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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

2 Thessalonians 3

Verses 1-18

Patience

2 Thessalonians 3:5

'The patience of Christ.' It is so the phrase runs in our R.V. as also in the margin of the A.V., in place of the A.V. 'patient waiting for Christ'. The phrase once spoken is felt to be inevitable; Paul could not have written otherwise. Patience is so truly the word of the Christ life. We have all traced, as St. John does, in the features of the Christ before High Priest or Pilate and on the cross, the likeness of the suffering Servant of Jehovah, who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows; the Sufferer as a lamb brought to the slaughter, a sheep before the shearers, dumb and opening not his mouth. Such an one has lived out by His own patience to the end His precept of patience to His followers. With His example there we can believe it true that 'he that endureth (has patience) unto the end shall be saved,' and that 'in your patience ye shall win your souls'.

I. If patience is a word of the Christ life, if part at least of the secret of Christ is divulged in its syllables, we shall be sure it will be a part of the secret of a ministry in His name. By enduring, being patient, unto the end, we shall be saved, not only as Christians, but as pastors of the flock of Christ: by our patience we shall win our souls, and by our patience shall we win the souls of others. If we must 'in all things approve ourselves as the ministers of God,' first in that list of all things must stand, as with Paul, the 'much patience'.

II. Why is such a patience a victorious quality? I suppose, first and last, because it is a special form of the quality which wins all victories everywhere; it is a form of selflessness; it gains life by losing life. When patience fails us, it is a preference of self to something worthier than self; we break out on an opponent or a fellow-worker because pride is brushed against or our personal activity is checked; we throw up a task because we want ease or because the strain will not be rewarded. The patience of saints is their effacement of their personal interests and likings in the interest of the Great Will. But if that Will is the Great Will, and the things that are done upon earth, It doeth them, then to be patient, that is, to be at one with the power which 'doeth them,' must be to succeed, must be a victory which overcomes the world.

III. But also (though we shall be praising the same truth in the language of the secular) patience is success because it is the true adjustment of the soul of man to the world of fact which environs him, it is the apt correspondence by which we live and survive. The moral laws of the universe, like the physical, work very slowly; human nature moves as the glaciers, scarce measurably; human character is built as the coral reefs, during aeons; religious faith is shaped by a discipline as deliberate as that which moulds through ages the types of animal life. Therefore the shepherding of men is an industry which must be plied with no hope of quick returns and a contentment with the smallest profits. Clearly patience is the correlative in the worker to the vastness of scale and the tardiness of movement in the work. In a slow world the man who can wait is the man who wins, for it is he who is the fittest and survives. In a vast world the man whose mind is wide enough to mirror that vastness, the man who (to invert a historic saying in politics) studies God's universe with a small-scale map and so is not daunted by its distances, this man has the intelligence which enables him to be Θεοῦ συνεργὸς , a labourer together with God.

But lastly (and still I believe we are but phrasing anew the thing first said, though we give it now the highest name we know), is not Patience in work just another word for Faith? We can be patient because we know Whom we have believed, and that we are patient is the proof that we have believed. Patience is faith not in the activity of a moment, but the activity which goes on; it is faith, might one not say, in its dimension not of intensity, but of time. No wonder, then, if patience is faith, that it should be the victory that overcometh the world.

J. Huntley Skrine, Sermons to Pastors and Masters, p. 151.

Patient Waiting for Christ

2 Thessalonians 3:5

All life is a mystery. The loftiest archangel cannot himself create the lowliest living organism. All creation confesses to her God, 'With Thee is the fountain of life'. But how much more impenetrable is the veil spread over that highest conceivable vitality, which we call spiritual life? This, of all mysteries, is the most profound. It is an effluence from the essential life of God; the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man; it is Christ living in us, the hope of glory.

