In writing to brand new believers in Thessalonica, Paul is teaching them to be ready for the return of Jesus! He focuses on what they need to know about the rapture, and he assures them God has not destined them to wrath. He is now finishing up that letter to those dear believers, and he concludes with snippets about how they should live in the season before His return. Yes, Paul believed Jesus could return at any moment, and God’s Word teaches us to have the same expectancy! Jesus is coming…and we will be rescued from the wrath of God which will be poured out upon the earth!
Until then, we live out our faith, fulfilling all our Lord commands! Let’s pick up today’s lesson in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. Take a moment to read those verses. On begin, perhaps, in verse 1 to get a running start and an understanding of context.
Have you ever written a long letter to a friend? Perhaps there is lots of news to catch up on, but toward the end of your letter, you begin searching for a way to bring it all to a close. Maybe you want to end on a positive note, with some encouragement, or with words of longing to see one another again. That seems to be Paul’s dilemma as he closes out this letter to his dear friends. He shifts gears from the message to the farewell. He works in a few last minute instructions before signing off. He wants his friends to continue growing in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.
In this farewell, he addresses how to respond to leadership (verses 12-13), then instructs the people how to respond to one another (verses 14-15). Let’s look first at verses 12-13.
There seems to be at least 4 instructions Paul gives regarding how to respond to those who teach and lead us.
- We are to accept them. To “recognize those who labor among us” means not only to see them as who they are, but to accept their leadership. It does not necessarily mean to agree with everything, but to view them with honor as a child would a parent. We are to respect the position, keeping in mind their purpose.
- According to Ephesians 4:11-12, apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers are given for what purpose?
- The Greek word for “equipping” is atartismos, meaning to thoroughly complete the job; to repair, adjust or realign to fit again or restore. For what God-given calling are you being equipped?
- “…the work of the ministry…” is “hard toiling to give others relief.” How, and to whom, are you giving relief?
- The Greek word for “edifying” is oikodome, meaning to design a structure or a pedestal upon which to display something very valuable. What Godly character has been designed in you and put on display as a testimony of God’s goodness in your life?
- We are to appreciate them. As we “recognize those who labor among us, and are over us,” we are to respect their position, their calling and their gifting.
- Do you pray for your spiritual leaders?
- Are you one of whom your spiritual leaders desire to teach and to lead?
- We are to love them. For a leader to “labor among you,” yet be appropriately “over you” in leadership is a difficult line to walk. What is the specific admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:13?
- We are to obey them. When a servant of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, points you to the Word of God, obey their leading! What does Hebrews 13:17 say about this?
Now, let’s focus on 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, where Paul provides instruction regarding how believers are to function toward one another. Here, we are told to exhort one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. How do we do that?
- We are to warn the unruly.
- “Unruly” is a military term referring to a soldier who does not stay in step. It also means to be selfishly careless or reckless, lazy or selfishly uncooperative.
- We are to warn those who march to their own tune, living selfishly and uncooperatively.
- Why? Because they cause division in the body of Christ.
- We are to comfort the fainthearted.
- These are fellow believers who are lacking in boldness and confidence, or who are easily frightened or fearful.
- Do you fear the rejection of others? Does that keep you from proclaiming the Gospel to those in need?
- In context of today’s world, there are many living in needless fear brought about by the pandemic. Perhaps they fear leaving their home, or getting out to do necessary things. What can we do to comfort fearful people?
- Some are fearful “bad things” are going to happen, or they lack confidence they can do what God calls them to do. Often they quit before getting started. What are we to do?
- “Comfort” (noutheteo) means to encourage gently but with firmness by speaking into their ear. It is the opposite of yelling instructions. When is the last time you comforted the fainthearted?
- We are to uphold the weak.
- It could literally mean “Hold tight the weak, not letting them fall into sin.”
- What further instruction does Romans 14:1-3 provide regarding how to minister to the weak?
- Those weak in faith often gravitate toward rules, regulations and legalism, attempting to overcome weakness with rules. Somehow we think we can obey those things and they will keep us from sin. Yet, our self-effort fails. Only the liberty found while living the life of Christ will save us from our weakness of self-sufficiency.
- We are to be patient with all.
- How should we handle the unruly, the fainthearted and the weak? With patience. I lack in this area, what about you?
- “Patience” (makrothumeo) means long-spirited in putting up with difficulty, to be forbearing and to suffer patiently while enduring.
- What is Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:2?
Wow…that’s lots of instruction for living, isn’t it! But here’s some extra credit for you! When churches grow and pressure rises for too few to do too much, God’s instructions are found here:
I’ll leave you with our final verse from today’s lesson:
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.~1 Thessalonians 5:15
We’ll finish off 1 Thessalonians tomorrow, so join us right back here! See you then.