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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 3

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I. Paul's request for their prayers: 3:1-2

II. Confidence in God and in them: 3:3-5

III. Discipline for the disorderly: 3:6-15

IV. Closing: 3:16-18

Stott notes, “During the interim period between the two comings of Christ, while he is absent from the world, God has not left His people without a guiding light or a compass. On the contrary, He has given us both in Scripture. Already in chapter 2 Paul has written about the importance of believing the truth (2:1; 10-12) and holding fast to his teachings (2:13)” (p. 181).

In this chapter we will learn that the writings of the apostles constitute the final authority among Christians. Professed Christians who rejected the teachings found in these letters were to be withdrawn (3:6,14). These letters do not contain the feeble attempts of men trying to apply vague spiritual truths to their own culture.

Verse 1

2Th_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”

“Finally”: God writes organized letters, with introductions, greetings, logical arguments and final observations. These letters were not collections of Paul's personal "notes", or just random thoughts loosely connected together. “Pray for us”: The present continuous tense is here used, “so that it means ‘pray continually’” ( Morris p. 244). “Once again Paul comes to the end of a letter with the request that his people should pray for him ( 1Th_5:25 ; Rom_15:19 ff; Phm_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” (Barclay p. 250). We need to remember that Paul is speaking to people who are suffering (1:4), yet to suffering people, to people in a tough situation, Paul says, among other things: be grateful ( 1Th_5:18 ); be happy (5:16); do not retaliate (5:15); and pray for us ( 2Th_3:1 ). Notice how Paul does not "pity" them. God seems to have the view that people can better handle life when they get their minds off of themselves, and especially, when they do not view the sufferings they encounter as some "strange thing" ( 1Pe_4:12 ). Sometimes we say to people, "I don't know how you are able to hold up under this trial". From these letters, Paul would say something more like, "God is faithful, and I am persuaded that you will remain faithful as well" (3:3-4).

“That”: A specific request that he wishes that they would pray about. “The word of the Lord”: Fields notes, “Notice how unselfish Paul's prayer was. He did not ask for prayers for his own ease, but only that the word of God may make progress” (p. 224). Paul is very careful to always define the gospel as “the Lord's message” ( Rom_1:16 ; 1Co_14:37 ; 1Th_2:13 ; Gal_1:11-12 ). “May run”: “Spread rapidly” (TCNT). “Continue to spread” (Wms). See Psa_147:15 ; Act_12:24 . “Have swift progress through the world” (Vincent p. 68). “It is clear that when Paul first preached at Thessalonica there were spectacular results. Many were speedily converted. It is this kind of free movement of the word of God that he has in mind” (Morris p. 244). “The idea is of the swift and victorious spread of the gospel” (Marshall p. 213). “How different this verse sounds from popular denominational expressions. Men say, ‘Pray for a great moving of the Spirit’. Paul said, ‘Pray that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified’” (Fields p. 225). “Paul's desire was not that the Word never meet obstacles, but rather that it swiftly advance in its onward course despite those obstacles” (Denton Lectureship p. 274).

Paul constantly was concerned about the progress of the gospel ( Eph_6:19-20 ; Col_4:3-4 ). This verse infers that the word of God is not a lifeless message ( Heb_4:12 ). This message is vital, if men and women are going to be saved ( Rom_1:16 ).

“Glorified”: To render glorious, honor and magnify. “Received everywhere with honor” (TCNT). “The Thessalonians are asked to pray that the gospel may run well, run fast, and that, wherever it goes, it may have a ‘glorious reception’” (Stott p. 185). The gospel deserves from us a proper reception. “The way in which people give praise and honor to the gospel by receiving it with faith and thanksgiving” (Marshall p. 213). We only truly honor God, when we honor what He said ( Luk_6:46 ; Joh_14:15 ). Unfortunately, even some religious groups demonstrate disrespect for the word of God when they claim that it is confusing, contradictory, filled with myth or corruption. Read Rom_1:16 or Heb_4:12 and one will find what Christians had to say about God's word. See also Psa_19:1-14 and Psa_119:1-176 . Morris notes that "run" and "glorified", “are in the present subjunctive. Paul is not looking for a single striking manifestation of the word, but for its continuous swift advance, and for its continual arousing of admiration” (p. 245).

