Christ, our Overseeing Bishop

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Please remain standing for the reading of God’s Word as we continue our consideration of 1 Peter.
We’ve been in 1 Peter 2 verses 18 through 25. I want to, before we move on to the next section
of Peter, I want to pause at verse 25 and consider some other truths and lessons that we can glean
from that passage. But in order to give the sort of the fuller context, I’d like to begin reading
at verse 18 and read through verse 25 of 1 Peter chapter 2. Again, you’ll find that on page 1204
in your Pew Bible. But again, our focus will be especially on verse 25. Dear friends,
let us hear God’s holy word.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle,
but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows
while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?
But if, when you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of
God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an
example so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in
his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten,
but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on
the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the shepherd and overseer
of your souls. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever.
Once again, let’s pray for God to bless the preaching of his word. O heavenly Father,
we pray that you would send your illuminating spirit upon us, give us light through the light
of your word, and cause your word to find a lodging place in our souls this evening,
that your word might indeed bear much spiritual fruit in our lives that brings praise and glory
and honor to your holy name. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said,
Amen. You may be seated. The title of my sermon this evening is Christ, Our Overseeing Shepherd,
and children, there’s three words you can listen for in my sermon this evening, the words sin,
shepherd, and bishop. Sin, shepherd, and bishop. Well, my dear friends in Christ,
let me ask you a question. What does it mean to live as a disciple, as a follower of the Lord
Jesus Christ? In our practical everyday lives, how do we live out our discipleship, especially
in circumstances where we may have to face hostility or prejudicial treatment because of
our Christian confession? Well friends, in our passage for this Lord’s Day evening,
St. Peter the Apostle has been seeking to give his readers practical instructions on just these
types of questions. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter wrote this epistle to a group
of Christians who were facing hostility and persecution because of their faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ. Early on in this epistle, Peter seeks to encourage them by reminding them of
God’s blessings of grace given to them in Christ and through the gospel, and also reminding them
of their identity as God’s people. But beginning in chapter two, verse 11, Peter gives them
instructions, he begins to give instructions on how to live out their confession of Jesus’s
Lordship, even in the context of living their everyday lives and rubbing shoulders with
unbelievers and relating to the larger society, even when that larger society and their larger
context is hostile towards their faith. And so we come to our verse for this evening, verse 25,
as Peter has been exhorting the servants and we’ve discussed the significance of that and the
given some historical background about servanthood and even slavery in the Roman Empire,
and how that differs from the kind of slavery that went on in our country, in our nation’s past.
But I want to focus again, as I mentioned, especially on verse 25 and some of the truths
that we glean from this particular verse. And one of the truths that we learn from this verse,
and this is your first point on your sermon outline, we learn here in this passage of fallen
man’s natural tendency to stray from God’s ways. Fallen man’s natural tendency to stray
from God’s ways. After Peter gives instructions to servants and reminds us of the sufferings of
Christ and how by his wounds we have been healed, Peter says in verse 25, for you, he gets very
personal here. He addresses them, he says, for you were straying like sheep. You were straying like
sheep. He probably has in view his readers’ pre-conversion days, the time in their lives
before they knew Christ and heard the gospel. Peter has written this epistle to a group of
what were likely mostly Gentile readers who had been converted to Christ from a pagan
background. And he reminds them of their pre-conversion days of straying like lost
sheep. He says, you were straying like sheep. I like how the New American Standard version
translates it. It says, for you were continually straying like sheep. But now there’s been a change.
Now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. Now when Peter says,
you were straying like sheep, is he just speaking that on his own? Obviously he’s writing under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But I believe that Peter here is clearly alluding to an Old Testament
passage, a rather famous Old Testament passage, namely a verse from Isaiah chapter 53, that very
famous prophecy of the sufferings of Christ, the Messiah. In particular, Peter alludes in this verse
to Isaiah chapter 53 verse 6, that verse which reads as follows, All we like sheep have gone
astray. We have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Peter’s readers were no doubt much more familiar with shepherds and sheep than we are today.
