Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (November 24, 2019) Stick To Your Faith / Faith That Escapes Corruption 2 Peter 1:1-15

Stick To Your Faith / Faith That Escapes Corruption 2 Peter 1:1-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson Peter writes to essentially tell the saints to stick to your faith and to have faith that escapes corruption.  Peter is essentially saying if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Peter is concerned about these brothers and sisters.  In this first chapter he outlines seven building blocks that move from basic faith to a rich love that supports holy living.  The Apostle reminds the saints that God extends the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ to all people.  He reminds them that believers should confirm their salvation through Jesus Christ by carrying out God’s purposes.  He reminds them of how their faith is precious because it has been bought with a price.  The righteousness and faith of God and Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It’s been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten son, Jesus, who is the Christ.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Corruption

Remember

Background: 

Just as in last week’s lesson in 1 Peter, the author of The Second Letter of Peter is also credited to its namesake – the Apostle Peter.  Jesus gives Simeon the name Peter in Matthew 16:18.  Peter is sometimes called Simon Peter because his name was originally “Simeon bar Jona” which means Simeon “son of Jona”.  Simeon is the Hebrew form of Simon.  The Aramaic name Cephas means “rock” and is translated “Peter”.  The Greek name Petros also means “rock” and is translated “Peter”.  So whether he is called Simon, Simon Peter, Cephas, or Petros he is still the same impetuous, hot headed, passionate, knife carrying fisherman from the outskirts of Galilee.  Also just as in last week, the authorship of 2 Peter is debated.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes “even more emphatically than in the case of 1 Peter, most interpreters doubt that the apostle was the actual author”.  Again, the Apostle may not have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s but this letter conveys the thought and intent of the Apostle. 

This first chapter of 2 Peter deals with the Christian’s call and election.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define “call, general” A term used by John Calvin to indicate the invitation God extends to all people to have faith in Jesus Christ.  It defines election as “God’s choosing of a people to enjoy the benefits of salvation and to carry out God’s purposes in the world (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10).  So in this first chapter of 2 Peter, the Apostle is reminding us that God extends the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ to all people.  Secondly he reminds us that believers should confirm their salvation through Jesus Christ by carrying out God’s purposes.  As this chapter deals with the Christian’s call and election we should be mindful of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which makes our calling possible and the grace and mercy of God that extends the invitation to all humanity.  Peter writes this letter to remind the saints of this before his impending death.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Corruption

Remember

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:    

Last week’s Lesson was taken from 1 Peter 1 and opened at verse thirteen with Peter telling the scattered saints of Asia Minor to prepare their minds for action.  I noted how the King James Version says “gird up the loins of your mind” and that term gives you the picture of someone preparing to go to work.  So Peter was essentially saying discipline yourselves, prepare your minds for work, and set your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring when he returns.  I explained how Peter was essentially saying things might be tough right now but you just hold on a little while longer – Jesus is coming back and when he gets back he’s going to make things right.  The saints in Asia Minor were to endure their hardship and persecution with the hope of knowing that Jesus is going to set things straight when he returns. 

In verse fourteen I noted how important obedience was to holy living.  Peter had mentioned obedience in verse one and mentioned it again in verse fourteen.  So while the chapter was about holy living and encouraged the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also saw how important obedience was to holy living. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Peter quoted the Old Testament law of Leviticus 11:44-45 and 19:2.  He reminded them that God had already said “you shall be holy for I am holy.”   Peter was telling the saints to imitate God.  He reminded them that God is holy and since God is holy they should be also.  This was their call to holiness.  It was the central purpose of why he wrote 1 Peter.

In verse seventeen he reminded the saints to keep the faith during their exile.  He reminded them to have a reverent fear of God knowing that God would be their Judge when Jesus returns.  I noted how you might have heard the old folk say something like “I’m just a pilgrim passing through.”  That was the idea I got when I read this verse.  Peter was telling the saints you’re just passing though.  Do what you need to do, do what you have to do, to get through the other side.

In verses eighteen and nineteen he reminded them of the price that was paid by Jesus.  They were ransomed from the futile ways of their ancestors.  They weren’t ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.  Peter was reflecting back on Old Testament practices of sacrificing animals as atonement for sins. 

