Click here to get started today!
2 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 3
2 Thessalonians 3:1,2 Thessalonians 3:2 The apostle desireth the Thessalonians to pray for him,
2 Thessalonians 3:3,2 Thessalonians 3:4 testifying his confidence in them,
2 Thessalonians 3:5 and praying God to direct them.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 He censureth the idle and disorderly, and requireth others to abstain from their company,
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 concluding with prayer and salutation.
The apostle now draws towards the close of his Epistle, as appears by the word
finally, which he also useth in the close of other Epistles, as 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:8; το λοιπον. It imports the adding of something that remains. And that which he first addeth, is the desire of their prayers; as he had desired them in the former Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5:25; and so of other churches, 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Hebrews 13:18, &c. He had prayed for them in the foregoing chapter, and now he begs their prayers. It is a mutual duty that ministers and people owe to one another. Though the apostle gave himself to the word, and prayer also, Acts 6:4, yet the prayers of many may be more prevalent than of one, though an apostle: and they being concerned for the advancing of Christ’s interest in the world, as they were Christians, were therefore engaged to pray for him. And the apostle was sensible of the greatness of the work which was in his hand, and his own insufficiency, without God, therefore he desires prayer; and it is of them whom he here calls brethren: he knew the prayers of the wicked and unbelievers would avail nothing; and though he was a great apostle, yet the greatest in the church may stand in need of, and be helped by, the prayers of the meanest brethren. And their prayers he desires are, first, with respect to his ministry,
that the word of the Lord may have free course, or may run; that the course of it may not be stopped, it being as a river of the water of life. The apostle was to teach all nations, and so desires the word may pass from one nation to another, yea, and run down from one generation to another, that it may spread and diffuse itself, and disciples might be multiplied. This is called the increasing of it, Acts 6:7; the growing and multiplying of it, Acts 12:24; the growing and prevailing of it, Acts 19:20; which Christ sets forth by the parable of the mustard-seed, which grew and spread; and of the leaven, that diffused its virtue in the meal, Matthew 13:31-33; the apostle referring here to the external course of the word, rather than its inward efficacy in the soul, as also Christ seems chiefly to do in those parables. There are many things that hinder the course of the gospel; sometimes wicked rulers make laws against it, sometimes great persecutions have been raised, sometimes false teachers oppose it, sometimes professors prove apostates and scandalize the world against it, sometimes reproaches are thrown in the way of it. And to the free course of it is required, on the contrary, a provision of suitable help herein, both of magistracy and ministry, and the bestowing of the Spirit, and the blessing of endeavours used herein. All these are to be prayed for, as the former to be prayed against.
And be glorified: he means, that it might have honour, reputation, and high esteem in the world, and not lie under reproach; as the Jews accounted it heresy, and the Gentiles foolishness: as it is said of those Gentiles, Acts 13:48, they glorified the word of the Lord, by their honourable respect to it, and joy in it. As also that it might produce glorious effects in the world, in subduing people to God, and making men new creatures, and bringing them out of the devil’s into Christ’s kingdom, &c.; that it may evidence itself to be from heaven, and the power of God to men’s salvation, and not an invention of man; to which we may add, that it may be honoured in the unblamable and exemplary walking of the professors of it.
Even as it is with you: the glorious success of it with them he had largely shown before in both these Epistles; and he would have them pray for the like with others. Those that have felt the power of the gospel themselves to their conversion and salvation, should pray that others may partake of it with them. Herein they show their charity to men, and love to God, which the apostle here puts them upon, as that which would be acceptable to God; and the rather, because their own experience might teach them what God was able to do for others. Or else the apostle in these words sets forth these Thessalonians as a pattern of the mighty success of the word: it had its free course and was glorified among them; they received it as the word of God, and not of men. As if the apostle should say: They that would know the glorious success of the word of the Lord, let them go to Thessalonica.