“Even as also it is with you”: The gospel deserves to be received in the way that these Christians had embraced it ( 1Th_1:5-10 ). “As far as Paul was concerned, the Word of the Lord could not run too fast nor too far, nor receive too much glory in the hearts of men” (Denton Lectureship p. 275).

Verse 2

2Th_3:2 “and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith”

“And that we”: Paul requests their prayers for the safety of those who proclaim the gospel. Paul realized that for the gospel to spread, someone had to preach it, and those preaching it needed to stay alive as long as possible. “It is one thing for the gospel to win friends who embrace it; it is another for the evangelists to be rescued from its enemies who oppose it” (Stott p. 185). “Delivered”: The prayer is not so much as a prayer to escape hardship, as it is that such men would not be able to successfully hinder Paul's opportunities to preach. Paul now will list three characteristics that are found among those who hinder the gospel. “Unreasonable”: “Basically it signifies what is out of place” (Morris p. 245). “Wrong-headed” (TCNT). “And evil men”: This verse infers that one can reject the truth to the point that one truly becomes "unreasonable" (2:10-12), and evil. Taking pleasure in wickedness does affect one’s honesty. “For all have not faith”: “Hold the faith” (Rhm).

No matter how successful the gospel might be in certain places, there will always exist those who reject it ( Mat_7:13-14 ). Refusing to trust God or refusing to embrace the contents of "the faith" ( Jud_1:3 ), has definite moral consequences and side effects. "Unreasonable" or wrong-headed people are those without faith. The word "faith" here may mean faith in the sense of trust or faith in the objective sense of the contents of the Christian faith, that is, the body of truth embraced by God's people.

Now some people try to argue that "faith" is something one either has or does not have. Or that being a Christian is not for everyone. Yet God disagrees ( Act_26:29 ; Mar_16:16 ). Those who reject faith or the faith have a moral problem, not an intellectual problem.

Verse 3

2Th_3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one”

“But”: In contrast to those who oppose the gospel. “The Lord is faithful”: “The Lord can be counted on, however perverse men may be” (Robertson p. 56). “He turned from the depressing fact of man's faithlessness to the cheering truth that ‘the Lord is faithful’ ( 2Ti_2:12-13 ; 1Co_10:13 ; 1Th_5:24 ). Paul emphasized the faithfulness of Christ as an existing reality by inserting the verb ‘is’. It is not ‘the Lord was faithful’, or ‘the Lord is generally faithful’, but rather

‘the Lord is faithful’” (Denton Lectureship p. 277). “Establish”: “Give you strength” (Gpsd). “Fortify you” (NEB). Compare with 2Th_2:17 . “Guard”: “In the Greek, this is a military term for setting a guard around some valuable object or person that needs protection or surveillance” (Denton Lectureship p. 278). “You”: Even though Paul was experiencing his own set of difficult circumstances (3:2), he was more concerned about the status of these Christians. “The evil one”: This can refer to either the evil "one", that is, the devil or evil in general. The fact that in other verses the believer is told to resist the devil ( Jam_4:7 ), infers that the strengthening and guarding in this verse is not something that happens mysteriously or without the cooperation of ones own freewill.

Evil does exist, and the devil preys upon all ( 1Pe_5:8 ). Therefore everyone does need the protection that God offers in the gospel. Barclay notes, “Once again we see the tremendous responsibility of freewill. 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” (p. 250). It is comforting to know that there is Someone that we can absolutely depend upon ( Heb_13:5-6 ). One of man's greatest needs is the need for security and stability .

Verse 4

2Th_3:4 “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command”

“We have confidence in the Lord touching you”: Paul could have confidence in them, because of their past track-record ( 1Th_1:5-10 ). Paul did not have any confidence in wicked men, but he did have confidence in faithful brethren. “Hitherto he had had no occasion to question the general loyalty of the converts, and he anticipated none in the future” (Thessalonians. Hogg and Vine p. 284).

Paul often expressed confidence in his brethren ( 2Co_7:16 ; Rom_15:14 ; 2Co_2:3 ; Gal_5:10 ). Are we living in such a way that our brethren can have confidence in us? Despite the presence of false brethren ( 2Co_11:26 ), Paul never allowed himself to become cynical about members of the church.