I. God has provided the means for the deepening and strengthening of this higher life in His people, by which He is pleased to act upon them individually, and, through them, upon the world; to meet their present needs in the conflict which is upon them. We want grace in our time of need. That time is now, and the promised supply is at hand, and ready for our use. Thank God! that needful present grace is ours in Christ; we have the Father's footstool at which to kneel; we have a High Priest Who is with us always; we have the promised Comforter, who abides with us for ever; we have the holy Communion of Saints in the Church of God; and we have the means of refreshment which God has provided for us on our pilgrim way. The Great Householder has provided abundantly for His servants during His absence. But this does not embrace the whole provision made for our spiritual training and education. We are being disciplined for eternity; we are heirs of an everlasting kingdom; children of a Father Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light; and it is not worthy of our heavenly calling that our thoughts, desires, and joys should be bounded by our present needs and their supply, although these needs concern our immortal souls, as well as our mortal bodies, and that supply comes from the ever-living God.

II. We must look not only inward and upward, but onward onward to the 'glory that shall be revealed'. The heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ must not be absorbed in 'this present,' however lofty and noble its responsibilities may be. We shall see greater things than these. 'Our life is hid with Christ in God.' But it will not always be so. 'When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.' This passage affords a clue to one of the truest helps, and unmasks one of the greatest hindrances, of spiritual life. What if this life, which is of Divine origin, like a bulb which fails to pierce some uncongenial clay, ceases to struggle upward; it is the partial paralysis of life. Our highest privilege is this 'We have the mind of Christ'; but He is Himself expecting until His enemies be made His footstool. The Great Husbandman has watched every blossom and ripening cluster of the mystic Vine. The ultimate design of our Great Advocate, who prayed, 'Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am,' has never been for one moment absent from His mind. For this final triumph He is waiting and working. Nor will He rest until His latest promise to the seventh Church is fulfilled 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne....'

III. Now, only as our hearts beat truly with His, only as our most real desires are in unison with His, can we live that spiritual life which to live is Christ.

Our Lord's earthly life was lived, and His ministry fulfilled, in the light of His Return to Judgment. In His Sermon on the Mount, in His charge to His Apostles, in His private discourses, in His most impressive parables, in His farewell converse, in His good confession before the Sanhedrin he pointed to That Day. After His Ascension, the promise of His Return was the consolation which angels poured into the bereaved hearts of the Apostles. Thus it runs as a golden thread through all the Epistles. St. Paul never wearies of it; St. James urges patience in contemplating it; St. Peter reminds the elders of the Advent of the Chief Shepherd; St. John comforts by the assurance, 'When He shall appear, we shall be like Him'; St Jude re-echoes Enoch's warning, 'The Lord cometh'. And the last book of the inspired canon bears on its forefront, 'Behold, He cometh with clouds,' and closes with the threefold watchword, 'I come quickly'.

IV. As we drink in the spirit of these Scriptures, we are tempted to exclaim, 'Surely there will not be one laggard heart: all will watch and wait and long for the return of their absent Lord'. But has it been so? Looking broadly over the history of the Church of God, have the servants of the Householder been watching for His return? Has not the parable of the Ten Virgins been continually repeated 'While the Bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept'?

From one cause or another, the Church has relaxed her vigil. There are, indeed, those who watch for the faintest sound of the footfall of their returning Lord. But they are few and far between. Perhaps of all hindrances to spiritual life none is more insidious than the answer to the ringing Advent call, 'Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep'. But if slothfulness hinders His return, watchfulness helps the spiritual life (in the exercise of faith and patience) more than words can say. This lifts the heart to that which is imperishable and eternal. This cheers us on in our patient work for Him at home, for we hear His voice, 'Occupy till I come'. This, too, is the mainspring of missionary work. The time is short, the Master near.

Bishop Bickersteth, late of Exeter, Church Congress, 1878.

References. III. 5. Archbishop Magee, Sermons at Bath, p. 271. I. E. Page, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 133. S. H. Fleming, Fifteen Minute Sermons for the People, p. 133. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2028. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Thessalonians, p. 277. III. 7-12. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 102. III. 9. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 382. III. 10. W. Richmond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 188. H. H. Almond, Sermons by a Lay Headmaster, p. 149. F. S. Root, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 198. III. 10-12. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 282. III. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2918. III. 14. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 207. III. 15. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 257. III. 16. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v. p. 321. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1343. W. H. Griffith-Thomas, The Record, vol. xxvii. p. 799. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Thessalonians, p. 288. III. 17. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 199; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 253; ibid. vol. x. p. 75. III. 17, 18. Ibid. vol. viii. p. 372.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/2-thessalonians-3.html. 1910.