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1 Thessalonians

Harmony

1st Thessalonians 5:12-28

Paul ends this letter with his care for the church. In particular, he reminds them of the harmony they must have – and tells them how to get it.

But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

(1Th 5:12-28 NASB)

Spiritual Leaders

If there is dissension among the spiritual leaders of the church, the strain on the body of Christ is very great. History shows us that such dissension is not at all rare, unfortunately. The man in the pew often assumes that he can do nothing about this. However, Paul here gives us advice on the care and feeding of teachers and preachers.

If you think this unimportant, permit me to call to your mind a most unusual section of Scripture:

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

(Mat 23:1-3 NASB)

Despite the fact that the scribes and Pharisees are clearly called hypocrites, Jesus tells us that we must obey them. Why? Because he knows that we will tend to join them in hypocrisy if we don’t.

The steps for this are easy: suppose you think that I’m a hypocrite. Suppose that I, the hypocrite, tell you to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Do you then say, “Well, it sounds good, but he’s a hypocrite – I don’t have to do what he says.” No, even though the hypocrite is giving it, you still recognize it as the word of God. Just because I’m a hypocrite doesn’t mean that what I’m teaching is false. (Of course, it’s a lot easier to get results as a teacher if you are not a hypocrite.)

Indeed, it is consistently taught that the Christian is to honor those in authority over them – whether civil or spiritual. As all authority is given to Christ, to honor those in authority because He commanded it is to honor Him as well. It shows that you are willing and able to take upon yourself the discipline of being a Christian. How much more, then, should you honor and love those Christ has placed over you within his church?

Indeed, even if you suffer for it, you will be rewarded as you suffer for Christ’s sake. Suffering in obedience to his commands summons up his strengthening in this life and reward in the life to come.

Why the teacher brings conflict

It is a very obvious fact: many whom we hire to serve us bring us pain and grief. You hire a dentist to work on your teeth; he causes you pain. You hire a doctor; he invades your body with a knife. Why, then, should the one whom God has called into service on your behalf be any less painful? Can one teach the Bible without causing people to think upon their sins and evil habits? Is such thought welcome – or do we let sleeping worms lie?

Now notice something, please. You pay the dentist quite well; mine makes a very fine living. The doctor also lives well. In this you show how much you value their work. Indeed, if you are long with them, you will come to think quite highly of them. How much more, then, should the shepherds of your soul be honored, thanked and loved?

One might object: I know how to reward the doctor and the dentist; how do I honor the teacher or pastor? “Esteem him highly in love,” says Paul. A teacher’s life is one which is often in conflict and weariness; love and encouragement go a long way.

Doorkeepers of heaven

Let me give you an example: suppose you receive a letter which announces to you that you (of all people) have been determined to be the rightful king of some country. You are told that you should come to the palace immediately and claim the crown (and all the money that goes with it). You immediately leave; upon arriving, you discover that the palace is indeed magnificent – and locked. Now of course, being the king, you don’t carry the keys to the place with you; you’re the king, right? And kings are far too dignified to bang on the door. But it’s dark, and it’s about to rain – and just as you begin to worry, some little guy comes along with the key to the door. He announces himself to be the royal doorkeeper, and opens the door for you. Perhaps it’s a dull job, being the royal doorkeeper, but you have reason to thank him.

Your teachers and pastors are just that: we are privileged to be the doorkeepers of heaven. It is not given to us to keep anyone out, for our Lord has commanded that “whosoever will” should be admitted, and that all who are faithful will reign with Him. Surely, then, you can do as Paul asks, to appreciate and esteem them highly. With the conflict we get, we need it.

Harmony Between Believers

It is a truism of the church that we are to help the weak. Sometimes our vision of who are, indeed, “the weak” is a bit faulty. Paul calls out three such here, and tells us what help they need:

·         We are to admonish the “unruly.” The word in the Greek means those who are under authority – but not arranged right. It means those who are rebelling against the proper authority. We often see such people as heroic sorts; in fact, they have failed to discipline themselves, It is no favor to them if we applaud them.

