Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read the entire book.
Orientation 1 Thessalonians is book #13 of 27 in the New Testament, and and is one of Paul's letters. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis The new church at Thessalonica (in Greece) knows Jesus will return to bring them to heaven - and this is what they think upon mostly. Paul had only spent a few weeks with them before he had to leave town, chased out by Jews who said he preached heresy. The Thessalonian church is young, and united by their experience of salvation and belief that the Lord will return soon to take them away to heaven. Paul encourages them not to dwell on an imminent return of Jesus, since the time is not known; but rather to focus on living honorable lives and earning the respect of others - being good witnesses.
Paul praises the church as a model to all believers (1:7) and notes how they are waiting for the return of Jesus (1:10). Paul had visited them and shared the gospel despite opposition (2:2). He encouraged them to be witnesses (2:10) and imitators of God's other churches (2:14). He was driven away (2:17) to Athens (3:1) and sent Timothy to continue the work (3:2), who has returned with a good report (3:6). Paul now seeks to continue his teaching of the Thessalonians, but by letter.
He encourages them to holy and pure living (4:3), living quietly as good witnesses, minding their own business, and generally keeping a low profile (4:11). He acknowledges that the Lord will indeed return (4:16). The dead in Christ will rise first, followed by the living (4:16-17). But we should not dwell on this as imminent - for that day will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (5:2). In the meantime, continue to build each other up (5:11). Be prepared. Be joyful , pray continually, give thanks, test everything, hold on the good, avoid the evil (5:16).
Activity List the sequence of events of the Lord's coming (4:13-18). When could these things happen? How can we be prepared?
List Paul's final instructions (5:12-22). Which five are the most relevant to your church? your workplace? your personal life? In what specific ways can you follow these?
Discussion points Paul describes his persecution in 2:17 to 3:6. Does God promise us a trouble-free Christian life? In what ways does Satan hinder us? What do you struggle with most? Connections Paul's follow-up letter is 2 Thessalonians.
The beginning of the church at Thessalonica is described in Acts 17: 1-10.
Paul's most detailed account of the return of Jesus is found in 1 Corinthians 15.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 11 2014
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