Bible Studies for Life Sunday School for May 19

Here’s the Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 19, written by James R. Strange, professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University in Birmingham.

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School for May 19

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University

DOING LIFE TOGETHER IN CHRIST

1 Thessalonians 5:4–15

In Paul’s day, Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia and sat on the Egnatian Way, an important Roman road that connected Italy to Greece and the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire via linked sea lanes.

While traveling part of this public road on his second journey, Paul convinced both Jewish and Greek Thessalonians that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 17:1–9). He probably returned to encourage believers there on his third journey (Acts 20:1–2).

Doing life together means standing united in a world wrapped in darkness. (4–8)

In 4:12–5:11, Paul comforts church members who are worried about those who have died before Christ’s return. How can they be saved? The answer is that the dead will rise and live with the Lord forever, together with those who are still alive (4:15–17; compare 1 Cor. 15).

Starting in 5:4, Paul’s language echoes creation by referring to darkness, light and day. (Compare with Gen. 1:1–5.) Rather than being in darkness, the Thessalonians are “children of light and children of the day,” an image also found in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In 4:13–14, Paul had used sleep as a metaphor for death, but now he pairs sleep with darkness and drunkenness as images for ignorance and lack of spiritual preparation. Paul calls for sobriety using images for stability, wisdom and readiness for Christ’s return.

Those who are so prepared wear God’s armor (compare Rom. 13:11–13 and Eph. 6:13–17), covering themselves in the Christian virtues of faith, love and the hope of salvation. (For other mentions of these virtues, see 1 Thess. 1:3, Rom. 5:1–5, 1 Cor. 13:13, Gal. 5:5–6, Eph. 1:15–18 and Col. 1:4–5.)

Doing life together means encouraging one another. (9–11)

The idea of being destined for salvation comes from Israel’s chosen status. It is a collective reference to the Church rather than to any individual.

Paul returns to the idea of death as sleep and living as being awake. In whichever state we are, Christ died so that we might live with him.

In verse 11, Paul calls on the Thessalonians to encourage one another. This is the point of the brief discussion of the end times: Stand firm in faithfulness, continue to love God and one another and hope for God’s salvation through Christ.

Doing life together means challenging one another to pursue what is good. (12–15)

Paul ends the letter in a typical fashion. Using a series of brief imperative statements, he exhorts the Thessalonians to moral behavior and then prays for them, asks for their prayers, sends final greetings and after instructions that the letter be read to all Thessalonian believers, ends with a final blessing of grace.

It’s important to recognize that some issues in the early Church persist. Church leaders need respect and love, and the congregation should be at peace among its members.

Some allow other people to do the work of the Church, others are fainthearted and still others are weak. This is why life within the Church family requires patience.

Moreover, even within the family of God, people want to avenge wrongs.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians to do good to all who have committed offense, whether within the congregation or outside of it.