There were however a few things in which they needed help and instruction. This is true for us too, and for this reason we cherish the Bible which makes us competent and equipped for every good work (2 Tim.3:16) .
As Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians, he reminds them concerning their future hope, such as the resurrection (4:13-18) and the day of the Lord (5:1-11) and he urges them to remain fully alert and prepared for that day . I remind you that this day comes to us in two ways : either by the literal second coming of Christ or by our death. The day on which you die will be the day in which your soul will be transported back to Him who has made you (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and so it is important to be prepared for the day of your death. It is important to encourage one another (4:18) and to build one another up (5:11) in the light of that day.
And now in conclusion of his letter Paul gives a good number of important and practical instructions which the church ought to remember as they await the coming of the Lord . All of these instructions relate to pleasing the Lord (4:1) in the context of a sanctified life lived within the church (4:3). These issues mentioned here are of course selective, but we will receive these exhortations as the Word of God for ourselves today, believing that this is what the Holy Spirit wants us to hear and obey. In verses 12 – 15 we find three issues addressed :
- The matter of relating to our elders (5:12-13a)
- Relating to one another (5:13b)
- Relating to those that are struggling in various areas (5:14)
- Keeping evil under control and promoting good (5:15)
(next time we will consider vv. 16 -25 under the heading : “Pleasing God through a life of prayer , joy and thanksgiving")
1. Sanctified behaviour through respecting our leaders
Vv. 12-13: “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.
Another text in this regard is Hebrews 13:17 : “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning , for that would be of no advantage to you .”
Let us begin by observing that the pastoral leadership (note the “plural” emphasis on pastoral leadership) is given to the church by God as a spiritual gift (Eph. 4:11). How will a proper relationship with such affect my spiritual development and sanctification? What is their role in my life? And why should I respect them, esteem them very highly in love, obey them and submit to them …. ?
We are of course assuming then that these pastoral leaders do their work with the integrity required by God and His Word  . This does not mean that members must submit to their leaders uncritically if they discern them to be in error. However it does mean that members must not do so in an rebellious or independent spirit, but in love and being willing to work towards biblical agreement (Phil 4:2). This being said , here are the reasons why we should esteem our pastoral leaders :
(i) Because they labour (Gr. kopiaō) among you : The word means “to work to the point of growing weary “. The pastoral ministry can be tiresome work, and one of the reasons we are to respect our leaders is because they often labour among us to the point of exhaustion. Going with God and going against a world that holds the hearts and minds of so many people captive can be exhausting. The last 50 years have seen unprecedented shifts in religious, moral, social, ethical and economic conditions and these have greatly challenged the way traditional pastoral ministry is done. Postmodernism has brought about a dismantling of biblical and traditional values and as a result of this our society has experienced much brokenness as people have been tempted to the limit, as they have experimented with all sorts of new freedoms. As a result pastoral work has become labour intensive as God’s sheep need much healing – Pastoral work is to be done with utmost patience (2 Tim 2:24-26 ; 4:2) . A Shepherd leader needs to be patient and not short tempered and rude. That continual self- restraint can be hard on the soul of the pastor. It is hard to maintain a balance between toughness and tenderness. Furthermore, pastors who committed to doing ministry in a biblical way must truly labour  in preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17). Preparing sermons means preparing the heart and mind, for no preacher can truly preach until he has first preached to himself . That is hard work – subduing one’s own heart is hard work!
(ii) They are over you in the Lord : (“over” à Gr.proistemi lit. “ to stand before” – hence to lead/rule). Paul reminds us that our shepherd leaders rule in the congregation by the Lord’s appointment and therefore by His authority. On this account they have great levels of responsibility and therefore they shall be judged more strictly by God if they fail in their duty. (1 Peter 5: 1-4; James 3:1)
(iii) They are called by God to admonish you : (Gr. “noutheteo” – lit. “to put in mind“ - to instruct and warn in view of the things that are wrong). Don’t resent them for this work. They are called to do this by God.
How should we respond to our pastoral leaders or elders ?
