Proficient in two things
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
2 Thessalonians 3:1. ‘Brethren, pray for us.’ The apostle Paul was himself a man of prayer. Evidently he surpassed all others in earnestness of prayer; nevertheless, frequently he requested all believers to pray for him and for all ministers of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18).
His concern is not so much for himself or the safety and welfare of the ministers themselves, but for the advancement and glory of the gospel of Christ. We should pray for the general health, gifts, wisdom, perseverance and safety of those who minister the gospel to us. But in prayer to God our chief concern is
1. That ‘the word of the Lord’ may be spread far and wide,
2. That doors may be opened in many places for the preaching of Christ (Colossians 4:3), and
3. That the gospel may ‘be glorified’ or triumph in other places, as it has in you.
The gospel is glorified when men believe it, receive it and walk in holiness before God.
2 Thessalonians 3:2. Pray that true ministers of the gospel may be delivered
1. From religious Jews who, with a mad zeal of law and works, do strongly persecute the gospel and those who preach it (Romans 15:30-31), and
2. From false brethren in the church, who go by the name of Christ but who are in reality enemies of the gospel, tares among the wheat, and have their own designs in mind rather than the glory of Christ (2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 4:1-3).
2 Thessalonians 3:3. This is said for the comfort of the believers, who might be disturbed by these words of Paul. When Paul writes of the subtlety of Satan, the presence of false teachers, the fact that all who profess to know Christ do not have true faith and the mystery of iniquity that is already at work, some may be troubled in mind and fearful of their own state. Paul is quick to add, ‘God, who is faithful’ (to his purpose, to his promises and to his elect) will not allow any true believer to be deceived, taken in by false doctrine, overcome by Satan, or fall away. He will ‘stablish you and keep you’ from the Evil One!
2 Thessalonians 3:4. The confidence which Paul had concerning these believers was not in their strength, wisdom and good behavior, but in the Lord – in his grace in and towards them, in the power of his might, without whom they could do nothing. Through his enabling and strengthening them, they could do all things (Philippians 4:13).
‘You will continue to walk in the faith of Christ and will do those things we taught and commanded you to obey.’ Paul did not put upon them anything but by the commandment of the Lord. The false teachers bind upon their followers their own rules, laws and practices, which vary with the teacher, the age, the situation or the country in which they live. The commandments of God are the same for every believer, every generation, every country and every situation!
2 Thessalonians 3:5. Paul states here a summary of that which is most necessary for believers. Let everyone be directed in heart (that is, in truth and sincerity) to become proficient in two things: love for God and patient waiting for Christ's return. If our hearts are directed towards love for God and a desire for the return of Christ, other things will fall into place.
1. If we have a heart love for God, we will love all others. We will seek God's glory and the good of others. Christ said the whole law rests on this and is fulfilled in this. This principle of love will overcome all adversaries and adversities.
2. Waiting for Christ will put the world in its proper place. We are not citizens of this world system, but we wait for our King and his kingdom. It will help us to endure the temporary trials and reproaches of men. It will give us comfort and joy and peace in waiting for ultimate redemption.
A warning to those who will not work
2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, Paul deals with a particular fault and problem that had arisen in the church. There were some people who were lazy, living idle lives, would not work at a trade and were simply living off the welfare and labour of others. This, Paul said, is a disorderly walk and is not to be permitted or encouraged.
2 Thessalonians 3:6. ‘We command you in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ This is a delicate subject. All believers are sympathetic towards those in need and are generous with their earthly goods and reluctant to say ‘No’ to any who are needy or hungry. But this command is of the Lord! ‘If a man who is called a brother walketh disorderly,’ this is not a man temporarily out of work or hard-pressed occasionally, but one who continues in this fashion out of laziness and choice, ‘withdraw yourselves from him and him from you, for you were not instructed by us, or taught by us, to be idle or to live as beggars!’
2 Thessalonians 3:7. Even the apostle, who had the power and right to be totally supported and cared for by the church, worked with his hands, besides laboring among them in preaching and teaching the word (Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9). Paul was never idle nor lazy, but always busy doing what God called him and gifted him to do.
2 Thessalonians 3:8-9. ‘We did not eat food freely without paying for it’ (Acts 20:34-35). The ministers of Christ are to study, pray and labour in the word (Acts 6:4). They are to live by the gospel and are to be supported by the church (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). However, to set an example for these new believers and to discourage any loafing and laziness among them, Paul labored with his hands among them. He refused to be indebted to them lest any weak brother be offended and misled.
2 Thessalonians 3:10. He repeats what he taught them in person, ‘If anyone will not work who is able to work, then do not let him share your food (turn him away from your table).’
2 Thessalonians 3:11. Those who do not work with their minds and hands usually spend their idle time working their tongues; they are busybodies. Having nothing constructive to do, their time is spent interfering in the private lives and business of others.
2 Thessalonians 3:12. Now as the apostle of the Lord Jesus, Paul corrects both of these faults he has dealt with.
1. He exhorts them, in the first place, to cultivate quietness, peace and repose. ‘Be content with who you are, what you have and where God has placed you.’
2. ‘Work and labour in honorable employment.’ God has gifted every man with ability to do something (to make some contribution to the field of labour and life).
3. ‘Eat your own bread which is earned by your own labour and bought with your own money. Rejoice and thank God for it, whatever it is! Be content with what you have.’
2 Thessalonians 3:13. A word of caution: although there are many who are undeserving and who abuse our liberality, we must not, on their account, leave off helping those who genuinely need our help. ‘Do not be discouraged or weary of giving to the needy and feeding the hungry just because there are ill-mannered people who take advantage of you’ (Galatians 6:9).
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. ‘If anyone in the church refuses to obey what I have declared in this letter, single out that person and do not associate or keep company with him. If you humor him and pacify him in his error, you will but encourage him to continue. But if you avoid him and let him know of your displeasure, he may be ashamed and repent. However, do not consider him an enemy or reprobate, but simply admonish and warn him as a brother.’
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18. Paul's conclusion and benediction upon the brethren.
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany