Pastors And Their Chief Shepherd -- By: Warren Vanhetloo

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 11:2 (Summer 1968)
Article: Pastors And Their Chief Shepherd
Author: Warren Vanhetloo


Pastors And Their Chief Shepherd

First Of A Series

Warren Vanhetloo

Dean Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis

One of the five words used of the leader of a local congregation in the New Testament is “pastor,” which is really only the word “shepherd” employed in a specialized sense. A study of this one phase of the work of the local leader is particularly rewarding. Five passages here are being considered: John 21:15–17; I Peter 5:2–3; Ephesians 4:11; I Corinthians 9:7; and Acts 20:28–29. In these there is a clear comparison based on the occupation of tending sheep, purposely used by the writers to instruct pastors of local churches concerning their relationship to the congregation and to the Lord and concerning the nature and importance of their work.

The task of tending sheep in the ancient Near East differs somewhat from that practiced in the United States. Even certain characteristics of the sheep are different.

Let it be said yet that the comparison based on tending sheep as applied to the function of the local church is not “by accident” in the sense of applying practices familiar in the day of writing; rather it seems that God had provided and directed such that sheep tending practices would be perfectly suited for His special instructions concerning the present dispensation.

John 21:15-17

This fascinating exchange between the Lord Jesus Christ and Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee following the resurrection clearly sets forth the claim that these are Christ’s sheep Peter is being asked to shepherd. He tells Peter to “feed My lambs” (v. 15), “Tend My sheep” (v. 16), and “Feed My sheep” (v. 17). Jesus entrusts those He loves to one who loves Him. It may be accepted that a primary reason for the three questions was related to the three times Peter had denied his Lord; further,

however, it gave Jesus opportunity to stress different phases of the work ahead for Peter and for all ministers of the Gospel. Thus it is important not only to ascertain the major message but to note carefully each word in the inspired text.

For the major thrust, the Lord Jesus Christ is leaving this earth to return to heaven and is entrusting His own work as the good s...

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