Probably not too many of you rub shoulders on a daily, on a regular basis with shepherds or
encounter sheep in your day-to-day lives, but that was not so much the case in the first century.
And he reminds them, you were like sheep who were straying. Sheep have a tendency to stray from the
fold and to wander off into trackless wastes. But the good news is that the Lord has laid on him the
iniquity of us all, and that they by his grace have now returned, returned to the shepherd and
overseer or guardian of their souls. We have a tendency, a natural tendency, to stray from God
and his ways. What accounts for that natural tendency, that instinctive tendency that we have
as fallen sinners to stray from the ways of God? Well, it is exactly and precisely our sin nature.
This passage reminds me of what our confession of faith teaches in places like chapter 6,
section 4. The chapter is on the fall of man, of sin, and of the punishment thereof. And section 4
says this. It says, from this original corruption, this original sin that we inherit, this corrupt
nature that we inherit from Adam and Eve, from this original corruption whereby we are utterly
indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed
all actual transgressions. What is it that leads us to stray? What is it that leads us to wander
like sheep to go astray? Well, because we have a wandering nature. We are fallen sinners. God didn’t
create us as sinners. I know I say this often, but it’s important to remember, you know, God is good.
He didn’t create us bad or sinful and then blame us for the sin that he created us, the sinners that
he created us as. No, we are sinners not because God created us as sinners, but because we inherit
a sin nature from Adam and Eve, and we are fallen in Adam, our original covenant head and
representative. And because of that sin nature, because of that, we are inclined, naturally
inclined to resist God, to oppose his ways. Indeed, in our fallenness and total depravity,
which means that sin has impacted the totality of our being. It doesn’t mean, by the way, that we are
as corrupt and evil as we possibly could be, but it does mean that sin has impacted the totality
of our being, body, mind, emotions, will, and so forth. And we are therefore dead in trespasses and
sins apart from the grace of God. We are spiritually dead. We’re not interested in the true and living
God. We’re interested in the benefits that come from God. Everyone wants peace of mind. Everyone
wants happiness and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. But seeking for those benefits that come
from knowing the true and living God, seeking peace of conscience, seeking joy, seeking to
have a sense of meaning and purpose, these are benefits and blessings that come from knowing
the true and living God. And if we seek those blessings apart from seeking the God who gives
those blessings, we are seeking those blessings as idols and not really seeking God truly.
And so this is our nature as fallen sinners. Apart from the intervention of sovereign grace, this is
where we lie, dead in our trespasses and sins. It also reminds me of what our shorter catechism says
in answer to question 18, the question, wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate
wherein to man fell? I know some of you are memorizing the catechism and I commend you for
that. Well, the Bible-based answer to that question is this. The sinfulness of that estate wherein to
man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin because Adam was our representative. We get his
guilt and as according to God’s covenantal arrangement, the sinfulness of that estate
wherein to man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want or lack of original
righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin
together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. For you were straying like sheep.
Friends, it is this original sin and radical corruption of our nature in which we all partake
as fallen sons and daughters of Adam that accounts for our natural apostasy from God
and our inherent tendency to wander like lost sheep from God and from the demands and requirements
of his holy law. This is not a popular message today, especially in our positive thinking,
therapeutic culture that regards it as spiritual abuse to damage people’s self-esteem.
I’m not here to damage your self-esteem. I’m here to tell you that apart from Christ, we have no
basis for any sense of self-esteem. The scriptures do not present self-esteem as an ideal.
It’s not ourselves to esteem. We are not to esteem ourselves. We’re to deny ourselves.
Rather, it is Christ’s esteem. We are to find our identity in Christ and our wholeness and fullness
in him. Now, beloved, by way of application, Peter’s passing description of his original
reader’s pre-conversion state as being a state of continual straying from God and his ways.
