The Conduct of the Church in the Caldron of Conflict:
A Wonderful Witness Before a Watching World
Father's Day, June 16, 1996
Scripture: 1Peter 5
Our Conduct Before God: Be Holy
Our Conduct Before Man: Be Submissive
Our Conduct Before Church: Be Humble
Therefore, since there is an abundance of suffering for Christians in the will of God in the world at the hands of unbelievers, should there be continued suffering in the church through the abuses of those in control or of those who want to be? We must be reminded of 1Peter 4:17;
17* For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
The world is watching us. Those in the suffering church must not turn on one another or turn toward sin but help one another turn toward God as we maintain a united front against the world, the flesh, and the devil in this boiling pot of conflict in a fallen world. Our conduct in the church counts as a wonderful witness of faith in the power of Christ to carry out His salvation and usher in His kingdom.
I. The Conduct of Church Leaders Toward the People
A. Heeding the exhortation of those before us who have successfully suffered the call to leadership for the cause of Christ's glory.
1* (Therefore) To the elders among you, I appeal (exhort you) as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:
1. The apostle Peter implies that he also holds himself accountable as a fellow elder before the refining fire of God's judgment to come first upon church leadership in the house of God.
2. Peter recalls his witness of Christ's sufferings when he suffered his own failure in leadership for which he was held accountable.
3. But Peter also affirms his restoration from failure made possible by Christ as he recounts his assurance of sharing in Christ's future glory.
4. Peter therefore encourages the elders with his own experience as one who has sinned, received discipline, repented, been restored, and will share with Christ in glory. He can rightly exhort any elder to repent and be restored before God's disciplinary fire reaches him for any act of hypocritical pride or unwillingness to admit wrong.
5. The elders are also reminded that just as Christ was willing for suffer for them, so they should be willing to endure hardship and suffering for the sake of those in their churches.
B. Being an effective example in the call to leadership.
2* Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
3* not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
1. Peter exhorts elders to lead in the manner of a shepherd toward his sheep as Christ himself exhorted Peter to do.
2. Peter lists three sins to which elders are especially prone, and three antidotes to which they should give attention.
a. His attitude should not be one of sloth because no one else will take the job and he was forced into it. God will provide alternative solutions. Rather, it should be in the manner of one willing to serve God in a noble task by unconstrained and free choice (1Tim. 3:1). God's work in a man's life makes him willing to do God's will through divine rather than human motivation.
b. His attitude should not be one of greed for monetary gain, but rather eager to serve with greater emphasis on a positive emotional desire more than even being just willing. His desire to serve must be an eagerness for others and for God - not for himself. Greed and selfish interest are so near at hand in all human hearts that especially in this work they must be constantly guarded against.
c. His attitude should not be one of a lust for power to delight in the use and increase of authority by arbitrary, arrogant, selfish, or excessively restrictive rule. Elders should not govern by threat, emotional intimidation, flaunting of power, or political force, but rather to lead through the power of godly example in seeking the edification of others. This example carries a continual humility in the awareness that the sin remaining in one's heart is still hateful, and that any growth in holiness of life has only come about by God's grace.
C. The reward in the call to leadership.
4* And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
1. Any reward that one could hope to manipulate in this life through position in the church (easy credibility, personal gain, power) will be far surpassed when Christ appears to give eternal rewards.
2. Even those rewards will pale in comparison to knowing the One who gave them (Rev. 4:4-11).
II. The Conduct of All the People Toward Each Other
A. We must submit to one another.
5* Young men (people) , in the same way be submissive to those who are older (elders). All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
1. The young, in particular, must submit (be subject) to the leadership of the elders because of the weakness toward rebellion which the young are prone to exhibit.
2. Not only are the elders to lead by appropriate conduct, but the young are to be appropriate in their conduct toward being lead (in the same way or likewise). Leadership is necessary, it shouldn't be abused, and it should be heeded.
3. Actually, Peter leaves no one untouched by his exhortation to submission as the way to honor God in our relationships with one another in the church. We are to "clothe ourselves" (Col. 3:12-13) in the sense of a slave putting on an apron before serving. We are all to be willing slaves before Almighty God.
4. The ultimate reason for Peter's exhortation is because God opposes pride in any form and from any source as he quotes for us from Prov. 3:34. The proud trust in themselves and seek glory for themselves, while the humble trust in God and give glory to God, and God delights in being trusted and glorified. All glory rightfully belongs to Him. Paying attention to this exhortation yields the beauty of God's grace to the humble.
