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CONTENTS.—The apostle now comes to the conclusion of his Epistle. He beseeches the Thessalonians for an interest in their prayers, that the gospel may be rapidly diffused and glorified by numerous conversions, and that he and his fellow workers may be enabled to preach it unhindered by the opposition of their enemies. He expresses his confidence that the Lord will preserve them from evil and render them obedient to his instructions, it being his earnest prayer for them that they might be directed into the love of God and the patience of Jesus Christ. The apostle then proceeds to admonish them on account of the disorderly conduct which many of them exhibited. He had heard that there were some among them who walked disorderly, and who, either from dread or from excitement on account of their belief in the immediate coming of the Lord, had desisted from their worldly employments. He commands such to return to their duties, giving himself as an example, inasmuch as, when at Thessalonica, he had laboured with his own hands for support. If, however, such disorderly persons were not to be persuaded, then he enjoins the members of the Church to withdraw from them and exclude them from their society, in order that they might be ashamed and brought to repentance and amendment of life. lie invokes peace upon them from the Lord of peace; he authenticates his Epistle to guard against imposition; and concludes with his apostolic benediction.
2 Thessalonians 3:1
Finally; furthermore; for the rest; introducing the concluding part of the Epistle (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1). Brethren, pray for us (see a similar request in 1 Thessalonians 5:25). Observe the unselfishness of the apostle's request. He does not ask the Thessalonians to pray specially for himself, but for the unimpeded diffusion and success of the gospel, and for himself only in so far as that he might be freed from all hindrances in preaching the gospel—that God would be pleased to crown his labours with success. That; introducing the subject matter of prayer; what he requested the Thessalonians to pray for. The word of the Lord—namely, the gospel—may have free course; literally, may run; that all obstacles to its progress may be removed; that its diffusion may be free and unimpeded; that, like the sun, it may rejoice as a strong man to run his race (Psalms 19:5; comp. Psalms 147:15, "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly"). And be glorified; namely, in the conversion of souls (comp. Acts 13:48). The allusion may be to the applause given to the victors in the foot races which constituted so considerable a part of the Grecian games. This personification of the Word of the Lord is a favourite figure with the apostle. "In St. Paul's language there is but a thin film between the Holy Ghost, the Divine personal Spirit, and the spirit in the believer's inmost being. And so in St. Paul's conception there is but a thin film between the Word preached and the living Word of God who is God" (Bishop Alexander). Even as it is with you; a recognition of the eagerness with which the Thessalonians had received the gospel.
2 Thessalonians 3:2
And that; a further addition to the prayer. We; either I Paul, or else Paul and Silas and Timothy. May be delivered; not may "come off victorious whether by life or death" (Calvin), but may be rescued from our enemies. Jowett observes that we have here the shrinking of the flesh from the dangers which awaited the apostle. But there is no trace of cowardice in these words; the apostle desires deliverance, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the free diffusion of the gospel. From unreasonable; a word whose original meaning is "out of place;" then used in an ethical sense, "wicked," "absurd," "unreasonable;" perhaps here applied to persons who will not listen to arguments. And wicked men. By these unreasonable and wicked men are not to be understood the Jews of Thessalonica, from whom Paul formerly suffered, for their influence would hardly extend to Corinth; nor Christians who were only so in name (Calvin), and specially the Judaizing Christians, for there is no allusion as vet to their attacks upon the apostle; but the fanatical and unbelieving Jews at Corinth (see Acts 18:12). For all men have not faith; or, the faith; the faith is not the possession of all. Faith here is the Christian faith: all men have not received it—obviously alluding to the unbelieving Jews. The words cannot mean, all men have not the true faith—referring to pretended Christians—false brethren, but secret enemies (Calvin). Nor is it to be rendered "all men have not the capacity of faith." Others understand by faith that upright and candid disposition which would engage men to receive the testimony of the apostle; and others fidelity, as if the apostle meant, "There are few men whom we can trust."
2 Thessalonians 3:3
But; in contrast with the men just mentioned. The Lord is faithful; as if the apostle had said," Man may be faithless, but the Lord is faithful" (see Romans 3:4). "In contrast to the infidelity of man, he praises the fidelity of God" (Bengel). By the Lord, Christ is meant. In the former Epistle, faithfulness is attributed to God (1 Thessalonians 5:24), here to Christ. This faithfulness of Christ consisted in watching over his Church, and in effecting its diffusion in spite of all the opposition of these unreasonable and wicked men. Who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil; or, the evil. The word "evil" may be either masculine or neuter: if masculine, then it denotes "the evil one;" if neuter, then "evil" in general. There is nothing in the word itself to determine its meaning; this must be learned from the context. Most commentators (Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hofmann, Macknight, Ellicott, Eadie, and Bishop Alexander) suppose that the evil one is meant; and it is so rendered in the R.V.: "Guard you from the evil one." But it is better to take the word abstractly "evil" in general, whether evil persons or evil things; as a contrast to "every good word and work" (2 Thessalonians 2:17). So Alford, Lunemann, De Wette, Jowett, Lillie. There is the same difference of opinion with regard to the words in the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us from evil;" or "from the evil one" (R.V.). Here, also, notwithstanding the high authorities on the opposite side, we consider that our Lord's words are not limited to the evil one, but are to be taken generally—"evil" in the widest sense, as being much more forcible.
