“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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (I Peter 5:1-4).
What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders and pastors to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. Secondly, elders and pastors are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd. Thirdly, elders and pastors are to serve in the local church with a willing spirit. Fourthly, elders and pastors are not to serve in the local church for the purpose of sinful, financial gain, but rather having an eager spirit to serve the Lord and other people. Fifthly, elders and pastors are not to dominate the congregation of the local church.
Ultimately, elders and pastors are serving one far superior than themselves. Peter identifies this person as the Chief Shepherd. The noun Chief Shepherd (ἀρχιποίμην; achipoimen) is the head shepherd who directs the activities of the other shepherds. This is a figurative reference solely to Jesus Christ.
The Bible describes Jesus as a Shepherd in a variety of contexts. He is “the True Shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:11–16), “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), and “the Great Shepherd” (Hebrews 13:20). When Jesus Christ returns, His faithful under-shepherds will share in His glory (1 Peter 5:1) and receive unfading crowns (I Peter 1:4).
Because Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd, those who serve as His under-shepherds, that is elders and pastors, are given a particular promise that will be fulfilled when Jesus returns: elders and pastors will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Unfading (ἀμαράντινος; amarantinos) means to never lose its brightness or its wonderful character. It refers to a flower called the amaranth which was thought to be unfading. Crown (στέφανος; stephanos) literally means a wreath or garland which was given in the ancient Olympic Games as a prize or reward for an outstanding performance. Glory (δόξα; doxa) means honorable and respected. God promises to give faithful elders and pastors a reward for faithful and outstanding service with an honorable award which will never lose it bright character.
The responsibility of a church’s elders and pastors not only involves our time here on earth, but also in eternity. May elders and pastors, and the congregations they shepherd, be found faithful to God’s commands.
Soli deo Gloria!