In the first lesson we shared Paul’s great joy at the good news that his new converts in Thessalonica were thriving. Everyone loves good news, but we live in a fallen world where the good, the bad, and the ugly are all part of our reality. So we are not surprised when Paul quickly moves into chapter two where he deals with the bad news. Do you know of any church that has not had problems of one kind or another? The problems of the Thessalonian church were caused by false teachers. Paul’s reputation had been trashed by people who wanted to destroy the faith of the new believers. The opposition used slander to paint Paul as a self-serving, greedy false teacher who did not care for the people.
Slander is an interesting concept. It is usually started by a person who has some sort of enmity, jealousy, or grudge against another person. It is carried by conversations from one person to another, and it often travels like wildfire. The original information may be totally untrue, it may be a half-truth, or it may even be a truth taken out of context. The motive is to discredit the person talked about.
Slander is unacceptable to God according to Romans 1:29-30. The irony is that it is often quite effective in doing damage to an innocent person, so it is commonly used. We sometimes see it in politics and all too often in all kinds of social circles, even Christian fellowships.
Obviously Paul’s enemies couldn’t find legitimate reasons to accuse him, so they manufactured false ones. Paul answers these accusations in this personal letter. He doesn’t need witnesses because the Thessalonian converts themselves were eye witnesses to Paul’s behavior. In recounting what really happened, we get a glimpse of his exemplary life that should inspire all Christian workers today. We will also learn when and how to defend ourselves should we ever find ourselves victimized like Paul.
DAY ONE: PAUL DEFENDS HIS REPUTATION.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6
A. PAUL WAS ACCUSED OF BEING A PHONY.
In Paul’s day there were many so-called “Holy Men” who traveled around the country making speeches to groups of local people. After a short period of time they collected money and moved on to the next town. Paul’s enemies had obviously accused him of being this kind of mercenary holy man. They had also accused him of being a false teacher and of using trickery to build a following. What is to be done with this kind of attack?
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What other Bible character was a victim of slander? (Numbers 12)
- What motivated his accusers to attack in this way?
- What did God do in defense of the innocent victim and in punishment of the perpetrators?
2. What has God instructed us to do when someone in the church sins against us? (Matthew 18:15-17)
3. What do we do when an outsider sins against us? (Matthew 5:44)
4. What does God say about those who stir up trouble? (Proverbs 6:16-19)
5. What does James say about the damage that can be done by the tongue? (James 3)
6. Share a time when you or someone you know has been a victim of slander.
7. How did God enable you to defend yourself?
DAY TWO: PAUL POINTS TO THE RESULTS OF HIS VISIT.
RE-READ 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6
A. THE CONVERTS PROVIDE PERSONAL EVIDENCE OF TRUE TEACHING.
It is hard to argue against the spiritual fruit that came from Paul’s preaching. The Thessalonian converts themselves were hard evidence that Paul was teaching God’s truth. He based his teaching on Old Testament scriptures with fulfillment in the life of the Messiah. When this teaching was received, it resulted in changed lives with new found power.
B. PAUL’S LIFE PROVIDED EVIDENCE OF HIS SINCERITY.
Paul wasn’t preaching for easy gain or an easy life. He had suffered greatly in Philippi for preaching the gospel. He was put in jail, beaten, and run out of town. Yet God raised him up and gave him the boldness to preach the same controversial message in Thessalonica. This is opposite of the professional holy men who preached messages that would appeal to the audience and prompt them to give money. When opposition came, Paul kept on teaching the gospel.
C. PAUL POINTS TO HIS MESSAGES AND CALL.
Paul reminded the converts that he had received his message from God, not from men. He was simply a steward of the gospel. Therefore, his appeal does not come from error, impure motives, trickery, flattery, greed or need of personal praise. Paul simply taught what had been divinely revealed to him. His teaching was straightforward. It had been approved by God as the Thessalonians had witnessed when Paul was given supernatural power to minister to them. He was not trying to build an impressive reputation as a great orator who used flowery speech and entertaining stories to gain praise from men. There is always a temptation for religious leaders to take advantage of people.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What kinds of teaching techniques do some preachers use today to gain a following?
2. What kinds of misconduct have we seen in our day done by pastors, priests, or other leaders in churches?
3. To whom does Jesus give the responsibility of testing false teachers?
(Matthew 7:15-20) What is the test we are to use?
4. What did the Berean seekers do with Paul’s teaching? (Acts 17:11)
5. What can we do to protect against spreading gossip or slander when we hear criticism about some church leader or a friend?
6. Examine your life choices. Are you living righteously to protect yourself against unjust criticism?
DAY THREE: PAUL EXPRESSES HIS GENUINE LOVE FOR THE THESSALONIANS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9
A. PAUL DESCRIBES HIS PASSION FOR DISCIPLING THE PEOPLE.
Paul had been accused of not caring for the people. Here he describes his ministry as evidence of his true love for them. Paul’s work involved more than preaching the gospel. He was deeply interested in ministering to the people. He saw himself in the role of a mother caring for her small children. He had a true pastor’s heart.
We all know the importance and sacrifice of caring for young children. Their needs seem endless, and there is little time for rest and self-fulfilling pursuits. The reason we make this sacrifice is because of our love for our children and our deep desire for them to grow up healthy and well prepared for their independent living. Motherhood done well is a self-sacrificing role.
