sermon on 1 Thess 5:12-28

Let's read the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

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. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I think that's all so now we can go have donuts....


Let's pray.

If this is your first time with us, ever, or in a while, we are reading probably the first of Paul's letters in the Bible. It was written from Corinth, about 200 miles south of Thessalonica. He had been chased out of Thess. as well as Philippi, and Berea. This was a very successful church plant but Paul was worried about how such a young church was doing, so he sent Timothy to check in on them. Timothy had come back with a positive report. In 3:6 Paul writes,

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.

The Church of Saint George (Rotunda) in centra...Image via Wikipedia

However, there were a few things Timothy observed that Paul felt needed addressing. Some of the believers already had fallen asleep, died. They figured, Jesus would return before that happened. So they grew insecure. They wanted to know when Jesus would return. Every chapter in this letter ends with the affirmation that Jesus will return., but without a date. Some figured since his return was so soon, why bother working? These slackers were mooching off the ones who kept their jobs. And some of them figured they needed to not bother with marriage before climbing into bed with each other.

Are any of these issues unfamiliar in our modern times? Of course not. That's why we are still reading this stuff 2000 years later.

So Paul has addressed their concerns,
Jesus will return, we just don't know when, but when it happens, we won't be able to miss it because the believers who died will be rising from their graves up to heaven to join him.
Get a job, keep your job, and mind your own business.
Control our bodies in a holy and honorable way, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.

At the end of the letter, Paul wraps up with a list for the church to work on.

As a parent with younger children, I first thought of this as the sort of list we'd leave for a babysitter.

We'd write stuff like, only one ice cream sandwich per kid, make them wash their dishes, make them floss, only one video, lights out by 9...

But there was a big flaw in that analogy. My kids aren't allowed to tell the baby sitter, "forget you," and stomp out of the house. No this is more like something we'll be able to do when the kids are 17 or so, leave the oldest one, and presumable the responsible one, in charge. And that is a big presumption. So when Paul writes to the brothers, it's really like a big family, and the responsibility has fallen to some, those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

So I see Jesus writing, through Paul, "respect your brothers who I've put in charge". As any family with more than one child knows, sibling rivalry happens. And Jesus is saying there are a few who are over you, who will admonish you, they are recognizable by their hard work.

Paul reminded them of his own hard work among them in 2:9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

He reminded the Corinthians of how he works harder than the other apostles in 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

He also commended the hard work of four sisters to the church in Rome. 16:6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 16:12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

But it is still a little weird to talk about siblings who are over us in the Lord. It's pretty clear in Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

That's pretty strong. In fact, it is so strong that some leaders have taken advantage of that verse and have really hurt people. The leaders in the church who have abused this privilege need to revisit the qualifications for the job. In Thessalonians, Paul mentions hard work, but in his letters to Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, he puts a point on it. According to Paul, anyone who desires to lead in the church desires a noble task. They have 16 other things to work on.

Above reproach. One wife. Sober-minded. Self-controlled. Respectable. Hospitable. Able to teach. Not a drunk. Gentle not violent. Not a quarreler. Not greedy. Manage the home well. Children respect him. Not new to the faith. Respected by non-believers. Lovers of good.

Jesus also had a couple things to say to the disciples about leadership whenever they got into arguments about who was the most important.

Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

So the sibling put in charge can be tempted to let it go to their heads. Jesus had strong words for these bad leaders, the Pharisees, in Matthew 23. Jesus says don't do what they do because they don't practice what they preach. They make religious burdens for people. They seek attention. They seek honor. They love titles. They exalt themselves. They don't serve. Make it hard to enter the kingdom of God. Point to themselves instead of God. They refuse to let anyone go directly to Jesus. Insist on being a mediator to God. They raise up new hypocrites. They look for loopholes in God's word. They miss the forest for the trees. They focus on the minors and ignore the majors. They have no introspection and no acknowledgement of their own sinfulness. Their private world is wicked. They are snakes.

That's the hyper-spiritual bad leader. But there's also the bad leader who is sensual. Peter talks about them in 2 Peter 2.

They introduce destructive heresies, deny Jesus, are sensual, blaspheme the truth, greedy, exploit people, lie, indulge in lust, despise authority, are irrational, instinctual like an animal, ignorant, partiers, deceived, adulterers, entice others, seek wrongful gain, boast loudly of their folly, entice others by the flesh, enslaved to corruption, and are entangled in the world.

So what's the difference between good and bad leaders?

Bad leaders use you as a means to his own ends.
Good leaders join you in the journey that ends at Jesus.

These are the leaders, the older, hard working, responsible, siblings Paul calls on the Thessalonians as well as us here to respect and to regard in love.

How do we do that? Let them admonish us and be at peace with one another.

Admonish according to Merriam-Webster means 1 a: to indicate duties or obligations to b: to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner 2: to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to

Phil once spoke up here and said a servant leader is one who tells you, "Don't step in that, it's nasty...Watch out over there...This water is no good, try it over there." That's what Paul was doing earlier in this letter. He told them to get to work and only sleep with your spouse.

We also should seek to be at peace with one another, so our leaders can focus on the next few things in the letter. Perhaps your families are different, but sometimes, there is so much bickering in my house that nothing gets done and no thoughts can be processed. We just have to declare, "enough!" And then they keep doing it. And we say, "didn't we just say no more?" and the answer is, "I was talking to myself." When they are at peace with each other, life is much nicer.

I feel so bad for my mom. My brother and I, who are best friends now, fought every day when we were young. Every day. But I had a realization one day when I had come home from college and watched him at a wrestling match....

Jesus valued it and spoke on it over and over, but that might have been because those future church leaders seemed to bicker a bit. In fact, in his prayer at the last supper in John 17 he prays 4 times that we may be one or be in complete unity.

Paul tells the Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Rom. 14:19
Peter writes, Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8
He later says Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Pet 4:8

How do we do this? Forgiveness. We need to pray daily, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us. We need to forgive 70 times 7 times a day. We need to return good for evil and blessings for slander.

Doing this enables our leaders to focus on a few things.
14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

The idle blokes become such a problem that Paul writes a 2nd letter to the Thessalonians a few months later telling them to keep away from them, and follow the example of the hard workers, and to not feed the freeloaders. Even though they are busybodies and cause trouble, Paul tells them in the 2nd letter to not regard them as enemies but to warn them as brothers. 2 Thess. 3:15

We are all on this journey with Jesus to heaven. And some of our siblings are taking piggy back rides which weigh down and wear out the others, for no good reason. They need to get back on their feet. However, some are scared or weak. The freeloaders need a warning. The others need encouragement and help.

I used to help coach T-ball. On my team, I had the pro, the nature lover, the fearful and the ones unable to hit or catch. Each one required a different approach to get in the game....

Leaders are called to be patient with everyone. Leaders are in the front and they see the goal. But there are many behind who can't keep the leaders pace. A demanding leader loses his patience and yells at the people in the back. But he needs to stop assuming everyone is just like him and find out why the people at the back are having difficulty. He needs patience.

We were walking around UConn yesterday for Alumni weekend and I was excited and wanted to hustle to each activity. I didn't want them to miss a thing. But my wife kept trailing off behind us. She is fully capable to walking as fast as me, but something was wrong. She didn't feel so good after the long ride. She felt much better after our trip to the dairy bar though. Sometimes a leader just needs to buy someone an ice cream cone.

Leaders are also called to stop a revenge cycle. Remember? Forgive and do good.

Jesus says,

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:27-30

But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt 6:15

Paul tells the Romans
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom. 12

Peter writes
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Pet 3:9

Paul tells the Ephesians
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32
and the Galatians
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal 6:10

When the leaders achieve that in their churches they can rejoice. But that doesn't happen much, because in a healthy church new Christians are coming in all the time. But we need to always rejoice.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians from jail he told them to rejoice with him 3 times. He was full of joy while chained up. He told the Romans the kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy. (Rom. 14:17) and that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God which we'll see some day and we need to enjoy our sufferings because they sharpen our hope (Rom. 5:2-5). Joy comes from freedom from fear, from judgement, from death. It's joyous to have such freedoms. If you find you've lost your joy in the hope of the glory of God, get around some new Christians. James 1:2-4 tells us to

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

My son was mad that he had to do his sister's dishes since she was not home. I told him to consider it pure joy. He told me James was not talking about the same kind of trial.

Meanwhile, pray continually. Stay in conversation with God all day.

Jesus told us a parable in Luke 18 to always pray and not give up.
Paul tells the Ephesians And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph. 6:18
Hebrews reminds us that Jesus ... is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Heb. 7:25

We also should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

This is no joke. He tells the same thing to the Ephesians, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20 In fact, when something bad happens, some of us might use inappropriate language. Paul tells the Ephesians, Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Eph. 5:4

When we thank the Lord, we acknowledge his control. We also keep the better perspective. Psalm 118:29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. We don't thank God for the mess, we thank Him because he is good and he is faithful and he is love. It's God's will for us to thank him.

It is not God's will for us to quench his Spirit. How is his Spirit quenched? By despising prophecies.

They were probably sick of people saying, "Jesus showed me that he's coming back tomorrow, so I quit my job." We should let people try out their spiritual gifts and evaluate what they come out with. Test everything and hold onto the good. These early NT churches usually met in homes. So we encourage people to practice their spiritual gifts at a small group where they can take risks and get feedback without the high stakes of doing in front of our larger churches and being told, "nothing good in that one Bub." If you are affirmed in your small group then it'll be less risky in our larger group. We have had people prophesy from the stage in the past.

Hold onto the good, avoid every kind of evil.

Not evil people, but the stuff that causes you to sin. This is what we mean when we say love the sinner, hate the sin. It's what Jesus does. He loves us too much to leave us to wallow in our filth. In the same way we reach out to the world and share the good news. Peter lays it out clearly for our personal lives, 10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Peter 3

This seems pretty overwhelming. Paul let's us in on the secret to this lifestyle, let God do it in you.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

How does God do this? In Jesus' prayer for us in John 17:17 he asks God, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. His method of making us holy involves his Word. Let's read it. It will change us. Why? Because God is faithful. Who will do it? God, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Pray for us. Greet each other with side hug of brotherhood, or the hand clasp back slap. Read this letter to everyone. Rest in God's grace.

All verse quotes from the NIV

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