#2  (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)




TEXTS:       1 Thess. 5:12-13;   Psalm 133:1-3


INTRO:    Stephen Hawkins is one of the finest physicists in the world today, having a mind so brilliant that he has been compared to Einstein and others who have shaped the world with their keen intellect.  Yet, with his mind in perfect working order his body is ravaged with a disease that has left him totally immobile ... now he cannot even speak.  Though nothing is wrong with his mind his body is horribly paralyzed by a disease that makes each part ignore the other parts, nothing works in sync, his mind is thus trapped in a useless nonfunctioning body.


Sadly, this is sometimes the picture of the church of Jesus Christ, called in the Bible the "BODY OF CHRIST" ... Jesus Himself being the head of that body.  As the Head, Jesus is always perfect.  Nothing is wrong with the head but sometimes the body doesn't function well, the results can be crippling for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!


Paul in writing to the church in Thessalonica reminds them about the importance of church organization and the attitudes toward one another within the body of Christ while they are watching for His return.


One of the responsibilities of the church watching for the return of Jesus Christ is to maintain a healthy love and respect for its leaders and for its leaders to have a healthy love and respect for those they lead -- and in doing so Christ's body will function well and the Gospel of Christ will be promoted!


PROP.SENT:    The Bible teaches us that it is important for the leaders and those they lead to love and respect each other in order for the body of Christ to be functional and coordinated.


I.   ABOUT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH   1 Thess. 5:12-13a


A.   Responsibilities    1 Thess. 5:12

1.   The group of leaders being addressed here in Thessalonica is primarily the Elders and the Pastor.

2.   There are 3 areas mentioned concerning their roles in the church:

a.   “...who work hard among you…” 5:12a – the words “work hard” in Greek means labor in a general sense, meaning working hard in many areas.  The witness of these leaders is that they make themselves available to the body of Christ in many ways.

b.   “...who are over you in the Lord...” 5:12b – indicate that they rule in some capacity within the church, the Greek word here indicates LEADERSHIP, ruling by EXAMPLE.


ILLUS:    General Eisenhower used an illustration to train his leaders on the proper way to lead men, he would set a string down on a table and tell the men to try and push the string forward, it would never work ... then he would tell the men to pull the string from out front, it worked every time.  So is leading in the church. – Source Unknown


c.   "...who admonish you."  5:12c primarily this referred to the role of the Pastor or teaching Elder, but was also true of the Elders as they gave counseling and teaching to the church.


ILLUS:    In the British Weekly a letter was published about the preaching ministry of Pastors:  "Dear Sir, it seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them.  I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years and I have probably heard 3,000 of them.  To my consternation I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon.  I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitably spent on something else."  For weeks a storm of editorial responses ensued, ending with the following letter:  "Dear Sir, I have been married for 30 years.  During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals, mostly my wife's cooking.  Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal, and yet I have the distinct impression that without those meals I would have starved to death a long time ago!" – Source Unknown


3.   The word “admonish” in the verse indicates a correction or rebuke.

a.   It probably had to do with the fact that some in the church had decided that since Jesus was coming at any moment they would quit their jobs and just wait ... and since Jesus hadn't come before their savings ran out they were now sponging off others in the church by appealing to their love as brethren!

b.   Thus Paul had instructed the Elders to “admonish” or correct those who were idle in the church, (see 2 Thess. 3:6-10) but a job some of them might have done with a bit too much harshness!

c.   It is the fact that the Elders had been a little harsh that prompted the verses we are now studying, because of the hard manner in which the message had been delivered the people were not respecting the leaders the way they used to.

d.   Paul could see what was coming -- division and infighting ... these verses were written to prevent an escalation between leaders and lay people, to get the church back on a healthy track.

4.   In a sense Paul is acknowledging the human frailty of leaders, they don't always do something perfect but the office and role they hold is to be honored and they are to be loved and respected!

5.   The failure of the church to have a healthy love and respect for its leaders is sure to lead to spiritual suicide and ineffectiveness in ministry!


ILLUS:    Some churches are more like a flock of sea gulls than a flock of wild geese:  While sea gulls look beautiful ... in fact they are often used as a symbol of independence, they are lousy in groups.  Sea gulls so demand their own way that if placed near others they will fight with one another, if you tie a piece of string to the foot of one to make it stand out among others you condemn it to death by the others, they will mercilessly beat and kill the bird with the string because it dares to be over them by appearing different.  Wild geese on the other hand fly in V-formations, having the birds who can handle stress better take the lead; this cuts the wind resistance for the birds that follow in the "V" so their flight is less difficult. They will rotate this place of leadership among all the strong birds only ... leaving the weaker and older birds to occupy the positions near the end of the "V."  The birds at the back do a great deal of the "honking" ... probably as encouragement to the leaders of the flock for the good job they are doing, they keep honking to keep encouraging the leaders and to affirm them!  Sea gulls are competitive, wild geese are cooperative, and which flock would you rather be in? – Source Unknown


B.   Respect    1 Thess. 5:13a

1.  "Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work."

a.   First the phrase "HIGHEST REGARD" is a rare construction in the Greek language ... it is a strong GREEK INTENSIVE!

b.   The officer and the office are in mind here!

c.   The possibility of doing this is made possible by the added "IN LOVE."

