SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
1 Thessalonians 1:1 through 5:28
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Paul wrote the Book of 1 Thessalonians while he was in Corinth in A.D. 50 or 51, a couple of years after he had established the church at Thessalonica. It is believed to be the first of the Pauline Epistles (with the possible exception of Galatians), and in fact was likely the first book of the New Testament to be written.
Paul established the church at Thessalonica during his second missionary journey in A.D. 49, following his night vision of the Macedonian man calling for him to come to them. He responded to the call, and traveled across the Aegean Sea to Neapolis, Philippi, and then to Thessalonica where he preached in the Jewish synagogue for several weeks. The church subsequently established there became the second major church on the European continent. While Paul’s base of operation was the synagogue (Acts 17:2), not only did some Jews accept the Gospel message, but numbers of Gentiles did also.
As the faith of the new believers in Thessalonica became known, this upset the Jewish leaders and they sought to arrest Paul and his co-worker, Silas. The two men fled under cover of darkness to Berea in the southwest, but the authorities arrested Jason, who had been host to Paul and Silas in Thessalonica. When these Jewish authorities heard Paul was preaching in Berea, they went to that city and attempted to incite riots against him. Paul escaped, and went on to Athens where he waited for his companions, Timothy and Silas.
Because Paul had left Thessalonica in such a hurry, he no doubt felt concerned that he had not been able to tell the new believers in that city all they needed to know. He sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the young church was doing, and Timothy returned with a good report.
Paul also wrote to the new church a personal message: the Book of 1 Thessalonians. He started out by affirming and encouraging the believers in their faith, he exhorted them to live a holy life, and finally he instructed them about the second coming of the Lord.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What was the response of the Thessalonians to the Word of God preached by Paul and Silas? In what ways were those in the Thessalonian church a model for other believers?
Verses 6-8 tell us they became followers of Paul and the Lord with joy, despite much affliction. In response to the second question, your class may bring out that the Thessalonians gave evidence of works of faith, labors of love, and patient hope (verse 3). They had suffered persecution (verse 6) but they still had joy in the Holy Ghost. They were examples to others (verse 8). They had welcomed the missionaries into the Thessalonian community in spite of persecution, and had turned from idolatry to follow God (verse 9). They were waiting for and anticipating the coming of the Lord (verse 10).
You may wish to bring out that the word wait, in verse 10, comes from the Greek word anameno, which means more than just enduring, but rather an expectant, confident, and active attempt to live for God’s glory in the meantime. It portrays an attitude of faith toward the complete fulfillment of the messianic promises of the Old Testament in the second coming of Christ.
- In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 we read that the Gospel came to the Thessalonians “in power, and in the Holy Ghost.” In other words, the Gospel had a powerful effect on their lives. List four specific effects that the Gospel has had on your life since you were first saved.
Encourage your students to list or verbally testify about specific changes in their lives. Bring out that whenever the Gospel crosses a person’s path, it has some type of effect on them that cannot be denied. The person either accepts or rejects what they have heard. When the Word of God is heard and obeyed, lives are changed! Refer also to 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
- In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul wrote that he had been “allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel.” What did he mean by this phrase?
Paul had originally been a great persecutor of those who promoted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given his background, Paul felt he was privileged to have been entrusted with the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel. He saw himself as a steward, for the Gospel he preached was not his own, but God’s. Thus, his purpose was to please God and not men.
- In chapter 3, what three reasons did Paul give for sending Timothy back to Thessalonica? In what ways do ministers of the Gospel today accomplish the same purpose?
The reasons were:
• To establish the Thessalonians (verse 2). The word establish means “to stabilize” or to support an already existing structure.
• To comfort the believers (verse 2). The word comfort had the sense of “to encourage” rather than to minister to the grieving.
• To make sure that the Thessalonians were surviving the temptations of Satan and that Paul’s work in Thessalonica had not been in vain (verse 5).
Ministers of the Gospel today also have the responsibility of stabilizing and supporting believers, encouraging them in the faith, and helping them to withstand the temptations of Satan. The ministers do this by preaching to, praying for, and ministering to the members of their congregations.
- What did Paul mean in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 when he said, “This we say unto you by the word of the Lord”?
This teaching was revealed to Paul either directly from God, or it was a teaching of Jesus which had been passed along orally by the Apostles and other Christians. However he received it, it was a divine revelation sent to the church by God himself. The phrase indicates that Paul intended to make an authoritative announcement.
- One significant doctrinal concern that Paul had become aware of, led to a major theological emphasis in 1 Thessalonians. The young church clearly believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. However, several of the church members had died since Paul had been there. Since Jesus had not returned for his church yet, the church members were wondering what was to become of those who had died. In chapters 4 and 5, Paul offers hope and comfort to the believers who were grieving the loss of their loved ones. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, what will be the sequence of events of the Lord’s return?
He explained that the believers who had died would arise out of their graves and would join the Lord in the air; those who were still alive and remained in the faith would then be reunited with their loved ones in the air, and together they would go to be with the Lord forever. What a comfort this offered the Early Church! It may be helpful to make a sequential list for your class of the order of these events.
- What do you think Paul meant in 1 Thessalonians 5:5 when he referred to the church as “children of light, and children of the day?” Considering the characteristics of light and darkness, why was this an appropriate analogy?
Since being saved, the Thessalonians had walked in the spiritual light of the true Gospel, as compared to spiritual darkness. Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the world, and the Thessalonians had trusted in Him for salvation. Discussion may bring out that light illuminates and makes things plain, while darkness obscures. Light is beneficial and even physically invigorating, while darkness lends itself to depression. As children of God, the newborn Thessalonians were truly “sons of light and children of the day.”
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul encouraged those in the Thessalonian church to comfort themselves together and edify one another. In the original Greek, the word edify means “to build up and promote spiritual growth by teaching or example.” Think back over your spiritual walk with God and note five specific ways other believers have comforted and edified you.
The point of this question is to bring out the importance of comforting and encouraging others. Note that the words comfort and edify in this verse are both in the present tense in Greek, implying a continuing obligation of believers to encourage and build up one another. This, of course, is one of the reasons for fellowship in the Church.
- In Paul’s closing comments, he gave several exhortations to the believers of Thessalonica. Paraphrase the directives given in chapter 5, verses 15 through 22, and explain how they can be followed in our day.
Verse 15: Resist revenge. Don’t try to get even or retaliate for unkindness.
Verse 16: Maintain a cheerful outlook. Don’t be gloomy or negative.
Verse 17: Pray continuously. This doesn’t mean remaining on your knees around the clock, but rather, keeping a prayerful attitude at all times.
Verse 18: Be thankful. Express your gratitude to God for all He has done for you. It is good to express gratitude to others also!
Verse 19: Honor God’s Spirit. Do not grieve or smother the workings of God’s Spirit.
Verse 20: Honor those who preach and teach. Respect the ministry and their message.
Verse 21: Be judicious, and choose what is right. Examine all you hear, and accept that which is true.
Verse 22: Keep away from evil. Avoid situations where you might be subject to temptation or that might lead others astray.
How vital it is to be sure we are ready to meet our Lord in the air when He returns for those who are ready! Let us endeavor to encourage and build up each other in the faith so that none will be left behind when that great day occurs.