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Lesson 3: Stress of Persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Day One Study

1. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. Looking at verses 14-15, what were the Thessalonians experiencing?

2. Power in leadership is the ability to define a situation, attitude, or goal. Followers ask their leader, “How do I think about this situation?” How does Paul answer this question for them?

3. Reviewing 1 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul says that His coming to Thessalonica was not in vain. List the evidence of this in verses 13-20. (Also read 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 and 3:6-8.)

Day Two Study

4. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. In verses 14-16, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they have become imitators of other churches of God in Judea, even with Jesus Christ, by their suffering. What emotions and reactions often occur when a person is under persecution?

5. Read 2 Corinthians 1:6-10; 1 Peter 4:12-19 and James 1:2-4. List specific “benefits” of persecution or suffering:

Think About It: Christian author John C. Maxwell said, “A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted.” Do you agree or disagree?

6. Summarize how Paul’s writing of “fellow-suffering” would be of encouragement to the Thessalonians?

7. Gaining Perspective: As believers living in the United States:

·         In what ways do we experience “persecutions?”

·         As Paul encouraged the Thessalonians, what is his encouragement to us?

Day Three Study

8. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. List the specific accusations Paul makes against the Jews in vv. 15-16.

Think About It: “An unbeliever who is willing to live and let live with respect to personal convictions regarding God is less dangerous than one who not only disbelieves himself but also tries to keep others from hearing the gospel. The unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica were of the latter variety.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 696)

9. Paul can speak of this first-hand, not just as a recipient of their persecution, but also as a once active participant. Read about Paul in Acts 7:58-8:3, 26:10-11; Philippians 3:4-6 and write down his credentials and past activity.

10. Summarize what happened to change Paul as you read of his account before King Agrippa in Acts 26:12-23. (Also read Philippians 3:7-11.)

11. Read Romans 9:1-5 and 10:1. Did Paul’s condemnation for the activity of these Jews come from personal hatred towards them? Explain your answer. What was his desire for all men?

Scriptural Insight: The Thessalonians’ opponents seem to have been mainly Jews. Paul desperately wanted unbelieving Jews to come to faith in Christ (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1). Yet they were some of his most antagonistic persecutors (2 Cor. 11:24, 26). Their actions were not pleasing to God and were not in the best interests of all men who need to hear the gospel. By their opposition the enemies of the gospel added more transgressions on their own heads with the result that they hastened God’s judgment of them. God had already focused His wrath on them for their serious sin. They not only rejected the gospel themselves, but they also discouraged others from accepting it. It was only a matter of time before God would pour out His wrath in judgment. In view of the eschatological emphasis of the letter, Paul seems to be alluding primarily to the judgment coming on unbelievers during the Tribulation. This is the only place in his inspired writings where Paul charged “the Jews” with the death of Jesus. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is the sins of all people that were responsible. Therefore, Paul was just identifying a segment of humanity that was responsible. He was not blaming the Jews in some special sense for Jesus’ death. (Constables Notes on 1 Thessalonians, p. 15)

12. Gaining Perspective: Lest we become prideful, who else was responsible for the persecution and death of Jesus Christ? Read Isaiah 53:4-6 and Hebrews 2:9 slowly and carefully. Meditate on these passages and write down what they mean to you personally.

Day Four Study

13. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. Paul refers to being “torn away” or “separated” from them. The meaning of the original Greek word used here is “to be orphaned.” In what other terms you have already studied has Paul expressed a “family” relationship to these believers?

14. What is the “bottom line” for Paul? Why does he keep doing what he is doing? Be specific.

15. Deeper Discoveries (optional): In v. 18, Paul blames Satan for stopping him more than once from revisiting the Thessalonians. Research Acts 17:6-9 to find one possible way Satan hindered Paul from returning. (Think legal!) Jesus knew the reality of Satan at work in the world to hinder people from believing in God. Discuss Jesus’ comments in John 8:37-44 in light of what Paul experienced in Thessalonica.

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