Paul could have been more like a teacher who was primarily concerned with his own performance with little awareness of the personal needs and concerns of his students. He could have demanded payment for his teaching. (2 Thessalonians 3:8-10) That would have been normal procedure for Paul’s day. But Paul didn’t want to burden the Thessalonians, so he worked at his trade to earn his living while he taught in the off hours as he had opportunity.
Example of a Middle East work schedule: Shops open early in the morning when it is cooler, and work proceeds until around noon. Shops then close and the workers go home for lunch and several hours of rest and interaction with family. Then shops reopen around four and stay open into the evening hours. After shop hours, many men relax in Hookah Bars or some equivalent for a time before returning home for the night.
Paul’s schedule involved working at his trade during business hours and teaching during the free hours. There was no time for rest and recreation. This was not the pattern of a “Holy Man” who was only interested in money and an easy life.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does it mean to share your life?
2. Paul described himself as a mother. How would you describe the sacrifice that a mother has to make today?
3. How does Paul’s nurturing compare with pastors of mega churches today? How does it compare with the nurturing in your current church?
4. Do you believe that the Thessalonians should have borne part of the burden taken on by Paul? What other church sent relief to Paul? (Philippians 4:16)
5. Do you believe that our children are too pampered today?
Someone has suggested that we should never complain about how much we have sacrificed in raising our children. After all, our parents did that for us and our children will have to do that for their children. It is all part of the natural cycle of human reproduction.
We could say the same thing about spiritual children. There is no shortcut to good growth. Someone has to invest in the teaching and training of babes in Christ or they become wild things.
6. Who invested in your discipleship?
7. How have you discipled someone in your family or church?
DAY FOUR: PAUL EXPLAINS THE IMPORTANCE OF MODELING.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 2: 10-12
A. PAUL EXPLAINS HIS ROLE AS FATHER.
Just as the role of the mother is a vital part of a young child’s growth, the role of father is equally important, but perhaps somewhat different. The father is normally the provider and protector and leader of his family in most cultures today. We will see how Paul saw his role of spiritual father to the baby Christians as they began to mature.
1. As spiritual father, Paul saw the urgent importance of modeling the Christian life as he lived, worked, and taught in his life before them. Someone has wisely observed that more is “caught” than “taught” as we bring up our children. “Do as I say, not as I do”, does not work in planting firm rules of living in our offspring. If it doesn’t work for us, we can’t sell it to them. Paul was conscientious in living a pure life before them.
2. Paul took his leadership role seriously as he encouraged, comforted, and exhorted the believers to live lives worthy of God’s kingdom. He was conscientious in getting to know everyone and meeting the needs of each person.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. How would you describe a worthy life?
2. How do you see the difference in the role of mother and father in discipling a young convert?
3. What role did your earthly father play in your spiritual development?
4. How can you encourage a young father in his important role as spiritual leader?
DAY FIVE: PAUL MODELS HIS FATHERLY DUTIES.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
A. PAUL ENCOURAGED HIS SPIRITUAL CHILDREN.
He first mentions their commitment to the Word as from God as Paul gave it to them. They received it and began living it out. This should be our response as we hear sermons each week.
B. PAUL COMFORTED HIS SPIRITUAL CHILDREN.
Paul comforted them in their suffering at the hands of the Jews. This is what happened to the churches in Judea. Paul comforted by revealing that these enemies of God in Judea are beginning to reap the results of their bad deeds. The unbelieving Jews were trying to keep the apostles from teaching the Gentiles so the Gentiles could be saved. God will shortly allow the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. The Jews will be driven out and scattered abroad.
C. PAUL EXPLAINS HIS ABSENCE AND LONGING FOR HIS CHILDREN.
Paul had obviously been accused of not caring for his children because he had left suddenly and had not yet returned. Paul explained his desire to be with them, but he was hindered by the actions of others (inspired by Satan). Jason and other brothers had been forced to post a bond in order to be released from jail. (Acts 17:9) If Paul and Silas returned, Jason and the others would be arrested again and would lose their property and perhaps even be killed.
D. PAUL EXPRESSES HIS ETERNAL INVESTMENT IN HIS CHILDREN.
Paul’s love for his spiritual children is not for this life only. When Jesus returns, these believers will be joyfully handed over to Jesus as part of the eternal family and part of Paul’s fruit. Paul will be with them forever.
E. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does Scripture say about the father’s role regarding children? (Ephesians 6:4)
2. What did Jesus say about eternal investment? (Matthew 6:18-21)
3. We need bold and faithful teaching to reach the lost. We need faithful discipling to bring them to maturity. What did Jesus say about discipling when He gave the great commission? (Matthew 28:20)
4. Persecution that comes from family members or co-workers is especially difficult to endure. When have you suffered this kind of opposition?
5. Genuine love wants to give. How do you share your life with others?
6. How much time are you willing to give to work with a struggling Christian?
It is hard to be criticized when you are working hard. It is even harder to be falsely accused. In responding to the false accusations of his enemies, Paul is able to express his tender love for these persecuted Christians. He is able to explain his pure actions and motives. His words match his actions as witnessed by his children.
In the end the truth will shine like a light and the slanderers will be exposed and dealt with. Your sins will find you out.
Examine your own behavior. Live a righteous life. Be sure your words match your actions so you will be able to bear fruit and also defend against false accusations.
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