These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-28 Inductive Bible Study
How can we rejoice always even when things aren’t going well or according to plan?
What does it mean to pray without ceasing? How can you improve your prayer life in the coming year?
How can we give thanks in everything? What principles from the Bible can help us to do this?
What does it mean to quench the spirit?
What does verse 21 teach us about discernment?
What is our role in the sanctification process?
How has God been faithful to you in the past year?
Should we literally greet others with a kiss? Why or why not?
1. Rejoice Always – Intro: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
The pursuit of happiness or joy is the pursuit of every person on the planet. Everybody wants to be happy. They want to be happy now and after they die. This is the supposed basic right of everyone and a self-evident fact. However, the pursuit of joy will lead people in many directions. It leads some thousands of feet below the ocean looking for beautiful coral and fish. It leads some kilometers into the sky up Mt. Everest. It leads some from the countryside to big cities to work and make more money. It leads others from the big cities to the countryside to escape the city noise. It leads some to marriage. It leads others to divorce. So with people going in all directions, how can we truly rejoice always? Most news we read online is of the bad variety. With natural disasters everywhere, terrorism, broken families, a corrupted culture, and persecutions how can we possibly rejoice? What is the key?
First, we are going to look at the question, “why should we rejoice?”
A. God wants us to be joyful. Ecclesiastes 2:26, John 16:24, John 15:11, John 17:13.God is the giver of joy. It doesn’t come from “inside us”. Neither does it come from some mystical source or other physical things. If you want to pursue joy then we need to pursue God. The closer we get to Him the more joyful we will get. God wants our lives in this world to be joyful. He doesn’t want us going through life depressed or discouraged or discontent. He wants us to have complete, full, joy in Him. God is sovereign and the world has a lot of problems. In Jesus’ day the world also had problems. In the lifetimes of some people He was talking to, Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans and the Jewish people scattered in poverty around the globe. This doesn’t change the fact that God wants us to be joyful and that we can be joyful in Him. Here in 1 Thessalonians, we are commanded to “rejoice always.” This is a command, not a choice. Sometimes rejoicing is a matter of making up our mind to be obedient even when we don’t’ feel like it.
B. We are to rejoice because our names are in the book of life. Luke 10:20, 1 Peter 1:5-7, Ephesians 1. When you start to feel down and out, remember what position you have in Christ. What do we have in Christ? We have an eternal inheritance. We are His sons. We have eternal life and salvation. We have numerous blessings in this life on earth. There is nothing more important for us than having our names in the book of life. Sometimes we lose our joy in this world because we didn’t get the degree we wanted, failed a test, missed out on a job opportunity, etc. But all of those things is nothing compared to having your names where it counts, in the book of life.
C. We are to rejoice because of who is our God. Psalms 21:1, 35:9, 70:4, 92:4, 119:11 (read just a couple depending on time) 1 Kings 8:23. John Piper said something like this, “the chief pursuit of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him fully.” We get our joy by enjoying God. God is our strength and our salvation. He is sovereign and in control of everything. He loves us and cares for us and saves us. He has our best interests at heart. His plans are for our good (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah). His Word should also be a joy to us as it brings us closer to God. Again, the more we learn about God and become like Him the more joyful we will become.
True joy is not dependant on circumstances – We are to rejoice always. Philippians 4:4. I was reading a poll online talking about how happy different groups are. Apparently marrying makes people more joyful as 60% of married people are supposedly joyful as opposed to 41% of singles. Apparently having children makes most people more joyful. Making more money helps people be more joyful. But according to the Bible, there is not some circumstance in our life that can magically make us joyful. Marriage is good, but if you aren’t happy without it you won’t be happy with it. Children and money are good, but if you aren’t happy without them you won’t be happy with them. We are to rejoice always, whether or not the girl of our dreams or our perfect job has come. This is not an option either where we have the right to be unhappy. We are commanded to be joyful. What does this show? It shows that being joyful is largely a decision of the will and not an emotion. We can decide to be joyful always or we can decide to not be joyful. This is the same as biblical love. It is not just “falling in love and I can’t help it”. We make conscious choices to love or not to love. Being joyful is basically just having a good attitude and a pleasant spirit. Once again, this is insane to the world. They would advocate that you “need” certain things to be joyful and that a person can’t control his joy or not. But by God’s strength we can as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Galatians 5:22.
