Paul's Instructions to The Believer

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Verses 12-13. "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which 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. And be at peace among yourselves."

The word here is "get to know and respect the elders and leaders of your church." This doesn't mean man appointed leaders, it means those who God has led to take a leadership roll in the individual church. Genuine leadership requires hard work and isn't just the honor of holding that position. It requires a lot of effort and time to handle the spiritual and social contacts necessary for a leader to be effective for God. The leaders are ďoverĒ their brethren in the actual operation of assembly affairs, but in an informal way they are there to guide while the rest of the assembly follows. They don't dictate, they indicate.

The church should never be a one man ministry, as often is the case, and it should never be just an any man ministry. There are those who God has given the ability to lead by example, and there are some who might try to lead but aren't committed to the Lord enough to be effective.

True leadership comes from the Holy Spirit through prayer and Bible study by the individual. One can have all the seminary education man offers, but if you aren't a Believer, you aren't indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and God's Word tells us that you can't understand the Scriptures. How can one lead if they don't understand the "Instruction Manual?"[The Bible].

Governing an assembly requires spiritual discernment and maturity. The authority comes from God and is of no value if it isn't carried out in subjection to His Authority. It has to be done in faithfulness to the Lord and is often a thankless task.

Some may disagree with the way the assembly is conducted, but an effort should be made to be at peace with them and still maintain true scriptural conduct in the church.

There is no indication that elders had been appointed by Paul at Thessalonica. They were recognized because of their true character as men qualified with spiritual graces and gifts. Believers with spiritual discernment will recognize the leaders that the Holy Spirit has given them. This wasn't easy for the Thessalonians, they had all been saved at about the same time and knew each other well, and many of them may have reached about the same spiritual level in their lives. Taking on the spiritual relations and responsibilities of the assembly would be delicate and difficult, but necessary.

Paul never taught that one individual elder should assume the major responsibility of preacher, teacher, and pastor in a local church. More than one elder in each local church should accept those duties. Along with that ruling went the responsibility of teaching the Word. 1 Timothy 5:17. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching."

Follow Paul's advice for the assembly. Leaders can't be arbitrary and their brethren can't be critical and contentious. God should have His way through those He has given the care and conduct of the local church.

Verse 14. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."

It is the job of every Believer to try to maintain godly order in the household of faith. The Thessalonian believers were to help those experiencing spiritual difficulties, and to warn the disorderly and correct them if necessary. They were to deal kindly with all others that needed help in any phase of their lives.

Some of these Believers may have been fainthearted and would need different treatment. I'm sure it would have been hard to live the Christian life in that society where you were in the minority if you weren't an idol worshipper. When they became Christians, they may have lost all their friends and family and had become discouraged. Satan saw to it that there were plenty of obstacles for them, so these folks needed loving words of sympathy and encouragement.

God usually puts a person that is strong spiritually within reach of those who need encouragement or direction in times of weakness or indecision.

Verse 15: "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."

Spiritual responsibilities toward others call for spiritual responsibility in our own life.

Retaliation is a natural reflex, but it's entirely contrary to New Testament principles. Our new nature as Believers helps us control that reaction. Retaliation contradicts the example set for us by the Lord Jesus in His earthly life. Remember, God didn't render us evil for evil when we crucified His Son on the cross.

Verse 16: "Rejoice evermore."

The Thessalonians were living in daily persecution and trials, and yet they found the true reason to rejoice. They knew that the secret of joy wasn't in circumstances but in knowing Christ as their Savior and trusting Him to direct their lives.

Verse 17: "Pray without ceasing." The believer is entitled to offer up prayers of all kinds without ceasing, never getting out of touch with the Throne of Grace. Prayer gives us spiritual well being. It enables us to go directly to God and we are to depend on God the Father in all things. We can "rejoice evermore" in the fact that our Father in heaven hears us and acts in the way best for our situation every time!

Verse 18: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

God wants your prayers of thanksgiving just as much as He wants your prayers of request. The believer has the privilege of giving thanks "in" everything. This means to accept what ever comes our way graciously in every circumstance, good and bad alike.

It's difficult to explain how we can give thanks "in" everything when we aren't truly thankful for some things. It's not the same as give thanks "for" everything. There are things that may injure us physically and cause great pain and we won't be thankful for those situations. However, that injury may give you time to spend alone with God that you didn't make time for in your daily schedule when you were healthy. We should be thankful for that.

J. Vernon McGee, the well known Gospel minister and writer, wrote about how he experienced this very situation, and how it became a blessing to him.

It's an important aspect of the will of God for all believers to rejoice always, pray unceasingly, and give thanks in everything. It takes real faith, and God will bless you for that faith.

Verses 19: "Quench not the Spirit."

Man likes to be in charge. He has tried his best to divide the church into the priesthood and the laity. When one man is head over all the church proceedings, the Spirit present in the rest of the Believers in that group will be inhibited, or quenched, and God said here that He didn't want their spirits quenched.

God strongly rejects this, but man persists. It's a throwback to Judaism, but if you mention this to those who practice it, they are offended. They don't see that they are disobeying Scripture when they are separating the Believers and designating some of them as priests and the others as followers. God calls all Believers kings and priests. [Revelation 1:5-6 "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6: And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."]. Man can't change that no matter how he tries. God doesn't recognize a priesthood and the laity.

