The Lord Jesus is coming again. This is the basic thrust of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian believers. /The Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and we shall meet the Lord in the air and so be with him forever. Amen! Whether we are asleep in the Lord or alive at his coming, we shall be gathered up when He comes to redeem His Church from the world.
Paul had answered the question of the hour put to him by the believers at Thessalonica. But Paul, always believing that theology should have a practical side to it, shifts the emphasis from that of theological understanding to the nitty-gritty of daily living. Paul is concerned that these believers know that the Lord is returning for them. He is also concerned about what they do while they wait fro this glorious event to take place.
In vv. 12-28 of chapter five, Paul gives the Thessalonian Christians some final instructions on living while they wait for the Lord’s return. What God wants of us is faithful living until the time of Christ’s return. Part of that will revolves around how we relate to those in the Body of Christ. In vv. 12-15 Paul gives us some instructions about our responsibilities in several key relationships in the Christian life.
I. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW WE RELATE TO CHURCH LEADERS
"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves." (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, ESV)
- one of the most important relationships in the church is the relationship between church members and their congregational leaders
- some of the most serious and persistent problems in the church revolve around our relationships with our leaders
- how do church members relate to their pastor, the church staff, deacons and other elected leaders?
- how should the church react to these various leaders?
A. THE QUALIFICATIONS WHICH EARN RESPECT v. 12
- a church leader earns respect by diligently laboring among the flock of God
- the word labor here refers to hard, manual work which requires exhausting toil and produces sweat
- it is not easy to be a servant to all, and yet this is what leadership in the church requires
- whether it’s a pastor’s relationship to his congregation ...
- whether it’s a Sunday School teacher’s relationship to their class ...
- whether it’s a deacon’s relationship to his families ...
- all are to be hard-working servants of the church
- a church leader earns respect by exercising charge over the flock of God in the Lord/
- in a Baptist Church, when we call a Pastor or staff member, or elect those from among the congregation to positions of leadership, we are in essence giving them a certain measure of authority over our lives
- b. we are committing to such people the responsibility for our spiritual well-being and the advancement of the Church’s ministry in our community
- we need to let them do what we have voluntarily given them the responsibility of doing
- they are not to exercise their authority like dictators
- their leadership style is in the Lord
- this phrase qualifies the type of leadership we are to exercise in the Body of Christ
- a church leader earns respect by admonishing or giving us instruction
- one of the high callings of a pastor or teacher or spiritual leader in the church is to help others in the congregation to grow in their faith, and in their relationship with the Lord
- spiritual growth comes by sharing the Word of God
- this implies that members need to display a teachable spirit toward their leaders
- ILLUS. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ”It takes two to speak the truth--one to speak, and another to hear.”
B. OUR RESPONSE TO CHURCH LEADERS
- we are to respect and appreciate them for their hard work among us
- church work, whether it be teaching a class of 5th & 6th graders, keeping the church clean from week-to-week, or visiting the sick can be hard work
- ILLUS. Hospital visitation with Bob Moles.
- church work can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting work
- if you don’t think so, just talk to anyone here who has worked in Vacation Bible School
- you need to respect and express appreciation to those who labor among us
- church members can often be insensitive to the psychological needs which church laborers have to be appreciated
- ILLUS. When Linda and I lived in Adrian, we had a really bad ice storm one winter. Trees were down and branches were everywhere. The deacons of the church got together and decided that they would go the homes of some of our elderly and clear the downed branches from their yards. They worked every evening for a week and two weekends. Only one person acknowledged their ministry, and expressed thanks. Two years later when we had another ice story, the deacons didn’t bother to cut up limbs and haul 'em away. I couldn’t blame them.
# our second response to church leaders is to esteem them highly in love/ v. 13
- the NIV says Hold them in the highest regard in love ...
- those who serve in the Body of Christ need to receive affectionate recognition for the labor they are providing
- the only time many church workers ever hear anything about their service is when someone thinks they didn’t "do it right" or "they way it’s always been done"
- I think this is one of the main reasons why churches loose so many valuable workers year-after-year
- we fail to love them and value what they are doing
- to esteem someone means to value the worth of that person to the organization
- for some reason we have come to believe that if a person is truly humble about their place of service that we shouldn’t spoil their spiritualness /by affirming them in what they are doing
- after all, they’re simply doing what they are supposed to be doing, right?
