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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 3

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 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:

Finally: The word "finally" (loipon) signifies "for the rest, besides, moreover" (Thayer 382-2-3063). The word "finally" indicates the Apostle Paul has some additional instructions to give the brethren, but they were not to be his last remarks. Vine says:

The apostle Paul uses this word frequently in the concluding portion of his Epistles, introducing practical exhortations, not necessarily implying that the letter is drawing to a close, but marking a transition in the subject matter, as in Philippians 3:1, where the actual conclusion is for the time postponed and the farewell injunctions are resumed in 4:8. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:1 (A.V., "furthermore"); 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (238).

brethren, pray for us: The word "us" reveals the apostles needed to be prayed for just as other Christians did. At the close of the first letter, Paul requests, "Brethren, pray for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

that the word of the Lord may have free course: In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, we learn that through the believers at Thessalonica the word of the Lord had spread to all the neighboring villages throughout that region. "In every place your faith is known." Paul is now asking the believers to pray that the same things might be true in Corinth, Achaia, Macedonia, and wherever the good news of the gospel goes forth. Paul knows the enemy who has fought the Thessalonians would also fight desperately in these new mission fields. He wants the spiritually-minded children of God in Thessalonica to pray for the work of the missionaries that the work would be just as successful in other congregations as it had been in Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8).

The words "may have" (treko) are a "metaphor: of doctrine rapidly propagated, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (R.V. run); by a metaphor taken from the runners in a race." "To exert one’s self, strive hard; to spend one’s strength in performing or attaining something" (Thayer 630-1-5143).

More literally, simply, and better, may run. Have swift progress through the world. An Old Testament idea. See Psalms 147:15, and compare Isaiah 55:11 and Acts 12:24 (Vincent Word Studies 955).

This phrase "may have free course" is from one word in Greek (trecho) that means "run." It is used of those who run in a race. It has here the metaphorical idea of swiftness: "proceed quickly and without hindrance." Arndt and Gingrich suggest for this passage: "That the word of the Lord might spread rapidly" (833). This wording has been adopted by The New American Standard Bible and is probably a more adequate translation than the literal rendering "run" as found in the American Standard Version.

The thought expressed by the phrase "free course," which indicates to run, is found frequently in the scriptures. David writes, "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly" (Psalms 147:15). Paul says:

and I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain (Galatians 2:2).

The same idea is presented to those at Philippi, as Paul says, "Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain" (Philippians 2:16). The Hebrew writer records "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Shortly before the Apostle Paul died, he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy, "...I have finished my course..." (2 Timothy 4:7).

Since the phrase "free course" means "to run" (Vine 249), Paul asks for prayer that the word of the Lord will be quickly spread and accepted among all the people. It would be wonderful today if the gospel would be allowed to run throughout our communities. Paul does not want the gospel to be hindered anywhere by anyone.

One last thought on this phrase "free course" is that when Paul was in prison, in bonds (chains) (2 Timothy 2:9), he rejoiced that the word of the Lord was "not bound."

and be glorified: The words "be glorified" (doxazo) mean "to make renowned, render illustrious, i.e. to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged" (Thayer 157-1-1392).

God’s name is glorified whenever we stand up for the cause for which He allowed Jesus to die. His name is glorified when His word is believed and obeyed. We are rewarded by being members of the family of God; and we should always lift the banner high, thereby glorifying God and at the same time glorifying His word. "And 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).

even as it is with you: The Thessalonians had been so respectful of the gospel by freely obeying it that Paul desires for others to treat it the same way.

And now, Brothers, pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s teaching will continue to spread quickly, And pray that people will give honor to that teaching, just as happened with you (New Century Version).

Verse 2

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: The phrase "may be delivered" (ruomai) means "to draw to one’s self, to rescue, to deliver" (Thayer 564-1-4506).

Paul desires that Christians pray to God on their behalf that they would be delivered from individuals who protest against the name of Christ. The apostle’s primary intention in this request is not to escape physical persecution. He is more concerned about the actions of wicked men who would hinder the furtherance of the gospel. This teaching reminds us of the model prayer when Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray; He taught them among other things to pray requesting God to "...Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil..." (Luke 11:2-4).

