1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
1. Why is Paul defending himself?
Paul cannot be present with the Thessalonians. He has some very important things to say to the church and knows that there are other teachers who are opposing him. He must remind the Thessalonians of his character and authority so that they will listen to his message.
2. What are the other traveling teachers doing?
The most obvious thing these other traveling teachers were doing was to convince the people to provide them with financial support. The gospel message is simple, and people are continually attempting to complicate it for selfish goals. In this case it is possible that these teachers were telling their listeners that Jesus had already returned, and they had missed Him. If this were true then belief in Jesus was hopeless and people could be easily turned to other beliefs.
3. Whose approval is Paul seeking?
Paul is seeking God’s approval and only God’s approval.
4. How would Paul’s message change if he was trying to please people?
He would do his best to tell people what they wanted to hear. Paul consistently taught that faith in Jesus would bring with it suffering and persecution in this life with a great reward in the next life. I don’t fully understand why this is the case, but Paul’s experience and church history testify to the accuracy of Paul’s message. If Paul were trying to please people, he would have been proclaiming the benefits of being a Christian in this life.
5. How should we test teachers today?
The simple answer is to compare their teaching with the teaching of the Bible. Beyond that we should be concerned when the message being delivered appears to be for the personal benefit of the teacher. The final test is to examine the lives of those who follow them to see if their lives exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
6. What are the dangers of trying to please people rather than God?
People are selfish by nature. It is impossible to please everyone in even a small group, because everyone has different desires. Pleasing people is not loving people. God’s love desires what is best for us rather than what makes us happy. The real risk is that by trying to please people we lose sight of what it means to please God.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-8
1. What are the characteristics of teachers who should be avoided?
Teachers who flatter their students, especially when the students know the flattery is undeserved, should be avoided. Also, any teacher seeking personal praise rather than the success of the students. Hypocrisy is always a red flag when evaluating a teacher. Any teacher who says, “Do what I say and not what I do,” should be avoided.
2. What does Paul have the authority to do? Why doesn’t he do it?
As an apostle, Paul has the authority to call for the discipline and expulsion of the false teachers. However, if he does that, he might create celebrities out of these false teachers with the result that their followings increase. Also, Paul is more interested in keeping the focus on the gospel than he is in tearing down false teachers.
3. How does Paul describe his relationship to the believers in Thessalonica?
Paul uses two metaphors. The first is to compare his relationship to the one young children experience. Young children can be selfish and hurtful, but I think Paul is thinking about the joy that most young children experience when playing together. Ethnic and class distinctions do not matter to young children at play.
The second is to compare himself to a nursing mother and the Thessalonians to babies. Almost all nursing mothers will give all they have to ensure the well-being of their child. There is a very strong emotional bond that develops between a baby and its nursing mother. This is the kind of bond that Paul feels toward the Thessalonians.
4. What does it look like to share your life with someone?
It means spending a significant amount of time together participating in a variety of activities. The obvious activity is sharing meals together. The more we work together, play together, and eat together, the closer we will become. When we share our life, we look at life as a group activity rather than a solo activity. Paul believed in this as he did not like being alone in his ministry.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
1. What was Paul doing when he was working night and day?
See Acts 18:2,3. Paul was a tentmaker and probably had a shop in the marketplace where he could create tents for people. Paul would have had a challenge meeting the demands of his tent customers while taking every possible opportunity to teach.
There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. (Acts 18:2-3 NIV)
2. What are characteristics of good fathers?
Paul sees fathers as encouragers and comforters. A good father pushes us to do more than we think we can do and then helps us get back on our feet when we fail. Good father are truth tellers. Even though Jesus never had children, he would have been the perfect father.
3. What does Paul use family roles to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians?
It would have been easy for both Gentiles and Jews to understand what Paul was trying to communicate when he used family roles. There are many things that good mothers and fathers have in common across all cultures and economic classes.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
1. Who is persecuting the Christians in Thessalonica?
I think that Paul is indicating here that it is the Gentiles who are persecuting the Gentile believers. Most of the persecution Paul had experienced had come from his fellow Jews. This persecution was different, but with similar motives. Both Jews and Gentiles saw Christianity as a threat to their way of life.
2. Who provides the persecutors with an example?
The Jews have provided the Gentiles with examples of how to persecute the Christians.
3. What is happening to the Jews?
Verse 16 is challenging. It is generally thought that this letter was written early and before the destruction of Jerusalem. Paul may be saying that the Jews have gone so far in their opposition to the gospel that the destruction of Jerusalem is now assured.
4. How might verse 16 be misinterpreted?
Anytime we think a verse pointing out the sins of the Jews gives us the permission to persecute the Jews we are on dangerous ground. Vengeance belongs to God. Only He can punish people in a way that makes it possible for them to be brought back to Him. Anti-Semitism since the time of Jesus has kept many Jews and Gentiles from accepting the gospel. I’m sure Paul was frustrated by the opposition he was experiencing, but Paul takes no action to fight either Jew or Gentile.
1 Thesslonians 2:17-20
1. What is Paul’s desire?
Paul wants to be face to face with the people in the church in Thessalonica. He loves these people and is frustrated by his inability to see them again.
2. Who is frustrating that desire?
Satan is frustrating that desire. I’m not sure exactly what Satan was doing, but it is clear that Satan has been allowed to prevent Paul from doing something he wants to do. We need to realize that it isn’t just people who sometimes oppose us. We have a very real enemy in Satan.
3. What should we learn from Paul’s experience?
We need to be aware that there is a spiritual battle going on. We have a very real enemy and we need to equip ourselves to battle that enemy. Pointing everyone to Ephesians 6 might be good at this point.
4. What is the reward Paul is looking forward to when Jesus returns?
Paul considers it more than sufficient to be with the people who have received the gospel as a result of his ministry. It is a good thing that Paul has all eternity to do this. It would be the rare person who doesn’t owe their faith to someone that Paul converted long ago.
Material for this and the other lessons from Philippians are drawn from two primary sources and my own observations:
The BE Series Bundle by Warren W. Wiersbe
The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians by William J. Barclay