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Thessalonians 5 v 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over

Following Paul’s teaching in verse 12 and 13 of 1 Thessalonians which was about Spiritual Leadership and Authority in the local Church, the apostle uses the word BRETHREN again to introduce the next thought.

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

Whereas verses 12 and 13 were an appeal to the whole church membership to respect and honour their leaders, now Paul does more than appeal – or ask the whole church – He exhorts them. The dictionary says that exhort means to URGE strongly or to admonish strongly.

And in such urging and admonishment we find Paul using IMPERATIVES. An imperative simply is something that must be done. Words that have an imperative meaning are such as GO! STOP! BE QUIET!

Paul uses no less than 15 imperatives in this last section which continues in the theme of Everyday Life in the Local Christian Church. And far from being distinct from the teaching of the previous 2 verses about leadership, there is a connection.

Who should shoulder the burden of

Warning the unruly? Comforting the discouraged? Supporting the weak?

In many churches if you were to ask the question of the members the answer would be this – it is the Pastor and the elders whose job it is to do these things.

But Paul has a different view in this passage. These vital pastoral issues were not merely the sole province of those in overall leadership under the chief shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is simply too much to be done! Paul is emphasizing here that these tasks were the responsibility of the membership at large.

Which is why the address to the Brethren (and sisters) is an urgent call – because when every member is functioning as a member should, then there will exist in the church, mutual care for members one of another. No one will be an island – no one will be left out – not one will feel neglected.

One church that I knew took the step of appointing elders to assist the Pastor. The membership was divided up equally so that the elders were allocated so many people to care for by visitation and encouragement.

Not everyone liked this arrangement. Often came the comment “It was very nice to see Brother x – but it wasn’t the same as having the Pastor!”

That church had not learned how to minister to one another. The members expected the Pastor to do it all. If they had grasped this Pauline teaching reflected in the word BROTHERS – SISTERS – BRETHREN – then they would have been busy caring for each other themselves. When their elders visited they would have been glad to have the opportunity to minister to each other. Sadly members became consumers and elders became suppliers in that church. That is not true fellowship!

So what about these imperatives? These “must be dones?”

There are 15 things to do in this passage. 15 might seem a lot – but Paul is economical with his words and uses the imperatives very effectively. Follow them in your Bible starting at verse 14 –

1. Warn them that are unruly. 2. Comfort the feeble minded. 3. Support the weak. 4. Be patient toward all men. 5. See that you render no evil for evil. 6. Follow that which is good. 7. Rejoice evermore. 8. Pray without ceasing. 9. In everything give thanks. 10. Do not quench the Spirit. 11. Do not despise prophesyings. 12. Prove all things. 13. Hold fast to that which is good. 14. Abstain from all appearance of evil. 15. Pray for us.

Exhortation often demands imperatives to make it effective. They are short, compressed appeals and commands. Now we exhort you brethren! This is for us. It is essential encouragement for all congregations of Christian believers and every believer in particular. May we over the next few weeks hear these exhortations and one by one seek to put them into practice – for the mutual benefit of us all in the church.

The first cluster of imperatives then is in verse 14 and they are these –

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

We can notice four human characteristics here amongst the members at Thessalonica.

1. Those who were loafers – the idlers in the congregation. 2. Those who had become discouraged. 3. Those who were weak. 4. Those who were Impatient.

First Paul deals with those who had stopped working for their living –

1. Those who were loafers – the idlers in the congregation.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly,

The Greek verb WARN here is the same as the word rendered admonish in verse 12 which we considered last week. We need not spend too long with this first imperative because we made reference to it when we thought about Chapter 4

11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Some in Thessalonica were so taken up with the excitement and spectacular near approach of the Lord that they were passing over the important things of every day life. The loafers in Thessalonica needed to be admonished and shamed into a return to work. But as we said before Paul was not thinking about those whose inability to work was through unemployment or disability – circumstances beyond their control.

The unruly were just plain idle. They were like soldiers who were out of step with the rest of the battalion. Their loafing caused the military column to move in disarray. We can all admire the precision of a top class military Parade such as the Queen’s Birthday parade, the Trooping of the Colour. Lines and lines of soldiers both on foot and on horseback are able to march in straight lines and keep in perfect harmony with each other. They are a visible demonstration of working together, of cooperation – of loyalty and corporate achievement. Staying in line is the aim, to demonstrate orderliness.

Now of course we as a Christian Church are not exactly like an army. Yet in this respect Paul uses a word that describes these unruly Christians, these ones who were declining work and loafing, as “those out of order – out of line”. Warn them to get back into line says Paul.

W.E. Vine, the godly Brethren commentator and Theologian says that “Order in the church is the evidence of the submission of all the members to the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14 v 40 Let all things be done decently and in order. “Without rulers no church is properly constituted. Without godly rule no church can prosper, and without godly submission to rule no church can maintain effective fellowship or serve efficiently. Godly order should never be sacrificed vainly in the interests of false peace.”

Is any one of us drifting out of line my friends? Have some of us who used to be workers become loafers? Are we exposing the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world’s gaze as those who are disunited and leaving much of the work to the willing few? Paul says that we are to be put in mind of our responsibilities – to be admonished, to be warned. Loafing brings discredit on the whole church, and it is the other church members who have to support the slackers who bring the discredit. May the Lord Jesus deliver us from such disorder!

Secondly as much as Paul exhorted strong and vigorous admonition and warning, he next advocates tenderness with the next group of Christians -

2. Those who had become discouraged.

comfort the feebleminded,

Comfort here is a very tender word which means “exercise gentle influence.” Be an encourager to those who are discouraged. Christians are to follow their great example, the Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – several times we have his recorded words of comfort.

