Explore The Bible Study: Commended

11:35 AM

Who has helped you become the person you are today? In what ways did they help you? We all have people who have pointed us in the right direction, given us chances, helped us, encouraged us, or been a source of inspiration to us. We have an example of how believers should encourage one another in the life of the Apostle Paul. One such example is how he encourages the young church in Thessalonica (modern day Thessaloniki, Greece). The Explore The Bible Study: Commended, will focus on Paul's opening words of encouragement to this young congregation.

Paul and his companions spent three Sabbaths teaching in the synagogue of Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 17:2). While they were able to establish a church in the city, they had little time to take them deeper into the faith because devout Jews began stirring up trouble (1 Thessalonians 17:5-9) leading to Paul having to escape the city in the night.

These young believers’ lives had been transformed by Christ because of Paul’s ministry of teaching and encouragement. Word had come to Paul that these believers desired to grow more in their young faith. Paul once again desired to take time to invest in the believers, resulting in him composing 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

We can both be encouraged and learn how to encourage others as we examine Paul’s loving and wise instruction to a group who owed so much to him for bringing them the good news of Jesus Christ.

We Should Make Every Effort to Encourage Other Believers – 1 Thessalonians 1:1

There are churches and individual believers all around the world who need our encouragement. Today we have heard numerous reports regarding the difficulties the church in the Ukraine is experiencing since Russia has invaded. In what ways have you seen other believers encourage the church in Ukraine?

God had assembled (or “called out”) a group in Thessalonica. Some had rejected Jewish legalism, while others had escaped pagan idolatry. But every member had embraced God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul’s introduction emphasized that both grace and peace were gifts from God. God’s grace is the foundation of our salvation, providing spiritual relief that we could not earn. Grace gives us a new standing with God, while peace reflects our new relationship with Him.

How is God’s grace and peace manifested in your life each day? How could you use the grace and peace given to you to encourage others?

We Should Pray Believers Will Continue to Produce Good Fruit – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5a

Paul had heard they were producing good fruit. In his prayer he would recall what he had heard, prompting him to thank God for them and to make mention of them constantly in his prayers. Paul gives three ways in which this fruit was evident – their work, their labor, and their endurance.

  • Paul declared that their faith had produced the fruit of work. If we profess a faith in Jesus Christ, we will desire to do good works because of that faith, not to earn anything, but out of a grateful heart because of God’s gift of salvation.
  • Paul declared that their love produced the fruit of labor. Our professed love for Christ and His church will produce labor that is motivated by that love and not obligation.
  • Paul declared that their hope produced the fruit of endurance. Endurance points to persistence in the face of difficulties. Their confidence in God’s presence and their hope for His future return strengthened their commitment and kept them on the right track spiritually.

God had produced fruit through the Thessalonica church – both as individuals and as a congregation. Paul had shared the gospel, but he reminded them that it wasn’t his words that were the driving force behind this good fruit. It was Christ alone Who provides salvation and enables believers to carry out their mission on earth through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.

God had given them proof of His work in their lives, and they were living proof to the world that salvation in Christ was real.

What do your actions tell the world about your faith?

We Should Challenge Believers to Imitate Christ and Our Own Lives – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-8

The Thessalonians had watched Paul, even though the opportunity was somewhat limited. They saw Paul’s faith in good times and in bad times. During his brief time in the city, Paul experienced severe persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4). Antagonistic Jewish leaders followed him from city to city and even sparked a riot in Thessalonica. It is reasonable to assume that the Thessalonians had faced similar suffering.  

Yet, in response, the Thessalonians became imitators of Paul’s way of life—and of Christ.

Here are the ways in which Paul said they became imitators of his faith:
Despite severe persecution, they welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit
They became an example to all the believers.
The word of the Lord rang out from them . . .  in every place that their faith in God had gone out.

During the first century, Greece was essentially divided into two major areas. The northern half was called Macedonia, where Thessalonica was located. The southern half was known as Achaia and included the major cities of Athens and Corinth. Paul’s affirmation of the Thessalonians indicated that their gospel influence had spread across hundreds of miles and essentially covered the entirety of ancient Greece.

What does this communicate about how God can use any church congregation to share and show the good news of Jesus? What does it communicate regarding how God could use you?

Finally, We Should Celebrate the Stories of God’s Work in Other Believers' Lives – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Paul wanted them to know the gospel impact their testimony was having throughout the region. They had turned from their old life of idols and had focused on a new life based in the resurrection of Christ. They understood the promise of Christ’s return and the consequences of rejecting Him. This was the message of salvation spreading out from Thessalonica. Paul’s affirmation of their faithfulness must have encouraged the Thessalonians to press on in their faith walk.

It may be that, in our daily efforts to follow Christ, we feel alone, as if it is all up to us to grow, serve, give, pray or endure. By taking a closer look at the interaction between God and these believers in Thessalonica—real people, in a real time, in a real city—we can be assured that we are never alone, God is always at work, and we have the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us.

We are surrounded by people who demonstrate obedience and relationship with God—people who can help us along the way, and others who we can help as well. 

Do you feel worthy to offer this kind of encouragement to other believers? 

What kind of encouragement could you offer to someone this week? In what ways could you encourage churches or believers. 

How could you offer encouragement to believers you may not know, like the believers in Ukraine, as they face an invasion and possible persecution? 

What has the Lord revealed to you through this study that needs to be corrected in your own life so you can become an encourager to others?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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