1 Thessalonians 5:12-28: Seven Practical Instructions for a Healthy and Effective Church
July 18, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
These “final instructions” are filled with 7 practical instructions for effective and healthy church life.
First, Paul talks to the church as a whole. The congregation of the church is to acknowledge those who work hard among them. To look up to and respect those who care for them as they work to warn and admonish them. Indeed, the congregation is to hold its leaders in the highest regard in love because of their work. One of the great secrets of effective and healthy church life is for the congregation of a church to love its leaders, respect them, and follow them. This does not mean the unquestioning allegiance to false teachers! The Bible elsewhere tells us to test everything and reject evil and hold onto what is good. But when you have a leadership that is following God’s Word, then a great and compelling key to effective and healthy church life is for a congregation to be easy to lead! But there is a final word here from Paul to the congregation as a whole: “live in peace with each other.” Here is something that can make all the difference: get along together. Don’t fight each other. Be at peace with each other. Church life will go so much better for the congregation that accepts each other and is at peace with each other.
But then, second, Paul turns his attention from verse 14 to the leaders of the congregation. They are given specific instructions regarding how to lead in certain situations and with different kinds of people. Not all people need to be led in the same way; we need to discern what the condition is of the people or person we are leading and help them in accord with what they actually need. So the idle and disruptive, the lazy and divisive, they are to be warned. Don’t pull any punches. Tell it to them straight. Warn those who are being divisive. Warn them that it is wrong. Warn them that sin reaps its own rewards. Warn them that God is not pleased with those who seek to divide his own body. But not everyone in a church is idle and disruptive, so not everyone is to be warned! Some are simply disheartened. They are discouraged. Feeling faint and down. What do you do with them? You encourage them. You show them the future is bright. You help them see that God is still in control. You help them see the good that God is using them to do, and the reward of their work now. You encourage them with how God is at work through their lives. What about the weak? Simply help them. Sometimes words are not enough. When someone is weak it is better to offer help than to offer pious sounding words. Do something practical that will make a difference. So there are these different kinds of people in the congregation and they need different kinds of ministration. But everyone needs patience! So the leaders are to be patient with everyone. What is more, a leader’s job is to do what they can to ensure that no one takes revenge. Bitterness can grow up, but we must do what we can to ensure that no one pays anyone back wrong for wrong. We can’t have any feuds breaking out. And the leaders of a congregation are to always strive to do what is good for each other and everyone. Don’t play favorites. Don’t store up the good stuff for yourself. Do good to each other and everyone.
Third, Paul then turns his thoughts back to the congregation as a whole and gives a series of brief and punchy instructions. Rejoice always. Pray continually, without ceasing, never taking a break for a few days from praying. Always give thanks in all circumstances. These are rules that you can follow whatever is going on, whatever the circumstances may be. In particular, don’t quench the Spirit which means not treating prophecies with contempt. That does not mean that you naively accept words of spiritual insight or prophetic utterances and hunches; you test them all, you hold on to what is good, you reject what is evil. But you don’t treat prophecies with contempt. Don’t quench the Spirit.
Fourth, Paul, then pronounces a blessing upon the church. It is important that we long for and ask for God to bless the church. He wants the church to be sanctified, to become more like Jesus. And he is confident that God is faithful and he will do it.
Fifth, Paul asks for prayer. Not even an apostle is above needing prayer. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for prayer.
Sixth, he wants them to great each other with a holy kiss. The point of this kiss was that it was the way that people greeted each other if they were in the same family. How do you greet another family member when you see them? A hug? A handshake? A warm smile and an easy manner? Paul is saying that the church is a family and we should greet each other as we greet family.
Seventh, he wants this letter read to all. This letter, his writing being God’s Scripture, is to be read so all can benefit from God’s Word. We too are to ensure that God’s Word is present and available to all the church.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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