In verse twenty Peter told us that Christ was destined before the foundation of the world.  That reminded us that God knows the ending before our beginning.  Peter wanted to reassure the saints that their suffering and persecution was not unknown to God.  And just as Jesus Christ was foreordained to suffer Calvary for the redemption of all humanity their present suffering was not lost on God and it would be made right in the coming return of Jesus Christ. 

In verse twenty-two Peter brought up obedience again.  He told the saints that their souls had been purified by their obedience to the truth.  It was because of this truth that Jesus Christ was coming again that they should have genuine mutual love and that they should love one another deeply from the heart.  So while this chapter told the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also see how important obedience is to living holy.

In verse twenty-three he reminded the saints that they had been born again.  In the same way he reminded them in verse eighteen that they had been bought with the imperishable blood of Jesus Christ in verse twenty-three he reminded them that they had been born again with the imperishable seed of the living word of God. 

Verses twenty-four and twenty-five closed last week’s lesson with a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8.  Peter reminded the saints that life is fleeting.  But God is eternal.  I noted how this verse reminded me of the saying “only what you do for Christ will last.”  Everything we know about life is in transition.  It is either growing up or growing old, increasing or decreasing.  Life is fleeting but God is steadfast and eternal.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse one with Peter describing himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.  These days apostle is a title, it’s not just a title but a high title.  So not only did Peter carry this title but he also called himself a servant.  The point is… You don’t get too big to serve.  Not only was Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ he was also a servant of Jesus Christ.  He continues by addressing those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.  It’s important to note that he says it is through righteousness of God and Jesus Christ that their faith was received and also that their faith was precious.  It’s precious in the sense that there is a price that’s been paid for this righteousness.  The righteousness of God and Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It’s been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten son, Jesus who is the Christ. 

In verse two he mentions grace and peace be yours through the knowledge of God and Jesus.  Listen, Peter is talking to these saints.  Even in this salutation, this greeting in the second verse of the first chapter of this letter; he knows his death is coming.  But he wants these saints to know grace and peace in abundance.  We all need grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Grace is – I didn’t deserve it… But God gave it to me anyway; God blessed me anyway.  And we can have all the riches of this world, but if you don’t have peace you don’t have much of nothing.  Peter wants them to know the blessings of God’s grace and God’s peace. 

Verse three tells us God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life.  That’s living holy.  That’s what the godly life is, it’s living holy.  And we are able to live that godly life through knowledge of who called us.

In verse four Peter tells the saints through knowledge and through God’s precious and great promises they are able to escape the corruption of this world.  I’m not sure how bad corruption was in Peter’s time.  But I know it’s bad today.  Corruption, violence, sickness, and disease seem to be on every hand.  If there is any chance to escape any of this corruption Peter wants the saints to know about it and to be able to participate in what he calls the divine nature. 

In verses five, six and seven Peter is essentially saying because of this corruption make every effort to support and strengthen your faith with goodness, and strengthen your goodness with knowledge, and your knowledge with self-control, and your self-control with endurance, and your endurance with godliness, and your godliness with mutual affection, and your mutual affection with love.  This may not be a road map to holy living but these are certainly building blocks on which holy living can be built.  The foundation of these seven building blocks is faith and I like how it starts with faith and ends with love.  All of these seven actions are helpful with supporting faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and growing us to better saints. 

In verse eight Peter tells us why these building blocks are important.  He says if these seven action words are yours and they are increasing in you won’t be ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

Verse nine tells us the problem saints have when they don’t have these building blocks.  It says if anyone lacks these things they are nearsighted and blind and forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.  In other words they forget where God has brought them from.  Listen; when you are grateful for what somebody has done for you, you don’t soon forget what they did.  We ought to be grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and not soon forget what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

In verses ten and eleven Peter tells the brothers and sisters to be eager to confirm your call and election.  In other words, he has laid out for them the building blocks, he has told them the actions they need to take, and if they follow the instructions they won’t have to worry about their calling and election from God.  And if they get this right, the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ will be theirs. 

