The Shepherd’s Heart
March 6th, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
THE SHEPHERD’S HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 5:1-14
3-06-83 7:30 P.M.
It is a joy unspeakable for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church delivering the message, an exposition of the last chapter of 1 Peter. The next three Sundays will close the series on the epistles of Peter, and the following three messages delivered at seven o’clock each Sunday night will concern the epistle of 2 Peter, which climaxes in a glorious portrayal of the return, the second coming of our Lord [2 Peter 3:1-18].
The message tonight: an exposition of the last chapter of 1 Peter, and we will read out loud together the first eleven verses, 1 Peter chapter 5, the last chapter, reading aloud the first eleven verses. Have all you children got a Book back there? Good. All right, all of God’s children have got a Book, so we are all going to read. First eleven verses of the fifth chapter of 1 Peter, and the message is an exposition of those eleven verses. Now out loud together:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour;
Whom resist [steadfast] in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
[1 Peter 5:1-11]
Meet your adversary the devil. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” [1 Peter 5:8]. As God is real and good, so Satan is real and evil; as God is the Father of truth, so Satan is the father of lies. As Jesus came down from heaven to save us [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 10:5-14], Satan has come down, having great wrath, to devour us [1 Peter 5:8]. As are angels ministering to us from the courts of glory [Hebrews 1:13-14], so there are demons out of hell to assail us with sin and folly [Ephesians 6:12]. We face the sinister presence of Satan everywhere. He was at the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-6, 14-15]. He watched the Lord Jesus when He was baptized. He stands at the door of your house. He’s in your bedroom. He’s in your life. He’s in your business. We never escape him. However our circumstance or providence of life, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, our life is one constant confrontation with evil and with Satan.
He attacks us when we are weak: a Noah who is given to drunkenness [Genesis 9:20-21]; or a Samson who is enticed by strange women [Judges 16]; or a Saul who is consumed with jealously [1 Samuel 18:8-9]; or a Judas who sells our Lord for silver [Matthew 26:14-16]; or a Demas who loves this present world [2 Timothy 4:10]. He attacks us where we are weak.
He no less attacks us where we are strong: one of the most unusual things in the Bible is the story of the fall of Eve. Eve is beautiful. She is feminine. She is a woman, and she is sensitive to things that are cultural and artistic. When she sees the fruit, it is pleasant to look upon. It is good to taste. It is pleasing to the eye [Genesis 3:1-6]. All of the arts, and all of the cultures, and all of literature is referred to in the feminine gender. In the Book of Proverbs there are many verses extolling wisdom, always in feminine gender; wisdom, “she” [Proverbs 1:20]. And it was there in the strength of Eve that Satan got her, like you snap a trap. He entrapped her when she saw that the food of the forbidden fruit was pleasant to the eye, beautiful to look upon, and good to taste [Genesis 3:6].
Abraham was the father of the faithful [Romans 4:16]. He is a man of great commitment, but there Satan trapped him. In Egypt he says—before Abimelech, later [Genesis 20:2]—he says, “This is my sister, Sarah” [Genesis 12:11-19]. His own wife! Solomon was the wisest of all men, and instead of going to war, he won an empire through diplomacy. He took the wives of the Pharaohs of Egypt, of the kings of the surrounding Canaanite nations, and he founded empire in diplomacy. But his strength was his downfall; his many wives brought false gods into Jerusalem, and the kingdom crumbled [1 Kings 11:1-13]. Whether we are weak, whether we are strong, it makes no difference to Satan. He attacks us where we are weak, he attacks us whether we are strong; he pursues us whether we are lost or whether we are saved. Meet your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [1 Peter 5:8].
Do you notice the apostle writes of the pastors God has raised up to take care of the flock? He uses three words here, all three of which describe the office of a pastor. He speaks of him as an elder, a presbuteros, referring to the dignity of his office [1 Peter 5:1]; he speaks of him as one who has oversight of the flock, he’s an episkopos, translated in some places, a bishop [1 Peter 5:2]; and he is referred to in the second verse also as a pastor who “shepherds the flock of God.”
That is so typical of a Jewish reaction to the assignments of life. All of the Jewish people had a infinite reverence for the place of a shepherd. All of the patriarchs were shepherds: Moses was a shepherd, David was a shepherd, Amos was a shepherd. And the apostle, who refers to himself as an elder, a bishop, a shepherd, speaking to other shepherds, lays upon us the responsibility of the care of the flock.
