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2 Thessalonians 3

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

2 Thessalonians 3:1. Pray for us. Paul knew how to magnify his office, when occasion required: but in the apostle he never ceased to be a humble, natural, Christian man. He not only prays for his ‘children’ in Christ, but begs them to pray for him. But in another sense the man is absorbed in the apostle; if he seeks blessing for himself; it is to the end that the word of the Lord may have free course. ‘It is after the manner of the apostle to put that as a wish for himself, which was a wish for the furtherance of the Gospel’ (Jowett). Paul felt his need of courage to race those who opposed the preaching of the Gospel, of constancy to avail himself of every opportunity to introduce it into new audiences, and again and again (see references) appealed to the churches to pray for him in connection with this matter. His joy in imprisonment was that the word of God was ‘not bound’ (2 Timothy 2:9); his desire, while he himself is threatened and opposed, is that the word may have free circulation (lit may run), may not be checked in its onward race, may extend everywhere

And be glorified, even as it is with you. The word was glorified among the Thessalonians by their receiving it as the word of God and trusting it, as described in the beginning of the First Epistle. It was glorified by the manifest influence it had on their conduct, by the work of their faith and by their patience. Paul desires that it may elsewhere be similarly glorified, attaining its rightful position in men’s minds.

Verses 1-5

Paul requests their Prayers, and exhorts them to Stedfastness

In view of the opposition of spiteful and unbelieving men, Paul requests the Thessalonians to pray for him that he may be enabled to continue his work, and that nothing may avail to prevent the Gospel being preached and accepted. He reassures himself also by the consideration that though he cannot count all men his allies, the Lord is on His side; and on Him be relies for the furtherance of the Gospel, and for the edification of those in Thessalonica who already believe.

Verse 2

2 Thessalonians 3:2. That we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men. Ellicott says that ‘to find here [as Jowett does] a mere shrinking of the flesh on the part of the apostle from the dangers that awaited him, is to assign to the apostle a character that never belonged to him.’ But when Paul himself expressly requests the Ephesians and Colossians to pray that he may have boldness; and when God, on the very occasion of which the apostle is now speaking, sees it needful to address him in the words, ‘Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee,’ we need not scruple to ascribe to the apostle so much apprehension of danger as would prompt him to ask the Thessalonians to pray far his deliverance. The actual circumstances in which he was, and what the dangers were, and who the mischievous and wicked men were, will be learned from Acts 18:0; this Epistle having probably been written during the latter part of the residence in Corinth, which is there described. This verse gives us one of those ‘undesigned coincidences between the Epistles and the narrative of the Acts, which afford one of the strongest proofs of their genuineness.

For not all have faith. Wherever the Gospel is preached, it meets with such opposition as Paul speaks of, for not all accept it. It always sifts a community, and marks off a remnant, large or small, who do not believe, the perverse and wicked men.

Verse 3

2 Thessalonians 3:3. But faithful is the Lord. The contrast between the mischievous opposition of wicked men and the protecting care of Christ, is sharpened by the slight and easy play on the word: men are faithless, but faithful is the Lord. Their faithlessness prompts them to hostility; but His faithfulness will alike prevent your faith from failing, and their efforts from being destructive.

Who shall stablish you and keep you from evil. Paul’s thoughts do not long dwell on his own dangers, but quickly pass to those which threatened his friends in Thessalonica. These dangers were twofold, as in all persecution. There was the inward danger of their faith failing under persecution, and there was the outward danger of injury to life and property. Against the first of these the Lord would protect them by ‘stablishing’ them; against the second, by ‘keeping them from the evil.’

Verse 4

2 Thessalonians 3:4. This verse farther expresses the confidence which Paul felt that, by the faithfulness of the Lord, the Thessalonians would not be moved by persecution, but would boldly continue in the life to which he had introduced them, not fearing to carry out any of the commands he had laid upon them.

We have confidence in the Lord. ‘Here, as elsewhere, the apostle speaks of believing, hoping, doing all things in Christ. We lead an ordinary life, as well as a religious one; but with the apostle his ordinary life is his religious one, and hence he uses religious expressions in reference to all he says and does’ (Jowett).

That ye both do and will do. Under this expression of confidence, an injunction to further diligence is insinuated. It has been noted as characteristic of Paul, that he admonishes under the form of praise.

Verse 5

2 Thessalonians 3:5. May the Lord direct, i.e. may Christ, who is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3), direct.

Into the love of God. To love God is to have in the heart the root of all activity and endurance, the spring of duty, and the fountain of all virtue.

And into the stedfastness of Christ. The apostle desires they may be enabled to exhibit under trial the same patient endurance which Christ Himself exhibited.