Most of the above thoughts on joy are from: https://calligraphyforgod.com/biblestudy/joy.html
Can you think of examples of any biblical characters who either did or did not follow the principle to rejoice always? Do you rejoice always? What do you need to do to grow in this area?
2. Pray without ceasing –
A. Luke 11:5-13, Luke 18:1-9. What is the comparison in these parables? What is the teaching? In both of these cases a person did not want to answer the request, was busy, and was not concerned with the person’s needs. They had no interest in actually helping the person making the request yet because of persistence they helped the person in the end. The point is that if people who are busy and don’t really care about the person making the request will help because of perseverance then surely God will who is not too busy and does care about us. If persistence works in this world of sinners, surely it will work with a loving God.
2.The picture is really astounding. In both cases the person making the request has no shame! The guy doesn’t make a little knock on the door and whisper and say, “I guess he doesn’t want to help” and then walk away. The widow doesn’t say, “excuse me sir, I’m really sorry to bother you, but would mind giving me some protection? No? Ok, ok, I didn’t think so, really sorry to bother you, bye.” She demands, “give me legal protection from my opponent!” and says the same thing day after day. So don’t be weak-hearted in your prayers and don’t lose heart quickly. If the prayer is right and according to Jesus’ name pray it again and again for decades if necessary.
The above thoughts on prayer are taken from: https://calligraphyforgod.com/biblestudy/prayer.html
The idea in this passage is that we are to have a lifestyle of prayer. We are not to pray a little bit here and there. We are not to pray only when facing emergencies. We are not to offer a recited prayer only before meals. We are not to pray only during prayer meetings. Prayer is to be a major part of our life and something we practice in rain or shine whether or not the answer comes quickly. We know the teaching in this verse and we know what it means. The key question, is “are you doing it?” Are you praying without ceasing? If not, it could be that you prioritize the wrong activities. Or perhaps a lack of prayer signifies a prideful spirit and a reliance on self instead of God. Let this passage be another reminder to make prayer a priority in your life.
What positive examples are there in the Bible about prayer?
3. In everything give thanks – Pray with a thanksgiving heart. Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:6
A. We need to give thanks always and for all things. This tells us that in every situation there is something to give thanks for. We know God causes everything to work together for good if we love Him. It is of course much easier to give thanks for things that seem good to us. It is much easier to give thanks if your stock investments triple than if they fall 70%. But in both cases we need to thank God. Why?
i. We are commanded to.
ii. God is in control and has a reason for it. He wants us to learn a lesson.
iii. Everything we have belongs to God.
iv. Money isn’t everything. Although 70% is gone we still have a relationship with God.
v. We still have 30% left!
B. According to Philippians we need to even request with thanksgiving. What does that phrase “prayer with thanksgiving” mean? Some possibilities:
i. Not to forget to thank God for past blessings when asking for new ones.
ii. Have thanksgiving for what He is going to do.
C. Praying with a thanksgiving heart is similar to praying with a humble one. It simply acknowledges that we don’t deserve what we have, but it is because of God’s grace.
The key idea of this thought is that we are to have a positive outlook about things rather than a negative one. We are to always look for the silver lining and remember the many blessings in our lives even when things aren’t going well. Once again, this is not just a suggestion. Paul says, “this is God’s will for you.” To be ungrateful is sinful. To have a complaining and negative spirit is sinful. Rejoicing and being thankful are connected. God knows that a truly thankful person will be a much happier person.
Too many times we just ask for things. Let’s remember to be thankful!
4. Do not quench the Spirit – What does it mean to quench the Spirit? According to my understanding quenching the Spirit is the opposite of being filled with the Spirit. To quench is the same word used as putting out a fire with water. We quench the Spirit when we do not follow His leading. If the Spirit sounds off warning bells in our mind about a temptation we face, and we ignore those and sin anyway, we quench the Spirit. If the Spirit brings sin which we have done to our minds, and we refuse to repent, we quench the Spirit. It is almost as if every time we ignore Him and harden our hearts, His voice will grow a little quieter until He finally is silent. It is not because He abandons us, but is because we have hardened our hearts to Him. Train yourself to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading by responding quickly and obediently to His leading and conviction.
