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!

  1. Greetings

    1. 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.)

      1. How do you greet people?

      2. How do you react to people who greet you with
        criticisms instead of compliments?

      3. 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)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14. What alternative greeting could
      Paul have given? (Stop being lazy, timid, weak, impatient
      and vengeful!)

      1. What is the state of your marriage? How well do you
        get along with your children?

        1. How do you greet your spouse and your children?

  2. Chosen

    1. 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
      by God?

    2. 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.)

    3. Read Revelation 3:20 and Revelation 14:6-7. To whom does
      God appeal to follow Him? (Everyone everywhere.)

    4. 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?”

      1. What is the proof of being “chosen” (or “elected”)?
        (The Holy Spirit brought conviction and power.)

    5. 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

  3. Imitation

    1. 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
      the Thessalonians.)

      1. 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’

      2. Are the disadvantages of Jesus proof that He gave up
        His own interests for us?

        1. 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.)

    2. Look again at 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. In what way were the
      Thessalonians models for other believers. (They welcomed
      the message with joy.)

      1. 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

      2. We now have Paul and his friends as models and the
        Thessalonians as models. Should we encourage the
        imitation of other Christians?

    3. 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!)

  4. Rescue

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. What is our hope? (That Jesus will return from heaven
        and rescue us from the “coming wrath.”)

    2. 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?

  5. Next week: The Apostolic Example.