What Goes Down, Must Come Up
Preached by Benjamin Vrbicek
Next week, though hard to believe, we begin the Christmas season and Advent. Then, after Christmas, we’ll cover the sequel to 1 Peter. This morning, we finish the letter.
As I start this morning, let me give a quick disclaimer about what I’m going to cover and not cover. As this sermon started to take shape I realized that I can only effectively focus on the first seven verses. I think in these verses the theme is unified enough to preach these verses well. I’m to go ahead and read all fourteen verses, and you’ll see what I’m not going to cover (Peter writes about Satan in verses 8-11 and makes some closing comments in v. 12-14.) Maybe some other time, perhaps, we’ll cover those.
If you have a Bible, please follow along with me as I read 1 Peter 5:1-14 (page 1165). You’ve heard the saying, “What goes up, must come down.” What we are going to see in this passage is, in a sense, the opposite. “What goes down, will come up.” Those who go down in humility will be, in time, exalted in grace.
1 Peter 5:1-14
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.
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
In college one of my best friends was killed in an avalanche. His name was Kyle. Kyle and I had been friends for 10 years. We grew up in the same church and we played tons of sports together.
Kyle had been climbing a mountain in Colorado with two other men when they triggered the avalanche; a wall of snow… 200 yards wide… flying down the mountain. One of the things that made it so hard, besides the obvious things, was that Kyle was set to be married in just two weeks to his fiancée, Maria.
A few days after I heard about Kyle, I was forwarded an email that had a link to a clip from the local six o’clock news program in Colorado who covered the story. In the little video there was a reporter onsite who interviewed several people at the foot of the mountain: local policemen, search and rescue crews, and even an avalanche expert. All the while, in the background of the footage you could see the two other men who had been climbing with Kyle, safe and rescued. You could also see Maria off in the background weeping on the shoulder of one of the climbers.
When the news clip was over, my roommate, who stood next to me, said regarding that avalanche expert, “He was a little too chummy, don’t ya think?” My friend could have said, “a little too prideful” or “a little too smug” which would have still been large understatements. Everything about this “avalanche expert” communicated, “Hey, look at me. I’m on TV!”
At that moment, I wanted to reach my hands in to the laptop computer screen and grab him around then collar and shout, “That’s my friend you are talking about! Look over your shoulder. There’s Maria. You gonna’ to talk like that to her?”
There are certain situations that obviously call for humility, situations where pride just doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it and have it look right. If I wore my pajamas to church this morning and preached my pajamas, you’d say, “Dude, why ya wearing your pajamas to church.” They are out of place.
But unlike pajamas, which do have a place where they can be rightly worn, pride doesn’t have a place; it’s always out of place. All situations call for humility on our part, because we are always, only human; we’re not gods. There is a real God who made everything. And we’re not him. Therefore, pride doesn’t fit humans. We can’t wear it and look right to God. When we wear pride, to God, we look like that avalanche expert. That’s why the language of the passage says, “God opposes the proud.” That word “opposes” carries the idea of resisting as in a war. God will resist the proud in a battle.
But the problem is that by nature, by ourselves, we tend toward pride and arrogance. It’s in our blood. But the good news of this passage, which we’ll come back to at the end is that the humble get gospel-grace. For those who will go down in humility, they will exalted in grace.
So our roadmap for this morning. We are going to talk about three groups of people, really two specific groups, then a catch-all group. First, we’ll talk about humble elders. Second, humble young adults. And finally, a humble church.
1. Humble Elders, v. 1-4
I think Peter starts with elders because of what is said in v. 4:17, which says “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God …” The judgment that this verse speaks of has a refining aspect to it. It is designed to shape the people of God now, so that we, as a whole church, will become who we are supposed to be—now.
And if you are going to talk about a refinement that takes place in an organization, in this case “the household of God” as Peter says (i.e. the church), it makes sense to start with the leaders of that organization, in this case, the elders.
This is where we’re spend the bulk of the sermon, which probably means I should start by addressing a potential objection. Some of you might be thinking:
I’m not exactly sure what an elder is, it sounds like they are the leaders of a local church, but what I do know is that I’m pretty sure I’m not one, nor do I ever plan to be one. So why does this matter to me?
I can understand this. If I showed up somewhere and the speaker was talking about hockey for 20 minutes, no offense to you hockey lovers, but it’s not really my thing. I might be interested in it if I knew the people who were playing, but it’s really not my thing.
But we are not talking about hockey. We are talking about what God himself inspired an apostle to write so that his bride (the church) could be strengthened for the glorious task that is before them.
