1 Thessalonians 1: Faith That Shows
A lighthouse has become a common analogy for a church. Just as a lighthouse stands in a dark and dangerous spot flashing its message of warning and pointing to safe harbor, a church should also be a prominent and unmistakable sign to the community in which it exists. How can you help your church or fellowship group become such a shining light? This passage describes how the church in Thessalonica was able to do it.
1Paul, Silasa and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ Faith
2We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4For we know, brothers and sistersb loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
> But without ______ it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)
>Faith... is the evidence of things _______. (Heb 11:1)
>Faith comes by _________ & hearing by the ____________
Of God. (Rom 10:17)
- Paul writes that he remembers the Thessalonians' "work produced by faith," "labor prompted by love" and "endurance inspired by hope" (v. 3). How do you think he could tell that faith, love and hope were behind their actions?
- What role has the Holy Spirit played in the Thessalonians' faith (vv. 5-6)?
- What role did Paul, Silas and Timothy have in the Thessalonians' conversion (v. 6)?
- When is it wise and when is it unwise to imitate another Christian (vv. 6-7)?
- What were the results of the Thessalonians' strong faith (vv. 8-10)?
- What do you think your reputation is with non-Christians?
- How can your faith (and the faith of your church or fellowship group) become more of a witness to others?
1 Thessalonians 2:1-16: Gentle Evangelism
What thoughts come to your mind when you hear the word evangelism? Pushy people trying to get you to see things their way? Guilt for not saying enough about your Savior? People swarming down the aisles at a gigantic rally? Or friends sharing the excitement of the good news with each other? For Paul, evangelism was always delightful and exciting. In this passage he tells us why talking about Christ is such a positive experience for him.
Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica
1You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7Instead, we were like young childrena among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.b
- What excuses might Paul have had not to preach to the Thessalonians (vv. 1-2)?
- What attitudes enable Paul to continue preaching despite opposition (vv. 3-6)?
- What does this teach you about proper and improper reasons for witnessing to others?
- Paul claims to have been "holy, righteous and blameless" (v. 10) among the Thessalonians. If this is important, how can imperfect people dare to do evangelism?
- How is a father dealing with his children a good example of an evangelist (vv. 11-12)?
- In what specific ways can gentleness and caring become more a part of your evangelistic efforts?
- In what ways have you found evangelism to be difficult?
- What ideas and encouragement from this passage can help you to overcome these difficulties?
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other. (1Thess.2:12)
1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13: Unmistakable Love
...Paul was anxious! He'd been in the middle of a great missionary journey for God....He'd been telling all who'd give him the 'time of day' about Jesus. The Holy Spirit was directing each step of the way he was to travel. Yet he'd faced great persecution in his evangelism. He been chased out of town far too many times. After being chased out of Thessalonica, he was so anxious to know what had become of his church plant! As he wrote the Thessalonians, his motives were pure and his best wishes for them were of deep christian love. He waited for news and continued to pray for the church there.
...He was overjoyed when Timothy came back with a glowing report. He had to write them and express his feelings to them!
· How can your church become a place where love will "increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else" (1Th 3:12)? This passage provides some practical examples.
Paul’s Longing to See the Thessalonians
17But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
Timothy’s Encouraging Report
6But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
· What evidence do you find in this passage that Paul really did love the Thessalonians (2:17, 20; 3:2, 5, 10)?
- What phrases does Paul use to express his love (2:17-18; 3:5)?
- What fears caused Paul to send Timothy to Thessalonica (3:2-5)?
- What are Paul's desires for the Thessalonians (3:10-13)?
- How do these desires reflect Paul's love and caring?
How do you most often express your love for others?
- What ideas from this passage can help you become even better at expressing love?
- How can you (as an individual or group) help love increase within your church or fellowship group?
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12: A Life That Pleases God
All of us want to please the people we love the most. That is why a wife will surprise her husband with his favorite meal, a husband will plan a special evening at a concert he knows will excite his wife, or a child will pick a bouquet of dandelions to present to Mom and Dad. What can Christians do to please God, whom they love so dearly?
Living to Please God: 1As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control your own bodya in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.b The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
- Why would Paul give these instructions on holy living to people whom he says are already living a life which pleases God (vv. 1,10)?
- What clues does this passage give as to how Paul would define sexual immorality (vv. 3-6)?
- How does sexual immorality "wrong" or "take advantage of" a brother (v. 6)?
- Scholars agree that verses 11 and 12 were directed toward members of the church who had quit working and were relying on the kindness of their fellow Christians to provide them with necessities. Why would Paul have been concerned about the effect this attitude was having on outsiders?
- What work habits detract from your Christian witness?
- How can this passage help you to resist sexual temptation?
"Snatched away with great force" = "caught up"="Harpozo" (GREEK) = "Rapture"(ENGLISH)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11:
Apparently, a crisis occurred in the Thessalonian church when one of their members died. Since they had expected to all be alive when Christ returned, they were now confused. Did this mean their friend would miss out on Christ's coming? Had this person died because God was angry with them? How much longer would it be before Christ finally did return? Maybe you have fears about what will happen when you die or when Christ returns. In this passage, Paul seeks to calm our fears and encourage us to look forward to the day we meet our Maker.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25)
-5 wise virgins prepared & 5 unwise virgins made no preparation
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Believers Who Have Died (Chapter 4)
13Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever18Therefore encourage one another with these words.
The Day of the Lord
Chapter 5: 1Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
The Master’s Coming (The Message) Chapter 4
4 13-14 And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
15-18 And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.