“That”: Here is what Paul is confident about concerning these Christians. “Ye both do and will do the things which we command”: “That you are following and will follow my precepts” (Con). Paul loves to praise people where he can. In addition, “He is preparing the way for the commands which follow” (Morris p. 248). God believes that people are fully capable of abiding by His instructions ( 1Jn_5:3 ). Unfortunately, "obedience" has become a negative word even in some professed "Christian" circles. Paul does not view obedience to the will of God and obeying specific commands as an unspiritual or legalistic form of religion. In fact, if we are spiritual, then we will obey ( Joh_14:15 ; 1Jn_2:4-5 ). In responding to those who claim that "obedience" is being "legalistic", I like what one writer said. He said you are either "legal" or "illegal". “Command”: The verbs "command" and "obey" in this verse, “Were the usual terms for the commands given by the officer to his men” (Stott p. 189). It is clear then that the New Testament Church lives under the authority of the message delivered by the apostles ( 1Co_14:37 ).

Verse 5

2Th_3:5 “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ”

“The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God”: Stott notes, “Paul's prayer is that the Lord will lead the Thessalonians into a love like God's love and a patience or constancy like Christ's. The context suggests that they will then express their love and patience in their obedience” (p. 191). This directing is not mysterious or just something that happens, rather God has already given us both instruction and tremendous incentives concerning love and patience. The only thing left to do is to apply and practice such qualities ( 1Co_13:4 ff). “God's love for us ought to produce a reciprocal response from us to Him ( Gal_2:20 ; 1Jn_4:7-11 ). The patience displayed by the Master challenges us to have this same characteristic in our own lives” (Denton Lectureship p. 281). See Heb_12:1 ff). Both qualities are absolutely necessary, because without love and patience, one is completely unprepared to deal with both the obstacles of life and the people that one encounters in life. “Direct”: To straighten fully, figuratively to direct or guide. This word infers that if we fail to manifest love and patience, then the obstacle that prevents such growth is found within us ( 2Pe_1:5-11 ). “Hearts”: More is necessary than just outward compliance. Practicing something is vain, if one does not believe in its truthfulness.

“The apostle moves from the need to spread the word in the world to the need to obey the word in the church. There is something fundamentally anomalous about Christians who share the word with others while disregarding it in their own lives” (Stott p. 188).

Verse 6

2Th_3:6 “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”

“Now”: Previously (3:4), he expressed confidence that these brethren would obey his commands. Now he gives one. “Brethren”: Notice how this command is not addressed specifically to just one group of Christians (such as the elders), rather the command is addressed to the whole congregation. It is the responsibility of every member to obey the commands of Christ. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”: “Paul did not give this command on the authority of his own likes or dislikes” (Fields p. 228). The withdrawal progress or discipline in the church is not cruel or unspiritual; rather it has the full approval of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is Jesus Christ Himself who is issuing this decree ( Mat_18:15 ; 1Co_5:4 ). This means that God is 100% behind the congregation that withdraws from the member who refuses to repent. Unfortunately, often such unrepentant individuals try to accuse the congregation of wrongdoing or that they lack the love of Jesus. Notice that withdrawal is a command it is not an option. It is just as necessary as the command to be baptized into the name of Christ ( Mat_28:19-20 ), and carefully observe the compassion and mercy of God. Those that must be withdrawn, had been given many chances (the admonitions of the first letter, 1Th_4:9-12 ). They could not argue that they did not need to work because the Lord was coming immediately. For Paul had already removed that misconception ( 2Th_2:1 ff). Therefore any further refusal to work was just a plain manifestation of unbelief. Notice that Paul does not caution against withdrawing because of real or supposed abuses in the past, yet this is an argument that many today use against practicing any church discipline at all.

“Ye”: Withdraw is something in which the whole congregation has an obligation. “Withdraw”: “To move oneself from or to withdraw oneself from” (Robertson p. 58). “Keep away from” (RSV). “Avoid” (TCNT). “Don't associate with” (Phi). “Yourselves”: The context reveals that the Christian still can have some contact with the withdrawn, that is contact in which that person is admonished (3:15), yet a socializing contact is not to be extended ( 1Co_5:11-13 ). Morris notes, “Such a line of conduct is meant as would impress on the offenders that they had opened up a gap between themselves and the rest” (p. 251). For other passages on this subject see: Mat_18:15-17 ; 1Co_5:1 ff; 2Jn_1:10 ; Rom_16:17 .

