Lesson 21: WITH CONCERN FOR ONE ANOTHER (1Thess. 5:14-15) - Part 1 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Tom Lowe

Lesson 21: WITH CONCERN FOR ONE ANOTHER (1Thess. 5:14-15)

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (NIV)
14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Lesson 21


Paul has a warning for those who are IDLE AND DISRUPTIVE, which suggests that worship services in the early church were often interrupted by unruly members, and the Thessalonian church was no exception. Many of the disorderly ones held false ideas about the nearness of Christ’s second coming. The result is that they became indifferent toward the ordinary work of life, and sank into listlessness and apathy, and even worse. There is a proverb that says: “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop,” and when a man is not diligently employed in some healthy and vigorous occupation, he is apt, in spite of his Christian profession, to become an instrument of evil, and a disrupter of the church, the peace of which he is pledged to maintain. These are the restless gypsies of the church; they go from church to church seeking individuals who have the same opinions as theirs; they are the pests of every Christian community into which they intrude, the mischief-makers and busybodies in other people’s business.

Some have thought that this is a special directive to the elders of the church, but there is no change of address (brethren, v.12){c]. Ministry is not the monopoly of some special class; the members themselves have a ministry to perform for those of their members who are in need of warning, encouragement, and support. The loafers who refuse to work (4:11-12){b], are not to be supported in their idleness by the brethren, who are to join their leaders in warning them.

Occasionally, when I am around Christian friends I hear someone say, “The church has not experienced any trouble for a long time.” Such a statement is proof positive that the church is dead! Any church that is winning souls and spreading the Gospel will be attacked by the devil―from without and from within; and there will be disorderly conduct even among Christians unless they are warned, rebuked and disciplined. That is a Bible fact. Read the spiritual account of the disciples―Paul, Barnabas, and others―and you will find that human nature, regardless of how saved, sanctified, consecrated and dedicated one may be, must be battered and crucified daily. The old nature must be starved; it must be policed by the individual and by the right kind of spiritual leaders.

More correctly, encourage the faint-hearted. He is not talking about the intellectually weak, but rather, those who faint in the face of adversity, or are ready to fall away before the prospect of persecution and suffering (2:14), or who are despondent and disheartened due to the loss of friends (2:13) and constant worry over their salvation. It may also include those who are perplexed with constant doubt and apprehension with regard to their spiritual condition, and who through fear are subject to bondage their entire life. There are some people that are so weighed down with a sense of modesty that they become incapacitated and unable to use the abilities they possess, though underneath all this modesty there may be the pride of thinking they are better able to judge themselves and their abilities than anybody else. And there are others who are so oppressed by ingrained sin that they lose hope of gaining the victory over it, and give up trying. These need to be encouraged with the promises of God, and with the lessons and examples furnished by experience. Heart-courage is what the faint-hearted require.

A man may be weak in judgment or weak when it comes to putting it into practice. There are numerous reasons for their weakness, but the most common are (1), that there may be a lack of information concerning the great truths that must be believed and maintained or (2), a lack in the capacity to clearly understand and grasp those truths; and finally, they must not despise but help (cling to) the weak, i.e. those who were tempted to lapse into immorality (4:2-8). Defective faith implies defective practice.

The weak and faint-hearted are to be comforted; they need a stimulant; they need to be motivated, built up and pushed on. The unruly and disorderly are to be rebuked. They are self-confident and over-proud, and they need to be held in check. They need to be encouraged and treated with respect. We could do it, if we would only speak to them, shake their hand and encourage them, instead of passing them by. It is good for weak souls to know that there are others who are with them, who will cleave to them in difficult times, who will not forsake them. In various places Paul has a great deal to say about the weak (notably in Rom. 14 and 1 Cor. 8). He leaves us in no doubt, that there is a place for such in the church, and further that the strong have a particular duty toward them. So here the weak are not to be simply abandoned but made to feel that they belong and that they have strong comrades in Christ.

Paul’s instruction to “HELP THE WEAK” had already been practiced by Paul in Acts 20:35. He had set the example before preaching it to the Thessalonians: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:35).

The apostle says, “BE PATIENT” not only toward the weak, the faint-hearted, and the disorderly but toward all men, including even outsiders, who may be very trying at times because of their hostile actions, the most defiant and wicked, the bitterest enemies and persecutors. Think for a moment about the patience of God towards ourselves, even though for years we refused His calls and despised His warnings and reprimands. It is only Christianity that teaches a man to bear personal injuries without retaliation. Christians should not be putting their own interests first and taking a strong line with those who do not agree with them. Rather, they must be patient with all people, putting up with their bad manners, and patiently seeking to lead them in the way of the Lord.

Please notice―this is a command, and the subject of the sentence is YOU―each and every believer. To be patient and long-suffering is one of the special marks of real Christian grace. “Charity suffereth long . . .” (1 Cor. 13:4).

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