The word "unreasonable" (atopos) means "out of place; not befitting, unbecoming" (Thayer 83-2-824). The word "wicked" (poneeros) means "bad, of a bad nature or condition" (Thayer 530-2-4191).

Paul could have been thinking of the wicked, fanatical Jews in the city of Corinth, who stood in the way of the gospel there (Acts 18:15-17). When Gallio’s judgment removed this hindrance, the gospel had free course; and Christianity spread rapidly in Corinth. Four years later, Paul writes from the city of Ephesus, "A great and effectual door is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:9). Surely no man apart from Jesus Christ had more deadly enemies than did the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 he describes some of the perils he endured. No doubt the apostle, when he writes this letter, has ;the heathen priests and philosophers in mind as well as the unbelieving Jewish zealots. Yet seeing the latter were so exceedingly enraged against him for preaching salvation to the Gentiles, without requiring them to obey the law of Moses, that they followed him from place to place and raised a furious storm of persecution against him; it is not improbable that they were particularly pointed at in this passage, especially as they had lately made an insurrection at Corinth, with an intention to have the apostle put to death (MacKnight 433).

for all men have not faith: The word "faith" (pistis) "in reference to Christ, denotes a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God" (Thayer 513-1-41023).

Faith in this passage does not signify the actual belief of the gospel, but such a desire to know and to do the will of God, as will dispose a person to believe the gospel when fairly proposed to him (MacKnight 433).

Thomas Sheldon Green says:

Paul was known as "the man who turned the world upside down." Everywhere he went, one of two things happened quickly—revival or riot! He was hated with vehement hatred; and had not God protected him, he would have been martyred long before the day when he finally did seal his testimony with his blood (292).

Paul probably uses the expression "for all men have not faith" to describe those men in the first part of the verse who are "unreasonable and wicked men."

Verse 3

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

But the Lord is faithful: The word "faithful" (pistos) means "trusty." Thayer further comments "that of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties" (Thayer 514-1-4103). Paul assures the Christians in Thessalonica that the Lord in whom they have put their trust is faithful and will not break His promise. If believers fail, it is not the Lord’s fault: it is their own. He has promised to supply their every need; He has promised to sustain them by His power and keep them through His grace.

When we speak of someone’s being faithful, we normally refer to God’s children being faithful to Him; however, in the scriptures on different occasions we find "God is faithful" (1 Corinthians 10:13), "Lord is faithful" (2 Thessalonians 3:3), "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise" (2 Peter 3:9). God the Father will make good all His promises, whatever they are. He has promised to save the righteous, and He will do just that. He equally promises to destroy the wicked, and he, too, will do that. If we will remain faithful till death, we will receive a crown of life (1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 14:13).

who shall stablish you: "Stablish" (steerizo) means "to strengthen, make firm;...to render constant, confirm, one’s mind (A.V. establish)" (Thayer 588-1-4741). Among the many things that God is faithful to do is to establish us by keeping us firm. He will never allow us to be tempted with more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

and keep you from evil: The word "evil" (poneeros) here refers to "that which is wicked: ...(R.V. appearance of evil)" (Thayer 531-1-4191). The devil is known as the evil one (Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:38; Ephesians 6:16).

Throughout First and Second Thessalonians, Paul shows the Lord to be the Ruler and Defender of His children.

Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:17-18).

Paul is here stating that the safety of the believers in Thessalonica is insured by the Lord’s fidelity, although it requires their own obedience unto the Lord and Paul had unshakable faith that they WOULD BE obedient. A faithful Lord watching over faithful believers will win an assured victory over Satan, regardless of his schemes or power (Green 293).

Verse 4

And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

And we have confidence in the Lord touching you: The word "confidence" means "to trust" (Thayer 497-2-3982). Paul here expresses great confidence in the Thessalonians, and he knows they will remain faithful after receiving this second letter and will make adjustments where needed.

that ye both do and will do the things which we command you: The word "command" (parangello) means "order, charge" (Thayer 479-2-3853).