“It signifies the withdrawing into one's self, holding oneself aloof from the offender in question. This is not to be done in a spirit of superiority. The appeal to brotherliness shows that it is a part of a man's duty to the brotherhood that he should not condone the deeds of any who, while claiming the name of a brother, nevertheless denies by his actions what the brotherhood stands for” (Denton Lectureship p. 286).

“Every brother”: All Christians are equal and hence no Christian is exempt from being withdrawn from if they refuse to repent. “Walketh”: "Walk is a present participle, indicating a continuous manner of conduct” (Fields p. 229). Carefully note that the individuals being withdrawn from, are those who refuse to repent and obey the teachings of Scripture. “Disorderly”: “Out of ranks, disobedient to the prescribed order or rule” (Fields p. 229). “Playing truant from work” (Stott p. 188). “And not after”: Here is what defines "disorderly" conduct. The Christian is "out of line" when they depart from the teachings of the apostles. “The tradition which they received of us”: (2:15). These disorderly Christians could not claim ignorance, because had they received, that is had heard the truth on this matter previously. 2Th_3:10 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you”. The limits of fellowship are defined by the apostles teaching ( 2Jn_1:9-11 ). This is why we cannot fellowship the denominations. They are teaching things that violate what Jesus revealed through the His messengers ( Joh_16:13 ), (such as teaching salvation by faith alone, or that baptism is not necessary for salvation). This places a high value on what the apostles wrote ( Eph_3:3-5 ). This verse infers that Paul believed that God's instruction on this matter were very clear. The commandments of God are not misleading nor are they confusing. This is fair. Rightness with God and fellowship with other Christians is not based upon personal preference, a popularity contest, external factors, such as social position, looks, and wealth. Feelings or how people feel about you. What particularly talents one has. Or the changing whims of society, rather the only rules that the true church has are God's rules, which we all must equally obey.

Verse 7

2Th_3:7 “For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you”

“For”: Not only were the disorderly ignoring clear commands, they were also ignoring the example that Paul and his companions had set. Hence, they found themselves in an inexcusable position, and condemned by God's word and the example of Paul, Silas and Timothy. “Yourselves know”: In no way possible could Paul be blamed for giving a misleading example or impression. Paul, Silas and Timothy believed that Jesus would come unexpectedly, but they still worked. That, in and of itself should have taught the idlers that they had assumed a false position. “How ye ought to imitate us”: Paul often urges that people follow his example-inasmuch as he follows the example of Christ ( 1Co_11:1 ).

Fields notes, “Often I have marveled that Paul never hesitated to urge people to follow him. We are all aware of our own failings, and are therefore reluctant to tell people to imitate us. We should not boast about doing good, but we should not hesitate to be a visible and unashamed example” (p. 230). A serious question to ask ourselves, “Is my faith worth imitating?” “Can I even offer myself as an example for new converts or young Christians to follow?” Morris notes, “While we feel some diffidence today about appealing to our own example it still remains true that no preaching of the gospel can ever be really effective unless the life of the preacher is such as to commend his message. Those who hear must feel that they are listening to one whose life shows his sincerity and the power of the message he brings” (p. 252).

'”For we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you”: Notice that Paul did not have the attitude, “We can't withdraw from them because after all, we are not perfect ourselves”. Paul could say without hesitation, that he had set the proper example. In fact, the next verse reveals that he had even gone beyond the demands of duty or necessity.

Verse 8

2Th_3:8 “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”

“Eat bread”: “Is a Hebraism which means ‘to take food’ and can be more generally of receiving maintenance from somebody” (Marshall pp. 221-222). “For nought”: “Without paying for it” (TCNT). “We did not take free meals from anyone” (Mof). “We know that Paul and his companions stayed for at least part of the time in Thessalonica with Jason ( Act_17:7 ). They did not receive board and lodging from their host without paying something towards it” (Marshall p. 222). “In labor and travail”: “We did hard and heavy work” (Ber). “We toiled and drudged, we worked for a living night and day” (NEB). “Slaving and straining” (JB). “That”: One of the purposes for such sacrifices. “Might not be a burden to any of you”: This is not false humility on the part of Paul. Paul is not saying with a sigh in his voice, “I just don't want to be a burden to anyone”. While in Thessalonica, Paul did take money from the congregation in Philippi ( Php_4:16 ). Hence, Paul was not against preachers being supported ( 1Co_9:1 ff). Rather Paul did not want to add an additional burden upon the shoulders of these relatively new Christians, who were experiencing persecution and probably who were having some financial problems of their own. The example of Paul, Silas and Timothy does not leave the idle with any excuses, because these three men worked at two full time jobs. Hendriksen notes, “The latter had been preaching the gospel and working at a trade besides! The former did not do a stitch of real work in either direction. Instead of being a help they were a hindrance to the progress of the gospel” (p. 200).

