Last week Paul ended Chapter 2 by praying that the Lord would comfort the Thessalonians and establish their hearts in every good word and work. This week Paul picks up where he left off and continues with the importance of the word and our work as believers.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
When Paul asked for prayer, he began by asking that the word of the Lord would have free course. These prayers were answered. When Paul was an old man preparing to depart and go to be with the Lord, he wrote the word of God is not bound. (2 Tim 2:9)
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Secondly, Paul asks that he himself would be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men. This prayer was answered as well. (Acts 18:9,10) It has been said that if you do not believe Satan is real, just try fighting him and you will soon have all the proof you need. There are always those who seek to attack men and women who minister the gospel, but if we simply ask to be delivered from such people, the Lord is faithful. Sometimes He does allow such things, however. In Paul’s case, it was necessary to keep him humble. (2 Cor 12:7)
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
Not only do attacks come from Satan and the world, but sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. When the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, or the lust of the flesh are getting the best of us, we can cry out to God just as we would if we were being harassed by unreasonable and wicked men. [T]he Lord is faithful.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
In Hebrews 13, Paul exhorted the Hebrews three times concerning them that ‘ruled over them’ (Heb 13:7, 17, 24). In these last days, you will be hard-pressed to find a pastor who is submitted to God the way they were in the early church, but we should definitely let Paul rule over us. The things Paul wrote are just as important for Christians to follow today as they were when Paul wrote them.
People don’t like being told what to do. As Christians, however, we are to let the Bible rule over us. If your pastor is submitted to Christ you should trust him to rule over you as well, but what exactly does that mean? Paul is not saying he is like a foreman who shouts orders at people who work on an assembly line. In his first letter, he said, But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: (1 Thess 2:7) When Christians are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, they recognize spiritual authority. It is not a burden, but a privilege to receive godly counsel. When everyone plays their part there is harmony. Consider the picture of the assembly line again. In a factory, there is noise, stress, and hard work involved to produce the product. Now consider a field where fruit is growing. There is a peaceful serenity and the fruit grows naturally. As Christians, we want to produce fruit, not manufacture a product.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
As Paul wraps up his two-part course on eschatology (1 & 2 Thess), he reminds them we must patiently wait for Christ. That is a good reminder for all of us. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. We need to be patient.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
I have always endeavored to model my ministry after the apostle Paul’s, to be a follower of Paul. I follow and worship Jesus but I follow Paul as well. More than once or twice, I have gotten up in the middle of a church service and walked out when I saw they were not following the apostles’ doctrine. (Acts 2:42) But when it comes to individuals, I have not always exercised discernment as well as I could have. There have been times when I felt the Holy Spirit was telling me to withdraw myself from the company of another Christian, or ‘break fellowship’ as some say, but I didn’t want to be rude. In those cases, I found out later that I should have listened in the first place. Ignoring the Holy Spirit only delays the inevitable.
7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
A minister of the gospel has every right to live off the gospel. (1 Cor 9:14) However, Paul did not exercise this power so he could set a good example. I have endeavored to follow the example of the apostle Paul whenever I went into the mission field. I believe a missionary should bring a blessing, not take one. There were one or two people I made friends with in the mission field who wanted to contribute to my ministry and would not take no for an answer. I see no reason to refuse people when they want to help. In fact, I think it may be wrong to do so. It robs them of the blessing they receive by giving to God’s work.
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
There were some in Thessalonica that did not want to work. They were comfortable relying on their brothers and sisters in Christ to support them. Paul said don’t enable their bad behavior by feeding them. This is totally different from helping the poor or people who cannot work. This is directed at able-bodied people who will not work. Jesus was a carpenter. Rabbis were required to learn a trade. Real men work and so do real Christians.
13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
To those who were doing the right thing but not seeing much in return for their effort, Paul says be not weary in well doing. We cannot put the crown before the cross. That is a common heresy in these last days but it doesn’t work that way. First we have to take up our cross. The crown comes later.
14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Concerning those who want to call themselves Christians but do not want to act like Christians, Paul says to break fellowship with them until they repent.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
We are not supposed to just write such people off. We are to tell them why we are not going to hang out with them in love and pray for them. We are to do this in a spirit of meekness. (Gal 6:1)
16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
They can trust this letter. Paul signed it himself. It is believed that Paul had trouble with his eyesight. He reminded the Galatians that they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him. (Gal 4:15) That sounds like a strange thing to say unless you consider that Paul was partially blind. Poor eyesight made writing difficult. Therefore, Paul dictated his letters. By writing the closing salutation of the letter himself, Paul was signing the letter, so to speak. In the future, they will be able to tell if a letter is really from Paul by looking to see if he signed it.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
¶ The second epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.
2 Thessalonians 3
This last chapter is an admonition to the Christians in Thessalonica to follow the instructions they have been given and to discipline those who don’t. Paul seemed to really lay down the law in this chapter, but he ends with grace. I have found that when there is a problem with an unruly brother, the deeper issue is that he does not believe the Bible. In such cases the problem can go beyond laziness and cause division. Paul told Titus that when someone starts to veer off from the Bible to warn him once, then twice, but after three strikes he’s out. (Titus 3:10) If a Christian really believes the Bible, he is going to act like the new creature the Bible says he is and love his fellow Christians. We aren’t just saved by faith, but we also walk by faith. In other words, in order for Christianity to work, you have to believe the Bible. Consider:
….So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
1 Thessalonians 1:7
….Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
1 Thessalonians 2:10
….For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
….For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1 Thessalonians 4:14
….When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
2 Thessalonians 1:10
….That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
2 Thessalonians 2:12
….But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
2 Thessalonians 2:13
….Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
….And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.
My take away from this chapter is that the Lord is faithful. Ours is a faithless and perverse generation just as Paul’s was, but Jesus will never let us down. Paul waited until the end of his letter to remind them of this truth just as he did in his first epistle. (1 Thess 5:24) I take comfort knowing that Jesus is faithful. My Shepherd is going to get me home. I may fall but He will pick me up because He is faithful. He will never leave me or forsake me. He is with me alway, even unto the end of the world. Now is the time to make ourselves ready. (Rev 19:7) Remember, we do that by not despising prophecy, proving all things, and holding fast to that which is good—the Bible.
In closing, if you were upset by what I say about believing the Bible, that is an indication that you needed to hear it. If you were not upset by it, that is probably an indication that I was not speaking to you. I’ll leave you with this final verse:
….Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Father, help us to be meek, humble, broken Christians who are ready for your Son’s soon return. Help us to walk in his ways and to continue in the apostles’ doctrine. Please account us worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before your Son. We ask this in his holy and precious name, the name above all names. Amen.