May 17, 2017
Doesn’t a crown of glory sound desirable? Scripture tells of many crowns that can be won by Christians and tells us how to earn each one, and the crown of glory is no different. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes into earning this crown and most Christians won’t earn it. “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, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.“1 Peter 5:2-4. Jesus is the chief Shepherd and He will reward our work on earth with Heavenly crowns. The context of Peter’s passage speaks to the elders of a congregation. Elders are men who have the responsibility of leading the congregation properly and keeping the flock well fed. It’s a huge responsibility for a man to assume leadership of a congregation. Elders need to lead in the ways of God and teach the congregation, but not be dictators. They need to have the right motivation for taking on that responsibility, which means it’s done for God’s glory. These men need to know Scripture and follow it in their daily life. If a man desires to be an elder it should be because he wants to serve Jesus and not in order to make business connections or to line his own pockets with money. If the motive is wrong then there will be no crown given.
It was Jesus who instructed Peter to feed the flock of God. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples on a few occasions, including a meeting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus restored Peter and gave him his life’s assignment. “…Feed my lambs.” John 21:15b. Peter was to feed the lambs, the new believers who needed to be nurtured in order to grow into mature Christians. “…Feed my sheep.” John 21:16b & 17b. The sheep (mature Christians) need different food than the lambs because they should have grown far beyond the need for milk or baby food. Mature Christians need the meat of Scripture in order to stay strong. It’s the responsibility of an elder to feed the new believers so they grow and then wean these lambs so they are established in God’s word. The elders must encourage the congregation to grow and mature. Peter knew from experience what it means to fail and then to be forgiven and restored. He was no better than any other elder but had matured in his faith and knowledge of God’s truth. “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder…” 1 Peter 5:1a. Peter spoke with authority to the elders who shepherd their flocks and encouraged them to grow strong and in faith and Christian living.
If an elder does his job well and has the right motivations, Jesus has a crown waiting. Is the desire for that crown why you do your job faithfully? It shouldn’t be. Shepherding the flock is an act of love. When Christians grow in their knowledge and understanding of God’s word the congregation is equipped to reach out to the lost people outside of the congregation. A responsible pastor will stand firmly on God’s word and teach the truth, even if that truth isn’t politically acceptable. Peter and John had been arrested for preaching in Jesus’ name and were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus anymore. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20. These are the words of a proper elder. The US Government, as well as other governments of the world, has been able to silence much of God’s truth by threatening to take tax exemptions away if a preacher tells the truth about homosexuality and other sins that are sanctioned by government. A responsible shepherd who feeds his flock properly will be more concerned with God’s truth than with tax breaks. As an elder, if you’re tempted to compromise God’s truth maybe you’re not the man to be teaching. “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1 (NKJV). Don’t compromise God’s word, but don’t forget that your teaching needs to be with Godly love.
We can learn so much about ministry from the life of Paul. He truly loved Jesus and loved serving Him. When Paul knew that he was making a last visit to the men whom he had left in charge of the congregation in Ephesus, he had words of advice that need to be applied today. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. Pay attention. The blood of Jesus is precious and the flock which you shepherd was purchased at a great price. Paul’s warning to the shepherds is as necessary today as it was all those years ago. If the elders are weak and compromising, wolves will enter among the flock, divide congregations, and speak lies. There are many wolves entering into our congregations and our lives today. Television is full of men who deliver a message that sounds smooth and inspiring, but is filled with erroneous teaching. Books are sold that are filled with New Age ideas and Christians who aren’t taught truth will be taken in. Sheep who aren’t fed properly will fall prey to such lies. Without strong elders the wolves will win.
When Paul traveled on his missionary journeys, his mission was to establish congregations that were solid on a Godly foundation. He would leave men who were schooled in Christian truth to keep the congregation healthy and growing. One such leader was Titus and Paul wrote to him and helped him understand how to choose men for leadership in his congregation. The same guidelines apply today. “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Titus1:6-9. The man who shepherds his flock well has a great responsibility and he can’t be a “babe in Christ”, but he must be a man who has learned over the years to follow the Lord closely. Experience will have taught this man to trust Jesus and to guide others to also trust Him. This man is to feed the flock, but if he can’t feed himself he won’t be able to feed others, so he must allow the Holy Spirit to increase his knowledge of Scripture.
What about people who aren’t the leaders of a congregation? There are many ways to use your skills to minister to others. Older women are to teach younger women “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5. As I read that passage some wonderful, godly women come to mind and I am blessed to know these ladies. Paul had fond memories of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice and their genuine faith which they passed on to Timothy. Planting a child’s feet solidly upon God’s word is a special ministry. Every Christian has a ministry. There are men and women who minister through music, others reach out into their communities and share the Gospel. It is a ministry to open your home for a Bible study and invite people who may not feel comfortable “going to church” and there are much needed prison ministries. In this day and age where there are so many single parent homes and lies being taught in public school, children need to learn what a family consists of in God’s plan: A man is married to a woman, and then they have children. Teaching that truth to young people and encouraging them to know Jesus is an important way to serve our Lord. If you love the Lord you’ll find it a joy to do all you can for Him. Will you win a crown? Not if you do your service for that purpose. Do all you can for Jesus for the pure joy of serving Him by ministering to others. Too often people have an attitude of “What’s in it for me” and that’s the wrong way to think about serving our Lord. What’s the right way to think? “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24. We all have tasks set before us and if we faithfully perform those tasks our reward will be great. Do all for Jesus.
At the end of his life Paul could look back on his service to the Lord and feel good about what he had done. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24. Every Christian has the same ministry…to testify the gospel of the Grace of God. Man or woman, it makes no difference. Share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the lost people in this world. Share because you love Jesus.
Would you continue to do what you’re doing for Jesus if you didn’t think you might win a crown? Are you doing ministry for your own gain or Christ’s glory? The crown of glory rightfully belongs to Jesus and you will cast it at His feet. What a joy that will be.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html