About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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2 Thessdalonians 3

Previous Section - Chapter 2 

ch. 3:1-5     ch. 3:6-15    ch. 3:16-18     

Request For Prayer  (ch. 3:1 - 5)


Note in chapter 3 verse 1 that Paul asks his readers for prayer, but not necessarily prayer for himself, but for the preaching of the gospel, so it would “be honoured and spread.”  Paul was clearly more interested in the survival of the gospel than he was for himself.  This is something that all church leaders should think seriously about.


We should know that Paul was writing from Rome at the time and most likely, just before he would be executed for his faith in Jesus.  Christians were now in the second round of major persecution in the city, and there, in the midst of all the persecution, Paul is asking prayer that the gospel would be honoured and spread in the midst of all that was going on.    


In verse 2 Paul does ask for specific prayers for himself and his fellow workers.  He asks the Thessalonians to pray “that they will be delivered from wicked men, for not everyone has faith”.  Once again, we need to understand that Paul is not asking for protection out of selfishness.  He wants the protection in order to preach the gospel.  Paul isn't worried about his own life.  He'd rather be with the Lord anyway.  His only mission on earth was to preach the gospel.


The wicked men Paul spoke of here would have been Nero, the emperor of the Roman Empire , and his soldiers.  These would be the same wicked men who arrested him and would soon execute him.  


Paul said that not everyone has faith.  We saw back in 1 Thessalonians 1 and 4 that some even in Nero's palace did believe, but for the most part, most had no faith in Jesus.  


In verse 3 Paul says that “the Lord will protect them from the evil one”.  We can accurately assume by the “evil one”, he means satan. Paul believes that his readers can be protected from the devil, even though Paul himself was hindered at one point by satan from visiting these people.  Satan got in Paul’s way, but he did not harm Paul.  The only exception to this might be Paul’s thorn in the flesh which he called “a messenger from satan”, and this was God’s doing because of the excess of revelations that Paul had.  Both the Thessalonians and us most likely have not experienced this excess and therefore don’t have to worry about a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from satan. Also, even though Paul was bothered by a messenger from satan, he was not overtaken by him.   


In verse 4 we see the word "command".  Paul was an apostle and with this apostolic ministry comes a certain authority.  He acknowledges that the Thessalonians were doing, and would continue to do, “as he commanded”.  The Greek word used here for our English word “command” is “parangello”.  It is made up of 2 words meaning, “to announce”, and “beside”.  This command was more of a passing along of the word of God to these people.  It was not a command as from a dictator.  Yet on the other hand, this was the Word of God which brings with it a good measure of authority and should not be taken lightly.  Paul never viewed authority n a dictatorial way.  His motivation was always based on the love of God that he wanted to demonstrate to those he was commissioned by Jesus to care for.   


Verse 5 says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”.   Notice Paul mentions both God and Christ, as he quite often does.  Paul expects God to direct people to do as they should.


Warning Against Idleness (ch. 3:6 - 15)


Verse 6 begins with the words "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That means that what Paul is about to say, he is saying on the behalf of Jesus, since he is representing Jesus to these people.     


Paul uses the word command once again.  He commands, or passes along God's instructions, to his readers to keep away from every brother who is idle and who does not live according to the teaching you received from us. A number of things can be noted here.  One is that Paul is actually commanding these people to stay away from certain “brothers”.  By the use of the word “brothers”, we should be able to say that he is talking about Christians.  These Christians are ones who are idle and do not follow after what Paul taught. 


The picture is that there is a community of Christian brothers, but not all work hard.  Some are idle and prefer to live off of others.  This would disturb Paul. He hated to impose on anyone.  He felt that everyone should do their best to provide for themselves.  When it comes to the idea of working hard, I'm not sure Paul would be very happy with the average Christian today.


The Greek sentence structure used here implies “a falling out of rank”, a military phrase.  Some were falling out of rank which Paul had previously established in his teaching. They were falling out of step with the will of the Lord.


Paul is speaking not just about being idle.  He is speaking about men departing from the teaching he taught them.  This would have been just as important as being idle. We need to think of being idle as being a busybody.  Some might well be idle because of sickness or something legitimate.  He's not talking about such idleness here. 


When it comes to Paul's admonition to separate from idle brothers, that's not all that acceptable these days.  Paul isn't saying that these men aren't brothers.  He's simply saying to stay away from them.  There is a Scriptural time and place for separating one's self from brothers in Christ.  We just need to make sure we are motivated properly when we do so.


Paul goes on to say in verses 7 through 9, “you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example”.  The words “you yourselves” place double emphasis on Paul’s point.  Even though Paul did not stay long with these people, he must have stressed the point that they needed to follow his example of living, which included working for your living.


