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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!

  1. Work

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12. Who are we to respect? (Those who work hard for the church, who are "over" us, and who reprimand us.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    2. Read 1 Peter 2:9. If we are all priests, then how can another human have authority over us?

      1. Read 1 Peter 2:13-14 and Acts 5:27-29. How do you reconcile these two statements from Peter?

      2. 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.")

      3. 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.)

    3. 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.")

      1. 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 gospel.)

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

        1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

  2. Attitude

    1. 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.")

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Have you tried to be "joyful always?" How did that work out?

      1. 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 life.)

  3. Holy Spirit

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Are these four verses logically linked? Is Paul making "bullet points" on the same subject? (I think so.)

    2. Read Joel 2:28-29. What are we promised "afterward?" (The widespread power of the Holy Spirit poured out in prophecy.)

      1. When is "afterward?" (Read Acts 2:15-17. Afterward means after Jesus' resurrection!)

    3. 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!)

      1. 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" everything.)

        1. 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.)

      2. Read Deuteronomy 18:18-22. What is the Old Testament penalty for false prophecy? (Death.)

        1. 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.)

      3. 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 Bible.)

      4. 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.)

    4. 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.)

  4. The Walk

    1. 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.)

      1. 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!)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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?

  5. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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