5. Do not despise the prophetic utterances – Ephesians 4:11. Prophecy was definitely a gift during NT times. There is some debate about whether that gift still exists or whether it has changed. Without going too deep into that, it is worth noting that most of the message from the prophets in the Bible is not about predicting the future. Most is exhortation to repent and obey the Lord. It is likely that the gift of prophecy in the New Testament was given to certain believers to give direct revelation and commands from God to other people within the church. With the Bible completed now there is less need for direct revelation. But the point of a prophet (to give warnings, rebukes, and exhortations to God’s people) still remains. The lesson for us is to be teachable. We just learned not to harden our heart to the Spirit. We must also learn not to harden our heart to people sent by the Spirit to teach us or remind us of biblical truth. God wants us to be humble and teachable.
6. Examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil – This is a very important reminder, especially in today’s world. These days we are bombarded daily with every kind of theory. Media, co-workers, family, government, and the very cultures we live in are a source of every type of opinion and worldview. Some of the things we hear are obviously wrong. For example, there is a significant (I think I heard 2%) of the adult population that believes the moon is made out of cheese. Obviously this is absurd. But there are many more subtle and far more deadly doctrines/beliefs/worldviews/theories which can creep into the church and into our own lives almost without us noticing it. See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Do not blindly accept ideas as true. Examine them in light of Scripture. Do not be like a rudderless ship which floats wherever the wind and current takes it. God has given you a rudder (what is our rudder?). Use it. Set the course God wants you to be on and stay the course no matter what obstacles or difficulties you face.
I am trying to teach my two sons (5 and 3) evaluate what they see and hear as well to see if it is true. For example they watch nature shows which say “millions and millions of years ago.” Or they watch a PBS cartoon called “Arthur,” which in its theme song says, “You got to believe in yourself. That’s the place to start.” When they hear these things, I ask them, “is that true?” My older one answers, “No, you have to believe in God.” Satan wages his war against our very minds and beliefs. We have to be aware of that and ask God for discernment to learn what is true and what is false.
6. Verses 23-24 –
A. God is the God of peace. He wants us to have peace with Him and peace with each other.
B. It is He who sanctifies. You cannot sanctify yourselves. We must allow God to His sanctifying work in our lives.
C. Paul showed once again that his prayers were focused primarily on the spiritual well-being of those who ministered to. He wanted them to be blameless at Jesus’ second coming, which is one of the main themes of this book. We too must be prepared.
D. He is faithful and His promises will all be fulfilled in due time.
7. Pray for us – We learned last week that we should show appreciation for and respect to those who give of their time and energy to minister to us. Did any of you fulfill the applications which you made last week in this area? One way to do this is to pray for your spiritual leaders. Let’s make this a goal of ours as well.
8. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss – Should we do this? Is this cultural? How do you know you know? I don’t often take biblical teaching and say that it is cultural. To do so sets a dangerous precedent. However, there are a couple of cases which appear to be cultural. Sometimes it is helpful to ask what is the universal principle behind the exact command? In this case it is to show appropriate affection and politeness when greeting brothers and sisters in Christ. But in our culture, this is not an appropriate display of affection. If a brother does this to a brother he may be viewed as a homosexual. At the very least the recipient will be very uncomfortable, which is exactly the opposite of the intention of this instruction. If a brother does it to a sister it is also inappropriate and may result in being pepper sprayed. The universal principle is to greet other believers warmly, which in our case could be a warm handshake with a friendly verbal greeting. It differs widely culture to culture so make sure you understand the culture you live in so that you will be polite and not offensive.
9. Have this letter read to all the brethren – Paul wrote it to the whole church and wanted it read by the whole church.
10. Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you – Paul, as he often does, closes with a benediction. He entrusts them into the hands of the Lord who loves them even much more than he does.