#202 “Respecting Those Who are Over You” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

  1. 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect (to acknowledge in high status; to show honor)those who labor (engage in hard work) among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, Paul gives an urgent exhortation to the Thessalonians to obey and honor their spiritual leaders. It’s a major shift to his previous topics. Clearly, after the quick departure of Paul from Macedonia, the churches in the area had to promote leaders among the people—causing some difficulty amid the controversy. Paul is making sure the people have an attitude of respect and loyalty to the people God has ordained over them. Those who labor—The leaders are more likely elders who have been put in charge of overseeing the congregational gatherings and the teaching of Scripture (see Ac. 14:23). Notice, the spiritual leaders weren’t in name only. They were diligent to work among the people and to build structure in the church to sustain the community, protect the families, and grow their faith in the Lord. Paul shared how he and his ministry colleagues worked hard among the Thessalonians. Setting the standard for future leaders to follow: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. Paul goes into greater detail of a spiritual leader’s role in 1 Tim. 3:1-5; 5:17; Tit. 1:5. Among you—Church leaders are to be invested in the personal lives of the flock. Their ministry is not to be conducted in a vacuum or from a distance. A few examples of leaders that were called to provide oversight in the church: (1) Stephanas in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:15), (3) Jason in Thessalonica (Ac. 17:5-9), and (3) Aquila (1 Cor. 16:19). Over you in the Lord–The GK word is proistēmi, which captures the meaning to protect, to lead, and to provide care over people. Admonish you—The term carries several meanings: to give advice, to direct, correct, warn, and rebuke. Paul uses such a broad term to capture the importance of leaders pouring into the lives of others with grace and truth.
  2. 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. The word esteem goes beyond the respect of the office. The expression conveys a deep sympathy and an abundance of love. In Hebrews, we are told, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (13:7). In 13:17, it reads, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Be at peace among yourselves—Wrapping up this section on obeying leadership, Paul reminds the church to live at peace with one another. Paul’s directive points to the concern that there was trouble within the ranks, and it needed to get sorted before things got worse.