Reminds me of the twenty-first chapter of John, which has been taken by Dr. Melzoni as a theme for these days: “And Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, lovest thou Me?” “Lord, You know that I love You. Then the Lord’s assignment for the shepherd: Feed My sheep” [John 21:16, 17].
Or as Paul spoke to the elders, the pastors of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28: “Shepherd the flock, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” It is the assignment of the pastor in the face of so awesome a confrontation with Satan that he shepherd the flock of our Lord, that he take care of them.
Now he speaks of that shepherd, not as a lord over God’s heritage [1 Peter 5:3], but as being humble. He uses a word here that is one of the funniest words, in looking at it in the Greek, that I could ever think for: It’s egkomboomai, egkomboomai, which literally means to clothe yourself in the garment of a slave. Not as being lords over God’s heritage, but be clothed—the form, the clothing of a slave—be clothed with humility [1 Peter 5:5].
I can easily see Simon Peter as he writes that, harkening back to the day when the Lord instituted the sacred Memorial Supper. He took off His garments, and clothed Himself with a towel, and began to wash the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. There was no servant there; there was no slave there to perform the office of washing feet, so the Lord did it. And Simon Peter speaks of us being clothed with humility, and then he applies that to all of us—the young, the old, all the members of the flock of God—“to be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” [1 Peter 5:5].
Pride is natural to the human spirit. It’s like weeds, the more you water a garden, the more they spring up. And when they’re cut down, they arise again. When they’re buried, they come to life again. Pride is a God-defying sin. We are told in the Holy Scriptures that Satan fell because he would be God [Isaiah 14:13-14]. He would run his own life; he’d be Lord of all creation. Pride is an awesome, God-defying sin.
“But He giveth grace to the humble” [1 Peter 5:5], we come before God in our salvation in deepest humility [1 Peter 5:6], “Lord, I can’t save myself. I admit it. I come to Thee. Lord, I am not holy and pure and righteous. I’m a lost sinner.” That’s the way a man is saved: first, in his confession of need, then bowing before God, opens his heart to the grace and mercy of our wonderful Lord, “He giveth grace to the humble” [1 Peter 5:5]. I could not think of a more beautiful description of a wonderful Christian than a king—a king—being a doorkeeper in the house of our Lord; or a prince, feeding the lambs; or a fine, strong man teaching a child how to be saved, speaking tenderly and lovingly to a little child; that’s the spirit of our Lord. It is the spirit of His people, and when we follow in that precious way, God has a beautiful crown for us [1 Peter 5:4].
Then follows after what I think is one of the most beautiful two verses in the Bible. “Humble yourselves therefore under the hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:6-7]. I have several favorite verses in the Bible; this is one of them; 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves … casting all your care upon Him.” And the reason for its deep, poignant meaning to me lies out of something that happened when I was a teenager, when I began to preach.
Fifty-four years ago when I started being a pastor, we had at that time in the country tremendous revival meetings in the summertime. I was called as pastor of the White Mound Baptist Church in Coryell County, a beautiful white church with white columns in front of it, by the side a large open tabernacle, then beyond, in the yard surrounded by a white fence, a parsonage for the pastor. They had always had a pastor who lived there, but I was a teenager and called as the undershepherd of the congregation, so the parsonage was empty.
Well, when summertime came, the revival was announced, and I was to lead it. I was about eighteen years old. When the first Sunday night came for that revival under the big tabernacle, the people came from the ends of the earth. They came by foot, they came by horseback, they came by wagon, and some of them—of course, the affluent—came in Model T Fords, and they poured into that churchyard. They were there; it looked to me, by the thousands. Now they had had tremendous revivals under that tabernacle, conducted by marvelously gifted evangelists and preachers, and I was to lead the revival beginning that night.
My singer, who was later a preacher and a pastor, was named Fred Swank. He was a little older than I and a little more experienced than I, a year or two at least, which was a long time to me then. And as I looked at that throng pouring into that churchyard and under that tabernacle from everywhere under the sun it seemed to me, my heart fainted within me, my throat was dry, my tongue was thick, my heart was pounding in my chest, and I said to Fred Swank, “I don’t think I can even speak. I don’t think I can talk, much less preach and conduct this revival. I don’t know what I shall do. I am frightened to death.”
