Last week we looked at the pastorate and how church leaders are to work hard and should be esteemed highly in love because of their work. We should live in peace with one another. Today, Paul continues with some very pointed instructions that apply to everyone in the church with three groups of people that are mentioned specifically.
I hope you have your Bible so you can follow along. Turn to and read 1 Thes. 5:14.
The first thing Paul says is to admonish the unruly. Admonish comes from the same Greek word used for instruction in v. 12 that spoke of leaders in the church that provided instruction. Here the meaning is the same. Admonish or instruct the unruly, but this command is given to the brethren of the church not just the leaders. So who is unruly? Unruly comes from the word that means out of order, lazy, idle, or neglectful of duties. It is a military term referring to soldiers marching who are out of step. In Greek society it meant someone who didn’t show up for work. The unruly that Paul is talking about are people in the church; they are Christ professing people who are lazy or idle, people who don’t do what they are supposed to do according to the Gospel.
There are those that believe it’s none of their business what people in the church do, after all, Paul told us not to, “Lead[ing] an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.” (2 Thes. 3:11) Let’s see if that principle holds up in Scripture. Proverbs 15:31: “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” Proverbs 28:23 says, “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.” 1 Tim. 5:20 says, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” The key words there are, “continue in sin.”
You’ve got to read Matthew 18:15-17. This is an extremely important biblical principle that is not typically put into practice in the church today. Here it is in a nutshell.
- If you find someone in sin, go to him and talk to him about it.
- If he listens, case closed.
- If he doesn’t listen, in other words if he is unrepentant, then you need to go with one or two people and confront him again. The witnesses are there to confirm the facts.
- If he listens this time, great. If not, you bring the issue before the church.
- If that doesn’t bring the person to repentance, you treat that individual as a Gentile or a tax collector.
- As a side note, at our church, the recommendation of termination of church membership is made by me as the Senior Pastor to the Elders. A 75% majority is required by the Elders and the church to remove an individual from membership.
- When you treat someone as a Gentile or tax collector, you disown them as a Christian brother.
- The idea is not that they are dead, but they are to be treated as you would any lost person because they acting like someone that is lost.
- You continue to demonstrate the love of Christ to them, you still encourage them, you still help them.
- Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” That means to don’t go to a person with your finger pointed in their face with a high and mighty, holier than thou attitude.
- The goal of confrontation is always to restore a person in their fellowship with Christ.
So the answer is a resounding yes. All of us are involved in instructing the unruly. Are you thinking of the account in Matthew and Luke that talks about the beam or log in your own eye? You don’t have to be perfect to instruct or admonish others, but we tend to be quick to point out smaller problems in others and ignore the bigger problems in our own lives. The principle is that you need to remove the log from your own eye so you can clearly see before you go around pointing out the specks that are in everyone else’s eye.
We are to admonish the unruly, and we are to encourage the fainthearted. Encourage means to counsel or speak with. Fainthearted literally means small-souled or discouraged. So we are to counsel with those who, for whatever reason, are discouraged. These folks need to be verbally encouraged. These could be the ones that when asked, “How are you?” proceed to give you a 30 minute rundown of every detail of their life. The tendency may be to avoid these people. These may be the kind of people that always seem to be discouraged. There’s always something going on in their lives to bring them down. Circumstances seem to overwhelm them. They may feel that there is no hope.
Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us that keeping your eyes on Jesus will help those that grow weary and lose heart. Focus on what is important. Remind them that Jesus understands, that Jesus walks with them. Back in 1 Thes. 2:11-12, Paul said that they were, “Exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” All of us experience circumstances that can break us down, but if we keep our eyes on Christ, we’ll recognize that the things of this life that are so troubling and discouraging are temporary. Our home is not here, we’re just passing through. Every believer can encourage one another to live for Christ.
Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, and we are to help the weak. Weak literally means without strength. There are those in the body of Christ that need to be firmly held by those that are strong. Matt. 26:41 tells us that the flesh is weak and all believers live in the flesh. I don’t mean that we serve the flesh. I mean that as long as we are in this body, we still are driven by the desires of the flesh. The way to overcome the flesh is to watch and pray. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Remember when Peter was so confident in himself that he told Jesus he would never deny him? He walked in the flesh. There are those that are weak physically and those that are weak spiritually. We are to help both. Romans 15:1 says, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.”
Paul shifts from those three groups to the behavior toward all people in the church. “Be patient with everyone.” 1 Cor. 13:4 reminds us that love is patient. Ephesians 4:2 encourages us to have, “patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” Galatians 5:22 tells us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Col. 3:12 reminds that since we are chosen by God, we need to put on patience. So we really don’t have an option not to be patient. We tend to get really impatient with people yet do we take the time to look at ourselves from God’s perspective? Exodus 34:6 says, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” We want Him to exercise patience with us, but we’re not willing to do the same for others.
Paul has expectations for the church. The church should be the place where people can be people with no fear of rejection. That doesn’t mean that people can do whatever they want. It means that the spiritual people in the church are to come along side others and provide encouragement, that progressive sanctification should the norm. Col 1:10 instructs us to, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Every Christian needs to walk in a manner that is worthy of Christ and we need to take our conversion seriously.