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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 10: Church Life *
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!
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12. Who are we to respect? (Those
who work hard for the church, who are "over" us, and who
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read 1 Peter 2:9. If we are all priests, then how can
another human have authority over us?
- Read 1 Peter 2:13-14 and Acts 5:27-29. How do you
reconcile these two statements from Peter?
- 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.")
- 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.)
- 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.")
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.")
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Have you tried to be "joyful
always?" How did that work out?
- 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
- Holy Spirit
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Are these four verses
logically linked? Is Paul making "bullet points" on the
same subject? (I think so.)
- Read Joel 2:28-29. What are we promised "afterward?" (The
widespread power of the Holy Spirit poured out in
- When is "afterward?" (Read Acts 2:15-17. Afterward
means after Jesus' resurrection!)
- 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!)
- 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"
- 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.)
- Read Deuteronomy 18:18-22. What is the Old Testament
penalty for false prophecy? (Death.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- The Walk
- 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.)
- 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!)
- 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.)
- 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?
- Next week: Promise to the Persecuted.
* 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.