A Healthy Church Member is a Humble Follower (Part1)

April 12, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

  We are looking at the Marks of a Healthy Church Member. As I mentioned before, this series is based on the little book written by Thabiti Anyabwile entitledWhat is a Healthy Church Member? Except for the 8th mark, the titles of ourstudies on the first seven marksare the same as those mentioned in that book.   So far, here are the topics we have already covered:  

A Healthy Church Member is…

  1. an Expositional Listener

  2. a Biblical Theologian

  3. Gospel Saturated

  4. Genuinely Converted

  5. a Biblical Evangelist

  6. a Committed Member

  7. Seeks Discipline

  8. Growing Disciplemaker

  We are going to look at the 9th mark of a healthy church member, which is a humble follower.   The bible teaches us that the attitudes and actions of church members towards their leaders havea lot to do with whether a church is going to be healthy or not.   Today, we are going to look at the attitudes and actions of church members towards their leaders found in 1Thes 5:12-13:   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.  

Let us look at the Context of this letter first.

  The book of Acts gives us the background for this letter. In Acts 16:8-14, Paul received the Macedonian vision at Troas to go to Europe. This was the beginning of spreading the gospel from the continent of Asia to the continent of Europe. Philippi was the first city in the present-day Europe where Paul established a church;Thessalonica was the second. Luke reported the evangelization of Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9.   Most of the converts in Thessalonica were Gentiles who abandoned idolatry to follow Christ (1:9). Some of the converts were Jews. Paul however was forced to leave the city when the Jews who did not accept the Good News started a riot against the apostles and accused Paul and Silas of causing civil disturbance (Acts 17:4- 7). The believers there came under great persecution following this uproar.   Paul left a church that was only a few months old in the faith. Paul was deeply concerned about the welfare of the Thessalonian church and he repeatedly attempted to return to the city but was hindered by Satan (2:17- 18). When Paul could no longer bear his anxiety over the church, he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to strengthen the believers and then to report back on the condition of the church there (3:1-2, 5). When Timothy returned from Thessalonica, he reported good news that the Thessalonian believers remained steadfast in the faith despite the opposition they faced (3:6- 8; Acts 18:5).   Timothy’s good report about the Thessalonians led Paul to write this letter. Some of Paul’s purposes for writing this letter are the following:  
  • To express His thanksgiving to God for their continued faith, love and hope in Christ. (1:1-10)
  • To answer false allegations about his motives for leaving the Thessalonica in haste (2:1-12)
  • To comfort the young church that was still going through persecution (2:13-16)
  • To express his joy in their faith and perseverance (2:17-3:13)
  • To give them practical instructions on moral purity and disciplined living (4:1-12)
  • To give them instructions regarding the Rapture and the Day of the Lord (4:13—5:11)
  • To instruct them regarding church relationships: their attitude towards leaders and relationship among themselves (5:12-15)
  • To exhort them in the basics of Christian living (5:16-22)
  Here is an important observation I don’t want you to miss. Timothy returned to Paul with a very positive report regarding the spiritual condition of believers in the young Thessalonian church. They were steadfast in their faith, love and hope in Christ. You would think that a good vertical relationship with Christ is enough to say that you have a healthy church. However, the fact that Paul still gave additional instructions regarding their horizontal relationships shows that the attitudes and actions of the members toward their leaders also have a great effect on church health.   Now, let’s look at what Paul says about the attitude and actions of healthy church members toward their leaders in 1Th 5:12, but before doing that let us first look at the responsibility of the leaders towards the flock.  

The Leaders’ responsibility towardS the flock

  Leaders are described in three ways:   1Th 5:12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.   (Note: The Greek sentence contains three participles united under one definite article to indicate that the leaders mentioned here are not three but one group of persons who do all three activities; and all three actions are in the present tense to stress continuing action.)  

1.  They labor among the flock.

1Th 5:12 respect those who labor among you   The Greek word for labor (kopiaō) means to labor to the point of weariness, and implies that the work of Elders is one that demands constant diligence.   John Gill: who laboured in the word and doctrine; gave up themselves to meditation, reading, and prayer; laboured hard in private, to find out the meaning of the word of God; and studied to show themselves workmen, that need not be ashamed; and preached the word in season and out of season; laboured in teaching, instructing, and admonishing them; they laboured to enlighten their understandings, to inform their judgments, to raise their affections, and to bring their wills to a resignation to the will of God; to refresh their memories with Gospel truths; to strengthen their faith, encourage their hope, and draw out their love to God and Christ. They faithfully dispensed all ordinances, and diligently performed the duties of their office; and were willing to spend and be spent, for the glory of Christ, and the good of souls, and earnestly contended for the faith of the Gospel; and all this they did, as among them, so for them, for their spiritual good and welfare.