Verse 6

2 Thessalonians 3:6. Now we command you. ‘In what follows, the exhortations of the former Epistle (chap. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:14) are repeated and expanded with more studied distinctness of language, it being probable that the evils previously alluded to had advanced among some members of this church to a still more perilous height’ (Ellicott).

Brethren. The injunction to withdraw or separate is given not to the presbyters or office-bearers, but to the whole church; and this not only because in these days excommunication was the act of the congregation (see 1 Corinthians 5:0), but because the social and individual treatment of the offender is as present to Paul’s mind as the ecclesiastical.

That walketh disorderly. This is further defined in the 11th verse as a condition of fussy, noisy idleness. There were some in Thessalonica who had merely caught the new phrases, the kingdom of Christ, His speedy coming, universal brotherhood, citizenship of heaven, and being carried away by some vague idea of an immediate termination not only of the old life of sin, but of the whole existing order of things, they abandoned their own ordinary employments, and lived upon the kindness of their brethren.

Verses 6-18

Exhortations to Industry, and Directions regarding the Treatment of Idle and Disorderly Persons.

In this concluding paragraph of his Epistle, Paul warns the Thessalonians against neglecting their worldly occupations, and by idleness becoming dependent on others for a livelihood. He bids them also not only practise industry themselves, but enforce it upon all the members of the Church. He had heard that some of their number, probably through a misconception as to the nearness of Christ’s coming, had abandoned their ordinary work, and were disturbing the peace and hindering the welfare of the community. He authoritatively commands that such persons be first exhorted to quietness and industry, and if they should neglect such counsel, be suspended from church fellowship. Jowett observes that the paragraph is important, as bearing on the degree and manner of the authority which the apostle exercised over the churches.

Verse 7

2 Thessalonians 3:7. On this and the following verse, see notes on the First Epistle, chap. 2.

Verse 9

2 Thessalonians 3:9. Not because we have not power. This is the idea which Paul expands in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 9; where he shows at large the reasonableness of ministerial work being paid for, proves that the principle on which ministers claim support is found both in nature and in revelation, and asserts his own right to claim maintenance at the hand of those for whom he laboured in things spiritual. His reasons for declining to receive regular assistance, while he thus strongly asserted his right to it, were these: 1st. That he might preserve his independence, and preclude the possibility of misconstruction. 2d. That he might be an ensample of industry. 3d. That he might have means of charity (Acts 20:34). And there are still laymen who use the profits of their industry for the welfare of others, as well as clergymen who give much more than they receive. This is especially desirable in countries where the Gospel is preached for the first time, and Mr. Bowen of Bombay may be cited as an illustration of the conduct of the apostle: ‘His labours among the heathen are abundant, and they are emphatically labours of love, unrequited and unacknowledged by any earthly society, since he prefers to give his services without fee or reward; living upon a few rupees a month, and thereby removing one argument from the mouth of the heathen, who are slow to allow the disinterestedness of their religious teachers.’

Verse 10

2 Thessalonians 3:10. If any would not work, neither should he eat. This seems to have been a proverbial expression among the Jews, and the idea was inculcated by the Rabbis, sometimes in the very words used by Paul. It was the fundamental law of labour, early impressed on the Jewish mind by the necessity of daily gathering the manna. And it is the law which condemns gambling and every mode of acquiring a livelihood without producing or doing anything for the good of the community. There is perhaps a touch of irony in the expression, insinuating that if a man claims exemption from ordinary worldly conditions, he should be consistent and thorough in doing so; if he is so new a creature, so heavenly and spiritual as to be above earthly labour, he should also be superior to all need of earthly nourishment.

Verse 11

2 Thessalonians 3:11. For. Paul gives his reason for introducing this subject at all. And he further defines ‘walking disorderly.’ He leaves no doubt as to the persons about whom he speaks. They were those who were excitedly busy, but doing no useful work; running hither and thither, meddling with every one’s business but their own, striving to bring others into the same state of excitement as themselves, and declining all ordinary, steady, profitable, obscure labour.

Verse 12

2 Thessalonians 3:12. With quietness they work, and eat their own bread. One of the Jewish Rabbis says: ‘When a man eats his own bread, he has quietness and composure of mind; but when he eats the bread of his parents or of his children not to speak of the bread of strangers he loses this quietness of mind.’ But the quietness Paul refers to is opposed to the restless, meddlesome life some of the Thessalonians were leading. He strongly condemns this excitement and love of notoriety. ‘If there be anything true, it is this: that, for the greater part of men, the most favourable discipline of holiness will be found exactly to coincide with the ordinary path of duty; and that it will be most surely promoted by repressing the wanderings of imagination, in which we frame to ourselves states of life and habits of devotion remote from our actual lot, and by spending all our strength in those things, great or small, pleasing or unpalatable, which belong to our calling and position’ (Manning).

