SUPPORTING OUR WEAK
Paul closes out the book of 1 Thessalonians with some very important and practical exhortations. In chapter 5, verse 14; he “exhorts” — “urges” the brethren to, among other things, “support the weak.” The key to ministry to the weak is sensitivity: sensing the condition of each person and offering the appropriate remedy for each situation. You can’t effectively help until you know the problem. You can’t apply the medicine until you know where the wound is.
As Christians we have a responsibility to “support the weak.” The weak are those who are spiritually weak. In fact, most churches have those who are weak. These are to be “supported.” However, we are not to uphold the weak when they are wrong, nor are we to make excuses for them. Instead, we are to “help” them spiritually. We are to do the things for them that will help them to increase their spiritual strength.
Above, I noted that most churches have members who are spiritually weak. This is not necessarily saying something bad about such a church, any more than it would be to say that some families have members who are physically weak. Children, for example, are physically weak family members, yet it is not immoral to have children in a family. Churches also might have weak members for a variety of legitimate and acceptable reasons. When a person is converted to Christ, for example, he usually will be weak at first. A good sign is when a congregation has many new converts. It shows that the church has been working and bringing people to Christ.
The Bible refers to immature Christians as “babes” in Christ who are on the milk of the word. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” It takes time for the new Christian, the babe in Christ, to grow into a mature Christian.
Those who are new Christians are weak and must be helped. An infant is not left by his parents to feed, clothe, and care for himself; neither should the new Christian be left to himself. Matthew 28:18-20 records the Great Commission that was given by Jesus. The commandments are to “teach,” “baptize,” and then “continue to teach.” However, often we do not continue to work with the new Christian. Instead we tend to leave them to face temptations alone. We must encourage them, continue to teach them, listen to their problems, and advise them. When left without teaching and encouragement they may eventually falter. At this point, many will excuse themselves saying, “Well, I figured he wouldn’t last; he probably never was truly converted to begin with.”
While some are spiritually weak because they are new Christians, others might be weak because they simply have not made the effort to grow. These have had plenty of time to grow, but they have not. In Hebrews 5:12, we read of certain ones who should have become teachers, but instead they were told, “… by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” They needed to be taught again the first principles; they needed to be encouraged to have zeal and to grow. Just making excuses for these people does them no favor.
All Christians need to “support” (help) the weak. We should have concern for others. Paul so pointedly puts the principle this way in Philippians 2:4 “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
With brotherly affection – Andy