The Holy Spirit indwells all Believers, and when some are repressed from certain privileges, the Holy Spirit is quenched.

The Holy Spirit wants to work through all the individual members of the body of Christ in public gatherings as well as in the life of the individual Believer. God's will isn't confined to the personal life of the individual. Paul told the Thessalonians to stop quenching the Holy Spirit, they were interfering with the blessings of the church.

Verse 20. "Despise not prophesyings."

Evidently some people of the time of this writing didn't consider prophecy of much value. We have a lot of people who don't believe the Old Testament prophecy today, even though a large portion of it has come true exactly as stated in the Scriptures. There is also much prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2 and 2 Peter 3 as well as the Revelation, concerning the end times.

There is a blessing for all who will listen when God's Word is expounded as it's revealed in the Bible. The prophet of old has been succeeded by the teacher of today who expounds the mind of God from the completed Scriptures. There are many who downgrade the importance of Godís Word. To them, the Bible is either a religious symbol that collects dust, or a mystic book believed by only some radical people who are out of touch with the modern times.

Verse 21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

Paul told these folks to check it out and see if what they had been taught agreed with previous divine revelation. If it didn't ring true, discard it.

One of the most common errors made by people today is to take what some man has said or written as the truth without verifying it themselves. This is doubly dangerous when we accept what man says concerning the salvation of our souls. Verify those claims from your Bible. There is only one way to get to heaven and it was plainly taught by Christ Himself. John 14:6. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

I have been told by some that salvation is through baptism. Some claim it's infant baptism, some adult baptism. Others believe the way to have your sins forgiven is by taking communion. Still others say that a priest can forgive your sins.

The Bible states this; Acts:16:31: "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Check it out for yourself to see if this is what God said. While you are at it, see if you can find where it says that baptism alone can save you, or if communion will forgive your sins, or if there is a priest anywhere on earth who can forgive your sins.

Verse 22: "Abstain from all appearance of evil."

One of my favorite verses to quote to my kids is "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Many times a question would come up about the propriety of going to this place or that, or doing this or that, and the decision was to be made on the strength of this verse. The question is this: Even though I am doing no wrong, will what I do or where I go mislead or offend someone? If there is the slightest chance of a "yes" answer, abstain. Your actions may appear evil to someone and be a stumblingblock to their salvation, or lead them into some sin. Don't let your actions be the reason someone goes astray or doesn't get saved and spends eternity in hell. It's that serious. Eternity and hell are involved.

Verses 23. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul has given some guidelines and encouragement's for the Believer's life and now he is going to give them some wonderful thoughts to remember. He is praying for their peace and spiritual welfare right up to the time they go to be with the Lord.

Paul's desire was for every Believer to be wholly set apart to the Lord. He wanted every Believer's spirit, soul, and body be held blameless by God until the coming of the Lord. This is made possible through the forgiveness offered us when Jesus shed His blood for our sins on the cross. He paid our debt in full.

1. The spirit is the part that brings man in touch with God. It influences the soul, and that leads to the control of the body.
2. The soul is the non-material part of man, our emotions, affections, desires, and our will.
3. The body is the physical part of man, and the emphasis here is on the physical body of the believer. It shows how essential bodily resurrection at the rapture will be in Godís program for the complete salvation of man.

The body, soul, and spirit of the Believer are to be set aside to God in holiness. We will be preserved blameless until the coming of the Lord. Then we'll dwell in perfection in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Nobody has the authority to point a finger at you and say that you are not saved, or that you aren't fit for heaven, right up until the Lord comes to get you. God has forgiven you, declared you innocent in His eyes, and claimed you as His adopted child.

Verse 24: "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."

His promise, in verse 24, is that the Lord Jesus, who called you to be His Own, is faithful and will complete your salvation. You will be safe from the power of sin, the penalty of sin, and even the presence of sin for eternity in heaven.

God is faithful. He doesn't make promises He can't keep. God called the Believer and promised that He will make him perfect in holiness as He has called him.

Verse 25. "Brethren, pray for us."

How sweet it is to be able to call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us! Some may look on this as a sign of spiritual weakness, but in reality it is a sign of spiritual strength. We are not given the task of living our lives alone. Remember, God said we are all one. I'm not a toe and you're not a finger, we're all one body in Christ. One finger can't write and one toe can't walk, so don't try to go it alone.

Paul had the same problems any of us do. The problems that go with Christian service and personal holiness were just as difficult for him as they are for us. He asked his brethren to keep praying on his behalf. He had led many of these Thessalonians to the Lord and he had strong ties of brotherhood with them, and he knew they would pray for him. This is the way it should be in the local assembly of Believers, and then we can extend our prayers out to others whether saved or unsaved.

Verse 26 he writes, "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss."

A kiss on the cheek was an accepted form of sincere greeting between members of the same sex at that time. It still is in some parts of the Middle East region. This was another way he showed his love and fatherly concern for them.

Verse 27: "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."

This is one of Paul earliest writings and every bit of it is the authoritative Word of God, and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It met the need of the believers in the local church then and still meets those of the Believer today.

He seems to be ordering them to read the contents of the letter to all the Believers in Thessalonica. Holy brethren would include women and children that were saved.

Verse 28: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."

Paul closes with this wonderful benediction which is common to most of his letters. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can say, along with the apostle Paul, "Thy grace is sufficient for me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

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