TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
The New Testament has much to say about the responsibility of a pastor to his people. The pastor is a representation of who Jesus Christ was to His disciples. Just as Jesus Christ won men to himself, trained them, and then sent them out to do His will, it is the job of every pastor to win people to the Lord, train or disciple them, and then send them out to fulfill God’s plan for their Christian lives. The pastor is sometimes referred to as an undershepherd who serves a smaller flock under the leadership of the Great Shepherd who is over the entire body of believers.
The role of undershepherd is portrayed in Pilgrim’s Progress by the man named Evangelist who appears several times in the classic story. Evangelist not only preaches the Gospel in the city of Destruction, but he comes alongside those who are on the way to the Celestial City to instruct them, warn them of temptation, and tell them what lies on the road ahead. Let’s read from Pilgrim’s Progress as Evangelist visits with Christian and Faithful:
Christian and Faithful went on talking about what they had seen along the way, and this discussion made their travel easier, otherwise their journeying would undoubtedly have been tedious, for now they went through a Wilderness. Now when they had almost passed out of this Wilderness, Faithful happened to look behind and on doing so he noticed someone coming after them whom he suddenly recognized.
“Oh!” said Faithful to his brother. “Who is it that approaches us from behind?”
Then Christian looked and exclaimed, “It is my good friend Evangelist.”
“Yes, and my good friend as well,” said Faithful, “for it was he who directed me along the way that leads to the Wicket-gate.”
Then did Evangelist reach them and offer his greeting. “Peace be with you, dearly beloved, and may there be peace upon those who have helped you,” he said.
“Welcome, welcome, my good Evangelist,” Christian said. “The sight of your face reminds me of your earlier kindness as well as your untiring labor for my eternal good.”
“And let me add a thousand welcomes,” Faithful said. “How desirable is your fellowship to us who are such needy pilgrims.”
Each of us from time to time in our Christian walk can be classified as “needy pilgrims” — especially those of us who are young pilgrims, that is, those who are new to the Christian faith or “babes in Christ.” When I was a young Christian, I wanted to learn as much as I could about God, about Jesus Christ, about the Bible, and about how all of that was brought to bear on my new life in Christ. The people who provide that knowledge and help us along in our Christian faith are those whom God has called to be pastors or undershepherds. How does Scripture tell us we ought to relate to our pastors?
First, our passage tells us that we ought to “know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord.” Paul “beseeches” us or makes an urgent appeal for us to do this. What does it mean to “know” those who are over us in the Lord?
The Greek word used for “know” is “eido.” It literally means to perceive by sight. It is the same word used to describe the Wise Men seeing the star which would lead them to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not the more common term for know — ginosko — which means to learn of something by experience. Many scholars believe the word in Thessalonians ought to be translated “appreciate.” In other words, Paul wanted the believers to come to know the worth of their leaders. Martin Vincent states that we are to “recognise them for what they are, and as entitled to respect because of their office.”
Dear Christian friend, do you know and appreciate your pastor? Do you have a godly respect and love for the person whom God has placed in your life to guide you on your journey to Heaven? These are people who have traveled the road that you are just beginning. They have more experience and wisdom than you do, and they can help you live a successful Christian life.
Theodore Hiebert stated that “ministers are often urged, and rightly so, to ‘know’ their members, but here the members are called upon to ‘know’ their leaders. And surely much of the tension that at times develops between the pastors and members would be dissipated if the members would learn to know and appreciate the duties and ministries of their spiritual leaders. Such a recognition and appreciation of their spiritual leaders is a purely spiritual exercise possible only to spiritual persons. Non-spiritual persons cannot recognize, and would not acknowledge, spiritual workers or their work.”
Now, unfortunately, in this day and time, it is often difficult to identify true spiritual leaders — true undershepherds whom we should appreciate and honor. Thankfully, in this verse, Paul gives us a three-fold identification for spiritual leaders who deserve our appreciation.
1. They are people who serve the body of Christ. Paul says, appreciate those who “labor among you.” Not those who ‘lord themselves over you’, but those who labor among you. Too many people who claim to be God-ordained spiritual leaders are only in love with the influence and authority that comes with the position. They are not truly willing to serve.
Some of you probably watched the third season of the hit Netflix series “House of Cards” which premiered this weekend. Judging by the chatter on the internet, many people watched all thirteen episodes back-to-back from Friday night into Saturday morning. The show depicts the scheming and machinations of power hungry politicians. These people are also called “public servants.” However, not only on TV, but in real life, oftentimes, these people have no interest in really serving. They are only concerned with the power and influence that comes with the office they hold.
The Bible does not tell us to appreciate spiritual leaders who are like that. A spiritual leader who deserves your appreciation and respect is one who is willing to serve the church of God. Even Jesus Christ said, “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” That is the spirit of a Christ-like leader who deserves your appreciation. In Pilgrims Progress, Evangelist exuded this loving spirit of servanthood.
2. The second mark of an undershepherd who deserves your appreciation is that he is “over you in the Lord.” Every person in the church who calls himself a leader is not necessarily a leader “in the Lord.” There are a lot of self-proclaimed leaders in the church today. Many have seemingly snagged a title out of the Bible and applied it to their name when they show forth no evidence of God truly calling them to that position.
In Greek, the term “over you” refers not only to one who leads, but one who guides, defends, and protects. A person who is ordained by God and who is not a novice – one who is actually older than you in the Lord. If you are following a person who is not willing to step up and protect the flock when wolves in sheep’s clothing come around, then that person does not deserve your appreciation as a God-ordained leader.
Once again, we look at the example of Jesus Christ. When the Roman soldiers and the Jewish Temple guards came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Bible tells us that “Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these [the disciples] go their way.” Jesus did not want any harm to come to His disciples. The next verse in the Gospel of John tells us why: This happened “that the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake: Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.” A true spiritual leader who deserves your appreciation is one who will step up and take a blow in order to prevent harm from coming to the lives of those under his care.
3. The third and final mark of an undershepherd who deserves your appreciation is that he is one who ‘admonishes you.’ A true spiritual leader is not one who will always pat you on the back or flatter you. But when he sees you doing wrong, he will step in to correct or admonish you. The word “admonish” means to warn or to exhort.
We have some preachers today who get in the pulpit and tell people that no matter what is going on in their lives, everything is going to be okay, everything is going to work out in their favor, everything is going to be just fine. However, both the preacher and the people know that not everyone in the church is being obedient. Some people have unconfessed sin in their lives. Some people are bitter and resentful towards other church members. Some people are not tithing as they should.
In the Bible, we are told of a time when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” You can think of it as a Sunday School teacher asking his students a question he thinks they should know the answer to. Well, Peter says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Do you know what Jesus says? Jesus praises Peter. He says, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Good job, Peter! A few verses later, Jesus begins talking about how He has to go to Jerusalem to be crucified. And the Bible tells us that “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” What does Jesus say to Peter now? Jesus says, “Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Jesus Christ was able to praise Peter and rebuke Peter.
Ladies and gentlemen, the job of the undershepherd is not only to encourage but to exhort, not only to applaud but to admonish, not only to reward but to reprimand. If he is not doing that, then he is not a spiritual leader who deserves your appreciation.
In closing, I want to encourage you to be on guard against following a spiritual leader who is not truly called by God and who does not pattern his leadership methods after Jesus Christ. But be eager to appreciate, encourage, respect, and honor an undershepherd or pastor who represents Christ well and who truly cares for God’s people.
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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.
First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.
But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! I want to congratulate you on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.