1 Peter by Karen Jobes

1 Peter by David Helm

1 Peter by John MacArthur

1 Peter by Peter Davids

1 Peter by Wayne Grudem

1 Peter by Edmond Clowney


[1] John Piper-Hard Texts

[2] Darrell Bock, Acts Baker Commentary 357

[3] Karen Jobes, 1 Peter 307

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