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Practical Applications of the Shepherd & Slavery Motifs

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Believers have been liberated from the bondage/spiritual slavery of sin and now belong to Christ (slaves of) who is their Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:25). Using the pericopae of 1 Peter 5, the reader will find useful instructions for leaders within the body of Christ. Christian leaders are under-shepherds of God’s called people,  charged with “exercising oversight” of His flock (1 Pet. 5:2). The Greek word for ‘shepherd/tend’ here is “poimanate,” which describes the task of tending to, rule, govern, (serve as shepherd/pastor)[Gruden 2009, p.194]. Although Christian leaders are slaves of Christ, the call to shepherd God’s flock is to be done of free will (not under constraints), ungrudgingly, according to God’s will (5:2-3).  The church belongs To God (Acts 20:28), and under-shepherds in carrying out their oversight responsibilities guard the flock (from threats, false doctrine), administer edification, watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17), and be careful not to be overbearing, prejudicial, uncaring, nor “lords over God’s people” (5:3). The reader will note here the stark contrast between those who serve the Good Shepherd versus the power-hungry false shepherds of the world’s system who Jesus called hypocrites (Jn. 10; Mat. 20:25). Leaders are called to humility and a sacrificial spirit.

As members of a New Covenant ecological community, both leaders and followers, having been given new identities, with the full assurance of the empowering Holy Spirit, are called to devotion both to God and to each other. 

From the standpoint of the follower, it is therefore a privilege to be part of God’s kingdom (sheep in God’s flock) and a slave of Christ. The call is one of obedience (Jn. 10:27-28) to the One who provides the ultimate care (Ps. 23:1). Christ took on the form of a slave and both learned and modeled obedience to God. That calling extends to members of God’s flock. The Christian slave “is not greater than his Master” (Mat. 10:24), but participates in the high privilege of service to Him. And just as “the nature of slavery is determined by the nature of the master” (significance, value, worth, prestige, security)[Harris 1999, p. 135], so too, being a slave of Christ, giving servitude to Him, “describes a title of exquisite honor describing accredited representatives of the risen Christ” (Harris, p. 138).  This title extends to the entire body of Christ – leaders and lay persons.  

Practically speaking, slaves/servants of Christ should exhibit respect for each other during exchanges. As each member of the body is at different levels of growth, maturity, and understanding, it requires the practice of the Fruit of the Spirit when dealing with each other (leader to lay; vice versa). The exchange between Aquilla, Priscilla, and Apollos stands as a model of this type of respectful leadership. It is unfruitful to demean another because of differences of opinion (cf. Acts 18). Devoted fellow slaves of Christ build up each other within the spiritual ecosystem of the body of Christ. Remember that the leader shares in the privilege of leading, and must respect the layperson. At the same time, there’s a mutual exchange of respect due to leaders by the layperson. All (leaders and lay persons) are fellow slaves of Christ, serving the Good Shepherd, who is Himself submitted to God.

References

Grudem, W. A. (2009). 1 Peter. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu.

Harris, M. J. (1999). Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Written by Dr. Kevin A. Hall

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