Sabbath School Lesson for May 6-12, 2017
Peter ends his first letter with a message and an appeal for church leaders, those called to oversee God’s flock. These faithful ones surely are the ones who have historically born the brunt of persecution and trials. Peter wants them to feel they are especially cared for by God, and that their heavenly reward is guaranteed.
But he also tries to guide them into paths that will most glorify God, and be the most beneficial for God’s children. He reminds them that only enthusiastic service that is given willingly will be accepted by God. They are also to lead, not by force, but by humble example.
We come to realize that the standards Peter set forth for the leaders of the church actually apply to all church members. We are all standard-bearers when it comes to living godly lives before the world. And our service to God is no less valued by Him than the highest church official.
In order to lead, however, all of us must become willing to follow. Only humble submission to God and each other will qualify us to represent our Lord and Savior. Peter desired them to understand true leadership, the kind that only a committed Christian servant can give.
Scripture Gem: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV
Having been a caregiver for a good share of my life, this verse has always been a comfort to me. There are times in all our lives when we feel no one is there to share OUR trials and suffering. Peter must have felt the need to cast his care upon Jesus many times, before and after His Master left this earth.
Surely, church leaders feel this same isolation, as they are so busy making sure that all their flock is cared for. There are, no doubt, many times when they feel there’s no one to care for them. But, as Peter reminds our pastor friends, God is there to minister to all of us and put us back on our feet again. There’s no need to carry any load. His shoulders are broad enough for them all.
Sunday: Elders in the Early Church
Many regret that church organization is even necessary. To be sure, there are drawbacks, as well as advantages in this. But seeing how God provides nature with so many structured features and how it manages with such precise, orderly procedures, we can assume that He would also have His church operate efficiently, with a structured organization in place, as well.
The apostles found this to be true early on in their attempts to evangelize the world, as Jesus commissioned them to do. There were concerns about faithful Gentiles receiving less from the communal distribution of goods than the Jewish believers. So, deacons were chosen to make operations run more smoothly and to ensure fairness to all members of God’s church in the various areas where Christianity was being planted.
This need for a more organized effort was in part due to the rapid growth of God’s church in those years following the resurrection. We should be thankful that the Holy Spirit was called on to guide their movements in becoming organized. And remember that the Holy Spirit can be relied on whenever organizational decisions are discussed, even today.
Discussion Questions: Read Acts 6:1-7 and 14:23. Notice that Stephen, one of the deacons chosen, has a sermon recorded in Acts 7. Why was Stephen’s witness as important as Peter’s, even if he hadn’t become the first Christian martyr?
Read 1 Peter 5:2. What kind of service are God’s people to give, especially those given leadership positions? How do volunteers in non-profits keep their passion alive for those they serve? Shouldn’t this same passion be shown in our religious life, and why is it often missing?
Read Acts 15:6. Why was it important for this Jerusalem Council to include both apostles and the elders, and what does this tell us about God’s representative method of church organization?
Monday: The Elders
The gospel of John shares how Jesus tenderly asked Peter three times to show his love by “feeding My sheep”. See John 21:15-17. It’s not surprising then that Peter would try to uphold and direct other shepherds of the flock in his first epistle.
Calling Jesus the Chief Shepherd, and himself one of them, a fellow elder, Peter humbly provides direction and encouragement to those in similar positions of being overseers of the flock.
Simply stated in 1 Peter 5:1-4, they are to serve…
- willingly, not by compulsion (v. 2)
- eagerly, with great enthusiasm (v. 2)
- humbly, by example, not as lords above those they serve (v. 3)
He follows this with the promise that they will be rewarded when the Chief Shepherd comes. In other words, at Jesus’ Second Coming they will receive a crown of glory (v. 4).
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 5:1-4. How does Peter exalt Christ in this passage?
How effective do you think Peter was in touching the hearts of his fellow church leaders, and why?
Read Jeremiah 10:21, Ezekiel 34:8-10, and Zechariah 11:17. What dangers are there for the flock that isn’t well tended by a pastor?
Tuesday: Servant Leadership
Although servant leadership is an age-old concept, demonstrated and verbalized by Jesus, we also find it emerging in our modern world as a buzz-word in many business organizations. It stands for a philosophy and practice that enhances individual lives, in addition to building better organizations and a more just and caring world.
Peter no doubt reflected this style of leadership, as he learned it from Jesus. Servant leadership calls for a humility that was lacking in Peter’s class-driven world, and has also been lacking in our modern, cut-throat economic world of today.
Jesus’ most famously-quoted description of servant leadership, found in Matthew 20:24-28, followed the episode when James and John’s mother came to Jesus, asking that her sons be allowed to sit on thrones on each side of Him. After replying tenderly that she didn’t understand what she was asking, he later went on to explain, privately it seems, to His disciples what true leadership involves.
