“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
In this section of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives the Thessalonians some practical exhortations that will help the congregation to advance spiritually. The first order he gives involves how the members regard elders. Though the word “elder” is not used in this context, the ones described are those who fulfill the three following roles: 1) “labour among you” 2) are “over you in the Lord” and 3) “admonish you.” Other passages use this type of description of elders, likewise without giving a title. Consider Hebrews 13:7, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Also, Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” It is God’s will that each congregation of the Lord’s church have a plurality of faithful men who can function as spiritual overseers of God’s people (Acts 14:23; 20:28-32; Titus 1:5-8; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
The first directive is that we appreciate our elders. The word in the original translated “know” in the KJV also carries the idea of knowing in order to appreciate or respect. These elders were men who diligently labored among the Thessalonians; thus, in God’s plan elders are not merely decision makers, but are, as caring shepherds, busy working among the congregation, sacrificing their time and themselves for the members. Do we appreciate the sacrifice elders make for the congregation? The Bible here commands us to “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”
The eldership of a local congregation also has charge over the congregation in the Lord; that is, they are responsible for giving direction to the congregation and have authority vested in them to direct the congregation according to the Lord’s word, giving correction when individuals do not act as they should. Instructions from the eldership are not to be dismissed as if they are no account, but are to be obeyed as long as it is in keeping with the Lord’s commands. The point of this passage is for members to regard their leaders for their work and make them feel that they are loved. If, as a congregation, we are good followers, it will make the work of elders go better, “that they may do it with joy, and not with grief” (Hebrews 13:17).
The final word of exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:13 is, “be at peace among yourselves.” If we fail to regard the leaders of the congregation in high esteem, then contention will likely follow. When critical and disrespectful attitudes prevail, the work of the church is stymied; however, when unity and good fellowship prevail then the church can accomplish great things. An effective leadership is essential to the spiritual health of a congregation, but it takes willing followers to have effective leaders. If I am trying to work for peace among the brethren, then I will hold my tongue and go to the brother with whom I disagree instead of openly criticizing everything. May each of us do everything within our power to promote peace and respect in the Flatwoods congregation.