In verses twelve and thirteen Peter tells the brothers and sisters that he intends to keep reminding them of these building blocks.  He intends to keep reminding them of the path to holiness.  He intends to keep reminding them of the things they already know.  Listen; some things you don’t need somebody to remind you of, you already know it.  You just need to do it.  Peter is so concerned that he essentially says as long as he’s living he’s going to keep reminding them. 

Verses fourteen and fifteen close this lesson with Peter telling the saints that he knows his death is coming. And not only is it coming, but that it’s coming soon because Jesus Christ has made it clear to him.  Peter knows what he is facing.  He knows what lay ahead for him.  So while the blood is still running warm in his veins, he is going to do what he can do to help these brothers and sisters get on and stay on the right track with Jesus Christ. 

Context:

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Peter is telling these sisters and brothers to stick to your faith.  There are some things that are yes or no, black or white and no grey area in between.  The building blocks Peter lays out for these saints will help them navigate the grey areas of life.  The areas were the answer is yes but also, or no but on the other hand.  Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, though the knowledge of Jesus Christ and God’s word we have the building blocks to stick to your faith and to have faith that escapes corruption.    

Key Characters in the text:

Peter – One of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Originally named Simon, Peter was a Galilean fisherman, the son of John and brother of Andrew.  (Townsend)

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Corruption – The theological description of the manifestation and result of human sin. 

Remember – a verb – To have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.    

2.  I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord (Psalm 77:11)             

Question: 

1.  How have you had to take a stand for your faith? 

Concluding Thought:

We have to stick to our faith to have faith that escapes corruption.  Corruption in this life seems to be everywhere.  It is our reminder that there is a new heaven and a new earth that we can look forward to one day.     

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week begins the first lesson of the winter quarter.  Through the months of December, January, and February the overarching theme will be honoring God.  Next week we move to the Old Testament book of Chronicles and explore how David honors God by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  The lesson is titled “David Worships God in Jerusalem”.  The text is taken from 1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 14-16, 25-29a.    

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Sunday School Lesson (November 17, 2019) Live Holy Lives / Faith That is Focused 1 Peter 1:13-25

Live Holy Lives / Faith That is Focused

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson 1 Peter is written to the scattered saints in Asia Minor to encourage them to live holy lives with a faith that is focused.  In what is modern day Turkey these saints were being persecuted, mistreated, and misunderstood.  This letter is written to encourage them, to tell them to keep the faith, and to let them know that God knows about their suffering.  They are encouraged to keep on holding on because their suffering can be endured in the hope of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus returns, things will be made right.  Just as last week’s lesson encouraged the Thessalonians to imitate Paul, Silas, Timothy and Jesus; this week’s lesson encourages the saints to imitate God.  Peter reminds them to be holy just as God is holy.  It is the central point and purpose of why this letter is written.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Holy

Truth

Background: 

The author of The First Letter of Peter is credited to its namesake – the Apostle Peter.  Peter was a Palestinian fisherman who was well known for being impetuous, hot headed, and passionate for what he believed.  Of all of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter is perhaps the most well-known.  Peter was also one of the first disciples, coming after John and Andrew (John 1:35-42).  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes

“Although attributed to Peter, modern scholars debate 1 Peter’s authorship because the Greek used in this letter is among the most literary and sophisticated of the entire New Testament, an accomplishment unlikely for a 1st-century Palestinian fisherman, even if he did speak some Greek.  Additionally, personal references in the letter to Peter’s own experience as a follower of Jesus are rare and oblique.  It is more probable this letter was written in Peter’s name by someone influenced by his ministry.  This person evokes the apostle’s authority on behalf of the letter which was not unknown in the ancient world and in the Bible itself.  This was a sign of reverence for the attributed author’s authority.”

So the authorship is debated but this letter still carries the thought and intent of the Apostle Peter.  Peter likely didn’t dot the I’s and cross the T’s but the thought and intent of the letter is likely his.

