Sermon: Paul’s Short Commands for the Christian Life (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 – Part 1)

Paul’s Short Commands for the Christian Life (Part 1)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

Truth Taught- As Paul closes his epistle he gives us short commands for life in the local Church


If a Church is to glorify God and be a light in a world of darkness the people within the Church must act in godly ways. If we are to have a good reputation in our community we must seek to respond to others with love seeking restoration and peace.


1 Thessalonians 5:12–15 (ESV)

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

  1. We Ask You to Respect the Elders

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Recent studies have indicated that the avg tenure of protestant pastors is about 3.6 years. Some studies have a little different outcome but the bottom line is pastoral tenure is not very long at any given place.

There are different reasons for a pastor leaving his church. Sometimes there are reasons that are mostly his fault. I know pastors who simply use their church, as a stepping-stone to something that, in their mind at least, is greater. Their goal to have the big church causes them to leave. Others leave because of infidelity or some other sin. Some leave because the hardship of ministry is simply too much for them.

Then there are churches that just simply cannot be pastored. I remember early on in my ministry looking for a church. I had a few opportunities to be called to go but I thank God because as badly as I wanted a church He was protecting me and my family from crazy people and very bad churches. Sometime I’ll have to tell you some of the horror stories but for now just let me say sometimes the reason a minister has a short tenure is because the church simply refuses to allow him to lead.

Under the heading we ask you brothers we have three admonitions.

Respect those who labor, who rule and who admonish. This list is speaking of the role of elder. The term rule may be a little too direct. It really means to lead. To lead with an aspect of authority. To admonish is to warn and to at time directly confront the church member who is going astray for the purpose of repentance and correction.

If the church members respect their elders then these tasks will go much better. It’s hard enough to hear a reproach but it goes much better if it is coming from an elder you respect. It’s hard to take correction but it would be much harder if the elder is not living a godly life.

How would you accept correction? How have you accepted it? Please understand when correction comes from an elder here, it’s coming in the spirit of love and of care for your soul.

In addition to respecting your elders, the Apostles writes that elders should be esteemed.

esteem them very highly in love because of their work

John Calvin notes that the esteem is not so much for the benefit of the leaders, but for the sake of the whole Church that those who govern faithfully should be held in esteem. The word esteem, here means to value and honor.

It’s important that we understand that the esteem is not only on an intellectual level but in love as well. This esteem should have connected to it a relational aspect as well. The bottom line here is this, congregations grow to maturity best when they respect and esteem their elders.

You have the responsibility to show your leaders respect and esteem and we, as your leaders must also strive to earn your respect and esteem. We also have a great responsibility to not be abusive, negligent, lazy, truthful ect.

Be at peace among yourselves.

Seek to love all within the church body. Love your leaders as they love you. Honor them by obeying heir counsel. Seek to live at peace together as God’s Church.

  1. We Urge You to Engage in Biblical Counsel

14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Within the local church there are truly needy people. We all may fall into one of these three categories. While there may be exceptions, however, it seems these three categories cover just about all those within the Church who need some form of counsel. If a counselee does not fit into one of these three categories, they are not really needy.

It’s important to notice that Paul commands all of us to participate in the biblical counsel of other Church members. We should also notice that the way God wants us to handle different people with different issues varies. In other words we cannot offer the same counsel across the board but it must be varied according to these three categories.

These three categories are a great way to help you discern which direction to take the church member. Again, I want to stress that this is God’s command for each of us. If you’re here today and you notice something a church member is doing or not doing that is sin. If you notice someone who is struggling in some area it is YOUR job to confront him or her. Will you lovingly confront them one on one? This is God’s Word to you today!!

  1. The Unrepentant Church Member

Admonish the idle

The idle refers to the unrepentant and unruly Church member.

Admonition (noutheteo) — direct and forthright exhortation to change!

Paul uses this word “admonish” several times in the New Testament and by studying it we discover the right attitude when we are called to admonish. To admonish means a direct exhortation to repent and change. We don’t beat around the bush and mumble but we come right out and directly confront the Church member with his or her sin.

