1 Thessalonians 5:12-Paul, Silvanus and Timothy Request the Thessalonians Honor Their Pastor-Teachers
1 Thessalonians 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you. (NET)
1 Thessalonians 5:12 marks a transition in First Thessalonians since it is marking a transition from the statements in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 to the request, statements, commands and prohibitions recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.
The former addresses the subject of the church age believer in relationship to the day of the Lord while the latter contains a series of instructions regarding the relationship between the Thessalonian Christian community and their pastor-teachers (5:12-14).
The latter also contains six commands and four prohibitions which address the conduct between the members of the Thessalonian Christian community and their relationship with God (5:15-22).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are communicating an impassioned emotional request to each member of the Thessalonian Christian community.
This is indicated by the fact that the noun adelphos, “brothers and sisters” is functioning as a nominative for vocative or nominative of address, which is used for addressing an individual or group.
It is thus expressing the fact that the request, commands, prohibitions and statements presented by Paul, Silvanus and Timothy in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 are an impassioned plea for the Thessalonians to continue to experience their sanctification and salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 contains a request and two epexegetical clauses which explain in greater detail the request.
The request required that each member of the Thessalonian Christian community honor those who make it their habit of working hard among them.
The referent of the masculine plural form of the verb kopiaō, “those who labor” is the pastors in the Thessalonian Christian community, which is indicated by the verb proistemi, “and preside over.”
Therefore, this would indicate that these pastors in the Thessalonian Christian community “worked hard” teaching the gospel to the Christian community in order that they might grow to spiritual maturity.
They worked hard in the sense that they exerted himself mentally, physically and spiritually in the face of adversity in the form of persecution.
This word appears several times in Paul’s letters to describe himself, Timothy and other pastors in the Christian community (cf. 1 Cor. 4:12; 15:10; Gal. 4:11; Col. 1:29; 1 Tim. 4:10; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:6).
After making the request that the Thessalonians honor those who make it their habit of working hard among them, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy identify specifically who they are referring to, namely, those who exercise authority over them in the Lord.
The verb proistemi is used with reference to the pastor’s authority over the Thessalonian Christian community, which they exercise by teaching them and conveys a leadership style characterized by loving care.
The word expresses the idea that the Thessalonian Christian community submits to the leadership of the pastor-teacher out of respect for his position of teaching the Word and the delegation of this authority by the Lord to him and not out of fear.
Paul is employing the figure of hendiadys, which indicates that proistemi is intensifying or advancing upon the idea expressed by the verb kopiaō and thus the former is identifying specifically for the Thessalonians who they were to honor and were making it their habit of working hard among them.
“Lord” (kurios) in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 is applied to Jesus Christ and is the object of the preposition en which is functioning as a marker of a particular standard or rule specifying the rule or code of conduct a person follows or the standard of conduct to which he or she conforms.
The noun kurios contains the figure of metonymy meaning that the person of the Lord is put for His will and therefore, this indicates that those who exercise authority over the members of the Thessalonian Christian community, i.e. their pastor-teachers received their pastoral ministry “in conformity with” or “consistent with” or “in agreement with” the will of the Lord.
In other words, this request from Paul that the Thessalonians honor their pastor-teachers is “in agreement with the will of the Lord.”
Thus, this request is a direct request from the Lord Himself and carries His authority.
The third and final assertion in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 is also epexegetical, which means that it identifies specifically for the reader how or in what manner their pastor-teachers exercised authority over them, namely by providing instruction for the Thessalonian Christian community with regards to proper Christian conduct.
This third and final assertion also is explaining or defining for the reader how their pastor-teachers exercised authority over them and thus they did so “by” making it their habit of instructing each one of them with regards to proper Christian conduct.
Therefore, this epexegetical clause is expressing the idea that the pastors in the Thessalonian Christian community exercised their delegated authority from the Lord Himself by instructing every person in the Thessalonian Christian community with regards to proper Christian conduct.
They instructed them in the sense that they counseled and warned them regarding the avoidance of ungodly behavior or the cessation of ungodly conduct and instructed them with regards to proper belief or godly behavior and warned them about the consequences of ungodly conduct, namely loss of rewards.
Here in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, the apostle Paul is describing a three-fold function of the overseers, i.e. the pastor-teachers and elders in the Thessalonian Christian community.
The three participles in this verse describe these functions.
First, we saw they make it their habit of working hard while secondly, they exercise authority over the Thessalonian Christian community and thirdly, they make it their habit of providing instruction for this community.
In this verse, the reference to authority with the second participle makes clear that the first participle is describing these overseers, or pastors.
The third participle identifies how they exercise this authority which is by providing instruction for the community and so therefore, Paul is not describing three different groups of people in this community since all three participles are governed by the same article.
This indicates they are describing a three-fold function of one group of individuals who are identified with the second participle as exercising authority over the Thessalonian Christian community.
The request that each member of the Thessalonian Christian community honor their pastors who exercised authority over them by making it their habit of working hard among them by making it their habit of providing them instruction with regards to proper Christian conduct implies obedience.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you. (NET)
The fact that Paul and Silvanus ordained pastors for the Thessalonian Christian community indicates that their stay in Thessalonica was much longer than three weeks and more than likely extended from anywhere between six months and a year.
As we noted in our introduction of First Thessalonians Paul and Silvanus visit to Thessalonica is recorded in Acts 17:1-9.
Now, one of the major questions scholars raise with regards to First Thessalonians is the length of Paul’s original stay in the city.
Acts 17:2 reveals that he was there for three Sabbaths, thus, many believe he was only in this city for three weeks.
The fact that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy requested that each member of the Thessalonian Christian community honor their pastors who made it their habit of working by making it their habit of instructing them which was the means by which they exercised their authority over them indicates that Paul and Silvanus’ stay in Thessalonica was much longer than three weeks.
The fact that Paul and Silvanus ordained pastors for the Thessalonian Christian community indicates that their stay in Thessalonica was more than likely extended from anywhere between six months and a year.
This is indicated by the qualifications for overseers which Paul lists for Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and for Titus in Titus 1:6-9.
The list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 indicate that the man with the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher had to demonstrate that he possessed these qualifications.
They must stand out as prominent and consistent in his life before he can be assigned to oversee a local assembly.
In other words, even though he had the gift of pastor-teacher, he was not promoted until these characteristics were prominent and consistently being manifested in his life.
This is the reason for Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 5:5-6 where in the context addressing pastors, he teaches the younger men with the gift to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God in order that He might promote them at the proper time.
Therefore, it would require more than three weeks and at least a year in order for the congregation to determine if these men met these qualifications since these qualifications must characterize their lives.
One cannot know what characterizes a person on the basis of a three week interaction with them but rather, it would take months of close contact with a person and even up to a year to determine what characterizes them.