Guidance In Godliness

Sunday School Lesson for October 28, 2001

I Thessalonians 5:12-28

Focal Teaching Passage: I Thessalonians 5:12-22

Guidance in Relationships (5:12-15)

Verses 12-13

In this section of the epistle, Paul begins to address the practical concerns related to Christian conduct among fellow-believers, and in view of the world at large. In this verse there is particular stress upon the relationship the church has with those who have been placed in positions of leadership and authority. Paul’s "request," or apostolic challenge, to his "brethren," is that they continually "appreciate those who diligently labor" in serving Christ and His church. The identity of those mentioned above is made clearer by the addition of the phrase "have charge over you in the Lord." This apparently indicates that Paul is calling for the Thessalonian believers to love and appreciate those who have been placed by God in positions of spiritual oversight and leadership. Their leadership is exercised "in the Lord," or under His direct authority. It is to such God-ordained leaders that the members of the congregation are called to give respect. Note carefully how the apostle details the church’s responsibility to its ministerial laborers:

The necessity of such a command may have been precipitated by events transpiring in Thessalonica. Leon Morris suggests that it seems quite clear that "the leaders in the Church had not been sufficiently highly regarded, and their authority had been resisted. Also, in all probability, they had not exercised that authority as tactfully as they might have done, and in this situation the injunction be at peace among yourselves is very much in place" (100).

 

 

Verses 14-15

Next, Paul provides specific instructions related to living in harmony with other Christian brothers and sisters. While these commands have a special relevance to those in leadership positions, the wider application includes all believers in the church. Again, Paul’s commands are quite explicit, and are intended to promote stability and cohesion within the fellowship of believers:

 

Guidance in Spiritual Matters (5:16-22)

Having addressed the issue of personal relationships, Paul now turns the attention of his readers to more practical spiritual matters. As before, the apostle lays down a series of rapid-fire exhortations designed to guide his brethren into a closer walk with Christ.

 

Verses 16-18

These verses present three positive commands, each governed by the phrase "for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (v.18). This is the second time in the epistle where Paul has declared in specific terms what God’s will is (see 4:3ff). The reader should understand, then, that "praise, intercession, and thanksgiving were not optional for the Christian, but were required just as much as proper ethical conduct" (Wanamaker, 201).

Verses 19-22

In this section we discover that Paul has provided for his readers four additional commands related to the exercise of the spiritual gifts within the body. Particularly, Paul desired to encourage restraint and balance regarding the manifestation of the Spirit through prophecy.

 

 

Major Questions to Promote Application and Discussion

One: (5:12-13) What is a church’s responsibility to its ministerial leaders, both lay and ordained? What other passages can you think of that outline such responsibilities? In what practical ways may we "appreciate" and "love" those whom God has called to lead us in our local churches?

 

 

 

Two: (5:14-15) Are the responsibilities mentioned in these verses restricted to pastors and other high-profile church officials, or are such duties assigned to every member?

 

 

 

Three: (5:16-18) Carefully examine the three commands in this section: rejoice, pray, and give thanks. How are they related and interdependent? Why did Paul link these three together? What impact are these likely to have on our personal lives and ministries? On our church? On our families?

 

 

 

Four: (5:19-22) This section teaches us that the Holy Spirit is quenched or hindered when the Word of God is neglected and ignored. How do Christians "quench the Spirit" today? That is, are we ever guilty of despising "prophetic utterances" and, if so, how? On the flip side, should believers uncritically accept what they hear taught or proclaimed from the pulpit?