1 Thessalonians is thought to be one of Paul’s first letters, if not the first. The date of the letter is sometime around 52 A.D. and it was probably written from either Corinth or Athens.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
1. What are the three motivating forces in the life of a church and in the life of every Christian?
Faith, love, and hope. These forces or characteristics show up in most of Paul’s letters.
2. Why is work associated with faith?
When Paul speaks of faith, I think he has a deep trust in God. Trust is not trust unless some action is taken based on that trust. I don’t trust a chair to hold me up until I sit down. There are many passages of scripture that describe this relationship. Here are two of the most familiar examples.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)
26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (Jam 2:26 NIV)
As we can see from the passage in Ephesians, if we have put our trust in God then He has things for us to do.
3. Why is labor associated with love?
Another way to translate labor would be toil, difficult work over a long period of time. This type of effort is very difficult to maintain if the desired reward is self-oriented. God’s love flowing through us toward others will open our eyes to the needs of others. Compassion will motivate us to serve and help when see need.
4. Why is endurance associated with hope?
Labor prompted by love often has no visible reward this side of heaven. If the labor we are called to is difficult, then remaining committed to the labor requires hope. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel and life is filled with tunnels. I can’t help but think of all the caregivers who are providing for spouses or patients with severe dementia.
5. Which of these is most important to health of a church?
There is no right answer to this question. In my opinion it would be hope. Hope is keeping our eyes on Jesus and on eternity.
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)
When our hearts and minds are focused on the things of eternity we have hope in spite of difficult circumstances. A church without hope is going to be a discouraged group of people. It is likely that they will be looking for someone to blame rather than celebrating what God is doing.
6. Which of these is most important to the spread of the gospel to unbelievers?
Again, there is no right answer. In my opinion it is love.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)
Love is what prompts us to reach out to others. Love in action is what gives the world the opportunity to see Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-7
1. In what way did God choose the Thessalonians?
I think we tend to make the answer to this question far more complicated than it needs to be. God called Paul to the region of Macedonia and then to the city of Thessalonica. When Paul came to that city, he proclaimed the gospel. The Thessalonians had been chosen to hear God’s invitation.
2. How might this choice have been confirmed?
In addition to Paul’s preaching there were also miracles performed which confirmed the truth of the message. It is not surprising that Paul preached his message with passion. For him, it was very much a life and death matter.
3. How did Paul live among them? Why is this important?
Traveling speakers who collected money for their speaking were very common at this time. Gathering with others and listening to a rousing talk was definitely a form of entertainment. Paul’s purpose was not to entertain, but to convince people to accept the good news. For this reason, Paul supported himself by working as a tent maker. His lifestyle was consistent with the message he was proclaiming.
4. What did people experience when they accepted Paul’s message?
Paul’s message was a threat to the established culture of the city. Anyone who accepted his message could expect to be persecuted. This was not simply rejection by friends and neighbors. Persecution could involve the loss of employment, property, or life. In spite of this, the Thessalonians who accepted the message were filled with joy.
5. What is the greatest compliment you’ve ever received?
I think the greatest compliment anyone can hear is that someone else wants their child to grow up to be just like us.
6. How would you feel if a Christian leader said to you, “You are a model to other believers.”
Knowing how imperfect I am I would be humbled. I would also tend to be on my best behavior knowing that others were watching.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
1. What might be happening in Thessalonica to cause people to be talking about the church?
The people who had placed their faith in God were living a different style of life. Their lifestyle was distinct enough that it was getting noticed by the community around them.
2. What did the Thessalonians do in response to Paul’s message?
They were serving God and living in anticipation of Jesus’ return.
3. Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the Son of God who is coming to rescue those who have placed their faith in Him.
4. Why is He important?
Without the resurrection of Jesus there is no hope of eternal life. Without the death of Jesus on the cross there is no hope of being a child of God and living close to Him. Without the earthly life of Jesus it would be much harder for us to figure out who God is and how He wants us to live.
1. Faith, love, and hope and Paul’s three measures of a church. How do these compare with the measures that are typically used to evaluate a church?
2. Of these three, which is the strongest motivating factor in your own walk with Jesus?
3. Of these three, which is the weakest motivating factor? What could you do to strengthen it?
4. Based on this first chapter, which of the three do you think is the strongest in the Thessalonian church? … the weakest?
5. Look at the introductions to Paul’s other letters to the churches. How often do faith, hope, and love appear in his introduction?
Material for this and the other lessons from Philippians are drawn from two primary sources and my own observations: