When we take the time to meditate on the depth of our sin, it is not too long before we realize the incredible grace of God that provides for our salvation. Our willingness and complicity in sin makes it truly remarkable that the great Lord of the universe would reach down and rescue His chosen people from their bondage. Our redemption is wholly undeserved and is the greatest gift we could ever receive from our heavenly Father.
However, even though our salvation is a gift we do not earn, our Father not only promises eternal life to those who follow His Son, He promises many extra rewards to those who obey Him. This promise of extra blessings is found throughout the Bible. To the people of Israel already saved from the bondage of slavery, God promised many blessings if they would persevere in their obedience to Him (Deut. 28:1–14). Jesus promised that those who would leave everything to follow Him would receive a hundredfold reward in addition to eternal life (Mark 10:29–31).
This idea is also expressed in today’s passage. We read that those who shepherd the flock of God properly will also receive a reward in addition to the gift of their salvation. An “unfading crown of glory” will come to the faithful under-shepherds of God’s flock when the great Shepherd — the Lord Jesus Christ — returns (1 Peter 5:4).
The word for “crown” here is the same word used for the wreath given to those who had won an athletic contest, the crown given to a soldier for valor in combat, or the crown worn by a king. In any case, it rewarded an extraordinary achievement.
Though we must not forget that we do not earn our salvation, this verse shows that God’s faithful servants can expect a reward. When we, whether or not we are ordained elders, faithfully care for those under our authority, we can expect to receive an unfading crown of glory. Yet even this reward is from God’s grace, since none of us will ever perfectly shepherd the flock entrusted to him. And in the end, this reward will be for God’s glory, for one day we will cast these crowns at the foot of His throne in worship (Rev. 4:9–11; 22:3).
Though God certainly has the right to require obedience from us without promising a reward, today’s passage shows us He has not chosen to do this. Rather, He promises His faithful servants rewards for their obedience. When you faithfully shepherd those under your care, you can expect to gain an unfading crown of glory in the life to come, as well as blessings even now. Ask the Lord to help you live in gratitude for these blessings and use them to glorify Him.