2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

1Th 3:1-18  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Edward Cross
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:
2. And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
3. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ (margin).
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.
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 naught; but wrought with labor 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.
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.
13. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
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.
15. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
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.
18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
This chapter naturally falls into three sections, namely, (1) verses 1-5, the desire of the apostle for the prayers of the saints; (2) verses 6-16, the directions which he gives them in regard to those who were walking disorderly; and (3) verses 17, 18, his final salutation and commendation.
It is most interesting to see the way in which he seeks the fellowship in prayer of these young saints on his behalf as a minister of the gospel of Christ. There is something touchingly simple about it; a simplicity that makes the spirit of it intensely real, reaching to the springs of true spiritual life, and attaching the hearts of others to the apostle, as it demonstrates the sincerity with which his heart was attached to them. We are apt to think of him in his apostolic position as apart from the ordinary feelings of which we are conscious within ourselves; a being of a superior order, to be revered and obeyed, but not to be approached too closely; in whose presence, as far above the sympathy of our weaknesses, we could not feel the liberty of home. But such is not the way in which the spirit of Christ in him manifests itself. He desires their prayers, not for any merely personal end, but that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified elsewhere through his ministry, even as also it had prospered with them — an expression found in Psalm 147, “His word runneth very swiftly,” and which he may possibly have had in his mind (compare also Acts 13:4848And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48), and 2 Tim. 2:99Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. (2 Timothy 2:9)). This was all his concern. This was the subject in which he would engage their interest. He had suffered much in their midst; he was obliged to fly by night in order to escape the assaults with which he was threatened (Acts 17:5-105But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:5‑10)); but that did not enter into account with him, by comparison with the one object before him, the success of the gospel and the glory of God thereby.
But wherever he went he found opposition. The “perverse and evil men” to whom he refers here were probably Jews at Corinth, who were opposing his ministry. Compare Acts 18 and 2 Corinthians 11:13-2613For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 16I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. 17That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. 18Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. 19For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. 20For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (2 Corinthians 11:13‑26). Some think that the “vagabond Jews” of Acts 19:1313Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. (Acts 19:13) were those who followed him from place to place with such intent. Against their machinations he enlists the prayers of these young saints, that he may be delivered from such men; for faith, that is, the faith of Christ, is not the portion of all: plainly not of these unbelieving Jews.
But if all men have not faith, faithful is the Lord, and He would establish them and keep them from the evil one, who is the author of all the evil going on around: a similar form of expression to that used in Matthew 6:1313And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13).
And in Him the apostle has confidence in respect of them, that the things which he commands them they both do and will continue to do. Here, as elsewhere in the epistle, the preposition “in” expresses the sphere or element in which his confidence resided. Whatever his hopes might be on their account, the anchor of his trust was in the Lord. It could be nowhere else. He uses the same language to the Galatians: “I have confidence as to you in the Lord” (chap. 5:10). What confidence could he have otherwise? The mere fact of their having professedly received the Christian faith was not enough. When the Lord Himself was here we read that “many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles that He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men and... what was in man” (John 2:23-2523Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23‑25)): and the cross was the proof of it. So again the apostle writes, “we boast in Christ Jesus and do not trust in flesh” (Phil. 3:33For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)). Nevertheless he can trust in the Lord as to them. That is the sphere and the anchor of his trust; and his spirit can rest there.
But then on their side, his prayer for them is that the Lord may direct their hearts into the love of God and the patience of Christ, that is, the love of God objectively, “amor erga Deum” (Bengel), love towards God, and the patience exercised by Christ as He now sits on the right hand of God, waiting for His coming Kingdom (Rev. 1:99I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9)). The agitation of those who said that the day of the Lord was “present” was not in the exercise of that patience.
In Jude 2121Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21) we read, “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” There it is the love subjectively with which God regards those who were building themselves up in their most holy faith, and otherwise keeping themselves from the spirit of apostasy that was growing up around.
