The Saint Crowned by the Chief Shepherd!
William Nicholson, 1862
"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory!" 1 Peter 5:4
The Scriptures abound with the most beautiful and striking metaphors, which are designed to rivet the most important truths on the mind. Thus the Savior is described as a Shepherd, his people are spoken of as a flock, and the ordinances are compared to green pastures and still waters.
The influences of the Spirit are spoken of as rain or dew; the withholding of those influences, as the shutting up of the heavens; the glorious effects of those influences, to the flowers, the cedar, and the myrtle; the opposite vices and degradations, to weeds briers, and thorns.
The people of Israel are compared to a garden, walled around — their produce to grapes; their unjust oppressors and persecutors to beasts of prey.
The preceding verses contain exhortations given to ministers of the Gospel — the under-shepherds of Christ's flock, to perform the various functions of their office cheerfully, faithfully, and unselfishly. And the Apostle endeavors to stimulate to such conduct by the second advent of the chief Shepherd.
I. The Character Here Given to Christ:He is the "Chief Shepherd."
This is one of the most common characters given to him in the Scriptures, and it is one of the most endearing. The character of a shepherd now is far less respectable than it was in early ages. Then much of the wealth of great men consisted in flocks; and the richest men were shepherds, as Abraham, Isaac, etc. Abraham was "very rich." We can see the riches of Jacob, by the present which he made to his brother Esau; and yet he watched his flock by day and by night.
The term shepherd has been considered the highest eulogy which could be conferred. Thus Cyrus was called God's shepherd, Isaiah 44:28. The priests of the Old Testament, and the ministers of the New, are distinguished by this honorable appellation.
1. Jesus was divinely appointed to this office. Ezekiel 34:23; he is called God's shepherd, Zechariah 13:7. He does his work, and shares his glory.
2. For this office, Jesus was eminently qualified. He is called the "good Shepherd," John 10:11. His kindness and love are unexampled. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young!" Isaiah 40:11
3. His office is pre-eminent. He is the "chief Shepherd;" for others also sustain the office of shepherds. This honor have all his ministers, whom he raises up, and commissions, and qualifies, and makes successful. Many have overlooked the supremacy of this chief Shepherd, and have become lords over God's heritage.
4. Jesus' flock is destined to be rich and numerous. Called "the Shepherd of souls," 1 Peter 2:25, which, when saved by his grace, etc., are invaluable. He is called the "Great Shepherd," Hebrews 13:20. We should consider him a great shepherd, who had a million of sheep; but Christ has an exceeding great number out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues; and each of them is worth more than a thousand worlds!
His flock has been purchased by his blood! Acts 20:28.
He gathers them together, calling them into his fold, the Church, from the dark mountains of sin, from the beggarly elements of this world. Luke 19:10; John 10:16. This he does by the influence of his Word and Spirit, whereby he makes the lost sheep to hear his voice, and to return, 1 Peter 2:25, and that which particularly attracts them is his death, John 12:32. Hence they are separated from the world — and are a holy flock. The chief Shepherd has put his mark upon them, Hebrews 2:11.
5. Jesus feeds his flock. Isaiah 40:11. We read of "green pastures," and "still waters," ever verdant, ever crystalline, ever flowing. These mean his Word and ordinances. He himself is the food of his people; they eat his flesh and drink his blood, John 6:53. That is, his own blessed sacrifice is that to the mind — what food is to the body — it affords nourishment, strength, and satisfaction, to the soul that receives it.
6. Jesus guides and preserves his flock, John 10:3, 4. He watches over them, and keeps them from being destroyed by ravenous beasts. He brings them to the shade in times of scorching heat. In times of persecution and afflictions, he finds out an asylum for them.
"Tis there with the lambs of your flock,
There only we covet to rest;
To lie at the foot of the rock,
Or rise to be hid in your breast.
Tis there we would always abide,
And never a moment depart,
Concealed in the cleft of your side,
Eternally held in your heart!"
