CHURCH LIFE MANUAL According to 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 Paul Sungro Lee
The instructions found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 can be rightfully described as a manual of the believers’ church life. How then does 1 Thessalonians 5:1222 guide us to conduct our church life?
(1) Respect church leaders and hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work (v. 12-13). The first and foremost instruction in this “church life manual” is to respect and to hold church leaders in high regard (v. 12). Verse 12 encourages us to respect (a) those who work hard among us, (b) those who are over us in the Lord, and (c) those who admonish us. And here is the biblical reason for respecting and valuing church leaders: “ … because of their work … (verse 13) ” We need to remember that church leaders ought to be respected and valued just because of their “work” and not other reasons, including their characters, personalities, standards, etc. Regardless of their characters, they must be respected because of Jesus Whom they serve! It is their CALL which makes them respectful, not who they are. This is why Apostle Paul commands us to love pastors and church leaders, so that they might be encouraged to discharge their call faithfully in the church, the Body of Christ. In other words, it is not for the sake of pastors that we should love them. It is for the sake of the CHURCH that we should love pastors.
(2) Live in peace (v. 13). Paul also encourages church members to live in peace and to foster spirit of unity all the time.
(3) Warn those who are idle in the church (v. 14).
(4) Encourage the timid-hearted in the church (v. 14).
(5) Help the weak (v. 14). Unlike the system of this world, those who are weaker than we are must be quietly sought after and helped in the church. Church should be the place where the strong ones of this world can come in with humility to serve other weaker ones. This is a powerful magnetism available nowhere but in the church community. The kingdom of God is expanded through a church where everybody learns to serve one another this way.
(6) Be patient with everyone in the church (v. 14). Not everyone has the same pace as yours. Learn to increase your patience as you work with different people in the church.
(7) Let nobody pay back wrong for wrong (v. 15). To this end, it is strongly discouraged for church-mates to sue one another. This instruction relates to Paulâ€™s concerns expressed in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 towards a troublesome Corinthian church with some lawsuits among the saints. The Bible prohibits a brother going to law against another. After all, it may be better off that we are wronged rather than wronging one another in front of unbelievers!
(8) Try to be kind to everyone in the church (v. 15). How can we possibly try to be kind to everyone? It will be possible, if we treat a brother in the church as kindly as we might treat a customer coming to our shops. And the Bible clearly encourages us to try to be kind to everybody, not just to the ones we like.
(9) Be joyful always (v. 16). Despite burdens and weariness of the world, we can be joyful in the church because of our Lord Jesus and what he has done for us. The Bible says that he made us. He understands us and knows our pains. He even died for us on the cross out of his love. And he never gives up on us. This Jesus is with us and desires to be nearer to us. This gives us enough reasons to smile and be joyful in the church although we might have experienced a difficult week.
(10) Pray continually (v. 17). This does not mean that we do not even go to work and just pray. It simply means that we should live in the mood of prayer to depend on the Lord in everything.
(11) Give thanks in everything, whether good or bad (v. 18).
(12) Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (v. 19). This means that we ought to be sensitive to and participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing through our church. Each local church has a specific task which the Holy Spirit assigned to her. It is a responsibility of each church to be sensible enough to figure out and to take part in the particular God-led work.
(13) Do not treat prophecies with contempt (v. 20). “Prophecy” originally means "speaking by proxy” or “speaking for another.” Therefore, we should hearken to and carry out the words that God speaks through His spokespersons in the church (e.g. sermons, encouragements, counseling, advices, etc.). They should not be neglected but put into practice.
(14) Test everything and hold on to the good (v. 21). A constant discernment is needed to have a healthy church life. Such a notion will certainly lead us to good and positive words and deeds. We are advised to put away all our negative thoughts and words and pursue positive thoughts and words each time we enter the church.
(15) Avoid every kind of evil (v. 22). Our church life must be thoroughly guarded from evil thoughts, evil speech, and evil behaviours of any sort.
It is crucially important for each and every child of God to be mindful of his/her sound church life. It is my prayer that we may live to love the church, the Body of Christ, and to fully enjoy church life now and ever, even from generation to generation.
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A biblical guideline of behavioral ethics for healthy and happy church life by Paul Sungro Lee, 2010.