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August 21, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Appreciating Diligent Laborers Today

“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,”

1 Thessalonians 5:12

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Eternal Life

      I hear about Pastor-led churches today, and every time I cringe a little inside.  The New Testament never describes a single person as the leader of any local assembly, except the Person of Jesus Christ, Who alone is the Head of the Church.  People so often confuse the spiritual gift of “pastor” with a church office recognized in the New Testament.  Let me highlight this distinction. 

       In Ephesians 4:11-12, God describes various spiritual gifts He has given to the church, one of which is pastor, and perhaps even pastor-teacher.  These people use their spiritual gift of pastor-teacher for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  Notice the saints, not pastors, do the work of service in the body of Christ.  Spiritual gifts come in many varieties with a variety of ministries (1 Corinthians 12:5).  A spiritual gift of administration (“κυβερνήσεις“–1 Corinthians 12:28) or leadership (“προϊστάμενος“–Romans 12:8) stands separately from the gift of pastor-teacher (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Therefore, God uses spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.  The elders of the church have very specific functions described in the New Testament, and they have the spiritual oversight in the church.

       In 1 Timothy 5:17,  we read about the office of elders (“πρεσβύτεροι“).  Elders are subject to appointment by men (Titus 1:5), whereas spiritual gifts are always given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1).  Elders shepherd the church of God as overseers (“ἐπισκόπους“).  The elders have their own spiritual qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), that assist in their identification for selection as elders.  Please take notice that all elders rule the church as overseers and do the work of an under-shepherd of Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4), but not all elders preach and teach the word, because not all elders are given the spiritual gifts for teaching and preaching.  Instead, one of the qualifications of an elder requires him to be able to teach the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2).

       Therefore, when we come to a passage like 1 Thessalonians 5:12,  we understand that the people who have charge over (“προϊσταμένους“) us in the Lord are the elders, and they give instruction.  Sometimes a pastor may be an elder, but God does not call all elders to preach and teach the word, for those are separate spiritual gifts distinct from the office of elder (1 Timothy 5:17).  Those elders who do preach and teach the Word of God diligently should be appreciated (“εἰδέναι“) by all believers.  The term “appreciate” also carries with it the idea of learn, know, and understand.  We should be aware and grateful for the work of elders who labor among us. 

        Let me also take a moment and focus upon the last phrase of the verse.  The word for instruct (“νουθετοῦντας“) means to admonish, teach, or confront.  Later in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, this same root word will be translated “admonish,” and it should call to our mind this work of elders, who lead the church in many ways, one of which involves keeping the church walking together in harmony in the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25–“στοιχῶμεν“)

       So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

      ●  Strong bonds of friendship form when we appreciate believers who labor diligently in Christ to build us up and have charge over us. 

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we live in harmony with everyone, especially the spiritual leaders who have charge over us, and teach us to walk with Christ, and confront us when necessary.   

     ●  We harm our bonds of friendship in Christ when we no longer respect and appreciate those who serve Christ by leading the church.      

Application for Today

        Today, I want to appreciate the spiritual leaders I know who work diligently for Christ.  I want them to know I appreciate their hard work.  Who will you appreciate today?