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1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, Home group study notes

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Home group study notes for :12-28
Background: In this closing section of 1 Thessalonians, (chapter 5 verses 12-28), it may seem a very short passage. However Paul uses the closing part of the letter to instruct believers on a great many issues. While this may appear to be a small passage, when we look through there is actually a vast amount of content which if applied makes a great recipe for a ‘Spirit Filled’ life and a healthy church.
Question 1:
Looking at , what does a leader in the church look like? And what should our attitude to those in church leadership be?
In describing church leaders Paul uses three descriptions. He describes them as ‘those that labour’, ‘those that are over you in the Lord’ and ‘those that admonish’.
Those that labour’, firstly, a leader is someone who does not merely contribute a little work but strives hard in that work. There is a difference between work and labour, work can be casual but labour is fervent and often difficult.
‘Those over you in the Lord’, (some translations just say ‘one who cares’) when we look into the meaning of this second qualification, it means someone who ‘leads, protects and cares for’. A true godly leader is not seeking to exalt themselves over others but is motivated by care and love.
‘Those that admonish’, a leader is one who instructs.
Paul instructs that such people are to be respected among the brethren, and that they are to be highly esteemed in love because of their works. We are not told to only respect the leaders that we get on well with, or those that we want to be respectful of, or when they make decisions that align with our will. But rather Paul says because of the work that they do among you, you ought to be respecting and esteeming them highly.
Question 2:
In verse 14 Paul shows us how different people, with differing issues need varying approaches to help them.
What three characteristics does Paul highlight and how does he specifically instruct us to help them?
The first point is to ‘admonish the idle’, some translations write this as ‘warn those who are unruly’. Either way it speaks of confronting a person who is committed to doing their own will over that of the will of God. When a person is on this path it is not being a friend to them to just leave them on their way, but it is to be loving to warn and admonish them about the choices they are making.
The second point is to ‘encourage the fainthearted’ this word ‘fainthearted’ literally means ‘small-souled’. There are some people who are by nature, timid, quiet and self-conscious but Paul is saying that we ought not to overlook such people or write them off. But rather encourage them and help them to draw out their potential.
Next Paul instructs ‘Help the weak’, this means that we don’t just lean on those in the congregation who seem to have natural ability or who have big shoulders to bear lots of work. But the church is intended to be a community where we all pull together, and while some can bear more than others, those who struggle ought to be supported by the rest. A very important point to notice here though is that Paul says ‘Help the weak’, he does not say ‘sustain the weak’. This is because it is better to help someone with a view to building up their strength rather than just take the work off their hands. Just doing things for people is not always the loving response, it is often more caring to draw alongside and help them to achieve, and to help them to walk on their own.
Finally Paul shows that while different approaches must be taken with different people, there is not one way to address all issues, but patience must be shown towards all.
Question 3:
In verse 19 Paul says “Do not quench the Spirit”, what do you think he means by this?
What three characteristics does Paul highlight and how does he specifically instruct us to help them?
To not quench the Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work among the church. Therefore we can ‘quench’ the work of the Holy Spirit whenever we try to restrict or legislate the work in the church. So for instance to prohibit gifts of the Spirit such as healing or prophesying may quench the Spirit since it would be us executing our will over something that the Lord may want to do among us. Whenever we seek to put our agenda first and not allow for the Lord to direct us threatens to quench the Spirit.
tells us about how it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit. By living immorally we can grieve the Holy Spirit and thus also quench His work.
Question 4:
How should we treat prophecies in the church? (see verses 20-21)
Paul says that we are not to despise prophesies, this means that we do not simply disregard or ignore prophetic words that shared among the church. When God speaks it is important for us to pay regard to the word, and the Lord does indeed speak to His people today. However, Paul does say that everything should be tested. If an apparent prophetic word does not align with scripture or the character of the Holy Spirit then it should be ignored.
After Paul left Thessalonica on his missionary journey he went to a city called Berea, to spread the gospel there. The Jews at Berea were applauded by Paul and the early church founders because the Bereans were very diligent in testing everything that was preached to them, see .
Paul says in verse 21 “test everything; hold fast what is good”, so if having tested the prophetic word and found it to be good we are not to simply ignore it or forget what the Lord has said. Paul says that we are to hold onto that word.
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