This first chapter of 1 Peter is a call to holy living.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms define “holy” as that which is regarded as sacred or able to convey a sense of the divine.  Also, that which is set apart for God’s will or use or that which is godlike by being spiritually whole, well, pure, or perfect.  Townsend commentary defines “holy” as saint; pure; or morally blameless.  The idea of holiness is that it is not what is common to humans.  In other words, holiness does not come in the absence of God’s presence.  1 Peter 1:1 tells us this call to holy living is written to the exiles of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1).  These exiles are Christians who had been scattered abroad because of persecution.  Peter writes to encourage them even in the face of hardship.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Holy

Truth

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:    

In Last week’s Sunday School Lesson the Apostle Paul showed us faith that set an example and the Thessalonians showed us how to be examples of the faith.  Paul began his letter with thanksgiving for how the Thessalonians had kept the faith and endured despite the suffering and persecution they experienced.  He complimented their faith, how they had turned from worshiping idols to the true and living God, how the whole region knew about their faith, and how they had imitated him and ultimately Jesus Christ.  These Thessalonians were doing the work.  Paul patted them on the back for doing the work so well, and they deserved the accolades and compliments he bestowed upon them.  They were imitators of Christ. 

I noted how Paul wanted them to know that he is praying for them.  And if you really believe in the power of prayer, that had to be a comforting feeling.  It had to be a comforting feeling to know that the person who organized their church, the one who led them to Christ, was praying for them. 

I noted how Paul remembered them.  He remembered their work of faith, their labor of love, and steadfast hope in Jesus Christ.  And that was important because sometimes it takes work to have faith.  Sometimes it takes labor to have love, and sometimes it takes patience to have hope.  Paul remembers them and it’s good to remember good things.  These Thessalonians were doing good things and Paul wanted them to know, that he knew.

I noted how Paul gave the Thessalonians an enormous compliment.  He told them that they were an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  And if you are an example to all the believers in the place where you live, that’s high praise and that’s saying something. 

I also noted how these Thessalonians deserved their pat on the back.  They were being persecuted!  But they didn’t give up and they didn’t give in.  They persevered and kept the faith and endured the hardship of living a faithful life in Christ.  They deserved Paul’s praise and it was clear that Paul was proud of how they were holding up.  

Last week Paul showed us faith that set an example and the Thessalonians gave us a glowing example of the faith.  Paul wrote an inspiring letter to encourage the Thessalonians.  This week Peter writes to encourage the scattered Christians of Asia Minor to live holy lives with a faith that is focused.  In the same way Paul told the Thessalonian’s to imitate him, Silas, Timothy and Jesus now Peter tells the saints to imitate God by living holy.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Live Holy Lives”.  Standard Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Faith That Is Focused”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Peter 1:13-25. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse thirteen with Peter telling the scattered saints of Asia Minor to prepare their minds for action.  The King James Version says to gird up the loins of your mind.  Gird up the loins of your mind gives you the picture of someone preparing to go to work.  So Peter is essentially saying discipline yourselves, prepare your minds for work, and set your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring when he returns.  Peter is telling these saints to hope with expectation that when Jesus returns grace will rule.  He’s essentially saying, things might be tough right now but you just hold on a little while longer – Jesus is coming back and when he gets back he’s going to make it alright.  These saints are to endure their hardship and persecution with the hope of knowing that Jesus is going to set things straight when he returns. 

In verse fourteen Peter mentions obedience again.  He mentioned obedience upfront in this first chapter in verse 2.  So while this chapter is about holy living and encourages the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also see how important obedience is to holy living.  It is an obedience to Jesus Christ not their former way of life. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Peter quotes the Old Testament law of Leviticus 11:44-45 and 19:2.  He reminds them that God has already said “you shall be holy for I am holy.”  Again, this chapter is about holy living and Peter is telling the saints to imitate God.  He reminds them that God is holy and since God is holy they should be also.  This is their call to holiness.  It is the central purpose of why he writes this letter.

