II Thessalonians: Chapter 3

CHAPTER THREE

3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you;
2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ.
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 they received of us.
7 For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
8 neither did we eat bread for nought at any man’s hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you:
9 not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us.
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.
11 For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.
14 And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed.
15 And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all.
17 The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

CONCLUDING WORDS

How much hinges on Prayer we may see again in the opening words of this chapter, the last of II Thessalonians. “Finally, brethren, pray for us.” The apostle pleaded for the prayers of the brethren. In Ephesians he asked for their prayers on his behalf that utterance might be given to him in opening his mouth, “to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel . . . . that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph. 6:19, 20.) In Colossians, “that God may open unto us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ . . . . that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Col. 4:3, 4.) And here, “that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith.” Even an inspired apostle could not do his best work and could not speak with the boldness and plainness he ought, nor find open doors and favorable reception for his message, apart from prayer. Even [49] power actually bestowed, fails for lack of prayer (Luke 9:1 with Mark 9:28, 29). How necessary is prayer in every line of Christian work and service! Oh, the blunderings, the failures, the wasted time and effort, the hindrances and frustrations and disappointments of prayerless endeavor! Prayerless preaching, prayerless Bible-study, prayerless work–how much there is of that! Nor can anyone live a Christian life or gain victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil, except through prayer.

PAUL’S CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD FOR THEM

The apostle always commended the poor, helpless little flock of his converts to the Lord (Acts 14:23; 20:32). He had confidence–not so much in them, but in the Lord concerning them. “The Lord is faithful,” he says, “who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one.” (Comp. John 17:15.) And again: “We have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command.” And once more he breathes the same assurance in a brief sentence-prayer: “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ.” The difficulties in the road for the church and for the individual Christian, are, humanly speaking, insurmountable. It is as when the tribes of Israel were bidden to go over the Jordan to dispossess seven nations greater and mightier than they (Deut. 7:1). So these Christians, who had come out of the heathen life of vice and but lately delivered out of the power of darkness, had to face a foe for whom they were no match. “For our wrestling Is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the worldrulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” In such a conflict the wisdom and strength of man cannot avail: they must be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” and “put on the whole armor of God,” the greatest item of which is what John Bunyan called “the weapon of all prayer.” (Eph. 6:10-20.)

ABOUT DISORDERLY BRETHREN

The next paragraph (2 Thess. 3:6-15) gives instruction how to deal with brethren (nominal or real) who were idlers,–perhaps like those of Crete (Tit. 1:12)–who were indolent, unwilling to work, busybodies, who took advantage of Christian kindness and hospitality. This seems to have been a prevalent local fault in Thessalonica. In his first epistle Paul admonished all the Christians to “do your own business and work with your hands, even as we charged you; that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing.” (1 Thess. 4:11, 12.) And even before that, at his first visit to Thessalonica, he told them that if any man would not work he should not eat. (2 Thess. 3:10.) We call attention to this again here because so often it is represented that this condition at Thessalonica was due to their fervent, expectancy of Christ’s return. But for that there is not the slightest proof. How various commentators fell in with such an unwarranted inference [50] (which obviously is but a figment designed to discredit the earnest looking for of Christ’s coming) is a cause of wonder. Perhaps they imagined that the fervent hope of the Lord’s return might produce such an effect on Christians, and so they boldly stated it as a fact that that was what happened in Thessalonica, and readers and hearers believed them. But there is no foundation for such a surmise.

WITHDRAWING FELLOWSHIP

The apostle speaks sternly. He commands, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that such disorderly brethren be withdrawn from. Then as now the church was reluctant to take such a step; and in their Christian charity were willing rather to put up with the nuisance of those loafing, sponging, idling brethren. But love must sometimes act sharply. For the church’s sake, for the sake of the outsider–yea for the good of the disorderly brethren themselves, that state of affairs must not be tolerated. Severe measures must be taken to rid the church of those parasites–those who walked disorderly. Yet, to withdraw from an offending brother is not the same as casting him out of the church. Though cut off from the fellowship of the church, he is still a brother, and is to be regarded as such. Nor should he be given up, nor accounted of as an enemy. They were to admonish him, if haply they might restore him again. Another point must be guarded: they might become over-cautious and critical in the bestowal of their charities; and that might easily dry up the fountain of their love and kindness. Hence Paul puts in this saving word: “But ye brethren, be not weary in well-doing.” We cannot always distinguish “the worthy poor“; and it is better to be imposed upon a few times by the unworthy than to miss helping one who should be helped. Christians are often too prone to become hard and selfish, and harsh in their judgment of the unfortunate and erring. The poet was not far wrong when concerning the poor, homeless suicide he said

“Alas for the rarity of Christian charity
Under the sun!
Oh it was pitiful, near a whole city full,
Home had she none!”

The “Water Street Mission” in the days of Jerry McAuley and Samuel H. Hadley, used to request the churches of New York to send them their “unworthy poor.” For there comes a time when a man needs help, regardless of whether he is worthy or unworthy. So if we should err, may it be on the side of mercy.

Then follows a loving benediction–one of those verses we should “learn by heart.” (V. 16.)

Paul appends his salutation with his own hand. In this way he authenticates his epistles. It was by some forged epistle that the Thessalonian brethren had been misled into thinking that the Day of the Lord had already broken in (2 Thess. 2:2). So Paul safeguards against such frauds. This is the token in every epistle, he says: so I write; “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” [51]

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