II. The Second Appearance of the Chief Shepherd."And when the Chief Shepherd appears."
Christ has once appeared in this world as a Savior to put away sin, etc. When he died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven — he established his spiritual kingdom in this world. To ascertain the sublime results of that establishment, and to proclaim them to the universe, he frequently intimated, during his earthly sojourn, that he would come again in splendor and majestic glory.
1. He shall certainly appear the second time. It is clearly stated in Scripture, Jude 5:14, 15; John 14:2, 3; Matthew 25:31; Acts 1:11; 7:31; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:7, etc.
2. His second appearance is necessary. On the part of Christ it is so — as a recompense to him for his previous abasement, Philippians 2:6-10. On the part of his people it is so. Their salvation is to be consummated — they are waiting for their coronation — for their abundant entrance, etc. On the part of the world it is so — for they have despised and rejected him — they have poured contempt on his kingdom — they have murdered his people. Revelation 6:9, 10.
3. His second appearance will be glorious. How great must be the glory attendant upon the appearance of God! No one can conceive it; no one can describe it; and we can only learn it from the Scriptures.
He will then display all the glory of the divine attributes. The heavens shall bow, and the earth shall shake, at the manifestation of his glory! Thus it is described, Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Peter 3:10; Daniel 17:9; Revelation 1:7. How different will this be, from his first appearance!
4. His second appearance will be judicial. The righteous and the wicked will then be arraigned, and judged according to the deeds, etc. He is ordained to be the judge of living and dead. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left!" Matthew 25:31-33
III. The REWARD He Will Then Dispense to His People."And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory!"
Hence the appearance of the chief Shepherd will be gracious. He will raise and glorify their bodies; he will complete their happiness; separate them from sinners, and forever ally them to himself, to angels, and to perfected spirits.
1. They shall receive a crown of glory. A crown adorns the head of the conquerors and potentates of the earth. It is the highest object of human ambition. The reward of believers in Heaven is called a crown . . .
a crown of life,
a crown of glory,
a crown of righteousness,
a crown of life, etc.
A crown is the emblem of adornment and joy. So it is used, Song 3:11; Ezekiel 16:11. Such will be the beauty and joy of the Church, the bride of Christ, when he shall place the crown on her head. Then shall she shine more glorious than the sun!
A crown is the emblem of a kingdom and dominion. They shall be kings and priests, and shall reign. They shall have thrones, scepters, and kingdoms, and shall reign with Christ, the King of kings, forever and ever. James 2:5.
A crown is the emblem of victory. In the ancient games, conquerors were crowned, 1 Corinthians 9:25.
A crown is the emblem of honor, splendor, or dignity, Lamentations 5:16. The crown has fallen from our head; but Christ will place upon it the crown of righteousness, which will be more than paradise regained.
A crown is the emblem of holiness. The Jewish high-priest wore a crown, on the forepart of which was a plate of gold bearing this inscription, "Holiness to the Lord!"
How comprehensive is the expression, "crown of glory!"
Not of thorns, like Christ's on the cross;
not of fleeting herbs or flowers;
not of cares like all earthly crowns;
not of blood, resulting from the shedding of it,
but a crown of righteousness, honorably purchased, and bestowed upon righteous people. It is the pledge of the believer's eternal rapture, and shall be the everlasting reflection of Christ's glory.
2. It is imperishable. It shall never "fade away." Not like the withering Olympic crowns. Even gold will perish. All earthly things, pursuits, relationships, etc., will fade away.
But this is an incorruptible crown, 1 Corinthians 9:25. No length of time will put an end to the dominion of the saints, or tarnish the luster of their diadems; for when the kingdom is given to the saints of the Most High, they are to reign forever and ever!
1. The saints are not such fools as the world accounts them.
2. Such vast prospective glory is the result of God's sovereign grace.
3. Live and act in expectation of this gracious reward.