Like wise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for god opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1Peter 5:5
Just like the elders are expected to submit to the “Chief Shepherd” so is the church expected to submit to its eldership. We have already considered the work and responsibilities of the pastors from verse 1-4 and the basic responsibility is to shepherd the church of Jesus by exercising oversight willingly, eagerly providing examples to the flock.
But why would we think that this is an instruction for the younger men to be subject to church elders and not take it generally as referring to young men expected to submit to all elderly people? We appreciate that the word rendered ‘elder’ here may either refer to pastors as well as to the elderly. In such cases, the meaning of the word is to be determined by the wider context. Always the rule of the thumb in interpreting the Bible is ‘KEEP READING’. In other words the context many times determines the meaning of words.
The use of the word ‘likewise’ in verse 5 shows that he is still within the same general subject of elders and those they are watching over, just as he did in 3:7. It means not ‘act in the same way’, but ‘continuing in the same subject’ do with relations in the church to do with elders (v.1) and others members in the church.
The word used for being subject, shows submission to those in authority not just respect. Even young people are not to be subjects to the elderly but are to respect and honor them. The law required respect to those in authority (Lev. 19:32)… the younger men used here would be compared to the ‘children’ to whom John wrote in 3John 4.
It would be unnatural to introduce different class of men of elders different from those of verse 1. Even if the same class, it seems strange that young men alone should be called to do what ought to be done by all. If Peter was referring to the old men, it is strange he had to use the same official title.
The elders who serve well by laboring in the ministry of the word and prayer are worthy of double honor, which includes high respect as well as providing good remuneration for them
Being subject to the elders simply indicates that there should be a general willingness to support the elders and obey their instructions, except where they direct one to sin.
Why younger people to be subject to the elders? Because they are most independent minded and even at times rebellious against church elders. On Friday I met with a young man just getting into the ministry and he said that many young churches in the churches that he has been in fellowship are dissatisfied with their churches and some are even leaving to go to other churches.
The point here is that if those who are likely to be most independent minded are all the more are commanded by the Lord of the church to be ‘subject to the elders’ then it follows that surely every one else must be subject to the elders as well.
1. Why is it that church members are expected to submit to their elders?
You are to show your holiness by submitting to the elders not because they are special people in the sense that you aren’t, or more knowledgeable than they you aren’t or for any other reason that might not seem to be true of you, but because of their position and work as elders. God has called them to serve in the holy things and this is what is the meaning of passages like:
Hebrews 13:7, 17
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate them.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
1Thessalonians 5:12, 13
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
Firstly, they are agents of God to do you good
God considers elders as your leaders. He has placed them in your life to doo you eternal good of watching over your souls. No matter what might be your feelings about your pastors, never forget this good intention of God to give you men to watch over you.
Secondly, they will give an account to God for you.
This calls for much openness with the elders and you are to do everything possible to make them know what you are going through for prayer, counsel and fellowship. The primary duty of elders as pointed out in verses 1-4 is nothing other than to watch over you!
Thirdly, they are your examples
Because God has given you men that are his agents and committed to shepherd you then you are expected to imitate them. Draw an example from them, follow them as they follow Christ, be like them in their attitude of service to the Lord. If you will willingly be like your elders, in speech, conduct faith, love etc. then you are being profited and growing to maturity.
2. What are the duties or responsibilities of the church members to their pastors?
Both this passage and the three above show that obedience and submission are the primary responsibilities of the members to their pastors.
The Bible is very categorical that you are to obey your leaders and submit to them. Obedience starts with a careful attention to the instructions and commands leading to following them through and through. The commands that are to be given by the agents of God to the church are from the Lord, the Chief-Shepherd who owns the flock. Remember that the elders are under-shepherds who serve the Lord by serving His sheep that He brings to the church. By obeying them you obey the Lord who placed them over you. After all, you also participated in their appointment.
Each one should be fully convinced of the divine authority of the elders and not just take for granted the things that are told him by the elders. It is for your welfare that a pastor comes to you to tell that it is not in order for you to do this or the other. It should never be taken for granted that you might as well be hearing the Lord speaking to you through them. The eyes of the elders are on you for the good of your soul as appointed by the Lord and so you will do well to listen.
The elders are over you that is, they ‘rule over’ ‘direct’ or ‘provide oversight’ to the church so that, the church keeps heavenly anticipating the appearing of their Lord to take His church as His bride without spot or blemish or wrinkle or any such thing.