Their prayers are here desired by the apostle with respect to their persons, which relates to the prayer desired before with respect to the word; for the apostle and his fellow labourers met with such men that did oppose them, and by that means were hindered in their work of the ministry, and the free course of the word obstructed. What were these men? Were they the persecuting Gentiles? They met with such: or the envious, malicious Jews? They met with such also; and here at Thessalonica in particular, and which followed Paul to Berea, Acts 17:1-34. Or were they false brethren crept into the church? As he complains of his perils by them, 2 Corinthians 11:26; which some think most probable, by what he adds, for all men have not faith, even of those that make profession. Why may not we take in all these? But whoever they were, he styles them, first,
unreasonable men, men out of place, as the word imports; taken either literally, for vagrants, wanderers, not keepers at home; or such as follow the apostle from place to place, to hinder his ministry. Or logically, for men that argued absurdly, and kept to no sound topics in reasoning; either false teachers among the Jews, or the heathen philosophers, such as he met with at Athens, whom he disputed with Acts 17:1-34. Or morally, for men that had corrupt principles and practices, that kept not to the duty of their place and station, (desordonnez, French translation), and wandered out of the path of righteousness. We render it unreasonble men; men transported with fury and passion against all reason, as we read of the Jews, Acts 17:5. Or such as acted contrary to reason, as the apostle speaks of such Jews in the former Epistle, who were contrary to all men, foridding them to preach to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, 1 Thessalonians 2:15,1 Thessalonians 2:16. Or men of sensual lives, living more like brutes than reasonable creatures. Secondly,
wicked men; so that whoever they were, whether Jews or Gentiles, teachers or the common people, learned or unlearned, they were wicked; and whatever was meant by the former word, yet this is plain; and the word imports either men that are laborious in wickedness, or that by their wickedness create labour and trouble to others. And such the apostle met with at Thessalonica, Jews who took to them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and drew Jason and others before the rulers, assaulting his house, Acts 17:5,Acts 17:6; and indeed wherever they came, they met with such kind of men. Through the lusts of men’s hearts, and the enmity and malice of the devil, faithful ministers will meet with opposition, and such as will hinder what they can the free course of the word. And therefore the apostle desires prayer to be delivered from them, ινα ρυσθωμεν, the word signifies a rescue by strength from some impending or incumbent evil, oft used, Luke 1:74; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10. And he desires deliverance rather for the gospel’s sake than his own. And though it is honourable to suffer for the gospel, yet it is desirable to be kept out of the hands of such men as these. The apostle subjoins the reason why men are thus,
for all men have not faith. He needed not say this of infidels, which all men know to be without it, and therefore it is thought the apostle here means professors. There may be true faith wanting where faith is professed. Faith is sometimes taken for fidelity, a moral virtue, and some think is meant here, because it follows in the next verse by way of antithesis: But the Lord is faithful. But rather, I take it for a theological grace; for that true evangelical faith which purifies the heart, and worketh by love, and brings forth the acts of obedience to all God’s commandments. Had they this faith they would not be unreasonable and wicked. But can we suppose such to be in the church? As well as those, 2 Timothy 3:5, whom the apostle describes to have a form of godliness under all that wickedness he there mentions. But let men have civility, sobriety, external devotion, and profession, yet if they oppose the gospel, in the power, purity, and progress of it, they may be styled unreasonable and wicked men; and from such men we may pray, as the apostle desired here: Good Lord, deliver us. And it is the duty of people with respect to their faithful ministers, and the work of the gospel in their hands, to pray that they may be delivered from such men.
These words are added by way of consolation:
1. With respect to their establishment, which the apostle had before prayed for, 2 Thessalonians 2:17, and here he assures them of it. What God hath promised, yet we may and ought to pray for; and ministers should exhort people to seek that grace which they may be sure beforehand God will give. And this establishment respects either their mind, in the belief of the gospel against false doctrine; or their hearts, against inordinate fears of men; or their practice, against departing from the way of holiness. The apostle well knew the tenure of the new covenant, which contains promises of perseverance and establishment, as well as of pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace, Jeremiah 32:40; and he grounds his confidence of their establishment upon God’s faithfulness, as upon the same account he comforts the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and these Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, and it may be the apostle hath here reference to what he had said before; Though we shall meet with wicked and unreasonable men, yet fear not, God will establish you, for he is faithful. As God’s promises are according to his purposes, so his performances will be according to his promises, which is his faithfulness.