In verse seventeen he reminds them to essentially keep the faith during their exile.  He reminds them that God as Father, judges all people impartially according to their deeds.  That’s good news for those who live according to the ways of Jesus Christ.  And he continues that thought by reminding them that they should have a reverent fear of God knowing that God will be their Judge when Jesus returns.  You might have heard the old folk say something like “I’m just a pilgrim passing through.”  That’s the idea I get when I read this verse.  Peter is telling them you’re just passing though.  Do what you need to do, do what you have to do to get through the other side.

In verses eighteen and nineteen he reminds them of the price that was paid by Jesus.  They were ransomed from the futile ways of their ancestors.  They weren’t ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.  Here, Peter reflects back on Old Testament practices of sacrificing animals as atonement for sins.  The blood of Jesus was a one-time sacrifice and for all humanity. 

In verse twenty Peter tells us that Christ was destined before the foundation of the world.  That reminds us that God knows the ending before our beginning.  Peter wants to reassure the saints that their suffering and persecution is not unknown to God.  And just as Jesus Christ was foreordained to suffer Calvary for the redemption of all humanity their present suffering is not lost on God and would be made right in the coming return of Jesus Christ. 

In verse twenty-one Peter continues the previous thought reminding the saints that through Jesus they have come to trust God because it was God that raised Jesus from the dead. 

In verse twenty-two Peter brings up obedience again.  He tells the saints that their souls have been purified by their obedience to the truth.  It is because of this truth that Jesus Christ is coming again that they should have genuine mutual love and that they should love one another deeply from the heart.  So while this chapter tells the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also see how important obedience is to living holy.

In verse twenty-three he reminds the saints that they have been born again.  In the same way he reminded them in verse eighteen that they had been bought with the imperishable blood of Jesus Christ here he reminds them now that they have been born again with the imperishable seed of the living word of God. 

Verses twenty-four and twenty-five close this lesson with a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8.  Here Peter reminds the saints that life is fleeting.  But God is eternal.  I’m reminded of the saying that “only what you do for Christ will last.”  Everything we know about life is in transition.  It is either growing up or growing old increasing or decreasing; life is fleeting but God is steadfast and eternal.    

Context:

Something must happen for us to live holy lives or have faith that is focused.  Neither can happen without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  It is the spirit of God that makes us able to live holy.  One definition of holy is being morally blameless.  Our morals, ethics, beliefs, and principles are based in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Like these saints in Asia Minor, we have hope in a returning Jesus Christ who will reward the morally blameless when he returns.  Like them we don’t know the day nor the hour but we do know by faith that Jesus is coming back. 

Key Characters in the text:

Peter – One of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Originally named Simon, Peter was a Galilean fisherman, the son of John and brother of Andrew.  (Townsend)

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Holy – that which is regarded as sacred or able to convey a sense of the divine.  Also, that which is set apart for God’s will or use or that which is godlike by being spiritually whole, well, pure, or perfect.

Truth – That which accords with reality or is genuine.  The Hebrew Old Testament emphasis is on trustworthiness and reliability, supremely God’s (Deut. 32:4).  In the New Testament, Jesus is truth (John 14:6).  The church seeks to understand the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Enduring the hardship for the prize. 

2.  Being holy in an unholy land.             

Question: 

1.  The saints in Asia Minor fully expected the return of Jesus Christ to set right the persecution and suffering they had experienced.  Is there a difference from their expectations and ours?

Concluding Thought:

How can we live holy lives?  We can live holy lives with a faith that is focused on living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Both holy living and focused faith are the keys to every saint’s success in this life.   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson comes from 2 Peter first chapter.  In this lesson we remain on the topic of faith and how it leads to holy living.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Stick To Your Faith”. 

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Sunday School Lesson (November 10, 2019) Be Examples Of The Faith / Faith That Sets An Example 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Examples of The Faith / Faith That Sets An Example

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson the Apostle Paul shows us faith that sets an example.  The Thessalonians show us how to be examples of faith.  Paul begins this letter with thanksgiving for how these Thessalonians have kept the faith and endured despite the suffering and persecution they have experienced.  He compliments their faith, how they have turned from worshiping idols to the true and living God, how the whole region now knows of them, and how they have imitated him and ultimately Jesus Christ.  These Thessalonians are doing the work.  Paul pats them on the back for doing the work so well, and they deserve the accolades and compliments he bestows upon them.  They are imitators of Christ.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:  

Gospel

Election

Background 

This first letter to the church at Thessalonica is written by the Apostle Paul.  While 1 Thessalonians is the thirteenth book of the Protestant New Testament, The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that this letter is the “oldest existing piece of Christian literature”.  Additionally, the late Dr. Cain Hope Felder explains in True To Our Native Land An African American New Testament Commentary that

“Once readers of the New Testament realize 1 Thessalonians is its oldest document this letter takes on much greater significance for understanding the concerns and theology of the Apostle Paul.” 

