Lesson 20 - With Respect Toward Those Over Us - Part 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thessalonians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Christians must not think of themselves as too wise, too good, or too great, to learn. The people must search the Scriptures, and so far as the ministers teach according to that rule, they ought to receive their instructions as the word of God, which works in those that believe. It is in the interest of hearers, that the account their ministers give of them may be with joy, and not with grief. Faithful ministers deliver their own souls, but the ruin of a fruitless and faithless people will be upon their own heads. The more earnestly the people pray for their ministers, the more benefit they may expect from their ministry.

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 about everything. Abraham, Moses, David, and even Peter made mistakes in their words and deeds. A wise pastor knows he is made of clay and admits when he is wrong, or when he needs expert counsel.

But, in spite of their limitations, God’s spiritual leaders should be respected and obeyed―unless it is obvious they are out of God’s will. As the spiritual leaders of the church meet together, plan, pray, and seek, and follow God’s will, we can be sure that God will rule and overrule in the decisions they make.

The result of the church family following the spiritual leaders will be peace and harmony in the church: “Live in peace with each other.” Whenever you find division and dissension in a local church, it is usually because of selfishness and sin on the part of the leaders, or the members, or both. James 4:1-3 makes it clear that selfishness on the inside leads to strife on the outside. It is only as we submit to one another in the Lord that we can enjoy His blessing, and peace in the family.

In this place, it seems that Paul is continuing to deal with the situation he had in mind in the earlier part of the verse. Any failure of the rank and file to be on proper terms with their leaders is serious, so the apostle includes an injunction to set these things right [notice the change from “we ask you, brothers and sisters” to the imperative authoritative, “Live in peace with each other.” The form of the imperative indicates that Paul himself is trying to keep the peace by not taking sides. He does not say “be at peace with them,” which would savor of calling on the church members to subject themselves to their leaders, but “Live in peace with each other,” which makes the injunction equally binding on leaders and followers. Both are to keep the peace (Mark 9:50; Rom. 12:18{5], 2 Cor. 13:11). Paul is referring here to the general “peace,” which he believes is to be kept through affectionate loyalty to the church leaders; it was disturbed by the idlers (lazybones), whom the church-officers had to “admonish” (vs. 12 and 14; 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15).

I want to end this lesson by asking you a question; “How can you honor your pastor and other church leaders?” There are many ways, but I suggest the following: Express your appreciation, tell them how you have been helped by their leadership and teaching, and thank them for their ministry in your life. If you say nothing, how will they know where you stand? Remember, they need and deserve your support and love expressed in practical ways.

Special notes and Scripture
[1} The expression “work hard” refers to the labor involved in exercising leadership and admonition, though this should not be understood as defining it exhaustively. The labor is of various kinds
[2} “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (1 Peter 5:1-5).
[3} “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). This verse continues the proof that all Christians are, in the fullest sense, "sons of God." Galatians 3:27 showed why this was so; the present verse shows that there are no exceptions, no inequalities. All Christians alike, no matter what their race, status, or sex, stand on the same footing of sonship before God. There is unity or solidarity in the Christian body. What is true of one is true of all.”
[4} “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23).
[5} “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). The Christian can only be responsible for himself. So far as he is concerned, he is to do his best to maintain peace. The history of St. Paul himself, which is one of almost constant conflict, shows that this would not always be possible.

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