This verse reveals that the example that other's set can remove all our excuses. The aged, disabled member who always attends, even when in pain verses the healthy member who can seem to make it. The mother with young children, who has time for God verses the single person who cannot seem to find the time.

Verse 9

2Th_3:9 “not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves and ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us”

“Not because we have not the right”: The right to be financially supported, a right that Paul did exercise. Paul quickly nips any misconception in the bud. It is amazing that despite this clear verse and those found in other chapters ( 1Co_9:1 ff); that some religious people today still think that it is wrong to support a preacher. “But”: Notice how God leaves it up to the individual preaching the gospel whether they will accept support or not. God gives the preacher a lot of flexibility. He can accept full support, partial support, and so on. In certain situations, Paul offered the gospel without charge, you might say, as a bonus service that he wanted to give ( 1Co_9:14-18 ). “To make ourselves an ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us”: This verse infers that Paul knew that among the Thessalonians his decision to not take support was to his and their advantage. It demonstrated the purity of his motives ( 1Th_2:5-10 ), and it also demonstrated that the Christian religion does not teach (by word or example) a disdain for manual labor or hard work. Morris notes, “The Thessalonians are reminded that this was not a piece of pageantry or showmanship, but was very purposive” (p. 254).

Verse 10

2Th_3:10 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat”

“For even when we were with you”: That is, during the original visit recorded in Act_17:1-34 . “The Thessalonian ‘irregulars’ could not excuse their conduct by saying, ‘You never taught us any different’” (Hendriksen p. 201). Not only had the example been clearly set, but the doctrine had been clearly defined and clearly presented. “This we commanded you”: A very definite and precise command had been given. The following statement is not "advice" rather it is a commandment from God. “Is in an imperfect tense, which indicates repeated action in past time, ‘we kept commanding you’” (Fields p. 232). “If any”: God treats all alike. “Will not work”: God is fair, and He is sensitive to "real life". The text does not say, “If any man cannot work”. “Neither let him eat”: Many people proceed from the idea that '"The church owes me a living". Substitute "world" or "government" for "church" and the passage would fit many people living today. “If he refuses to work, let him go hungry. That may teach him a lesson” (Hendriksen p. 202).

Carefully note that the "ideal" society is not where work is absent, and “work” is not an evil thing. Some people erroneously link their present unhappiness with the fact that they have to go to work everyday. We must be careful that we do not help people remain in sin, that is, that we make it easy for them to ignore the commands of God. The person who is lazy, does not need "understanding", they need to go hungry for awhile. Notice the balance. On the one hand the Bible exhorts us to help the person who is in need ( Eph_4:28 ), and Paul put a tremendous amount of energy and effort into gathering the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem. Yet on the other hand he had no sympathy for the person who refused to work. Hendriksen notes, “Those who were saved by grace should become so unselfish that they will loathe the idea of unnecessarily becoming a burden to their brothers” (p. 202).

Verse 11

2Th_3:11 “For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies”

“For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly”: Paul was dealing with concrete and specific instances. “He has not been speaking simply in general terms, laying down precepts against some possible future need. He has in mind a definite situation” (p. 255). “That work not at all”: Even though that might have "claimed" to be doing something productive. It is interesting to note that often the lazy person complains more about life's aches and pains than the person who is breaking a good sweat. “But are busybodies”: “Busybodies instead of busy” (Morris p. 255). “We may conjecture that they were trying to do one or both of two incompatible things, namely, to get their living from others, and to persuade those others to share their point of view about the second advent, and so persuade them to stop working also” (Morris p. 256). God knows that all "busy-ness" is not spent in being productive. God also knows that people can have too much time on their hands ( 1Ti_5:13 ). “Busy only with what is not their own business. Some have no business, but are busy with everybody's business” (Denton Lectureship p. 290).