So this is just a reminder that the books of the New Testament are not ordered according to the date they were written.  The NISB notes “this letter was written about 50 Common Era, some 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and twenty years before the Gospel of Mark.”  Dr. Cain Hope Felder notes that “1 Thessalonians was composed in the immediate aftermath of Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica, after he had established the Christian church on European soil at Philippi about one hundred miles away.”  He notes that Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy enter Thessalonica, after having founded the church at Philippi (under some duress (1 Thess. 2:2)).”  Additionally, I should note that the Thessalonians are mostly Gentiles (NISB) and they also face some kind of suffering or persecution from their compatriots (2:14) (Felder).  So although this letter is very positive in tone and Paul seems delighted to write to the Thessalonians all is not well in Thessalonica.  This newly formed Christian body of believers is experiencing some form of persecution or suffering and Paul is writing to reassure and encourage them.  The NISB One Volume Commentary notes

“the positive tone cannot mask an anxiety over some unspecified persecution the young converts are facing, persecution that may or may not have been also responsible for Paul’s own hasty retreat from the city almost immediately after he founded the congregation.”

This church is facing persecution and Paul seems happy to send them a letter of encouragement. 

This first chapter of Thessalonians deals specifically with thanksgiving.  The NISBOVC explains that “the thanksgiving in 1 Thessalonians is unique in its unusual length.  In fact, this section is so long that it may well be considered the main body of the letter.”  So, this letter of thanksgiving is addressed to Gentile converts, whom Paul was forced to leave almost immediately after their conversion, and they are now facing persecution as a new congregation. 

In this letter to the Thessalonians Paul encourages them to be an example of faith.  What the Thessalonians show for us today is a faith that sets an example.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Gospel

Election

Review of Last Week and How it connects to this week  

Last week’s lesson opened at 2 Corinthians 13:1 with verse one with Paul noting this as the third time he is coming to the Corinthians.  Paul then quotes the law concerning witnesses, found in Deuteronomy 19:15 which says “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.”  So perhaps Paul is telling them this is his third time and this time will be the third witness to establish guilt if necessary.  I noted how Paul had just a few verses earlier in chapter twelve mentioned that “he feared perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder there”.  Paul was concerned.  That was a pretty long list of things to be concerned about and it seemed that the church in Corinth had some of all of it. 

In verse two Paul got to the point.  He had previously warned those who sinned and all the others and now he was warning them again.  This wasn’t the first time Paul has warned them.  In fact, this wasn’t the second time he had warned them.  So this time he was clear – “If I come again, I will not be lenient.  I mentioned how my wife and I have five daughters.  And there have been many times we’ve said “don’t make me come in there!”  Verse two is the equivalent of Paul saying the same thing.  Paul was telling them, if he has to come again it won’t be nice. 

Paul continued in verse three seemingly in the same breath to say “since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.  I noted how Paul’s warning here reminded me that I recently heard someone tell a young person “you don’t believe cow horns will hook”.  Paul had had about enough.  He had been disrespected, he had been criticized and he had been insulted.  And now, someone was demanding proof that Christ was speaking in him.  I noted how we need to keep in mind that it was Paul who organized the church in Corinth in the first place and now someone wanted PROOF that Christ was speaking in him.  Paul’s warning was so that “cow horns wouldn’t have to hook” when he got there.  Verse three also dealt again with Paul’s theology of weakness.  Just as Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness he was raised in power and strength.

