The Privilege of Service (Chapter 5 Verses 1-11)
The final chapter of Peter’s letter is addressed not solely, but in the first place, to elders, or leaders (vv1-4). The term elder does not mean older people, or men, but the main body of leadership in the Church. Those called and appointed to lead the Church, the community of God’s people. The leadership was a gift-based one. In the early Church those recognised as divinely-appointed leaders through a spiritual consciousness of the Holy Spirit’s distribution in the giving of spiritual gifts. These leaders would exercise their gifts within the Church. Then would, as and when necessary recognise, the apostles, the evangelists, pastors, teachers etc. The leadership consisted of deacons, and elders, there is no evidence of any Biblical leadership structure beyond this. I would imagine that each local fellowship then, as now, would be free to develop its own pattern of leadership from and within the basis of that Scriptural framework, ie., the necessary spiritual equipment. The Lord acted in Peter’s day, and still does today, to provide leadership for his Church, the Apostle Paul testified to this fact (1Corinthians 12.28), and we must expect it to be so.
Now does it matter, whether we call these people elders, deacons, pastors? That God is providing leadership is what matters, some would argue. No, I think that it is important that we hold to the biblical terminology. We have leaders in the business world, in a variety of different spheres. Now we have CEO’s (Chief Executive Officers). Before long the senior Pastor will be referred to as the CEO. No, he is Pastor, or elder, whether senior or otherwise. What we do need to understand is that words that have become for us ecclesiastical titles, elder, pastor etc. These offices in the Church are designed to be practical, very practical. The word elder is a carry-over from Judaism, but in the early Church it signified the person whom God the Holy Spirit had raised up to function as a leader in the Church. Not a professional religionist. There is to be order certainly in the New Testament church. But the offices with their attendant gifts were for service, not to lord it over others. The thought of placing one persons gifts above another must be resisted with vigour (1Corinthians12). A person equipped for leadership, is simply a person gifted to meet the needs of the Church. We are all servants of one another, some having different gifts from others. Enabling them to serve in differing spheres within the body of Christ. The exalting of certain gifts was something that had gotten out-of-order in Corinth. Those offices and gifts all come from the same Spirit, and all have the same value, all of them, but the one purpose. To edify the body (1Corinthians 12).