To his frightened disciples in a boat on the lake –

Matthew 14 v 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

To Jairus the discouraged father whose daughter had just died –

Mark 5:36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

And to all of His beleaguered disciples –

John 16 v 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Comfort is certainly needed in our society today.

But who did Paul have in mind exactly?

The OLIGOPSUCHOI. Translated faint hearted this word literally means ‘small souled’. OLIGO – small – PSUCHE – soul. When despondent and down any of us feel small inside. We feel overwhelmed and almost unable to go on.

In many respects this category of human being is the opposite to the first. The fainthearted lack the energy and boldness which the unruly, the disorderly, have in great measure.

The fainthearted need constant CONSTRAINT, whereas the unruly need constant RESTRAINT! Such fainthearted believers are sensitive to criticism; dread persecution; feel a sense of failure that they are following the Lord; and feel apprehensive concerning the future.

And such need the comfort of their brothers and sisters. And such comfort does not include the grossly insensitive phrase “Pull yourself together or get a life!”

Jesus’ words “Be of good cheer”, the same as Cheer up are to be sensitively uttered at the right time. Let us know how to encourage one another and console our brothers and sisters in the battle of life! Let us encourage them in the Lord their God as King David did when he was confronted by great difficulties – 1 Samuel 30 v 6.

Thirdly there were

3. Those who were weak.

support the weak,

By the weak Paul meant those who had little strength. This lack may have come about through their inability to know the will of the Lord or their lack of courage to trust the Lord. These were timid and hesitant to use their liberty in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some were easily influenced and could easily be carried away into this scheme and the other, diverting them from fellowship with others. Some cannot cope with persecution and others find it difficult to cope with controlling the appetites of the body or impulses of the mind. How much sympathy such weak believers need! Never forget that these friends are believers and are loved by the Shepherd of the sheep the Lord Jesus Christ. He would have us to be sympathetic and kind towards them. The good Samaritan, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, knew how to show the level of compassion that we need to do – when he found the man who had been attacked and robbed and left for dead in Luke 10 we read in verse 34

And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

How can we help those who are weak?

We are to SUPPORT them. The Greek word ANTECHOMAI means to hold on to, to keep close to someone in this kind of need. Paul said in Romans 15 v 1

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

There are always believers in any fellowship who can be described as Paul describes them – WEAK. But from the weak the strong may never turn away. On the contrary the strong must bear with them, keep close to them, following the Lord’s example –

Hebrews 2 v 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

The Lord Jesus Christ came down to occupy a body like ours so that He may support us closely in our weakness. Our weakness is with sin – he supports us by taking away our sins. Our weakness is with temptation and trial – he supports us because He suffered the humiliation of temptation – yet never gave in. But he understands us and is able to comfort us and support us. Oh my friend – do you know this saviour the Lord Jesus Christ who can save sinners and then keep them and support them for all their lives?

To summarise these first three imperatives -

The Christian brothers and sisters at Thessalonica are to respond to each other in ways appropriate to their case.

* They are to warn the idle, admonishing them and instructing them to correct their faulty behaviour.

* They are to encourage the timid, coming alongside them offering the strength of well chosen words of comfort amidst their fears.

* And they are to help and support the weak, sticking to them closely so as to be on hand in times of temptation and trial.

In what manner was this to be done? Simply by showing patience to everyone.

4. Those who were Impatient.

be patient toward all men.

Patience is one of those attributes that is so hard to attain. We love in this present society to find the quick fixes to our problems. We do not seem to have time to be patient and to wait for solutions should that be necessary.

There are some notable examples of Christian patience in history. Perhaps one of the most striking is in Dr Livingstone the great African Missionary explorer.

When H.M. Stanley went, in 1871 to find Dr Livingstone, he spent some months in his company. But Dr Livingstone never spoke to Stanley about spiritual things. Throughout those months Stanley watched the old man. Dr Livingstone’s habits were beyond his comprehension, and so was his PATIENCE. He could not understand Livingstone’s sympathy for the Africans. For the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel, the missionary doctor was patient, untiring, eager and spending himself and being spent for His master. After a while Stanley wrote these words – “When I saw the unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, those enlightened sons of Africa – I became a Christian at his side, though he never spoke to me of it.”

When Paul exhorts the believers to be patient he uses the word MACROTHUMEO – be long tempered – longsuffering. It is to hold out for a long time before taking action. Most of us would wish to rush into action when idlers, timid and weak members let the side down in the church. But Paul says NO! Be patient – be long suffering. And we must show this quality towards ALL the believers whatever their character.

We must refuse to be affronted. We must show great patience.

Oh Paul – what a tall order this is! How hard it is for us to show this level of patience and long suffering. How on earth are we to achieve this?

Does this question go through your mind fellow believer?

The answer is simple as it ever is. The answer is to look to God’s example to us. He is long suffering towards us.

Hear these texts from the Old Testament –

Exodus 34 v 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Numbers 14 v 18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Psalm 86 v 15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

And from the New Testament –

Romans 9 v 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction v

1 Peter 3 v 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

2 Peter 3 v 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3 v 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

Longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit and an act of love.

My friends God has been infinitely patient with us. How we have tried him with our sins before we were converted, and our falls since we were saved by His grace! Paul himself testifies to God’s longsuffering with him in 1 Timothy 1 v 16

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

And if God has shown and is showing such great patience with us, should we not then show patience towards our brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Satan will make sure that in any church setting there will be situations that will try our patience. But we have no excuse for becoming impatient with others on the grounds that they are difficult, demanding, disappointing, argumentative or even rude! On the contrary we are to be oh so patient with all of them.

May the Lord God grant us to be patient believers!

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

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