Continuing with the See the Bishop Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Acts 20:28
I have heard many pastors speak of the members of the local church or mission as "their people." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pastors are to be
under-shepherds of the Lordís
Each pastor is responsible for
attending to the Lordís flock in His place, as He would. For Jesus purchased His
sheep with His own blood. Logic behooves under shepherds to know the will of
their Chief Shepherd for His Sheep and their care,
for which they are responsible and must give an answer.
Consider Paulís understanding of under shepherds. "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 18What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. 19For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you." 1 Cor. 9:16-23
Notice the similarity of the under-shepherd to Christ our Chief Shepherd. The under shepherd was to preach the anointed message of the Gospel, the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Vs. 16-17 Monetary reward was not to be a condition for service of the under shepherd. Vs.18 He was a servant to all for He came to serve others and not to be served. Vs.19 He fit in with all classes of people. He was comfortable with whatever the race or status of those He was with, that they might be partakers of the gospel. Vs.20-21 He spoke to others at their level of understanding, not trying to impress them with His, that they might be saved through receiving the gospel. Vs. 22-23 The Apostle Paul sets the example all under-shepherds should follow, that of seeking the approval as an under shepherd, by being like our Chief Shepherd, so that at the judgement seat of Christ he may receive a commendation and not a rebuke. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:24-27
Notice: It is quite clear the first duty of an under-shepherd is to do the work of his chief Shepherd. Therefore, Paul disciplined the desires of the flesh [his will] to the will of the Lord, so as not to lose his reward. Consider Peterís understanding of the under- shepherd. "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: 2Feed 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; 3Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away". 1 Peter 5:1-4 Jesusí under-shepherds are not to be hirelings. They are men called by the Lord to be under-shepherds who willingly assume that responsibility. They are not to usurp lordship over the Lordís flock. They are to feed them with Godís Word and live it as an example for them to follow.
The under-shepherd is to preach the Word " I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Tim. 4:1-4 Notice the under shepherd is to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine for that is the way the Lord uses His word. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Tim. 3:16-17 Notice the reproof and rebuke of Godís Word results in edification.
The under-shepherd is to preach the Word of God under all conditions and circumstances. When they feel like it or not, when it is convenient or inconvenient. Whether it was to be accepted or rejected they are to preach it. They are not to preach their own interpretations to please others. Woe unto them who alter Godís Word that it is accepted, so they have a following. Consider the warning in the scriptures "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your god which I command you ....What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Deut. 4:2 and Chapt.12: 32 "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" Proverbs 30:6 Let us remember "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Rev. 22:19 Such warnings should cause every under shepherd, every evangelist, every teacher of Godís Word to tremble and with fear as they study, that what they teach or preach be true to Godís Word, and be accepted by God, regardless of whether it is accepted by those who hear him or not.
The under shepherd is to be a watchman over the Lordís flock "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Hebrews 13:17. Consider the awesome responsibility of a watchman. "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 21Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul." Ezekiel 3:17-21
Every under shepherd of the Lord carries this awesome responsibility. As a watchman, the under shepherd not only must warn the sheep, but teach them discipline, to the ways of the Chief Shepherd. "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. 1 Cor. 5:9-13
The end result of discipline is to bring complete restoration. "Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 2 Cor. 2:6-9 Although the under shepherd is responsible for discipline, the Chief Shepherd is the only chastener. "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:" Hebrews 12:5-14
Notice the end of the Lordís chastening is total restoration to holiness, that they be vessels fit for His service. Thus the under- shepherd is to teach the sheep discipline, that result in the same condition, that they may be fit to serve the Lord for that is the will of God for all in His family. This is a heavy responsibility that every under shepherd will have to give an account for. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you". Hebrews 13:17
Woe be the under-shepherd who thinks he is the chastener, and has chased the problem sheep out of the fold that he is accountable for, to avoid this responsibility. What will he say at the Judgment seat of Christ? Did not our Chief Shepherd teach us how to care for His sheep without losing any, as He did? Furthermore, do they not realize they are usurping the authority of Christ?
As the sheep are born to reproduce themselves, so too are the under-shepherds through discipleship. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen!" Matthew 28:18-20 Notice teaching is not telling, teaching has not been accomplished until those being taught are practicing what they have been taught. Obviously this takes time, and much patience. It will intrude on your privacy and upset your schedule. Perhaps that is why few practice discipleship. Those who have a problem with such intrusions do not have a shepherdís heart.
To disciple others requires the under-shepherd is to give his life up for the sheep as did his Chief Shepherd. Consider Jesusí Words: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple .....Vs.33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26-27,33
Jesus clearly states that His disciples must not put their families or their life ahead of Him, and their calling as His disciples. He and He alone is the object of their life and calling as His disciples. The work He called them to is to have priority over their lives, even if it were to cost them their or their families, as it did Jesus and His apostles. "28Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. 29And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, 30Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." Luke 18:27-30
Every under shepherd should think on this and count the cost, before they make their commitment to follow the call of Christ. Again we notice the under- shepherds are to lay down their lives for the sheep as the Lord did, the cost of shepherding is the same today as it was then. Could this be why we have more preachers (pulpit thumpers) than under shepherds? Is this why there are so few men builders, leaving so many sheep without a shepherd?
The real fruit of the under-shepherd, is reproducing under shepherds. Some to gather other flocks, others to be sent to flocks that need a un-shepherd or to take his place when the Lord calls him home. The Apostle Paul reproduced himself in Timothy and Titus and others, to carry on the work of the Lord. Paul sent Timothy to the flock at Philippi and later to Ephesus where he served as an under- shepherd until he suffered martyrdom under Domitian or Nerva.
This brings us to the matter of acceptance of the under-shepherd. Jesus said: " If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me." John 15:18-21 Jesus said that if anyone repeats what He has said they will get the same results He did. He had few accept His message, most rejected His message, and most of the religious crowd rejected Him personally. Which raises the question how is it some preachers and religious movements attract such a big following in the world today? Are they preaching the same message?
A shepherdís heart is a servantís heart. It is a heart that is not self seeking, but rather seeks the well being of others. A shepherdís heart is one that serves the sheep as did the Chief Shepherd. A shepherdís heart is one that seeks the same goals as Christ for His sheep. A shepherdís heart is one that will lay down its life for the Lordís sheep as their Chief Shepherd did for them. Consider Paul and the Philippian Church. " Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 18For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me." Philip. 2:17-18
To be a shepherd, cannot be taught, it is caught.
It is caught by studying Godís Word to see and understand our Chief Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls. It is caught by studying His ways that you be like Him.
It is caught by finding a church with a faithful under- shepherd and personally serving with him. It is caught by observing and experiencing his heart for the flock, he watches over for the Lord.
Is it any wonder that churches without an under- shepherd cannot produce men with a shepherdís heart. How can institutions produce men with a shepherdís heart, when Godís plan is through the under- shepherd reproducing himself in the local church?
Is that not one of the qualifications of a truly indigenous church to be self propagating? May the Lord give courage and strength to each of His true under shepherds to be faithful to their call, and to the flocks He sends them to, that they may answer to the Lord for their care with joy and not shame.
Now go do what is
right in the eyes of the Lord and may
decisions bring you the promise of Romans 8:28 ď
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to
them who are the called according to his purpose.Ē
Your friend in Christ Warren T. Smith
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