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Pastoral 2012

Conduct In The Church

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Today after the worship, at 1.30pm, all the communicant members of the church are urged to come together for the Annual Congregational Meeting. It is a meeting where we evaluate our church’s ministry, accounts, plans, etc.

Just as in all our meetings, during ACM also, let us conduct ourselves in an orderly and honourable manner that is worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us pray for the office-bearers of our church who will be giving reports of the church ministries and accounts.

As we meet today in the ACM, we will not only think of the activities of the past year, but will also consider what we ought to be in the coming year for the Lord. My pastoral exhortation to all Gethsemaneans as we look forward to serving our Saviour and Lord is to be our best in our conduct before Him. So I would like to exhort all leaders and members with the biblical instruction on our conduct, delineated in 1 Peter 5:1-11.

Conduct of the leaders

Peter’s concern for good leadership had led him to write about the responsibilities of the elders who are the leaders of a local church. Referring to himself as being an elder, Peter admonishes his readers as one who is familiar with the job. His counsel is based on the fact that he knew by experience the responsibilities, problems and challenges faced by the elders.

A close relationship with Christ is vital

Peter wrote about himself both as “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (v. 1b). The term “witness” means more than being a spectator. It comes from the Greek word from which we get the English word “martyr”. It speaks of Peter’s willingness to share his experiences of Christ at any cost for the benefit of others. He saw the sufferings of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. He also shared the glory to come when he closely viewed and experienced the glorious experience of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5).

Like Peter, every leader of the church must be one who deeply appreciates his intimate experiences with the Lord. He must be one who is daily growing in his wonderful experiences with the Lord. His daily encounters with the Lord in the Scriptures and prayer must lead him to greater ministry. Leaders of the church must cultivate a growing relationship with Christ and share with the people their spiritual knowledge and experience.

A commitment to feed the flock

Peter exhorted the leaders, “Feed the flock of God which is among you” (v. 2a). The word “flock” is often used in the Bible as a figure of God’s people or church. The elders’ duty is to “feed” them. The word “feed” in the Greek means more than just giving food. It denotes the work of a shepherd in caring for the flock. It includes leading the sheep to pastures and still waters.

Church leaders must be willing to do the job of shepherding – feeding God’s people lovingly and patiently with God’s Word. No leader fulfils his duty of shepherding until he leads the people to the right knowledge of the Scriptures on the issues of doctrine and life.

A commitment to take the oversight of the flock

Every leader must take “the oversight thereof”. A leader is “over” the members as a loving and caring leader. Especially the job of a pastor, being a shepherd, is not just lecturing on Sundays. He should be regarded as one with God-given authority to direct and lead according to God’s Word. Hebrews 13:17 exhorts, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

A leader must not be lazy. He must do his job “not by constraint, but willingly”. The motivation of the shepherd should not be “filthy lucre” - that is, for huge financial return or sordid gain. Peter is not arguing against supporting a full-time worker. Rather he is warning the leaders against covetousness. Making money must not be the main motive for a leader’s ministry.

He must have a “ready mind” to do the work of the ministry. The word “ready” has the idea of eagerness. A leader must have the eagerness to serve among God’s people, no matter what price he has to pay.

A commitment to lead by example

In verse 3, Peter makes a contrast between dictatorship and leadership – “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Leaders are not to force people to do things, but must lead the way by showing them the path to follow. They must practise what they preach so that the flock may have a good example to imitate.

A commitment to please Christ alone

He urges the leaders to minister with Christ’s return in view. Their greatest desire must be to please the Lord who will soon return to reward each man according to his deeds.

Leaders must remember that they are the undershepherds of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Their ultimate responsibility is to Christ rather than to any man in the congregation. So leaders must not be crowd-pleasers, but Christ-pleasers. To the faithful leaders, He will give “a crown of glory” at His coming.

Conduct of the church

A commitment to be humble

In verses 5-7, Peter reminds the church of the importance of humility among members.

The younger believers should submit to the older believers out of respect. But that does not mean older believers have no responsibility of submission to the younger believers. Peter says, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” Like Jesus who laid aside the outer garments and put on a towel to become a servant, every believer must put on humility that he may serve another.

One’s submission to God strengthens him spiritually to be submissive to other believers. One’s humility before God helps him to manifest a humble spirit among the believers. That is because God gives grace only to those who are humble before Him. Then He will exalt them at the right time (v. 6).

Those who humbly serve God and His people are given the privilege to bring all their burdens to Him. He also promises to carry their burden for them. Each time when we are burdened with something, instead of carrying it on our own, we must turn it to the Lord. He will help us to carry the load (see Psalm 55:22).

A commitment to be watchful

In verses 8-9, Peter once again reminds the believers of the importance of being watchful. He writes, “Be sober, be vigilant.” He is exhorting us to be self-controlled and alert. But why? “Because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word “adversary” means an “opponent in a lawsuit”. The term “devil” means “slanderer”. Satan, our opponent in the heavenly courtroom, is undoubtedly not presenting the facts truthfully. However, believers have an advocate who pleads on their behalf (1 John 2:1).

Satan is also pictured as a lion stalking about seeking to destroy the prey. Satan is waiting to destroy every believer. But should we flee from the devil in fear?

Peter’s admonition is to resist Satan steadfastly in the faith (v. 9). This is a command. The word “steadfast” implies being solid as a foundation. We must stand firm against the devil and resist him to the end using the weapons of spiritual warfare which God has provided for us (Ephesians 6:10-18).

A commitment to be hopeful

Peter closes his epistle on a positive note. He reminds the readers that God knows all things and that He is in control of all things.

Firstly, he reminds us that God who has called us is a gracious God.

Secondly, he reminds us that He has called us unto His eternal glory. His grace will lead us to His glory. The road may be tough and rough, but His grace will take us to His glory.

Thirdly, he reminds us that our sufferings are only for a while. In 1:6, he wrote that our sufferings are only “for a season”. The suffering is temporary, but His glory that awaits us is eternal.

Fourthly, through all our trials He is perfecting and strengthening us. The result is that God receives all glory through us (v. 11).

Conclusion

When the leaders and members of the church conduct themselves according to biblical counsels, they become a formidable army of the Lord in this hostile world.

 

Pastoral Exhortation