1 Thessalonians 5:12-14
Some Important Parting Words
Paul normally closes his letters with various exhortations specific to that church but general enough to apply to every church. Here are several that should touch every believer’s heart with conviction as we see how we fall short from just these simple appeals.
First we are encouraged to “respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” This is no call to blindly follow; ministers must lead while firmly grounded in the Scriptures. The very word “pastor” is actually Latin for “shepherd” which implies gentle leadership. But no man can lead a group which will not follow. As one who has been there, these men can sometimes feel the weight of the world upon their shoulders—and they certainly should feel the weight of their high calling. The sheep must understand that it is their job to admonish, to correct, to exhort, to warn, and even rebuke when necessary—and most pastors (who are generally born people-pleasers) are afraid to do this as often as they should for fear of hurt feelings or even reprisal. But please note two things: They are over the flock “in the Lord”; that is, they have been called and set apart to be where they are by divine initiative. And second, they are to be esteemed not for their persons but “because of their work.” You are not commanded to like the man (though that is certainly a plus) but to respect the holy task that is his. I look back over my years as pastor and mourn the fact that I rarely admonished and corrected sheep who needed such because like most I shrink from confrontation. Pastors must speak the truth in love as they are required to do, but sheep must listen in love and receive wise counsel—as they are also required to do. So be at peace with your elders and all else.
Verse fourteen includes various exhortations for those in our congregations who are “weak” and need some encouragement not only from the elders but from all. The problem of idleness is referred to again and so for this church was a real issue. Idleness is sin and births more sin: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” as the saying goes. Work is a blessing: It keeps minds and hands busy that when left alone are prone to mischief. This is especially true of children. You do them a favor by keeping them occupied with meaningful tasks. We must also remember that there are those among us who are naturally timid; we are not all born lions. But when we are all together, we may become lions—lions for godly living. Let us remember that we all need patience: We all were once weak—and may be so again.