Explore the Bible Study: Living

9:36 AM

Who has ever sang the song, “I am a C”? (I am a C. I am a CH. I am CHRISTIAN. And I have CHRIST in my HEART. And I will LIVE ETERNALLY.) Many of us grew up singing this song or have heard children sing it. It a great song to remind us that, if we know Christ, we are to live as  Christians and we have a future hope of eternal life with Him.  This song identifies what a Christian believes and how a believer should live. The Explore the Bible Study: Living, brings Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian believers to a close. Paul closes by reminding the believers of how they should live because they are Christians.

For Paul, the key to living out the Christian faith was to live with an eternal perspective. Earlier, the apostle assured his readers that Jesus would come back in an unmistakable way. When He returns, He will take all His people with Him—the living and the dead from every nation and every epoch. Paul noted that those who are not prepared for the Lord’s return will be surprised by His arrival and will face the consequences of rejecting Him. 

As he closed the letter, Paul challenged his readers to focus on the basic practices that lead to a strong faith. He told them several things to do—and a few to avoid. Spiritual maturity was Paul’s deepest desire for this young congregation.

Honor Those Who Serve – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Once Paul left Thessalonica, maturing believers within the church stepped up to serve the church. Paul told his brothers and sisters to support these leaders. In English, the wording sounds like a request: we ask you. However, the Greek language is much more direct, urging readers to obey Paul’s directions. They were to give recognition to their leaders, which means to acknowledge and show respect.

We have individuals, both paid staff and volunteers, who passionately serve us in our church. They sacrifice time, set aside their own personal agendas, and give unselfishly so we can grow in our faith. Sometimes their leadership includes admonishing us or correcting improper behavior. When that takes place, it means some won’t like it and might create division instead of promote peace. If we begin to criticize their actions and create division in the church, we do damage to the peace the church should experience.

What actions can you take to make sure you are pursuing peace with others?

These likely weren’t the only tasks leaders carried out, but Paul was not making an exhaustive list. Instead, he provided a broad overview to remind the Thessalonians of what their leaders were doing for them. Their sacrifice and faithfulness deserved honor and respect.

What are some practical ways you can support the leaders in your congregation? Which one will you do first?

Act Like a Believer - 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to observe a list of practical ways in which they should respond appropriately to people and to God.

  • Warn the idle – The word "idle" conveys disorder, like a soldier straying from his ranks. Admonishing involves bringing spiritual stragglers back into line and providing a sense of order for their unruly thoughts and actions. How can you warn the idle?
  • Comfort the discouraged – Refers to someone either living in fear or hopelessness. Paul urged his friends to comfort those who were experiencing discouragement. How can you comfort those who are discouraged?
  • Help the weak – Paul was probably emphasizing spiritual frailty. It was the responsibility of stronger believers to embrace weaker Christians and to strengthen them through discipleship. How can you help the weak?
  • Be patient with everyone – Christians are called to patience toward all people, whether in the church or in the world. Do you feel you are patient with others? If not, how can you become more patient?
  • Don’t repay evil for evil – Paul made it clear that no Spirit-empowered believer repays evil for evil. How can you overcome the temptation to repay evil with evil?
  • Pursue what is good for others – What does the word "pursue" communicate to you? How do we pursue what is good for others? Paul wanted them to stay the course, working hard to build others up and not tear them down.

Next Paul emphasizes some ways in which they should respond to God because of their relationship with Him. Each of the commands is present tense, which indicates a recurring action.

  • Rejoice always – Does this mean we are always happy or cheerful? No. It’s an ability to see beyond oneself and to trust in God’s sovereignty, even while celebrating the victories of others. How can you learn to always have a rejoicing heart?
  • Pray constantly – This does not imply that Christians must be on their knees all the time. But it does reflect a spirit that maintains a constant connection to the Father. What are some practical ways in which you can remain in a constant state of prayer? 
  • Give thanks in everything – Gratitude should be an ongoing part of our spiritual walk. How can you nurture a constant heart of gratitude?

Paul emphasized the importance of all these actions by stating that this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. These actions are not just something good to add to our lives, but they are actions which God expects us to take as believers. It is God’s will that you learn how to live in this manner.

Finally, Paul concludes this section by emphasizing how we should respond to the truth.

  • Don’t stifle the Spirit – This invokes a picture of a flame being snuffed out. When we quit learning the truth of Scriptures, we stifle the Spirit’s work in our lives. Spiritual transformation slows down or stops all together.  Are you stifling the Spirit’s desire to transform your life? Are you allowing God’s Word to change you, or are you snuffing out the work of the Spirit?
  • Don’t despise prophecies – They should avoid any attitudes or actions that demonstrate contempt or disdain toward God’s message. Believers should never see God’s words as worthless or count them as nothing, as this term implies.
  • Test all things – To test means to evaluate or inspect everything. How do you test things to determine if they are truth? The test is not based upon human opinion or preferences. Instead, the message should be compared to the truth God has already revealed in His Bible.
  • Hold on to what is good – The Greek wording refers to taking ownership or remembering value. What analogy can help describe what it means to hold on to what is good?
  • Stay away from every kind of evil – This command is obvious. Sin never stays dormant. Instead, the enemy uses such strongholds to attack a believer’s spiritual walk and testimony.

Let God Do His Perfect Work in You - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Paul opened this letter with a word about his prayers for the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). Now, in closing, he offered a prayer on their behalf. He prayed that the God of peace himself would sanctify them. At the moment of salvation, one is sanctified or set apart as holy. It’s not because of own personal works or goodness, but it is a work of God through the salvation given to us through Jesus Christ.

Yet, sanctification is also a process. As we move toward the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are constantly in the process of being sanctified or being set apart – spirit, soul, and body – for His holy purposes. Paul noted that God’s work would be done completely. The Greek compound word here can mean “through and through” and describes the ideas of lacking nothing and working until the task is finished in eternity. 

How do you feel about the fact that God is not finished with you yet? How should you respond based upon Paul's instructions in this passage?

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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