- Psalm 133
- 1Peter 5:1-9
My dear friends in the Lords Jesus Christ,
Let’s for one moment think of our congregation as an army.
We are called to battle because we have an enemy seeking to devour and destroy. The Bible calls him our adversary, or the devil.
…your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)
The army into which we are called is spread right across the world. In one sense then this is a world war.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:9, NKJV)
In this army there are officers, the Bible call them elders. Their calling is to care for the army like a shepherd cares for the flock.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; (1 Peter 5:2, NKJV)
Over us all we have our Officer-in-Command, Jesus Christ. The Bible calls him the Chief Shepherd. In another place the Bible describes him as the general.
He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11–16, NKJV)
For this army to be effective, it needs to follow closely the commands of the officers, because the officers—or the elders—received their orders from the Commander-in-Chief. This then takes us to this verse:
…you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NKJV)
Submission and humility
I spent a few years in the army. There are a few golden rules for any army to survive in battle.
Number one: every soldier has to follow commands; and there is a line of command.
Discipline is drilled into every soldier with the purpose that every soldier will follow commands even sometimes without thinking. The sergeant calls out the commands which in the beginning seem silly. They tell you when to sit, when to stand, when and what to eat, and when to sleep. If your boots are not shiny enough to their liking you have to it all over again. Why? There is no place for the wise guy with his own ideas about what it good and what not.
Number two: No soldier has the luxury of questioning the authority of those above him. Disaster strikes if the men on the ground starts to question the authority of their officers. Soldiers then can follow their own heads, run in different directions, become divided—and as such become target of the enemy. Moreover, the commanding post would not know where to go looking for them when they get lost of are wounded.
One of the most clever tactics of the enemy is to divide and conquer. A divided army is an army in defeat. There should be no wise guys in an army. Officers follow commands they themselves receive from those over them, and they are equipped with leadership qualities which make them leaders. Wise guys have to bury their wisdom and follow commands. Their lives depend on it.
There are times when the officers might bark out commands over the radio which the infantry do not understand, purely because they don’t have a view on the whole offensive. Officers do. As reports come in from the battlefield they can work out where the attack should be and when soldiers should open fire, or even retreat.
Let’s apply this then on the church. One can take the equation too far, of course. Elders are not like army officers who bark out commands which everyone else must obey. But in a certain sense they, as under-shepherds, received from God not only the task to shepherd the follow, but also see that discipline within the church is exercised. No elder can demand unquestioned submission of any member of the congregation. The authority of the elders do not make them lords over God’s people. Elders themselves are and discharge of their duties under the Lordship of Christ. The manual for discipline is the Word of God, under which the elders bow themselves. But their is the injunction that elders must be respected, not for their person, but for Him who called them to represent Him. Therefor this two pronged verse:
… you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility… (1 Peter 5:5, NKJV)
Both younger people and elders must be submissive to the Headship of Christ. Actually, the “all” in this verse refers to all in the congregation. “All” must bow under the Headship of Christ, and “all”must be servants one of the other.
There are two things the devil exceeds well in, and he has been using this tactic since day one: He undermines the authority of God, “Is it true that God said…?” Adam and Eve fell for it. Once they fell in sin the unity between them was affected and they started to accuse one another.
A congregation where their is disunity will not stand against the onslaught of the prowling lion. A congregation where there is no humility, and a sense of serving one another as fellow-soldiers in the battle, is weak and there is no advancement of the Gospel. Infighting and selfish divergent views in strategy lead to a sick congregation which forgot about the real battle as the focus of energy is aimed at keeping people apart, with members of smaller sub-groups try to oust other groups.
Let us beware:
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NKJV)
It’s one thing to have the prowling lion as an formidable enemy, but it is a completely different thing to have Him, the mighty God before whom even the lion has no chance, as one’s enemy. No one has disregards God’s good discipline for his church will survive if he faces God who gave his Son to redeem a people for Himself.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6, NKJV)
There is another thing which can severely hamstring an army; it is something which effects them to the point that they become paralysed at the sight of the battle. What is it? Anxiety and fear.
I remember this young soldier who was almost useless as he was beset with fear. In a commanders meeting it was agreed that he would be send home. His fear not only put him in danger, but also his fellow soldiers. He was in control of a automatic machine gun, but his hands were shivering. Then, one Sunday night, the enemy attacked our base. 27 mortar bombs rained down on us. Plagued by fear that soldier had not left his post, which means he was the first one to open fire. And he did not stop. One belt of rounds after the other were emptied into the darkness of night—and all along he lost his fear. The next morning revealed that his braveness diverted the enemy as they thought there was a full army aimed at them. He was awarded for bravery.
Fear and anxiety might overcome a Christian in the battle against the prowling lion. Even more, the cares of the things of this world and the fear that one might lose it, draws one’s attention away from both the ballet and the Commander-in-Chief. Sober-mindedness go out the backdoor. So Peter writes:
cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7, NKJV)
We can get so busy with our cares, and with the things we see as valuable, that we take our eyes off God. The moment we lose sight of how great and powerful God is we are not alert to the enemy. Did not our Lord teach us,
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31–33, NKJV)
We need to heed the warning of Christ in the parable of the seed. One part of the seed initially sprouted, but then disaster struck:
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18–19, NKJV)
How much of the things we see as important are standing in they way of us being devoted soldiers of the Lord? When the time of choice come we act like the rich young man: uselessly and lost we walk away because our love is divided, and we just can’t pay the price of discipleship.
My dear friends, we are engaged in the battle between the evil forces of Satan who seeks to destroy the church, and the Kingdom of heaven. There is only one way to survive: we need to be church as God designed it to be:
- We need to bow under our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ
- The elders need to really understand their role as sherds under the Chief Shepherd and care for, and protect, the flock to the best of their ability.
- We need to look up and respect godly leaders as people put there by God to be our guides in this battle
- There is no room for divided loyalty and personal preferences; all should submit to the will of God.
- We need to get our priorities in order, so that we are not distracted. Focussing on the real thing will conquer our fear and help us to be self-controlled and alert.
May God help us.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 5 August 2018