1st Peter 5:1-5
Let me take just a moment to present to you the message of 1st Peter. Throughout the book the message is that we have a firm foundation for our faith and living. That firm foundation is a crucified Christ. When we are looking to him, there is no suffering, no trouble, or no hardship we are not willing to endure because we know that this world is temporary, our sufferings are worthwhile if they uplift him, and our trials even in the fellowship with other believers can be God honoring because they serve to make us more like Christ.
Thus this title may seem to contradict that message since there is no way that Christ and him crucified can be defeated, destroyed or “cracked”. Even so this question is not about Christ this question is about us. If you have cracks in the foundation of your faith and living Christ is not your foundation. Think with me. Do you have any sin that you love to do more than Christ? Do you look at doing what you know is right as a burden instead of a joy? Do you find yourself unwilling to share your faith? Do you think if you pay enough to the church that someone will do the ministry? Do you think that since you lead a Sunday School class, a ministry, a program, or are a deacon that people should just do what you say? Do you think that just avoiding people you have conflict with or quitting church is the right way to handle things? All these are cracks in the foundation of you faith and your living. All of these are places in your life that you have not trusted that Christ as sufficient to meet your needs.
5:1 – In this passage Peter points out three key places that the church can see cracks in its foundation. Though each of these cracks deal with a particular group or persons in the church their presence allows fractures and divisions in the church. The first crack Peter develops is visible in the Elders of the church. Now let’s be clear, Elders is a term in the New Testament that applies to those who lead the church. Today we call these people pastors or ministers. Though there is not time to develop it here there is a definite benefit to the presence of several pastors in a church most of all because there cannot be the same pride there is when there is only one leader. Peter presents here principles that sum up biblical leadership, and the greatest threat to such leadership, pride.
Peter’s message particularly to the Elders but in some way for all who help them lead charges them to be wary of pride in their leadership. Peter himself is an elder, moreover he witnessed Christ’s sufferings, and even more he already has been made a partaker in the coming kingdom. Peter has every reason to be proud, to rest on his laurels and to simply allow people to honor him; however Peter has a different encouragement for the leadership.
5:2-3 – His encouragement is to shepherd the flock of God among the Elders. A shepherd basically is one who cares about his sheep. This entails his provision for their needs such as food, water and shelter. It also involves his protection of them from pitfalls and against the wolves. Finally it is the shepherd who divides the sheep from the goats. All of this care comes about for the biblical Elder when he stands, teaches, and promotes the word of God among his people. The second part of the encouragement tells the Elders to exercise oversight. Not that they are to micromanage a situation, nor are they to be lax, but provide oversight with an eye of compassion over the souls of the people they care for.
Peter then narrows the focus of what he means by watch-care. He shares with the people that this should not be something they feel forced to do, but exercise watch-care because of a willingness to be used of God. Similarly they must not desire gain, monetary or in prestige, and favor. They should simply exercise watch-care because they desire to show compassion on souls gone astray. As a final narrowing of the focus of watch-care Peter tells the leaders not to command people, dominating them with the sheer force of personality or will. No the leaders are to be an example to the flock in their devotion to God.
5:4 – Then as a capstone to the passage showing the Elders what to replace pride with, Peter tells the Elders why they should replace pride with watch-care. The Elders have a Chief Shepherd who accounts for their faithfulness, as do all people in biblical leadership. When he comes, he passes out rewards to the faithful, not that good works save a person, but they receive a crown that will not fade away. This crown is a symbol in the New Testament of Christ’s authority which he willingly laid down for the glory of God by coming to this earth. The crown we receive from him will be the gift we have to give to Christ, the only gift that does not waste away. We must not be prideful even about the inheritance we will receive in glory because the crown we receive is one to lay at Jesus’ feet.
5:5 – In the final verse in the passage Peter points out the two other areas that cracks may appear in the foundation of the church. These two areas are linked to the preceding passage by the root problem which again is pride. The first crack in the foundation brought up is with those who are younger in the faith pridefully rejecting the leadership of the Elders. The language of this verse clearly indicates that young men and women are in view in this passage. Even so, the language is ambiguous enough to include those who are young in the faith. Such people though older in age, being young in the faith may reject the leadership of the Elders as well. This prideful rejection is a clear indication of their youth in Christ.
To bolster this idea Peter finishes the verse with the command for the entire body of believers to clothe themselves with humility. A church that cannot do this has the severe and major crack in its foundation of pride. Such a church cannot look to one another with compassion, love, forgiveness, and peace. Only a body of believers committed to put Christ first can humbly submit themselves to see others as more important than themselves. To be humble towards one another does not mean one cannot point out faults and troubles in each other. What it does mean is that the individual does this lovingly so that the other person can glorify Christ better!
Why is it important to not if there are any cracks in the foundation of our church? It is vital because if these cracks show up it is proof that we have built on the wrong foundation. Their presence shows we have built on our own lives and proudly insisted we are the center of the church and this life. To this God says that he opposes or wars against the proud. The cracks we see are due to the opposition of God against the proud. This opposition is the same type of opposition God offers to the unconverted. No the church must be a repentant church, hating sin, being grieved over the places we still find pride in our hearts and lives, and asking God for forgiveness in this area. In sum we must be a church that humbly comes to God and trust that Christ, crucified and risen is the only foundation suitable for faith, life, and practice!