1 and 2 Thessalonians and Titus: Living Faithfully in View of Christ's Coming

1 and 2 Thessalonians and Titus: Living Faithfully in View of Christ's Coming

by John MacArthur

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Overview

1 and 2 Thessalonians and Titus: Living Faithfully in View of Christ's Coming by John MacArthur

Like a tender shepherd, Paul wrote the letters of 1 & 2 Thessalonians to the church he founded in Thessalonica, a huge city in Macedonia. These were friends he knew, loved, and missed. His purpose in writing was to thank them for their work of faith, their labor of love, and their continued hope in the Lord Jesus Christ . . . and His coming again. Paul was also eager to remind them of the example their faithfulness had been to those around them.

Similarly, Paul’s letter to Titus—a young pastor in Crete—is filled with personal affirmation, counsel, and guidance on how to prepare church leaders for effective evangelism. Paul wrote this letter so Titus could “set in order the things that are lacking” and “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 1:5; 2:1). These letters of instruction are as inspirational for us today as they were for these first-century Christ followers.

The MacArthur Bible Studies provide intriguing examinations of the whole of Scripture. Each guide incorporates extensive commentary, detailed observations on overriding themes, and probing questions to help you study the Word of God with guidance from John MacArthur.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718035136
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 05/31/2016
Series: MacArthur Bible Studies Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

John MacArthur has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. His ministry of expository preaching is unparalleled in its breadth and influence. In more than four decades of ministry from the same pulpit, he has preached verse by verse through the entire New Testament (and several key sections of the Old Testament). He is president of the Master’s University and Seminary and can be heard daily on the Grace to You radio broadcast (carried on hundreds of radio stations worldwide). He has authored a number of bestselling books, including Twelve Ordinary Men, and One Perfect Life.

For more details about John MacArthur and his Bible-teaching resources, contact Grace to You at 800-55-GRACE or gty.org.

Read an Excerpt

1 & 2 Thessalonians & Titus

Living Faithfully in View of Christ's Coming


By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3532-7



CHAPTER 1

A Vibrant Church

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10


Drawing Near

When it comes to communicating with friends and loved ones, are you more of a letter writer, an e-mailer, a "pick-up-the-phone-and-call" person, or a "let's-visit-face-to-face" person?

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If you were to a write a letter to your church family, what God-honoring traits and practices would you praise?

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The Context

Paul carried on his shoulders an overwhelming burden of responsibility and care for all the churches. In view of such heavy responsibilities, it must have been refreshing for Paul to minister to the Thessalonian Christians, whom he deemed worthy of commendation and encouragement.

He began his first letter with a recognition of their Christian virtues. He arranged them under two categories: the Thessalonians' present condition (a faith that works, a love that labors, a steadfastness of hope) and their past conversion (a reception of the gospel in power and the Holy Spirit, a genuine imitation of the Lord, a joyful endurance in tribulation, a behavior that exemplifies all believers, a proclamation of the Word everywhere, a total transformation from idolatry, and an expectant looking for the return of Christ). Between those two lists, Paul paused to affirm his understanding that the church in Thessalonica was part of God's elect.


Keys to the Text

Election by God: The church is commonly called "the elect" (see Rom. 8:33 and Col. 3:12). In salvation, God, not man, is the initiator. Our will participates in response to God's promptings, as Paul makes clear when he says the Thessalonians received the Word and they turned to God from idols (vv. 6, 9). These two responses describe faith and repentance, which God repeatedly calls sinners to do throughout Scripture. In His own sovereign plan, God has chosen some Jews — and some Gentiles — but not all, for salvation. Election unto spiritual life is unrelated to any human effort and is based only on the prerogative of God who makes His selection.

Wait: This word used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 comes from the Greek word anamenein, meaning "to wait for, expect." It is used only here in the New Testament and refers to expectant waiting — sustained, patient, trusting waiting. Waiting is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters.

To have an expectant looking for Jesus' return from heaven is just one more important aspect in this first chapter that defines a Christian.


Unleashing the Text

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 (NKJV)

1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,

3remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

4knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.

5For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

6And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

7so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.

8For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.

9For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

10and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.


1) What do you learn about Timothy, Paul's protégé, from the following passages?

Acts 16:1–4:

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Acts 17:13–14:

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1 Corinthians 4:14–17:

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1 Timothy 4:12–16:

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2) What outstanding qualities did Paul acknowledge and give thanks for in the lives of the believers at Thessalonica (v. 3)? Why did he begin with these three holy habits?

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3) In verses 4–7, Paul described further evidences that God had granted salvation to the Thessalonians. List these.

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4) What were the "impact" and reputation of the Thessalonian church (v. 8)?

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5) How did Paul describe the transformation in the lives of the Thessalonians (vv. 9–10)?


Going Deeper

To really understand Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, we need to have an accurate grasp of the history of this New Testament church. Read Acts 17:1–11.

1Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

2Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

3explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ."

4And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

5But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

6But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.

7Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king — Jesus."

8And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.

9So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

10Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

11These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.


Exploring the Meaning

6) Based on your reading in Acts, describe the spiritual climate in Thessalonica during Paul's initial visit.

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7) Paul reports praying for the Thessalonians always and remembering them without ceasing (1 Thess. 1:2–3). How does a Christian do this, while being as active as Paul?

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8) Paul speaks of the Thessalonians having "received the word in much affliction." What does this mean?

