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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 3

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

Paul's Request For Their Prayers

As he did in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul used the word "finally" meaning, "as for the rest." Paul asked them to pray for him but with the desire that others be benefitted. He asked that prayers continually be offered requesting that the gospel be spread to all men. As it was spread, Paul also wanted them to pray that it would triumph, or meet with success, with those men as it had in the lives of the Thessalonian brethren.

Shepherd believes Paul was at Corinth as he wrote this letter and the vision he had from the Lord there and Gallio's quick response may have been a direct answer to brethren's prayers that he be delivered ( Act_18:7-17 ). No matter whether such was the case or not, it clearly is an example of the way God can help by working through men even in a non-miraculous way. Coffman quotes Adam Clarke and George Howard to prove the word "faith" here is our word "trustworthiness", or "fidelity". This can apply to those claiming to be God's people as well as those outside of God's children ( Rom_9:6 ). Paul's desire was that these men who lacked trustworthiness be stopped so that the gospel could be furthered ( 2Th_3:1-2 ).

Verses 3-5

Paul's Confidence in the Thessalonians

In contrast to some men who could not be trusted, Paul said God is completely trustworthy. Those placing their trust in God will be made firm by Him so that they will not fall prey to Satan or his devices. Paul was confident that the Christians in Thessalonica were obeying the Lord's commandments and would keep on obeying if they relied upon Christ to be their strengthening force ( Php_4:13 ). Notice that Paul's confidence in the brethren stemmed from his confidence in the Lord. Paul's prayer was that the Lord would lead them into the love of God which would naturally lead to obedience ( 1Jn_5:3 ) Also, he asked that they be given the same ability to endure trials that Christ had shown while on earth ( 2Th_3:3-5 ).

Verse 6

Discipline for the Disorderly

Paul wrote this letter with the authority that belonged to an apostle of Jesus Christ ( Galatians 1:1; 11-12 ; Mat_16:19 ). In fact, he carefully noted that he spoke by Christ's authority. The Lord's command as issued by Paul was that they not have fellowship with those who he was about to mention. This does not forbid all contact, as we shall see later, but the social contact that would make it appear that one saw nothing wrong with the actions of such brethren (compare Mat_18:15-17 ; Rom_16:17-18 ; 1Co_5:1-13 ).

In the first Thessalonian letter, Paul had commanded the brethren to work with their own hands ( 1Th_4:11-12 ). Those who refused to follow that command, or any other oral instruction passed on to them by God's spokesmen, were not walking according to rule and, according to Paul, should be withdrawn from. Remember, unruly soldiers fall out of step thus becoming disorderly or lazy ( 1Th_5:14 ). Paul had already urged such brethren to join ranks with the other members lest they run into many dangers ( 2Th_3:6 ).

Verses 7-9

Paul's Example Among Them

Paul urged them to remember the example he had set when in Thessalonica ( 1Th_2:9 ). He had worked night and day so that they might hear the gospel and he could earn a living. If one who was bringing them the word of salvation could work with his own hands and not insist on being fed, clothed and housed by the brethren, surely the unruly brother could too.

He did not eat anyone's bread without compensating them for it. In other words, he did not take his living from them. McGarvey says the vast amount of slave labor in that day made working with one's hands be despised. Paul tried to make Christians realize that work was honorable ( Gen_2:15 ; Gen_3:17-19 ; 1Co_4:12 ; Eph_4:28 ). As one who preached the gospel, Paul had a right to earn a living from that preaching ( 1Co_9:1-14 ; Gal_6:6 ; 1Ti_5:17-18 ). Paul did not take advantage of that right because he wanted them to see that work was honorable. He wanted them to follow his example ( 2Th_3:7-9 ).

Verses 10-12

The Command for the Disorderly

Kelcy notes that Paul used the imperfect tense when he said, "we commanded you this", so it means he repeatedly commanded them. Thus, the one who as a habit refused to earn a living was to be refused aid by his brethren. Unfortunately, these same folks, while refusing to do much of anything themselves, were constantly busy telling others what to do. McGarvey says Paul's words could be translated, "who have no business, and yet are busy with everybody's business." From this it can be seen that no one remains truly idle. If one is not busy building up the Lord's work and providing for his own family, he will be busy doing things which will tear them both down ( 2Th_3:10-11 ; compare 1Ti_5:11-15 ; Mat_12:30 ).

Paul spoke with authority, as is shown by his use of the word "command." However, he also spoke in love, with a desire to encourage the brethren in the right direction, as is shown by his use of the word "exhort." He plainly told the disorderly that they needed to go back to work, earn their living and cease being in charge of everyone else's business ( 2Th_3:12 ).

Verses 13-15

Encouragement for the Faithful

Despite the fact that some had been lazy, Paul encouraged Christians to continue in all good works which were in accord with God's will. As Lipscomb says, "Nothing discourages giving to the needy like having the lazy and meddlesome seeking support." Those who are truly in need will still require help ( 2Th_3:13 ; Gal_6:10 ). The actions commanded in 2Th_3:14 were not rash but came at the end of a carefully prepared strategy. All possible courses of action to restore the unruly to proper fellowship with the Lord would have been tried and, unfortunately, failed.

Paul taught them when he was in Thessalonica (3:10), taught them in the previous letter ( 1Th_4:11 ), sent Timothy to teach them ( 1Th_3:2 ; 1Th_3:6 ), and taught them in this second epistle (3:6-12). If anyone continued to refuse to walk according to God's order after so much instruction, he would have needed swift and effective discipline. His fellow Christians were instructed to refuse him associations, in a social sense, in an effort to make him ashamed of his actions and move him to repentance. The faithful brethren were not to hate or act in a hostile manner toward such disorderly ones. Instead, they were to issue a warning based upon instruction that would exhibit the love of one brother for another. To follow Paul's instructions, it would not be necessary to break off all contact, just social association ( 2Th_3:15 ).

Verses 16-18

Closing Thoughts

Despite the stern warnings he had used, Paul still desired that the Lord of peace would give them peaceful relations between one another and with God. The Lord is constantly associated with peace, so Paul's prayer was that He be with them ( Luk_2:14 ; Joh_14:27 ; Eph_2:12-17 ).

Some have suggested that someone had tried to make a letter appear like it was from Paul. Certainly, he wanted them to know this letter was from him. It seems he dictated most of his letters to a scribe and then wrote some of the closing remarks with his own hand, thus clearly identifying a letter as from Paul. His final words are identical to those in the first letter except for the use of "all". After such strong warnings, Paul may have wanted to reassure the guilty that he still desired God's unmerited favor for them ( 2Th_3:16-18 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/2-thessalonians-3.html. 2014.
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