He put his arm around me, and he said, “You come with me,” and he took me to the back door of that empty parsonage. It had two or three little steps coming up to the kitchen door. He sat down by my side on those kitchen steps and he opened his Bible—he had a little New Testament—he opened it to 1 Peter, chapter 5, and read to me verses 6 and 7. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Then he said, “Now you kneel down here by my side,” and I knelt down by the side of Fred Swank, and he put his arms around me and prayed for me, having read that beautiful passage. When he was through, all of my fear passed away. A great calm and a great confidence came upon me. And though I was a teenager, we had a tremendous, God-blessed, Pentecostal, soul-saving revival meeting. I could never forget that beautiful promise. You don’t need to be afraid, you don’t need to hesitate, and you don’t need to tremble. If what you’re doing is God’s assignment for you, ask God to help you, and He will do it! He will do it marvelously. You can trust the Lord, you can!
I was just last week thinking about that story of Simon Peter. The Lord was pressed on every side, and He needed a pulpit in which to preach, and He asked of Simon Peter if He could borrow his boat. Now Simon Peter is in the fishing business, and when Jesus has his boat, he’s not fishing, he’s losing fish. But Simon Peter loaned his boat to Jesus, which interfered with his business [Luke 5:1-3]. And when Jesus was done with His pulpit preaching, He turned to Simon Peter, and He said to him, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets” [Luke 5:4], and Simon Peter caught more fish in ten minutes than he’d caught in ten months, when Jesus is by his side and when he trusted the Lord with his business [Luke 5:5-7]. You don’t ever fail when you are taking the Lord as a partner. He is the finest somebody to work with, to talk to, to counsel with in God’s world. “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:7].
Now the last of this section: after Simon Peter has exhorted, then he turns to prayer. After he has preached, he bends the knee:
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish you, strengthen you, settle you.
To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
[1 Peter 5:10-11]
It’s a wonderful thing to declare the whole counsel of God, to preach; it’s a more wonderful thing to pray. It’s a magnificent thing for a man to talk to the people about God; it’s a still more wonderful thing to talk to God about the people.
The high priest bore upon his breast the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel [Exodus 28:15, 21]. And that is the beautiful opportunity, and invitation, and assignment of the pastor, to come before God and to bear before the throne of grace his people. Thus Simon Peter, after he has exhorted, he kneels and he prays, and it’s a wonderful thing what he prays; he addresses God as the God of all grace, not little grace, the God of all grace, supporting grace, forgiving grace, sustaining grace, keeping grace. His throne is called the grace of God: “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory” [1 Peter 5:10].
Now I thought glory belonged to God, not to us. As I studied this week in preparing this message, I learned different. In Psalm 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” In Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” And in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Glory not only belongs to God, glory is promised to us, an eternal glory by Christ Jesus. Well, what kind of glory is it? He describes it in four beautiful words, four jewels: “… after that ye have suffered a little while, perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle…” [1 Peter 5:10]. These four things God is going to do for us in glory.
The first one: katartizō, to restore, to repair, so to perfect, to complete [1 Peter 5:10]. You look at that for just a moment, God purposes for us a restoration, a completion. We are so incomplete now. Our prayers are not perfect. Our worship of God is not without shortcoming, and failure, and human error. Everything we do comes short of the holiness and the perfection of God.
Finally, we fall into age, and into death, and into corruption. There is coming a time, says the apostle, when God shall perfect us [1 Peter 5:10]. Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 15—about this mortal body—it is buried in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is buried in weakness; it is raised in power. It is buried in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is buried a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body [1 Corinthians 15:42-44]. It is the purpose of God to perfect us [1 Peter 5:10].
When I see people—and as you, I do all the time—some of them don’t have their minds. They are hurt in their minds, and my heart goes out to them. One of the sweetest, most precious ministries of this church is found in those remembrances that we have of our Special Education group. Before they come forward, I talk to them personally in the church office. And they are hurt in their minds, and my heart goes out to them. I always have them pray, to kneel by my side, and to pray a prayer after me. Some of them can hardly pronounce the words to follow what I say, when I ask “Now, you pray as I pray.”
