The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Living in Light of Christ's Return

The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Living in Light of Christ's Return

by Warren W. Wiersbe

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Encourage Each Other and Be Ready The Thessalonian church was struggling with an unbalanced approach to the Second Coming. While they eagerly awaited Christ’s return, many believers were placing more value on their future hope than on peoples’ current needs. Paul addressed this concern with a message that still resonates today. This study…  See more details below


Encourage Each Other and Be Ready The Thessalonian church was struggling with an unbalanced approach to the Second Coming. While they eagerly awaited Christ’s return, many believers were placing more value on their future hope than on peoples’ current needs. Paul addressed this concern with a message that still resonates today. This study examines Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians and shares the need for a church that is focused on both heaven and earth. The Wiersbe Bible Study Series delivers practical, in-depth guides to selected books of the Bible. Featuring insights from Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s Be Ready commentary, this eight-week study includes engaging questions and practical applications that will help you connect God’s Word with your life.

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Living in Light of Christ's Return

By Warren W. Wiersbe

David C. Cook

Copyright © 2013 Warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7814-1036-6


The Church


Before you begin ...

Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

Read 1 Thessalonians 1. This lesson references chapters 1 and 2, "A Church Is Born" and "What Every Church Should Be," in Be Ready. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

Paul did not write these letters to stir up a debate. His desire was that these letters bless our lives and our churches. The doctrine of the Lord's return is not a toy to play with or a weapon to fight with, but a tool to build with. Believers may disagree on some of the fine points of Bible prophecy, but we all believe that Jesus Christ is coming again to reward believers and judge the lost. And we must all live in the light of His coming.

Your study of these letters should give you assurance for the future, encouragement in witnessing and walking with the Lord, comfort in the loss of Christian loved ones, and stability in a world that is very unsure of itself.

Be Ready, pages 26–27

1. Why is the subject of Jesus' return so divisive? How can it become a point of contention in a church community? What role does it play in the definition of various church denominations? How can the topic bring believers closer together?

2. Choose one verse or phrase from 1 Thessalonians 1 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.

Going Deeper

From the Commentary

No doubt you have heard some preacher say, "If you ever find the perfect church, please don't join it. If you do, it won't be perfect anymore!"

Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by God's grace, no church is perfect. But some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category.

Be Ready, page 31

3. Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13; 3:9. What is Paul's message in these verses? What does it look like today for a pastor to be thankful for a church? What are some reasons to be thankful? How does that thankfulness translate into a stronger church?

From the Commentary

The word church in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 means "a called-out people." Whenever you read about a call in the Bible, it indicates divine election—God is calling out a people from this world (Acts 15:13–18). Seven times in John 17, our Lord referred to believers as those whom the Father gave to Him out of the world (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11–12, 24). Paul stated that he knew the Thessalonians had been chosen by God (1 Thess. 1:4).

The doctrine of divine election confuses some people and frightens others, yet neither response is justified. A seminary professor once told me, "Try to explain election, and you may lose your mind. But explain it away—and you may lose your soul!"

We will never understand the total concept of election this side of heaven. But we should not ignore this important doctrine that is taught throughout the Bible.

Be Ready, pages 31–32

4. What does it mean, in practical terms, to be a "called-out people"? Why is the doctrine of election a sticking point for many people? What does it suggest about God? About our relationship with God? Why is it important to address this issue?

From Today's World

Today's church is more diverse than ever. While Paul certainly had experience working with both "good" churches like the one in Thessalonica and "bad" churches (see most of his other epistles), they still all had the benefit of being formed not long after Jesus Himself had walked the earth. The disciples who were responsible for spreading the gospel message in the early days did so with verve and passion born of firsthand or secondhand experiences with Jesus. Today many churchgoers treat the gospel as old news, and long-held doctrines—including the virgin birth and Jesus' resurrection—have been questioned by some churches. Many people are confused about what makes a church "good." Some say a thriving community is evidence of a good church. Others argue that the size of the church has little to do with its effectiveness and faithfulness to the gospel.

5. What makes a church "good" or "bad" today? Who decides whether a church is serving the ultimate good or is self-serving? What kinds of letters might Paul write to the churches in your community today? What concerns would he have? What praise?