2. As God would establish them, so keep them from evil. There is moral and penal evil, of sin and suffering; the Greek word imports the former; never used but for sinful evil, or sometimes for the devil, with respect to the sin that dwells in him, and occasioned by him, Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 5:18. And it is true, that God will keep his people from the devil, as some read the word. But I suppose the apostle means here by evil, evil work; as he speaks, 2 Timothy 4:18; The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work. But whether the evil work of others, or their own? The latter I incline to, for he could not well assure them of the former. But how could he assure them of the latter? Did he think God would keep them from all sin? The apostle doth not mean so, nor say so; God keeps his people from much evil and sin which others fall into, though not from all. And he keeps them from falling under the power of it. Though they may be tempted by Satan, the world, or their own hearts, yet not so as finally to be overcome. However, the more God doth establish his people, the more will they be kept from evil. And the apostle doth also comfort them in this from the consideration of God’s faithfulness. But these promises of God’s keeping us do not exclude our endeavours of keeping ourselves: He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not, 1 John 5:18. Hence those exhortations: Keep thy heart with all diligence, Proverbs 4:23, and Keep yourselves in the love of God, Jude 1:21, &c. And our keeping is ascribed to our own faith with the power of God, 1 Peter 1:5.
The apostle had before declared his confidence that God would establish them and keep them from evil, and now here declares his confidence in them concerning their obedience; for he knew well that this is the way of God’s keeping men; and hereby he shows that he built his confidence concerning what he had before declared about their election, calling, establishment, and preservation upon some good ground. And he describes their obedience by doing what the apostle and his fellow labourers in the gospel among them commanded them, whether they were commandments about the duties of the law of the first or second tables, or the doctrine, order, worship, or discipline of the gospel; so that their commandments were no other but the commandments of the Lord himself, Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 14:37. Ministers are not arbitrary commanders in the church; not lords over God’s heritage, 1 Peter 5:3, or have dominion over the people’s faith, 2 Corinthians 1:24; nor may they, as the Pharisees, teach for doctrines the commandments of men, Matthew 15:9. And he speaks before of these Thessalonians, that they received the word preached by them, not as the word of men, but of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Both our faith and practice in religion are to be built upon Divine authority; either upon what God hath expressly declared, or what by clear consequence may be derived from it. So that what they command the people is from the Lord, and not themselves. Their work is to search out the mind and will of Christ, as revealed in the Scripture, seeing they have not that immediate infallible inspiration that the apostles had, who were called to lay the foundation which others were to build upon. And as to those things that are but appendices, and not of the substance of religion, and for which no particular rule is or can be laid down, Christian prudence is to regulate them according to general rules, wherein the advice, appointment, and authority of the minister is to be regarded in every church. Yet nothing ought to be enjoined in these things that is uncomely, that is not for edification, that is not of good report, that hath an appearance of evil, that gives just occasion of offence, that transgresseth the general rule of mercy, that is a direction of superstition, whereby many of the commandments of the Romish Church are justly condemned. And obedience to these commandments of the apostle he describes by the universality of it,
the things that we command you; that is, all things; the indefinite being equivalent to the universal. And by the constancy of it, that ye both do and will do, & c.; ye will persevere to do what commandments ye have already received, or any new commandments we shall further give you; some whereof are probably such as are mentioned in the following part of this chapter. And their present obedience gave the apostle confidence about that which was future; at least he declares to them this confidence, as an insinuating argument to persuade them thereunto.
Here the apostle prays for them again, as he had done a little before, 2 Thessalonians 2:17; and as this shows how much they were in his heart, so the frequent mingling of prayers with his exhortations shows they could not be effectual without God. And he prays for two things:
1. To have their hearts directed into the love of God; which is either meant passively, for God’s love to them, to have their hearts, that is, their whole soul, engaged in the study, contemplation, and admiration of this love; or rather actively, for their love to God, to have their hearts set straight into the love of God, as the Greek word imports; drawn out towards him as a straight line to its centre, or as an arrow directed to the mark. Till man’s love is set upon God, the motions of the heart are crooked and irregular; as the ways of sin are called crooked ways, Psalms 125:5; and John Baptist’s ministry was to make crooked things straight, Isaiah 40:4. The turning man’s heart and ways towards God makes them straight. David prays, Psalms 119:36; Incline my heart unto thy testimonies; ybm-jh or, bend my heart; as we bend a crooked stick to make it straight. Or as he prays God to unite his heart to his fear, Psalms 86:11; so here Paul, to direct theirs to his love, by which some understand all religion. We learn hence, that to direct man’s heart to the love of God is the work of God, and beyond our power. And the hearts of the best saints stand in need of a more perfect and constant direction unto the love of God. Patient sufferings for Christ’s sake; as the apostle calls his sufferings for Christ’s sake, the sufferings of Christ, often, 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10, &c.; and patience for his sake, is called the patience of Christ, Revelation 1:9. In this sense, the apostle prays they may have hearts ready to suffer, and patiently to suffer for Christ’s sake, Hebrews 10:36; James 5:10; and suited to a suffering state, which the heart is naturally averse and disinclined unto. And the word is often used in this sense for patience under the cross. And so the apostle hath his eye in his prayer upon the suffering state these believers were in for Christ’s sake. If the sense be rendered as in our translation, he prays for their hearts to be fixed upon the coming of Christ, to look towards it, and patiently to wait for it; the Greek word being often taken for the patience of expectation as well as of suffering, Romans 8:25; Hebrews 10:36; and so it is the same as waiting for the Son of God from heaven, mentioned 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and looking for the Saviour, Philippians 3:20; that hereby they might not faint under his sufferings, nor be surprised by his coming. And because the hearts of the best are apt either to be remiss or secure upon the delay of Christ’s coming, he therefore prays their hearts might be directed to a patient waiting for it, as the apostle Peter upon the same account exhorts believers to the girding up the loins of their mind, 1 Peter 1:13.
