A Commentary by John Stott

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.  1). The pastorate (continued).

Secondly, Christian leaders are those *who are over you in the Lord*. True the very first thing that needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are ‘under’ people (as their servants) rather than ‘over’ them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain (Especially in Mk. 10:42-45). The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power. Nevertheless, authentic servant-leadership still carries an element of authority (Cf. Heb.13:7, 17, 24). Bo Reicke writes in TDNT that *proistemi* the intransitive middle meant originally to ‘put oneself at the head’ or ‘go first’. Then metaphorically it came to signify either to ‘preside’ in the sense of to direct or rule, or to ‘protect’ or ‘care for’. MM shows from the papyri how it was applied to a variety of officials, superintendents, village heads or chiefs, landlords, estate managers and guardians of children, in all of which the notions of ‘leading’ and ‘caring’ seem to be combined. The same combination is suggested in the New Testament, in which the ‘leadership’ of Romans 12:8 (*ho proistamenos*) comes in the middle of three other caring ministries, and the same verb is used of a father ‘managing’ his own home and children (1 Tim.3:4-5, 12). It was natural, therefore, to use the verb of Christian elders, for ‘If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?’ (1 Tim. 3:5; cf. 5:17). We see again, as we did in 1 Thessalonians 2 and 3, that pastoral care is parental care. The element of ‘management’ cannot be eliminated, yet here in relation to the leaders of the Thessalonian church ‘the emphasis is not on their rank or authority but on their efforts for the eternal salvation of believers’ (TDNT). This is in keeping with the startling originality of Jesus, who taught that in God’s kingdom the first are last, the leaders servants and the chiefs slaves. Those who are ‘over’ others *in the Lord* (that is, in the Christian community, whose members are bound together by their common allegiance to Jesus) must never forget their Lord’s teaching on leadership.

Thirdly, Christian leaders are those *who admonish you*. The verb *noutheteo* is almost invariably used in an ethical context. It means to warn against bad behaviour and its consequences (E.g. Acts 20:31; 1 Cor.4:14), and to reprove, even discipline, those who have done wrong. Being a negative word, it is often coupled with ‘teaching’, e.g. ‘admonishing and teaching everyone’ (Col.1:28; 3:16). Both activities belong to the responsibility of pastors. Moreover, *noutheteo* does nor denote a harsh ministry. As Leon Morris has put it, ‘while its tone is brotherly, it is big-brotherly.

Here, then, are three parallel expressions, which indicate that Paul envisages a distinct group of leaders, who are ‘over’ the congregation in the Lord, to whom has been entrusted their pastoral oversight and care, including admonition, and who are expected to work hard in serving them. It is true that ‘they are identified by their activities rather than by a name’ Does it necessarily follow, however, that at this time ‘they did not have a name’? Unless Luke was guilty of an anachronism, they were already during Paul’s first missionary journey called ‘elders’ (*presbyteroi*, Acts 14:23). A few years later they were also called ‘pastors’ and ‘overseers’ or ‘bishops’ (*episkopoi*) (Acts 20:17, 28). Their ministry may take different forms, and has developed different patterns in the history of the church, but in each case it must give the Christian community the pastoral care (*episkope*) which God intends it to enjoy, especially by teaching.

What attitude should the local congregation adopt towards its pastors? They are neither to despise them, as if they were dispensable, nor to flatter or fawn on them as if they were popes or princes, but rather to *respect* them (12), and to *Hold them in the highest regard (NEB ‘in the highest possible esteem’) in love because of their work* (13a). This combination of appreciation and affection will enable pastors and people to *Live in peace with each other* (13b). Yet in too many churches they are at loggerheads, which is painful to those involved, inhibiting to the church’s life and growth, and damaging to its public image. By contrast, happy is the church family in which pastors and people recognize that God calls different believers to different ministries, exercise their own ministries with diligence and humility, and give to others the respect and love which their God-appointed labour demands! They will *live in peace with each other*.

Tomorrow: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15. 2). The fellowship.


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.