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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 3

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

2 Thessalonians 3:1 . In addition to offering prayers on their behalf, Paul asks them to pray for the continued success of the gospel (“may others be as blest as we are”!) and (2 Thessalonians 3:2 ), for its agents’ safety (Isaiah 25:4 , LXX, a reminiscence of). The opponents here are evidently (2 Thessalonians 2:10 f.) beyond hope of conversion; preservation from their wiles is all that can be expected. For a speedy answer to this prayer, see Acts 18:9 f. The repeated use of ὁ Κύριος in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 , brings out the control of God amid the plots and passions of mankind. ἀτόπων . The general sense of the term is given by Philo in his queer allegorising of Genesis 3:9 ( Leg. Alleg. , iii. 17, ἄτοπος λέγεται εἶναι ὁ φαῦλος ); commonly it is used, as elsewhere in the N.T., of things, but here of persons, either as = “ill-disposed,” or, in a less general and derivative sense = “perverse” ( cf. Nägeli, der Wortschatz des Paulus , p. 37), or “froward”. The general aim of the passage is to widen the horizon of the Thessalonians, by enlisting their sympathy and interest on behalf of the apostles. They are not the only sufferers, or the only people who need prayer and help. οὐ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς εἰς Κόρινθόν ἐσθʼ ὁ πλοῦς , so ran the ancient proverb. Paul writes from Corinth that while everyone has the chance, not all have the desire, to arrive at the faith. ἡ πίστις is the faith of the gospel, or Christianity. By a characteristic play upon the word, Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ), hurries on to add, “but the Lord is faithful”. ὑμᾶς (for which Bentley and Baljon plausibly conjecture ἡμᾶς ) shows how lightly his mind rests on thoughts of his own peril as compared with the need of others. It is impossible to decide, either from the grammar or from the context, whether τοῦ πονηροῦ is neuter or masculine. Either sense would suit, though, if there is a reminiscence here of the Lord’s prayer (so Feine, Jesus Christus u. Paulus , 252 f., and Chase, Texts and Studies , i. 3. 112 f.), the masculine would be inevitable, as is indeed more probable for general reasons (so e.g. , Hofmann, Everling, Ellicott, etc.)

Verse 4

2 Thessalonians 3:4 . πεποίθαμεν (= we have faith), still playing on the notion of πίστις . Paul rallies the Thessalonians by reminding them, not only of God’s faithfulness, but of their friends’ belief in them.

Verse 5

2 Thessalonians 3:5 . κατευθύναι , κ . τ . λ . Paul no longer (I., 1 Thessalonians 3:11 ) entertains the hope of revisiting them soon. “God’s love and Christ’s patient endurance” ( i.e. , the ὑπομονή which Christ inspires and requires, cf. Ignat. ad. Rom. , last words) correspond to the double experience of love and hope in 2 Thessalonians 2:16 . It is by the sense of God’s love alone, not by any mere acquiescence in His will or stoical endurance of it, that the patience and courage of the Christian are sustained. Cf. Ep. Arist. , 195, ἐπὶ τῶν καλλίστων πράξεων οὐκ αὐτοὶ κατευθύνομεν τὰ βουλευθέντα · θεὸς δὲ τελειοῖ τὰ πάντων . Connect with 2 Thessalonians 3:3 and cf. Mrs. Browning’s line, “I waited with patience, which means almost power”.

Verse 6

2 Thessalonians 3:6 . How necessary it was to promote ὑπομονή with its attendant virtues of diligence and order at Thessalonica, is evident from the authoritative ( ἐν ὀν . τ . Κυρίου ) tone and the crisp detail of the following paragraph. Παραγγ ., like ἀτάκτως , has a military tinge ( cf. on I. 1 Thessalonians 4:2 , and Dante’s Paradiso , xii. 37 45). στελλ ., for his own sake (2 Thessalonians 3:14 ), as well as for yours: a service as well as a precaution. The collective action of his fellow-Christians, besides preserving (1 Corinthians 5:6 ) themselves from infection and nothing is so infectious as an insubordinate, indolent, interfering spirit will bring home to him a sense of his fault. Lightfoot aptly cites the παράγγελμα of Germanicus to his mutinous troops: “discedite a contactu, ac diuidite turbidos: id stabile ad paenitentiam, id fidei uinculum erit” (Tacit. Annal. , i. 43). The ἄτακτοι of 6 12 are excitable members who “break the ranks” by stopping work in view of the near advent, and thus not only disorganise social life but burden the church with their maintenance. The apostles had not been idle or hare-brained enthusiasts, and their example of an orderly, self-supporting life is held up as a pattern. Insubordination of this kind is a breach of the apostolic standard of the Christian life, and Paul deals sharply with the first symptoms of it. He will not listen to any pious pleas for this kind of conduct.

Verses 6-16

2 Thessalonians 3:6-16 . Injunctions upon church-life and order.

Verse 8

2 Thessalonians 3:8 . Paul’s practice of a trade and emphasis upon the moral discipline of work are quite in keeping with the best Jewish traditions of the period. Compare e.g. , the saying of Gamaliel II. ( Kiddusch . i. 11): “He who possesses a trade is like a fenced vineyard, into which no cattle can enter, etc.” δωρεάν = “for nothing, gratis”.