And now the apostle again addresses himself to a subject about which he had spoken to them very seriously before — first, when he was with them personally) and, again, in his former epistle to them, when he besought them very earnestly “to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that ye walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye have need of no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-1211And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing. (1 Thessalonians 4:11‑12)). But evidently they had not taken proper heed to his injunctions. Now he addresses himself still more emphatically to them on the same subject, re-enforcing his command “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is evidently dealing here with an inherent national vice, and one moreover which is not easily corrected; and first he addresses himself to the assembly as to their conduct towards those who were guilty of this disorderly conduct, and then he addresses himself to the guilty persons themselves. In the assembly there was doubtless no sufficient judgment of the inconsistency with the Christian faith of this kind of disorder, and it was probably more or less condoned amongst them; accordingly he commands them in the most strenuous terms to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not after the instructions received from the apostles: an instruction not in word only, but in the practice of those who gave it. “Because we have not walked disorderly among you; nor have we eaten bread from any one without cost; but in toil and hardship working night and day not to be chargeable to any one of you: not that we have not the right, but that we might give ourselves as an example to you, in order to your imitating us” (N.T.) Thus devotedly, and with such self-sacrifice, would the apostle impress on the minds of these young converts, gathered out from the grossness and degradation of their natural surroundings, the first principles of holiness as regards religious life, and as regards social life, the pursuit of honest and honorable industry. “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever” (Psa. 93:55Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever. (Psalm 93:5)), and, “if any man does not like to work, neither let him eat” (N.T.)
This spirit of sloth and selfishness is neither local nor temporal. It belongs to fallen man everywhere and through all times; and in writings both Jewish and pagan, the parasite’s mode of living on the labor of others, not his own, was the text alike of comedy and of comment.
The word “disorderly” seems originally to have been applied to soldiers leaving the ranks, getting “out of order.” Hence it was used in general for a disorderly mode of living of any kind. Here it refers to those “not working at all, but busybodies.”
There is a play on the words “working and busybodies” — “ergazo” and “peri-ergazo” — which can hardly be reproduced in English. The latter word means “occupied with what is on the outside of a thing, not its core,” that is, with what lies outside your own business: a “chevalier d’ industrie”: very much occupied in doing nothing. Such a spirit finds no sanction in Christianity. It should find no countenance from Christians. Yet is the individual not excommunicated therefore from all the privileges of the Christian company, although he is put under its discipline. It must be remembered that excommunication is not properly the discipline of the assembly, but the avowal that all the discipline the assembly can exercise having been used has failed, and the “recalcitrant” is handed over to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5.).
In the epistles of John we find another category, and one far more serious. There, it is the spirit of Antichrist that is in question. They deny the Father and the Son (1 John 2:2222Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)): they confess not Jesus Christ coming in flesh (2 John 77For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7)): and this comes to its climax practically in the refusal of Diotrephes to receive the apostle John himself and those who were associated with him (3 John 99I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. (3 John 9)). These categories are entirely different, and the modes of treating the m are correspondingly different: they must not be confounded with one another: nor either again with Matthew 18:1717And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:17). There one has to treat his brother as a heathen man and a publican, because this latter, having sinned against him, refuses every overture of reconciliation, and nurses his pride and self-will against the voice even of the assembly.
Again in Romans 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17) we read of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine that had been taught by the apostles, and we are told to avoid them. These stand again in a different category from the rest; and in the maintenance of the order of the house of God, these things must not be confounded.
The paragraph ends with his desire on their behalf. “The Lord of peace Himself give you peace continually in every way. The Lord be with you all.” In other places the apostle speaks of “the God of peace” (Rom. 15:33; 16:2033Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:33)
20And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)
, etc. But in these two epistles he dwells much on “the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “Lord” is mentioned twenty-two times in each of them; and it is probably in consonance with this fact that he here uses the expression, “the Lord of peace Himself.” Peace he desires for them in every possible way and always: and the presence of the Lord with them all. From this he does not exclude those under the discipline named above.
Such was the fullness of the grace he ministered: and who would say that the holiness of the house of God suffered thereby? Perhaps we might feel inclined to pass another judgment: and by so doing confound things that differ. But “God alone is good.”
He adds the salutation in his own handwriting. This was to be the proof of the genuineness of the epistle and of every epistle of his henceforth. “So I write.” In whatever form he subscribed himself here, this was to be the specimen of his signature to prevent future frauds (cf. 2:2).
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Such in some form is the ending of every epistle of Paul’s. No other apostle so ends his epistles: the nearest to it is 2 Peter 3:1818But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18): and he adds here “be with you all,” possibly with the design of including those whom he had been obliged to censure; and, if this is so, it would be quite intelligible that as a preacher of grace, he should be the exponent in practice of the doctrine that he taught.
May the lessons we have surveyed in these epistles profit us; and may our hearts grow in the deeper desire to be formed in the Spirit by every good word of God. Amen.