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The question of authority is a major issue in the Church today. Who's in charge around here? Who or what is the authority in my life? This is particularly true when it comes to the authority of God's Word. Like Paul (and the Thessalonians), we believe the Bible to be the inspired authoritative Word of God. But not all believe this truth.

A)  AUTHORITY

a. Hebrews 1/1 - "In the past God spoke..."  He spoke in the language of creation.  Then He spoke through the prophets. He has spoken through the sacred writings - the Bible. Now in these last times, He has spoken through His Son.

b. Paul was so grateful that when he preached at Thessalonica, the people recognised that what they heard was not the ideas and philosophies of clever men but it was, without doubt, the Word of God. They recognised its authority and submitted to it.

Question: "And this word continues to work in you who believe". What do you think that phrase means? In what sense does God's Word work in us? Read Hebrews 4/12,13.  Does this help you in answering this question?

B) PERSECUTION  (v.14)

This is an aspect of Christian experience about which we know very little. Persecution is never very welcome but when it comes from unexpected sources, it can be that much harder to receive. Paul makes a point that it was from their own countrymen that they experienced opposition.

This was not unusual. Back in Judea the unbelieving Jews persecuted those who, like the Thessalonians, had put their faith in Christ.

Question: Why do you think people persecute others? Is there a clue in vs.15,16.  Is persecution limited to religion? Can you give an example of non-religious persecution? Do you know anybody (yourself included) who is being opposed from a most unexpected source?

Of course, the classic example of being persecuted by His own people is Jesus Himself. Read John 1/10-12.

There are 2 concepts in v.16 that ought to be considered

a. "By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins." (They heap up their sins to the limit) Does this imagery of piling sin upon sin suggest that there is a cumulative effect about sin in our lives? It almost sounds like constant opposition against God reaches a point where we cross a line of some kind. What do the other versions say? What do you think?

b. "But the anger of God has caught up with them at last."  We don't talk much about the anger of God. We prefer to talk about love and grace etc. Is there any clue in the text that helps us understand what might have happened to indicate the anger of God  might have come upon them at last?

Question: Can you think of a contemporary example of a person or group who finally seem to have come to an end in such a way that you might say, "Well, that surely is God's judgment on them"?

[3]  PASTOR (vs.17-20)

We now get a glimpse into the pastoral heart of Paul. No doubt there were those who had suffered greatly under persecution. Neither can there be any doubt that some (many?) of them would have seen Paul and his team leave because of the widespread persecution. There must have been questions asked???

Acts 17 tells why Paul and his team left town in a hurry. In fact they did so at the initiative of their recently converted brethren. But Paul wanted those believers to know how hard it was to leave them, how costly it was emotionally and relationally, how hard he tried to return as soon as possible and how Satan had intervened to prevent that return. Read 1 Thess 2/17-20

Paul talks about his "intense longing" to return to them. These are the words of someone who has a shepherd's heart; who feels very deeply and protectively towards the flock.

Question: Read John 10/11-15. Do you see the difference between the shepherd and the hired hand? Discuss together what that difference is by listing the features of the shepherd and those of the hired hand.

"But Satan prevented us..."  This is an interesting insight into the influence that Satan still exerts. Back in Acts 16/6-9 Paul recounts that the Holy Spirit prevented he and his team from going into the province of Asia and the province of Bithynia.

Question: Discuss how the Holy Spirit might have prevented Paul from going into Asia and Bithynia? Could that have involved natural and/or supernatural means? What means might Satan have used to stop Paul from going back to the Thessalonians? Can you think of an example from your own experience whereby you were aware of being either re-directed by the Holy Spirit or hindered by Satan?

Read vs.19,20

".......as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again". This is the goal of ministry that we anticipate together. Everything is to be motivated by this amazing truth. The day is coming when it will all be over.

Question: How would you describe Paul's attitude and relationship towards the Thessalonians (based on those 2 verses?) If you have leadership responsibilities (Pastor, Deacon, Youth leader, teacher, parent) how would you describe your relationship  with those you lead? Better still, how do you think they would describe your attitude towards them?

Question: What is the key point that has caught your attention as you have worked your way through this study? Is there some specific action you need to take?

What fits into the following categories if you take the session seriously?

a) Information (knowing)

b) Participation (doing)

c) Transformation (changing)

 

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