A Ready Mind (episkopos: feeding the flock)

A Ready Mind
Robert Wurtz II

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:1–4 KJV)

Our passage takes us back to some of the final words of the Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel, who in restoring Peter after His great fall, charged  him with the care of His flock. The flock is made up of saints (sheep and lambs) at whatever stage of spiritual growth they are found in. In fact, Jesus basically told Peter that if He truly loved Him and wanted to demonstrate the fact, he would look after the sheep and lambs He was entrusting him with. 

Peter reminds us that the will of God for him in taking care of the flock is the same for all who function in that capacity. In that way one could insert their name into John chapter 21 and hear the Lord ask, “do you love me?” and the follow up remarks, “if you do then you will feed and tend my flock.” In 1 Peter 5:2 we read, Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof. Feed, here, could be better rendered “tend” the flock. For ages it has been the pattern of shepherds to lead their flocks into grazing lands that are safe and well suited for grazing. Psalm 23 comes to mind. The Great Shepherd prepares the “table” even in the presence of enemies. Peter is telling the elders who labor in the word of God to do the same thing. They are to prayerfully labor in the scriptures to provide sustenance for the people — but more importantly lead them in the areas of biblical emphasis necessary to keep them growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Second, Peter says taking the oversight thereof. This simply means “to watch over.” The Greek word for “oversight” is episkopos epi (over) skopos (look or watch). If we pray for the Lord to “watch over” us and our families, what do we mean by that? We are asking the Lord to guard and protect us. The elders are charged with watching over the saints. But there is more. Peter adds, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. In other words, don’t do the job like a hireling who would rather be doing something else but feels stuck doing it. If a person has to force themselves to prepare sermons and watch over the saints they definitely have not been called to the ministry. 

Moreover, if they only preach if they are likely to be paid they are definitely not a shepherd (pastor). Why? Because they don’t have a shepherds heart. A shepherd does not need to be compelled or constrained, but they do the job willingly. In fact, the Greek word for “willingly” is hekousios and it could be translated as “voluntarily” or “because you greatly want to.” It is a word only used here and in Hebrews 10:26… “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge…” Peter then qualifies his remarks, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. God has ordained that all who labor in the word should live of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:7-11 is one of several places in the New Testament that address this fact. Unfortunately, a piano player is ten times more likely in 2015 to receive of the Gospel than a Bible teacher. It would be fraud to do such a thing in the world (James 5:4). How much more in the churches of God? Nevertheless, a true shepherd will do their job in spite of this fact and as unto the Lord. They don’t labor among the flock for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

The most challenging of all things that Peter stated is, Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. The responsibility of all shepherds is to point the people to Jesus Christ. They are to disciple them to Him — not themselves and not a “ministry.” My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, said Jesus. Peter warns the elders not to usurp the Lord’s place in the peoples’ lives. It is of Satan to want to sit in God’s seat in the midst of the congregation — yet men do it and preach it and write books on how to do it. Amazing! Rather, the elder is called to be an example of how to follow Christ, the Great Shepherd. Can you see the contrast? Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. Don’t Lord over people… lead them by example. It’s not enough to say it, it has to be done in reality. Actions and words have to match.

For those willing to obey this pattern we have this promise, And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. In other words, don’t look for your reward here on earth. The world rewards with carnal possessions, popularity, and pleasure. These must not be our reward. If one is pursuing these things, one is in the wrong line of work. Worldly rewards are fading away. They are temporal. The rust and moth may corrupt the worldly rewards of those who labor for filthy lucre; but for those who work voluntarily, willingly, and of a ready mind there is the promise of a reward that will never fade away.     

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