Peter a Fellow Elder - Serving Rather than Ruling - Creation and Evolution

Go to content

Main menu

Peter a Fellow Elder - Serving Rather than Ruling

English > Fields of Research > Biblical Theology

P. Rüst (2008), Message Flüehli, Schwarzenburg (Switzerland), somewhat more detailed, 10 p. (593 kB)
or without illustrations, text only, 8 p.:
(87 kB)

Translated from the German original, P. Rüst (2008),
"Petrus der Mitälteste - dienen statt herrschen"
, Predigt Flüehli, Schwarzenburg (Schweiz)


Who is
Lord (Kyrios)
of the Church -

the Lord over all

or the emperor Constantine?


1. Apostles and Elders
2. Apostles - Eye Witnesses of the Risen Lord, and His Slaves
3. God's Word - Foundation for the Direction of the Church
4. Shepherds as Examples to the Flock
5. Christ, the Rock and Foundation
6. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven
7. Gifts of the Spirit for Building the Church
8. Domineering Attitudes Destroyed the Church
9. Christ Alone is Lord

- As an "apostle of Jesus Christ", Peter writes his first letter to the "exiles of the dispersion" in Asia Minor. Here, these christians have "no lasting city", but they rejoice about their eternal home. As a "fellow elder", Peter exhorts their elders to be good shepherds. In this way, he is placing himself on the same level with them.

- He and other apostles calling themselves "apostles of Jesus Christ" aren't underlining their own official or even decisive authority, but emphasizing the revelation being God's. Apostles and other eye-witnesses of the risen Christ designate themselves as his "slaves" - on the same level as their fellow christians. It is only by grace that they all are what they are.

- It is God's Word only which constitutes the foundation for the guidance of the church, mediated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Apostles formulated the Word of God received, prophets proclaimed it, teachers teach it in their own local churches, and helping ministries convince by love. The elders have no special official authority, they are simply the ones navigating the the local church "boat".

- As shepherds, the elders are examples to the flock. Peter doesn't see himself as a "chief shepherd" - a designation he reserves for Jesus, the good Shepherd -, but as a "fellow elder", one of many under-shepherds on the same level, whose most important characteristic is an unconditional love for Jesus. Peter was very conscious of the fact that his denying Jesus seriously called into question his love.

- In no wise Peter thought of himself as standing above the other apostles or any other believers. Every one of them is directly and only responsible to his Lord Jesus Christ. The "rock" on which Jesus builds his church is not Peter but Jesus himself, as evidenced by the context and every use of the term "rock".

- Jesus did not give the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" to Peter only, but to all apostles. "Binding" and "loosing", according to Jewish usage, designated what is not allowed and what is allowed, respectively, according to God's Word. After pentecost, every follower of Jesus has the same competence of granting a fellow christian forgiveness of a sin or the consolation of being free of an obligation.

- The gifts of grace, which the Holy Spirit gives the church of Christ for building itself up, are not ministries officially granted and certified by a church hierarchy. The Holy Spirit distributes them directly to each individual believer, as tasks meant for God's glory and for the salvation of other people, to be carried out according to God's written Word.

- But already in New Testament times, apostles had to warn of heretics arising in the church itself, who abused their leadership functions for domineering. Later, a hierarchical system of priests, bishops, and popes arose. The emperor Constantine had brought worldly power into this church, so that it even began to persecute those thinking differently.

The long decline from

the good Shepherd

to emperor Constan-

church decorated with much gold
and dedicated to empress Fausta

- But it is Christ alone who is sovereign Lord of the church and of each individual believer, not some ecclesiastical power institution. Before his return in glory, he is not forcing any-one to believe in him or to accept his sovereignty, for God has created humans as free and responsible persons. The reformers rightly demanded: Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, the Scriptures alone.

Back to content | Back to main menu