Here the apostle proceeds to a discourse of another kind, which is about their carriage to disorderly members in the church. And having before declared his confidence, 2 Thessalonians 3:4, that they did and would do the things he commanded them, he now tells them what he commands; and because either it is a matter of great importance, or that which’they would be backward in, he therefore speaks with great vehemence. When he spake in the former Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, of warning the unruly, he then spake with greater mildness:
We exhort you, brethren, & c.; but now to withdraw from them is a harsher duty; or they having first warned them, if they reform not, next they are to proceed to withdraw from them. And this he now commands as that which he supposeth they might be backward to. παραγγελλομεν the word properly signifies a command conveyed from another, so the apostle commands here
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he had authority to command as an apostle, yet it was derived to him from Christ, and therefore he usually conjoins Christ with his exhortations and commands.
That ye withdraw yourselves from every brother; or avoid, as the word signifies, and is so rendered, 2 Corinthians 8:20. The word is used also, Galatians 2:12, of Peter’s withdrawing himself from eating with the Gentiles; and rendered drawing back, Hebrews 10:38, alluding, as some think, there to a soldier that draws back from the battle; but here in the text to a mariner that steers his ship from the rocks; and so it implies the danger of not withdrawing, which may be the reason of the apostle’s so solemn command about it. And it is not from a heathen man, but a brother, one that is of the church; and it is every brother, let him be rich or poor, high or low, &c.; as he writes to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 5:11; If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, & c.
That walketh disorderly: alluding, as some think, to soldiers who keep not their rank, not walking according to rule, or, as he expresseth it,
not after the tradition which he received of us. What is to be meant by tradition, is explained in the former chapter. And he cannot be understood to speak here of rites and ceremonies relating to church worship or order, as some imagine; the apostle doth in the following verses explain himself otherwise. But what is this withdrawing? Is it excommunication, the greater or the less? In a general sense it may be so called, for it is an abstaining from commnnion; but it is not so properly, for that is called putting away a person, a purging out the old leaven, 1 Corinthians 5:7, this is only a withdrawing from him; much less is it a delivering up to Satan, which the apostle required, 1 Corinthians 5:5, and himself inflicted upon Hymeneus and Alexander, 1 Timothy 1:20. The nature of the crime here mentioned will not bear that. It was not incest or blasphemy, as in the former instances, but only disorderly walking, which he specifies afterwards. And with respect to such the apostle required in the former Epistle warning only: Warn the unruly. And though this is something more, yet it implies not a casting a man out of the church, which is Christ’s visible kingdom, into Satan’s kingdom, for he is still to be admonished as a brother, as 2 Thessalonians 3:15. And excommunication is the exerting an act of church power, as 1 Corinthians 5:4, whereof no mention is made here; or of an absolute rejection, which is elsewhere required, Titus 3:10. It seems then to be only a withdrawing from familiar converse and society, as 1 Corinthians 5:11; If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, covetous, &c.; with such an one no not to eat; alluding to the custom of the Jews, who would not eat with the Gentiles; and by eating is expressed communion in Scripture, and profane writers also. And such communion is forbidden to such a brother, which the apostle allowed them to have with such sinners that were of the world, and not of the church, as 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which cannot be meant of sacred communion. And familiarity with such a brother would harden him in his sins, and reflect dishonour upon religion, and endanger their infection, more than with a pagan, or infidel: which therefore the apostle forbids them to a brother, as he did the Corinthians mentioned before, as also the Romans, Romans 16:17. And which may be a step towards excommunication from spiritual communion, which is the greater punishment, especially if the brother be not hereby made ashamed, and reform his course, and doth not only now and then do a disorderly action, but
walketh disorderly, and that after warning also. Others think it is meant of excommunication, and judge not the reason against it to be cogent.
