1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
1. Why are we so curious about the second coming?
The pessimistic view is that we want to be in charge of our lives for as long as possible. We want to rely on God’s grace to forgive us even when we repent at the last moment. In general, if we knew the future, we would use that information in all the decisions we make. People who have thought they knew when Jesus was going to return have done things they never would do without that knowledge.
2. When can we expect Jesus’ return?
We should expect Jesus to return any moment. While waiting we should live in this tension between expecting Him any moment and the possibility that He might not return in our lifetime.
3. How should this affect the way we live?
We should live our lives focused on eternal things, because they are the only things that will last. God has delayed Jesus’ return for a reason and we should actively be working to carry out Jesus’ mission as long as we are here on earth.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-8
1. What do we associate with light? … with the dark?
We generally associate good with light and evil with the dark. A practical illustration is street lighting at night. When adequate lighting is not available, bad things tend to happen. When we are doing something we shouldn’t be doing we do not want to be seen.
2. What attitude is Paul trying to encourage in the Thessalonians?
Paul is trying to encourage the people to be sober. The input from my Greek dictionary is found below:
nepho Meaning: 1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect
I find it interesting that being sober isn’t about being alert. Instead, it is about being calm and collected. I think the church in America could use a big dose of this kind of sobriety today.
3. Why does Paul use the difference between sober and drunk to teach the Thessalonians how to live?
We all know the difference between a sober and a drunk person. Given the moral climate in Thessalonica there were probably many examples of public drunkenness.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
1. What does God desire for us?
God desires that we live forever in close relationship with Him. God knows that the best place for us to be is with Him.
2. How is this possible?
This is only possible because Jesus came and died to pay the penalty for our sin for us. Our sin separates us from God and only when our sin is forgiven can we live with God.
3. What is one of the purposes of the church community?
Paul gives us two of the one another commands. We are to encourage one another and we are to build each other up. Many times we face things that are difficult. We often find that fear enters our minds in these situations. We need others to build up our courage so that we can face those difficult situations. Building each other up is important because we will not always be successful as we live our lives. Failure is normal and expected. Failure can cause us to question our worth. It is easy for others to see our failures and use them to tear us down. Often, we don’t need help as we engage in tearing ourselves down. What we need are people who will tell us the truth about how much we are worth to them and to God regardless of our failures.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
1. Who is Paul talking to in this letter?
The key point here is that Paul is talking to the entire church community and not to individuals.
2. What does Paul expect from people, even those who believe?
Paul expects us to live normal lives full of sin and failure. He expects us to find life difficult resulting in attitudes and behaviors that damage our relationships with God and others.
3. How is the church to respond?
We are to respond as appropriate given the attitude or behavior. Regardless, we are always to be patient with one another. Those who are lazy and not working are likely to be disruptive. They are to be warned or corrected. Some will lose heart and want to give up. They are to be encouraged. Some do not have the strength to confront what life brings their way. These people need help. The big idea is that we all need each other.
4. What is Paul’s goal for the church?
Paul’s goal is that whatever the situation or need the people in the church would be doing good to one another. His desire is that as they grow in their ability to treat each other this way their behavior will overflow to the larger community around them.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
1. Which of these things is hardest for you to do?
Each of these seems so simple on the surface, but they are each difficult. I find it particularly difficult to reject every kind of evil. It seems that wherever I look I find some form of temptation. I find myself making compromises and asking myself whether something is good enough when the better question would be, is this good?
2. Discuss each instruction and why it is important.
- Rejoice always – the entire book of Philippians is focused on this attitude. It is clear from the rest of this chapter that Paul is not naïve. He knows that people are not perfect, and that life can be difficult. In spite of these things he instructs us to focus on who we are in Christ and constantly be filled with and expressing joy.
- Pray continually – this requires us to understand prayer as a conversation that doesn’t require a formal beginning or ending. It is simply a matter of being continually aware of God’s presence, listening to Him, and speaking when appropriate.
- Give thanks in all circumstances – for most of us this requires a significant change of perspective. It is easiest when we recognize that God is in control, that He is good, and that He is working for our best.
- Do not quench the Spirit – this is the equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and shouting “I can’t hear you” to those we love. When we decide to do something that is clearly against God’s will we must quench the Spirit or guilt will overwhelm us.
- Do not treat prophecies with contempt – prophets are people who speak the truth from God. To acknowledge that someone is prophesying and then to ignore them or speak evil against them is the equivalent of spitting in the face of God.
- Hold on to what is good – we must constantly make decisions about what is good and what is bad. Once we have discerned the difference we must let go of the bad and cling to the good.
- Reject every kind of evil – this is difficult because we don’t think we can survive if we really live this out. We want things and we are too willing to compromise to get them. If someone poured a drop of poison in a glass of water, we wouldn’t think of drinking it. However, when choosing what to read, watch, or listen to we are very willing to accept more than a drop of evil to drink in the part we consider good.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-28
1. What does it mean to sanctify something or someone through and through?
The word sanctify means to set apart and, in this context, it means to set apart or dedicate to God. Paul is looking for more than a surface change. He is looking for a complete change from the inside out.
2. How much of us should be given to God?
God does not compartmentalize the way we do. With God it is always all or nothing. The great commandment in Luke 10:27 makes this clear:
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
The important word is all.
3. What is Paul’s final instruction? Why is this important?
God’s words through Paul were not intended for just the leaders of the church. It is very sad that for centuries the scriptures were kept from the common people and available only to the leaders in the church. God never intended it this way. He intended for His words to available to everyone unfiltered and without bias. This means that each of us has a responsibility to read and study on our own rather than depending on someone else to interpret for us. We will not always agree, but through the conversation about what we read we will grow in our understanding of what God intends us to hear.