1 Thessalonians 5:14
Now we exhort you, brothers, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
St. Paul gives an admirable precept to the Thessalonians, but precept must blossom into practice, and practice will prove the best commentary on precept.
I. THE PRECEPT ILLUSTRATED BY PRACTICE. All the persons in God's great family are not of the same height and strength; though some are old men and fathers, and others are young and strong, yet many are little children, nay, babes in Christ: some can go alone, or with a little help, if you hold them but by their leading strings; but others must be carried in arms, and will require much love and patience to overcome their childish forwardness. Christ winks at their weaknesses, who hath most reason to be moved with them. Though His disciples were raw, and dull, and slow to understand and believe, yet He bears with them; nay, though when He was watching for them, and in His bloody sweat, and they lay sleeping and snoring, and could not watch with Him one hour, He doth not fall fiercely upon them, and afterward excuseth them for their lack of service. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak. It is no wonder that their pace was slow, when, like the snail, they have such a house — such a hindrance — on their backs. Who can think of this infinite grace of the blessed Redeemer in making such an apology for them when He had such cause to be full of fury against them, and not be incited to imitate so admirable a pattern? God's treatment of Jonah was very similar to Christ's treatment of His disciples. Jonah runs from His business: God sends him to Nineveh; he will go to Tarshish. Here was plain rebellion against his Sovereign, which was repeated. But lo! He cannot permit Jonah to perish; He will rather whip him to his work than let him wander to his ruin. But how gentle is the rod! God cannot forget the love of a father though Jonah forget the duty of a child, and will rather work a miracle and make a devourer his saviour than Jonah shall miscarry. Oh, the tenderness of God toward His weak and erring children! Now Christians are to be "imitators of God." If He, so glorious, holy, and infinite, beareth with His creatures thus, what cause have they to bear patiently with their fellows! "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak."
II. THIS PRACTICE IS GROUNDED UPON PRINCIPLE. It was love on the part of Christ and on the part of God that led these Divine Persons to act so graciously as They did; and the same love must ever prompt Christians to imitate Them — love to Jesus Himself and love to them for whom He died, but who need practical sympathy and help. There must be no bitterness, no envyings, no heart burnings among the brethren, but they must love each other as each loves himself, and suffer together in all suffering. Oh, how sweet is the music when saints join saints in concert! but how harsh is the sound of jarring strings! A mutual yielding and forbearance is no small help to our own peace and safety. There is a story of two goats which may excellently illustrate this matter. They both met on a narrow bridge, under which a very deep and fierce stream did glide; there was no going blindly back, neither could they press forward for the narrowness of the bridge. Now, had they fought for their passage, they had both been certain to perish; this, therefore, they did — they agreed that one should lie down and the other go over him, and thus both their lives were preserved. While Christians are doing the reverse of this, they are like some small chickens, a prey to kites and other ravenous creatures. "In quietness shall be their strength."
(G. Swinnock, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.