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Lesson 11: Promise to the Persecuted *

Introduction: Who can say that they have no problems? If you are like most others, you have things in your life that create problems for you. Some of these problems are your own fault, some are the fault of others, and some just seem to come floating into our lives on their own power. Whatever the problem, God is the answer. We turn our attention this week to Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians. This letter addresses the problems the Thessalonian believers face. Let's jump into Paul's conversation and see what we can learn about facing problems in our life!

  1. Greetings

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1. Who is sending this letter? (The same people who sent the first letter to the Thessalonians - Paul, Silas and Timothy.)

      1. If Paul were writing to your church, and he said that your church was "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," how would you react? (I would be complimented. We are a church that is "in God." What better place could we be?)

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:2. What are you looking for in life? If you face serious problems, what do you desire? What if I offered you a guarantee of salvation and peace? (That is Paul's greeting: grace and peace to you.)

    3. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3. For what does Paul give thanks? (That the Thessalonians are growing in faith and love.)

      1. Consider how Paul begins his letter. How should we deal with fellow Christians? (He compliments them. He wishes them grace and peace.)

  2. Persecution

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Paul's letter so far has been sweetness and light. Is life perfect for the Thessalonians? (No! They are going through persecutions and trials.)

      1. How are they dealing with these serious problems? (With perseverance and faith.)

      2. What do these two words, "perseverance" and "faith," suggest to us about how we should deal with difficulties? (Faith would be trust in God. Perseverance is to accept something for now with the attitude that things will get better.)

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5. How is suffering evidence that God is just? (I don't think that is what Paul is saying. He is saying that the fact of our suffering now justifies God rendering judgment at some time in the future.)

      1. Have you heard sceptics ask, "Why would a God of love execute judgment?" What is the answer? (Injustice calls for judgment. Persecution calls for judgment. If God did not love His saints, He would not be offended by the troubles the wicked heap on them.)

      2. Do we earn salvation through suffering? (No. But, enduring suffering through faith and perseverance shows our relationship with God.)

  3. Payback

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:6. If we love our enemies, why would we want a promise of "payback" against them?

    2. Read Romans 12:20-21. What do you think about this? Be nice to the people who are harming you and they will feel guilty about hurting you?

      1. Do you think this is the "payback" that Paul mentions in 2 Thessalonians 1:6? (Actually, I would like real payback. I don't have anyone in my life for whom I wish "payback," but there are some truly evil people in the world who deserve payback.)

      2. How do you reconcile Paul's promise that God will "pay back trouble to those who trouble you" with his counsel to pay back our enemies with love? (This is an easy line to draw. We are not to be in the payback business. God is in the payback business. If you read Romans 12:17-19 you will see Paul makes the same point in Romans as he does in 2 Thessalonians.)

        1. Why does God get to give payback and we do not? (Because God is the perfect judge and we are not.)

    3. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7. What else does God promise, other than payback to our enemies? (That He will provide relief to us.)

      1. If you had to choose between relief and payback, which would you choose? (God gives us the better gift.)

    4. Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:7 again. What is the timing for the payback? (The Second Coming.)

      1. Is that also the time when relief will come? (Perhaps. Paul speaks of payback and relief together, and then says "This will happen [at the Second Coming.]")

      2. What do you think about the news that relief may not come until the end of the world? (Remember that in 2 Thessalonians 1:4 Paul compliments the Thessalonians for their perseverance.)

    5. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:8. What do you think this means? That those who are punished are those who neither know nor obey God? They fail on both points.

      1. Or, does it mean that those who are punished are those who do not know or those who do not obey? They fail on one of the two points. But failing either is fatal.

      2. If you say "neither know nor obey," that would suggest that people who do not know God, but who obey God, would be saved. Could that be correct? (The commentaries I consulted said verse 8 should be understood to mean that they can fail on either point - those who choose not to know God and those who know about God but who choose not to obey Him - both groups are lost. This makes sense because grace means that no one gets to heaven by works.)

        1. Hold this text in your mind a little while longer. If the text means that the lost are those who "do not know or those who do not obey" then we must obey to be saved, right? We must not fail on either point, right? (This reinforces the idea that if we truly know God, that will result in a change in our actions.)

        2. The commentaries I consulted suggested two groups are described here. The Gentiles who worshiped false Gods (they failed the knowledge point) and the Jews who knew about Jesus, but who rejected His teachings (they failed the obedience point). How would you apply these two groups to the people of the world today?

    6. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10. When you think about your eternal destiny, what is it that you fear the most? (Most people talk about burning eternally. This text supports the idea that the burning is not eternal, just the result of the fire is eternal ("everlasting destruction"). If I'm alert and in pain, I have not been destroyed.)

      1. The other penalty is being shut out from the presence and power of God. Imagine a world in which God's presence and power was absent from your life? (That would be horrible. The great loss for those who are not saved is that they miss eternity with God.)

      2. What does Paul say on the topic of salvation? (He says the Thessalonians will be saved because "you believed our testimony to you." That is the gospel, believing the testimony about Jesus.)

    7. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:11. What is God looking for in our lives? (That we will be worthy of our calling. That God's power will flow through us to fulfill our good purposes and our acts of faith.)

      1. What do you think Paul means by "God's calling?" Is this a reference to salvation? (God does call us to be saved. But, here the calling seems to partner with the Holy Spirit (God's power) to fulfill good purposes and good actions.)

    8. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:12. Is the goal of our life to lead a trouble-free existence? To leave our problems behind? (No. The goal is to glorify God in our life. Whether we face problems or not, God calls us to live holy lives. Lives that bring glory to God.)

    9. Friend, if you face problems and troubles, have you considered how you can use them to bring glory to God? If not, why not ask God to give you the power of His Holy Spirit to glorify God through the challenges of life?

  4. Next week: The Antichrist.
* 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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