Thursday, May 26, 2022

2022.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 5:12–15

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–15

Questions from the Scripture text: In what three ways are elders (and maybe deacons) described in 1 Thessalonians 5:12? What does the apostolic term call the Thessalonians? But what are they to do with their elders? And what else in 1 Thessalonians 5:13? How much? In what manner? For what? What command does this enable them to keep with the elders and the brethren? Now concerning whom does the apostolic team instruct them (1 Thessalonians 5:14)? What are they to do with these unruly (idle) people? Concerning what three other types of people are they instructed? Which specific command applies to which specific people? What will this keep them from doing—which they mustn’t do (1 Thessalonians 5:15a)? what must they do instead (verse 15b)? For whom will this be good?

Why should we acknowledge, esteem, and love those whom the Lord has set over us?  1 Thessalonians 5:12–15 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord expects us to customize wisely our interactions with each type of person in His church. 

“Be at peace among yourselves”
Thus closes 1 Thessalonians 5:13’s instruction about how to interact with those who are over us and admonish us. Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, the Spirit describes various types of admonishment with which to respond to various types of believers in the congregation. The connection seems clear: if we learn to receive admonition well from our elders, and if we learn from our elders how to give good admonition to others, then the whole body will be better equipped to be built up in a way that “is good both for yourselves and for all” (end of 1 Thessalonians 5:15). So, what types of people in the congregation require what type of response from us?

“Recognize those who labor among you”
The type of labor is spelled our in the next couple phrases: oversight and admonishment. For those who are called to this labor, they should recognize it as “work” (1 Thessalonians 5:13a) for the “peace” (verse 13b) and “good” (1 Thessalonians 5:15) of the church. This will keep them from lording it over those whom they are called to serve by authority. If they do not “labor” and “work” in this way, those who are in authority will have themselves to thank when they are not recognized, esteemed, or loved.

And for those who are under the authority, recognizing the nature (labor/work) and purpose (peace/good) of the authority that is over them is needful. If we do not “recognize them” and “esteem them very highly” and “love” them, we will find ourselves resisting their authority and failing to get our benefit from them.

“Warn those who are unruly”
The word is a military term that literally means “untactical.” Anyone who is idle, lazy, unprepared, undisciplined, or disorderly falls under this term. It may be tempting just to work around such folks, but they are a danger to themselves and others. They need to be warned. A congregational culture of healthy giving/receiving admonishment enables us all to be helpful not only to the unruly one, but to the entire congregation, within the various relationships and closeness that God gives us in the church.

“Comfort the fainthearted”
Sometimes church members know what they ought to do, and have some skill and ability in doing it, but they grow weary in well-doing. Perhaps a perceived lack of fruit has discouraged them, or perhaps it has gotten more difficult, or perhaps plugging away in the same role for a long time has just “gotten old.” The overseer-admonishers whom the Lord has set over us should lead the way in consoling and encouraging such weary members. And the more we have been receptively on the receiving end of such encouragement and consolation, the more we will be equipped to be brother-consolers and brother-encouragers. 

“Uphold the weak”
Sometimes, church members simply aren’t that far along yet in knowledge or maturity. Sometimes their ability is just small—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. They need more than encouragement. They need someone with more strength to pull them along. And the instruction here is literally to “keep holding on to” them. If someone in the church needs you to pull them through, don’t let go when your own strength seems to sag! Those in leadership must set their faces like flint, and doggedly depend upon the Lord, in order to keep pressing on. And it will be in those moments when they most feel like they themselves can’t go on that it will be most necessary for them not to let go of those with less strength. This culture of being devoted to helping the weak, rather than despising the weak, is one that starts at the top—both in heavenly terms (almighty God never letting go of us powerless men) and in earthly terms (elders/husbands/fathers not despising the weak but rather bearing even more of the load for them).

“Be patient with all”
In all things in this life, we fail much. Following the instructions in this passage will not be a one-time or one-off. It’s something that we will have to do. And keeping doing. And do again. When the Lord has to command us to be patient, we should admit that it will be our natural (fleshly) inclination to be impatient. To say, “I think I’ve done enough of that for them.” But we mustn’t. We must be patient with all. Every single other member will test our patience at some point. AND WE will test the patience, at some point, of every single other member.

“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone”
We can see by the “no one” and “anyone” that this instruction is the twin of “be patient with all.” At some point, we are going to feel the urge to do worse than just give up on someone. Something they do will positively harm us (or appear to us to do so) or offend us. And we will be tempted to render evil for evil.

In fact, we’ll likely think that this is the one time that this is permissible. The special case in which they have just gone too far. Not so fast, my brother! The Spirit anticipates such reasoning and says, “See that no one” does this: you are not a special one who gets to do this. The Spirit anticipates such reasoning and says not to do this “to anyone”: they are not the specially bad one against whom this would be excusable. No, we must always pursue what is good. As the apostle says elsewhere, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Keep doing good not until you’ve exhausted your inclination to do so, but until you’ve done all, and the peace just wasn’t possible!

Truly, it’s a profoundly loving and forgiving congregational life (cf. Ephesians 4:25–5:7) that is meant to be produced by submission to proper doctrinal oversight and admonition (cf. Ephesians 4:1–24). A biblically faithful ministry of oversight and admonition is a great gift from Christ! We should highly value it, and seek to avail ourselves under it until we all thrive by it.

With whom have you especially needed to exercise patience? In what types of interaction with them? What helpers has the Lord given you for establishing and building this patience?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for encouraging us, for warning us, for helping us in our weakness—and for persisting with us in everything that we need from You. Forgive us! For, we are not like You in these things, but are often impatient with one another and find our remaining fleshliness quite ready to repay evil for evil. But Christ has repaid our sin by dying for us, so that we might be both forgiven and cleansed, which we ask through Him, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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