Duties of the Congregations & Their Leaders

Having concluded his discussion about questions pertaining to the coming appearance of Christ in the end, Paul list several sundry exhortations in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14. These are parallel to the list of commands given by Paul in Romans 12:13-18. They are not random and unstructured. These duties the brethren are urged to fulfill as leaders toward the congregation, the congregation toward its leaders, children toward God the Father, and students toward the Truth.

Duties of the Leaders

1 Thess. 5:12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

As a young congregation, the Thessalonians needed leadership. It is doubtful that they had time to establish an eldership with deacons assisting in this short of time. Yet, all congregation will have men who will step up and fill the need for leadership. While Paul urges the brethren to serve the leaders of their congregation, he mentions the service being performed by the leadership.

œ Labor Among You

The church definitely had leaders for Paul speaks of “who labor among you” (5:12b). The term “labor” means to work hard to the point of exhaustion. These leaders were not members of another congregation but were “among” the brethren. The fact the Paul describes them by the work they do shows that leadership in the church is not wearing a title of respect and honor, it involves receiving respect and honor for the hard work the leadership performs for the church. Leadership is a matter of function, not a mere place of honor rewarded for faithful servants. F.F. Bruce said it well, “leaders did not do the appropriate work because they had been appointed as leaders, they were recognized as leaders because they were seen to be doing the work.” David Bercot, in his book Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up speaking of church leadership in the early centuries: “The…elders weren’t outsiders brought into the congregation; they had generally lived in it for years. Their strengths and weaknesses were well known to the entire congregation. Furthermore, they didn’t qualify to serve as overseers or elders by studying in school and stuffing their heads with knowledge. The congregation wasn’t as interested in the depth of their knowledge as they were in the depth of their spirituality. How close was the man to God? Had he lived for years as an example to other Christians? Was he ready to lay down his life for Christ? As Tertullian told the Romans, “Our elders are proven men who obtain their position not by purchase, but by established character.”

œ Over You

Paul told the church at Thessalonica that these leaders “are over you” (5:12c). “Over” literally refers to the action of taking the lead. It involves someone protecting and caring for another. As a father care for his household (1 Tim. 3:4,5) and elders show care for the church (1 Tim. 5:17).

This oversight of the leadership is modified by one qualifier: “in the Lord.” This is to say that the authority of their leadership is from the Lord and Master Jesus Christ. They are not to use their position of leadership as a means of lording it over the congregation.

œ Admonish You

Not only do the leaders care and protect the congregation, but Paul tell the brethren that they “admonish you” (5:12d). To admonish to “put in mind” or as one translation renders this commandment: “warn you against all that is wrong” (NLT). Much of leadership involves reminding the brethren of things they often forget. Paul told the elders of Ephesus at Miletus that for three years he did this for them “night and day” (Acts 20:31). To constantly instruct, remind, and correct requires personal discipline on the part of the leadership.

Duties of the Brethren Toward Their Leaders

1 Thess. 5:12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

Productive leadership necessitates co-operative disciples. No matter how qualified and hard working the leadership the congregation may have, they can only lead those who are willing follow and feed those who have the appetite to eat.

¡ Recognize Them

The members of a congregation are “to recognize those“ (5:12a) who are leading them. This involves appreciation and acceptance. They are to know them well enough to be able to value the work they are doing. Just as the good shepherd will know his sheep by name (John 10:3) and know of their needs, so the congregation needs to know those who strive to shepherd them. Recognize their value to you personally, and congregationally. This does not teach brethren to give their leaders honorary titles and positions. It is a shame when the congregation does not know who its overseers are. This could be just as much a negative reflection on the leadership as on the church.

¡ Esteem Them

The next duty of the congregation toward its leaders is “to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (5:13a) “Esteem” could be translated to “respect”, “acknowledge”, or “deserve recognition.” This is to be done “very highly” or higher honor than high honor. The height of value one places on the work these men do, the greater one’s evaluation of these men.

The manner in which this esteem is rendered is “in love.” This is not out of a sense of duty as a soldier is obligated to salute his officer.  The reason for this high esteem: “for their work’s sake.” Not because of their education, financial portfolio, title, etc. The high esteem is commensurate with their hard work. The leaders who work hard are easier to highly respect.

¡ Be At Peace

One of the best ways to respect and encourage the leaders of a congregation is for the members to “be at peace among” themselves (5:13b). Nothing makes leadership harder than when the members are bickering and biting. Nothing makes leadership easier than when the members are loving each other and pursuing peace. Leaders who spend all their time playing referee with squabbling members will not have the time or energy to help the church grow.

– Daniel R. Vess

2018-07-08 - Profitable Good Works
2018-07-22 - Duties of the Brethren Toward the Congregation
Categories: The Forum