THE COMMUNITY OF CHRIST
1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
1. Any observer of life may easily conclude that there are many people who would give nearly anything for a real sense of community.
a. Postings on social networking sites and full-time texting may provide contacts in an otherwise anonymous world, but not the belonging to something greater than self that surrounds a person with people watching out for his true good.
b. Religious groups are aware of that unsatisfied longing, too: “connecting” and “community” are the buzz-words in their advertising these days.
c. As with any of our human needs, we should look for the wise and loving guidance of the Lord about how this one is to be met.
2. Our text speaks to that issue: it is about what God wants in order for us to live in this world as the community of Christ.
a. It is a series of concise but very practical instructions that are tied together by this theme: the conduct and relationships of the community.
b. It is set against a solidly doctrinal background on holiness and hope, and it is written with a tone of appealing affection.
c. It addresses readers who have turned away from the pagan world, but are experiencing affliction from both that direction and from the Jewish world as they wait for the Son from heaven: they certainly need community!
d. I can imagine the whole group together and this being read to them as if to say especially to some of them, “We ask you to do this...,” then to some others, “We urge you to do this...,” and then to all of them, “Do this...!”
e. Here is what the apostle says to them about being the community of Christ....
3. Members: value responsible service, v. 12-13.
a. A community is defined by what it values and cherishes. It’s that way in the community of Christ, too.
i. Verse 12 mentions one group of workers who do three things: “those who...”
(1) “Labor among you”
(2) “Are over you in the Lord”–to be concerned about, care for, give aid (cf. Rom. 12:8, ESV, “leads” may be “gives aid”)
(3) “Admonish you”
ii. Other passages teach that devoted and sacrificial work for Christ is always to be submitted to and honored (cf. 1 Cor. 16:15-16; Phil. 2:29-30).
iii. It seems certain, though, that this passage is making reference to the work that is done by the elders of the church.
(1) It takes the three phrases together describe their work.
(2) Similar terms are used of them in 1 Tim. 5:17 and Heb. 13:17.
b. That kind of work makes it possible for the community to exist, but the community lives by the attitude it expresses toward it.
i. “Respect those who”– know the worth of, appreciate the value of
ii. “Esteem them very highly in love”
iii. “Because of their work”
c. Treating responsible service this way is closely connected to the call for the community to be at peace.
i. It is voluntary action.
ii. It rises above the critical and disrespectful spirit.
iii. It expresses common purpose.
4. Leaders: provide spiritual care, v. 14-15.
a. The nature of a community is expressed by the nature of its leadership, and the community of Christ is a spiritual community.
i. The “are over you in the Lord” of verse 12 indicates that spiritual authority is in view here.
ii. Verse 14 may be thought of as explaining how to do the things that were mentioned in verse 12.
iii. Spiritual leaders recognize the true condition of individuals and deal with them according to their needs.
b. The four examples that are offered address the practical needs of the community with the action that is required.
i. “Admonish the idle”
ii. “Encourage the fainthearted”
iii. “Help the weak”
iv. “Be patient with them all”
c. When the community is led like this it is enabled to do good in the manner verse 15 prescribes.
i. Example is the moral authority of leaders.
ii. Leadership is breaking the cycle of responding in kind: no more repaying evil for evil. (Cf. 1 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 12:17; Matt. 5:44)
iii. “Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” puts the energy, the initiative into the it.
5. Everyone: keep a healthy underlying attitude, v. 16-18.
a. The community has not only structure and work, but also life. There is a certain spirit in it, an atmosphere which is identifiable, chosen, and continuing.
b. Three qualities are specifically called for in the community of Christ.
i. “Rejoice always”
(1) “N. T. Christianity is permeated with the spirit of holy joy...” (L. Morris, 102)
(2) Joy is a mark of the kingdom (Rom. 14:17), a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and a relative of grace and forgiveness.
(3) As these very readers already knew, joy could exist in the face of affliction (1:6), and was something more than a good time.
ii. “Pray without ceasing”
(1) This is also taught in Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; Lk. 18:1.
(2) It is not withdrawing from life, having the head bowed and the lips moving in prayer through every moment.
(3) It is realizing your dependence on God for everything that you are or have or hope to have, and your constant need for his guidance.
(4) It is respecting his presence wherever you are, and whenever it is.
(5) It is submitting to his will and seeking his way in everything.
iii. “Give thanks in all circumstances”
(1) Again, this is a consistent N.T. theme (cf. Eph. 5:20; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2).
(2) Not everything that happens is good.
(3) Thanks can be given, though, because God is still on the throne and he is still providentially at work in his world and for his people.
(4) Because of that, thanksgiving can be made in all circumstances, and gratitude can be the abiding tone of the Christian life.
c. This way of life is as much the will of God for the community of Christ as is our doing good or being at peace.
1. These are the means by which the Lord wants our sense of community in Christ to be practiced and experienced.
a. Appreciate the value of noble service.
b. Understand the nature of spiritual leadership.
c. Maintain an atmosphere of joy, prayer, and gratitude.
2. Our text also helps us by defining what we mean by “the community of Christ.”
a. “Brothers” (v. 12, 14) is the relationship.
b. “In the Lord” (v. 12) and “in Christ Jesus” (v. 18) is the locality.
c. But that is what the church is–people who are brothers in the Lord!