“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor 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. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
While there were many good and commendable things to report concerning the young church at Thessalonica, there are indications that there were a few concerns left for Paul the Apostle to address. The first of those concerns might be found here in verse twelve: “Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you” (CEB).
You see, there is a subtle but noticeable shift in Paul’s message within this verse. For instance, Paul began this chapter by saying, “…concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you” (emphasis added). But here now in verse twelve, notice that the “I” has changed to “we” in his message to the church: “…we urge you, brethren” (emphasis added).
Remember that Paul had earlier dispatched a trusted associate named Timothy to check on the members of the Thessalonian congregation. Although Timothy returned to Paul with a positive report, perhaps he felt that some within their fellowship had failed to demonstrate the proper level of respect for their spiritual leaders. While there is a degree of speculation in this inference, it would help to explain this joint expression of concern.
In addition, it’s likely that the Thessalonian leadership was rather young and/or inexperienced. If Paul followed the practice of ordaining church leaders prior to his departure from Thessalonica (as mentioned in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5), it may account for his gentle reminder and expression of support for these leaders.
In a larger sense, this passage directs us to consider the call to leadership within the church. While oversight positions are important and necessary, a title is less significant than the evidence of God’s calling upon one’s life. In general, people exhibit God’s call to leadership by doing the things that identify them as leaders even if they don’t possess a title. One pastoral minister wisely offers the following counsel in this regard…
“Don’t be quick to give yourself a title. I think that when people have to tell me what their gifts are, I am a little suspicious. If God is working through you, people will see what God is doing, you won’t have to publicize it.” (1)
(1) Rich Cathers, Revelation 1-2 [2:20] http://www.calvaryfullerton.org/Bstudy/66%20Rev/2001/66Rev01-02.htm