Reading 1 Thessalonians together.

Reading 1 Thessalonians together.

Thought I would share what one member of City Church put together after the challenge on Sunday morning to read 1 Thessalonians together as a church. I hope many more will do the same!!! The summary is what follows:

I like to read the whole book as the one letter it is and try to grasp what the point is before looking at commentaries, etc.  here’s my initial take on 1 Thess.

Paul is writing to a church that he planted, but has not been back to in a long time.  They are facing persecution, and Paul is concerned that they stay faithful.  Paul longs to come to them, but has not been able to do so.  Finally, he sent Timothy to encourage them and report back to Paul.  Timothy has just returned with a good report, prompting Paul to write back.

I. “I miss you guys, but am thrilled to hear that you are remaining faithful” (chapters 1-3).

II. “Other matters” (chapters 4 + 5)
A. Reminders on how to live: holiness and love.
B. Hopeful grief: what happens to believers when they die?
C. Misc. Instructions

Chapters 1-3 seem to be the main point of the book.  We see Pauls:
1) Delight in their faithfulness.
2) Concern that they continue in faithfulness.
3) Desire to come to them again.

I am using the word “faithfulness” as a summary of Paul’s emphasis on three things:
       1) Faith
       2) Love
       3) Hope
       (and the works which these produce)

The result of sending Timothy was MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT.

Paul follows this main section with what he calls “other matters” in chapters 4 and 5.  (Kind of like, “Since I’m writing to you, let me take some time to remind you of a few things and do some teaching.”)

1. Lives that please God
       – Sexual purity (“You’re doing a great job; now do more”)
       – Love each other (“You’re doing a great job; now do more”)
       – Lead a quiet life (I am wondering if this teaching applies    
       particularly to the church in a time of persecution; as opposed
       to a general calling. During persecution, they need to “lie
       low” in a sense – not giving the persecutors cause to take them
       out. If so, I would put it under number 2. #1 being reminders;
       #2 being teaching particularly related to their time of
       persecution)

2. What happens to believers who die. I am guessing that persecution has led to believers getting killed.  Paul wants them to GRIEVE IN A HOPEFUL WAY.

This is the context for the eschatology Paul teaches.  When Christ returns, those dead believers will rise first.  Then we will all be raptured. Then we will be with the Lord forever.  This is how to encourage each other when a believer dies.

In chapter 5, Paul continues teaching eschatology (his usual “while I’m on the subject, let me go further”).  We don’t know WHEN Christ will return.  (Unbelievers will be unpleasantly surprised; believers, who live in the light, will not be surprised in the same way.)  In light of not know when he will return, we must BE AWAKE AND SOBER – continuing in (once again the summary of the Christian life) FAITH, LOVE, and HOPE. He reminds them again that whether we are alive or dead when Christ returns, we will be with Christ forever. (This shows that the whole section, starting with what happens to believers when they die, is one section – despite the chapter break in the middle.)

3. Miscellaneous instructions

1) How to respond to pastors/elders (although he doesn’t use these terms): they work hard, care for you, and admonish you.  Therefore, hold them in high regard in love (for their work).

2) How to deal with (difficult?) people:
       – Idle and disruptive people: WARN them.
       – Disheartened people: ENCOURAGE them.
       – Weak people: HELP them.
       – ALL people: BE PATIENT with them. Strive to do what is good
       for all. Even if they wrong you, no pay backs.

3) REJOICE, PRAY, AND GIVE THANKS – at all times and in all circumstances.

4) Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire (?). Don’t treat prophecies with contempt. Test what you hear.  If it is good, hold on to it.  If it is harmful, reject it.

Ends with a benediction – may God thoroughly sanctify you.

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