The Testimony and Success of a Faithful Congregation

The Mission of the Church

First Thessalonians was written around 50 AD, and was one of the first epistles written by the apostle Paul. Based on this date, the letter to the church at Thessalonica was written less than 20 years after the crucifixion of Christ.
Paul established the church on his second missionary journey. Paul’s decision to make this journey is recorded in Acts 15:36. Originally, Paul and Barnabas planned to make the trip together, but after disagreeing on whether to take Mark with them, Barnabas separated from Paul, taking Mark with him to Cyprus. Paul decides to bring a new associate, Silas, with him to Thessalonica (Acts 15:37-40). Early in the tour, the Holy Spirit keeps them from going into areas of Asia, directing them instead to Macedonia (Acts 16:9). So Paul and Silas leave Troas, and depart for Macedonia, taking the gospel to Europe for the first time.
The first major city they come to is Philippi (Acts 16:12). It is here that they share the gospel with Lydia, a merchant woman from Thyatira. The Lord opens her heart and she believes and is saved. She is the first convert on European soil. And as we will see, women played a major role in the Macedonian ministry, and are some of the key converts on Paul’s journey throughout this part of the world.
As Paul and Silas continue to share the gospel, opposition begins to build. After they cast a demon out of a girl, they are beaten and thrown into prison. It is here that we see the sovereign control of God in one of the outstanding conversions in ministry. While Paul and Silas are in prison, an earthquake occurs and opens the jail doors. When the jailer arrives, he expects to find Paul and Silas escaped, but Paul announces that they have not left.
Through this experience, the jailer recognizes the supernatural hand of God in what has transpired. In Acts 16:30 he says, “…sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answer, “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Did that mean that the salvation of the jailer would result in the salvation of his entire family? No, the point is that salvation is available to all those who will believe in the person and work of Christ. In Acts 16:32-34, Paul and Silas minister to the jailer and his entire family. As a result of hearing the Word of God, the jailer and his entire household are saved and baptized.
The experience of Paul and Silas in Philippi could be considered a mixed blessing. On one hand, they were beaten severely and thrown in prison. On the other hand, they witnessed the salvation of several people. However, they are not allowed to stay and build their ministry. Because of the opposition, they encourage their converts and move on. I imagine this would have been a very difficult task because of the burden they felt for these new believers. But they had to leave Philippi in order to avoid the continually increasing pressure.
As Paul and Silas travel to Thessalonica (90-100 miles southwest of Philippi), they pass through Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1). After arriving in Thessalonica, Paul went to the Jewish synagogue in the city to begin his ministry. It was his practice to center his ministry in the synagogue if the town had one. Acts 17:2 says, “And according to custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” He went to the synagogues because he could “reason” (literally “conduct a discussion”) with the Jews out of the Old Testament Scriptures, and it gave his ministry a starting point.

Lesson 1

It was Satan who was causing the opposition to the Gospel. Paul says, in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The fact is that the devil and his demons are more faithful in coming to church than many Christians. They are always around seeking to disrupt a church service, to cause doubts in weak believers, to hinder a Christian from serving the Lord and trying to destroy the effectiveness of the preaching of God’s word. He will attack the pastor, and every member of a church. The devil and his demons can destroy a church that is not on its guard or unaware of the devil’s devises.
The attack was open, but it was deceitful. The devil’s devises always are. He is a master of the LIE! Paul was falsely accused of being a traitor to Caesar and causing disorder and trouble. The fact is that Paul never mentioned Caesar and the disorder was not caused by Paul, but those that stirred up the mob. These idol makers were losing business that so the sought to get rid of Paul. It shows the power of the Gospel to change lives when people believe.

1 THESSALONIANS
CHAPTER 1

The Salutation of Paul to the Thessalonians. ( 1 Thess. 1:1)
The greeting is from Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy.
Silas began his ministry with Paul when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to seek advice on how the Gentiles believers in the church at Antioch should behave in regard to the Old Testament laws. Silas was sent by the church in Jerusalem as their representative and he remained with Paul.
Timothy was a young preacher called under Paul’s ministry and he too was helping on Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul proclaims the congregation at Thessalonica was “in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God desires that all men receive God’s grace by faith, and receive the peace of God.
Do you understand that the Bible we hold in our hands is God reaching out to you and I, to all men to believe in Him and receive His unmerited favor?
How had the faith of the Thessalonians gone out to Macedonia and Achaia? __________________________________________________________
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What had the Thessalonians turned from?
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Paul said he remembered them for their “patience of hope in Jesus Christ.”
Illustration :
The story is told of Booker T. Washington who described meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up From Slavery : “I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.
“Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, but this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.
Washington later talking about this, said the former slave told him that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise.”
How many of us have given our word and not kept it, some even to God Himself.
It is a rare thing to find a man who will honor his word no matter what the cost to him. Yet, we must understand that never question God’s promises. God honors His every promise to the letter!

