In a similar way, in 1 Thessalonians 5 we see a similar charge by the Apostle Paul exhorting the Thessalonians to respond like the people pictured, heading toward a summit, the Day of the Lord, Jesus’ return, but there is one significant difference between the Thessalonians and the people in this photograph.
The people in this photograph are friends, but the Thessalonians are family in Christ. In chapter 1 we see the illustration of a mother. In chapter 2 we see the illustration of a father, and throughout 1 Thessalonians we see the address “brothers and sisters in Christ” used 16 times, and this familial distinction gives us a tethering that is unlike any other as we make this journey together.
When you read the passage on your own there are really about 17 characteristics to draw out, but for the sake of time we are going to focus on one; Pastoral Authority.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work….”
In every local church, in every church family you want to see “pastoral authority” but in our culture today “pastoral authority” can be a little confusing.
There are some who grew up in a local church, and the role of the pastor has always been elevated and respected, so when verse 13 says, “regard them very highly in love because of their work” it makes sense.
But, there are also some who grew up in a local church, but have had negative experiences with pastors, so when you hear this idea of “pastoral authority” you start to twitch a little.
You have memories of pastors demonstrating sexual immorality, doing shady things with money and time, or pastors who were “heavy handed” in their leadership, so some of us look at verses 12 and 13 with skepticism.
Then, there are some who didn’t really grow up around a local church context, and are generally confused about the role of a pastor all together.
First, the title pastor really just means shepherd, and just as a shepherd cares for the physical needs of the sheep, so is the pastor responsible to care for the spiritual needs of a church family, but we need to remember the ultimate shepherd is Jesus.
Therefore, the Apostle Paul writes, “regard them highly in love” because the pastor is the one who is spiritually fighting for you. The pastor is the one who is “diligently laboring” on your behalf as he prays for you, presses in on you, challenges you, and encourages you, so that overtime the church family might grow stronger and healthier as we make this expedition together.