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Genuine Christianity - Studies in 1 Thessalonians - 13

Genuine Fellowship

Today we are studying 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 12 to 28.  This is the last section of the letter.  Our attention is directed to matters of Church fellowship.  Paul begins by dealing with the relationship between the church and its leaders.  We read in verse 12, "Now we ask you brothers to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you".  It would appear that there were some in the Church who were failing in their support of the leaders.  He tells them that they should respect them.  He gives reasons for this.  He says in verse 13, "because of their work".  The work he has in mind is the shepherding of the flock.  It especially refers to the preaching ministry of the Elders. 

Sadly we're living in an age when authority is rejected in society.  This has the potential of slipping into Church life.  People do not like to be told.  The worlds philosophy that there are no absolutes can easily begin to influence the minds of believers.  The outcome is a lack of regard for those who proclaim God's truth.  The thinking is, "Well that is their view".  Maybe in Thessalonica some didn't like to be told that giving up their job to wait for the Lord was not spiritual.  Others may not have liked the forthrightness of the leaders when they admonished certain wayward members of the congregation.  Every church needs faithful leaders who'll guide the fellowship according to the Bible.  If you got such men then do as verse 13 says, "Hold them in the highest regard in love". 

Another reason they should receive your support is given in verse 12.  We read they are, "over you in the Lord".  Your Pastor and Elders are not over you as dictators.  The word carries the idea of divine authority.  The Lord has put them in that position.  It is your duty before the Lord, who has given the gift of leaders, to give a biblical response to them.  The words in verse 13, "highest regard" translate a Greek word meaning "superabundant."   In his paraphrase translation of this verse Eugene Peterson says, "Overwhelm them with appreciation and love ".  When was the last time you gave your leaders a word of encouragement?

We are also called to support each other.  Verse 14 says, "We urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone".  Do not assume that because you have a Pastor and Elders that they are totally responsible for caring for the flock.  You are involved too!  The Scriptures teach the mutual sacrificial pastoral care within the body.  We read in Galatians 6 verse 2, "Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ".  The law of Christ is fulfilled through love.  Those who are idle need to be spurred on.  The timid need your encouragement.  The weak need your assurance that they are not alone in the battle.  Stick with them and get to their side and help to strengthen them.  You will do all these things when you really love your fellow believers in Christ

Our own attitude has a lot to do with how we relate with each other in fellowship.  The Thessalonians were facing intense trials.  It's easy to become despondent at times like that.  Paul says in verses 16 to 18, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."   God's purpose is that the Christian life is a joyful life.  You may ask, "How can be joyful in the midst of troubles?".  You must pray at all times.  You see, you don't have to carry the burden alone.  If you try to you'll soon lose that joy.  You can unburden yourself on the Lord.  We read in 1 Peter 5 verse 7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."   Take your trials and problems to the mercy seat.  God will hear and will help.  He will help you to develop a good relationship with your leaders if you ask Him.  He will help you to be a good influence in the church.  If you ask Him, He will give you the spiritual ability to be a helper to the weak and the timid.  A constant prayer life creates a heart of joy.  That leads to an attitude of thankfulness whatever your circumstances may be.  This attitude will be felt by others in the church.  It will create harmony. 

Paul moves on to deal with the issue of how to listen to the preaching of God's word.  He says in verse 20, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt."   Prophecy is the communication of God's word.  It is the preaching of scripture.  Some were holding preaching in low esteem.  This can happen in churches today.  You must never reject preaching or treat it lightly. 

Why?  Paul says in verse 19, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."  

God the Holy Spirit speaks through the preaching of the word.  You must listen intently to it.  God is talking to you as the word is expounded.  Charles Spurgeon said, "If there be a place under heaven more holy than another it is the pulpit where the Gospel is preached".  We read in verse 21, "Test everything".  You must test the preaching.  Compare all the preacher says with the scripture.  If his words agree and are a good exposition of the text, then obey that word.  Put it into practice. 

This is what Paul means in the second part of verse 21, "Hold on to the good".  Treasure God's word.  So often we forget the massage once we've left the Church building.  How can we apply it when we have let it slip from our minds? 

Paul says in verse 22, "Abstain from every kind of evil".  This is found within the context of your response to God's word.  It means reject anything you hear that is heretical or untrue.  When we hear God's word preached you must be discerning and responsive listeners. 

Paul finishes his letter with a prayer that God will continue to sanctify us in every part of our being.  He says in verse 23, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through."  

We will be genuine Christians as we develop holiness in our spirit soul and body.  The benediction in verse 28 is the key: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you".  Grace has led us safe this far and grace will lead us on.