Key Text:And we also thank God continually because,when you received the word of God, which youheard from us, you accepted it not as the wordof men, but as it actually is, the word of God,which is at work in you who believe(1 Thessalonians 2:13, NIV)Key Thought:Our assurance of Gods promises must be based on ourconfidence in His Holy Scriptures.
The young pastor sat outsidewith a young woman who hadJust been baptized. Much tohis surprise, she said, I needto be baptized again.When the pastor asked why,she responded, There arethings that I didnt tell thesenior pastor about my past.Thus began a long conversation about forgiveness in Christ, whichshe hungrily consumed. When the pastor finished praying with her, ahuge downpour suddenly drenched them both. Eyes shining, theyyoung woman said, Im being baptized again! A gracious God oftenprovides living tokens, such as this unexpected rain, to assurebelievers that they are right with Him. But our confidence in God willbe even more solidly grounded when it is based on the clear teachingof His Word. In this lesson well see that the fulfillment of prophecyprovided solid assurance to the new believers in Thessalonica.
1. The Preachers Pay a PriceRead Acts 16:940. According to thepassage, why did the Philippiansreact so negatively to the gospel?What important principle can we findin their reaction that we always needto be wary of ourselves?In what other ways can this principlebe made manifest, even in the livesof professed Christians?The gospel is the good news of Gods mighty actions in Christ that lead toforgiveness, acceptance, and transformation (Rom. 1:16, 17). Through sin, thewhole world was condemned; through the death and resurrection of Jesus,the whole world was given a new opportunity to have the eternal life that Godoriginally wanted for all humanity. Gods mighty work was done for us whilewe were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). This work of redemption was accomplishedoutside of us, by Jesus, and we can add nothing to itnothing. Yet, the gospelbecomes real in our lives only when we accept, not only its condemnation ofour sins but Gods forgiveness of those sins through Jesus.
Being that the gospel is such good news and is free, why would anyone resist or fight against it? The answer is sim- ple: accepting the gospel calls us to set aside confidence inself and in worldly things such as money, power, and sexual attractiveness. Money, sex, and power are good things when submitted to the will and ways of God. But when people cling to these trivial matters that substitute for the assurance of the gospel, the gospel and those who proclaim it become a threat.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 2. Paul and Silas entered Thessalonica in pain,their bodies bearing the cuts and bruises they had received from their heavybeating and confinement in Philippi (Acts 16:2224). But tokens of the mightypower of God (Acts 16:26, 30, 36) had encouraged their hearts. They boldlyentered the synagogue at Thessalonica, in spite of their pain, and spokeagain of the Messiah, who had changed their lives and sent them on a mis-sion to preach the good news in places where it had not been heard before.
REFLECTION: What are the things of the world that, ifwere not careful, can draw us away from the Lord? Why, then, is it so important to keep the Cross and its meaning always at the center of our thoughts, especially when the lure of the world seems the strongest?
2. Pauls Preaching 2. Pauls Preaching Strategy StrategyWhat does Acts 17:13 tell usabout the where, the when, andthe how of Pauls preachingstrategy in Thessalonica?Although 1 Thessalonians was among Pauls earliest letters, both histheology and missionary strategy were well developed by the time hearrived in Thessalonica. The first step in Pauls missionary strategy was toattend the local synagogue on the Sabbath. This was natural because theSabbath was a good time to reach Jews in large numbers. However, morethan just a missionary strategy was at work here. Paul would have taken timefor prayer and worship on the Sabbath even if no Jews or no synagoguewas available (see Acts 16:13).
It was not uncommon inthose days for Jews toinvite synagogue visitorsto speak, especially if theyhad lived in Jerusalem, asPaul and Silas had. Thecongregation would havebeen eager to hear news ofJewish life in other places.They also would have beeninterested in any newideas the visitors haddiscovered from their studyof the Scriptures. So,Pauls strategy was anatural fit with thesynagogue environment.
The second step in Pauls strategy was to preach directly from their commonScriptures, the Old Testament. He also began with a topic of great interest tothe Jews of the time, the Messiah (the Christ is the Greek equivalent of theMessiah in the Hebrew; see Acts 17:3). Using texts from the Old Testament,Paul demonstrated that the Messiah would first have to suffer before He wouldobtain the glory with which the Jews were familiar. In other words, the popular,glorious version of the Messiahs mission was only part of the picture. Whenthe Messiah would first appear, He would be a suffering servant ratherthan a royal conqueror.
Third, having established a fresh picture of the Messiah in their minds,Paul went on to tell the story of Jesus. He explained how Jesus lifeconformed to the pattern of the Bible prophecy that he had just sharedwith them. No doubt he added stories about his own previous doubtsand opposition and also spoke of the convincing power of his personalencounter with the exalted Christ. According to Luke (Luke 24:2527,4446), Pauls preaching strategy in Thessalonica followed the samepattern that Jesus had used with His disciples after the resurrection.
REFLECTION Notice that Paul sought to reach people where they were, using thatwith which they were familiar. Why is this strategy so important? Thinkabout those whom you want to reach.How can you learn to start where they are and not where you are?
3. Two Views of the Messiah 3. Two Views of the MessiahSince ancient times, readers of the Old Testament have noticed a variety ofperspectives in the prophecies pointing toward the Messiah. Most Jews andearly Christians identified two major strands in the Messianic prophecies. Onthe one hand, there were texts that pointed toward a royal Messiah: a conque-ring king who would bring justice to the people and extend Israels rule to theends of the earth. On the other hand, there were texts that suggested theMessiah would be a Suffering Servant, humiliated and rejected. The mistakethat many made was in not understanding that all these texts were referringto the same personto different aspects of His work at different times.
ReadJeremiah23:16, Isaiah 9:17,53:16, Zechariah9:9. List thecharacteristics ofthe future delivererthat you find inthese texts.What kind ofconflicting imagesappear here?These texts were puzzling in advance of the Messiahs coming. On the onehand, the royal messianic texts usually contained no hint of suffering orhumiliation. On the other hand, the Suffering Servant texts usually described theMessiah as having little power or worldly authority. One way that the Jews ofJesus day resolved this problem was to see the Suffering Servant as a symbolof the whole nation and its sufferings in the course of exile and occupation. Byremoving these texts from the messianic equation, many Jews expected theroyal or conquering Messiah. This King, like David, would throw off theoccupiers andrestore Israels place among the nations.
Of course, a major problem that results from removing the Suffering Servanttexts from the equation is that there are, indeed, significant Old Testamenttexts that blend the two major characteristics of the Messiah. They describethe same person. What is less clear, at first glance, is whether those charac-teristics occur at the same time or one after the other. As shown in Acts 17:2,3, Paul walked the Jews of Thessalonica through these Messianic OldTestament texts, and they together explored their significance.
REFLECTIONIn ancient times, the Jews were confusedabout the first coming of the Messiah.Today, we find much confusion about theSecond Coming as well. What should thistell us about the importance of trulyseeking to understand Bible truth? Whycan false doctrine be so problematic?
4. Suffering Before Glory4. Suffering Before Glory Jesus, like Paul, studied the Old Testament and drew the conclusion that the Messiah would have to suffer these things and then enter his glory (Luke 24:2