2.  They rule and provide leadership and direction to the flock.

1Th 5:12b respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord   Leaders are recognized as being “over” the congregation in the sense of ruling, presiding over, and providing leadership and direction as a shepherd is over the sheep.  
  • 1Ti 3:5 - for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church
  • 1Ti 5:17 - Let the elders who rule well
  John Gill:   “in the Lord" - they did not take this honour to themselves, nor were they appointed by men, but they were made able ministers of the word by God; received their gifts qualifying them for this work from Christ, and were placed as overseers of the church by the Holy Ghost. (Ac 20:28  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.)   Illus. Many years ago, in the 1990s, someone came to me and wanted to talk to our congregation because he claimed that he had a vision of heaven and had a message for the people. I was not interested because I did not think that what he would do was from the Lord. If I wanted to know what was in heaven I did not need his visions. The bible contains everything God wants me to know regarding heaven for now and I don't need  the testimony of man to tell me about those things. Paul himself who had a vision of heaven wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 that the things he heard “man may not utter” and in fact he even refrained himself from talking about those things so that no one may think more of him than he sees in him or hears from him. I mentioned that on radio and he heard it. He went to my office very angry and cursed me and my ministry. I was not shaken because I knew that the Holy Spirit made me an overseer to the local church I was taking care of and I had responsibility to guard it from false prophets and teachers. In the local church, the Elders are the highest ruling body. And since there are no longer any prophets and apostles today of the kind that you have in New Testament, pastors or Elders are not to be intimidated by so-called prophets and apostles who threaten us.   And it was only in things pertaining to the Lord that they were over them; not in things civil, which distinguishes them from civil magistrates; nor in things secular and worldly, they had nothing to do in their families, to preside there, or with their worldly concerns, only in the church of Christ, and in things pertaining to their spiritual welfare;   and though they were over them, yet under Christ, and in subjection to him, as their Lord and King; governing not in an arbitrary and tyrannical way, lording it over God's heritage, usurping a dominion over the faith of men, coining new doctrines, and making new laws; but according to the word of God, and laws of Christ, in the fear of the Lord, and with a view to the glory of God, and in love to souls.  

3.  They admonish the flock.

  The Greek word for “admonish” here noutheteō. Generally, it means, to instruct, to put into the mind.  
  • More specifically, it means instruction in correct belief and behavior
  • To put into the minds good and wholesome things such as the doctrines of the gospel;
  • to warn of sin and danger and reprove and rebuke with faithfulness
  • to exhort them to perform their duty
  • to admonish them if they go astray.
  • to speak to one about his conduct, reminding him of what he seems to have forgotten, and of what is rightly expected from him.

The members’attitutes and actions toward leadership

  I see at least one implied and three clearly stated attitudes or actions that characterize healthy church members. They all fall under the 9th mark of a healthy church member which is a humble follower.

1.  [Implied]: They are to be teachable

  This is implied in the passage:   1Th 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respectthose who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteemthem very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves     What are some of the characteristics of a teachable heart?   Turn to James 1: 19-21   19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.   The context here is not just about social relationships or how to communicate properly. It is talking about response to the Word.  
  • In verse 18, the word of truth is mentioned.
  • In verse 21, the implanted Word is mentioned.
  • In verse 22, be doers of the Word is mentioned.
  • In verse 25, it is called the perfect law of liberty. So the Word of God is the theme.
  There are five things that we see vv. 19-21 regarding what it means to have a teachable heart:  
  • The teachable heart is “quick to hear.” Which means to be eager and attentive to listen to the Word of God. It means to have a hunger and appetite for the Word. He has a tremendous desire to learn.
  • The teachable heart is “slow to speak.” James is not here talking about giving an opinion before you've heard the whole story. Rather, this talks about not being quick to argue with the Lord or to be defensive looking for excuses of why this doesn’t apply to him when God’s Word confronts His ways.
  • The teachable heart is “slow to anger.” Again, James is not talking about being slow to anger as a general habit of mind, which is indeed most true. This is still talking about how a person is to receive the Word. We should lay aside all anger and wrath, and should come to the Word of God with a calm and receptive spirit.
  MacArthur: When you hear something from the Word, don't build up inside of yourself a resentment to it because one, it doesn't agree with what you thought, or two, because it confronts your sin. That's the issue here. It's your reaction to the Word. It refers to a disposition of rejection. The context here is hearing the Word, teaching the Word, so it implies anger against those who teach the Word or confront you with the Word.How do you respond when the Bible steps on your toes? Maybe you’re reading it, or hearing it preached. It says something that you don’t like, because it confronts the way you think or live. Do you get angry and defensive, thinking, “What right does that preacher have to say that? How dare he tell me how to live!” A teachable heart has stopped fighting angrily against God. Rather, it submits to God.  
  • The teachable heart puts away all sin(v.21a)Instead of being angry, James orders his readers to “put awayfrom their lives all filthiness and rampant wickedness
  • The teachable heart welcomes the Word with humility. (v.21b)The reception of truth must be marked by humility or meekness. The word translated “meekness” is not spineless weakness; it has the idea of strength in submission or strength under control. It was used of Alexander the Great’s horse, which was powerfully strong, but totally submissive and responsive to the master’s touch. The believer with this quality can be very strong and yet completely submissive and sensitive to the Lord’s command.
  When James says that the word implanted “is able to save your souls,” he is viewing salvation in its second aspect, which is sanctification. This is not justification or glorification. If we don’t have a teachable attitude, the word of God will not do its work in our hearts. Or to put it differently, if we do not have a teachable attitude, we cannot be healthy church members.   Turn back to 1Th 5:12-13. Now let us look at the explicitcommands found here. Here, Paul urges the believers to do three things in regard to their leaders. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor 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. Be at peace among yourselves.  