The words "do and will do" sound somewhat redundant, but they refer to the fact the Thessalonians are presently doing the will of God; and Paul is confident they will continue to do His will. He is basically saying, "We trust the Lord that you are putting into practice the things we taught you, and that you always will practice them."

This compliment is a major show of confidence. Are we living the kind of spiritual lives deserving of this kind of confidence or are we here today, but gone tomorrow? Let us always remain steadfast in the faith.

Jesus sets forth a major New Testament principle when He says:

If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14:21).

If a man love me, he will keep my words (John 14:23).

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings (John 14:24).

Verse 5

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God: The word "direct" (katuthuno) means "to make straight, guide" (Thayer 339-2-2720). Under the Lord’s guidance, the Thessalonians will come under the enjoyment of God’s love, which can never be obtained except by faithfully obeying His word. We are obviously directed to the will of God, the scriptures, to know what God’s will is for man (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:3).

Throughout the history of the world, God has spoken to mankind in several ways.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2).

God had spoken directly to fathers through visions, dreams, prophets etc.; but today He speaks to us through His Son; and we have the scriptures to reveal to us the law of Christ, His Son.

At the baptism of Jesus, God spoke from heaven, saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Even during the transfiguration scene, God made it abundantly clear that men are not to hear Moses or Elias: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:1-5). The Lord directs our hearts through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and we have His written word to read, study, and obey.

and into the patient waiting for the coming for Christ: The phrase "patient waiting" (hupomonee) means "a patient, steadfast waiting for" (Thayer 644-2-5281). It is clear the Thessalonians are eagerly awaiting the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10); but while they patiently wait, one major caution is that they not become weary in well doing. Though faithful disciples will be eager for the coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:12), they will not become fretful and wavering because of their desire for it.

Jesus Christ was patient during His suffering and mistreatment at the hands of the Jews. We need to follow this principle in our everyday Christian lives (1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 Peter 3:17-18; 1 Peter 4:1-2; Hebrews 12:2-3) as well as be patient until the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the world. The longer the delay for Jesus Christ to return, the longer the masses have to obey the gospel and be saved.

In Revelation 6:9-11, at the opening of the fifth seal, even the souls under the altar seemed a little impatient when they asked: "How long, O Lord; holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" They are instructed to "rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

Verse 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.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul finds it necessary to exhort some of the believers to live a quiet life and attend to their daily duties. Some members of the church have become idle because they think the coming of the Lord is imminent and there is no need for diligence in worldly occupations and secular matters. They are under the impression the end of the world will soon come, and there is no need for them to attend to any business except to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ.

The misconception that the coming of Christ is close at hand caused many difficulties in the congregation at Thessalonica. In both letters Paul addresses the importance of brethren working with their hands and properly supporting their families. "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with you own hands, as we commanded you" (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

Working with our hands is a privilege because by working we glorify God through obedience to His will. The problem becomes clear in 2 Thessalonians 3:11, "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies."

Now we command you, brethren: The word "command" (paraangello) carries the meaning "to order (or) to charge" (Thayer 479-2-3853). The message in this reference is not a suggestion but a command.

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: According to Thayer, the word "name " is from the Greek word onoma:

By a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is roused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc...by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause (Thayer 447-2-3686).

Therefore, we understand that the instruction to work is given by the authority of Jesus Christ, and to disobey this command is to disobey Jesus Himself.

that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly: The phrase "withdraw yourselves" (stellomai) has a meaty meaning "to bring together, contract, shorten...to diminish, check, cause to cease; to cease to exist,...to remove one’s self, withdraw one’s self, to depart,...to abstain from familiar intercourse with one" (Thayer 587-1-4724). The phrase "that walketh" (peripateo) means "to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self (Thayer 83-1-813)." This command is given to the entire congregation.

and not after the tradition which he received of us: The word "tradition" (parpdosis) means "a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by inspiration, narrative, precept, etc....hence i.q. Instruction...what is delivered, the substance of the teaching" (Thayer 481-2-3862). The word "received" (paralambano) means "to receive something transmitted...to receive with the mind" (Thayer 484-2-3880).

