1 & 2 Thessalonians

by Sim Kay Tee

Day 19

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

God places us in a family of believers, a community of faith for our care, nurture, and mutual encouragement. This portrayal of the church as a family is important. Hence, at the beginning of his letter, Paul described the believers as ″you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ″ (1 Thessalonians 1:1, NLT; see Day 1). In the final 17 verses of this letter (5:12-28), Paul affectionately addresses them as ″brothers and sisters″ no less than five times (vv. 12, 14, 25, 26, 27, NLT).

It is hard for leaders to do their best when they are constantly being criticised by those under their care.

Now that they have become part of God's family, the Thessalonian believers are to adopt the family's values and practices. Paul highlights three aspects of community life: leadership (vv. 12-13), fellowship (see vv. 14-15), and worship (see vv. 16-18).

Let's dig deeper into the first aspect today. Paul calls on the Thessalonian church ″to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you″ (v. 12). Although Paul is clearly talking about the congregation's leaders, he does not specifically refer to them as ″leaders″. Instead, he emphasises their hard work in caring for the community.

We are not sure why Paul wrote verses 12-13 in this way. Biblical scholar John Stott suggests that some members of the church may have been disrespectful towards their leaders. Or their leaders may have provoked such a reaction by heavy-handed or autocratic behaviour. ″Paul rejected both attitudes″, Stott notes.13 In addressing the issue, therefore, the apostle distinguished the authority of the leaders from their service. The believers were to focus on their leaders' labour of love rather than their rank.

In verse 12, Paul makes three distinct points about leaders:

First, leaders ″work hard″. The Greek word for this phrase is kopiao, which is often used to describe manual jobs that require strenuous toil. Paul thus acknowledges that caring for a congregation can be arduous and wearisome. There is no room for laziness, half-heartedness, or sloppiness when doing work for the Lord.

Second, leaders ″care for you in the Lord″. Spiritual leadership is akin to parental caregiving; earlier, Paul had likened his role to that of ″a nursing mother [caring] for her children″ and ″a father . . . encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God″ (2:7, 11-12). Notice the qualifier ″in the Lord″-the leader is qualified to lead the flock only if he himself remains under the Lord's authority.

Third, leaders ″admonish you″. This is perhaps the most unpleasant part of pastoral work-to warn against sinful behaviour, rebuke, discipline, correct, and teach what is right. As the NLT puts it, leaders give the congregation ″spiritual guidance″ (5:12) in holy living.

Godly and caring leaders carrying out these tasks in the Lord, Paul says, are to be held ″in the highest regard in love because of their work″ (v. 13). It is hard for leaders to do their best when they are constantly being criticised by those under their care. We ″show them great respect and wholehearted love″ (v. 13, NLT) not because of their position, but because of their labour of passion and love.

This is why Paul calls church members and leaders to ″live in peace with each other″ (v. 13). Today, when conflict in churches often arises from tension between members and their leaders, such harmony is much-needed for unity to be maintained.

13 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Thessalonians: The Gospel & the End of Time, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 119.

Think through:

Does your church community appreciate and respect its leaders adequately? Why or why not?

What does it personally mean for you to acknowledge and hold your spiritual leaders ″in the highest regard in love″ (1 Thessalonians 5:13)?




About Author

Sim Kay Tee is a Bible teacher and writer of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Based in Singapore, K.T. writes for the Discovery Series Bible Study guides, the Journey Through Series devotional, and is a regular contributor to the Insights for Our Daily Bread. K.T. has taught the Bible in various countries. He has three daughters and one granddaughter.

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Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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