When I was a kid my mom would tell me to clean my room. When she said to do so leaving it as a directive it was one thing. When she said to do so telling me she’d be back in twenty minutes to check on my progress it was another. The awareness that she was coming back changed my perspective about what I was supposed to be doing. Largely this is the perspective Paul is trying to give these believers in Thessalonica. Jesus is coming back so let's be sure we are doing what we should be doing.
Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city. It was an important communication and trade center and was the largest city in Macedonia. There was no small stir as people began coming to Christ and angry mobs resulted. Acts gives us a snapshot of Paul’s travels to places like this and Acts 17 speaks of Thessalonica. There were some Jews among these converts but this was largely a group of Gentiles converted from paganism. Paul had to leave abruptly fleeing for his life leaving these new converts with very little support in the midst of persecution.
Paul’s purposes for writing:
· 1 Thes 3:3-5 To encourage new converts in their trials
· 1 Thes 4:1-12 To give instruction for godly living
· 1 Thes 4:13-18 To give assurance and hope for life and death before Christ returns.
1 Thess 1:4-7 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because 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. 6 You 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. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. NIV
1. God has chosen you.
2. The Holy Spirit empowers us with deep conviction.
3. You followed our example and then became examples yourselves.
God has chosen you: When I was a kid on the playground teams would form for games during recess. Two people would emerge as captains and eager participants would stand around hoping to be selected. Rarely would I be picked first but thankfully I wouldn’t be picked last. What would it be like to be picked first? The captain looks around evaluating the abilities of each person and from everybody there he chooses you! This is exactly what God did! God chose you and he chose you first. Somehow every one of us is chosen first by God with a specific assignment in mind. Nobody can do what God has chosen you to do.
The Holy Spirit empowers us with deep conviction. We live from a very different perspective when we surrender to the eternal purposes of God.
1 Thes 1:5 When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. MSG
Jesus wants to reign unchallenged on the throne of your heart. Hold his seat when other things try to take his place in your life.
You followed our example and then you became the example for others to follow: Honoring God will cause your life to flourish and be an example of blessed imperfection for others.
Have you ever just sat and had a conversation with somebody and there was such purity about their lives to meet you thirst for more? This is God’s goal and desire with every one of us. That there be such a sensitivity to him producing an expression of his heart and motives in such a way that people thirst for and are drawn to the purity of what is coming from us.
GP4RL: Purpose to ask someone you know who may be going through a difficult time if there is anything you can do to offer them support.
DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR COMMUNITY GROUP LEADERS
Ice Breaker: How did God get your attention and expose you to the message of the Gospel?
Paul’s reason for writing the Thessalonians is unlike most of his other letters. One of his primary goals was to applaud how well they were doing. They were open to the Gospel, received it, and began to apply it to their lives. As leaders, it’s vital that we encourage those that are applying the gospel to their lives, rather than always focusing on those that are struggling.
Thessalonians also demonstrates how quickly God changed these people. Only a few months before, the Thessalonians were lost. A few months later, they had become models “to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” and later their “faith in God [had] become known everywhere”. May we all grow spiritually becoming a wonderful model for others to see!
Ask somebody to read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.
In verse 2, Paul says that they always thank God for them continually and pray for them consistently.
1. How could constant prayer affect your relationship with friends or people who you may have a rough relationship with?
In verse 3, Paul speaks about “labor prompted by love” and “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2. How do you describe “labor prompted by love?” Give some specific examples.
1 Thess 1:6-7 says, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” and “you became a model to all the believers.”
3. What are some areas of your example that would be good for others to follow and express to others?
In 1 Thess 2:7-12 Paul uses the analogy of a Mother and Father.
4. What are characteristics of a good Mother and Father?
5. How do those characteristics play into caring for people in the right way?
6. Have you ever experienced this with people in a Christian ministry?
7. What is one area you want to work on to be a better example for others?
Conclude by praying specifically for any areas people share they need God’s help to improve their example.
The best way to guard your heart is to chase his.
1 Thess 3:12-13 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May 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. NIV
Recently I had a person who has become skeptical about the Bible reach out to me. Wanted to take me into a conversation to foster doubt in the authenticity of Scripture. My response wasn’t what he expected. I suggested his consider the fruit of the people’s lives he was reading and studying about.
People who are known by what they are against rather than by what they are for quickly become toxic. Biblically impoverished people live poorly constructed lives. Daniel Lapin said, “It is no coincidence that every country rooted in atheism is a place where it’s inhabitants have to stand in line for food.”
The origin and history of our Nation is littered with dozens and dozens of cities and rivers named after places in Scripture like Hebron, Jerusalem, Jericho. Abiel Abbot said, “The U.S. parallels Ancient Israel more than any other nation in the world.” Is it just a coincidence that the most Christian Nation on earth is history’s greatest engine of prosperity and vitality? 90% of the people on this planet would change places with the poorest of us in this Nation in a heartbeat.