5 1-3 I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.
4-8 But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
9-11 God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
- In what ways is grief different for a Christian than it is for a non-Christian (4:13)?
- What sequence of events does Paul say will occur when Christ returns (4:16-17)?
- Why are the examples of a thief (5:2) and labor pains (5:3) good analogies of what will happen on the day of the Lord?
- What dangers are associated with living in darkness (5:5-7)?
- What instructions does Paul give for living in the light (5:8)?
- How do Paul's words help you to face your own fears about death?
- Paul tells us that our defensive weapons against darkness are faith, love and hope (v. 8). What are some practical ways in which these virtues can defend you?
Here are several charts that help to visually "see" the bible narrative even more vividly.
>1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
· An UNPRECEDENTED event is about to occur!
The bible says the church will be "raptured" or "...snatched away with great force".
I was researching the events of "911". Terrorists flew two Boeing 767's full of passengers from United Airlines and American Airlines straight into the World Trade Center. I was at home and in shock as I watched the second plane hit the tower live on TV. Over 2,600 people lost their lives in the tragedy! I was reminded of the fact of how our world was instantly changed...nothing has been quite the same since. Personally, a few weeks later, my job came to an end as the company folded under new pressures directly because of this murderous act. This terrorist event was UNPRECEDENTED in human history!
The prophet spoke of an event to come.....Messiah, Jesus our Saviour would come! When it DID happen just as the prophet had said, His first arrival was terrific news for humanity. Although he made quite a humble entry, that God would personally intervene in the affairs of humanity.... that the "Word would become Flesh" was UNPRECEDENTED in human history...something of this nature had never happened before! He brought us life and hope in the Salvation he offered. When he went away, he said he'd be back....unschedulled.....like a thief in the night. "...I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:3).
Perhaps I would be remiss if I did not mention that when he went away, he gave us the Promised Holy Spirit, the Comforter! This is an UNPRECEDENTED gift to those who believe and a very deposit of Himself!
Because of the signs he gave us, we are expecting this UNPRECEDENTED event of the Rapture to occur at any time, and the signs are likely it will occur VERY SOON.
The Rapture of the Church.
· This is Christ coming FOR his Church. (1 Thessalonians 4)
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul counsels us on what is ahead...
"16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
The Second Coming.
· This is Christ coming WITH his Church. (Rev 19 /Zech 14 /Mat 24 /Mark 13 )
It is important that we have a biblical understanding of the sequence of end time events. Sometimes people confuse the Rapture with the Second Coming. This mistake is easily recognized with a bit of bible study. The word "Rapture" is not "seen" at first glance in scripture, at least not in English. However, when we know that the New Testament was written in Greek, we can source the New Testament Greek word "harpazo", from where we get the translated English words "caught-up" or "rapture", and the meaning is to be "...snatched away with great force".
One of the ways we can better visualize these events is through the use of charts that artists and scholars have created from what scripture has revealed.
Any group of people needs rules for getting along, and the church is no exception. Paul so wants the Thessalonians to "live in peace with each other" (1Th 5:13) that he closes his first letter to them with several instructions on how they can do this. These are instructions which have never gone out of date and can still be used to end the quarrels, hurt feelings and resentments in your church or fellowship group.
12Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22reject every kind of evil.
23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
25Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- What does it mean for someone to be "over you in the Lord" (v. 12)?
- How can you warn a person about something they are doing wrong (v. 14) or prevent them from taking revenge (v. 15) and still live in peace with them?
- What does it mean to be joyful "always," pray "continually" and give thanks "in all circumstances" (vv. 16-18)?
- How can you test things like prophecy or teaching to find out if they are good or evil (vv. 19-22)?
Introducing 2 Thessalonians
Second Thessalonians was written a short time after 1 Thessalonians to clear up misconceptions about the Second Coming that the first letter had failed to answer.
Although the letter was written to Gentiles, it assumes some knowledge of the Old Testament. According to Donald Guthrie, this was typical of early Christian teaching (New Testament Introduction, rev. ed. [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 596).
Paul most likely wrote the letter from Corinth. In addition to clarifying their understanding about Christ's return, Paul addressed some ongoing problems in the church in dealing with idleness. This book offered its readers comfort and insight about faith and end times, as well as a call to take responsibility. May it both challenge and encourage you as well.
2 Thessalonians 1: Evidence of Faith
Can I know for sure that I will go to heaven?
This is a question that plagued the Thessalonians to such an extent that even after the comfort of his first letter, Paul has to write again and give further encouragement. It was difficult for these young Christians to believe that the suffering of their present life would really be followed by the eternal joy of heaven. Perhaps you also wonder if heaven really exists and if you can be sure of going there. If so, you will find Paul writing this passage directly to you.
Have you ever met a person and gone away thinking, "They must be a Christian." What gave you that impression?
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,b and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
11With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.c
- What good things does Paul notice about the lives of the Thessalonians (vv. 3-4)?
- Why do you think that in times of persecution, some people's faith and love grow while others' fail (v. 4)?
- Paul proclaims that "God is just." How does he describe God's justice (vv. 5-10)?
- According to this passage, what makes a person "worthy of the kingdom" (v. 5) or "worthy of [God's] calling" (v. 11)?
- In light of his teaching about God's judgment, why does Paul pray as he does in verses 11-12?
- How can God's justice encourage you when things are "just not fair"?
- If someone were to pray for you as Paul did in verses 11-12, what is one specific way in which you would want God to change your life?
OTHER ANVIL Route 66 Studies: