Monday, September 2, 2013

1 Thessalonians: A reading guide

 ...1 Thessalonians
Before you begin ...
Your church has sent you to a mission in another city. After a few months the situation becomes very difficult you and you have to leave town to avoid further problems.  What are the instructions that you give to the new cell or church in this city? What are the most important things about Christianity to know so that your group can continue working (learning of Christ, evangelizing, sending, teaching)?

Reading Guide: 1 Thessalonians
This letter is one of the first letters of Paul. Paul had preached the gospel in Thessalonica but because of the opposition of the Jews, he had to leave town suddenly.  When he arrives in Corinth, he hears from the small congregation in Thessalonica and writes his response to the situation.  Hendriksen puts the date of the epistle at sometime between 51 & 53 A.D.

Thessalonica was the chief city of Macedonia. This was the region where Philip II and Alexander had their origins.  It is the largest port in the northern Aegean Sea. The Romans   The  La ciudad era en su mayoría gentil con unos pocos judíos presente.
A Roman road linking the empire ran through the center of the city.  The city was composed of mostly Gentiles with a few Jews present.

According to Gordon Fee, Paul came to Thessalonica before the Christians arrived. The basic concerns the new congregation had to deal with were religious leaders, sexual immorality, a disregard for physical work, and many questions about life after death. All these concerns are important to the healthy development of a Christian community.

This letter seeks to establish a summary of what constitutes a church in a pagan environment: their responsibilities, their behavior, their leadership, and their relationships. What does it mean to be a Christian?  Paul was very interested in establishing a church able to spread the gospel. What requirements must the infant church meet to proclaim the gospel of Jesus in a pagan world?
1.    Evangelism
2.    Leadership - ministry
3.    Christian Conduct
4.    Christian hope
5.    Church Practices

El hecho de que la mayoría eran gentiles se refleja en los contenidos de la carta.Paul’s Paul’s answers were a reflection of the contents of the letter he received. The general tone of the letter is almost sweet as Paul praises the Thessalonians for turning from idols to serve Jesus Christ, the true God and for enduring severe hardship because of it. Second, Paul is forced to answer accusations against him, which were duplicates of attacks against philosophical and religious charlatans in this pagan culture.

1.1. Evangelismo Evangelism (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10) (1 Tesalonicenses 1:1-10)
The New Testament gives little information on evangelization. But here we have a window that allows us to see how they evangelized. The fact that the Thessalonians were evangelizing indicates that they received the gospel with power.

2.2. Liderazgo (1 Tesalonicenses 2:1-3:13) Leadership (1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:13)
There are two reasons why Paul devoted two chapters of this little letter to the leadership. His enemies were attacking. If they could discredit Paul, no one would have believed the Christian message in Thessalonica. Paul was forced to defend his person so as not to discredit the gospel of Jesus.

2. There would be many false leaders who would distract people from following Jesus.  Paul wrote the characteristics of a good leader to show Christian believers who they should go to and who they should avoid. Since Paul has written this profile, we have no excuse if we follow false teachers and false prophets.

Gordon Fee says all accusations to which Paul responds appear in the writings of pagan philosophers against philosophical or religious quacks (p. 366). Even the pagans know who the false teacher are.

Paul explains that the profile of his Christian ministry and theirs ought to prevent the name of Jesus from being put down.  These two chapters should be used today to evaluate whether one is listening to the Christian message or not.  The agents of Christ should not seek the favor of men, or flattery.

3.3. Santidad (1 Tesalonicenses 4:1-12) Holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
l. First, holiness in this book most often means sexual purity. Among the Romans promiscuity was totally acceptable  (1 Tesalonicenes 4: 4). Paul emphasizes that marriage is to one person (monogamy) and we should avoid, "degrading passions of people who do not know God." (1 Thess. 4:4-5)  For Paul it is understood that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Segundo, la santidad no defraude a su hermano.Second, holiness means we ought not to defraud our brother, especially in matters of sexual purity.

Third, holiness includes brotherly love.  This love means that we care for those in need. But this love is also a responsibility not to be a burden to other Christians. Every Christian should seek to work with his own hands.

Fourth, included in holiness is not to be economically dependent on others.  Our love for others means that we should not be an economic burden to others. We pay and cover our own expenses. This is important because it establishes economic self-sufficiency as the norm for Christian missions. Everyone has to be taught to work. If you get taught, you pay the teacher. Scholarships are not the norm.

4. Christian Hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 5:11)
The big issue of the Christian faith is resurrection.It is one thing to describe the resurrection of Christ, and even His future return.  But our own resurrection has many implications as well. Foremost are the eternal consequences for our actions and beliefs in the present.  Our resurrection means that we have been delivered from the penalty of sin. If you believe in Jesus and die before He comes, you are said to be asleep, because he who believes in Jesus has eternal life and He is the God of the living, not the dead. This also means that Jesus completed the work of redemption from the bondage of sin.

5. How to behave in the Christian community (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)
Our actions in the church (community) are important. We cannot survive without a community that nurtures us, and where we nurture others. Part of our maturity can only be achieved in a community. It is an illusion that we can be sustained outside the church.  The virtual church is a figment of the imagination.

We ought to respect those who work (as pastors or leaders) among us.
Warn those who are idle.
Help the weak
Be patient with all
Be gentle
Be joyful
Pray without ceasing
Give thanks in all things
Do not quench the Spirit
Do not despise prophecy
Test or try everything, retaining that which is good
Avoid every form of evil
Read this letter to all

Exhortación final y despedida (1 Tesalonicenses 5: 23-28)
Final Exhortation and farewell (1 Thessalonians 5: 23-28)

RW Stott,  The Message of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, IVP.
Geoffrey B. Wilson, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Baker.
Michael Martin, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Broadman & Holman. 

Gordon Fee, "1 Thessalonians" in How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan.

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