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Commentary on 1 Thess. 5:12-13 / Hebrews 13:17
12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thess. 5:12-13
17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17
1 Thess. 5:12. The church leaders are probably the elders of the church in view of how they were described by Paul. These were men who worked hard to provide pastoral care for the flock, probably in their spare time since in the early church local church leaders often carried full-time jobs outside the church. These leaders are further described as being over you in the Lord. They had positions of spiritual leadership in the church and were responsible to God for those under their care (cf. Heb. 13:17). This responsibility included providing admonition as needed. Since Paul used the plural “those” to describe their leaders, there was more than one such person in the Thessalonian church, as in other churches to whom Paul wrote (cf. Phil. 1:1).
Paul gave three exhortations to the church regarding the proper attitude toward leaders. First, they were to respect them. This term (eidenai) normally means “to know,” but here it includes appreciating and respecting them and their work.
Heb. 13:17 In verses 7 and 8, the readers were instructed to remember their past leaders. Now they are taught to obey their present leaders. This probably refers primarily to the elders in the local church. These men act as representatives of God in the assembly. Authority has been given to them, and believers should be submissive to this authority. As “under shepherds,” the elders watch out for the souls of the flock. They will have to give account to God in a coming day. They will do it either joyfully or sadly, depending on the spiritual progress of their charges. If they have to do it sadly, that will mean loss of reward for the saints concerned. Therefore,it is to everyone’s benefit to respect the lines of authority which God has laid down.
- Today we’ll be discussing “Following leadership within Biblical limits.”
When you read “submit to the leadership of River within scriptural limits,” what is your initial response and why?
- What are some barriers to this heart attitude?
- How would you explain this heart attitude to a potential group member?
- What role does good leadership play?
- Now read the passages above. What do they say about following leadership?
- Why might this grate on some people?
- It is important to remember that “everyone follows leadership or suffers for not following good leadership.” What did Terry mean by this statement?
- “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” What does the writer mean by this?
- What are limiting factors on leadership?
- How do the scriptures set limits on legitimate leadership?
(Read Romans 13:1; Acts 4:18-20)
- What does it mean practically to follow leadership?
- Why does applying the “golden rule” make sense? What are the benefits for those we follow and for us personally when we live this way?
- How do you want those you lead to follow you (how would you if you had followers)?
- How you follow leadership yourself is likely what kind of followers you will have (or do have now).
- What does it mean for you to lead where God has called you to lead?
- What role does faithfulness play?
- No matter the situation in which you’re called to lead, it’s important that you see the situation as it truly is and that you take the appropriate action. Why is this important for effective leadership?
- Terry talked about being an R/A leader. What must you do to grow your R/A?
To grow, you must look outside of yourself. Look to those God has called you to lead (or to follow), look to God for resources that are beyond you, learn to live from His provision and not your own real or perceived lack.
Let’s grow in leading and following for the good of others and for the glory of God.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2210). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.