There is a point of debate or controversy about this passage, especially this phrase: "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." Does this phrase mean every person guilty of any sin must be withdrawn from if not corrected? Or is this phrase limited only to those in the immediate context, namely those who are "working not at all but are busybodies?"

The sins under consideration are idleness and being busybodies; Paul is teaching the Thessalonians how to deal with these problems. "Walking disorderly" in this verse applies to a refusal to work (3:11-12).

Every sin does not require the formal action of the congregation to "withdraw thyself." We do not fellowship any sin, but we do not necessarily withdraw fellowship from every person for every sin committed. The scriptures specify sins that require withdrawal (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 John 1:9-10). The point is withdrawal of fellowship should be enforced by every congregation upon every person who commits sins worthy of it. The scriptures provide several lists of sins that require this withdrawal. While every sin threatens one’s soul, every sin does not require this severe treatment.

It should be understood by all of God’s family that it is offensive to God and dangerous to us and others to encourage by our company and conversation those who practice sin openly. May we all take heed to the warning issued in this context.

Verse 7

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: The word "follow" (mimeomai) means "to imitate" (Thayer 414-2-3401). Paul never hesitates to urge people to follow him (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you: The words "behaved" and "disorderly" are from the same Greek word, atakteo, meaning "to be neglectful of duty, to be lawless" (Thayer 83-1-812). Atakteo historically refers to soldiers marching out of order or quitting the ranks. Vine says it:

...signifies to be out of rank, out of one’s place, undisciplined, to behave disorderly: in the military sense, to break rank; negatively in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, of the example set by the Apostle and his fellow-missionaries, in working for their bread while they were at Thessalonica so as not to burden the saints (320).

Paul is now specifying what the disorderly conduct of the previous verse is. There are some of the brethren who will not perform manual labor to obtain the necessities of life; by these actions they are "walking disorderly." Repentance is in order or disciplinary actions are to be imposed.

Paul is doing once again what he has done on other occasions, that is, laying himself down as an example for others to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1). He is saying "ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you." It is disorderly, out of step, out of rank, not to work.

They know that Paul made tents—hard labor in his day—to earn his way so that he might not be chargeable to anyone. It is true that later in his ministry he accepted gifts from those to whom he preached, but in these first churches he refused to accept anything from the believers. He labored with his own hands. He reminds them his conduct was not disorderly among them, and they should imitate him in their daily walk and activities with unbelievers.

Verse 8

Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

This verse refers to Paul’s conduct with the Thessalonians while he was with them. "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

The chief complaint against the brethren who walk disorderly is that they will not work for their bread--they expect the church to support and feed them. Members of the congregation are right to resist this demand, telling them to return to their occupations and eat their own bread. The principle laid down in verse 10 is as applicable now as it was then "...that if any would not work, neither should he eat."

Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought: The words "did...eat" (phago) mean "to eat (consume) a thing...to take food, eat a meal" (Thayer 252-2-2068). Eating bread for nought means eating free gratis or eating at someone else’s expense. Paul made sure he worked hard while in Thessalonica. Thus, he was an example to pay for all the food he received from anyone.

but wrought with labour and travail night and day: The word "wrought" (ergazomai) means "to work, labor, do work." Thayer further comments by saying that "it is opposed to inactivity or intense labor untied with trouble, toil" (Thayer 355-1-2673). The word trazail means "hard and difficult labor, toil, trazail, hardship, distress" (Thayer 419-1-3449).

that we might not be chargeable to any of you: The phrase "be chargeable to" (epibareo) means "to put a burden upon, to load,...trap, to be burdensome" (Thayer 236-2-1912).

Verse 9

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

Not because we have not power: The word "power" refers to the "power of choice, permission" (Thayer 225-1-1325), meaning right or authority. Paul has the right to live from the support of the brethren since the Lord has ordained that "they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). He voluntarily refrains from using that privilege in order to set the example of earning his living from his own labor. Paul had the moral and spiritual right to expect a livelihood from the church; but lest he be accused of ministering for money, he was willing to work with his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 2 Corinthians 12:14-15; Acts 20:34-35).