From the Commentary

A local church must be composed of elect people, those who have been saved by the grace of God. One problem today is the presence, in the church family, of unbelievers whose names may be on the church roll but not written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Every church member should examine his heart to determine whether he has truly been born again and belongs to God's elect.

Be Ready, page 34

6. How does a church determine if someone is a "rightful member"? What should membership signify? Is being one of the "elect" nonnegotiable when it comes to church membership? What are the dangers of focusing too much on membership over serving and teaching?

From the Commentary

From the very inception of this church, Paul looked to them with joy and gratitude as Christians worthy of the name. They were examples in several areas of their lives. They received the Word (v. 5). The gospel came to them through the ministry of Paul and his associates. Many traveling preachers and philosophers in that day were only interested in making money from ignorant people. But the Holy Spirit used the Word in great power, and the Thessalonians responded by receiving both the message and the messengers. In spite of the persecution in Philippi, Paul and Silas had been "bold ... to speak ... the gospel" (1 Thess. 2:2), and the people believed and were saved. They never lost that eagerness for the Word of God (v. 13).

They followed their spiritual leaders (v. 6a). The word followers is actually "imitators." These new believers not only accepted the message and the messengers, but they also imitated their lives. This led to severe persecution. It is important that young Christians respect spiritual leadership and learn from mature believers. Just as a newborn baby needs a family, so a newborn Christian needs the local church and the leaders there. "Obey them that have the [spiritual] rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17). It is not enough for us as mature believers to win souls; we must also watch for souls and encourage new Christians to obey God's Word.

They suffered for Christ (v. 6b). In turning from idols to serve God, these believers angered their friends and relatives, and this led to persecution. No doubt some of them lost their jobs because of their new faith. Just as the Jewish unbelievers persecuted the believers in Judea, so the Gentile unbelievers persecuted the Thessalonian believers (1 Thess. 2:14–16).

Be Ready, pages 34–35

7. Review 1 Thessalonians 1:5–7. What kinds of persecution did the church face? Why is faith always tested? What does that testing bring? What are some of the ways today's church is persecuted? How can we grow stronger in response to that persecution?

From the Commentary

Their "work of faith and labor of love" expressed itself in their sharing of the gospel with others. They were both "receivers" (the Word came to them, 1 Thess. 1:5) and "transmitters" (the Word went out from them, v. 8). Each believer and each local church must receive and transmit God's Word.

The verb "sounded out" actually means "to sound as a trumpet." But the Thessalonians were not "tooting their own horns" as did the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1–4). They were trumpeting forth the good news of salvation, and their message had a clear and certain sound to it (1 Cor. 14:8). Wherever Paul went, the people told him about the faith of the Thessalonian believers.

It is the responsibility and privilege of each local church to share the message of salvation with the lost world. At the end of each of the four gospels and at the beginning of the book of Acts, there are commissions for the churches to obey (Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16; Luke 24:46–49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).

Be Ready, page 36

8. How does today's church compare with the church in Thessalonica as a whole? How does your local church compare? What are some of the things yesterday's congregation did that today's doesn't? Is it reasonable and wise to seek to be more like the early church? Why or why not? What contemporary concerns and culture issues make it difficult for today's church to look like the church in Paul's day?

More to Consider: A recent survey of church growth indicated that 70 to 80 percent of a church's growth is the result of friends witnessing to friends and relatives to relatives. While visitation evangelism and other methods of outreach help, the personal contact brings the harvest. If this is true, what role does election play in the conversion process? In what ways does election involve human responsibility? What can we learn about election from the way God chose Israel and made it an elect nation? What role did God give the nation Israel after its election?

From the Commentary

Their work of faith made them an elect people, for they turned to God from their idols and trusted Jesus Christ. Their labor of love made them an exemplary and enthusiastic people as they lived the Word of God and shared the gospel. Their patience of hope made them an expectant people, looking for their Savior's return.

In these verses, Paul related the second coming of Christ to their salvation. Because they had trusted Christ, they looked for His return with joyful expectancy and knew that they would be delivered "from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10). Paul repeated this truth in 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10, and he amplified it again in 2 Thessalonians 1:5–10.

