corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
2 Thessalonians 3



Verses 1-18

Chapter 3

A FINAL WORD (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

3:1-5 Finally, brothers, keep on praying for us, that the word of God may run its race and receive its crown of glory--as it does in your case--and that we may be saved from these wicked and evil men, for the faith is not for everyone. You can rely on the Lord who will make you steady and who will guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you both do and will do what we command you to do. May the Lord direct your hearts so that you may feel the love of God and display the endurance which Christ can give.

Once again Paul comes to the end of a letter with the request that his people should pray for him (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Romans 15:30 ff.; Philemon 1:22 ). There is something deeply moving in the thought of this giant among men asking for the prayers of the Thessalonians who so well recognized their own weakness. Nowhere is Paul's humility more clear to see. And the fact that he, as it were, threw himself on their hearts must have done much to bind even his opponents to him, because it is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him.

But in spite of his love for and trust in men Paul was a realist. The faith, he said, is not for everyone. We can be certain that he said it not cynically but sorrowfully. Once again we see the tremendous responsibility of free-will. We can use it to open our hearts and we can use it to shut them. Faith's appeal is not selective, it goes out to every man; but the heart of man can refuse to respond.

In the last verse of this passage we see what we might call the inward and the outward characteristics of the Christian. The inward characteristic is the awareness of the love of God, the deep awareness that we cannot drift beyond his care, the sense that the everlasting arms are underneath us. One of the basic needs of life is security and we find that need met in the consciousness of the unchanging love of God. The outward characteristic is the endurance which Christ can give. We live in a world where there are more nervous breakdowns than at any time in history. It is a sign that more and more people have the feeling that they cannot cope with life. The outward characteristic of the Christian is that when others break he stands erect and when others collapse he shoulders his burden and goes on. With the love of God in his heart and the strength of Christ in his life a man can face anything.

DISCIPLINE IN BROTHERLY LOVE (2 Thessalonians 3:6-18)

3:6-18 Brothers, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, keep yourselves from every brother who behaves like a truant from duty and who does not conduct himself in accordance with the teaching which they received from us, for you yourselves know that you must imitate us because we never played the truant from work when we were among you nor did we eat bread which we had received from you without paying for it, but in labour and toil we kept on working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It is not that we had not the right to claim support from you, but we kept at work that we might give ourselves to you as an example for you to imitate, for when we were with you we used to give you this order, "If a man refuses to work, neither let him eat." For we hear that there are some amongst you whose behaviour is that of truants from work, who are busy in nothing except in being busybodies. To such we give orders and exhort them in the Lord Jesus Christ that they should quietly go on working and so eat their bread. Brothers, don't grow tired of doing the fine thing. If anyone does not obey the word we send to you through this letter, mark him; don't associate with him that he may be shamed. Don't reckon him as an enemy, but give him advice as a brother.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always and everywhere. The Lord be with you all.

Here is the greeting of me Paul in my own hand-writing, which is the sign of genuineness in every letter. This is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Here Paul is dealing, as he had to deal in the previous letter, with the situation produced by those who took the wrong attitude to the Second Coming. There were those in Thessalonica who had given up their work and had abandoned the routine claims of every day to wait about in excited idleness for Christ to come. Paul uses a vivid word to describe them. Twice he uses the adverb ataktos (Greek #813) and once the verb ataktein (Greek #812). The word means to play truant. It occurs, for instance, in the papyri, in an apprentice's contract in which the father agrees that his son must make good any days on which he plays truant. The Thessalonians in their excited idleness were truants from work.

To bring them to their senses Paul quotes his own example. All his life he was a man who worked with his hands. The Jew glorified work. "He who does not teach his son a trade," they said, "teaches him to steal." Paul was a trained Rabbi; but the Jewish law laid it down that a Rabbi must take no pay for teaching. He must have a trade and must satisfy his daily needs with the work of his hands. So we find Rabbis who were bakers, barbers, carpenters, masons and who followed all kinds of trades. The Jews believed in the dignity of honest toil; and they were sure that a scholar lost something when he became so academic and so withdrawn from life that he forgot how to work with his hands. Paul quotes a saying, "If a man refuses to work, neither let him eat." It is the refusal to work that is important. This has nothing to do with the unfortunate man who, through no fault of his own, can find no work to do. This has been called "the golden rule of work." Deissmann has the happy thought that, when Paul said this, "he was probably borrowing a bit of good old workshop morality, a maxim coined perhaps by some industrious workman as he forbade his lazy apprentice to sit down to dinner."

In this we have the example of Jesus himself. He was the carpenter of Nazareth and legend has it that he made the best ox-yokes in all Palestine and that men came from all over the country to buy them. A tree is known by its fruits and a man is known by his work. Once a man was negotiating to buy a house and bought it without even seeing it. He was asked why he took such a risk; his answer was, "I know the man who built that house and he builds his Christianity in with the bricks." The Christian should be a more conscientious workman than anyone else.

Paul disliked the busybody intensely. There may be greater sins than gossip but there is none which does more damage in the Church. A man who is doing his own work with his whole strength will have enough to do without being maliciously interested in the affairs of others.

Paul commands that those who disregard his instructions must be dealt with by the community. But they are to be dealt with not as enemies but as brothers. The discipline given by a man who contemptuously looks down upon the sinner and speaks to hurt may terrify and wound but it seldom amends. It is more likely to produce resentment than reformation. When Christian discipline is necessary it is to be given as by a brother to a brother, not in anger, still less in contempt but always in love.

At the end Paul adds his autograph to authenticate his letter. "Look," he says, "this is what my handwriting is like. Mark it, so that you will know it again." And then, with the truth expounded, with praise and rebuke lovingly intermingled, he commends the Thessalonian Church to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)



J. E. Frame, Thessalonians (ICC G)

G. Milligan, St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians (MmC G)

W. Neil, The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (MC E)


CGT: Cambridge Greek Testament

ICC: International Critical Commentary

MC: Moffatt Commentary

MmC: Macmillan Commentary

TC: Tyndale Commentary

E: English Text

G: Greek Text

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 19th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology