And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)
A Battle Plan For The Local Church
Paul had a genuine concern for the church at Thessalonica and was pleased with the great faith the church exhibited as they grew in the knowledge of Christ. At first glance, the brethren in Thessalonica had a long way to go as Luke records in his acts of the apostles the difference between the people of Thessalonica and the city of Berea. The Bereans were nobler than those at Thessalonica because they searched the scriptures daily to verify what was being preached by Paul and Silas. Arriving at Thessalonica on his second missionary journey, Paul had met opposition from the Jews and had to leave town. The Bereans were more receptive to the message of Paul and Silas. Later when Paul is in Corinth and Silas and Timothy return from Macedonia, the apostle pens a letter to the church at Thessalonica to commend their stalwart dedication to Christ and to one another. He implores them to excel more in their faith and love. While the Bereans were noted as being “more noble” it is only the letters to Thessalonica that are preserved in scripture as a pattern for the New Testament church. While controversy filled the early days of the church, Paul outlines a fifteen point battle plan for the church to continue to grow in their love for God and their love for one another. It would be well for the church of the modern century to model the work of the local congregation to the pattern given by the Holy Spirit in Paul’s letter to Thessalonica.
First and foremost in making a congregation strong is to establish the pattern of leadership ordained by the Lord. The modern church has become too comfortable in trying to do the work of the Lord without shepherds to guide the flock. As elders, bishops, and overseers, these men labor in the matters of caring for the flock of God and the church of the Lord as ordained by the Holy Spirit. A measure of success can be achieved without elders as men must fall under the guidelines of holy writ to serve as overseers but until the local congregation is fully formed with the leadership of men who lead the work of the Lord admonishing and exhorting the brethren and working diligently to instill a love for the Lord; the local congregation falters. It will never achieve the level of growth without men to serve as bishops. These men are laborers in the kingdom of Christ and not merely serving as figureheads. Paul exhorts the brethren to recognize those who labor among them showing the pattern of work expected of its leaders. The work of elders is to admonish and work for the good of the congregation and to bring peace among the brethren. The second part of growth is the keep peace in the diligent work as prescribed by God. This is not an easy job and will task the efforts of the elders to ensure the work is being done and the peace is kept. Third, the work of the church is to warn the unruly or to admonish the disorderly and idle of heart. There are some brethren who are challenged in keeping the unity of the spirit and they must be warned by the word of the Lord. Next, all efforts must be made to comfort and encourage the hearts of those who are weak and fainthearted. All congregations are made up of those who are strong and those who are weak. Those who are challenged in the faith need as much to encourage and exhort them as any among the flock. A growing church does not ignore the weak but rather expends the energy to cheer the hearts of the weak. This will take the sixth admonition of learning to be patient with all. It is a difficult task to see where people need to be and helping them achieve the goals of going where they need to find their faith. It will take a great deal of patience to learn how to exhort and admonish others to grow in the knowledge of Christ to find their fulfillment in the word of God. Being patient with all is a mark of a strong and growing congregation.
Coming in at number seven on the battle plan for the local church, Paul reminds the brethren at Thessalonica to care for the affairs of one another not allowing for petty emotions of revenge to mar the character of the brethren. There will be problems in any family and the children of God have a nature to want to get back at others but the apostle reminds the church to not render evil for evil. This is not the way God’s family behaves. Instead, brethren should always pursue peace and what is good for everyone. The two positives of a growing church are to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. This will help to mold the character of God’s love with each member to care and love others with a thankful heart. Paul reminds the brethren this is the will of God in Christ for them and the church today can do no less. The final five admonitions are to fill the heart of the church with the word of God. Let the Spirit of God reign in the work of the church and not to despise the teaching of the Lord as members grow one with another in the knowledge of Christ. Informed members are growing members. Doctrines should be tested against the word of God and the spirit of holding fast to truth should characterize the will of the church. A strong and vibrant church is a well-educated body of saints proficient in the word of God. In conclusion, Paul exhorts the brethren to keep themselves unspotted from the world and to abstain from every form of evil. Here is the positive of the negative: do not let anything pollute the hearts, minds, and souls of the saints as they strive to keep themselves pure from the pollution’s of the world. A growing church is filled with disciples who do not allow the influences of the world to fill their minds. Purity is the goal of each member whether in speech, dress, manner of conduct and attitude. This fifteen point battle plan will bring success to any congregation to the glory of God and His Son Jesus Christ.