Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Chapter five begins with the word “but.” This indicates that the last part of chapter four, which is concerned with the rapture, needs a further word about another matter. According to 5:1, this further word is related to the times and the seasons.
As a young believer, when I heard messages about the Lord’s coming, I was very excited. It is common for new believers to be excited when they hear about the Lord’s coming back. They may expect the Lord to come at any moment. For this reason, they need Paul’s further word in chapter five.
The “times and the seasons” in verse 1 refer to the Lord’s coming. This is confirmed by the expression “the day of the Lord” in the following verse. The coming of the day of the Lord is different from what we imagine. Actually, it is a mystery. The Lord Jesus even said that, as a man, He did not know the time of His coming. The date of the Lord’s coming is absolutely hidden as a mystery in the Father’s heart, and this mystery has not been revealed. Therefore, in 5:2 Paul says that the day of the Lord “so comes as a thief in the night.” To be sure, no thief would give an advance warning that he is coming to steal something. In the same principle, the day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly. Thus, we need to be watchful and sober. Because we have no way to figure out the time of the Lord’s coming, we need to be watchful and sober.
After covering the matter of watchfulness and soberness in 5:1-11, Paul turns in 5:12-24 to our cooperation with the divine operation. In these verses Paul covers a number of items in an elementary way.
In the New Testament there is no book that ends in such a marvelous and all-inclusive way as 1 Thessalonians. Paul’s concluding word includes a number of crucial things, which Paul did not have the time to cover in detail. Therefore, he listed them together in one section toward the end of this Epistle.
Verse 12 says, “Now we ask you, brothers, to know those who labor among you and take the lead among you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to regard them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” The word “know” here means first to recognize and then render respect and regard. According to Matthew 7:23, when the Lord Jesus comes back, He will say to certain ones, “I never knew you.” The expression, “I never knew you” means not to appreciate or respect what was done. In the same principle, in verse 12 the word “know” means to appreciate and respect those who labor among us and who take the lead among us. Here Paul probably refers to the elders who labor in teaching and take the lead among the believers (1 Tim. 5:17).
To take the lead is not mainly to rule, but to set an example in doing things first that others may follow. The elders should not only labor in teaching, but also do things as an example. The example may become a ground for their admonition.
It is indeed marvelous that, although the church in Thessalonica had been in existence less than a year and Paul had spent only three Sabbaths working there, some leading ones had been raised up. In a short period of time a church was established, and some leading ones were produced. Paul surely was a qualified and skillful Christian worker.
In verse 13 Paul charges us to regard the leading ones most highly in love because of their work. The word “regard” here means to lead the mind through a reasoning process to a conclusion; hence, it is to think, consider, estimate, esteem, regard. The leading ones should regard themselves as slaves serving the saints. But the believers should regard them highly in love because of their work.
As Paul was writing this Epistle, one thought followed upon another. As we have pointed out, the subject of the preceding section (5:1-11) is watchfulness and soberness. The Christian life is a life of fighting for God’s interests, and we need to be watchful and alert. Then Paul goes on to say that we must learn to respect, honor, the leading ones in the church. It seems that the matters of watchfulness and soberness and respecting the leading ones have no logical connection. However, they are related in a very practical way. If we are on the alert, full of watchfulness in spiritual warfare, we shall surely honor the leading ones. Those who have had experience in military service know that soldiers must respect their commanding officers. If they have no respect for the officers, the leaders, the army will not be able to fight properly. The first thing a soldier must learn in order to fight is to respect the one leading him. I believe that this was Paul’s concept in turning to the matter of respecting the leading ones at this point.
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