2 Thessalonians 3:4
And we have confidence in the Lord. The apostle confidently expects the obedience of the Thessalonians, but his confidence is not fixed on them—on their own efforts, endeavours, and resolutions—but on the Lord, namely, Christ; on his grace and strength communicated to and perfected in weakness. The obedience of the Thessalonians flowed from the grace of Christ; it was in consequence of the communication of the influences of his Spirit that they were enabled to make progress and to persevere in the Christian life. "Here," observes Professor Jowett, "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 that he says and does." The apostle lives in the sphere of Christ. Touching you; with reference to you—the direction of his confidence. That ye both do and will do the things which we command you. There is here the same union of Divine assistance and human effort, of God's working and man's working, which pervades the whole scheme of the gospel salvation (see Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13).
2 Thessalonians 3:5
And the Lord; namely, Christ, for so the word "Lord" is to be rendered in St. Paul's Epistles. Bishop Wordsworth supposes that the Holy Ghost is here invoiced, as both God and Christ are afterwards mentioned in the petition; but the term "Lord" is not applied by, the apostle to the Holy Ghost; '2 Corinthians 3:17 is the only apparent exception. Direct your hearts; as the heart is the fountain of Christian life—the centre of the will. Into the love of God. Here not God's love to us, specially "the manifestation of the love of God in Christ and his work of redemption" (Olshausen); nor the love of God to man, which is to be the pattern of our love to God; but, objectively, our love to God. This love of God is the fulfilment of the Law; and hence the apostle prays that the Thessalonians may be directed into it as the source and essence of all acceptable obedience. And into the patient waiting for Christ. The words, "patient waiting," are but one word in the original, generally translated "patience" or "endurance." The clause has been differently interpreted. Some (Calvin, Hofmann, Jowett) render it, as in the A.V., "patient waiting for Christ." And this is conformable to the context, as the object of Paul was to repress all impatient longing for the advent. But such a meaning is not linguistically justifiable. Others render it, "patience for Christ," that is, steadfast endurance for his sake (De Wette); but there is no preposition in the original. The words simply mean "Christ's patience," or "the patience of Christ" (R.V.), the patience which he exhibited under his unparalleled sufferings. The Thessalonians were exposed to persecutions, and therefore the apostle prays that they might be directed into the patience of Christ, as this would enable them to bear all their sufferings with composure. Love and patience comprehend the active and passive virtues of Christianity.
Now follows a warning against the disorderly life and conduct which the expectation of the immediate advent of Christ had produced. On account of the supposed nearness of the day of the Lord, great disorders had arisen in the Thessalonian Church. Work had been given up by many, who walked about in fanatical idleness. The apostle had censured this conduct in his former Epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12), but the evil had rather increased than diminished; and, accordingly, he severely rebukes this spirit, and sets himself to correct the disorders occasioned by it.
2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brethren. An injunction, not specially directed to the elders or office bearers, but to the members, of the Church in general (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14). In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Strengthening the command, as being given in the Name and authority of the great Head of the Church; not we, but Christ himself commands you. That ye withdraw yourselves. A nautical expression, denoting to "shorten the sails;" hence metaphorically to keep out of the way, to withdraw; that ye avoid intercourse and fellowship with; no allusion as yet to excommunication. From every brother—follow Christian—that walketh disorderly; literally, out of the ranks (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14). And not after the tradition; or, the instructions; not the example of the apostle, which is afterwards mentioned, but the instructions which he orally delivered when at Thessalonica, and subsequently confirmed by the Epistle which he had written to them (see 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Which he received of us. Here the readings of manuscripts differ. Some read "which you received of us," and others "which they," namely, those represented by the brother that walketh disorderly, "received of us" (so R.V.).
2 Thessalonians 3:7
For yourselves know; without it being necessary for me to say anything about the matter; ye yourselves are witnesses. How ye ought to follow (or, imitate) us; better, perhaps, to be restricted to Paul than used as inclusive of Silas and Timothy. For we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; referring to the apostle's residence in Thessalonica.
