I Thessalonians – Lesson Four
In chapter four Paul gets down to the business of everyday life. The good news of the simple gospel is easy to understand, but living the Christian life takes a major brain overhaul! Transforming your mind to learn what pleases God is not easy, especially when you have previously lived in the pagan society of 1st Century Roman culture. (We could possibly say the same for the 21st Century American culture.)
Paul now switches from his nurturing mother/father parenting role to the necessary role of authoritative teacher of Christian Living 101. He first attacks the area of sexual promiscuity. Then he deals with brotherly love, commendable lifestyles, working for a living, and finally teaches about Jesus’ coming for his bride.
We always have questions about the Christian life. Many of those questions are answered in Paul’s great letters to real people in early Christian churches. Times have changed over the centuries, but people and their problems are much the same.
DAY ONE: PAUL ADDRESSES LIFESTYLE CONCERNS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
A. PAUL ACKNOWLEDGES HIS SOURCE OF INFORMATION.
In Paul’s day, the Greeks were considered the great thinkers of the world. They believed that they had arrived at a superior understanding of most of the issues of life through their own rational thinking skills. Great Greek thinkers included Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Hippocrates and many others. Philosophy students still study their works.
However, their ideas about the human body, sexual standards, marital faithfulness, and worship were in direct contradiction to God’s ideas. Paul needed to clarify his source of information before he presented his case. His teachings were given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. He was not just another philosopher throwing out human ideas.
B. PAUL COMMENDS THEIR PROGRESS IN CHRISTIAN LIVING.
Paul congratulates them for their efforts at changing their lives to please God. However, it appears they need more teaching on sexual standards. In their pagan world extramarital sex was the norm for men. Wives were the administrators of the household and bearers of legitimate heirs. Mistresses and temple prostitutes were the norm for pleasure and for worship. The Corinthian Temple of Aphrodite (goddess of love) was reported to have 1,000 prostitutes. It was not easy for the young Christians to resist these temptations that were so openly accepted and encouraged in their culture.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. How do people decide what is good and what is bad in a society or culture if they don’t have the Word of God? (Judges 17:6; Proverbs 14:12)
2. What is the acceptable norm for sexual behavior in the American culture at this point in time?
3. How does Paul describe God’s will in Romans 12:2?
4. In what area are you most influenced by your culture?
5. What are some anti-God cultural norms that have come into the church in America or in the culture in which you live?
6. What is one area where you have discovered that God’s will is good and perfect?
DAY TWO: PAUL REVEALS GOD’S STANDARDS FOR SEXUALITY.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
A. SEXUAL IMMORALITY BRINGS GOD’S WRATH.
Maintaining sexual purity was a perennial problem for pagans. It was connected with worship with the early fertility cults. It was promoted by false teachers according to the letters to the churches in Revelation. As a matter of fact, it is a perennial human problem in every generation. Paul often mentions it first in his teaching on Christian living. American talk shows today flaunt problems connected with sexual immorality.
God created marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman. He created sex as a means of propagating the human race and for the pleasure of the marriage partners. It was designed to be powerful and create a deep emotional connection, a special intimacy that the two partners alone could share. God has set boundaries around sexuality and also around His beautiful institution of marriage. He has said – no sexual immorality of any kind. Sex is for marriage partners only.
Believers are able to control their passions or lust because they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. To use an outside person simply to satisfy your own desires is to defraud that person. It causes him or her to sin. It also offends God and will result in divine discipline.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. How does our American culture today respond to this strict code of conduct?
2. What are the sexual standards in the culture in which you live?
3. Should we expect unbelievers to be able to live according to God’s standards?
4. What are some of the natural consequences of sexual impurity in our culture today?
5. When have I boldly upheld God’s standards for sexual purity?
6. How can I separate the sin from the sinner so that I can show Gods love to culture’s victims?
DAY THREE: PAUL SPEAKS OF BROTHERLY LOVE.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
A. BROTHERLY LOVE MUST GROW AS BELIEVERS MATURE.
Believers are to love all other believers in the family of God. When individuals become Christians they become part of a new eternal family.
This is like what we experience when we marry into a new family. We have to work hard to create a new bond of love.
To please God we have to work hard to create a new bond of love in God’s new family. Each person is to be valued, encouraged and helped to grow and thrive.
Christians are to be known for their love. As we mature in the faith, we must increasingly learn how to love in deeds and not just in words. If we love sincerely in actions our love will be obvious to the world.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What is the Scriptural basis for agape love? (I John 4:19)
2. What is Jesus’ new commandment? (John 15:17)
3. What help do we receive from the Holy Spirit to be able to love sacrificially? (Romans 5:5)
4. How have I shown brotherly love to a brother or sister this week?
5. What does it mean to you to “love as Jesus loved”?
DAY FOUR: PAUL SPEAKS OF NOSINESS AND LAZINESS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
A. BELIEVERS MUST LEAD ADMIRABLE LIVES.
Some of the Thessalonians had quit their jobs to wait for Jesus to come. They had become dependent on others in the brotherhood. With no jobs and with time on their hands, they were too involved in the lives of other people. Paul instructs them to go to work and mind their own business.
