The Eleventh in a Series of Sermons on 1 Peter
There is one thing American Christians do not like–to submit to authority of the church officers. In a recent survey, 90% of American Christians opined that the church has no authority to declare whether or not someone is a Christian. Yet, all the Evangelical theologians asked to comment on the poll results found themselves numbered among the 10% who rightly noted that Jesus himself gave to the church the keys of kingdom, as well as explaining the precise steps for the church to take when someone’s doctrine and conduct do not match that required of those who name the name of Jesus. There is also one thing about which American Christians are thoroughly confused–the power and tactics of the devil between the time Jesus defeated Satan while suffering upon the cross, and our Lord’s second advent at the end of the age. Ironically, Peter discusses both the role of elders in governing Christ’s church, as well as Satan’s opposition to Christ’s rule through his appointed church officers, in our text, verses 1-14, of 1 Peter chapter 5.
We return to our series on 1 Peter, and we will spend our time in this sermon and the next wrapping up in the 5th and final chapter of this remarkable epistle, bringing our study of this epistle to an end. Although the final chapter of 1 Peter contains only 14 verses, there is enough significant material here, I felt it best not to rush through this section and only touch briefly on the matters which Peter addresses. In wrapping up this epistle, the Apostle Peter gives us wise counsel about the purpose of suffering, as well as introducing us to a proper understanding of church government (the importance of elders in ruling Christ’s church). Yet, Peter does so in the context of the devil’s efforts to attack the people of God. So, this week, we will discuss the office of elder, and how a proper understanding of the church and its officers is the bulwark against the schemes and attacks of the devil. Next week, Lord willing, we will conclude our time in 1 Peter by addressing how we as Christians ought humble ourselves before God, while casting all of our cares upon him.
In light of the reality that the chapter on ecclesiology is the least read section in any good systematic theology (because people tend not to be interested in the doctrine of the church), I begin by pointing out that the doctrine of the church is a major theme throughout the New Testament. Jesus called disciples and then commissioned them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, in the process making disciples and establishing churches, which, in many ways, are modeled upon the synagogues of Israel. These new churches are to be ruled by elders who ensure the gospel is preached, the sacraments are administered according to the word of God, and that all things are done decently and in good order.
In order to understand the practical importance of a biblical ecclesiology, we only need look at the recent news regarding evangelical mega-star Mark Driscoll and the total collapse of his church brand, Mars Hill. This is yet another sad case where the name of Christ is besmirched by Christians claiming to love Jesus, all the while inventing a church structure centered around a charismatic leader, and which exists essentially to promote that leader’s personal vision to those who share it–and this with little if any consideration of what the New Testament actually teaches about how a church is to organize and conduct its ministry. Of course, it does not take long for people reading their Bibles to figure out how the church envisioned by its celebrity leader differs radically from the nature of the church of the New Testament, which does not allow for celebrity pastors to promote their own personal interests and gain fame and fortune for themselves. Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll were frequently identified with the Young, Restless, and Reformed, those millennials who discovered the glories of Reformed theology. Yet, in Driscoll’s case, Mars Hill managed to ignore the fact that any movement which is truly Reformed will also strive for a church governed by elders, not ruled by a celebrity tyrant who fires anyone who dares stand up to him, or who disagrees with his personal agenda.
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