A Dispensational Approach

I Peter

XII. A Review of Different Kinds of Suffering   4:15-19

XIII. A Resume of an Elder   5:1-4

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 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.” (I Peter 5:1-4)

This short passage contains three words that have played an important role in Christendom across the more than 2,000 years of its history. They are elders (Greek: presbuteros), feed, pastor or shepherd and oversight (Greek: episkopeo). These terms have evolved into different methods that Christians have developed for the leadership of their denominations. For example, many who stress the independence of the local congregation under God, have pastors (shepherds) to lead and feed the local church family. Those who have a system of elders to govern the churches are denominated Presbyterians because of the transliteration of the Greek word for elder. The Episcopal Church is governed by a hierarchy of bishops or overseers from a transliteration of the Greek word for oversight.

A casual reading of this passage will prove that the Holy Spirit, through the pen of the Apostle Peter, is using these terms interchangeably, applying them all to the leaders he is addressing. They are elders; they are to feed (pastor) the flock of God and to take the oversight of it with certain criteria.

The Holy Spirit, in the words of the Apostle Paul, also used these terms as synonymous in Acts 20:17, 28. He called the elders (presbuteros) of the Ephesian church (20:17). He instructed them:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episcopos) to feed (pastor) the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”

They were elders; they were to pastor the church over which the Holy Spirit had made them bishops. An understanding of this simple truth would have eliminated many of the organizational divisions among believers.

Many local “Bible” churches today make a strong distinction between the pastor and the elders. In many cases, the elders make up a board of men who tell the pastor what he can or cannot preach.

Having established the Biblical use of these terms, in future studies we shall note some Biblical injunctions that form somewhat of a “resume” of what a pastor should be. They include:

A. The Exhortation   5:1

1. Positive Instruction

2. Negative Instruction

B. The Explanation   5:2

C. The Example   5:3

(To Be Continued)