MacKnight states:

The apostle’s working for his maintenance ought to have put the idle among the Thessalonians to shame, who perhaps excused, themselves from working, on pretense they were attending to their neighbours affairs. For, if the apostle did not make the necessary and laborious work of preaching the gospel an excuse for not working, the Thessalonians had no reason to excuse themselves from working, on pretense of their minding other people’s affairs; which in truth was not but officious meddling (MacKnight 434).

but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us: The word "follow" (mimeomai) simply means "to imitate" (Thayer 414-2-3410). Obviously, Paul worked at secular work as an example for the Thessalonians to follow.

Verse 10

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you: Paul is here putting in writing what he had earlier spoken. The word "command" (parangello) carries forth the stern meaning of giving an "order" or a "charge" (Thayer 479-2-3853). Paul does not want his teaching to be misunderstood; he wants the Thessalonians to know that they have no choice--they have to work to please God.

that if any would not work, neither should he eat: Paul does not allow laziness, and he instructs Christians not to feed the person who refuses to work. If Christians do feed those who are lazy, they merely enable them to continue their unchristian lifestyle; then the situation is a matter to be dealt with by the congregation. An able bodied man who does not work has no right to eat. One who is handicapped and unable to work with his hands is not included in this teaching. It is indeed an honor to help those who are unable to help themselves; however, it would be wrong to help those who will not work.

Here it seems to be a violation of New Testament principles to feed a man who refuses to work. Many of us may have done that with the thought of helping them, but Paul says, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." This teaching goes against our humanitarian grain and the normal Christian principles, but these verses are just as much a command as any other verses within the word of God. David says, "I have been young, and now am old yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalms 37:25).

The word "would" (thelo) means "to be resolved or determined, to purpose" (Thayer 285-2-2309). The individual in question here is anyone who is resolved or determined not to work; then he should have nothing to eat.

We need an Apostle Paul in the United States of America today. We should help those who are worthy of help, feed those who are unfortunate, and take care of needy church members. In our society there are thousands who have able bodies and could work, but they depend on charitable organizations, welfare, or other programs for their support. If the Apostle Paul were alive today, I believe he would set some things in order in many congregations and possibly in this blessed country of ours.

Paul worked hard at manual labor and set an example before those to whom he ministered. People who refuse to work because they are religious may call it grace but according to Paul, it is not grace, but rather, DISGRACE. In Paul’s churches, no work, no bread and that is the way it should be for able bodied men. The man who is too lazy to work should not be fed. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul declared, "...If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (Green 298).

Verse 11

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly: "In this verse Paul makes it plain whom he especially means by the ones walking disorderly in verse 6, namely, the idlers" (Zerr, Vol. VI 161).

Paul indicates reports have reached him that some are not working and instead have become busybodies in other men’s matters. This is one of the primary reasons Paul writes the second epistle so soon after the first, in order to clear up the confusion about the coming of Christ and those who refuse to work.

To "hear" means "A thing comes to one’s ears, to find out to one’s ears, to find out (by hearsay), learn, hear [(of)]" (Thayer 23-1-191). The word "some" (indefinite) means "one, a certain one" (Thayer 626-1-5100). The Word Study Concordance makes a special note about this word, saying "It is frequently rendered ’a man,’ ’any man,’-the literal in such cases is simply ’any’ or ’any one’ (732-2-5100). The phrase "which walk" (peripateo) means "to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self" (Thayer 504-1-4043).

The word "disorderly" (staktos) "signifies disorderly, with slackness (like soldiers not keeping rank,) 2 Thessalonians 3:6; in verse 11 it is said of those in the church who refused to work, and became busybodies (compare 1 Timothy 5:13)" (Vine 320).

Walking orderly was necessary in order to grow in the faith because it involves working and studying God’s laws. As Paul says, "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10).

working not at all, but are busybodies: The word "working" (ergazomai) means "to labor" (Thayer 247-2-2038). In this passage Paul is condemning those who "work not at all."

