The peaceful church - more on 1 Thess 5

More on Paul's portrait of the church in 1 Thess 5. In vv. 12-13, Paul addresses the people who are under leadership (see my post on March 5). In v. 14, he shifts gears. At the National Pastors Convention during morning Bible study, Dr. Gordon Fee stated that in v. 14 Paul switches audiences and now issues instructions to leaders. Here is what he says to do:

"And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil." (vv. 14-22, NRSV)

Without getting into a drawn out exegesis of the passage, let's notice a couple of things. First, this is far from a perfect community. There are idle troublemakers, the faint-hearted, and the weak. The pastor is to meet each type of person as he/she needs to be met -- whether by warning or support.

Second, note the flavor of the Pauline church. It is characterized by patience, encouragement, goodness, gratitude, and wisdom. These themes show up again and again in Paul's portraits of the church. You get the feeling that it is the kind of place where there is heartfelt affection and many a good word is spoken. Oh that our churches would resemble Paul's portraits more closely!

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