Verse 13

2 Thessalonians 3:13. But ye, brethren. Ye on whom I rely (2 Thessalonians 3:4), and who have not ceased to labour.

Be not weary in well-doing. Do not be tempted to imitate the fanatical idleness of those around you do not weary of ‘the trivial round, the common task,’

do not crave for some great thing to do, be content that it is a good thing. In thus addressing them, Paul tacitly approves what they were already doing, and their diligence in it. For an admonition ‘not to weary can only be addressed to those who are working. And thus in so far as this injunction applies to all Christians, it takes for granted that they are so engaged in active Christian well-doing as to be in some danger of fatigue. The temptation to weary is the same now as it was in the early Thessalonian church; those who are actively engaged are tempted to say, Why should we do all, while so many do nothing; why must we compensate for their neglect? In the parallel passage in Galatians, Paul has in view the other great cause of weariness, viz. that the results of labour are often not immediately seen. And therefore he adds, ‘In due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not.’

Verse 14

2 Thessalonians 3:14. If any man obey not our word. Paul had just (2 Thessalonians 3:12) laid his command, in Christ’s name, on the idle busybodies; but he viewed it as a possible thing that they might disregard this command. Already he had learned that his authority was not by all parties willingly acknowledged and submitted to. He proceeds, therefore, to give instructions as to further dealings with recalcitrant, obstinate offenders.

Note that man. This does not mean, set a mark upon that man; but merely, take note of him in your own minds. The first step was to discriminate between those who obeyed and those who did not; the second was to brand the disobedient

Have no company with him. This is a repetition of the counsel given in 2 Thessalonians 3:6. At first sight the term employed might seem to indicate only the avoidance of intercourse in business and social life with the offender, and not the extreme ecclesiastical censure of excommunication. It might seem to be advice given rather to guide individuals in their treatment of the offender, than to guide the church. But the similar passage in 1 Corinthians 5:0, where the same expression is used, proves that exclusion from church fellowship is meant; suspension, if not excommunication. If they were not to hold intercourse on worldly matters, nor enter into secular contracts with such a man, much less were they to sit with him at the Lord’s table, and hold that fellowship which implied and signified the closest possible union. But they were not to give him up as lost; they were to watch for the good results of this treatment.

Verse 15

2 Thessalonians 3:15. Count him not as an enemy. Though deprived, as we say, of church privileges, and shut out from fellowship with the members of the church, he was not to be counted hopeless. This discipline was to be expected to terminate in his repentance and reclamation. And for this end, he was to be admonished as a brother.

Verse 16

2 Thessalonians 3:16. The Lord of peace. That God the Father is here meant may be argued from the use of the expression in Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20, and especially in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. That Jesus Christ is meant may be argued from the common application to Him of the title ‘Lord,’ and from the fact that ‘peace’ was emphasized by Himself as that which He would specially bestow. The title is selected as suitable to the gift Paul desires in their behalf; and the desirableness of this gift itself is suggested by the circumstances of persecution without and dissension within in which the church at Thessalonica was. The Lord of peace signifies not only that He can bestow peace, but also and primarily that it is His own attribute. He has peace, because He sees the end from the beginning, and is unassailable in His righteousness and sovereignty. He gives His own peace by enabling men to rely upon Him, to accept His will, that will which shall certainly be accomplished, and by thus lifting them up above anxiety into His own security.

The Lord be with you all. He leaving them, leaves the Lord with them. It is the ‘farewell’ which rises naturally to the lip of him who must now lose sight of those he loves, but would fain leave them with all and far more than all the protection and blessing which he would himself have striven to provide them with.

Verse 17

2 Thessalonians 3:17. The salutation of Paul with mine own hand.’ These words apparently form the commencement of the autograph salutation with which the apostle attests the genuineness and authenticity of the Epistle, the two verses (2 Thessalonians 3:17-18) having apparently both been written by the apostle’ (Ellicott). The preceding part of the Epistle was, of course, dictated; now Paul takes the pen in his own hand to authenticate the whole. And this proves that, however Paul might associate others with himself in sending his Epistles (as in this one he associates Silas and Timothy), and however the penman might occasionally insert a message of his own (as Tertius does in Romans 16:22), he yet distinctly ‘regarded himself and desired the churches to regard him as the sole author of his Epistles.’

Which is the token in every Epistle. Only in other two Epistles, the first to the Corinthians and that to the Colossians, does Paul sign his name. It was not the name or signature but the autograph salutation which was the ‘token.’

So I write. Some have thought that these words indicate that there was inserted here some monogram difficult of imitation. But this was not the ancient custom, and the words seem to imply no more than an invitation to his readers to observe the distinctive characteristics of his handwriting.

Verse 18

2 Thessalonians 3:18. All. Possibly this word is added to the benediction with which the First Epistle was closed, that even those who had been censured might feel that they were sharers in it.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.