Summary: 8th (last) is series on 1 Thesselonians (8 of 8).
IT’S A FAMILY MATTER
INTRO: Paul’s favorite name for believers was brethren. He used it at least 60 times in his letters; and in the two Thessalonian Epistles, he used it 27 times. Paul saw the local church as a family. Each member was born again by the Spirit of God and possessed God’s nature. They all were a part of God’s family.
It is tragic when believers neglect or ignore the local church. No family is perfect and no local church is perfect; but without a family to protect him and provide for him, a child would suffer and die. The child of God needs the church family if he is to grow, develop his gifts, and serve God.
What are the essentials for a happy, thriving church family? How can we make our church more spiritual to the glory of God? Paul discusses these matters in these verses.
I. FAMILY LEADERSHIP (vv. 12-13).
Without leadership, a family falls apart. The father is the head of the home; the mother stands with him in love and cooperation. The children are to obey their parents. This is the order God has laid down, and for us to disturb this order is to ask for serious trouble.
God has ordained leadership for the local church. It is true that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28); but it is also true that the Head of the church has given gifts to people, and then given these people to the churches to exercise His will (Eph. 4:7-16). Just as a flock needs a shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-5), so the family needs a leader.
What responsibilities do the brethren have toward their spiritual leaders?
1. - Accept them. They are God’s gifts to the church. They have spiritual authority from the Lord and we should accept them in the Lord. They are not dictators, but leaders. As they follow the Lord, we must follow them.
2. - Appreciate them. That is the meaning of the phrase “know them who labor among you” (v. 12). There is nothing wrong with honoring faithful servants of God, so long as God gets the glory. Spiritual leadership is a great responsibility and a difficult task. It is not easy to serve as a pastor, deacon, or other spiritual leader. It is dangerous when a church family takes its leaders for granted and fails to pray for them, and encourage them.
3. - Love them. As brothers, the leaders are “among us;” and as leaders, they are “over us in the Lord.” This could be a very strained relationship apart from true Christian love. For a pastor to be “among” and “over” at the same time demands grace and the power of the Spirit. Some church members want their pastor to be a buddy, but this weakens his authority. On the other hand, if he emphasizes only his authority, he could become a dictator.
4. - Obey them. When God’s servant, led by God’s Spirit, calls us to obey God’s Word, then we must obey. This does not mean that every spiritual leader is always right in everything. A wise pastor knows when he has made a mistake and admits when he is wrong.
But in spite of their limitations, God’s spiritual leaders should be respected and obeyed--unless it is obvious that they are out of God’s will.
The result of the church family following the spiritual leaders will be peace and harmony in the church (v. 13). Whenever you find division and dissention in a local church, it is usually because of selfishness and sin on the part of the leaders, or the members, or both.
But the leaders alone cannot do all of the work of the ministry; so Paul added a second essential.
II. FAMILY PARTNERSHIP (5:14-16).
Family members must learn to minister to each other. The older members teach the younger members (see Titus 2:3-5) and encourage them when they are in difficulty.
According to Ephesians 4:12, the spiritual leaders in the church are supposed to equip the members to do the work of the ministry. In some churches, the members pay the leaders to do the work of the ministry; and the leaders cannot do it all. Consequently, the work begins to weaken and die, and everybody blames the preacher.
Paul named some special family members who need personal help.
1. - The unruly (v. 14). This word means “careless, out of line.” It was applied to a soldier who would not keep rank but insisted on marching his own way. This kind of attitude in the church family causes arguments and splits.
2. - The feebleminded (v. 14). This term has nothing to do with mentality. The literal translation is “little-souled, fainthearted.” These are the quitters in the church family.