Our effective witness to the world involves taking care of our own families, living good and peaceful lives, and supporting ourselves by working hard.
B. BELIEVERS ARE TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES.
The Greeks deplored manual labor. As nearly as possible they relied on slaves to do all of the hard work in their lives. Paul himself modeled a different life, a life of hard work to keep from being a burden to others. Now he commends this life to all believers. This show of humility in being willing to work hard so that we can take care of ourselves and others shows love and respect for our fellow man.
The world is always watching the lives of believers. Inconsistencies in what we teach and how we live will be observed and will often be deliberately and embarrassingly pointed out.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. How does hard work actually show love for the brethren?
2. What does Paul say about idleness of widows in 1Timothy 5:11-13?
3. In what way could you possibly be a burden to others?
4. How would your neighbors evaluate your family’s lifestyle?
5. When have you become too involved in someone else’s business?
DAY FIVE: PAUL TEACHES ABOUT THE RAPTURE.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
A. PAUL COMFORTS THE DISTRESSED PEOPLE.
We are often an impatient people. God’s timing may confuse us and at times even cause us to give up waiting on God and seek our own solutions. The Thessalonian Christians had not given up, but they were confused and saddened by what they felt was a delay in Christ’s return. In light of recent deaths in the church family they had serious questions. Paul’s answers provide the classic passage in the Bible describing the rapture of the church.
The Thessalonians were eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus — the glorious coming of the bridegroom. Their “blessed hope” caused them to exude great joy. And then – someone died. Will that person miss the grand event?
Paul says, “NO!” Don’t grieve for the dead. Their state of death is called “sleep” because it is temporary. They are assured of bodily resurrection, just like Jesus. In fact, they will see Jesus first, and they will receive their glorified bodies before the ones left alive at His coming.
NOTE: The eastern side of the Mount of Olives is covered with the graves of people who want to be nearest to the spot where Jesus returns so they can be the first to rise.
Here is the way it will happen:
- Jesus will come with a cry of command, with the voice of the archangel and with a trumpet blast from heaven.
- Those who have died will come with him.
- Dead believers’ bodies will rise first and be reunited with their spirits.
- Live believers will join them in changed bodies that will rise to meet Jesus in the air.
- There will be a grand reunion in the air. Believers will be freed from the restraints of the flesh, just as Jesus was after His resurrection.
- From that moment on believers will be with the Lord forever.
B. PAUL GIVES THE ULTIMATE ENCOURAGEMENT.
The RAPTURE is one of the controversial topics in the end-time prophecies. The fact of the rapture is not what is controversial. The controversy is over when the rapture will take place. The Bible declares clearly that near the end of this current age Jesus Christ will appear in the sky and remove His true followers from the earth. We are told quite a bit about this event in the New Testament. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
The Bible contains a thousand prophecies. More than half of them have been fulfilled – literally and precisely as given. Paul tells the believers they are to comfort each other with this prophecy. It is sure to happen.
C. DIFFERENT VIEWS CONCERNING THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE:
- Pre-Tribulation Rapture – Jesus comes for the church before the seven years of Tribulation.
- Mid-Tribulation Rapture – Jesus comes for the church in the middle of the Tribulation (when the Antichrist breaks his covenant with the Jews).
- Post-Tribulation Rapture – Jesus comes for the church after the Tribulation and just before His Second Coming.
- Pre-Wrath Rapture – Jesus comes for the church before the third period of judgment when the cups of wrath begin to fall.
There are scholars that hold each position with scriptures to support their position. Which do you think has the most credibility?
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Why do you think Jesus left the impression that He would return soon? This has been a challenge to the faith of some people. (2 Peter 3:1-10)
2. How do believers get ready?
- 1 John 3:2-3
- Titus 2:1-5
- I Peter 1:13
- Luke 12:15
- Luke 21:25-28
3. What are some of the signs of His “soon coming” in our day?
4. What are you doing to get ready for the bridegroom?
5. Encourage someone with some of the facts you have learned from this Thessalonians passage.
Paul is always the great encourager. His desire is for everyone to learn a new way to live. There are at least four good reasons for obeying what Jesus revealed to Paul:
- It pleases God. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
- It is the absolute best way to live. (Romans 12:2)
- The world is watching. (1 Thessalonians 4:12)
- We escape the wrath or punishment of God. (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
Can we live this high standard? “The righteous will live by faith” according to Romans 1:17. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide us and also to empower us. We won’t be perfect, but as we learn and grow we discover that God’s way is perfect.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
The blessed hope of Jesus’ coming helps motivate us to live a life of purity.
Learn a song about the second coming to sing daily as a reminder of this glorious event.
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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