·         We are to encourage the faint-hearted. Often we find those whose burdens seem great to them. As the Holy Spirit encourages and comforts us, we should do likewise with those who need it. We cannot repay God for his comfort; we can only pass it along.

·         We are to help the weak. Those in illness, those who are powerless in prison (with or without bars), those whose faith is small – all these we are called to help.

Patience

Could I suggest, please, that your patience begin with your pastor?

Patience is much easier when the object is either loved or lovely. Patience with those who are obnoxious is much more difficult. Indeed, one suspects the Almighty of giving us a lout or two to deal with – so that we will learn patience with all.

Look at it this way: suppose you get a call from someone who wants to visit you at home. He asks directions. How much more detailed are your directions if you know that he is blind? If your patience increases with the physically blind, how much more should it increase for the spiritually blind?

Repay evil with good

As my wife will tell you, we all burn the French fries once in a while. It really helps if your husband treats those French fries not as a failure but as a burnt offering.

How do we overcome evil? As always, with good. The supreme example of this is Christ on the Cross. By his forgiveness there we have life. Only the God who is love could do that – and only by his power can we do likewise.

Personal Harmony

If your church leadership is sound, and the brothers love one another, there is yet one area to be brought into harmony. That’s you, yourself. You must be in harmony with God.

Attitude

If you’re one of those sour persimmons who feels really stuck on a planet full of sinners, you have a problem. Christ calls you not to gloom and doom but to a life of joy.

  • He tells us to rejoice always. Why “always?” Because you are rejoicing in the Lord, and the Lord is eternal. All that is eternal is from God, who is good to his children.
  • Next, we are commanded to pray without ceasing. The phrasing in the Greek might better be translated, “without omission.” Meaning, of course, that we are to pray on all occasions. Bring everything to the Lord.
  • Finally, we are to give thanks – whether or not we feel thankful. The Lord is gracious to us; all of eternity is ours with him. Our trials are small, our home to come is great – for this, give thanks.
Do not quench the Spirit

The word used here means to extinguish a flame. It’s a perfect picture for someone of the time, for the flame (at Pentecost) and the oil that is consumed are pictures of the Holy Spirit – one is anointed with oil, the Spirit. The reader of this time would immediately picture an oil lamp:

To keep the light from going out, you would need to do three things:

  1. Be sure it gets enough air.
  2. Don’t let the wind blow it out.
  3. Be sure you have plenty of oil.

The church of that time would have seen it the same way: the lamp cannot be kept in an airtight compartment, separate from the other portions of our lives. It must be with us if we are to see by it. But we must protect it from the winds of doctrine – every new theory and idea to come along. And without the oil of grace, the light will soon go out. The same oil that anoints the sick feeds the flame of the lamp.

Examine what is prophesied

If others have reason to admonish us, then surely we must pay attention. But not everything we hear comes from God; we must test it against the Scripture to see if it is sound. If it is good, we must hold to it. If it is evil, we must reject it, at whatever cost. If we do – we will indeed rejoice in the Day of the Lord, for we will have the victory with Him.

Purpose

We are not here to “be good for goodness’ sake.” There is a purpose in our doing good. The Day is coming; the Day of the Lord. Paul then, and your teachers now, want you to be ready for that day. How?

  • You are to be sanctified (holy) in Christ. Recognize that by your own efforts you cannot make yourself holy and pure; only Christ can do that. But recognize also that you have your part to play.
  • You are to be blameless. There are two ways to achieve this: either we give no injury to anyone, or we are forgiven. We should earnestly seek the first and graciously accept the second.
  • We are to be complete – the love of Christ should guide our hearts, use our strength of body and be with our spirits. Thus all of each of us will be entirely his on that day. May the complete “us” be completed in Him.

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