A Dispensational Approach

I Peter

XIII. The Resume of an Elder   5:1-3

A. The Exhortation   5:1

B. The Explanation   5:2

C. The Example   5:3

XIV. The Reward of an Elder   5:4

“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pet. 5:4)

A. The Chief Shepherd

Peter has been writing concerning the elders (pastors, shepherds, bishops) and their responsibilities to the flock of God. Now he reminds them that they have a “chief shepherd” to whom they are accountable. The phrase “Chief Shepherd” is one word in the Greek. It is the word for “shepherd” with a prefix arch, meaning “first” or “prime.” It is used with the word “angel” to indicate the leaders of angels—the archangels.

While the concept of shepherd and sheep is used primarily with Israel and not the body of Christ, the Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians elders to “feed” (pastor or shepherd) the flock of God over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (bishops). This Chief Shepherd is the one Whom Paul usually refers to as “the Head over all things to the church which is His body.”

Regardless of the dispensation, believers are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ for our service as believers, and in each case, rewards are promised for faithful service.

B. The Crown

The crown is a figure of speech indicating a reward. The gospel song “Will There Be Any Stars in my Crown” has caused wrong ideas in the minds of many Christians in regard to this subject. In the first place, nothing is said in the Scriptures about “stars” in a crown. In Philippians, Paul refers to the reward as the “prize.” The concept is the same.

While stressing the fact that these “crowns” represent rewards for service, we can identify five distinct “crowns” as rewards for faithful ministries. The most important point that we must make when speaking of these crowns or rewards is to differentiate between salvation and rewards.

C. The Contrasts

Salvation is always spoken of as a gift of God, totally apart from our works (e.g., Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-13; 3:5; Romans 4:1-5; Acts 16:31, etc.). We cannot work for our salvation. Christ did all the work and we are told that if righteousness could come through the works of the law, Christ’s death was absolutely unnecessary (Galatians 2:20,21).

On the other hand, our faithful service as believers will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Earning these rewards is spoken of in such figures of speech as running in a race, fighting a good fight, etc. Any time we see works or activity in the context, we may be sure the subject is rewards, not salvation.

A good illustration centers around the concept of our inheritance in Colossians. There is an inheritance related to our salvation: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). Notice it is the Father who has made us meet or fit for the inheritance—this is grace, not our works. But in Colossians 3:24, we read: “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Note this is the reward of our inheritance and is associated with service. Incidentally, this throws light on a puzzling passage in Galatians 5:21.

In view of the example of the four and twenty elders of Revelation 4:10, Charles Wesley may have been correct in his stately old hymn, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” when he wrote, “‘Til we cast our crowns before Him, lost in wonder, love and praise.”

(To Be Continued)