Summary: Family Life at Thessalonica according to Paul
Paul’s favourite way of describing the Christian church is that of a family. Just as in physical life you are born into a family so in the family of God you are born, born again, into this family. In his final exhortations to the believers at Thessalonica Paul speaks to them about family life, that is church life. He speaks about three things in particular:
FAMILY LEADERSHIP – VERSES 12-13.
FAMILY PARTNERSHIP – VERSES 14-16.
FAMILY WORSHIP – VERSES 17-28.
FAMILY LEADERSHIP – VERSES 12-13.
Without leadership a family falls apart and without leadership a church falls apart. God in his wisdom has ordained a creative order to this world – we read it in Genesis. Note will you that when Adam and Eve sin God calls Adam to account – because God in the created order placed Adam as the head of the family. Yes there is mutuality and equality but God has ordained that responsibility for leadership in the family is with the male. Sorry if that offends you but I am here to teach scripture and not the way of the world. So Paul speaks to the believers at Thessalonica about leadership within the family of God, within the family of the Church. Now look at what he says here. He outlines the leaders responsibility and the responsibility of those being led.
The leaders responsibility is to do the following:
To work hard amongst the brethren – verse 9 of chapter 2 Paul outlines how they had been faithful in doing this amongst the Thessalonians.
To stand over the sheep. They are given the responsibility of being an under-shepherd – ultimately answerable to the Good Shepherd for how they have cared for and led the sheep of Christ’s flock. Anarchy is sinful in the Christian church. God has called and appointed leaders in his church. God is a God of order and not of chaos – if a church is in chaos it is not of God. To stand over has in mind to protect, to guard, to keep, to care for, to lead and guide – the image is full over meaning here.
To admonish them. Paul says that part of the responsibility of leadership in the family of God is to correct in word and deed the people placed under your care. This naturally would arouse resentment but discipline is a necessary and vital part of the church and the leadership role.
So Paul moves on to outline the responsibility of those being led towards the leaders of the church. Note will Paul does not speak of a leader but leaders – the NT pattern is for many leaders within a fellowship – just as we have many leaders within this fellowship. Now listen to what Paul says our attitude should be towards those over us in Christ Jesus.
Respect and Esteem. That is we are to recognise their responsibility and there accountability as coming from and before God. We are to honour them in the Lord, it is not personal honour but honour in the Lord. We honour them because of the work which they do amongst us in the name and for the sake of Christ Jesus. It is their position in the Lord and their labour for the Lord that demands our respect for and our esteem of them. To do this we are called to accept them as a gift from God to the church. They have spiritual authority from the Lord and therefore we should accept that and respect it. As they follow the Lord we are called to follow them.
Appreciate them – there is nothing wrong with honouring faithful ministers/leaders in our church – so long as God gets the glory. It is a grave responsibility to be called into leadership in the fellowship of God’s church (and I do not just mean ordained ministry here). It brings a burden and battles and sometimes the encouragements are few – we should learn to encourage and appreciate our spiritual leaders in this church.
Love them Paul calls the Thessalonians to love their leaders. Now that is a difficult task. It is difficult to be ‘among’ and ‘over’ people at the same time and sometimes the balance is not right – but Paul says love them.
Obey them – Hebrews 1317 READ. When God’s Servant, led by God’s Spirit calls us to obey God’s Word then we are to obey. It does not mean that everything a leader says is correct and without error – that is why Paul later tells the Thessalonians to test everything. But despite these limitations spiritual leaders are to be respected and obeyed in the fellowship. The result of following Paul’s admonition here is that there will be peace and harmony within the family of God.