He admonished with tears…

Acts 20:31 (ESV)

31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

Speaking as to dear children…

1 Corinthians 4:14 (ESV)

14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

When someone is unrepentant then we are commanded to admonish him or her. We are commanded to warn them and remind them of their calling in Christ. We must share the reality of sin’s consequences and that they represent Christ and this Church before the community. We do it with a burden and love for them. You are called to do this. You are your brother’s keeper. Do you know of a person who falls into this group? If you do, it’s your job to go to them and warn them about their sin.

  1. The Unsure Church Member

Encourage the fainthearted

Encouragement (paramutheo) — an emotionally empathetic alignment that strengthens the other person.

Different from those who brashly desire to continue in sin, are those who desire to do what is right, but have real concerns about their own ability—lacking confidence to boldly move forward for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. A stern hand is not what is necessary here. Paul states that we are to encourage the faint-hearted.

Faint-hearted Christians might be discouraged about their ability, or worried about what other people might think if they choose to act in a way that pleases God. The biblical counselor must encourage these counselees by coming alongside them compassionately, offering comfort, and providing consolation.

The biblical counselor will put 2 Corinthians 1 into action: having received comfort from the God of all comfort, we now will comfort others in their affliction. We can use opportunities with this person to demonstrate from God’s Word the comfort of God’s character, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the building up capabilities of the Church.

This person needs someone to come alongside of them to help guide them and to help them think biblically about themselves, God, and their lives. This Christian needs to move past certain things to fully embrace their new life as a believer. They need confidence in the Gospel and in God’s grace.

  1. The Unable Church Member

Help (antecheo) — a closer attachment and coming under to lift up

In every church body are those who are weak both spiritually and physically. The person who desires to help will strive to minister to both. Those that are weak in the faith might be so due to a lack of understanding and knowledge of God’s Word, perhaps consumed with doubts of the realities of God’s Word or plagued with their own sinful past. Those weak physically might be struggling with issues ranging from how to respond biblically to chronic pain or ongoing illnesses, perhaps they are struggling with accepting the physical malady they find themselves enduring or struggling with a lack of strength to accomplish what they desire to do for the Lord.

The compassionate biblical counselor will help the weak as Paul instructs. We should understand our role as ones who will hold these people up, supporting them, and expressing our commitment to them. Consistent reassurance and reminders of God’s Word are important. With the spiritually weak, instruction may be necessary. With the physically weak, devoted time will be necessary. A person who counsels biblically is a person who compassionately helps God’s flock endure the rigors of this life by providing them with the tools necessary to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

  1. We Urge You to Be a Peacemaker

15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

So far we have seen what we are to do or how we are to minister within the local Church. We are to respect our leaders and take the initiative to counsel or help our brothers and sisters in the local body. Now Paul shifts gears slightly to address how we are to respond when we are wronged/sinned against.

How does God want us to respond when someone (1st context) within the local church and (2nd context) or anyone sins against us?

I think it’s important to see what exactly Paul is referring to here. He’s not talking about self-defense or simply allowing someone to continue to harm you or sin against you if it’s possible. He is referring to retaliation and revenge.

We are called to not retaliate but to answer evil with a response that promotes reconciliation and peace when possible.

Romans 12:17 (ESV)

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Matthew 5:38–48 (ESV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It’s important that we realize that when we engage in this type of response God blesses us. Whatever loss we may endure because of our kind response God knows.

Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

What does peacemaking look like?

Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people — it does not want the animosity to remain. It wants reconciliation. It wants harmony. And so it tries to show what may be the only courtesy the enemy will tolerate, namely, a greeting. The peacemaker looks the enemy right in the eye and says, “Good morning, John.” And he says it with a longing for peace in his heart, not with a phony gloss of politeness to cover his anger.—Piper


In our text today, we have been told what a godly Church looks like.

It’s made up of members who respect and esteem their leaders.

Engage in biblical counsel…

Admonishing, Encouraging, and helping others as is necessary.

Seek to be peacemakers.

I pray that we are engaged in these godly pursuits with each other.






*Resources Used:

John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Robert Cara

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G K Beale

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris

1 and 2 Thessalonians by FF Bruce

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G L Green


%d bloggers like this: