Everything rises or falls on leadership. In the previous verse, Paul had asked the believers to “honor,” “recognize,” or “appreciate those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (1 Thes 5:12).
The relationship between the body of believers and their pastor(s) must be a healthy respect, or it detours into dead-end squabbles and suspicions.
Church leadership is called by interchangeable terms. The most common term is elders: those who are spiritually mature and wise leaders (1 Tim 5:17, 19; 1 Pet 5:1, 5).
The word overseer or bishop is used interchangeably in Titus 1:5 and 8 to reflect the spiritual oversight and authority in the church.
A third term—probably the most common in usage today—is pastor, which is a leader whose responsibility is to feed and protect the believers (Eph 4:11–12).
The fourth term, leader, refers to those who teach and give guidance from the word: “Remember those who rule [root of the word for leader] over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow” (Heb 13:7; see also 13:17).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:13, Timothy had just returned from Thessalonica. Evidently, some there were reluctant to obey their leaders, provoking Paul’s exhortation to “esteem [workers] most highly in love” and “be at peace among yourselves.” They were to “to hold them in the highest regard” (lit. “to esteem them hyperabundantly”).
These leaders were fulfilling three responsibilities. First, they were “laboring,” meaning “to be worn out, weary, or faint.” Paul asked “that you submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us” (1 Cor 16:16).
Second, they were “over you in the Lord,” a translation of the word meaning “to stand before, to preside, lead or rule.” Third, they were “admonishing” the church—literally, “to put in mind, to warn, or correct by discipline, counsel.” They were teaching the church to obey the commands.
Then Paul gives the key to the unity of the church: “[continually] be at peace among yourselves.” The verb implies the end of hostilities, quarreling, or fighting.
One is reminded of the command, “Let the peace of God rule in your [plural] hearts” (Col 3:15)—that is, do everything possible to allow peace to reign among the body of believers. Are we “peacemakers” in our church?
“Dear Lord, You have given us pastors and teachers to help us learn to live for You. May I always respect and honor, as You have commanded, those You have given as spiritual authorities over me.”