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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 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!
- 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.)
- 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?)
- 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.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3. For what does Paul give thanks?
(That the Thessalonians are growing in faith and love.)
- Consider how Paul begins his letter. How should we
deal with fellow Christians? (He compliments them.
He wishes them grace and peace.)
- 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
- How are they dealing with these serious problems?
(With perseverance and faith.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- Do we earn salvation through suffering? (No. But,
enduring suffering through faith and perseverance
shows our relationship with God.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 1:6. If we love our enemies, why
would we want a promise of "payback" against them?
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Why does God get to give payback and we do not?
(Because God is the perfect judge and we are
- Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7. What else does God promise,
other than payback to our enemies? (That He will provide
relief to us.)
- If you had to choose between relief and payback,
which would you choose? (God gives us the better
- Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:7 again. What is the timing for
the payback? (The Second Coming.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.