Whereby the apostle intimates the aggravation of their crime who did walk disorderly, and so justifies the withdrawing from them. For they would be reproved not only by his doctrine, but example: what he required of others he practised himself, and that in some cases for this end alone, that he might be an example; examples teaching more than precepts, especially in ministers. And they did not only know how the apostle and his fellow ministers walked among them, but their end therein, whereby they knew they ought to follow them, and how to follow them; being guided as well as excited by their example. And this is expressed more generally. First, negatively:
We behaved not ourselves disorderly among you, which he speaks not in a way of self-commendation, but for their imitation; and he useth here the same word to express his own practice which he did in theirs, being properly a military word, as was said before. He went before them as it captain before the army, and taught them order by his own example; for in the negative the positive is included.
Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought: the apostle here gives a particular positive instance of what before he speaks negatively, and in general; and brings his discourse home to the present case, and declares his orderly working in this, that he wrought for his own bread, and did not eat for nought, or live upon that which was freely given. δωρεαν the word is sometimes taken for that which is without effect, as Galatians 2:21, answering to the Hebrew word Chinnam, oft used, Psalms 7:4; Psalms 25:3; Psalms 69:4; Psalms 119:61. Or, that which is without cause; and that either with respect to injury received, as John 15:25, or benefit bestowed, as Romans 3:24, when it is freely given without merit. The apostle means that he preached the gospel to them freely, as he tells the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 11:7. Though if he had received maintenance for his labour in the gospel among them, it was that which he well deserved, and he had not eaten their bread for nought; but he wrought with his own hands to maintain himself, as he did at Corinth, Acts 18:3.
But wrought with labour and travail; and he wrought laboriously, with wearisome and toilsome labour, as the words import; and that
night and day; as he had told them in the former Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; only he speaks of it here upon a different account; there, to clear his ministry from suspicion of covetousness, and to evidence his sincere affection to them; here, to set before them an example of industry against such who lived idly, and did eat others’ bread. Had he not wrought with his hands, he had not walked disorderly; but lest any should think so, he would do it to take away all occasion of evil. For though the labour of the ministry in the exercise of the mind and study may be reckoned as the greatest, yet most people cannot judge of it, and think it such; and though he had power to forbear working, as he tells the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 9:6, yet he would do it rather than any good should be hindered, or any evil furthered thereby.
The contents of this verse are already spoken to in the former, only the apostle asserts the right of maintenance due to the ministry by the name of
power. It may be claimed by authority from Christ, though it should not be commanded by any laws from men. As the priests under the law had their maintenance settled upon them by the law of God; so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6. And though this power may be claimed, yet in some cases it is to be denied, as the apostle did, 1 Corinthians 9:12; We have not used this power; lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. And so he did here, to make himself an example, τυπον, which signifies any mark that is cut or engraven to stamp things into its own likeness; oft used in the New Testament, and variously applied.
But to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us: it is desirable to follow good examples, but more to become a good example: and as the old verse is true, Regis ad exemplum, & c., so the old proverb, "Like priests, like people"; and to follow them is to imitate them, as 1 Corinthians 11:1; Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. He is the first pattern, and others are to be regulated by it; and so far, and no further, to be imitated. As ministers ought to be patterns, Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3; so the people ought to be followers, and their sin will be the greater if they follow not their doctrine, when it is exemplified in their practice.
