As I wrote last month, my theme for preaching and teaching through 2023 is “restoration in Christ,” understanding that the gospel is good news for both those who do not know Jesus, as well as those who do. We most often think of restoration in Christ in the context of restoring sinners to God through faith in Jesus, but the restoration continues throughout the lives of Christians.
The word restore points to a process. In general, the restoration process is a change from one condition to another, which is why transformation and sanctification are important aspects of our lives. While our transformation is certainly from old life to new life, from sinner to saint, restoration reminds us that the change God is making in us is to help us regain something we lost. Ultimately, we have lost the intimate relationship with God that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden, when they were able to walk with God “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). God’s restoration through our faith in Jesus is helping us to regain that lost relationship.
Jesus came to restore that relationship between sinful people and God, providing new life for everyone who will believe. However, that restoration doesn’t end once we have put our faith in Jesus; God continues to restore us through the church, particularly with the help of our leaders, the elders. Peter gives the elders of the church these instructions in 1 Peter 5:2, 3:
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Essentially Peter tells the elders to care for the church, watching over them, serving them, being an example to them. Then in verse 5, he tells the rest of us to submit to our elders, which is a specific statement about the leaders of the church and not merely a statement of younger folks submitting to older folks; however, in verses 5 and 6 he also tells us to humble ourselves toward one another in submission to God.
Why does Peter give the church these instructions? Just to keep order within the church, setting a hierarchy of submission? Ultimately, Peter tells the church that this is a matter of resisting our enemy Satan, who is seeking to devour us like a lion (vs. 8) and who is causing suffering among all believers around the world (vs. 9) and that our elders are helping us through this suffering, leading us to restoration in Christ. The reason why God established this arrangement of elders leading the church is to create an environment of relationships in which we can help strengthen one another as God continues to restore us. Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
For the past nine years, I have been working under the leadership of the elders of our church, different men throughout those years but all who have been serving diligently, watching over this body and caring for it, so that we might all be “strong, firm and steadfast” through the suffering we experience in this world. Now that I have been appointed to serve as an elder with them, I want to acknowledge the transition in my role.
Perhaps it won’t look much different. I will certainly continue to fulfill the tasks of preaching and teaching, but I hope that by accepting this responsibility to lead it will be clear that I am not fulfilling these tasks simply because it’s my job but because this is my family. As I preach and teach through 2023, please know that when I am leading us toward restoration in Christ that we are not simply heading back in time to “the way it used to be” but back to God who is making us who he created us to be.