2 Thessalonians 3:8
Neither did we eat any man's bread; a Hebraism for "neither did we get our sustenance," as bread was the staff of life. For nought; gratis, free of expense. But wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable unto any of you. The apostle makes the same declaration in his First Epistle, expressed in almost similar terms: "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
2 Thessalonians 3:9
Not because we have not power; that is, to demand support. Paul, as an apostle, had the right of maintenance from the Churches among whom he laboured. This right of support he insists upon in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:1-18). But for the sake of his converts, to give them an example of diligent working, and to remove every impediment to the progress of the gospel, he often waived his rights. Thus he did at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:9), at Corinth (Acts 18:3; 2 Corinthians 11:9), and at Ephesus (Act 20:1-38 :340; in all these places he laboured for his maintenance as a tent maker. But—we acted so—to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow—imitate—us.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you; during our residence in Thessalonica. This we commanded, that if any man would not work, neither should he eat. This or similar expressions have been shown to be a proverb in frequent use among the Jews. Thus: "Whoever doth not work doth not eat" ('Bereshith Rabba'); "Let not him who would not labour before the sabbath eat on the sabbath" ('In Lib. Zenon.'). It is a law of nature, and the apostle here sanctions it as a law of Christianity. There is here a reference to the sentence pronounced on man in Paradise in consequence of disobedience: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). Labour, indeed, may in one point of view be considered as part of the curse, but it is also a blessing adapted to man's fallen nature. Labour is the law of God; idleness is the parent of many crimes and is productive of misery. He who has no business allotted to him ought to choose some useful occupation for himself.
2 Thessalonians 3:11
For; the reason for the allusion to this proverb. We hear. The apostle had either heard from Timothy who had rejoined him from Thessalonica, or from the report of the bearers of the First Epistle. That there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. There is here a paranomasia or play upon words, the words "working" and "busybodies" being cognate. It is difficult to preserve the resemblance in a translation. "Busy only with what is not their own business" (Jowett); "Working at no business, but being busybodies" (Ellicott); "Not busy, but busybodies" (Wordsworth). The word "busybodies" denotes busy in useless and superfluous things, about which one need not trouble himself—occupied about trifles. The apostle refers to the fanatical excitement in the Church on account of which the Thessalonians, instead of occupying themselves with the fulfilment of the duties of their earthly calling, busied themselves about matters which were unprofitable and vain.
2 Thessalonians 3:12
Now them that are such we command and exhort by (or, as the best manuscripts read, in) our Lord Jesus Christ; in him, as the source of authority; "In his Name." That with quietness. In contrast to being busybodies, with calmness of spirit, freedom from excitement. They work, and eat their own bread; not the bread of others, but their own, for which they have laboured and which they have earned. They would thus be independent of the liberality and generosity of others. (For similar exhortations, see 1 Thessalonians 4:11; Ephesians 4:28.)
2 Thessalonians 3:13
But ye, brethren; contrasted with those who walk disorderly, ye who have not neglected your worldly employments. Be not weary in well doing; or, as it is in the margin, faint not in well doing; "lose not heart in well doing" (Ellicott). The phrase has been differently interpreted. Thus Chrysostom explains it that indolent persons, however justly they may be condemned, must not be suffered to perish from want—a meaning opposed to the context. Calvin renders it that, although there are many that are undeserving and abuse our liberality, we must not on this account leave off helping those who need our aid: let not the sloth of those disorderly persons hinder or damp your charity—a most needful admonition, but it does not exhaust all that is meant by the precept. Others restrict it to diligence in our earthly duties: though others be idle, working not at all, let not their example lead you astray; be not ye weary in doing what is right and proper (Lunemann). But the phrase is to be understood in its general sense, denoting holy and upright conduct (see Galatians 6:9, where the same exhortation is given).
2 Thessalonians 3:14
And if any man obey not our word by this Epistle, note that man. Some attach the words, "by this Epistle," to" note that man," and render the clause, "Note that man by an epistle to me." Thus Calvin: "He desires that they may be reported to him, that he may reprove them by his authority." So also in the margin of our A.V.: "Signify that man by an epistle." But the presence of the article denoting a definite Epistle, "this Epistle," and the order of the words in the Greek, are against this interpretation. Others render the clause, "Note that man by this Epistle;" point out to him the injunctions and the warnings which are contained in it against such a line of conduct; but such a meaning is too artificial. It is better, therefore, to attach the words, "by this Epistle," to "our word," as in the A.V.: "If any man obey not our word by this Epistle." "Note that man;" that is, set a mark upon him, note him for the sake of avoidance, excommunicate him from your society. And have no company with him. Exclude him from your fellowship meetings, your love feasts. That he may be ashamed; the design or object of thus noting him. As if the apostle had said, "Bring the force of Christian opinion to bear upon him. Show your moral indignation by excluding him from the Christian community." The noting or excommunicating was more of the nature of a correction than of a punishment, and its design was the reclaiming of the offender.