The words contain a reason, as the illative for imports; but what it refers to is uncertain; most probably a further reason of the apostle’s working with his hands, because when with them he left this command,
that if any would not work, neither should he eat; he would therefore practise himself what he commanded them, and not be thought to be as the Pharisees, binding heavy burdens upon others, and he not touch them himself. And this is another of the commandments which the apostle gave them, which he declared his confidence that they would do, 2 Thessalonians 3:4. And this command seems grounded upon the law given to Adam: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, Genesis 3:19. For when he recommends a practice not directly grounded upon some word of God, or of Christ, or from infallible inspiration, he calls it a permission, as 1 Corinthians 7:6; but when otherwise, he saith: I command, yet not I, but the Lord, 1 Corinthians 7:10; and calls it the commandment of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 14:37. And this in the text is not his alone, but the Lord’s, and is elsewhere mentioned, as Ephesians 4:28; Let him that stole steal no more, but work with his hands, & c.: see 1 Corinthians 7:20. God requires it of us as men, that we may be profitable in the commonwealth, supply our own wants and of those that depend upon us, and have wherewith also to supply the wants of the poor, Ephesians 4:28, to be kept from the temptations of idleness. Christianity doth not extinguish the profitable laws of nature or nations. Yet this general command admits limitations; if men have ability and opportunity to work, or if the ends of working are not otherwise supplied. For he that lives out of the reason of the law seems not bound by the law; or if the work be mental, and not manual, the law is fulfilled; and the equity of the law reacheth all men so far, as that none ought to be idle and useless in the world. And the apostle’s argument for it in the text is cogent from nature itself; agreeably to that of Solomon, Proverbs 16:26; He that laboureth laboureth for himself, for his mouth craveth it of him. Whereupon some judge these believing Thessalonians to be generally a people that lived by some handicraft trade, or some other manual labour. And the eating here intended is meant of relief from the stock and charge of the church: such should not be relieved who would not work, as it is in the text; who could, but would not, the fault being in the will.
For we hear: the apostle gives the reason of this discourse he fell into about disorder, and commends, yea, commands, a remedy against it. He had heard of this disorderly walking, else his discourse might have been esteemed vain and needless. Reports are to obtain credit according to the quality of the person that makes them, his end therein, and probability of truth. He took notice of reports brought to him about the divisions that were at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:18.
That there are some among you: and the persons that he here chargeth the report upon, are not all, but some only, and he nameth none; for as to the body of the church, he had confidence they did, and would do, the things he commanded, 2 Thessalonians 3:4. And he requires them to withdraw from the disorderly.
Which walk among you disorderly, working not at all: and the disorder he chargeth upon these some is:
1. Μηδεν εργαζομενους, that they worked not at all, at least not the work of their own place, as it follows.
2. But are busybodies; busy, and yet idle, and not working; περιεργαζομενους curieusement, French Bible; as the curious arts of sorcerers are called περιεργα, Acts 19:19. The word signifies working about, and denotes either vain curiosity, meddling in matters that they ought not, or going round their proper work, but not falling or fixing upon it. The same the apostle speaks of younger widows, 1 Timothy 5:13, who learnt to be idle, and yet were busybodies; and such are called αλλοτριοεπισκοποι, 1 Peter 4:15. And the one follows from the other; for they that are idle and neglect their own business will be apt to intermeddle in another’s: and they that are not keepers at home, will be gadders abroad, and so not eat their own, but others’ bread, which the apostle here reproves, as dishonourable to the Christian profession; and, as a further remedy, doth with much earnestness address his speech particularly to them.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ: he had before given command to the church to withdraw from them, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; and now he lays the commandment upon themselves, and that in the name of Christ.
That with quietness they work: working is set opposite to their idleness, and quietness to their busy meddling where they ought not, whereby they might occasion strife. The apostle here, and in many other places, requires Christians to live peaceably, as 2 Corinthians 13:11; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Hebrews 12:14.
And eat their own bread; not to live as drones, upon another’s labours; yet he forbids not dealing their bread to the hungry, nor requires this of the poor that are necessitated to live upon alms. And by eating their own bread the apostle means, maintaining themselves and families, for bread is taken in Scripture for all things that maintain the natural life: and the apostle here insinuates a blessing upon honest labour, that thereby men shall have bread of their own; and doth assert property against that community which some have pleaded for, the civil right that men have to what they honestly get and possess; but hereby condemns oppressors, pirates, robbers, cheaters, usurpers, yea, and tyrannical princes, who maintain themselves upon the spoil of others, and take their bread out of others’ mouths; and why not also such as are not quiet and contented with their own portion, but either envy others, or murmur against providence?
But ye, brethren: the apostle now directs his speech to those of the church that were not guilty of the disorders before mentioned, to whom he speaks in mild and familiar language, as if the others deserved not to be so called.
