The fruit of holiness flourishes in the context of spiritual community. Paul prays for abounding love as the context for hearts of holiness (1 Thess 3:12–13), and his prayer for holiness (1 Thess 5:23) follows instructions for spiritual community (5:12–15). How do we build a spiritual community that causes the fruit of holiness to grow? We must receive the life of Christ through spiritual leaders (5:12–13) and share the life of Christ in spiritual community (5:14-15).
How do we share the life of Christ in spiritual community? First, we must “admonish the idle” (1 Thess 5:14; cf. 4:9–12), provoking them to move forward to engage themselves in their work for God’s kingdom. Each child of God has a specific contribution to the kingdom. When we are idle, we are not fully engaging our God-given resources for that kingdom. Therefore, we must continually provoke the idle to that full potential. As we do so, then the life of Christ flows through us.
Second, we must “encourage the fainthearted” whose hopes have been disappointed (5:14; cf. 4:13–5:11). Many are discouraged and depressed because their hopes in life were disappointed. We must properly re-inform the content of our hope (4:13–18) on Christ’s purposes. Properly focused hopes help faint hearts to become great hearts. God works through the valleys of disappointment to form us to be more like Christ; then “the valley of grief becomes the vale of soul-making” (N. Wolterstorff).
Finally, we “help the weak” (5:14; cf. 4:1–8) who struggle with sins like sexual immorality by strengthening their hearts in the gospel they have received (4:1–2). We help them not by coddling them or condemning them but by helping them connect the brokenness of their lives with the riches of Christ.
However, all this takes time. Therefore we must “be patient with them all.” We must be patient with the idle as they move forward to engage God’s purposes. We must be patient with the fainthearted as we re-inform the content of their hope. Finally, we must patiently help the weak to overcome sin by the power of the gospel. People take time, but Christ has power! So let us persevere to let the life of Christ flow through us as we build up the community around us.