Of course, it goes directly contrary to the very popular and widespread belief which
says that all people are basically good. I can’t say this with infallible certainty, but I
am guessing that if I were to walk around in the streets of Swickley and just talk to people and
take a survey and ask them questions like, do you think that you’re a good person, a basically good
person? My guess is that most people would say, well, yeah, I’m a pretty good guy or a pretty good
gal. I’m not perfect, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m a good person. Well, God’s word says otherwise.
I am reminded of a, and I might have shared this in the past, but I’m reminded of a time when I
was a seminary student and one evening I was watching the evening news and there was a tragic
story of a young lady who was traveling, vacationing in Israel at the time. This was many years ago,
and this young lady was tragically murdered, and I remember on the news they were interviewing her
grief-stricken father, and your heart just went out to this gentleman, and her father made a
comment that really struck me. He said of his fallen daughter, his murdered daughter, he said,
she never lost her faith in the basic goodness of man. I remember thinking to myself, well,
of course, when we’re grieving, we don’t expect grieving people to be theologically precise
or correct necessarily, but I’m thinking to myself, here’s this man whose daughter has been
brutally, tragically, horribly murdered, and yet he still believed, he still clings to
this idea that his daughter affirmed when she was alive, the basic goodness of man.
Friends, where is the evidence for that in the history of the human race? The history of the
human race has been a history of violence. It’s been a history of so much in the way of evil
and corruption. Yes, there have been, by the common grace of God, there’s been goodness,
there has been civic virtue, and so forth. God has maintained this world,
but nevertheless, evil is rampant, and the basic bent of the human heart is towards
selfishness and evil, because people are rotten to the core apart from the intervention of God’s
grace. In our culture today, if people turn out to be rotten, there is this cultural assumption
today that their rottenness should be blamed on something outside of themselves, something like
their environment or on society or on something else besides themselves. There’s almost this
allergy in our culture today. There’s almost an allergic reaction against taking personal
responsibility or suggesting or believing that, yeah, this person committed evil because this
person is evil. So deeply have we been impacted by the culture of therapy. But friends, holy
scripture, the daily news, and common sense, prove otherwise. Prove that people are not basically
good. There is rottenness in society because people who make up that society are rotten,
rotten to the core. The Bible says that all have sinned, and that doesn’t just include people out
there outside the walls of the church. That includes me. That includes you. Apart from the
sovereign grace of God, we are rotten to the core. But the amazing thing is that nevertheless, God
loved us rotten though we be. He loved us sinners and sent his son Jesus to be our savior. The Bible
says that in Isaiah 64 verse 6, scripture testifies that all our righteous deeds are like a polluted
garment in the eyes of God. By the inflexible standard of God’s holy law, as Paul says in
Romans 3, 10 to 12, by that inflexible standard, none is righteous. No, not one. No one understands.
No one seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become worthless. No one does
good. Not even one. There was only one good man who ever lived. You know his name? Jesus Christ
of Nazareth, because he is the sinless, spotless lamb of God. And dear ones, this is why, because
of our sin and fallenness and our tendency therefore to stray from God and his ways,
this is why we so desperately need an omnipotent, holy, sinless divine savior to save us, to shepherd
us, and to guard our souls. Praise be to God that he has provided us with just such a shepherd.
And again, his name is Jesus. So we read here in this passage of man’s tendency towards
straying like sheep from God and his ways. But then notice in this verse, for you were
straying like sheep, but have now done what? Returned to the shepherd and overseer of your
souls. The implication is you’re no longer straying and wandering about in impenitence
and unbelief. Now you’ve come home. Now you’ve returned. This is speaking of conversion.
Now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer, or as the New American Standard
Version translates it, the guardian of your soul. Dr. Norman Hillier in his commentary
on 1st Peter writes of the language of shepherd and overseer. He says,
shepherd and overseer is probably to be taken as overseeing shepherd. A hendietes, the literary
figure whereby one idea is expressed by two or occasionally three nouns linked by a simple and.