Paul says that they should be esteemed highly in love because of their work . So, we should make a good start by not making the job of the pastoral leadership any more difficult than it already is. Unfortunately it seems that faithful leaders are often badmouthed , maligned and ridiculed . We should really thank God when we do have faithful leaders, and value them as such. So , make it your duty to encourage them in their work. Listen to what they are saying. Follow their leadership as far as they are following Christ.
2. Sanctified behaviour by living at peace with one another ( 5:13b)
We don’t know whether this is still part of the previous discussion about pastoral leaders or whether it is a new thought. If it is still part of the discussion on respecting spiritual leaders, it might indicate that there was a power struggle going on in the church. In this case, Paul was pleading for the people to stop being contrary and to be co-operative and submissive to their appointed leadership.
If this is a new section, Paul is giving us a familiar principle: we should be peacemakers rather than troublemakers!
3. Sanctified Behaviour by helping those that are struggling in various areas :
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. “ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 ESV)
a. Admonish (warn) the idle : “idle” is probably better translated as “unruly/ disorderly /undisciplined ”. When we see someone going astray in this way , we have a responsibility to warn that person that they are in danger. (see James 5:19-20). When we see people who are drifting from the faith, we need to know that those people are actually drifting into the path of the wrath and judgment of God. We have the responsibility to warn such people! By all means choose your words carefully and let them be said in love, but be bold and honest! Don’t be indifferent . Care enough to keep each other from danger.
b. Encourage the fainthearted. The word translated “faintheated” literally means “ small souled” . The idea seems to be that we are to encourage those who want to give up. Most of us know such periods in life when we want to quit. We become timid ; tired of living faithfully; worn down by those who resist the truth of the gospel. At times we feel like we aren’t accomplishing anything. At these times we need someone to come along to encourage us .
c. Help the weak. Lit. those “without strength”. A weak person needs support. The Christian church is not a place where we reject or belittle the weak. The Christian church is a place where we develop support systems (not dependency systems , mind you) but helping people to be self-sustaining/ self -supporting after they have experienced setbacks e.g. divorce ; illness; being advanced in years; bereaved – times when people cannot help themselves and don’t know how they will cope. etc . These are times when people need someone to help them.
d. Be patient (lit. long suffering) with them all: In some respects this may be the most difficult of them all. We tend to be so impatient with people . You see it all the time with people who are grieving. They don’t need answers; they need someone to understand that they are hurting. They have lost someone and no amount of comforting words can replace them . They need time to heal. We all need people in our lives who will be patient with us and who will pray for us and with us even when we don’t seem to be making progress; who will endure our “bad days” rather than getting offended and walking away.Patience is the key that unlocks the door to the deepest relationships. You can’t have any significant relationship unless you are willing to be patient.
e. See to it that nobody repays another evil for evil. This was not the way of Jesus. He taught us to love our enemies (Matt 5:38-48) . Paul instructs us to “not avenge ourselves, but to leave it to the wrath of God.” (Rom 12:19).
Don’t you want to be a part of a church where people value their leaders and care about each other? Don’t you long for people who will care enough about you- to turn your from wrong and to encourage you when you are burnt out or stand with you when life knocks the legs out from under you?
Let’s take this text personally and pray that the sanctifying grace of God will empower us in each of these areas :
- Give thanks to God for your leaders. Encourage them.
- Be a peacemaker and not a disturber of the peace.
- Bring someone back who is heading in the wrong way.
- Encourage a fainthearted person this week.
- Help a struggling Christian this week.
- Determine not to be impatient. Resist the hostility and aggression of the world and practice the patience, the love and the kindness of Jesus.
- Take the wind out of your enemy’s sails by saying something good to them .
May the Lord be with us as we believe the sanctifying power of our crucified Lord to be at work within us , and as we do these things by faith alone for the glory of God alone. And may we be enabled to give testimonies in time as to how the Lord has helped us as we have chosen to obey Him . Amen.
 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 ; Titus 1:7-9
 Same word as in 1 Thess 5:12 - kopiaō
 This was Paul’s experience and it is described in 2 Corinthians
 Gr. ataktos - not keeping order ; a military term, denoting not keeping rank; insubordinate
 Gr oligopsuchos lit. “small souled “
 Gr. Astheneō lit.” to lack strength “
 Gr. Makrothumia : long- suffering