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F.F. Bruce on 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14

Posted by on Mar 2, 2010 in discipleship, edification, elders, members | 2 comments

I came across an interesting quote concerning the following passage in 1 Thessalonians:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 ESV)

F.F. Bruce wrote the following concerning 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (the instructions for “brothers and sisters” to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, etc.”):

The various forms of service enjoined in the words that follow [in 1 Thess 5:14] are certainly a special responsibility of leaders, but not their exclusive responsibility: they are ways in which all the members of the community can fulfill the direction of v 11 to encourage and strengthen one another. (F. F. Bruce, 1&2 Thessalonians (WBC 45; Waco: Word Books, 1982),122)

I think the church would be stronger and healthier if all believers would understand and function in this manner. Yes, leaders are to teach, shepherd, admonish, etc. It is their special responsibility, but not their exclusive responsibility. In fact, leaders alone cannot do what is necessary for the maturity of the church. (Ephesians 4:16)


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  1. 3-3-2010


    Do you agree with the ESV use of the word ‘respect’ in V 12, is this an accurate translation into modern English usage? Is it not an unacceptably loaded term to be used here?

    Also, is it not lack of clarity in the church regarding the likes of the above which contributes to the sort of dichotomy you are correctly putting your finger on? Why should lowly ‘believers in general’ do what the elevated ‘believers in leadership’ are designated / better able to do!

    Furthermore, and sadly, part of the problem is that many ‘believers in leadership’, with exclusivist notions of their role, have helped cultivate the idea that for ‘believers in general’ to do deal with such matters would be treading on their (leadership) patch.

    I wonder if the Thessalonians were even arguing about this very issue (‘Be at peace among yourselves’) and Paul was attempting to underline the shared responsibility of all.

    Or………………… am I just having a bad day!


  2. 3-3-2010


    I think a better translation in 1 Thess 5:12 would be “know” (instead of “respect”). This is the way the verb is commonly translated, even in other passages in 1 Thessalonians (see 1 Thess 5:2, for example).

    I think you’re right about dichotomy and exclusivist notions.