The word "busybodies" (perierkomai) means "to bustle about uselessly, to busy one’s self about trifling, needless, useless matters." Thayer comments further by saying "used apparently of a person officiously inquisitive about others’ affairs [A.V. to be a busybody], 2 Thessalonians 3:11" (Thayer 502-2-4020). This is the only time this form of the Greek word is used in the New Testament.

Paul writes to Timothy about the same problem: "And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Timothy 5:13).

Verse 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.

An interesting observation arises while comparing the first and second epistle in dealing with the subject at hand: In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul gently encourages these busybodies who will not work, but here he "commands and exhorts." This change in attitude adds a tone of sternness and seriousness. Undoubtedly these idlers have become a burden on the church, and Paul charges them in the name of the Lord Jesus and on the ground of their relationship to Christ, to go to work, to eat their own bread, and to quit expecting other people to support them.

The word "such" (toioutoss) refers to "one who is of such a character, such a one" (Thayer 627-2-5108). The word "exhort" (parakaleo) means "to admonish" (Thayer 482-2-3870). Thayer says the word "quietness" (heesukia) is "descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others" (2 Thessalonians 3:12) (281-2-2271).

This is the same Greek word as used in 1 Timothy 2:11 : "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection." This passage, along with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, forbids women to speak in the assembly or to preach. The words "quietness" and "silence" are too plain for people to misunderstand.

The word "bread" (artos) refers to "food of any kind." Thayer comments, "take food supplied by one, 2 Thessalonians 3:8; ...to eat the food which one has procured for himself by his own labor, 2 Thessalonians 3:12" (Thayer 76-2-746).

Verse 13

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

But ye, brethren: Finally, Paul lightens his stern tone. He does not want the congregation to swing to the other extreme and not help those who are truly in need. Nothing hinders the cause of the needy any more than having the privilege afforded them being abused by those who really do not deserve it.

Many in our day and time are apprehensive to help a stranded motorist because it could be a set up for robbery or murder. Many are reluctant to give money to those who ask because of the many times their generosity has been abused. The thing we all should keep in mind is we have a choice to give help when it is not needed or to refuse help when it is truly needed. There is no harm in verifying the case of each person who comes to the assembly seeking financial assistance. If the person who is soliciting help objects, the handwriting may very well be on the wall.

The majority of those in the congregation in Thessalonica are living a life above reproach. After dealing with the trouble spots, Paul now turns his attention to the ones who have not defiled their garments.

be not weary in well doing: This phrase "be not weary" (ekkakeo) means "to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted" (Thayer 195-2-1573). Paul does not want the misconduct of the wicked or the sternness of his words to shake up the strong and devoted Christians, so he calmly says, "Be not weary in well doing."

Verse 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.

In the first epistle, Paul deals with this problem of idleness but does not tell them how to deal with an abuse of the problem. Paul probably expects those in question will heed his first instructions, and the problem will then be solved; however, since it is not, he gets down to the "1-2-3" of how to handle the problem.

And if any man obey not our word: The word "obey" means "to hearken to a command," that is "be obedient unto, submit to" (Thayer 638-1-5219). The term "word" here means the message Paul gives to the congregation in this epistle. He is instructing this congregation that if anyone does not obey the instructions of his letter, those in charge should take special note of him and deal with him decisively.

by this epistle: The word "epistle" (epistolee) means "a letter" (Thayer 243-2-1992).

note that man: The word "note" (seemioomai) means "to mark, distinguish by marking...to mark or note for one’s self" (Thayer 574-1-4593). This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Special notice should be taken of the man in question who violates these New Testament principles.

and have no company with him: The phrase "have no company with" is from the same Greek word (sunanamignumi), meaning "to mix up together;...to keep company with, be intimate with" (Thayer 601-1-4874). This word is used only three times in the New Testament and has direct reference to enforcement of Church Discipline each time (1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).

In 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul says:

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:...But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

that he may be ashamed: The phrase "may be ashamed" (entrepo, omai) means "to turn about" (Thayer 219-1-1788). This message would not be very popular in religious circles today and is not very popular with some in the true church of the New Testament. Modernists tell us that we are to preach "Love, Love, Love." We are to be kind, tender, compassionate, never speak harsh words, never rebuke, never pass any type of judgment, etc. Paul says if any man within the congregation is lazy and refuses to work and to obey our command, then he should not eat, and the rest of the congregations should not associate with him so he may be ashamed.