Verse 12

2Th_3:12 “Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread”

“Now them that are such”: Notice that God gives these individuals one last chance to repent, yet equally observe that one must come to God on God's conditions “We command and exhort”: “Our order to such men, indeed our appeal by the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phi).

“Quietness”: “To settle down to work and eat the food they have earned themselves” (Phi). “The teaching of the verse has been well summed up as ‘Stop fussing; stop idling; stop sponging’” (Marshall p. 225). “They work”: God knows that generally, people in any time or culture can find work that will put the necessities of life on the table. “Own bread”: The New Testament church was not a commune.

Verse 13

2Th_3:13 “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing”

“But ye, brethren”: Paul now addresses and exhorts the majority in the congregation who were not being idle. “Be not weary in well-doing”: The bad example of the few cannot be allowed to discourage the many.

In contrast to the idlers, they should persevere in doing good” (Stott p. 192). “Weary”: “Must not get tired of doing right” (Gspd). Compare with Gal_6:9 ; Eph_3:13 ; Luk_18:1 . It is so easy to allow one bad example or one dishonest person to move one to stop doing any good. In spite of the bad example set by the idlers, the hard working members of this congregation still needed to help those who were legitimately in need. In addition, it is also very easy to allow others to discourage us. “Don't be misled. Do not let a few people who neglect their duty keep you from doing yours” (Hendriksen p. 204). In order to never tire of doing the right thing, Christians must learn to love that which is good, honorable, just, pure, holy, and noble ( Php_4:8 ). This means that we need to see the value, worth and dignity of doing the right thing. This verse also infers that the Christian is never justified in becoming discouraged or giving up because of problems within the congregation.

Verse 14

2Th_3:14 “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”

“If any man”: God is no respecter of persons ( Rom_2:11 ). “Obeyeth not our word by this epistle”: “If any one disregards what we have said in this letter” (TCNT). “Paul sums up the issue bluntly with this ultimatum” (Robertson p. 60). The only proper response to the letters of the apostles is obedience. The written letters of the apostles pack just as much authority as their oral teaching. Their letters accurately express what they taught, and they pack this much authority, because Jesus was speaking through them ( 1Co_14:37 ). “Note that man”: “He is to be a marked man” (Knox). “Sign, mark, token. Put a tag on that man” (Robertson p. 60). “Take special note of him, which implies some form of public censure” (Stott p. 193). “That”: Here is the result of recognizing such an individual as being disobedient to the word of God. “Ye have”: An obligation that rests upon the shoulders of every member.

“No company with him”: “Mingle or associate with. Paul will use it again later when telling the Corinthians not to have fellowship or even eat with Christian brothers who are openly guilty of such offences as immorality, dishonestly, idolatry and drunkenness, 1Co_5:9 ; 1Co_5:11” (Stott p. 193). “To the end”: The intended goal or aim of this withdrawal. “That he may be ashamed”: “Till he is ashamed of himself” (Knox). Cases do and will arise in which members become so stubborn that they must be withdrawn from ( Mat_18:15-17 ). The responsibility of administering this discipline rests upon the shoulders of every member. Unfortunately, the impact of withdrawal is negated when misguided members try to "lessen the impact", and continue to associate with the withdrawn. In this situation some members think that they are doing the person a favor or trying to help them. But in reality, they are saying that their way of handling the situation is better than God's. Such "good intentions" start to look like arrogance, when they are measured by this section of Scripture. When church discipline happens we really need to take a good look at the total picture. The person causing the problem is the person who being withdrawn from. The person in sin needs to feel ashamed, and we need to give people the opportunity to feel the damage that their sin is causing. Comfort can only be given when the person repents. Withdrawal gives the sinner the opportunity to really reflect upon what they are doing, and the price that such a sin is costing them, that is, fellowship with God and fellowship with people who love them. Stott bemoans the conditions of many modern denominations when he says, “This verse contains some of the most important teaching in the New Testament on the subject of church discipline. To be sure, many churches nowadays would do nothing. The administration of discipline has fallen into disuse. Our Lord and his apostles were of a different opinion” (p. 193).