Be not weary in well doing: and that which he speaks to them is, not to be weary of well doing. The Greek word is often used about sufferings, as 2 Corinthians 4:1; Ephesians 3:13; and then usually translated fainting, and which seems to be its most proper use, to shrink or faint as cowards in war; Mη εκκακησητε, Ne segnescite, definite, defatigamini; it signifies a receding or fainting, or tiring in our duty, because of the evil that attends it. Sometimes it is used of prayer, Luke 18:1; and sometimes generally of all duties of religion, which are generally called well doing, Galatians 6:9, and signifies either a slothfulness in them, or weariness of them: as those whom the prophets complain of, Amos 8:5; Malachi 1:13. The apostle useth the same word in this sense, Galatians 6:9; Let us not be weary in well doing; and in the text, those that did walk orderly, he exhorts them to hold on their course, either more peculiarly to the works of charity, which are called well doing, Philippians 4:14; though those that worked not did not deserve them, or enjoy them, yet this should not discourage them from practising them towards others: or the word may extend more generally to all good works; we should persevere in them without fainting or weariness, notwithstanding the evils that may threaten us therein.
Here we have further commandments given concerning the disorderly; in case of obstinacy, to proceed further against them. The apostle had given commandments about their walking in his first preaching to them, after that he repeats them in his First Epistle, and again in this Second.
And now if any man obey not our word by this epistle, saith he, note that man; and he would have none excepted, either through fear or favour, and nothing done by partiality, 1 Timothy 5:21. What is meant by noting is disputed among expositors; more seems to be meant than marking them, Romans 16:17. Some take it for what we call excommunication; so Aug. lib. 3, Cont. Epist. Parmen. cap. 4. Theophyl. in locum; either the casting him out of the church, which is the greater, or suspension from the Lord’s supper, which is the lesser. As there were degrees of church censure among the Jews, so also we read practised in the gospel church, as is evident in the councils. Others think it is no more than a withdrawing from him, as was mentioned before, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; but then the apostle saith the same thing over again, which seemeth needless. And he speaks here of some greater contumacy than before, when his word in this Second Epistle is not obeyed. We may suppose the apostle may mean not only a withdrawing from familiarity with him, but exposing his name to some public notice in the church, that both his crime and his name should be publicly noticed; as the apostle speaks of Hymeneus and Alexander, and Philetus, by name in his Epistles that were made public. σημειουσθε, note him by a sign, as the word signifies, which cannot well be done by a mere withdrawing. And seeing he speaks here of one that is not only disorderly, but obstinate, some further and more signal act of discipline is to be inflicted on him. And what word the apostle refers to in this Epistle as not obeyed is not expressed, neither need we limit it, but it may be meant of all his commandments herein, to which obedience was required. And the word, as written, is the word of God, and is to be obeyed as well as that which is preached. I know there is another reading of the text: If any man obey not our word, note that man by an epistle; and so it is in our margins. But this is not probable. By an epistle? To whom? To the apostle himself? And for what? To know how to proceed towards such a one? What need that, when he here gives direction about it to them; which follows.
And have no company with him; or be not mingled with him, which refers either to his crime, as the Greek word is so applied, Ephesians 5:11, or to his person also, as the word is used, 1 Corinthians 5:9. And yet some think the apostle here forbids only civil communion, not sacred, because the word in the text is generally so used, and so rendered by expositors; but sacred communion is expressed in the New Testament by another word, 1 John 1:3. And if meant of sacred, it is then casting him out of the church, which is a delivering him up to Satan: see Estius in loc. And that seems not to agree with what follows:
Admonish him as a brother; and so not to be accounted as a heathen or a publican, Matthew 18:17. And we know admonition goes before casting out. But to be thrust out of the company of the people of God in all civil, friendly society, is a great punishment and affliction. And some think, that the noting of him was to be done by the governors of the church, and the renouncing his company, by all the people: let the reader judge.
That he may be ashamed: the end of both is here expressed. This is not added before as a reason of withdrawing, and therefore some think the apostle required that only to avoid the infection of sin by familiar society; but this further proceeding here mentioned is to make the man ashamed that is obstinate in disobedience; but we need not so limit it. And this making him ashamed is not to be out of hatred to his person, but for his good, as all church censures ought to be so intended, to bring him to that shame that may be the first step to true repentance. There is a shamefulness in sin; and when sinners repent, they see it, and are ashamed, Isaiah 1:29; Ezekiel 16:61; Romans 6:21; and God complains of sinners when not ashamed, Jeremiah 3:3. Shame is a natural affection in men, and is not in the nature of beasts, neither was it in man before the fall; and though in itself it is no virtue, being the proper effect of sin, yet it is of use to restrain much open wickedness, and to keep decorum in men’s outward actions: and God makes use of it also in leading men to true repentance. To shame men out of envy or hatred is sinful, and against the law of charity; but to do it to bring them to repentance, is better than by flattery or familiar society to harden them in sin.
