The Three Great Christian Virtues
1. Paul begins 1 Thessalonians with a salutation that was customary for the time. First identifying the writers, then the recipients, followed by a brief greeting. In 8 of his letters Paul only identifies himself. In three of his letters he includes Timothy in the greeting. But in both letters to the Thessalonians Paul includes Silvanus and Timothy in the greeting. Why does he do this?
2. Paul identifies the recipients of the letter as the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. What is the definition of the term church (Greek: ekklēsia—#1577)? What is significant about the term church, as Paul uses it, and to whom does it refer?
b. In this salutation the identity of who comprises the church of the Thessalonians is very specific . . . those who are in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In light of the fact that many were Gentiles who had been attending the Jewish synagogue, why is this specific identification important?
3. Paul’s greeting is one that is found in all 13 of his letters and is one that he appears to have coined himself, since it is not found in any known Greek or Roman literature. Here in 1 Thessalonians the greeting is grace to you and peace. This is an abbreviated form of his usual greeting, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s greeting is very much more than a mere perfunctory greeting. It, in fact, describes the transaction and the result of receiving saving faith.
a. Define and explain the significance of the term grace (Greek: charis—#5485).
b. Define and explain the significance of the term peace (Greek: eirēnē—#1515).
c. What is significant about this greeting of grace to you and peace?
4. Paul begins the body of his letter in v. 2 with a pronouncement of personal thanks to God for His protection and blessing upon the Thessalonians. Why is this statement important and why does Paul use the plural pronouns we and our in this blessing?
In v. 3 Paul expresses the first of three things that he is grateful for . . . constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. Notice here in v. 3 that Paul lists what are considered the three greatest Christian virtues . . . faith, love and hope.
5. The first virtue Paul lists is your work of faith. Paul doesn’t call for them to merely “remember your faith.” Paul calls for them to remember their work (ergon—#2041) of faith (pistis—#4102). What does one’s work of faith refer to?
6. The second virtue Paul lists is their labor (kopos—#2873) of love (agapē—#26). Why is their love considered to be labor?
7. The third virtue Paul lists is their steadfastness (hupomonē—#5281) of hope (elpis—#1680). The word hope is an important word in Scripture, appearing often. But biblical hope is not the same as secular hope. What is the difference and why is hope such an important virtue?
8. Why is “steadfastness” of hope so important?
9. While Paul list the three great Christian virtues as faith, love and hope, in 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul lists the order of these virtues as faith, hope and love. Is there any significance to these virtues appearing in a different order in these two passages?
10. Why are faith, love and hope such important virtues that they are considered the three great Christians virtues?
As we begin the study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, it is important that we understand the context in which the letter was written. Why did Paul feel it necessary to write the things he did? What was Paul’s history with the Thessalonians and the believers in that region? So, the first lesson will delve into those questions.
1. Let’s first understand the events that led to Paul first going to Thessalonica. Read Acts 16:6-10 concerning the events of Paul’s second missionary journey. What does this passage teach us about Paul’s desire and how God changed those plans?
2. The first major city Paul comes to in Macedonia is Philippi. We read of the events in Philippi in Acts 16:12-40. Summarize the events of Paul’s time in Phillipi.
3. Following his departure from Philippi, Paul and his companions travel to Thessalonica, recorded in Acts 17:1-5. What type of city was Thessalonica and why was it significant in the region of Macedonia?
4. As was his practice, Paul first goes to the local synagogue and preaches the gospel to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts. 17:2-3). In Acts 17:4 we read that Paul has some success in evangelizing the Jews. We also learn in Acts 17:4 that a large number of God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women who attended the synagogue also believed Paul’s teaching.
a. Why would Gentiles be attending services at a Jewish synagogue?
b. What was culturally significant about the mention in Acts 17:4 that a number of the leading women were attending the synagogue?
5. In Acts 17:4-5 we see the two universal outcomes of Paul’s preaching in the Jewish synagogues . . . faith and persecution. Not only do most of the Jews reject the gospel message, but they become actively hostile toward Paul. Why is this? Why do the Jews simply reject the message and send him on his way? Why did the Jews so aggressively persecute Paul?
6. In Acts 17:5 we have an interpretive problem with the timeline of events. In reading Acts 17:1-5, it seems that the events of v. 5 occur immediately. If this is true, Paul’s stay in Thessalonica must have been very brief . . . only long enough to preach in the synagogue, before he is rejected and set upon by the Jews. But if this is true, when did Paul have enough time to establish a church body in Thessalonica? Some biblical scholars believe that a gap of time . . . as long as several months . . . occur between the events of v. 4 and v. 5. As you examine this question, what do you conclude? Did Paul and Silas and Timothy remain in Thessalonica only a few weeks or were they there longer?
7. Eventually Paul is forced to flee the persecution of the Jews in Thessalonica, moving on to Berea (Acts 17:10-14). But the Jews from Thessalonica come to Berea and force Paul to flee again. But as he departs for Athens, Paul leaves Silas and Timothy behind in Berea and tells them to catch up with him later, which they do, in Corinth. What do Silas and Timothy do after Paul departs for Athens?
8. After several months apart, Paul is reunited with Silas and Timothy in Corinth, where he receives their report on the condition of the churches in Macedonia, including the church in Thessalonica. It is then that Paul writes both his letters to the Thessalonians. Why did Paul find it necessary to immediately write these letters?
9. What are the three main themes of 1 Thessalonians?
a. Chapter 1:
b. Chapter 2-3
c. Chapter 4
10. In the second half of chapter 4 and in chapter 5 Paul answers two important questions that were of concern to the Thessalonians.
a. The first question—1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
b. The second question—1 Thessalonians 5
11. What do the events of Acts 16-17, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians 1:6 and 2 Corinthians 11:18-31 reveal about Paul as he forges ahead in fulfilling his commission as an apostle and evangelist?