2.  They are to know or recognizetheir leaders.

1Th 5:12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you.   The Greek word for respect is “oida.” I did a word study on this and I discovered some interesting things about it. It is difficult for me to decide what it really means. But let me show you how commentators understand the word.  
  1. Alexander Strauch – “to know”
  The Greek text of 1Th 5:12 reads, “But we ask you brethren to know those who work hard among you.” “To know” seems like an odd request. Would not Christians naturally have knowledge of those who led and admonished them? Because of this unusual request, most translators and commentators thing Paul uses the term “know” (Greek, oida) with an unusual shade of meaning—to respect, acknowledge, or as the New American Standard Bible says, “appreciate.” The thought behind such an interpretation would be to recognize the leaders’ importance and appreciate them. The translation know however (which is the term’s constant meaning throughout the NT), makes perfectly good sense when we closely consider the circumstances in Thessalonica:  
  • When 1Thessalonians was written, the church was only three to six months old. Paul had only stayed with the Thessalonians about a month (Acts 17:2). All was new, and the believers themselves were new babes in Christ, newly saved out of a pagan background…
  • There was no distinction between clergy and laity, no officialism, and no priestly garments distinguished certain members. Nor should we assume that anyone was supported fulltime in the assembly’s service. Therefore, the humble, servant leaders who built others up within the congregation could easily be overlooked. …
  • As the letters indicate, certain gifted men or prophets may have received more public attention than those laboring at less spectacular duties (1Th 5:19-20).
  • Moreover, false laborers, busybodies, and would-be teachers (2Th 3:6-15) were active. So, it required some effort for the congregation to know all those who truly labored at leading and admonishing. …
  In light of these considerations, it seems likely that Paul was calling upon the congregation at Thessalonica to make the necessary effort to know their leaders so the leaders might receive the esteem and love they fully deserve.  
  • A major Greek lexicon(Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker) says that word “oida” can also mean “take an interest in someone” or “care for someone.” This is why Albert Barnes writes:
  The word “know” seems to mean that … they should seek to be personally acquainted with him… They should seek his friendship, and endeavor to maintain all proper contact with him. ... They should so far understand his circumstances as to know what is necessary to make him comfortable, and should be on such terms that they may readily and cheerfully furnish what he needs.  
  • Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament- to give deserved recognition to someonerespect, appreciate, have regard for.