And so, in one sense, I can understand if you’re not an leader in the local church why you might be tempted to tune out for a bit. But even if you are not an elder, don’t you want to be in a church where you know what type of leaders the church should have? I hope so. I hope we are not just picking leaders based on all the same principles that the world choses leaders.
Additionally, I should mention one more plea to listen closely. One of the major things our pastor-elder team has been talking about for the last 6 months is growth and expansion and when we might be able, by the grace of God, to plant another church. And that’s going to take more leaders. Maybe it could be you.
Well, enough of the disclaimers. I hope you listen closely.
Let me get to what Peter says specifically. And here, I’m going to point out a host of things that are either assumed or explicitly mentioned. Don’t feel like you have to write them all down. Just listen and if you want the specifics later you can get them online when we post this on our website.
First, notice what is assumed in v. 1.
So I exhort the elders among you…
Notice what that assumes. It assumes that you are in a church that has elders. And I stress “elders” in the plural. There is more than one. That’s the way elders are always talked about the New Testament. God has designed that his church be led, not by one powerful, charismatic leader but rather by a team of multiple elders. We do that here. We have six of them right now. And it’s about a 6-9 month time of training to join.
If you have around this church for a little while, you’ve probably noticed that we have refer to our elders and pastors in a very awkward way. I’ve never seen this done anywhere else, but I love it. We call our leaders “pastor (hyphen) elders,” and verses 1-2 help explain why we do that. In these verses, Peter assumes that elders are also pastors, and pastors are also elders. Look at vv. 1-2.
So I exhort the elders among you… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…
Peter tells elders to “shepherd the flock.” But that word for shepherd is the exact same one we get the word “pastor” from. In other words, we could translate this, “Elders, pastor the flock of God.” Elders are pastors. Pastors are elders.
This is why we use the awkwardly hyphenated term pastor-elders. We do this because we think the way each word is used, when alone (just “pastor” or just “elder”), typically does not capture the biblical meaning of the term. In many churches, a board of elders is that group of people who make big decisions and show up once a month on a committee. And in those churches, it’s the pastor (or pastors), not elders, who get down there with the people and love and sever and help in spiritual, practical ways. That’s not reality everywhere, of course. But it happens that way in many churches.
Notice, how these elders are supposed to shepherd with humility. They are to pastor humbly in three ways: willingly, eagerly, and as examples. Let me read v. 2-4.
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.
First, willingly. In other words, don’t do this because you feel that you have to or because somebody is making you. Do this, not because someone has to twist your arm and give you a sales pitch. Rather, do this because you want to, because you desire to. “Exercise oversight … willingly, as God would have you.”
Second, “not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” O, there are so many temptations pastor for “shameful gain”—probably not monetarily, but there are other types of gain. If you figure out what this book says, and you gather people around you, and you tell it to them convincingly, it will feel powerful. Shaking hands and hearing, “Nice sermon, Pastor” just feels nice. Maybe you even write something and people read it; it’s going to feel good.
Last, Peter speaks of pastoring humbly, as examples. Peter begins verse 3 by stating, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
So what is the relationship between being “not domineering” and “examples to the flock?” The connection is this: When a pastor lords it over a congregation they are effectively communicating that they are the Chief Shepherd and there is no one over them. We are under shepherds and not the final authority. Only when elders lead humbly, acknowledging that there is one greater over them can obey this command and become “examples to the flock.”
And who’s flock is it? Who owns the flock? Peter has already said. He writes, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”
We talked about this briefly at our staff meeting last week before we prayed. It’s common to say things like “my church” or “our church.” And there may be nothing wrong with that. We may just mean the church that we attend, the church we love, the church we serve at. But there may be something very wrong with that. Very subtly, we, especially us pastors, can begin to talk about “our church” (our church’s attendance, our church’s budget, our church’s number of conversions and baptisms) and forget that it’s God’s church, God’s people, God’s flock. At the top of every local church’s organizational hatchery chart, should be Jesus. He’s the Chief Shepherd. Jesus is the Senior Pastor of every church.
And if we, as under-shepherds, will pastor like this, then there will be something better than shameful gain. Verse 4 says, “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” For elders who go down in humility, they exalted with a crown.
I hope the applications are clear enough, but let me just say a few explicitly. If you are an elder or have been in the past, be this kind of elder. A willing, eager, example-like elder. A humble pastor-elder.
If you are not an elder and won’t ever be one, that’s just fine. But pray that your church will be filled this these types of leaders. Worldly, godless elders, eventually produce worldly, godless churches.