In verse four Paul continued explaining his theology of weakness.  Just as Jesus was crucified but lived in power, so too, Paul was weak but in dealing with the Corinthians would be strong by the power of God.

In verse five Paul exhorted the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith.  In verse two, someone wanted proof from Paul that he was in the faith.  In verse five Paul turned the question back on them and told them to examine themselves!  He continued – “Do you not realize that Christ is in you unless you fail to meet the test!”  Paul wasn’t questioning their salvation.  He was pointing out the obvious – that since Christ was in them it should be obvious that Paul was speaking for Christ.  I noted also that the King James Version used the word reprobate.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines reprobate as “Those who are passed over in their sinfulness by God and do not receive salvation.  In medieval theology they are those of whom it is foreknown that they will not accept divine grace and will therefore die in a state of sin.”  Paul was telling them they need to be concerned about their own salvation rather than trying to examine his worthiness. 

In verse six Paul told the Corinthians that he hopes they would find out that we have not failed.  In Paul’s mind, if they had failed he had failed.  Paul was their Apostle and as such he was responsible for them.  Conversely, if they were found in good standing Paul would be also. 

In verse seven Paul continued with his hopes that they would not do anything wrong.  He doesn’t want them to do something wrong just so he can prove his power in God.  He wanted them to do right so he wouldn’t have to use his power in God. 

In verse eight Paul acknowledged that he (and they) couldn’t do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  Paul wanted them to know that the truth was Jesus Christ appeared to be weak but arose in strength and power.  And just as Jesus arose in power, Paul had the authority to use the power given to him by God as their Apostle.

In verse nine he declared “we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong.”  In other words, he rejoiced that he may be seen as weak as long as they were strong in the faith.  In fact, he said this is what we pray for, so that you may become perfect.  It was Paul’s hope that they would become fully restored.  Where there had been dissension, confusion, and rejection Paul prayed for a full and complete restoration to the fullness and wholeness of one another in Christ. 

In verse ten Paul reminded them that he wrote those harsh words now so that when he arrived in person he would not have to use his authority for tearing them down but to build them up. 

Verse eleven closed the lesson with Paul’s farewell.  He reminded them to put things in order, to listen to what he had told them, to agree with one another, and to live in peace.  These final verses of this chapter and letter end in a much different way than how the chapter began.  It began harsh.  But It closed in a much different tone.

Last week Paul was concerned about the church at Corinth.  He wrote a harsh and stern letter to both defend himself and to warn the Corinthians to get things in order.  This week’s lesson focuses on the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.  He writes to encourage the Thessalonians and he provides a glowing example of how their faith leads to Holy Living.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Be examples of the Faith”.  Standard Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Faith That Sets and Example”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse two with Paul noting how he, Silas, and Timothy always give thanks to God for all of the Thessalonians and how they mention them in their prayers constantly.  Paul wants them to know that he is praying for them.  If you really believe in the power of prayer, that is a comforting feeling.  Not to minimize this but even if it’s only a cordial greeting it’s still comforting to know that the person who organized this church, the one who led you to Christ, is praying for you.  

Paul continues in verse three letting them know that he remembers them.  He remembers their work of faith, their labor of love, and steadfast hope in Jesus Christ.  Listen; sometimes it takes work to have faith.  Sometimes it takes labor to have love, and sometimes it takes patience to have hope.  These are action words.  These aren’t idle, passive words.  They are active, vigorous, action words.  So Paul lets them know that he remembers what they are going through.  And he knows that they are doing the work; and not only that, but that they are doing the work before God.  It’s good, to remember good things.  These Thessalonians are doing good things and Paul wants them to know, that he knows.

In verse four Paul tells the brothers and sisters that God has chosen them.  The King James Version uses the word election instead of chosen.  Keep in mind that this is the earliest known Christian text.  At this point, Paul isn’t trying to put forth a doctrine of election.  He’s essentially telling them that God is on their side.  They have been chosen and God is on their side.  The NISBOVC explains “Paul claims his initial founding visit was the instrument by which God elected the Thessalonians, Gentiles heretofore being outside the covenant.”  So at this point, the doctrine of election is not likely what Paul is thinking of. 