B. In submitting to one another we are submitting to God.
6* Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1. From humility before others, Peter passes to humility before God: to bow before God's wisdom, to accept the twists and turns of His providence, and to entrust all our concerns to Him.
2. God will use His power (mighty hand) to exalt those who live humble lives in respect of His power. Elements of this exaltation may be realized in this life through increased spiritual blessing, deeper fellowship with God, or even in terms of increased responsibility, reward, or honor.
3. But whether it is realized in this life or not we can be sure this will take place in God's time when Christ appears. Whether in suffering or in glory, the whole destiny of Christians is God-ordained.
C. In submitting to God we are leaning upon God's perfect care.
7* Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1. The way in which proper humility before God is attained is to cast our cares upon Him.
2. Peter recognizes that the great barrier to putting others first and to think of them as even more important is, "who will then care for my own needs." The answer is that God Himself will care for my needs, and He is able to do it far better than we are because His "hand is mighty." He is not indifferent to our sufferings.
3. Being freed from constant concern for ourselves enables us to be truly concerned for the needs of others.
III. The Conduct of the People Before the Devil
A. We are warned that God's sovereign care is not an excuse for spiritual carelessness.
8* Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1. Peter once again alludes to his own experience in which Satan had "sifted him as wheat" when he had failed to keep watch.
2. God's sovereign care does not preclude peril to the Christian life. We are to be discerning and alert to exterior spiritual attack from the world (sin in other people) and the devil (the instigator) who is the prince of it, all the while remaining on guard against the evil in our own flesh as well (self-controlled).
3. Such is the nature of God's refining fire for the perfection of the Christian that our weaknesses are searched out to be exposed and burned off. It is Satan who searches (prowls around) and exposes but it is the power of the Holy Spirit that refines and purifies to save from destruction (being devoured).
4. Satan has great power on earth, "being the prince of this world" (John 14:30) and "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph. 2:2), but God has limited his activity.
B. We are assured of spiritual strength to resist temptation by faith.
9* Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1. To resist implies active, determined opposition, often through confrontation (prayer, praise, God's Word, help from fellow believers, verbal rebuke of the enemy). To resist is not to run but to remain. To remain means to go back to staying - to stand firm by pondering once again the greater truth of the power and provision of God, namely faith. And faith is the substance of things hoped for , the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). Spiritual warfare is real (Eph. 6:10-18).
2. To resist implies that defeat is not inevitable. We can expect the enemy to flee, God's kingdom to advance, our faith and holiness to grow through conflict, and God to take Satan's plans for evil and turn them to our good.
3. We can take heart that we are not singled out in this refining process in our struggle against sin. All we need do is look around us, whether it be next door or in some other country. God rewards faith wherever He finds it (Heb. 11:6).
C. We are reassured that through the grace of God we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.
10* (But) And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1. God in His grace will fulfill His purpose of eternal glory in us in opposition to Satan's purpose. Therefore God is not out to destroy us but to build us up by expanding our capacity to wield the power of righteousness over sin (Heb. 12:10-11).
2. He will restore us by making us fully prepared and complete with respect to any resource or ability which we have lost through any suffering. We will be perfected or "put in order."
3. He will establish or confirm us in any position, rightful privilege, or responsibility which any suffering has taken from us.
4. He will strengthen us from any weakness we have been made to suffer, and from any inadequacy for overcoming evil which we may have known.
5. He will settle or put us on a firm foundation in any rightful place from which any suffering has wrongfully removed us.
6. In this process we praise the eternal power of God to accomplish it. All loss will soon be made right, and that for eternity.
IV. Standing Together in the Grace of God
A. Standing firmly together with our fellow Christians.
12* With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
1. No one earns or merits the grace of God.
2. But all Christians are obligated to abide in the grace of God.
B. Standing firmly together with our fellow churches.
13* She who is in Babylon (Rome), chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
C. Standing firmly together in love and peace.
14* Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Peter's first letter begins and ends with both grace and peace. In fact, the entire Christian life is one of grace, and the peace obtained by remaining in it. Grace is God's daily bestowal of blessings, strength, help, forgiveness, and fellowship with Himself, all of which we need, none of which we ever deserve, All is of grace, every day. From continual trust in that grace and from continual obedience empowered by it, Christians must not move; rather, they must stand fast in it - until the day of their death. It enables us to endure suffering as it works God's perfect power in us and through us. Peter exhorts us as one who has earned the credibility of learning through personal experience from Christ Himself.