3.  They are to esteem their leadersvery highly in love

and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.   The action is expressed in the Greek present tense, indicating a continuing action. Paul uses an emphatic adverb, very highly (hyperekperissōs), to describe the regard that the church should have for its leaders.   Someone said, “The words in Greek carry such an emphasis as cannot well be expressed in English. Their love was to be joined with esteem, and esteem with love, and both these to abound and superabound towards them.”  
  • Alexander Strauch:
  Paul exhorts every member to first know all who labor hard at leading and admonishing, and second, to “esteem them very highly in love.” The magnitude in which believers are to esteem their elders is expressed in the intensive adverb “very highly.” G. G. Findlay speaks of this exuberant word as “the strongest intensive possible to the language. So deep and warm should be the affection uniting  pastors and their flocks.” … Thus, Christians must esteem their leaders superabundantly and most exceedingly. When elders are honored in this manner, it greatly enhances their effectiveness in leadership and inspires young men to prepare for this noble task.   God cares about how people treat those who are in authority. The Bible exhorts us not only to obey, but to honor our rulers (Ro 13:7; 1Pe 2:17). When Paul, for example, realized he had spoken rudely to the high priest, Ananias, he apologized by saying, “… ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people’” (Ac 23:5). If people’s thoughtlessness, disobedience, and ingratitude towards their civil leaders deeply concerns God, imagine how much greater concern He has that His people properly honor church elders!   Our natural tendency, however, is to take elders for granted, forget what they have done for us, complain rather than be thankful, accentuate the bad, and disregard the good. For example, God gave Israel some of the greatest leaders in history—men like Moses and David. Yet during difficult times, the people were ready in a moment to stone both Moses and David to death. Knowing man’s basic ingratitude and complaining spirit, the Spirit exhorts us to highly honor all who shepherd the flock.   Paul also adds the beautiful and comprehensive phrase, “in love,”to his injunction: “esteem them very highly in love...”   There is always some degree of tension between the elders and the people. Difficult situations arise in which the elders cannot avoid displeasing or angering part of the congregation. Indeed, conflict between elders and church members can become very severe and trying.   Ultimately, however, God uses these heart-breaking situations to show us our pride, selfishness, and lovelessness. These conflicts reveal what is really in our hearts and what principles actually operate within the church. Conflicts also reveal whether we are living life as Christ would have us live, or living in the flesh. Conflicts reveal our need—as a corporate body—to confess and repent of sin and lovelessness.   Paul Billheimer is right in noting that local church—with all its problems, stresses, and conflicts—is actually a testing ground for growth in love and preparation for the future:   The local church, therefore, may be viewed as a spiritual workshop for the development of agape love. Thus the stresses and strains of a spiritual fellowship offer the ideal situation for the testing and maturing of the all-important qualification for sovereignty…   Most controversies in local congregations are produced not primarily by differences over essentials, but by unsanctified human ambitions, jealousy, and personality clashes. The real root of many such situations is spiritual dearth in individual believers, revealing lamentable immaturity in love. Therefore the local congregation is one of the very best laboratories in which individual believers may discover their real spiritual emptiness and begin to grow in agape love. This is done by true repentance, humbly confessing the sins of jealousy, envy, resentment, etc. and begging forgiveness from one another. This approach will result in real growth in the love that covers.   Elders deserve this high regard and love“because of their work.”They are not to be highly regarded because they are older men, hold titles, have received an apostolic appointment, or have friendly personalities. Rather, they deserve “esteem” and “love” solely because of their “work” on behalf of the congregation. We frequently direct our esteem towards those leaders we personally like or agree with, but that is wrong. All who diligently labor on behalf of the congregation are to be esteemed most highly in love, even those we may not easily be compatible with.

4.  Theyare to live at peace with them

1Th 5:13Be at peace among yourselves.   Hendriksen says, “In connection with what immediately precedes, this must mean, ‘Stop your carping (faultfinding), instead of continually criticizing the leaders, follow their directions, so that peace (here: absence of dissensions) results.’”   Alexander Strauch: Satan does all he can to create warfare and division among God’s people, and Christians often help him succeed by acting the ways of the old life (2Co 12:20-21 - For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.) Harry Ironside provides practical counsel to help us maintain peace among ourselves: … It is so easy to allow little things to set one Christian against another, and thus bring in strife and a spirit of quarrelsomeness among God’s people. When we realize that anything like this is in our hearts we should take it immediately to the Lord in humiliation and self-judgment, and seek grace not to say or do anything willfully that is likely to cause contention among God’s children.”   Personal Illustration: I attended a seminar. I felt bad at first about the teacher. I was disappointed. I thought about how it would have been better if  the last speaker handled the seminar. And then while I was praying, I realized how proud I was. Then I started to make a list of all the good things he did. How he arranged the whole seminar. How he was instrumental for the teachers. I wrote him an email and expressed my appreciation and encouraged him. I wrote it sincerely. He told me how encouraged he was. I prayed that God would bless his ministry. I even thought of inviting him to handle a seminar in our church.   So based on 1The 5:12-13, a healthy church member who is a humble follower displays four attitudes and actions toward leadership  
  1. They are teachable.
  2. They know or recognize their leaders.
  3. Theyesteem their leaders very highly in love
  4. Theylive at peace with them
    Discussion and Reflection questions:
  1. As you again consider the instruction to church members in 1Th 5:12-13, is there anything that surprised you? Why?
  2. What are some of the ways members have violated the commands listed here?
  3. If you have failed to obey these commands, what are some concrete changes you can start in your life?