Verse five continues the same thought about election or their chosen-ness.  Paul explains how the message of the gospel came to the Thessalonians.  Paul’s gospel message came in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction.  In other words, Paul’s gospel message was not weak.  Paul’s gospel message didn’t consist of mere words.  Paul’s message was made of the Holy Spirit and power and conviction.  It seems to me that if you have a real message from God then these are the ingredients that the message ought to consist of.  Paul continues, by reminded them that they know what kind of persons they proved to be when they were with them.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy evidently demonstrated this power and presence of the Holy Spirit with full conviction when they were with the Thessalonians.  

Verse six reminds the Thessalonians that they became imitators of Paul, Silas, and Timothy and of the Lord.  Listen, they imitated them and the Lord despite being in a pagan city, despite being in the midst of idol worshipers, and despite being persecuted.  Paul says they did this with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

In verse seven Paul gives the Thessalonians an enormous compliment.  He tells them that they are an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  If you are an example to all the believers in the place where you live, that’s high praise, that’s saying something, and that’s a pretty high standard. 

In verse eight Paul explains why he can give them such high praise.  Paul explains that the word of the Lord has come forth from them not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place their faith has become known.  The faithfulness of these Thessalonians is known far and wide.  There “fame” is spread abroad.  Listen, these Thessalonians deserve their pat on the back.  They were being persecuted!  But they didn’t give up and they didn’t give in.  They persevered and kept the faith and endured the hardship of living a faithful life in Christ.  They deserve this praise and it’s clear that Paul is proud of how they are holding up.   

In verse nine Paul reminds them of how far they have come.  Paul tells them the people of all those regions report what kind of welcome Paul, Silas, and Timothy had and how the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the true and living God.  Keep in mind Paul had to leave Thessalonica almost immediately after establishing the church.  So their welcome was not an easy joyous one.  But these Thessalonians have thus far held up the banner, they’ve kept the faith and Paul is delighted to write to encourage them further. 

Verse ten closes this lesson with an “apocalyptic climax” (NISBOVC).  Here the Apostle Paul encourages them to wait for God’s Son from heaven who will rescue them from the wrath that is coming. 

Context:

Decades ago when I was a brand new private in the United States Army I could do a MEAN imitation of Drill Sergeant Law.  Some things you never forget.  MSG Law was a short black man and built solid as a rock.  He could do pushups for days, he could run and sing cadence and never get tired or give out of breath.  He had a distinctive voice.  He talked kinda quiet, until he didn’t.  And then everybody knew who he was and where he was.  All of the young men in my platoon did our best to imitate MSG Law. 

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I could do a MEAN imitation of Drill Sergeant Law.  But the real question, is how my imitation of Jesus?

Key Characters in the text:

Paul – Formerly a leading persecutor of Christians from Tarsus who became the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles (Townsend). 

Key Words: 

Gospel – The central message of the Christian church to the world, centered on God’s provision of salvation for the world in Jesus Christ. 

Election – God’s choosing of a people to enjoy the benefits of salvation and to carry out God’s purposes in the world (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10).  This doctrine has been of particular importance in Reformed theology. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  It’s been said that “you can imitate but never duplicate”.  When it comes to Jesus imitation is the key and duplication is the goal.        

Questions: 

1.  The Thessalonians turned from idols to worship and serve the true and living God.  Are their idols in our own lives that we should turn from? 

2.  The Apostle Paul profusely thanked the Thessalonians for their faithful living despite persecution.  Are there persons we can thank or at least acknowledge for holding up under pressure? 

Concluding Thought:

How should we be examples of faith? We demonstrate faith in a number ways we take for granted each day.  For example, when we sit in a chair we have faith that the chair will hold our weight.  When driving vehicles we have faith that other drivers actually know how to drive.  Saving faith is belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  If we want to be examples of faith, that’s the kind of faith that sets a good example and one that we all should follow. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson comes from 1 Peter first chapter.  In this lesson we’ll explore the Christian call to living a holy life.  Next week we explore how faith leads to holy living and show faith in action.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Live Holy Lives and “Faith That is Focused”. 

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