‘When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away’, 1 Pet. 5. 4.
‘It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat … Of the 196 countries in the world studied from October 2012 until June this year , 81 have religious freedom impaired’.1
These extracts from a news report in November 2014 indicate the real and growing threat that is faced by many fellow Christians, and the context of Peter’s words in our verse resonate with this situation. Peter wrote, to those ‘scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia’, 1. 1, of being a ‘witness of the sufferings of Christ’, v. 1. Peter tells us, ‘Christ also suffered for us’, 2. 21. He left us an example! The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the Lord who ‘endured such contradiction of sinners against himself’, 12. 3. In doing so, he exhorts his readers to ‘consider him … lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds’.
As those to whom Peter wrote would face persecution, and the elders who sought to shepherd and protect the flock of God would become particular subjects of persecution, it would be good to be reminded of a Shepherd who was, and still is, rejected, comprehensively and conclusively – ‘He is despised and rejected of men’, Isa. 53. 3. We are not alone!
But how should we face persecution? How important to remember the words of Peter, ‘Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously’, 1 Pet. 2. 23. A vision of the Saviour provides the answer!
Peter offers further strength when he says, ‘When the chief Shepherd shall appear’. It is not ‘if’, but ‘when’! Of one thing we can be certain, the Lord will come again. He will appear! Nothing can stop His appearing, and nothing can delay His appearing. At the appointed time, and in the appointed way, the chief Shepherd ‘shall appear’! To a world that cast Him out and crucified Him, He will appear the second time in all His glory.
When the Lord appears in radiant glory, those under-shepherds, facing the heat of suffering, can be assured – ‘Ye shall receive a crown of glory’. The Lord observes and takes account of every effort expended in service for Him, particularly in relation to the care and protection of His sheep.
In this magazine, we welcome two new committee members, Jonathan Black, from Bexleyheath, and Stephen Sherwin, from Derby. We look forward to their contribution to the work. There is a new series of articles on ‘Widows, Orphans and Strangers’. There is also the conclusion to the short series provided by Malcolm Horlock to fill our centre expository pages. We are grateful to him for this most valuable insight. The occasional series on ‘The Believer as …’ continues, and our thanks to Ken Totton for his contribution on ‘A Steward’.