CHAPTER 2

What had Paul tried to exhort the Thessalonians to do?
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What effectively works in us who believe?
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How?
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What would be Paul’s rejoicing in the day of Jesus’ return?
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Paul often mentions the character of his life he lived before others.
1. He mentions this in 1 Thess. 2:9-10. “For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”
2. He mentions it in Acts 20:33-35. “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The validity of the Gospel stands alone and cannot be truly defiled God’s word is always true. But the one who takes the message can defile his or her credibility in taking the message. Paul is saying that part of the motivation for his life of good character and dedication was his caring for their well being. He lived a godly life to please God…yes, but also for their sakes to set a proper example.
CHAPTER 3
Paul’s third movement in this section of thanksgiving is to describe to them how he desires to come visit them again soon (2:17). Paul says he was so concerned about the Thessalonians while he was in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) that he sent Timothy to establish and encourage them in the faith, so that they would not be shaken by the afflictions they were enduring. Paul was so anxious to know about the condition of the Thessalonians that he sent to know about their faith (3:5).
What did Paul need to know more than ever about the Thessalonians?
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Why did he worry about this?
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How could Paul be able to live now concerning the Thessalonians?
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CHAPTER 4
(4:1-5:12) The body of the letter is rather small in comparison to the size of the thanksgiving section of this letter. I think this conveys the intended meaning that Paul is grateful to God for the faith and work of the Thessalonians and it is his prayer that they stand firm in the Lord in the face of their afflictions. The body of the letter consists of instructions concerning the conduct of the Thessalonians. Chapter 4 and verse 1 shows this purpose statement:
“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God”
What did Paul say we should abound more and more in?
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(4:9-12) Paul reports that the Thessalonians are doing well in their brotherly love. But Paul reminds them to increase in brotherly love, to lead a quiet life, mind their own business, and work with their own hands. These are specific examples of how we show brotherly love. Treating one another properly includes not stirring up trouble, not putting our noses into other people’s business, and working so that we are not a burden to others.

If we reject holiness, who are we rejecting?
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What did Paul say was the hope of the dead who are asleep in Jesus?
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Who will go to God first and then second?
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CHAPTER 5
How does Paul describe the return of the Lord?
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(4:13-5:11) Paul then turns to giving hope and comfort to the Thessalonians concerning their loved ones who have died in Christ (4:18; 5:11). Paul teaches that those who have died will be raised when the Lord returns. Those who are alive and remain on the earth will be caught up together with those who have died in Christ and be with the Lord forever. The times or seasons of when the Lord will return is not important. What is important is to always be ready because the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. There are no warning signs for the time prepared for our Lord to return. We must simply be ready by living as sons of light.

What must we do to prepare for the Lord’s return?

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How do we quench the Spirit?

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(5:12-22) The closing of the letter gives some final short admonitions to the Thessalonians. These are some “quick hit” reminders on how they ought to be living their lives. First, they are to esteem the eldership because they work hard for the flock (5:12-13). Further, Paul instructs us as to how to treat other brethren, particularly the weak and the unruly. Do not render evil for evil. Always rejoice and always pray. Always give thanks to God for all things. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies, test all things, hold fast to goodness, and abstain from evil.

What are we to abstain from?

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(5:23-28) Paul closes with a prayer to God that they will be made holy in their lives and made ready for the coming of the Lord. Paul ends with a greeting to all the brethren in Thessalonica.

Application
I want to look at just one of the many applications that can be learned from the first letter to the Thessalonians. The first chapter contains the highest praise for the faith of the Thessalonians that their faith has spread to many regions and that they are an example to believers everywhere. This is a noble goal that we ought to make for ourselves. We should want to be such lights in the world and examples of great faith in the Lord that other people can look to us for confidence and encouragement as they work to serve the Lord.

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