Introduction: This week we get down to business in our study of the
letters to the Thessalonians. While it is good to understand the
background, and consider the challenges Paul and his friends faced in
evangelizing the Thessalonians, nothing is better than studying the
word of God in context. Topical studies have their place, but topical
studies rely on the logic of humans. When we study a book of the
Bible, we see God’s logic in action. The Holy Spirit arranges the
sequence of the presentation in the Bible. Let’s see what we can
learn about God’s will for us, in the sequence He inspired, by
examining what He has to say to the Thessalonians!
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3. This week I saw an old co-worker who immediately commented on a television show he
had seen the night before in which I was interviewed. His
first comment was that I had difficulty answering one
question. (My biased opinion was that I had done great –
even on the difficult question.) What could my friend
learn from Paul? (Paul starts out positively. He wishes
the Thessalonians grace and peace, and then says how
thankful he is for their faith and work.)
- How do you greet people?
- How do you react to people who greet you with
criticisms instead of compliments?
- Remember, the Holy Spirit is guiding Paul’s words.
What should we learn from Paul’s opening here? (Be
positive. Start out with encouraging, positive words
to others if at all possible. You can leave the
constructive criticism to later)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14. What alternative greeting could
Paul have given? (Stop being lazy, timid, weak, impatient
- What is the state of your marriage? How well do you
get along with your children?
- How do you greet your spouse and your children?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5. When I teach or preach, from
time to time a person will come up to me afterwards who
was strongly convicted by the Holy Spirit. Others seem to
have the words just roll off their backs. Are the
convicted people “chosen” by God and the rest not chosen
- Read 1 Timothy 2:3-4. We know that Paul sent Timothy to be
with the Thessalonians. What does Timothy write about
being chosen by God? (That God wants all to be saved.)
- Read Revelation 3:20 and Revelation 14:6-7. To whom does
God appeal to follow Him? (Everyone everywhere.)
- Re-read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5. Many Christians believe in
something called “election.” Only if they are “elected”
are they saved. As I understand it, “non-elected” people
can never be saved. When Paul says in verse 4 that God
“has chosen you” is he talking about “election?”
- What is the proof of being “chosen” (or “elected”)?
(The Holy Spirit brought conviction and power.)
- Read 1 Peter 2:9-10, Acts 10:44-47 and Acts 15:6-9. These
texts bring to mind another context in which the power of
the Holy Spirit demonstrated that God had chosen a people.
What is that context? (We are reminded of the history of
God’s work with humans. God chose a special people (the
Jews) to be His workers to share the message about Him.
When God’s special people largely rejected Jesus, God
turned to the Gentiles – those who were, as 1 Peter 2:10
says, “not a people” to be God’s messengers. The context
makes clear Paul’s message that “You do not have to be
Jewish to be chosen by God.” The proof, as always, is the
demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul is not
saying that God picks and chooses among humans who will be
- Re-read the last part of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and then read
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. In what way is Paul saying the
Thessalonians were “imitators” of Paul and his friends?
(Look at the last sentence of verse 5: “we lived among you
for your sake.” Paul and his friends sacrificed to help
- People often say that we should only imitate Jesus,
but I’ve long thought that idea had serious flaws. It
seems obvious that God withheld from Jesus many
things so that humans would not say, “Jesus had an
advantage over me because He was born rich, He was
born to a royal family, He had a beautiful home,
etc.” Do you think we should imitate Jesus’
- Are the disadvantages of Jesus proof that He gave up
His own interests for us?
- If you said, “yes,” then isn’t “giving up
advantages to help others” exactly what Paul
said he and his friends were doing for the
Thessalonians? (This is making me re-think this
subject. While I still do not think that we are
called to imitate Jesus being homeless or His
other specific disadvantages, the general idea
of giving up ourselves for others should be the
main principle of our life.)
- Look again at 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. In what way were the
Thessalonians models for other believers. (They welcomed
the message with joy.)
- What about the “giving up yourself idea?” Were they
also a model for that? (Notice that verse 6 says “in
spite of severe suffering” they welcomed the message
with joy. On the surface, no one would have joy about
giving up something, as opposed to getting something.
There are studies on this. A person offered one of
two choices may not have a strong preference for one
over the other. But, once the person selects one,
that person does not want to give it up for the
alternative. The fact that the Thessalonians could
give up a normal life “with joy,” is something to
- We now have Paul and his friends as models and the
Thessalonians as models. Should we encourage the
imitation of other Christians?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:8. In what other way did the
Thessalonians become models for other new converts? (Their
faith was noteworthy. They “rang out” the “Lord’s
message.” The word picture that I see is of someone
ringing a bell to get the attention of others. The
Thessalonian’s faith got attention!)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. We’ve spoken about the “hard
to accept” aspects of Christianity. That Paul promoted a
Messiah who had been killed by the Romans rather than
conquering the Romans. In what way is the former belief of
the Thessalonians “hard to accept?” (They worshiped idols
– something made by human hands.)
- How does Paul describe the contrast between the two
belief systems? (Because Jesus was raised from the
dead, we serve a living God. We do not serve
something made by humans which was never alive – much
less alive now.)
- What is our hope? (That Jesus will return from heaven
and rescue us from the “coming wrath.”)
- In the introduction we talked about God’s sequence in the
Bible. As you think about what we have studied in this
lesson, from the nature of the greeting, to the choosing
of the Thessalonians, to the model for others, to the
nature of Jesus’ rescue, what overall theme do you see?
(Service for others. We are careful how we greet others.
We are willing to accept others who are accepted by the
Holy Spirit. We are willing to share our faith even if it
makes life uncomfortable. We serve a living God who has
given up His life for us and who will rescue us. Friend,
are you willing to make this the theme of your life? Will
you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to do this?
- Next week: The Apostolic Example.