1 Thess 5:14 reads:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995),
This verse is one of a string of verses in this chapter that are important to one-on-one ministry. Check the index to see which other ones I detailed. In any case be sure to read all of 1 Thessalonians 5.
I am sorry for this longer than usual post. There is just too much in this passage. And to get the overall impact I wanted to show it as an entire unit.
1 Thess 5:14 in Real Life
Let me attempt an expanded paraphrase of this verse.
Now for those of us who are devoted to Jesus. Here are some life principles.
- Help refresh the memory of those who are not living out brotherly love or otherwise disturbing the harmony among local Christians. Some ways to do that include sharing with them how what they are doing is hurtful to the others. And note how this has negatively affected others in the past.
- Encourage those Christians who are cowardly about accepting persecution or losing their dedication to Jesus. Comfort those who despondent or depressed.
- Show your strong attachment and devotion to and in that way help others who are not doing well. Including those who are physically sick, or have no way to provide for their own needs, or helpless because of some addiction Maybe they are unsure about their dedication to Jesus.
- In summary, be patient with each follower of Jesus and the group as a whole. That is we need to bear up under the provocation of another believer and that without complaint.
In other words, there is not any room for hate in the character of the follower of Jesus.
Keywords in 1 Thess 5:14
I sent a fair amount of time researching the keywords in this verse. I feel that it is imperative to see the understanding of words at the time of writing. And not some new opinion resulting from current translations or the cultural shifts of nearly two millennia.
- Brethern: BDAG notes that Jesus calls everyone who is devoted to him brother Mt 12:50; Mk 3:35, especially. his disciples Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17. Hence used by Christians in their relations with each other Ro 8:29, 1 Cor 5:11; Eph 6:23; 1 Ti 6:2; Ac 6:3; 9:30; 10:23; Rv 1:9; 12:10. So in this passage, the apostle Paul is appealing to his fellow believers. He sees himself as on the same level as his readers.
- Admonish: The TLNT notes that it is a compound of nous and tithēmi, the verb noutheteō means “put something in someone’s mind,” hence “instruct, lecture,” sometimes by way of refreshing the memory, sometimes by way of making observations or giving warnings. BDAG defines it as to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct, admonish, warn, instruct. Check out Ac 20:31; 1 Cor 4:14; Col 1:28; 3:16; 1 Th 5:12; 2 Th 3:15; Tit 1:11 and Ro 15:14. Notice this much softer approach then is common in the western culture where we are inclined to condemn or even hate someone we think is unruly.
- Unruly: This is the only place this word occurs in the New Testament. It is a compound word its root word means fixed or appointed with a prefix meaning “without.” So the question is what should be “fixed” or “appointed.” The TLNT suggests the “ataktoi” Thessalonians free themselves from the rule of community life. One thinks of sins against brotherly love, a propensity to favor discord, a refusal to accept the customs or discipline of the church. The church here would be the local community of believers, not some larger organization.
- Encourage: The underlying Greek word occurs four times in the New Testament (Jn 11:19; 11:31; 1 Thess 2:11; 5:14). The word comes to us in English as “console” or “encourage.” Either word will work in this passage.
- Fainthearted: This again is the only place this word occurs in the New Testament. However, it is used in the Greek translation of Old Testament (Prov 14:29; 18:14; Isa 25:5; 35:4; 54:6; 57:15). Suggested translations in the TDNT include “those faint of heart”, “to be cowardly”, “to lose heart”, “despondency”, “crossness” and “impatience”. I think any or all of those suggestions can work in this passage.
- Help: BDAG suggests it means “to have a strong attachment to someone or something,” “cling to,” “hold fast to,” “be devoted to” and “to have a strong interest in,” hence “help.” It is this second set of meanings they suggest for 1 Thess 5:14. Again I think any of those definitions can fit in this passage.
- Weak: There are many ways a person can exhibit weakness. BDAG finds support for the following.
- Suffering from a debilitating illness
- Give up too easily
- Relative ineffectiveness whether external or inward – feeble or ineffectual
- Helpless in a moral sense
- Weakness of faith for any reason
- Without influence
- Economically weak or poor
- Patient: There a place in both Hebrews and James where the word means to remain tranquil while waiting or to have patience. In Matthew and Luke, it indicates a delay. However, it often indicates to bear up under provocation without complaint (1 Peter 3:9) or forbearing. Bearing up under provocation is the meaning here. (See BDAG)
- Everyone: This word is used over 1,200 times in the New Testament. In this case, the sense is about the totality but with focus on the individuals. (See BDAG). So we are to be patient with each person without qualification.