A Commentary by John Stott
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28. 5). Christian Community or How to be a gospel church.
The apostle Paul cherished high ideals for the Christian church. According to his characterization of it at the beginning of his letter (1:1-4), it is a community loved and chosen by God, drawing its life from him, and manifesting this divine life in the basic Christian graces of faith, love and hope. Such a community could justly be called a ‘gospel church’, both because it has been brought into being by the gospel and because it is continuously shaped by the gospel.
One New Testament picture of a gospel church portrays it as the family of God, whose members recognize and treat one another as sisters and brothers. This seems to be the key concept in the second half of 1 Thessalonians 5, since the word *adelphoi*, ‘brothers’ (which includes the *adelphai*, ‘sisters’, in the one *adelphotes*, ‘brotherhood’, 1 Pet.2:17; 5:9), occurs five times (verses 12, 13, 25, 26 and 27). It bears witness to the truth that if through Christ God is our Father, then *ipso facto* our fellow believers are our sisters and brothers. We not only belong to ‘the day’ (5:1-11); we also belong to ‘the family’ (5:12-28). Moreover this fact of our mutual relationships profoundly affects our mutual behaviour. Paul has already urged the Thessalonians to ‘love one another’ with *philadelphia* or ‘brotherly love’ (4:9-10), to ‘comfort one another’ (4:18, RSV), to ‘encourage one another and build each other up’ (5:11). Now he develops further his vision for the church family, and for the ‘one anotherness’ of its members.
He takes up one by one three essential aspects of the life of the local church (all of which are items of contemporary debate or concern), and gives apostolic instruction about them. First, he addresses himself to the leadership or pastorate (verses 12-13) and tells us how pastors and people, ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’, should regard and relate to each other. Secondly, he writes about the fellowship of the local church (verses 14-15) and about the responsibilities of church members to care for each other. Thirdly, he comes to the church’s public worship (verses 16-28), what should be included in it, and in particular how the Word of God evokes the worship of God.
Tomorrow: 1). The Pastorate. (5:12-13).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.