(1.  It is not because they are perfect but because they are loved!

(2.  This only magnifies the respect!

(3.  Leaders are quite capable of errors but “love covers a multitude of sins!”

2.   “Hold them in highest regard in love BECAUSE OF THEIR WORK.”

a.   It is difficult to work when you are not appreciated!

b.   The point here cannot be missed, leadership is more effective when it is appreciated!

c.   In an age when we tear apart leaders we would do well to remember this principle if we want better leaders.


ILLUS:     To quote one author:  "Leaders can never do their best work when they are subject to carping criticism from those who should be their followers" – Source Unknown


3.   Correction is different from criticism, correction attempts to restore, criticism seeks to take apart!


ILLUS:     The Critic's poem:  "A little seed lay on the ground, and soon began to sprout.  Now, which of all the flowers around," It mused, "Shall I come out?  The Lily's face is fair and proud, but just a trifle cold; the rose, I think, is rather loud, and then, its fashion's old.  The violet is all very well, but not a flower I'd choose; nor yet the Canterbury bell -- I never cared for blues."  And so it criticized each flower, this supercilious seed.  Until it woke one summer morn, and found itself -- a weed!!! – Source Unknown


4.   One final reason for respecting your leaders, someday you might be one and how much easier it will be for you when you lead if you have the respect of others!  We tend to reap what we sow!

5.   The operative reason for respecting them was the term, "IN LOVE."

a.   This opens the door for covering mistakes.

b.   This makes the relationship more than just an official one, it is an affectionate one!


II.  ABOUT LIFE IN THE CHURCH   1 Thess. 5:13b;   Psm. 133:1-3


A.   Relationships     1 Thess. 5:13b

1.   This final line is spoken to both leader and follower: "be at peace with one another" or "live in peace with one another."

a.   This is to characterize the life of the body of Christ ... one of peaceful unity!

b.   This is a call for mutual respect and love between leaders and followers; what is good for the geese is good for the ganders!

c.   This harmony should flow both ways!

2.   All relationships in the body of Christ are to be marked by love and respect!  There can be no grounds for relationships in Christ's body without it!

a.   It does not matter if our personalities are different, we are still to love and respect each other!

b.   Our likes and dislikes may not be the same, our styles may differ, even our strengths and weaknesses should not alter the love and respect we are to hold for one another!

3.   Our relationship to each other is built on Jesus Christ ... nothing less!

4.   This phrase was added to balance the admonitions to the people to love and respect their leaders ... for it was addressed to the leaders about the people and vice versa!


B.   Reasons    Psalm 133:1-3

1.   Why this call for peace and unity?

a.   A body that is not united is a misfit!  A diseased body cannot function like a healthy one!

b.   It also is important if that body has any hope of experiencing God's bless­ings!

2.   The oil can run all the way down when unity is there!

3.   “The dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion” would be a heavy thick dew full of moisture, enough to perhaps make Mount Zion break out in great growth, the image then is one of great fruitfulness or growth!

a.   A growing church is one that is harmonious and peaceful!

b.   The fruit of God's Spirit is evident in the church where there is love and respect between all its members.

c.   We need to be at peace with one another!

4.   God bestows His blessings on the church where there is peace among the members and their leaders!

a.   This certainly explains the blessings of many healthy church bodies!

b.   "…even life for evermore." Psm. 133:3b Real life flows from a church filled with love and respect!

5.   The church that is watching for Jesus' return needs to be at peace with each other, we are all going to the same home, might as well get along and love each other now!


ILLUS:     During the American Civil War rival armies were encamped on the opposite sides of the Potomac River.  The Union band one night began to play one of its patriotic tunes to annoy the Confederates on the other shore.  In response the Confederate band began to play one of its own tunes dear to the hearts of southerners.  In the midst of this competition some other band suddenly struck up the tune, "HOME SWEET HOME."  Suddenly, the competition ceased and both sides began to sing "HOME SWEET HOME" ... both the Union band and Confederate bands joining in.  Soon voices from both sides of the river could be heard singing, "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,"  Like them, the church in spite of our many differences have the same home we are going to, we have a common destiny.  We may as well sing the same tune now in spite of our differences! – Source Unknown


6.   WE need each other, in all our different ways and in our different callings in the church ... leaders and lay people; we are called upon to love and respect each other!

a.   We can get so much more done for Christ when we work together!

b.   The body of Christ must not be allowed to become paralyzed!


CONCLUSION:   No business can succeed without mutual love and respect between the leaders and the laborers, neither can the church operate harmoniously without love and respect between leaders and lay people!  "A house divided against itself cannot stand" is the way Jesus stated it!  This is true of God's house as well!  God's blessings have rested on His church for many years thanks to the practice of love and respect by both leaders and lay people ... let's not ever take this for granted!