Paul says that his example was not idleness when he was with them, “nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it”.  He goes on to say, “on the contrary, we worked hard night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you”.  You can see Paul’s thinking on the subject of working.  I believe his thinking was based on love, or what Jesus said, “it is better to give than to receive”.  Those who always receive and never give are not living the life of Christ.  Paul says to “keep away” from such people, even if they are called brothers in Christ.  I think this is really Paul's idea of idleness; that is, do nothing and expect others to provide.


I need to speak about the words "follow my example".  We need to understand these words, not from our understanding, but from how Paul understood and lived these words out.  Paul is not being a dictator. Paul is not saying that these people should copy every aspect of his life.  In this context especially, Paul is saying "follow my example in how I work hard for the sake of the gospel."  We are not talking about heavy handed "submission and authority" here.       


In verse 10 Paul gives his reason for living this way while they were among the Thessalonians.  He wanted to be “a model”, an example for them to follow.  Even though he felt that an apostle has the right to receive financial help from those he served, he refused it in order to be an example of one who would rather give than receive.  Such a mentality as this demonstrates maturity in the Lord. 


In verses 11 through 13 Paul notes that there were some slackers among these people.  They wanted to live off of others, something that is not demonstrating God's love.  He urges, even commands, that these brothers settle down and start earning their own living.  Then for those who are earning there own living, he encourages them to work even harder.  Again, Paul is not afraid of hard work.  I can just see Paul in today's socialistic world speaking out about excessive socialism.    


While Paul was with these people he taught many things to them as you can well understand. One thing he taught, and actually commanded is seen in verse 14.  He says, “If a man will not work, he should not eat”.  Notice the use of the word “man” here.  He did not say women or children.  He used the word “man”.  In 1 Timothy 5 Paul gives various instructions to Timothy and one is to look after the widows who do not have children to look after them.  Paul doesn’t say to look after the widowers.  Most likely in their society a widower was more able to make a living than a widow.  Yet even in financial distribution to the poor, Paul had certain requirements.  One was that a widow, if she had children to look after her, should not receive financial help.  Here in 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul would say that if a man was capable of working and didn’t, he too should not receive financial help.  Money did not come to Paul on a silver platter, and I don’t think he was in favour of throwing it away to those who did not appreciate it.  This is something for all of us to understand in church life today as we help the poor among us.


Somehow Paul had heard that there were some among the Thessalonians who were idle. “They are not busy, but busybodies”, he says.  Idleness produces things like gossip, and other such evils. He commands these idle people to earn their own money and buy their own food.  For the rest of the hardworking people he urges “never to tire of doing what is right”.


In verse 14 Paul speaks from his apostolic authority once again when he says, “If anyone does not obey our instructions in this letter, take special note of him.  Do not associate with him in order that he will feel ashamed”.  Paul is being quite bold in his words here, and maybe even harsh on these idle men, but harshness is probably what they needed.  They needed to be ashamed of the way in which they were living.  Maybe if they were ashamed enough, they would come to their senses and get back being productive people.  Once again, Paul is telling his readers to stay away from a certain sector of the Christian family, something that we might not be all that comfortable with today, nevertheless, this is Paul’s command.


Even though Paul tells these people to stay away from the idle man, in verse 15 he tells them not to treat him “as an enemy, but warn him as a brother”.  If you remember, Paul told the Corinthians to excommunicate one brother from their midst because of the sinful life he was living.  They were to treat him as a sinner, but not in this case. 


Final Greetings (ch. 3:16 - 18)


Paul ends his second letter to the Thessalonians in verses 16 through 18 by praying that the Lord would give these people peace in all that they do, and in every circumstance they find themselves in.  It is only Jesus who can give such peace to anyone.  These people really needed peace because of all the hardships and persecution they were going through. 


He ends by saying in verse 17, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.”  Note that Paul does not say his hand wrote the whole letter, only the final greeting.  Like most of Paul’s letters, he dictated it to someone else. He says, “This is the way I write”, hoping that people would know his writing style and thus be sure that this letter was actually from him.  Can we read anything further into this? Maybe we can, but it is pure speculation.  When he says, “This is the way I write”, and “this is the distinguishing mark”, might this suggest that his hand writing for some reason is much different than normal?  In Galatians 6:11 he mentions the big letters he was using.  Were these big letters the distinguishing mark that everyone would recognize?  Once again, this is only speculation, but an interesting idea.  I mention this because many people say that Paul's thorn in the flesh was bad eye-sight, and the big letters would suggest that.  The distinguishing mark probably was meant to be his signature.


Paul ends his letter by saying, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”. Again, these people needed both peace and grace from God just to survive.  It is only by the Grace of our Lord that we can possibly succeed in our lives as Christians.


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