Verse 15

2Th_3:15 “And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”

“And yet”: The Bible is always quick to "check" us from falling into extremes. “Count him not as an enemy”: Morris notes, “He is eager to see to it that what is done to him is from the best of motives. The enforcement of discipline is a difficult matter. It is easy for men to become censorious and unnecessarily harsh in the process. It is the rebuke of a friend . It is most appropriate here with its combination of the two ideas of a steady refusal to have any truck with the evil thing, and a genuine concern for the well-being of the wrongdoer” (p. 259). Such statements remind us we always need to be careful when we seek to correct others ( Gal_6:1 ). Barclay notes, “The discipline which is given by a man who stands above the sinner and who contemptuously looks down upon him 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” (p. 253). This last statement reminds us that the purpose for such withdrawal is to save the sinner and not to destroy him.

Stott notes, 'Paul betrays no personal pique or anger, and no petty arrogance” (p. 195).

“Admonish him as a brother”: “But caution him as you would a brother” (TCNT). “Correcting him like” (Knox). This should remind us that the sin is not down-played or overlooked. Real concern is expressed towards the eternal welfare of the wayward brother. That you give it your best effort when you try to bring back a fallen Christian.

Verse 16

2Th_3:16 “Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all”

“Lord of peace”: ( Isa_9:6-7 ). “The Lord, from whom all peace comes’ (TCNT). “Give you peace at all times in all ways”: “In every circumstance” (NASV). “No matter what happens” (Tay). “Peace which is unchanging. The thought of a peace which is present no matter how the circumstances may change” (Morris p. 260). The connection between this verse and the preceding seems to be that the idlers posed a potential threat for strife and division in this congregation. This expression should remind all Christians in Thessalonica that the "answers" to congregational problems are always found in obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. Marshall notes, “It is noteworthy that Paul refers to peace in other letters where tension within the community may be suspected ( Rom_15:33 ; Rom_16:20 ; 1Co_16:11 ; 2Co_13:11 ; Gal_6:16 ; Php_4:7 ; Php_4:9 ). This prayer or wish seems to imply that peace can be a reality for any congregation, yet it must be pursued by the members of that local church ( Eph_4:1-3 ). This statement in this context also implies that church discipline is a necessary element in the peace of any congregation. This statement should also remind all Christians, despite the problems that the church encounters, we still have it good.

“The Lord be with you all”: This should remind these brethren that problems in a congregation, does not inherently imply that God is not with them. God is with these brethren and He is even with them when they withdrawal from the disorderly.

Verse 17

2Th_3:17 “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write”

“Salutation”: “This greeting” (NASV). “With mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write”: “Add this greeting in my own handwriting. It is my signature to every letter” (TCNT). “This authenticates all my letters” (NEB). “For proof that it really is from me” (Tay). See 1Co_16:21 ; Col_4:18 ; Gal_6:11 ).

In view of the potential or possibility of counterfeit letters, Paul personally ended this letter in his own handwriting, which the Thessalonians could verify as his. Barclay notes, “Look, he says, ‘this is what my handwriting is like. Mark it, so that you will know it again’” (p. 253). The phrase "every epistle" implies that Paul wrote at least two epistles. Paul also notes that Paul wrote "epistles" (plural) ( 2Pe_3:16 ). Erdman notes, “It must indicate, further, Paul's sense of authority and his conviction of the correctness of his teaching and of the importance of the messages which this letter contains” (p. 105). In addition, this final statement would prevent any of the idlers from saying, “We admit that the letter which was read to us during the service (2 Thessalonians) contained some rather uncomplimentary things with respect to us, but we do not believe that it actually represents the thought of Paul. We deny that he either wrote or dictated it” (Hendriksen pp. 208-209).

Verse 18

2Th_3:18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”

Concluding Comments

“Paul's repeated commands, with their expectation of obedience, also condemn those churches whose attitude to the Word of God appears to be subjective and selective. They wander at random through Scripture, choosing a verse here and discarding a verse there. Let not such a church imagine that it will receive the blessing of the Lord! For to despise the Word of the Lord is to despise the Lord of the Word, to distrust his faithfulness and to disregard his authority. To which kind of church do we belong? Is its attitude to Scripture principled or unprincipled, obedient or disobedient? Can we say from the heart ‘Let the Word of the Lord run and be honored throughout the world’ and ‘Let the Word of the Lord be honored and obeyed in the church?’” (Stott p. 199).

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/2-thessalonians-3.html. 1999-2014.
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