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Sabbath School Lessons on 1 & 2 Thessalonians
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 1: The Gospel Comes to Thessalonica *
Introduction: How do you react when someone brings a new idea to you?
What about when someone suggests that you need to make changes in
your life? What if someone warns you about something terrible in your
future if you do not change? We begin our study of 1 and 2
Thessalonians: Paul's letters to the believers in Thessalonica. In
these letters Paul brings a message that he is concerned they will
not believe. When a lawyer wants to test the truth of what a witness
says, the lawyer asks questions about perception and motivation.
Paul, sounding like a lawyer, argues why the Thessalonians should
believe him. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Who is writing this letter to
the church of the Thessalonians? (Paul, Silas and Timothy.
In the rest of this lesson I'll refer to them collectively
- Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4. What is Paul concerned about?
(That the church members will doubt him.)
- What concerns does Paul raise? (That his message is
wrong or his motives impure. He says that he is not
trying to trick them.)
- Why would Paul write this kind of thing? (It must be
that some were questioning Paul's motives and the
accuracy of his theology. His defense shows us the
nature of the attacks made against him.)
- Let's go back to the questions I asked in the
introduction: when someone tries to convince you to
agree with them, do you consider their motives? (I do
- especially if I do not know the person very well.
But, this might be the result of my legal training.)
- Think about this a minute. We all know people
who are wrong because they are not very smart,
their emotions overtake their logic, or they
are uneducated about the issues. How do you
compare those kinds of people with those who
are trying to trick you? (We have the lowest
opinion of tricksters! The other people are
just wrong, but deceivers are evil.)
- What does Paul say about his motives? (His motive is
to obey God.)
- Motives Clarified
- Re-read 1 Thessalonians 2:2. Paul refers to an event in
Philippi. Why? (This is part of Paul's argument about his
motives. Let's explore what happened in Philippi.)
- Read Acts 16:9-10. Whose direction is Paul following here?
(He believes God is directing them to Macedeonia.)
- Read Acts 16:11-12. How does this fit into God's
direction? (Philippi is the leading city in a district of
- Read Acts 16:13-15. If you were Paul, would this confirm
God's directions to you to go to Macedonia? (You meet the
right people and they offer to let you stay with them.
Everything is going great!
- Read Acts 16:16-18. How do you explain that a demon would
give this message? Didn't we learn last quarter that we
can discern spirits by their message?
- Why do you think Paul was troubled? Was it day after
day of shouting? Was it that a demon was handling
- Read Acts 16:19-23. What kind of justice do they have in
- If you were Paul, would you begin to doubt your
- Has Paul done anything wrong?
- Read Acts 16:24-28. Assume you are Paul, this is your
story and you are writing in Facebook what happened to you
in the last two days. What would be the tone of your
note? (One disaster after another! First harassment, then
unjust beatings, then imprisonment, and then an
earthquake. If any of your friends clicked, "like," you
would feel like kicking them.)
- Read Acts 16:29-34. Now, what do you say about the vision?
How does this change your Facebook entry?
- Read Acts 16:37-40. Just a footnote here. What did Paul
believe about Christians asserting their legal rights?
- Who is encouraging who? Who was beaten? (Paul was
beaten and he is doing the encouraging.)
- Read Acts 17:1. This brings us back to Thessalonica. How
do you think Paul felt? (He was probably still suffering
from his beating!)
- If you knew this background, what would you say about
Paul's motives? Is he a trickster? Is there any
reason to say he is motivated by anything other than
the will of God? (Paul knew that sharing the gospel
was dangerous. He could lose his health or his
- Read 1 Thessalonians 2:2. What is the reception to the
gospel in Thessalonica? ("Strong opposition." In this new
town, Paul knew he was facing danger.)
- The Message
- Since we have seen that Paul has only pure motives, let's
look at his message. Read Acts 17:2-3. What is Paul's
message to those in Thessalonica? (The gospel!)
- Why do you think Paul went first to the Jews? (The
Old Testament predicts Jesus. If they believed the
Torah, then they should believe in Jesus.)
- Was Paul going to church on Sabbath simply because
that was when the synagogue was meeting? (No. The
text says worshiping on Sabbath was Paul's "custom."
It was his regular practice.)
- Notice that Acts 17:3 says that Paul explained to them why
the Messiah would suffer. Read Jeremiah 23:5-8 and Isaiah
9:4-7. Do these verses refer to Jesus? (Yes.)
- What kind of Messiah do you think the people would
prefer - One who suffered or One who triumphed?
- Can you see the obstacles which Paul had to overcome?
He was preaching a Messiah who was murdered by Rome!
- Review Isaiah 53 and read Isaiah 53:5. How should Paul
make his argument? How do you think he explained these
apparently conflicting pictures of Jesus?
- Read Acts 17:4. Who are these "God-fearing Greeks?" (Read
1 Thessalonians 1:9. These are Gentiles who had "turned to
God from idols." Some commentaries suggest that they had
accepted the teachings of the Old Testament, met on
Sabbath with the Jews, but were not full converts to
- Read Acts 17:5. This should be familiar to Paul. Why are
the Jews jealous? (Two things. First, the Jews are
probably hoping that these Greeks would fully convert to
Judaism. Now, Paul has convinced them of something else.
Second, Paul argues that the Old Testament predicted
Jesus. Jesus is the fulfilment of the sanctuary service
and the other prophecies. These Jews reject that and
think Paul is starting another religion that is taking
away from their religion. We can see why Paul is concerned
about whether people believe his message.)
- Read Acts 17:6-8. Paul's opponents round up a mob of bad
characters to start a riot, and then get the government
involved on their side. What does this teach us about the
strength of their religious arguments? (Resorting to
violence and the strong arm of the government shows that
your attempts to persuade through logic and reason have
failed. They use terror and force to protect their
- Look again at Acts 17:7. What do you think these Jews
believed about the Messiah - suffering or triumphant?
(They undoubtedly believed the Messiah would be
- What does that say about their argument here?
(Purely disingenuous. They were accusing Paul
of things they hoped would happen!)
- Friend, what about you? Do you believe in the books Paul
wrote in the New Testament because they are "part of the
Bible," or do you have an independent personal trust in
them because of what Paul suffered to deliver his message
from God? If you are not sure about the truth of the
gospel, will you accept it right now?
- Next week: Preserving Relationships.
* Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.