Over You in the Lord

1 Thessalonians 5:12  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In 1 Thess. 5:1212And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and 13 the Apostle writes, "We beseech you, brethren, to know them which 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." The presence of elders is not requisite in order to have and to own those who are over us in the Lord. There is much of importance for us now in that scripture, for we have elders no more than they. I think we ought to lay its exhortations to heart. There are within and without not a few ill-instructed souls who hold the notion that, unless there be official appointment, they cannot have anybody over them in the Lord. This is all a mistake. No doubt, when a man was officially appointed, there was a definite guarantee in the face of the Church given by an apostle or an apostolic man; and there was thereby no little weight given to those who were thus appointed. Such a sanction had great and just value in the Church, and would be of consequence among the unruly. But none the less did God know how to provide instruction for assemblies where there was not yet official oversight. How merciful for times when for want of apostles there could be no elders!
But it will be noticed that the Corinthian assembly abounded in gift, though elders are seen nowhere among them. The Thessalonians do not appear to have possessed the same variety of outward power, while elders or bishops again are never hinted at. Yet at Corinth the household of Stephanas devoted themselves regularly to the service of the saints; and the Apostle beseeches the brethren to submit themselves to such, and to everyone that helped and labored. He prays the Thessalonians to know those who labored among them, and presided in the Lord, and admonished them. Evidently this did not depend upon their being apostolically appointed, which could hardly have been in their circumstances as lately gathered. It is founded upon that which after all is intrinsically better, if we must be content with one blessing out of two. Surely, if it comes to be a question between real spiritual power and outward office, no Christian ought to hesitate between them. To have the power and the office combined is no doubt the best of all when the Lord is pleased to give both; but in those early days we see that individuals were often and rightly engaged in the work of the Lord before there could be the seal of an apostle, as it were, affixed; and such the Apostle encourages and commends earnestly to the love and esteem of the saints before and independently of that seal. How precious that we can fall back on this principle now!
Even at Corinth and Thessalonica then those were raised up in the midst of the saints who showed spiritual ability in guiding and directing others. That was the work of those to whom one epistle exhorted subjection, and whom the other epistle commended as "over" them "in the Lord." Such men as these did not labor only, because some might be actively engaged in the Lord's work who might not be over others in the Lord. But these manifested power to meet difficulties in the Church, and to battle with that which was ensnaring souls, and so to guide and encourage the weak, and baffle the efforts of the enemy. They were not afraid to trust the Lord in times of trial and danger; and therefore the Lord used them, giving them power to discern and courage to act upon what they did discern.