Introduction: I remember when my parents would go on vacation and
leave my brother and me home. We were in college, but just as they
were leaving our mother would give us a short lecture on diet, health
and safety. That is the feel I have as we come to the end of Paul’s
first letter to the Thessalonians. He gives them “bullet points”
about church life and Christian living. Paul apparently thought they
were important, and so should we. Let’s dive in and see what we can
learn from what Paul has to say in parting!

  1. Work

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12. Who are we to respect? (Those
      who work hard for the church, who are “over” us, and who
      reprimand us.)

      1. This is an interesting grouping: hard work,
        leadership, discipline. What if we have a church
        leader who is lazy? Or, one who works hard, just not
        for the church? (Respect is not due to that leader.)

      2. Protestants have a little problem with the idea of
        church authority. What does Paul suggest about church
        authority in this text? (The church does have
        authority (those “who are over you in the Lord”), and
        that authority includes the right to admonish us.)

    2. Read 1 Peter 2:9. If we are all priests, then how can
      another human have authority over us?

      1. Read 1 Peter 2:13-14 and Acts 5:27-29. How do you
        reconcile these two statements from Peter?

      2. Consider the fact that the Sanhedrin was composed of
        those who had a mix of religious and governmental
        authority. How should we understand Paul’s reference
        to those “over” us “in the Lord?” (God believes in
        organization, structure and authority. That is why
        Peter applauded governmental authority. Paul endorses
        church authority. But, our ultimate allegiance is to
        God, not humans. Even religious authorities can get
        it wrong. When they do they are not “in the Lord.”)

      3. How seriously should we take church authority when we
        disagree with it? (In my many years of handling
        religious liberty cases, I have noticed that those
        who continually have a problem with church authority,
        those who cannot live within a church group, are
        generally those who have the least sincere faith.)

    3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:13. What is the reason to love
      church authority? (Paul is not writing of grace here. He
      says “love them because of the work they do.”)

      1. How can love arise from work? (I do this with
        pastors, teachers and leaders in my church. When I
        see something I think is foolish, I tell myself to
        give that person the benefit of the doubt because
        they have devoted their life to promoting the

    4. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14. How important is work to Paul?
      (He says to warn those who are idle, and respect and love
      those who work hard.)

      1. In the United States (and elsewhere in the world) we
        have the re-emergence of a class of people who live a
        life dependent on government or relatives. What does
        Paul say about that? (We should not encourage
        idleness, we should discourage it.)

        1. What do you think Paul means when he says,
          “Warn those who are idle?” Warn them about
          what? (In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says that
          those who will not work should not eat.)

      2. Compare Paul’s attitude towards the lazy with his
        attitude towards the timid, weak and irritating?
        (Paul suggest that we should help those who have
        these problems. This logically suggests that Paul’s
        “tough” attitude towards the lazy is something that
        is intended to help them – and not to punish them.)

  2. Attitude

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:15. To whom should we be kind, just
      those in the church? (We should be kind to those who have
      wronged us, those in the church, and “everyone else.”)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Have you tried to be “joyful
      always?” How did that work out?

      1. Are these three separate suggestions (joy, prayer and
        thankfulness), or are they all logically linked
        together? (It is impossible to say, “I’ll be joyful
        now” and just do it. Instead, prayer and gratitude
        help to give us joy. Prayer leads us to God’s will.
        Gratitude tunes our hearts to God’s great gifts.
        Prayer and gratitude are the path to more joy in your

  3. Holy Spirit

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Are these four verses
      logically linked? Is Paul making “bullet points” on the
      same subject? (I think so.)

    2. Read Joel 2:28-29. What are we promised “afterward?” (The
      widespread power of the Holy Spirit poured out in

      1. When is “afterward?” (Read Acts 2:15-17. Afterward
        means after Jesus’ resurrection!)

    3. Re-read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 in light of Joel 2. Should
      we expect the people in our church (men and women, young
      and old) to exhibit the gift of prophecy? (Yes!)

      1. What should be our attitude towards those prophets?
        (We should not treat them with contempt. We need to
        take the messages seriously. But, we need to “test”

        1. Are we testing the prophet or the prophecy?
          (Since the gift of prophecy is so widespread,
          and given the way the verses are written, it
          seems clear that we are testing the prophecy
          and not the prophet.)

      2. Read Deuteronomy 18:18-22. What is the Old Testament
        penalty for false prophecy? (Death.)

        1. Is this a test of the prophet or the prophecy?
          (The instruction to put the false prophet to
          death, or “not be afraid of him,” is directed
          towards the prophet himself, rather than a
          specific message. A “bad” prophet can never be
          relied upon to give a true message.)

      3. Is the gift of prophesy treated differently in the
        New Testament than in the Old Testament? (Yes. At
        least that is my current thinking. During the days
        when God’s followers did not have His written text,
        God spoke through a few prophets. The accuracy of the
        message from the prophet could not easily be checked,
        and therefore misstatements were serious. In the New
        Testament, the gift of prophecy is widespread, we
        have the Bible as a testing tool, and we test
        messages, not prophets. Thus, modern prophets can
        “get it wrong” and it is not a major problem. That
        prophet can later give a true message. No one gets
        killed. All messages must stand the test of the

      4. When we “hold on to the good” in 1 Thessalonians
        5:21, what is it we are holding onto? (The prophecies
        that we have tested and found to be good.)

    4. Re-read 1 Thessalonians 5:22. In the context of modern
      prophets, what evil are we avoiding? (Although I think
      Paul is talking about prophecies instead of prophets,
      clearly there are false prophets who never promote God’s
      word. Those who are evil should be avoided completely.)

  4. The Walk

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. Recall that in 1
      Thessalonians 4:1 Paul told the Thessalonians that they
      were “in fact” living to “please God.” But then we
      learned in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 that they were having
      problems with sexual immorality. How does our knowledge of
      their background help us to understand 1 Thessalonians
      5:23-24? (God is sanctifying us. He is cleaning us up,
      “through and through.” We are confident in our salvation
      while God is cleaning us up.)

      1. If God cleans us up, why is Paul writing to the
        Thessalonians about it? (We must cooperate. We are
        saved by grace alone, but when it comes to the clean
        up, we are co-laborers with God to cooperate with
        Him. Our goal is holiness!)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:25-28. Why does Paul solicit their
      prayers? (We all need someone praying for us. We need to
      have others greet us in fellowship. We need the grace of
      our Lord Jesus.)

    3. Friend, are you on the road to holiness? Paul tells us to
      work hard, have a good attitude, respect church leaders,
      be open to messages from the Holy Spirit, and be kind to
      others. Are you on the path towards all of those things?
      If not, why not commit to start today?

  5. Next week: Promise to the Persecuted.