- the Apostle Paul understood that those who labor in the Lord’s work need affirmation by those around them
- they need to believe that those whom they serve feel that their labor has some eternal significance to it
II. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW WE RELATE TO EACH OTHER
" ... Live in peace with each other." (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
- Paul’s thought structure here is very abrupt
- he is talking about how church members should resond to those whom God has raised up as leaders in the church
- suddenly, almost as an afterthought, Paul sneaks in this pointed admonition "Oh, and while you're at it, get along with each other, too."
- William Hendriksen, in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, writes that the Apostle Paul is telling the church members to stop your carping at one another
- gripe, gripe, gripeChave you ever known a church member that that was all they could do
A. THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH TODAY
- there are those who pitch in and do the work of the church
- there are those who cop out, and watch while others do the work of the church
- there are those who habitually gripe about the first two groups no matter what they do or don’t do
- live at peace among yourselves is a relevant statement for the church today
- nothing is more vital to a church’s ministry than an inward harmony and unity among the people of God
- that doesn’t mean that we will always agree on everything that comes before the church
- it does mean that we will choose to love and fellowship the one we disagree with
- a church that gains a reputation for strife and quarreling all but destroys it’s ability to proclaim the gospel of Christ
- people will not respond to a message of forgiveness and redemption from a congregation that does not practice it
B. PEACE REIGNS IN A CONGREGATION WHEN THERE IS GENUINE ACCEPTANCE OF ONE ANOTHER
- Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount ...
- "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24)
- non of us has matured into the fulness of the stature of Christ yet
- we are all still in the process of becoming what God intends for us to be
- until that time arrives, we need to have patience with each other and forgive one another when we fail to live up to expectations
- in other words--cut the other believer some slack!
- at times, we all need an extra measure of patience
- working with people--even Christian people--is a long-term project
- the people in the church around us do not always respond in ways that we think they should or measure up to our expectations
III. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW WE RELATE TO THOSE IN SPIRITUAL DIFFICULTY
"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)
- building a new church building today is a very costly undertaking
- but building a genuine Christian fellowship within a Body of Believers is even more costly
- in vv. 14-15 the Apostle Paul outlines some of the steps involved in building a durable fellowship of believers
A. WE ARE TO ADMONISH THE UNRULY
- the word warn in this passage originally described a soldier who had left the ranks
- what the Apostle is saying is that we are to warn the quitters
- evidently some of the Thessalonian believers had--spiritually speaking--gone AWOL
- the Apostle Paul is referring to those believers in the church who have neglected their spiritual duty, and are enjoying the benefits of the church at the expense of others
- the church today is full of spiritual free-loaders
- these are people who want all the benefits of church life, but who want none of the responsibilities that enable the church to perform it’s ministry
- Tithing? That’s someone else’s responsibility
- Serving? Teaching? Ministering? That’s what the paid staff is for!
- the Apostle says such people who refuse to do their part deserve a note of disapproval and are to be admonished to mend their ways
B. WE ARE TO ENCOURAGE THE TIMID
- some members of a local congregation need just the opposite of admonishment
- they need some encouragement
- there are some in the church, who if they just got some encouragement, would make wonderful teachers
- there are some in the church, who if they just got some encouragement, would become powerful evangelists and testifyers of the faith
- there are some in the church, who if they just got some encouragement, would surrender to preach, or teach, or go to the mission field
WE ARE TO HELP THE WEAK
- this is a reference to those who are week in the faith
- the verb help in this passage means to stand by one who is facing a difficult crisis
- nothing tests a believer faith like a crisis
- we are not always up to the test
- sometimes we need the help of others who are strong in the faith to stand by us until the crisis is past
- ILLUS. With the price of gas so high these days, the novel idea of car-pooling has reemerged. We need to take a lesson and begin carepooling.
When will Jesus come again? No one knows. Our responsibility is not to know the time of His coming. Our responsibility is to live faithfully while we wait for that great event. Faithful living involves many different relationships. It involves relationships with church leaders, and with fellow believer B some of whom have some real needs in their lives. We need to strive to mature in all of these relationships.