Be Ready, pages 37–38

9. Review 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10. What is the ultimate result of worshipping idols? Where is hope for those who worship idols? What kind of hope did the Thessalonians find when they trusted "the living God"? (See 1 Pet. 1:2–3.)

From the Commentary

The word translated "wait" in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 means "to await someone with patience and confidence, expectantly." Waiting involves activity and endurance. Some of the Thessalonian believers quit their work and became idle busybodies, arguing that the Lord was coming soon. But if we really believe the Lord is coming, we will prove our faith by keeping busy and obeying His Word. Our Lord's parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11–27) teaches that we must "occupy" (be busy; in this case, invest the money) till He returns.

Christians are waiting for Jesus Christ, and He may return at any time. We are not waiting for any "signs"; we are waiting for the Savior. We are waiting for the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23–25) and the hope of righteousness (Gal. 5:5). When Jesus Christ returns we shall receive new bodies (Phil. 3:20–21), and we shall be like Him (1 John 3:1–2). He will take us to the home He has prepared (John 14:1–6), and He will reward us for the service we have given in His name (Rom. 14:10–12). A local church that truly lives in the expectation of seeing Jesus Christ at any time will be a vibrant and victorious group of people.

Be Ready, pages 38–39

10. Why might some of the church members have been tempted to stop working in anticipation of Jesus' return? What's the difference between being anxious about Jesus' return and living expectantly?

Looking Inward

Take a moment to reflect on all that you've explored thus far in this study of 1 Thessalonians 1. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.

Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don't press for people to speak if they're uncomfortable doing so.

11. What does it mean to you to be called "elect"? How does that affect the way you relate to other believers? To nonbelievers? How would you answer someone who asked, "Why are you chosen, and others are not?"

12. In what ways have you turned from idols to serve the living God? What idols do you find most tempting? What idols would other people like you to worship? What price, if any, do you pay for saying no to the idols around you?

13. What are some ways you are living expectantly? Do you ever become frustrated with Jesus' timing? What prompts those moments? How can waiting actually help your faith grow? What are some of the things that make waiting for Jesus' return difficult?

Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you'd like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It's better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don't try).

Do you want to say no to some idol? Be specific. Go back through 1 Thessalonians 1 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.

Real-Life Application Ideas: This week, take some time to learn about your church's history. Where did it begin? How did it grow? What were its greatest challenges? How did it overcome them? Once you've learned all you can about your church, spend time in prayer, asking God to show you the role you're to play in the current (and future) chapters of its story. And take a moment to track down some of the early church founders or members, and send them a note of thanks and encouragement. A church is built of people, by people. Celebrate that this week.

Seeking Help

15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you've noted in the Going Forward section. Be honest about your desires and fears.

Notes for Small Groups:

Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you've read and studied.

Before you start the next lesson, read 1 Thessalonians 2. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapters 3 and 4, "Helping the Baby Grow Up" and "Growing Pains," in Be Ready.


Growing Up


Before you begin ...

Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

Read 1 Thessalonians 2. This lesson references chapters 3 and 4 in Be Ready. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

Chapter 1 of 1 Thessalonians introduced us to Paul the evangelist. This chapter introduces us to Paul the pastor, for it explains how the great apostle cared for the new believers in the churches he founded. Paul considered "the care of all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:28) a greater burden than all the sufferings and difficulties he experienced in his ministry (2 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Just as God uses people to bring the gospel to the lost, so He uses people to nurture the babes in Christ and help lead them to maturity. The church at Thessalonica was born through the faithful preaching of the apostle and his helpers, and the church was nurtured through the faithful pastoring that Paul and his friends gave to the infant church. This helped them stand strong in the midst of persecution.

Be Ready, page 43

1. Why is it important for Paul to remind the church of how he's ministered to the young churches? What does this suggest about the church in Thessalonica? What is a "young" church today? How are a young church's needs different from the needs of a more established church? Is your church young or old? Explain.


Excerpted from THE WIERSBE BIBLE STUDY SERIES: 1 & 2 THESSALONIANS by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 2013 Warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

An internationally renowned Bible teacher, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books, including the popular “BE” series of Bible commentaries. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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