And finally, for a few of you, maybe you will be an elder someday. I would love nothing more than for this church to have so many humble, elder qualified men that we have to send them away to other churches.
Well, that’s what Peter has to say to elders and the way that we are to serve humbly. Now, Peter moves on to another group of people, namely, those who are young.
2. Humble Young Adults, v. 5a
I confess, for me there was a strangeness as I preach about elders because I am one. Now, we have this word about young adults, which I’m not technically in the young enough to be in the young adults group at our church, but I do know that to many of you, I am young. So it’s a little weird. I would point out that I’m getting old as fast as I can, but it only happens one day at a time, so we’ll just have to push through because it’s in the Bible and therefore we should talk about what it means.
We have a lot of young adults here at our church. That’s a great thing. God loves you enough to give you a special word in this letter. Let me read it. It’s short, v. 5a.
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
I really do mean what I said a moment ago about God loving you enough to give you a special word in this passage.
Do you want to be free? You won’t be free if you think you have to be at a church who has preaching exactly like you think it should be, music exactly like I think it should be, small groups and men’s ministry and women’s ministry just the way you think it should be. Evangelism, just like you want. The right community outreach. If you think like this, you won’t be free.
But, if you love the gospel, and you are here to serve, you’ll be so blessed and so free.
I was a member of a church years ago, and in a sermon the pastor of the church made an offhand comment about how he had gotten himself into quite the brouhaha over some certain controversial practices. He’s a good guy. Our young adults read one of his books this fall in a Bible Study.
Anyway, in an offhand comment in a sermon, the pastor mentioned how all the ruckus created on the internet was really tearing him up inside. I remember getting on the internet myself just to see what he was talking about, because I didn’t know. I was shocked at the things that were being said.
Now, this is just speculation, but I wonder how many or what percentage of those people making outlandishly arrogant statements on internet blogs were young?
What percentage of those bloggers should have been so consumed in passionately submitting to their own elders in their local churches that they didn’t have time to throw stones at a real pastor, doing real ministry. Instead, I pictured them in the safety of a Starbucks on barrowed wi-fi with a there laptop like they were Martin Luther.
If you are here, and you are young, I’m so glad you are here. What we need from you is to love and serve and care for the people in this church. We need labors. We need people who don’t want to talk about Christianity, but to do it.
And you say, what would submit even look like? Well, probably for starters it means love the things we love. We love the gospel and we love sharing it will people so that they can be reconciled to God. And it means attending church regularly (not once a month). And it means giving generously. And it means serving passionately.
If you do these things (love the gospel, attend regularly, give generously, serve passionately), then you will be so blessed. If you put those patterns in your life right now, as a 25 year old, when you’re 65, you’ll be winsome, powerful patriarch and matriarchs, and people will flock to you and you’ll make all the decisions you every wanted.
So many of you are on this path, and as a friend and a peer, and as an elder, I say, thank you. You encourage us and challenge us Keep it up.
3. Humble Church, vv. 5b-7
Finally, Peter has a word for everyone. He writes in vv. 5b-7,
… Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Here, Peter widens out to the whole church. He says, “I’ve been talking to elders and I’ve been talking to those who are young, but—just in case it wasn’t clear that humility is for everyone—let me go ahead and say it.”
I don’t have time to tease out all of the ways that we as a church should be humble. But I want to simply point out a few thing that might surprise you about this type of humility. I want to point out the gospel in this type of humility.
Notice the connection that takes place in vv. 6-7,
6 Humble yourselves…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Peter is saying the way you humble yourself is by taking all of the anxieties (stress on the word “all”) you have and giving them to God because you know he cares for you. What a good news, people!
It’s only our God that says, “I want you to be humble, and the way you’ll do that is by taking every single struggle you have in your life and giving it to me.”
God is saying, “That burden you’re caring, yeah, that one that you were stressed about before church this morning—just trust me with it. You’re shoulders are not big enough to carry it. But mine are.”
God is saying, “I’ll take your sins, I’ll take your anxieties; just give them to me; and if you just do that, in the proper time, I’ll exalt you with me forever.”
And you see the phrase, “clothe.” Hummm. I wonder what image Peter had in mind. We can’t know, of course. But I wonder if Peter had in mind the scene in John 13. It’s hours before Jesus’s death and he’s in a room with his disciples and Jesus takes off his dinner jacket, clothes himself with a towel, which was servant’s job, and he begins to wash all of the disciples feet, including (and especially!), Peter’s feet.
At first, Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet.”
What did Jesus say.
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)
Church, don’t let your pride keep you from the grace of God. If you go down in gospel humility, in the proper time, God will exalt you.