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Lesson 4: Joyous and Thankful *

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 saved.)

  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' disadvantages?

      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 imitate.)

      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.
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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