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9) Why is Paul's statement that the Thessalonians had "turned to God from idols" a great picture of what salvation entails? Can you give some specific examples?

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Truth for Today

Paul mentions the patience of the Thessalonians. Literally, this term denotes the condition of staying or remaining under pressure. It is closely related to the theological concept the Reformers called "the perseverance of the saints" — that is, Christians will hold fast to their hope until the end. There is nothing that should cause a true Christian to lose his trust in God's promises: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith" (1 John 5:4 NKJV). For believers, true hope is a strong longing and groaning to be at home with the Lord.


Reflecting on the Text

10) Based on what you've studied here in these ten short verses (and in your reading in Acts), what would it have been like to be a member of the Thessalonian church in the first century?

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11) How would others in your life (family members, neighbors, coworkers, etc.) describe your faith? What "evidences" would they cite as proof that you are an authentic follower of Jesus?

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12) Spend a few minutes in reflection. Because of this study, what sin do you need to forsake? What example do you need to follow?


Personal Response

Write out additional reflections, questions you may have, or a prayer.

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CHAPTER 2

Motives in Ministry

1 Thessalonians 2:1–20


Drawing Near

Who are the most dynamic spiritual leaders you've had the privilege of knowing and/or following?

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What character qualities made these leaders so influential in your life?

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The Context

Those called to be leaders in the church — the elders who preach, teach, and lead God's flock — are entrusted with the unequalled duty of proclaiming the gospel to unbelieving sinners, and bringing those who believe and are baptized into the fellowship of the local church. Even the uniquely gift ed apostle Paul asked the question, "And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). He realized that no man could effectively discharge the immense obligation of spiritual leadership by human wisdom, effort, and strength alone. Only God can provide the power to be an effective leader.

First Thessalonians 2 shows us that effective spiritual leadership is a combination of character and activity. It presents the exemplary leadership virtues of Paul's inner life: tenacity, integrity, authority, accountability, and humility. The subsequent passage describes the outward functions of the divinely approved spiritual leader. Paul could have presented these functions by discussing preaching, discipling, protecting, and overseeing. But as the New Testament writers oft en did for the sake of vividness and richness, the apostle used a metaphor. Paul chose to use the most intimate, compelling metaphors of a mother and father, which illustrate the primary kinds of spiritual care a leader must provide his people.


Keys to the Text

Conflict: As in so many other places, the apostle ministered the gospel in Thessalonica despite much conflict. Paul's team was falsely accused of civil treason in Thessalonica and suffered physical intimidation (Acts 17:5–7). The Greek word translated "conflict" is agon ("struggle," "strong opposition," "fight"), from which the English word agonize derives. It referred to an agonizing life-and-death struggle. Paul's point is that in the ministry, whether full-time, vocational Christian service, or involvement in lay ministry, there is always pressure to mitigate the message, to be inoffensive to sinners, to make the gospel acceptable to them. But such a compromise had no place in Paul's strategy. Instead, he had full confidence in God's power to overcome all opposition and achieve His redemptive purpose.

Wrath: God's ultimate wrath on those who "fill up the measure of their sins" can be understood in several ways: historically, as a past judgment (the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people), or eschatologically, as a future judgment when Christ comes. In this context of 1 Thessalonians, it is soteriological, in the sense that God's promised eternal wrath for unbelievers is so certain that it is spoken of as having come already. The apostle John also used it in this sense (see John 3:18, 36).


Unleashing the Text

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1–20, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.

1 Thessalonians 2:1–20 (NKJV)

1For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.

2But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.

3For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.

4But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

5For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness — God is witness.

6Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.

7But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.

8So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

9For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.

10You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;

11as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,

12that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

13For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

14For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,

15who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men,

16forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

17But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.

18Therefore we wanted to come to you — even I, Paul, time and again — but Satan hindered us.

19For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

20For you are our glory and joy.

1) What were Paul's motives in ministry (vv.3–6) ____________________________________________________________________

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2) What metaphor did Paul use to picture his ministry "style" in verses 7–9, and what words or phrases did he use to elaborate on this image?

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3) What different metaphor did Paul employ in verses 10–12? What details did he then use to Explain and complete this picture?

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4) In what ways did the Thessalonian church imitate the churches of Judea?

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5) What do verses 17–20 reveal about the relationship between Paul and the Thessalonian Christians?

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Going Deeper

Paul spoke about the power of the Word of God. Read Psalm 19:7–14 for another perspective on the life-changing authority of the Scriptures.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

8The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

11Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.

12Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.

13Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.


Exploring the Meaning

6) How did the psalmist describe God's revelation through the Scriptures? What does it do for those who read, believe, and obey it?

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7) There can be no true and lasting life change apart from the Word of God. Match the following passages with the corresponding effect of God's Word on a teachable heart.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from 1 & 2 Thessalonians & Titus by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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.

Table of Contents

Introduction to 1 Thessalonians 1

1 A Vibrant Church: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 5

2 Motives in Ministry: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20 13

3 Endurance: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 23

4 Sanctified Living: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 31

5 The Return of Christ: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 41

6 Basic Christian Living: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 51

Introduction to 2 Thessalonians 59

7 Standing Strong: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 61

8 The Lawless One: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 69

9 Final Words of Encouragement: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 79

Introduction to Titus. 87

10 Leadership in the Church: Titus 1:1-16 89

11 Relationships in the Church: Titus 2:1-15 99

12 Conduct in the World: Titus 3:1-15 109

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