House group notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
To know how Thessalonica fits into the story of the spread of the Good News, first read Acts 17. This was last week’s topic and should have been covered in that context.
As we read in Acts 17, Paul and his companions, whilst in Thessalonica, went to the synagogue three times, -i.e. they could not have been there more that just under 4 weeks, more likely 3. It was a very short time in which to have made such an impact.
Thessalonica was highly significant a city, geographically, culturally and historically. It was where East met West, with a main Roman highway going through the centre. Paul, with all his education and intelligence, must have realised the huge potential of a church in such a place. What an opportunity!
But it all goes pear-shaped very quickly, when some of the Jewish establishment become jealous and cause trouble. The result is that this ‘golden opportunity’ is cut short by violence and civic unrest, and Paul has to flee for his safety, and possibly his life. He leaves behind a group of some Jews, some God-fearing Greeks and ‘not a few prominent women’!
After further trouble in another city, Berea, Paul eventually reaches Athens and the first thing he does is sent Timothy back to Thessalonica, to find out how things are, (no decent mobile signal, obviously!!) Timothy brings back a report and in response, Paul writes this letter.
Q: Try to imagine what might have been going through Paul’s mind as he waited for news of the church in Thessalonica. Do you have a parallel experience of being desperate for news of something extremely important to you, which concerns both the safety of people you care for, and the fate of something you worked hard to develop?
This first chapter of the letter, (remember that chapters and verses were not there originally), reveals Paul as a most concerned and loving pastor. He has been desperate for news of them and now says how he always remembers them in his prayers and thanks God for them.
Q: How faithful are we in prayer, to others for whom we have care and responsibility?
Do we have a ‘pecking order’ for priority in our prayers, eg, family first, then friends and
neighbours etc? How can we help ourselves to include others regularly?
Do our prayers include thanks to God for people? For whom do you feel that special gratitude?
Paul is specific about what he remembers them for:
Their work, inspired by faith
Their labour prompted by love
Their endurance founded on hope
How to grow a local church: learn to work for Jesus, inspired by faith/trust in him. Let love prompt us to labour at serving others. And bravely endure opposition and persecution because we are filled with hope in God for the future.
Q: Look at each of these in turn and discuss how they might be seen in our church life today.
If this has all come from a 3-4 week mission in the town, it’s pretty impressive!
Being ‘chosen’, v4.
This can be a contentious issue: it sounds great, being chosen, when it’s for an honour or a reward, but it can also mean being chosen to fulfil a difficult task etc.
Q: How did Paul say he knew they were chosen? What could this mean?
Do you have a comparable sense of being chosen?
For what things do you have a sense of being chosen?
Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit, -fruit that will last.” John 15.16.
Q: Is that scary, challenging, exciting….. what?
Imitation: good or bad? V6
The Thessalonians imitated Paul and his companions, just as they imitated Christ. In turn, these Thessalonians became the role models that others would imitate in the future.
Q: Who have you consciously imitated, in the good sense, in your Christian life?
Who are you aware of watching you, and imitating your behaviour?!
How hard do you find it to behave with integrity, in a way consistent with the Christian Gospel, i.e. living out what you claim with your words? What sorts of things trip you up?
The witness of these Thessalonian believers is summed up in v9-10 as:
They turned from idols, to serve the living God and wait for his Son’s return.
Conversion experiences, whether they occur in the short-, or long-, term involve
a turning away from what has held our attention and heart’s desire
a starting of behaviour that serves God by serving others
a learning to have patience and humility to wait on God, for his timing and purposes.
Q: Describe how these actions have worked out in your lives, and are still doing so.
Did God make a huge mistake when Paul had to flee from Thessalonica?
Christine Bailey, 11/05/2014