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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 3: Thessalonica in Paul's Day *
Introduction: Have you heard the question, "Does anything ever
change?" In some sense, all sorts of things change all the time. One
huge change in the last twenty years is the Internet. To publish and
mail this Bible study in the "old days" would have taken a large
amount of money. Even with enough money, it would not be practical to
send it world-wide because of the delays in mailing. The Internet
changed all of that. But, are the hearts of people different today?
Have the hopes, dreams and worries of people changed? Has selfishness
disappeared? Has the Bible's answers to problems changed? No. The
people in Thessalonica were like you and me. Paul, Silas and Timothy
faced struggles with sin, just as we do. Let's jump into our Bible
study and see what we can learn about the solution to the problems
that we all face!
- The Things of the World
- Read 1 John 2:15. Except for God, everything I love is in
the world. Where are the things you love located?
- Do you think this text is speaking of location? Is it
speaking of geography? Or, is it saying "Don't love
the world" and everything "in" the world - in the
sense of being included in the world?
- Read 1 John 2:16. How does this clarify the answers to the
questions we just discussed? (The Bible is not talking
about geography. It is using the word "world" as a symbol
for things opposed to God.)
- What do you think is meant by the phrase, "the
cravings of sinful man?" (You could say, "If I'm not
a sinful person, then my cravings are fine." But, I
suspect that having "cravings" is a clue to what the
Bible means when it says "world.")
- What do you think is meant by the phrase, "the lust
of the eyes?" (This seems to be another kind of
craving - wanting something you see.)
- Do you know people who boast about what they possess
and have done? (Now we get to something we can really
understand, because likely this is us. If we are in
denial and think this is not "us," then we know
people who fit this description.)
- Why would a person boast about what they have
or do? (To show that they are better than
others. They have more money, more things and
have accomplished more because they are
smarter, harder working or more righteous.)
- If you look at these verses ( 1 John 2:15-16), do you
think these phrases we have studied are related?
- If the final definition (in this group of
phrases) of what it means to love the world is
bragging about yourself, what does this suggest
is meant by "the cravings of sinful man," and
"the lust of his eyes?" (These are people who
want to be on the road to bragging about what
they have and what they do. They are not there
yet, which is the reason why they "crave."
They do not yet have it, which is the reason
why they "lust." These are the "poor" and
"unsuccessful" people who want to someday be
able to brag about what they have and what they
- With this understanding, does this just about
include all of us? Do you think this human
attitude has changed over thousands of years?
- Read 1 John 2:17. Why is being on the road (or at the end
of the road, or trying and failing to get on the road) to
a life worth bragging about a bad idea? (It is temporary.
You get to the point of having and accomplishing and
bragging about it all - and you die. Or, worse, you've
been lusting and craving your whole life, and suddenly you
realize your life is over, and you have nothing!)
- Why is having and doing and bragging inconsistent
with having the love of the Father in us? (Someone
with the love of the our Father in Heaven is not
focused on himself, but has a desire to help others.)
- How does a desire to help others make more practical
sense? ("The man who does the will of God lives
- Read Acts 17:1-3. What was the most difficult aspect of
Paul's message to the Thessalonians? (That the people
should worship a Messiah who died at the hands of the
Romans - rather than conquering the Romans.)
- Is that the real challenge of the gospel for you - a
message of giving up yourself for others, rather than
conquering all who come your way?
- Was Paul's task the same as all who are sharing the
gospel today - that the true gospel is a "hard sell"
if self denial is truly understood?
- Is the gospel pure self-denial? (No. Not only
do we get to live forever, but lasting joy
comes from helping others.)
- Paul's Approach to the World
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:19. Is this consistent with what we
just studied? (Yes!)
- Does this appeal to you? (The natural heart does not
want to be a slave. Let's continue to see what Paul
means by this.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. This is not slavery in the
sense we normally think of it. In what way is Paul a slave
here? (It seems to be a slavery to ideas, not a physical
slavery. Paul could have gone to each of these groups and
said, "You need more law," or "You need less law." Instead
he refrained from asserting his own ideas.)
- How can we distinguish between being a slave - giving
up our ideas for the ideas of others - and
compromising the gospel? How can we tell what is
being practical to win over others, and what is
- Read Acts 16:3. Is Timothy making himself a slave for
others? (Yes, this is a painful example of giving in to
the ideas of others. But, Paul thought they needed to
compromise on this in order to win the Jews.)
- Read Galatians 5:2-3 and Galatians 5:11-12. Was
circumcision an important point to Paul? (Yes. He fought
- Why, then, did he compromise with Timothy and not
compromise with the Galatians? (The Galatians were
not circumcised, and Paul tells them they do not need
to be circumcised to be saved. Timothy, on the other
hand, was going to teach the gospel to those who had
been circumcised, and being circumcised helped him to
be able to share the gospel with them. I have no
doubt that Paul ultimately shared the full gospel to
these circumcised Jews - but personal compromise to
be able to share the gospel is part of giving up
yourself to others.)
- When we started our discussion about bragging over what we
do and what we have, it seemed that we were talking about
rich, successful people (and those who were trying to be
rich and successful). Are these people the only target of
our study? (No. An important target is bragging about what
you do and what you have with regard to the gospel! I have
little doubt that bragging about money, power and position
are part of being in the world. But, the slavery which
Paul writes about is a slavery that is tied to religious
- Let me ask you again, how can you distinguish between
compromising your ideas and disobedience to God? (I do not
fully understand this, but the first question to ask is,
"Am I doing this to advance the gospel?" If the answer is,
"yes," then likely you are on the right path.)
- Starting the Church
- Read Acts 18:1-3. Is it a waste of Paul's talents and time
to be making tents instead of preaching? (We have just
discussed the idea of being unselfish and being practical
in order to reach people. Paul is strengthening his
relationship with Acquila and Priscila. We see in Romans
16:3-4 that these two became great workers for the
- Read Colossians 4:15. We read here (and in other texts)
about home churches. How does the idea of opening your
home to other church members fit into the topic of this
study? (It is another example of practical unselfishness.)
- If you have ever been a part of a home church, what are
its advantages? (You get to see how this group of
believers can work together without investing a lot of
money in a property. In a larger church, you might not
know the people very well. In a home church you have close
- Friend, next week we will start our study of 1
Thessalonians in earnest. As a result of this study, can
you more clearly see the attitude that was necessary for
Paul and is necessary for you to reach others with the
gospel? Will you commit to carefully consider how an
unselfish compromise of your religious opinions might
advance the gospel?
- Next week: Joyous and Thankful.
* 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.