The purpose of all discipline is to cause the one in question to return and correct his error. We are not told to abuse or mistreat anyone, but we are told to ignore and refrain from association with him in order to make him ashamed. The door of opportunity will always be opened to correct this sin before or after discipline has been implemented.

Every Christian must go the second, third, and fourth mile to restore the one in error, but we are not to give an inch in compromising with the devil or with sin. It is our duty as citizens of the kingdom of God to stand up for truth, the whole truth. When a person is ashamed and corrects his problem, then it is solved and is no longer an issue. The scriptures provide the proper way of handling unfortunate situations as they occur in the church of Christ.

Verse 15

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Yet count him not as an enemy: The word "count" (heegeomai) means "to consider, deem, account, think" (Thayer 276-1-2233). The word "enemy" (ekthros) means "hostile, hating and opposing another" (Thayer 265-2-2190).

Paul makes it clear the true believers are not to treat the erring person unkindly. There are to be no bitter words against him lest such would provoke him instead of making him ashamed. This action would defeat the very purpose of marking and avoiding him. Paul has a warm heart and a love for these brethren who would not work; but he cannot condone their laziness and is forced to do something about it.

The discipline enforced against any brother who refuses to work is to bring about a spiritual change. He should not be counted as an enemy but be considered as a brother, an errant brother. One who is withdrawn from regardless of the reason is still our brother or sister; however, he is in error and needs to bring forth fruit meet for repentance.

but admonish him as a brother: The word "admonish" (noutheteo) means "to warn, exhort" (Thayer 429-1-3560). Every Christian is commanded to warn those who are disciplined by the church.

Verse 16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means: The word "peace" (ireenee) means "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is" (Thayer 182-2-1515).

There is no peace like the peace of knowing God. Jesus says "Peace, I leave with you, My peace, I give unto you" (John 14:27).

The apostle calls Christ "the Lord of Peace," in allusion to Isaiah 9:6, where he is foretold under the description of "The prince of peace" because he was to reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God and to one another, making peace between God and man; and "making of two one new man," whose members are to live in peace with one another.

The word "means" (tropos) is defined as "a manner, way, fashion" (Thayer 631-1-5158).

The Lord be with you all: Thayer says:

There are some who hold that Paul (except in his quotations from the Old Testament viz. Romans 4:8; 9:28 sq; 11:34; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 10:26; 2 Corinthians 6:17 sq.; 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:19) uses the title kurios everywhere not of God, but of Christ. But, to omit instances where the interpretation is doubtful, as 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:2 Corinthian 8:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ...but most of the blessings of Christianity are derived alike from God and from Christ... (366-1-2962).

Jesus offers to those who obey the gospel a home with him in Heaven. His promise of being with them always (Matthew 28:18-20) is echoed here once again by the Apostle Paul who receives the message by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 17

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

From all indications, forged letters have circulated as if they were written by the Apostle Paul. He made it a practice to sign each letter as a mark of the genuiness of the epistle. Most scholars believe Paul solicited a writer to pen the words he wanted written but then he would write the last part of the letter for authenticity.

Occasionally we will hear some question whether a letter was written by Paul because of the different writing styles, but MacKnight expresses a strong opinion regarding this point:

It seems the apostle’s converts were generally acquainted with his handwriting—Doddridge insinuates, that Paul may have dictated some of his epistles, while his hands were employed in the labours of his occupation of tent-making; and says, This may account for some small inaccuracies of style at which little minds have been offended, but which good judges easily know how to excuse (435).

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand: Thayer says the word "salutation" means "either oral: Matthew 23:7; Mark 12:38; Luke 1:29; Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44; Luke 11:43; Luke 20:46; or written 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17" (Thayer 81-1-783).

