Paul shares a few final instructions and a closing blessing for the church in Thessalonica. These are instructions that equally apply to all the churches. One of Paul’s final instructions is to share this letter with the other churches.
Paul’s instructions fall into three general categories. The first deals with the relationship between those in authority and those they govern. The second concerns the members of the body as a whole. The final category involves the relationship with God, both individually and corporately.
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you. and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (verses 12-13a). Notice Paul did not say “worship” or blindly follow. He said “respect” and “esteem them very highly in love.” Respect means: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Both pieces of Paul’s instruction here are contingent on the individual’s “labor” not just the office they hold or their personage. A Godly leader is worthy of following. He/She answers to God for where they lead us. Our job is to make their jobs easier by showing them the respect they are due for the heavy load they carry. They are NOT perfect and DO NOT deserve to be put on a pedestal and worshiped. They are human and fallible just like the rest of us and that fact makes their job of caring for all of us harder. The phrase “a fall from grace” brings to mind leaders who were ascribed Godlike status who then in turn act like mere humans. Yes, then need to be held accountable for their actions but they wouldn’t have so far to fall if we hadn’t raised them up to impossible standards through our worship. We are to respect them not worship them.
“Be at peace among yourselves” (verse 13b). This is the umbrella of Paul’s second set of instructions. I say umbrella because this “peace” isn’t a blanket that covers over problems. It is a working peace. Paul actually calls for admonishment and monitoring one another’s behavior. We are to work together with each other being “patient with them all.” We too are human and fallible. Just like a whole body, when one part of it is in pain or ill, favors and works to repair that part, we are to do the same as His body. We wake up the sleeping parts, tend to the hurting parts, and make sure every part is working together in tip top fashion.
Paul’s last group of instructions apply personally and corporately. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (verses 16-18) applies specifically to the personal level but the results of a life lived this way impacts the overall body. When you are following these instructions you can’t help but be a positive influence on those around you. Grumbling certainly goes out of the picture when living this way.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (verses 19-22) can be applied to all levels. A body of believers not open to the Spirit dies as does an individual. Testing everything is vital to the health of both body and individual. This is necessary to keep false doctrines out. Having the Spirit guide this testing is essential. Don’t cast something away just because it looks hard or grab onto something because it looks favorable. Let the Holy Spirit and God’s word make those calls.
“Do not despise prophecies” is an area where I personally struggle. Not that I don’t believe in prophecy but all the doomsday prophecies that are coming down the pipeline today turn my stomach. I especially reject ANY prophecy that tries to tell me the time Jesus is returning. When they start naming days, months or even years I turn a deaf ear. Jesus Himself doesn’t know the hour or day of His return, only God. I know time is getting shorter and prophecies from Daniel and Revelations appear to be coming into being but those are warning signs not specific dates to mark on your calendar.
Being a “control freak” I would love to be able to know exactly what each of those prophecies means and points to but I don’t believe they will be fully recognizable until they have passed. Just as many of the prophecies concerning the Jesus’ life, they were not understood until using hindsight. God kept man from understanding fully until He was ready to lift the veil through His Spirit. I think Jesus’ returning is and will be the same way. I imagine the conversations during Jesus’ millennial rule will sound like some of the early church’s when they recounted the proofs of Jesus’ role as the Messiah. “It was right there in front of us all the time and we didn’t see it. If only we had known!”
I wonder if there will be any who still refuse to believe during that time. Jesus will be ruling and reigning on earth and Satan will be bound, but we will still have free will. Those who made it through His returning battle will be living on earth. Will any of them be unbelievers? The reason I pose this question is that even today, not everyone from a country will fight in its army. There are civilians who stay home while others go off to war. Will those “civilians” enter into Jesus rein? Will all be judged at that time and the verdict govern who enters Jesus’ rein? That is definitely a question for Him!
Thank You Father for giving me leaders to watch over my growth. Thank You for giving me AND those who care for me Your Spirit. I KNOW I couldn’t walk this path on my own nor would I trust any person who refused Your Spirit to lead me. Thank You for my parents as You have led them for my whole life. I know they are not perfect but they try and follow Your Spirit too. Forgive me when my heart is too cynical and I actually refuse to listen to something that came from You but I didn’t recognize it as such. Please bring it back another way so I will recognize its origins. Thank You for discernment.
Help me live the distinctly personal instructions from today’s reading: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” I want to be that joyful person. Not dependent on circumstances to provide my joy and happiness, but dependent on You for REAL joy. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).