So it’s not like Jesus is the shepherd and separately and distinctly the overseer or
bishop of our souls. He is the overseeing shepherd of our souls. And because he’s the
overseeing shepherd of our souls and has enabled us to return to him, he has converted us and we
find our rest and our protection and our refuge in him. And this is instructive to us on the
subject of true conversion. What does true conversion involve? Well true conversion involves
a turning away from sin in repentance and a turning to Jesus Christ in faith. It’s not that there are
two separate acts. The turning to Christ from sin, this involves repentance and faith are
involved one in another and they go together. Although they must be distinguished, the Bible
does not say we are justified by repentance and faith. We’re justified by faith alone. But the
faith by which we are justified is always inextricably linked to and connected with
repentance. As John Murray once put it, repentance and faith are seen to go together in that
faith is faith in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin. You can’t trust in Jesus to save you
from your sins if your heart is not desiring to turn from sin. Repentance and faith go together
in many places in scripture. We read of many places in scripture which illuminates this returning
to the shepherd and overseer of our souls, this true conversion, this true turning to the Lord.
For example, Jesus himself at the beginning of his earthly ministry, if you turn to Mark chapter 1
and look at verses 14 and 15, notice how Mark summarizes our Lord’s preaching ministry
during his earthly ministry. It says in Mark 1, 14 and 15, now after John was arrested,
Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel, the good news of God, and saying,
the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. What should they do about it? He says,
repent and believe in the gospel. Repent and believe. And this emphasis on the response,
on the returning to the Lord in true conversion is also emphasized by the apostle Peter in his
Pentecost sermon. If you look at Acts chapter 2, verses 36 to 39, let me just read those verses
briefly. At the end of his Pentecost sermon, Peter says, let all the house of Israel therefore know
for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the
apostles, brothers, what shall we do? And what does Peter say to them? It says, and Peter said
to them, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness
of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for the promises for you
and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
And so again we see the gospel call to repentance and faith and that is sealed in holy baptism.
We see also in chapter 16, Acts 16, verses 30 and 31 with the Philippian jailer. In those verses
it says, then he brought them out and said, sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said,
believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household. And finally one more
passage as we compare scripture with scripture, consider what Paul writes in Romans 10 verses 8
through 10. In this passage, as Paul is talking about the gospel and the appropriate response
to the gospel, he says this, he says, but what does it say? He’s quoting from the Old Testament,
the word is near you in your mouth and in your heart that is the word of faith that we proclaim
because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved for with the heart one believes and is
justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. So what does it mean to return to the
shepherd and overseer or bishop of our souls? It means repentance and faith and what are repentance
and faith? Well, I can think of no better answers to those questions than what is contained in our
shorter catechism. Our shorter catechism question 86 asks, what is faith in Jesus Christ? The Bible
based answer is faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace. In other words, it’s not something you work
up in yourself, it’s something God gives you as a gift through the gospel. Faith cometh by hearing
and hearing by the word of Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive
and rest upon him alone for salvation as he has offered to us in the gospel. And what is true
repentance? Repentance unto life. Shorter catechism question 87 asks that question, what is repentance
unto life? Again, the Bible based answer is repentance unto life is a saving grace whereby
a sinner out of a true sense of his sin and I love this latter part here and apprehension of the mercy
of God in Christ doth with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it unto God with full purpose of
an endeavor after new obedience. Dear listener, have you returned in true faith and repentance
to the Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd and overseer of souls? Have you received and rested upon him and
him alone for your salvation as he has offered to you in the gospel? Do you believe that in Christ
you have a merciful, forgiving God, a God who is willing and able to save sinners even such as me
and you? And you say, well, you know, what does that involve? It doesn’t involve jumping through
hoops or praying some magical sinner’s prayer or responding to an altar call. And by the way,
you may not be told this too often in today’s evangelical culture, but you know,
friends, the altar call and the sinner’s prayer, they’re only about 150 years old.