The phrase "of Paul" clearly sets forth who wrote this second epistle to the Thessalonians.

which is the token in every epistle: so I write: The word "token" (seemion) means "a sign, mark, token" (Thayer 573-2-4592). The word "epistle" (epistolee) means " a letter, epistle" (Thayer 243-2-1992).

Verse 18

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all: This closing benediction indicates Paul’s personal concern for the happiness of the brethren. The grace of the Lord is His favor given to them as a gracious gift. The word means something not received upon the principle of merit.

Thayer says the word "grace" (karis) in this passage means "good-will, loving kindness, favor." He also comments:

The apostles and New Testament writers at the beginning and end of their epistles crave for their readers the favor (’grace’) of God or of Christ, to which all blessings, especially spiritual, are due (Thayer 666-1-5485).

Amen: The word "Amen" (ameen) means "at the close of a sentence; so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled." Thayer continues speaking about this word:

It was a custom, which passed over the synagogues into the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed had offered up a solemn prayer to God, the others in attendance responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own (32-1-281).

The same Greek word for "Amen" is translated "verily" 100 times in the King James Version. Its usage in the four gospels is quite frequent and is nearly always translated "verily" while in the epistle it is mostly translated "Amen." This Greek word "Amen" is translated "verily" more than twice as many times as it is translated "Amen" in the King James Version." Here is a list of the occurrences in only the book of Matthew and there are similar passages in Mark, Luke, and John: (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 5:26; Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 8:10; Matthew 10:15; Matthew 10:23; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 11:11; Matthew 13:17; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 17:20; Matthew 18:3; Matthew 18:13; Matthew 18:18; Matthew 19:23; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 21:21; Matthew 21:31; Matthew 23:36; Matthew 24:2; Matthew 24:34; Matthew 24:47; Matthew 25:12; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45; Matthew 26:13; Matthew 26:21; Matthew 26:34; Matthew 28:20). We are much more accustomed to the word "Amen" than to the term "verily;" however; when translated "verily" it simply means "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled" (Thayer 32-1-281).

In the introduction to this letter (2 Thessalonians 1:2), Paul says, "Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul now concludes this letter with the sentiments with which he opened it. The "Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."


The writings of the Apostle Paul, even though specifically written to others, has special meaning for us today. His writing could not have been more practical if it had been penned in our own generation. The first application should be to live what we preach. Paul says, "For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us..." (3:7). In verse 9, Paul states the purpose for his actions, and that is to be an example before them. Living what we preach would make us better church members, better fathers and mothers, better people in general.

Several times within this letter, Paul makes reference to praying. He prays and thanks God for the Thessalonians’ growth in the faith and for their love for each other (1:3). He prays, asking God to count them worthy of their acceptance to the call of Christianity (1:11). He prays again, thanking God for the grace of saving the Thessalonians through the acceptance of the gospel (2:13-14). Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him in preaching the gospel (3:1) and for his deliverance from the hands of the wicked (3:2). Today we should apply the practice of prayer in our lives, both praying for others and asking others to pray for us.

Paul teaches us to place all troubles and trouble-makers in the hands of Christ. When we have troubles in our lives, we can find rest in Christ (1:7). There is no need for us to trouble ourselves with the evil doers for this responsibility belongs to God (1:8-9).

In this letter, we are reminded to be careful that we do not become easily confused about God’s word by listening to false doctrines (2:2-3). At the same time, we should be aware that many false doctrines surround us, the result of the "working of Satan," which Paul calls "lying wonders" (2:9). These "lying wonders" (so-called miracles of today) have led many honest people astray (2:10). We must be aware of these false doctrines and stand fast in God’s word (2:15).

Last, in this letter, Paul is teaching us today to practice discipline and to do so with love for the evil doer as well as for other members of the congregation. Brethren who "walk disorderly" and are never dealt with will lead other members astray and will eventually destroy a congregation (3:6, 13-15). As an example of "walking disorderly," Paul speaks of the Thessalonians who refused to work, causing a great deal of turmoil because of their idleness. When times come in our lives when we are out of work, we should be careful not to follow the pattern of these wicked men and become "busybodies" that eventually will have to be disciplined by the church (3:8-12).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-thessalonians-3.html. 1993-2022.
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