Submission is especially to be evidenced in them as teachers of the Word of God. This means that regular and consistent attendance to the teaching in your church by your elders is of the uttermost importance. You should never simply miss the blessing of having the word of God preached to you because of any simple excuse that comes up.
Moreover, punctuality in being there from the beginning helps the teacher a lot. Is it honoring to have all people come late for the Bible Study or service? Does not discourage the teacher to keep on repeating what he had already said?
Attention is of the uttermost importance when the Word is being preached to you. Why was Lydia converted? It is because the Lord opened her heart to pay close attention to the things that were being spoken by Paul (Acts 16:34).
Punctuality and regularity and attention among those who fill the pew as well as the pulpit is vital in all the churches of Christ. Or would you want me to come here late for preaching. You all would be horrified that any pastor would be late. But not so far from here there is a church, where the pastor comes only in time to preach!
You are also to afford the elders the time to bring to you not only public ministry, but also private ministry either in your house or in a personal conversation. Why is that you do not invite us to your home to share and fellowship, even answer a few of the questions that you might have?
Warnings, exhortations, rebuke and admonishing done privately by the elders are to be taken very well. Regard it as a privilege of a careful and well-considered attention that the pastor is giving you. What else is more customized service to you than a man who is committed to see you arrive at the bosom of Christ?
We are told to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. This high respect to the pastors is based on the fact that they are in the service of the Master who saved you from sin, they are committed to the welfare of your soul. Therefore show honor to those who are over you in the Lord. This you will do by positively;
1) praying for them
2) supporting them financially
3) visiting them
4) encouraging them in words
Negatively it means that you would not entertain a criticism of your pastor by anyone. The Bible is very clear that, you are not to admit a charge against a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses (1Tim. 5:19). Many these days are very eager to slander their pastors or to lend a listening ear to those who gossip their pastors – this is not showing honor.
This is not to say that elders are perfect, but to show that they have a responsibility given them by God and we will do well to support them to serve us. It will be of no advantage to have a groaning elder. It will not do us any good to overburden them with unnecessary stress and pressure, when they are serving you. As opposed to the company for which you work, the church leadership is committed for the good of your soul – with or without your approval. The company on other hand wants to use you to make profit, mostly at your expense.
3. How do you know that you are at the danger of flouting this command from the Lord because this is what He would like you to be?
We are to always ask ourselves if we are on the right track when it comes to becoming what the Lord would like us to be. We should never give an excuse for failing to do what the Lord has commanded us to do – because we know that it is for His glory and for our good that He has told us to do it.
Our concern therefore, is to beware of the possibilities of wandering away from the Lord who loves us so much. We are to know that we ever are on the brink of danger of thinking that some things do not matter, or others to say that we are not to obey the commands of God because we live under grace!
If you realize that you are no longer happy with your pastors, you have resentments with them for whatever reason; it becomes very impossible to take kindly their instructions.
If there are constant grumbling and discontent, you may be sure that you are no longer being subject to the elders. When you are not eager or willing to talk with them, it is an indication that either you are not on the same page or you are hiding something, and the solution is one – to request to meet as soon as possible. I remember inviting a member of the church to talk with us and he wanted to know the agenda of the meeting before he came. But when we met this problem was solved.
You are never to take this attitude because it does not helpyou or us to have such an attitude to the elders. It shows lack of maturity, when you are not willing to talk anything with your pastor, and for us when you take such a position we will know that most likely you are concealing sin.
If you are not happy to give your money with cheerfulness, or generously to the church, it may be an indication that there are issues that need to be resolved.
If you become very critical of their preaching or you want to show that you know it more than they do. I am not in anyway supposing that there is no room for positive criticism on what is preached. Please if there is something that you need to be addressed, very respectfully come and tell us that you did not appreciate this or the other, or there is a need that you don’t think it is being addressed. Do so first of all with a bias that we are committed to your welfare in the Lord. We might see things different from the way you see them but we have prayerfully considered what we tell you.
All these are symptoms of a problem that can cause to be unfaithful to the Lord in as far this matter of being subject to the elders.
May the Lord help us to take very seriously this issue that it will not be the case in this church. That discontent and grumbling will never be the case.
May we be those who are united in mind and in spirit so that we may do exploits for the Lord. May the Lord grant that in obeying this command we may become more Christ-like in His humility and submission to the Father.