They having thus proceeded against the disorderly and disobedient, the apostle directs them about their after-carriage, which either respects their inward opinion of the mind, or outward action.
Yet count him not as an enemy; they should not count him an enemy, putting a great difference between an offending brother and a professed enemy. They ought not to hate him as an enemy, nor look upon him as upon such who out of enmity to the gospel persecute Christianity, nor to have an unreconcilable mind towards him.
But admonish him as a brother; and as to outward action, should admonish him as a brother. It is either private or public, ministerial or fraternal, gentle or severe, joined with commination. The Greeks express it in the degrees of it by three words, νουθεσια, επιτιμεα, επιπληξις. The word in the text signifies a putting in mind: they were to put the offender in mind of his sin, and in mind of his duty. Though they were to have no company with him in a way of familiarity, yet to be in his company so as to admonish him; and the admonition here meant is either public, in the church, or private; or first private, then public, as our Saviour gives the rule, Matthew 18:15-17. So that his repentance is to be endeavoured not only by abstaining his company, but by admonition. And it is to be performed to him as a brother, which either respects the state of the person admonished: he is not an enemy, or pagan, or one out of the visible church, but a brother, whereby some conceive that the apostle had not before spoken of his excommunication. Or it respects the way of admonition: it is to be performed with love, tenderness, and compassion, as to a brother, not to upbraid him, but to gain him; as Matthew 18:15; If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. And for that end great prudence is to be used. The temper of the offenders, the quality of the sin, their outward condition in the world, their age, yea, the circumstances of time and place, are to be considered.
Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace: the apostle is now taking his leave, and closing up his Epistle; and this he doth with prayer; and what he prays for is peace: and though the word peace hath various acceptations, and is of comprehensive signification, yet here it is to understood of brotherly peace and unity. Whether it was occasioned by any dissensions that were actually among them, or his fears of such to arise upon the practice of their duties to the disorderly among them, that he thus prays, is uncertain. And it is that which he much presseth and prays for in his several Epistles to the churches, as being that wherein the honour of the gospel, and their own comfort and edification, were so much concerned. And the person he prays to he styles the Lord of peace, whereby I suppose he means Jesus Christ, who is sometimes called the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6; as God is called the God of peace, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. It is he that hath made peace between God and us, between the Jew and Gentile, and it is one of the fruits of his Spirit in the hearts of Christians, Galatians 5:22. True Christian peace is the gift of Christ, and therefore the apostle prays the Lord to give it, and saith, the Lord himself, as intimating none but he can give it, and that it is a singular blessing to enjoy it, as we must so interpret the phrase when at any other time we find it, as 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Always by all means: he shows both the desirableness and difficulty of peace. It is worth the using all endeavours for it, and without such we shall hardly attain it, as Romans 12:18; If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men; quite contrary to the temper and practice of some men, who will live peaceably with no man: and elsewhere we read of following peace; Hebrews 12:14, and seeking peace and pursuing it, 1 Peter 3:11, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3. And the apostle prays for it in the text with much earnestness, and that they might enjoy it without interruption, always; that there might be no schism rise up among them at any time. And if we read the next words, in every thing, he prays that their peace might be universal with respect to opinions, words, and actions. And as a final farewell he addeth:
The Lord be with you all; which shows his affection to them all, though he had reproved sharply the disorders that some were guilty of. And a greater thing he could not desire for them, it comprehends all blessings in it, and the very blessedness of heaven itself; as a usual farewell word, Adieu, is a recommending a person to God.
This the apostle addeth after he had finished his Epistle, and taken his farewell, as a proof that the Epistle was genuine, and came from himself; because it may be there were some then who did counterfeit his Epistles, as there have been many since who have counterfeited creeds, liturgies, gospels, writings of the fathers, &c., and he knew it might be of dangerous consequence to the churches, to have his writings counterfeited. Heretics in several ages, and the Church of Rome particularly, have herein been deeply guilty. And though it is probable the body of this Epistle was written by some amanuensis, as is evident of the Epistle to the Romans, that it was written by one Tertius, Romans 16:22; and when he tells the Galatians, Galatians 6:11, he wrote their Epistle with his own hand, so Philemon 1:19, it implies sometimes he did not so; yet this salutation he wrote with his own hand, which he practised not only in this, but in all his other Epistles, as he here affirmed. And he wrote it in such characters whereby his own hand might be known; else it was an easy matter for any impostor to write the same words. And the words of it are here set down, but elsewhere explained, and therefore nothing is further needful here.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18