If the Bible can change a Nation imagine what it can do in a person’s life. Jesus is coming back and this should affect how we are living.
1 Thes 5:2-5 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. NIV
The Message Bible Intro:
The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly. Much emotional and mental illness and most suicides occur among men and women who feel that they "have no future."
The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail.
From the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of his return. He told them he was coming back. They believed he was coming back. They continue to believe it. For Christians, it is the most important thing to know and believe about the future.
The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus, there is little room left on the screen for projecting our anxieties and fantasies. It takes the clutter out of our lives. We’re far more free to respond spontaneously to the freedom of God.
All the same, the belief can be misconceived so that it results in paralyzing fear for some, shiftless indolence in others.
Paul’s two letters to the Christians in Thessalonica, among much else, correct such debilitating misconceptions, prodding us to continue to live forward in taut and joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus.
Where are we?
Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonian church from the city of Corinth around AD 51, just a few months after having preached in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. Upon leaving Thessalonica under duress, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled to Athens by way of Berea. But after a short time in Athens, Paul felt the need to receive a report from the newborn church in Thessalonica, so he sent Timothy back to serve and minister to the new believers there. Paul wanted to check on the state of the Thessalonians’ faith, for fear that false teachers might have infiltrated their number. However, Timothy soon returned with a good report, prompting Paul to pen 1 Thessalonians as a letter of encouragement to the new believers.
Why is First Thessalonians so important?
Everyone would like to have some insight into what their future holds. How much more so when it comes to the end of the whole world? First Thessalonians provides Christians with the clearest biblical passage on the coming rapture of believers, an event that will inaugurate the seven-year tribulation. At the rapture, Christ will return for His people. The dead in Christ shall rise first, while those still living will follow close behind. All believers will meet Jesus in the air to begin an eternity spent with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).
What's the big idea?
Impressed by the faithfulness of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution, Paul wrote to encourage the Christians in that community with the goal that they would continue to grow in godliness. Paul knew that the people had been exposed to errant teaching from those in opposition to the way of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. And Paul also understood that unless the young church continued to mature in its faith, the danger would only increase over time.
With that in mind, Paul taught the people that any spiritual growth would ultimately be motivated by their hope in the ultimate return of Jesus Christ. Paul was never interested in simply telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, for he knew that what ultimately inspired change was a life of consistently walking in the power of God’s Spirit. And so to a group of young Christians with questions and uncertainties, Paul offered the hope of Christ’s return, providing both comfort in the midst of questions and motivation to godly living.
How do I apply this?
Do you ever feel as though your Christian faith has grown stale, that you are withering on the vine when you would rather be flourishing in His service? Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is the perfect remedy for such a feeling. Its focus on Christ’s return provides water for the thirsty soul today, encouraging growth in maturity by providing hope in the midst of suffering or uncertainty.
Paul’s specific, practical instruction for this process of sanctification can be applied directly to our current circumstances. By clinging to our hope in Christ, we may see several clear results in our lives: avoiding sexual immorality, refusing to defraud others, appreciating those Christians who serve on your behalf, refusing to repay evil for evil, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all things—to name a few (1 Thessalonians 4:3–7; 5:12–23). This list, of course, is not exhaustive, but the first letter to the Thessalonians makes clear that every Christian should expect to grow in holiness over the course of his or her life.
1 Thessalonians = Concern for the church
2 Thessalonians = Living in hope
In I Thessalonians, He is your hope.
In II Thessalonians, He is your patience and discipline.
Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city. It was an important communication and trade center. It was the largest city in Macedonia and also the capital city.
The background of the Thessalonian church is found in Ac 17:1-9. Since Paul began his ministry there in the Jewish synagogue, it is reasonable to assume that the new church included some Jews. However, 1:9-10; Ac 17:4 seem to indicate that the church was largely Gentile in membership.
Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly (see Ac 17:5-10) after a rather brief stay. Recent converts from paganism (1:9) were thus left with little external support in the midst of persecution. Paul's purpose in writing this letter was to encourage the new converts in their trials (3:3-5), to give instruction concerning godly living (4:1-12) and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns (4:13-18; see Theme below; see also notes on 4:13,15).
Although the thrust of the letter is varied (see Purpose), the subject of eschatology (doctrine of last things) seems to be predominant in both Thessalonian letters. Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ, with ch. 4 giving it major consideration (1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23-24). Thus, the second coming seems to permeate the letter and may be viewed in some sense as its theme. The two letters are often designated as the eschatological letters of Paul.
1 Thess 4:1-7 As 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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. NIV
1 Thess 4:16-18 For 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. 17 After 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. NIV
He’s gonna toot and we’re gonna scoot.
1 Thes 5:16-23 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 23 May 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. NIV