No one before about the mid 1800s responded to the gospel by coming forward at an altar call
or praying some magical hocus pocus sinner’s prayer. And if you’re trusting in the fact that,
oh, well, when I was a certain age, I prayed this prayer and so I’m saved because I prayed this
prayer or because I went forward at an altar call. If you’re trusting in something you did
to respond to Christ, that’s not true faith. That’s trusting in a work that you’ve done.
You’re not saved by a sinner’s prayer or an altar call. You’re saved by Jesus Christ
by receiving, by trusting in Him and Him alone for your salvation, by believing that in Jesus
you have a merciful, forgiving God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
Not believe on the Lord Jesus and pray a sinner’s prayer and come forward at an altar call.
No. By the way, let me just say, I know that some folks, some of God’s elect come to faith in Christ
through imperfect gospel presentations. I myself, when I was converted, I was converted
through a gospel presentation that had a suggested sinner’s prayer at the end of it and I prayed that
prayer. But I wasn’t trusting in that prayer. I was trusting in the one to whom that prayer directed
me. And so friends, trust in Jesus for salvation from sin. That is what it means to return
to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. And so what is the conclusion of all of this?
Behold, beloved, behold Jesus Christ, the overseeing shepherd of souls. Behold Jesus Christ,
the overseeing shepherd of our souls. You know, the shepherd sheep imagery is very common
in the scriptures, not just in the New Testament, but of course in the Old Testament as well.
In the Old Testament, God himself is said to be the shepherd of his people. We sang about it in
Psalm 23. The Lord is my what? The Lord is my shepherd. And when we think of a shepherd,
again, we think of pastoral images. We think of sheep wandering about on the hills.
But we need to understand that in the ancient world, kings and rulers were often called the
shepherds of their people. So this term shepherd, when applied to God, has royal implications,
royal implications to it. It is also significant that the New Testament ascribes the role of
divine shepherd to Christ. In the Old Testament, you see the parallel in the Old Testament,
the Lord, God, is the shepherd of Israel. In the New Testament, Christ is the good shepherd
of his sheep, his believing people. And so this is just one of multitudes of evidences
of our Lord’s full deity and godhood. But not only is the Lord Jesus described here as the
shepherd of our souls, he’s also described as the overseer. In the Greek, it is the term
episcopon, from which we derive the word bishop. The Greek term here is derived from the English
term. I’m sorry, the Greek term is the word from which we derive the English term bishop,
as it’s translated, I believe, in the King James Version. And in the New American Standard Version
brings out one of the aspects of that in translating it as guardian. What does a bishop do? A bishop
is the guardian of souls. And a good shepherd not only leads and guides his sheep, he also
protects his sheep. He is the guardian of his sheep. Friends, as our shepherd, Christ rules over
us, he cares for us, he provides for all of our spiritual needs, and he guides us. As our bishop,
Christ oversees and guards us from spiritual wolves and hazards. And he leads us on to life
eternal. Let us trust him. Let us follow him. Let us return day by day to him as the shepherd
and overseer of our souls. And let us praise God for shepherding and guarding us as we make
our pilgrimage through this life and on to heavenly glory. Amen. Let us pray. Heavenly Father,
we thank you that you demonstrate your love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died
for us. We thank you, Lord Jesus, that you came and you sought out for us. You ran after us. You,
we were lost and straying and wandering sheep. And you left the fold to come and seek for us. And you
have put us upon your shoulders and you have returned us to the safety of your fold. We thank
you for giving us the grace of repentance and faith that we might return to you. And we pray
that that grace might continue to be deepened and strengthened in us as Lord, the Christian life is
a life of daily renewed conversion, daily renewed repentance and faith as we day by day fight with
sin as we die unto sin and seek to live unto righteousness, walking after a new obedience
out of gratitude for your gift of salvation to us in Jesus. So Lord, give us the grace, Heavenly
Father, to walk with our shepherd. Give us the grace, Lord, to be led by his hand. We pray these
things, Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name and all of God’s people said, Amen. Dear friends, as we
close our worship service this evening, let’s rise and we’ll sing together hymn 525, Savior
like a shepherd, lead us, 525.