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LESSON I -

*VISIBLE TO GOD*

DEVOTIONAL READING: Titus 2:11-15

BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 1

PRINT PASSAGE: 1 Thessalonians 1

KEY VERSE: You received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6

OBJECTIVES:
Upon completion of this lesson, the student should know that:

1. Favoritism is not a Christian virtue.

2. Love is the key to “getting along”.

3. The best way to spread God’s Word is with one’s life.

SESSION OVERVIEW -
Thessalonica was an important town in Macedonia. It was largely Gentile in population but, Paul found there a Jewish synagogue (Acts 17:1). It was the town to which Paul travelled as he left Philippi. This would be a place where Paul would establish a church, then have to flee under cover of darkness in the interest of his personal safety (Acts 17:10). Still, this congregation would prove to be one of the more comforting for the apostle. This is borne out by the message of 1 Thessalonians. The epistle is full of compliments and encouragement for the young church...

But, there were also concerns on Paul’s heart: he had to leave before he was ready, and that meant some important teaching had been neglected. Of course, this was a cause of some concern by the faithful worshippers at Thessalonica. So despite his happiness over the general mood of church members, there were serious issues to address...

INTRODUCTION:
The entire first chapter of 1 Thessalonians applauds the Thessalonians’ positive response to the Gospel. It is noteworthy that Paul, in his introduction, doesn’t even mention his apostleship, as in all probability the Thessalonians never questioned his credentials (In other epistles he was insistent about referring to himself as an apostle, in response to those who questioned his apostleship). Still, there were concerns. How were the church members standing up under pressure from Judaizers and others? Timothy was dispatched to Thessalonica by Paul to get some answers (1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2). The report was good, and Paul breathed a sigh of relief. With that information, and possibly in response to a letter sent back by Timothy, Paul writes a joyful treatise...

COMMENTARY ON THE TEXT:

I. All-Inclusive Greeting
(1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2)

Paul is here doing the writing (or dictation), but he is careful to include his two companions, Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy) with the indication that the letter comes from them all. Silas came to Paul from the church at Jerusalem (Paul’s “headquarters” was the church at Antioch of Syria), while Timothy joined Paul early in his Second Missionary Journey at Derbe (Acts 16:1)...

The letter is addressed not to just a church, but to the church which is “in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ”. It was a high compliment to the infant congregation...

This is followed by Paul’s thanksgiving to God for ALL the members – not just those who are faithful, dutiful, and friendly to Paul himself. Obviously, all church members were not “wonderful” members. Some were in all probability negative (as is the case in church congregations today), but it is the choice – and indeed the duty – of the leader to be truly thankful for them all. Neither does Paul omit any of them from his continued prayers. He prays constantly for them all...

II. Source of Joy
(1 Thessalonians 1:3, 4)

Paul’s joy over the Thessalonians came not from the negative, but from the positive. Obviously, the good in the congregation far outweighed the bad. Paul’s mind dwelt on three positive characteristics of the people: faith, love, and hope. These three attributes would be expounded on later when Paul would write 1 Corinthians 13. Faith is an inner conviction; a “belief in” something or someone (Here it is belief in God). Faith urges one onward even when there is nothing tangible to grasp...

Hope is that which causes one to know there is an ultimate goal. The Interpreter’s Bible says of hope: “It says not merely, ‘While there’s life there’s hope,’ but ‘Beyond life there is hope.’” As such, the threat of death, or death itself does not deter hope. This is the lesson Jesus sought to teach His disciples, both with His life and with His death...

But Paul was convinced that love was the greatest of the three. Why? Partly because it is the glue that holds communities together. Its greatest attribute is forgiveness, and in forgiving, we promote peace, and often win over the enemy. And forgiveness is the only conditional petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”...

III. A Review Of The Work
(1 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

Many years ago, I had a friend that sold radio advertising for a living. One day the sales manager lectured the sales staff on how to convince the client to buy the product. He said in essence that in order to sell your product, you must first be sold yourself; that is, you must be completely convinced that what you have to offer is the best there is. He explained that this “conviction” would manifest itself in your presentation, and greatly increase the likelihood of the hearer accepting your “pitch”. This is generally what Paul is saying in verse 5. He reminds the Thessalonians that he and his companions came and preached with conviction. What were the results? First, the Thessalonians heard, accepted and believed the Word that was being preached. Second, they made that Word a working part of their daily lives, and in so doing caused the Good News to spread into neighboring communities. From there, the news of this New Community spread to other provinces, and it all began with the Word of God being preached with conviction...

Read the verses before you. They describe a pattern of news being spread. But this news is not “bad” news, or local gossip; indeed, this is what Jesus had in mind when He gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19...

Little wonder that Paul is happy...

THE APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURE -
Most of us will never be missionaries like Paul and his companions, but mission work is not exclusively work abroad; mission work can be done without ever leaving one’s residence. God directed Paul to preach – not just in foreign lands, but wherever he happened to be. The same is true for us today: God expects us to spread His Word wherever we happen to be, and that includes in our homes. No, it is not the where that matters in spreading the Word, it’s the how. It is safe to assume that Paul, in speaking of his delivery of the Message, referred to both his words and his actions. We should seek to do likewise...

And we must remember that if we are not sincere in our spreading of the Gospel, the recipients will somehow “sense” that insincerity, and our efforts will fail...

REFLECTIONS ON THE LESSON -

1. Have you heard (or seen) a good sermon lately? What made it “good”?

2. Are there local leaders for which you have great respect? Why?

ASSIGNMENT, PROJECT, OR ACTIVITY -

1. List ways people in the church witness to their faith and discuss those ways...

2. Ask individual class members to tell stories about people who have been an example to them...

Closing Prayer:
Father, give us strength and conviction so that we may boldly proclaim Your Word wherever we are, and to whomever we encounter in life. Amen.

A
 
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