Jan 30, 2011

Fee on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13

Recently while teaching through 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, I read this insightful comment from Gordon D. Fee in his commentary The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (p. 208).

"The earliest notion in the New Testament regarding church leadership is tantalizing for its brevity, and can likewise be frustrating because it assumes so much about which later believers would like more information. But perhaps even that can be a means of instruction. Paul's way of speaking about them by way of participles, rather than nouns, puts all the emphasis on their activities, not positions. Thus we learn a bit about what they do, but almost nothing about who they are or the ‘positions’ they hold. This is especially trying for those who live in a culture that loves titles as a way of distinguishing people who are ‘important’! By turning such verbs into nouns one begins to focus more on position than person or function. Paul's concern is consistently on character and activity, not on ‘role.’ But since we can scarcely turn the clock back in the contemporary church, all of those who are in church leadership might use this passage as a valid ‘checklist’ for personal inventory with regard to how one cares for those one is given the privilege to lead."


Mike Gantt said...

Perhaps we don't find the "position descriptions for church leadership" in the NT that we're seeking because the kingdom of God was coming to replace the church. At least that's certainly what the apostles were leading everyone to expect.

Charles Savelle said...

Interesting point. I am more inclined to believe that the lack of descriptive elements were either assumed and thus felt to need no further elaboration, undeveloped at the time, or intentionally left undefined to allow for greater flexibility.

Mike Gantt said...

If the allowance of flexibility was the goal, I think we can safely say that with over 30,000 Christian denominations (and not even counting the non-denominational churches) that goal has been achieved.

Of course, this doesn't speak well for the church being considered the body of Christ since there is hardly any other body that has been torn into as many pieces.

Charles Savelle said...

What I mean by flexibility is the ability to adapt to changing times or different cultures. Concerning denominations, I know that I may be in the minority here, but I am not so sure that denominations are the problem, but rather denominationalism.