Title: CONTAGIOUS CHRISTIANITY - A STUDY OF FIRST THESSALONIANS
Text: Acts 17:1-15
Knowledge of the Word of God apart from application falls short of God’s desire for His children. Knowledge must result in change and growth. Therefore, as we enter this study, we will keep three purposes in mind: 1) To stimulate discovery, 2) To increase understanding, and 3) To encourage application.
In Paul’s day, Thessalonica was a prominent seaport and the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. Due to it’s strategic location, Thessalonica was a successful commercial town with a population of nearly 200,000. Today it is still a large city called Salonika. Thessalonica had a sizable Jewish population. Because the Jews believed in one God, and this belief permeated their daily living, Judaism attracted many Gentiles who had become disenchanted with the Greek belief of many gods. It was this receptive crowd that responded quickly to Paul’s message when he was there on his second missionary journey.
Read Text! The Jews became jealous of Paul’s success and organized a mob to oppose them. They could not find Paul and Silas, so they dragged Jason (Paul’s host while in Thessalonica) before the officials and accused him of harboring traitors of Rome. The officials pressured Jason to make a pledge to make Paul and Silas leave the area, which they did that night as they left for Berea. After a period of time in Berea, the Thessalonian Jews raised an uproar there in Berea so that Paul left for Athens, leaving orders for Silas and Timothy to join him there (Acts 17:11-16). After Silas and Timothy met Paul in Athens, he sent Timothy to Thessalonica, and he later joined him in Corinth (Acts 18:5). There Paul wrote this epistle in AD 51 as his response to Timothy’s good report.
Throughout this letter is an unmistakable pride that Paul has of the new Thessalonican church. He frequently encourages them to be steadfast in the Lord (3:8) and to continue to grow in faith and love, knowing that Christ is going to return (1:3-10; 2:12-20; 3:10-13; 4:1-5,28). These first-century saints were models of authentic Christianity. They made Christianity contagious to many in their day.
A little about the author, Paul. He was no super-evangelist or dynamic speaker. The common opinion about Paul is found in his own words: 2 Cor. 10:10 Onesiphorus of Iconium (a historian of that day) said of Paul: “Paul is a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and a nose somewhat hooked.” He was not a dynamic speaker, nor was he pleasing to look at, but he was a willing, tireless servant that God used greatly.
1. What makes a church a dynamic group rather than being just ordinary?
2. Explain the difference between authentic Christianity and religious people who wear it as a veneer?
3. Do you think people are looking for a form of Christianity that is just a veneer? When people are ready to turn to Christianity, what do you think they are looking for?
4. The Thessalonicans made Christianity contagious to many in their day. How can we make it so today?
5. Walking Christlike is very serious business, but do we have a walk around gloomy? How can we keep this healthy balance between dying to the old life and yet not walk around looking dead?
6. There is a fine line between healthy admiration of others and unhealthy exaltation. Define some realistic bounds for a healthy admiration of those who model authentic Christianity.
7. At what point does healthy admiration become an unhealthy exaltation?
8. What do you suggest for someone who often gets compliments and admiration so that they can maintain humility?
9. What happens to a body of believers when they put a leader on a pedestal? Who is it unhealthy for? Explain.
10. What could you suggest to one you hear exaggerating the greatness of another person, without tearing them down?
11. Our introduction showed us that Paul was not an impressive speaker nor someone of attractiveness, yet God used him greatly. How do you account for the great fruitfulness of Paul’s life?
12. Have you ever dreamed big dreams of being used greatly by God, just as you are? What would it take to translate those dreams into reality?
13. The purpose of Paul’s letter was to affirm, exhort, and teach the Thessalonicans. Define each of these terms in a practical way.