YOU CAN KEEP AT IT
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 February 22 2009
This lesson concludes our three-month study of 1 and
2 Thessalonians. We have seen that Paul indeed wrote "Good
Words for Growing Christians;’ our study theme for this
quarter. Each chapter of Paul’s second letter emphasizes
God’s sovereignty in a variety of situations. Two weeks ago,
we noted God’s justice, both now and in the future, enabling
believers to feel safe despite troubling circumstances
(2 Thess. 1). In last week’s study, we read what Paul believed
about Jesus’ return, encouraging Christians to stay calm in
the face of erroneous teachings (2 Thess. 2).
This study includes Paul’s call for prayer, his closing
instructions,and his final greeting. The New Testament tells
almost nothing further about the Thessalonian church. We
know Paul passed through Macedonia, the province of which
Thessalonica was the capital, at least twice more
(Acts 20:1-3). We also know that two Thessalonian
Christians accompanied Paul on his last journey to
Jerusalem (Acts 20:4-6; 21:15). Surely we are right to
believe this church took Paul’s message about serving
God faithfully to heart and that his optimism was well
placed: "We have confidence in the Lord … that you are
doing and will do what we command" (2 Thess. 3:4).
1. Pray for Missionaries (2 Thess 3:1-2)
2Ths. 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message
of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it
was with you. 3:2 And pray that we may be delivered from
wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.
Paul’s request for prayer shows how much he counted
on the prayers of God’s people. It also demonstrates the
close bond he felt with the believers in Thessalonica.
Finally . (1Th 4:1). In (1Th 5:25) Paul simply asked for
prayer; here he mentions specifics. Just as it was with you .
Lit. “just as also with you.” The expression is general
enough to cover the present as well as the past ( 1Th 2:13).
Wicked . The Greek for this word means “out of place,” and
elsewhere in the NT it is used only of things (Luke 23:41;
Acts 25:5). Wickedness is always out of place. For Paul’s
difficulties at Corinth (where he wrote this letter)
2. Persist in Faithfulness (2 Thess. 3:3-5)
2Ths. 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen
and protect you from the evil one. 3:4 We have confidence
in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the
things we command. 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts
into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Here Paul reminded the Thessalonians that God would
help them be faithful. He encouraged them to obey what
he had taught.
Faithful . In the Greek the word immediately follows
“faith” (2 Thess.3:2), putting the faithfulness of God in
sharp contrast with the lack of faith in people ( 1Con 1:9;
10:13; 2Con 1:18). Hearts .(1Thess 2:4). God’s love . Paul
is about to rebuke the idle, and is here reminding them of
God’s love. There should be no hard feelings among those
who owe everything to the love of God.
3. Pursue Responsible Behavior (2 Thess. 3:6-12)
2Ths. 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we
command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother
who is idle and does not live according to the teaching
you received from us. 3:7 For you yourselves know how
you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when
we were with you, 3:8 nor did we eat anyone’s food
without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night
and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a
burden to any of you. 3:9 We did this, not because we
do not have the right to such help, but in order to make
ourselves a model for you to follow. 3:10 For even when
we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will
not work, he shall not eat.” 3:11 We hear that some
among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.
3:12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus
Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
Paul had learned about foolish choices some of the
Thessalonians had made, so he took the opportunity to
reprimand them. In particular, he encouraged them to be
more responsible in providing for their material needs.
The name (2 Thess. 1:12). Command . An authoritative
word with a military ring. Keep away . Not withdrawal of
all contact but withholding of close fellowship. Idleness
is sinful and disruptive, but those guilty of it are still
brothers (2 Thess3:15). Idle . The problem was mentioned
in the first letter (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 5:14), and evidently
had worsened. Paul takes it seriously and gives more
attention to it in this letter than to anything else but the
second coming. TEACHING. See note on 2:15. Follow our
example . (1Th 1:6). Eat . . . Food . A Hebraism for “make a
living” ( Gen 3:19; Am 7:12). Paul is not saying that he
never accepted hospitality but that he had not depended
on other people for his living (1Th 2:9 ). The right .
(1Th 2:6). Pagan parallels are in the form, “He who does
not work does not eat.” But Paul gives an imperative: lit.
“let him not eat.” The Christian must not be a loafer.
Busybodies . Worse than idle, they were interfering with
other people’s affairs, a problem to which idleness
4. Persevere in Doing Good ( 2 Thess. 3:13-18)
2Ths. 3:13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing
what is right. 3:14 If anyone does not obey our
instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do
not associate with him, in order that he may feel
ashamed. 3:15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but
warn him as a brother. 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace
himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you. 3:17 I, Paul, write this
greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing
mark in all my letters. This is how I write. 3:18 The
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
As Paul drew his letter to a close, he directed
the Thessalonians to keep on doing good deeds. He spoke
further about assisting believers who had behaved
Paul realizes that some may not heed his letter.
Associate with . The Greek for this phrase is an unusual
double compound, meaning “mix up together with” (used
elsewhere in the NT only in 1Con 5:9,11 —of a similar
withdrawal of close fellowship). It indicates a
disassociation that will bring the person back to a right
attitude. Feel ashamed . And repent. The aim is not
punishment but restoration to fellowship. Discipline in
the church should be brotherly, never harsh. Warn .
(1Thess 5:12), where the Greek for this verb is translated
“admonish.” Lord of Peace . The more usual phrase is
“God of peace” ( 1Thess 5:23). All of you . Even the
disorderly. Paul normally dictated his letters ( Romans
16:22), but toward the end he added something in his
own handwriting (1Con 16:21; Gal 6:11; Col 4:18). Here
he tells us that this practice was his distinguishing
mark. (1Thess 5:28). Paul has criticized his offenders,
but his last prayer is for everyone.
In Greek, the original language of the New
Testament, the adjective for "faithful" relates closely
to the verb for "believe" and to the noun for "faith:’ "
Trustworthy" and "reliable" are alternate translations.
The exhortation for Christians to prove faithful is based
on God’s own nature as faithful . Thus, in the midst of
2 Thessalonians 3-a call to faithfulness Paul reminded
his readers, "The Lord is faithful."( 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13;
1 Thess. 5:24.) Further, because the Lord is trustworthy,
so is His word (1 Tim. 1:15).
As applied to Christ’s followers, sometimes Paul
used "faithful" in an active sense, as a synonym for
"believer" or "one who trusts" (for example, 1 Tim. 4:3).
In most instances, however, he used the term in the
passive sense of steadfast or dependable. Throughout his
letters, Paul complimented both individuals and entire
churches for being faithful (Eph. 1:1; 6:21). In other
passages, he urged his Christian brothers and sisters to
persevere as faithful followers of the Lord (1 Cor. 4:2;
1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 2:2).