Verse 9

2 Thessalonians 3:9 . The apostles had the right to be maintained by the church, but in this case they had refused to avail themselves of it. The Thessalonians are not to misconstrue their action.

Verse 10

2 Thessalonians 3:10 . Precept as well as example ( DC [36] , ii. 2). As is perhaps implied in ὅτι , εἰ … ἐσθιέτω is a maxim quoted by the apostle, not from some unwritten saying of Jesus (Resch) but from the Jewish counterparts, based on Genesis 3:19 , which are cited by Wetstein, especially Beresch. rabba , xiv. 12: “ut, si non laborat, non manducet”. Cf. Carlyle’s Chartism , chap. iii (“In all ways it needs, especially in these times, to be proclaimed aloud that for the idle man there is no place in this England … he that will not work according to his faculty, let him perish according to his necessity”). The use of ἐν Κυρίῳ here and in 1 Corinthians 11:11 ( cf. Matthew 19:4 f.) proves, as Titius argues ( der Paulinismus unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Seligkeit , 1900, p. 105), that the original divine ideas of the Creation are fulfilled and realised in the light of Christ’s gospel; the entire process of human life culminates in the faith of Christ, and therefore no unqualified antithesis can be drawn between ordinary life and Christian conduct.

[36] CG Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (1907 1908)

Verse 11

2 Thessalonians 3:11 . The γάρ goes back to 2 Thessalonians 3:6 . “Whereas I am told that some of your number are behaving in a disorderly fashion, not busy but busybodies,” fussy and officious, doing anything but attending to their daily trade. “Ab otio ualde procliue est hominum ingenium ad curiositatem” (Bengel). The first persecution at Thessalonica had been fostered by a number of fanatical loungers (Acts 17:5 ). On the sensible attitude of the primitive church to labour, see Harnack’s Expansion , i. 215 f. M. Aurelius (iii. 4) warns people against idle, fussy habits, but especially against τὸ περίεργον καὶ κακόηθες , and an apt parallel to this use of ἀτάκτως lies in Dem. Olynth. , iii. 34: ὅσα (funds or food) οὗτος ἀτάκτως νῦν λαμβάνων ( i.e. , takes without rendering personal service in the field) οὐκ ὠφελεῖ , ταῦτʼ ἐν ἰσῇ τάξει λαμβανέτω .

Verse 12

2 Thessalonians 3:12 . They are not directly addressed (contrast 6, 13). μετὰ ἡσυχίας , in the homely sphere of work. The three causes of disquiet at Thessalonica are ( a ) the disturbing effect of persecution, ( b ) the tension produced by the thought of the advent of Christ, and ( c ), as an outcome of the latter, irregularity and social disorganisation in the community.

Verse 13

2 Thessalonians 3:13 . ὑμεῖς δέ , whoever else drops out of the ranks of industrious, steady Christians. μὴ ἐγκ ., implying that they had not begun to grow slack (Moulton, 122 f.). Perhaps with a special allusion to the presence of people who abused charity; generous Christians must not forego liberality and help, arguing that it is no use to succour any because some will take advantage of the church’s largess.

Verse 14

2 Thessalonians 3:14 . διὰ τ . ἐπ ., implying that the matter ends with this letter (Weiss); Paul has spoken his last word on the subject. With this and the following verse, cf. Did. xv. 3 ( ἐλέγχετε δὲ ἀλλήλους μὴ ἐν ὀργῇ ἀλλʼ ἐν εἰρήνῃ , ὡς ἔχετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ · καὶ παντὶ ἀστοχοῦντι κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου μηδεὶς λαλείτω μηδὲ παρʼ ὑμῶν ἀκουέτω , ἕως οὗ μετανοήσῃ ). ἐντραπῇ , “be ashamed” (= αἰδεῖσθαι as often).

Verse 15

2 Thessalonians 3:15 . Disapproval, as a means of moral discipline, loses all its effect if the offender does not realise its object and reason ( νουθετεῖτε ), or if it is tainted with personal hostility. ὡς ἀδελφόν . Compare the fine saying of Rabbi Chanina ben Gamaliel on Deuteronomy 25:3 , that after the punishment the offender is expressly called brother, not sinner.

Verse 16

2 Thessalonians 3:16 . εἰρήνην , as opposed to these fears and troubles of the church. Κύριος is probably, in accordance with Paul’s usual practice, to be taken as = Jesus Christ, but the language of 2 Thessalonians 3:5 and of I., 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , makes the reference to God quite possible.

Verses 17-18

2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 . Conclusion. Paul now takes the pen from his amanuensis, to add the salutation in his own handwriting for the purpose of authenticating the epistle (otherwise in 1 Corinthians 16:21 ). This, he observes, is the sign-manual of his letters ( cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ), i.e. , the fact of a personal written greeting at the close, not any form of words (like 2 Thessalonians 3:18 ), or the use of the word “grace,” or “certum quendam nexum literarium” (Grotius). The precaution is natural, in view of his suspicion about unauthorised communications. Compare “the σεσημείωμαι (generally contracted into σεση ) with which so many of the Egyptian papyrus-letters and ostraca close” (Milligan, p. 130), or the postscript in one’s own handwriting ( ξύμβολον ) which guaranteed an ancient letter (Deissmann: Licht vom Osten , 105). μετά ( cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ), the divine presence is realised through the experience of Christ’s grace.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-thessalonians-3.html. 1897-1910.
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