Explore The Bible Study: Confronted

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The words, "accept or reject," are used in a variety of ways. For example, when reviewing a document in a word processing program, you can accept or reject all changes in a document. The terms are used in organ transplants to describe how the body responds to a transplant. When a product is being examined for quality control, it can be rejected or accepted. Perhaps you have had an application rejected or accepted. In all these cases, a decision is made. The Explore The Bible Study: Confronted, will address the actions of those who reject or accept the gospel.

When Paul visited Thessalonica, many made the decision to accept Christ, and he urged them to continue to accept the teachings of Christ so they could grow in their new relationship with Him. While Paul was grateful for the Thessalonians’ positive response to the gospel, he grieved over those who rejected the message.

Evidence of Acceptance – 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Paul had opened his letter to the Thessalonians by saying how grateful he was for their faith. Here, he returned to the theme of thankfulness as he outlined the evidence that indicated they had accepted the gospel.

The Thessalonians accepted the gospel of Christ with open arms and hearts. God revealed to them that the message was not one created by man, but it was truly the word of God. Their acceptance led to God’s word working effectively in them. Their acceptance of Christ was evident because they became imitators of others who had accepted Christ, even to the point of handling suffering in the way other believers had.

How would you describe the way you received the gospel? Think of  believers who you respect because of the way they demonstrate their acceptance of Christ. What characteristics in their lives do you strive to imitate?

Their acceptance of the gospel demonstrated that the gospel was true, and their faith was genuine. Sadly, there were also those who had rejected Christ. Paul describes their rejection in verses 15-16.

Evidence of Rejection – 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16

This is the evidence that revealed their rejection of Christ:

  • V. 15 – They killed Christ and the prophets and persecuted believers. How is this type of rejection demonstrated today?

  • V. 15 – They displeased God. Why does rejection displease God? Do you think people who reject Christ consider that their rejection displeases God? How can we help them understand God’s displeasure?

  • V. 15 – They are hostile to everyone. Have you noticed the anger that people have when they consciously reject Christ and His followers? In what ways is this anger expressed?

  • V. 16 – They are determined to keep people from sharing the gospel.  In what ways do people who reject Christ try to prevent believers from sharing the gospel? Why do they do this? How should we respond?

One should note that verse 15 is a continuance of the subject in verse 14 that focuses on the rejection of Christ demonstrated by the Jews in Judea. “Paul wasn’t labeling every Jew as an enemy of the church. Instead, he was focusing on particular groups of Jews who were actively opposing the gospel and the work of God’s missionaries. Those who interpret this passage through an anti-Semitic lens misunderstand Paul’s message. Paul longed for the Jews to accept Jesus as their true Messiah, and he was living proof that no Jew was beyond God’s reach.” (ETB Leader Guide)

Just as some Jews rejected Christ and demonstrated their rejection in the ways described, the Thessalonian believers experienced similar responses from the citizens in Thessalonica who rejected the gospel. The wrath these individuals experienced was a natural outcome of God’s holy righteousness and justice.

Knowing what we know regarding God’s judgment on those who reject Christ, how should we respond to them, even when they express that rejection in ways that mistreat believers?

Finally, we need encouragement when we observe others rejecting Christ. This is the encouragement Paul expresses in verses 17-20.

Encourage Those Who Have Accepted Christ – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.

Paul’s reference to them as brothers and sisters reminded his readers that they shared a special bond in Christ.  This bond served as an encouragement to both Paul and the Thessalonian believers.

Imagine Paul is writing to you. How would his words in this passage encourage you if you had accepted Christ because of his ministry? In what ways would writing this letter bring encouragement to you if you were Paul?

Earlier, Paul and his companions had related to the Thessalonians as loving parents who cared for their children well, but they had been forced to leave them. The Greek wording indicates something being violently torn away, abandoned, or even orphaned. This separation, even for a short time, was painful for the missionaries and for the Thessalonian congregation. As evidence of their passion, Paul said the missionaries greatly desired to return to Thessalonica. They had done everything within their power to see them face to face. 

The memory of these believers’ acceptance of the gospel was bringing encouragement to Paul, even as he wrote them. His memories prompted him to tell them that they were his glory and joy! Equally, Paul desired to express his love for them and the joy he had because they accepted Christ so that they could be encouraged by his words.

Paul and his companions longed to rejoin their friends—both to encourage them and to receive encouragement from them.  Those who accepted Christ kept Paul going. His words to them kept them moving forward with the gospel.

Try to recall some of the people who encouraged you after you accepted Christ. Describe the ways in which they encouraged you.

Can you think of someone who recently accepted Christ? Perhaps you played a major part in them coming to Christ. In what ways could you encourage them this week?

As I mentioned earlier, every minute of every day, all around the world, people are either deciding to accept or reject Christ. Pray God will open doors for all of us to share Christ as Paul did, and then to continue to offer encouragement to those who have accepted Christ.

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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