1 Peter 5:3 zeros in on this concept of servant leadership. It says…
“not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” NKJV
Jesus expressed these same sentiments when He said in Matthew 20:25-28 that they should not lord their authority over the people, but instead use Christ as their example of service and giving.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 5:3. How could they be a “lord” (or “master”) and not act like one? What kind of leadership would result and whose example were they to follow?
Read Matthew 20:24-28 and Romans 12:1. How do we give our lives, as Jesus did? What kind of sacrifice does God expect from His followers?
Read 1 Peter 5:2 and Hebrews 13:17. Peter calls church leaders, overseers of the flock. How then does Paul say we should we respond to these overseers?
Wednesday: Clothed With Humility
- One finds it relatively easy to be humble before a God as magnificent as our omnipotent Creator.
- We can also find it comfortable enough to be humble in the presence of our peers and co-workers, those with a similar standing and purpose in life.
- But the real test comes when we demonstrate humility before those who hold lower positions in life, who some may determine to be “under” us.
We are not to simply show them some preference, a shallow offering of our concern for their well-being. True humility is service way beyond what most of us seem willing to provide.
Peter told both young and old that they needed to be clothed with humility and submission towards each other (1 Peter 5:5). That means a humility that leaves no place for pride or resentment toward those below or above us in society. The same humility that was manifested by Jesus is available to cover all our prejudices and misguided attitudes.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 5:5-7 and 1 Peter 2:17. Peter expanded on the subject of submission in chapters 2 and 3 of this epistle.What is the purpose of our humility? What will be the end result?
Read 1 Peter 3:10-12 and Proverbs 3:34. How does this counsel relate to being humble? What is needed from us in order to be humble, and where does it come from?
Read Ephesians 5:21 and Philippians 2:3-4. What further things can we learn from Paul about humility–not just whom to show it to, but how?
Thursday: Like a Roaring Lion
Still speaking to the “overseers of the flock”, Peter follows his invitation to cast all their cares on God with a warning to watch out for the devil. This powerful being, compared to a roaring lion, targets church leaders as a means of bringing down a whole church. For this reason, leaders must stay alert and faithfully resist his attacks, in whatever form they may appear.
But Peter doesn’t dwell on this dreadful struggle with Satan for long. He quickly diverts their attention back to the Lord, where they will find the grace and strength to perform their duties for the church, no matter what temporary hardships are involved.
Jesus has already defeated the devil. For this, we can be thankful and encouraged. The “God of all grace”, as Peter called Him, would supply them (and us) with the fortitude needed to resist the devil’s attacks, including the frightening persecution some leaders were then facing.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 5:8-11. Notice how quickly Peter changes the subject over to God. Do we sometimes give the devil too much attention, causing fear in the hearts of people, rather than the faithful resistance needed in our spiritual battles?
Read Hebrews 11:13-16. What kind of heavenly hope has uplifted many of those struggling with persecution? Remembering that this is the “faith chapter”, how is faith necessary in having this hope?
Read 1 Peter 5:10. Does God call us to experience suffering and trials? If so, what might be their purpose?
Both the early church and the church today need good leaders to nurture, protect, and guide God’s people. They, like all of us who serve God, must do this willingly, eagerly, and with great humility. We even find this model in the Old Testament, when certain elders served as judges and counselors of the people.
We seem to find the leadership of God’s church now performed by pastors (called shepherds), elders (those who also provide spiritual food to the flock), and deacons (or, overseers of the flock, those performing more practical duties of the church’s operation). All the various leaders are called to make the church run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Above all, humility and submission are to be shown by all, both leaders and members. This humility is the most important ingredient in a loving Christian. When pride replaces humility, our efforts produce nothing but panic and division, and Satan more easily finds entrance that enables him to achieve his goal, which is to scatter the flock.
Embracing the Message
Since many in the business world have embraced this message of servant leadership, perhaps we, in the church, should examine again the basic features of this age-old concept. Perhaps we have not been following Jesus’ model as closely as we should.
There are several models of servant leadership being promoted in organizations today. Most of them encourage building trust, valuing diverse opinions, helping and encouraging others, trying to develop other leaders (we call this discipleship), and using persuasion (rather than coercion) to get things done.
Many times our efforts have not been aligned with these simple components of servant leadership that the world now sees as valuable. We must attempt to understand these words of our Master, and follow more closely His wise counsel.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ “ Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV
- No longer should we treat the beliefs of others as unimportant or unworthy.
- No longer should we allow our differences to keep us from having a close, trusting relationship with someone.
- No longer should we refuse assistance because someone seems “beyond our help.”
- No longer should we use fear, rather than hope, to share our faith.
- No longer should we let our pride cause us to neglect an opportunity to win another disciple for Christ, for fear of rejection or failure.
Yes, let’s pray for all church members, including self, to be better servant leaders than we may have been in the past.
Next Week: Jesus in the Writings of Peter, Lesson 8
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/