Then I see some of them who are crippled, and some of them who are blind, and all of us, by and by, in age and finally, death. God has said there is a day coming when we shall be perfected in glory; won’t be any blind eyes, won’t be any hurt minds, won’t be any crutches, won’t be any age, won’t be any death! It is a glory to which God hath called us, he says, one of perfection [Revelation 21:4-5].
The second gem there: stērizō, translated here “establish you,” to set firmly, to establish [1 Peter 5:10]. He just spoke of a laurel that is unfading; what God has promised to us is an eternal glory, an unfading laurel [1 Peter 5:4]. The things that we see in this life, all of them are passing, ephemeral [1 John 2:17]. Even the great arch of the heaven, the rainbow, is nothing but ephemerized sunbeams. It’s falling raindrops, it’s for a moment then it passes away. But he says here that the glory we shall have in heaven is one that is established forever [1 Peter 5:10]. It never passes away!
All of the emoluments and all of the attainments and achievements of this life are so ephemeral. They’re so temporary. They’re so transitory. An athlete is an athlete just for a moment. A great movie star is a movie star just for a moment. I would say that ninety-nine percent of the people believe that Marilyn Monroe committed suicide because she couldn’t bear to see her beauty fading away. A great politician is up there in the White House just for a moment. Every emolument and reward we find in life is a passing, passing crown.
I read here a poem by James Russell Lowell, who came into great fame and fortune as an American poet. Listen to him, listen to him:
When I was a beggarly boy
And lived in a cellar damp,
I had not a friend nor a toy,
But I had Aladdin’s lamp;
When I could not sleep for the cold,
I had fire enough in my brain,
And builded, with roofs of gold,
My beautiful castles in Spain!
Since then I have toiled day and night,
I have money and power good store,
But I’d give all my lamps of silver bright
For the one that is mine no more;
Take, Fortune, whatever you choose,
You gave, and may snatch again;
I have nothing ‘twould pain me to lose,
For I own no castles in Spain!
[“Aladdin,” by James Russell Lowell]
Wonderful thing to succeed! Marvelous thing to rise to fame, or success, or affluence, but it’s for a minute; it’s for a day. It’s like a shadow, and it passes away. It is ephemeral and transitory like the mist. But the glory that God gives us is eternal and unfading [1 Peter 5:4].
And thus he speaks of the third one, strength: sthenoō, to make strong [1 Peter 5:10]. And the fourth one, themelioō: themelion means the foundation, and themelioō refers to lay a foundation [1 Peter 5:10]. God has assured us—put a foundation upon which we can build our hopes and our lives—that He has this glorious and better thing prepared for us [1 Corinthians 2:9]. The old timers used to sing, and we sing it still today sometimes.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus hath fled?
[“How Firm a Foundation,” attributed to John Keen, Kirkham, and John Keith]
An unfading laurel, an everlasting crown [1 Peter 5:4], a promise that God will never break [1 Peter 5:10], thus God has encouraged us in the faith, in the commitment our lives, and in the work of our dear Lord [1 Peter 5:1-9].
And that’s our invitation to your heart tonight; a family, “This is God’s time for us, and I’m on the way. This is my wife, these are my children, all of us are coming tonight.”
A couple you, “Pastor, this is my wife, or this is my friend. The Lord has spoken to us, and we’re on the way.” A single, a single married, a single parent, a single you, “I’m going to put my life in the hands of the great, glorious God who can guide me in every decision that I face.” Just anybody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, that first step will be the most precious you’ll ever make. Now let’s stand for prayer:
Our Lord in heaven, this is Thy time. This is the moment of prayer and intercession and for the Holy Spirit of God. O Lord, when we begin this song of appeal-invitation, gladden our hearts with these who are coming. Thank Thee for them before they take that first step, and on the way down may the angels attend them in the way. Some of them opening hearts of faith, accepting Thee as Savior; some of them following our Lord in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17]; some of them coming into the fellowship of this precious and wonderful church: God bless them as they come. And in the balcony round, down a stairway, and in the throng of this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have decided for God and here I stand.” Bless them Lord. Reward our witnessing efforts, give us a gracious harvest, and we thank Thee for it as we see it before our very eyes even now, in Thy saving name. Amen.
While we sing our invitation appeal, a thousand times welcome, come, come.