Shepherding The Flock

Harold S. Paisley

The words of Peter are important today. "Tend (1 Peter 5:2; RV) the flock of God (shepherd)." Doubtless his mind was considering the words of the Chief Shepherd to him by the sea of Tiberius, "Tend my sheep and feed my lambs" (John 21:15-17). This great work is also a good work which if done well, will one day be rewarded with a crown of glory.

Every shepherd must realize he is only an under-shepherd and that he must give account to the Chief Shepherd to whom the sheep belong. The sheep are His alone!

The character of the work is understood by the names used; "overseer, elder, shepherd." Overseers must lead the flock according to the Word of the Lord. They must be elders, that is, mature brethren in the things of God. They must be shepherds having a care and tender love for the sheep. These three titles describe fully the men and their work. Many important qualifications are outlined as vital in the one who is capable of guiding and feeding the flock of God. A few of these need restating in the present time.

In 1 Timothy 3:2 we read that the overseer must be temperate, sober minded and of good behavior. He must not be quick-tempered "for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). One who cannot control his own spirit is unfit to be a shepherd of others. Another important factor which requires restating is plain. He must rule well his own house, for unless he can do this how can he take care of the church of God. His life and testimony in the world must be without reproach. Thus the Spirit of God gives us to see that in his private life, in his home life, in his public life and in his assembly life, the overseer must be blameless. The reason is plain. As the steward of the Lord, he must be trustworthy, honorable, honest and caring. Failing government in the world produces failing subjects as do failing standards of government in God’s assembly.

Titus is exhorted by Paul to seek men who are equipped with a knowledge of the Word, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convict those who teach wrong things. An overseer must hold and expound the faithful Word of God (Titus 1:9).

Peter exhorted the elders to tend the flock of God. He exhorted them as one who was a fellow-elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ. He knew something of the great cost to the Chief Shepherd to purchase the sheep by the shedding of His precious blood. The love of the shepherd must be in the heart of each under-shepherd. They must not be lords over the flock, but ensamples to follow in the steps of the Great Shepherd. True grace and humility must characterize all who are true elders. Peter also exhorted the younger (that is, less experienced shepherds) to yield in matters of judgment to the elder (the more experienced).

A further aspect of shepherd ministry is outlined in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22. They must admonish the disorderly, encourage the feebleminded, support the weak and be long suffering to all men. Shepherds are marked by love to Christ and His people, free from the fear of man, ever standing for what is true. They will encourage younger brethren whose ability is evident in the gospel and others who are manifesting a careful interest in the flock.

The true shepherd will ponder always upon the ways and words of the Chief Shepherd and seek to follow His steps in love and patience. They must draw the needed wisdom in dealing with problems from God’s precious word. The throne of grace is the source of power to carry out the mind of God, in guiding, feeding and preserving the flock. Those who rely upon the arm of flesh will inevitably become barren and thus fail in the work whereunto they were set apart, and lose the reward when the Chief Shepherd returns.

For faithful leaders and elders the saints should pray daily knowing the great grace required of them to make righteous judgments, and to care for the sheep and lambs in God’s assembly in the place where the Holy Spirit hath made them overseers.