2 Thessalonians 3:15
Yet; or as it is in the original, and; a purely connective particle. Count him not as an enemy; an entire outcast. But admonish him as a brother; a Christian brother. No hostile feeling was to be united with this avoidance of intercourse with the erring, but rather loving admonition, inasmuch as he was still a Christian brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now the Lord of peace himself. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 it is "the God of peace" who is invoked: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly." Here it is Christ who is named as "the Lord of peace." He is the Lord of peace, as the Author, the Procurer, the Mediator of peace. Pease is here to be taken in its widest sense—peace with God, complete salvation. Give you peace always by all means. Some manuscripts read "in every place," but the reading in our version is best attested—"always by all means;" "at all times and in every way;" whether it be outward or inward, for time or for eternity. The apostle could desire no higher blessing for his converts. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:17
The salutation of Paul with mine own hand. The apostle usually dictated his Epistles to an amanuensis, but wrote the concluding words with his own hand. Thus Tertius was his amanuensis when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:22). Probably the Epistle to the Galatians is an exception (Galatians 6:11), and also the Epistle to Philemon on (Philemon 1:19). The same authentication expressed in the same words is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:21), and in the Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 4:18). Which; referring, not to the salutation, but to the whole clause; which circumstance. Is the token; the mark of authentication. Of every Epistle. Such authentication was especially necessary in the case of the Thessalonians, as it would seem that a forged epistle had been circulated among them (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Some restrict the words to the Epistles which the apostle would afterwards write to the Thessalonians (Lunemann); but they are rather to be understood of a caution which the apostle practised, or was to practise, in all his Epistles. Some refer the token to the words, "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand," and although these words are only found in two other Epistles, yet it is asserted that the other Epistles were otherwise sufficiently authenticated. But it appears better to understand by the salutation the benediction which follows; and a similar salutation or benediction is found at the close of all Paul's Epistles (see 1 Thessalonians 5:28).
2 Thessalonians 3:18
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:1.—Intercessory prayer.
1. Its duty. We must not be selfish or confined in our prayers, but bear each other's burdens before a throne of grace. Christian love finds its outlet in intercession. A desire for the salvation of others must manliest itself in prayer for their conversion. God is the Hearer of prayer, and will answer our prayers for others as well as for ourselves. The command of God to make intercession for all men should constrain us, and the example of holy men should encourage us.
2. Its objects. Sinners, that they may be saved; believers, that they may be confirmed in the faith and kept from evil; ministers, that their ministry may be blessed; the gospel, that it may have free course and be glorified.
2 Thessalonians 3:3.—Perseverance of the saints.
1. Its nature. By the perseverance of the saints is meant that all true believers, those who are united to Christ by faith and sanctified by his Spirit, can never fall from the faith; that they shall always abide in a state of grace or favour with God; and that they shall continue in holiness unto the end.
2. Its ground. The perseverance of the saints is founded on the faithfulness of Christ. "The Lord is faithful." He who has begun the good work will carry it on; he who intercedes for us in heaven will obtain his requests; he who has bestowed upon us his Spirit will not withdraw his grace.
3. Its uses. The perseverance of the saints is full of comfort to confirmed believers; it is that which imparts security to all their other blessings, transforms their hopes into assurance, and fills them with joy unspeakable. On the other hand, it affords no encouragement to licentiousness, for it is a perseverance in holiness; it is not that believers will be saved whatever their conduct may be, but that they will persevere in holiness unto the end.
2 Thessalonians 3:5.—The patience of Christ.
1. Its perfection. As seen in his conduct toward God and man during his sufferings, and in contrast to the conduct of the most patient men, as for example Job, Moses, and Paul.
2. Its example. We have need of patience in this world of toil and suffering. A contemplation of the patience with which Christ endured his unparalleled sufferings is the best antidote against impatience under any sufferings which we may be called upon to endure.
2 Thessalonians 3:6.—Avoidance of evil company.
The apostle commands us to withdraw ourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and to have no fellowship with those who obey not his instructions. We must avoid making wicked men our companions, otherwise we shall soon be led astray and contaminated by their evil principles. The happiness or misery of the young for time and for eternity is, humanly speaking, dependent upon those whom they now choose as their intimate companions.
2 Thessalonians 3:10.—The sanctity of labour.
True religion hallows earthly labour. Christianity is not designed to draw a man out, of the world, to cause him to neglect his earthly duties, or to make him idle; but to consecrate and sanctify his worldly employments; to cause him to perform them in a religious spirit, and to look up to God as his chief Master. Paul himself wrought at the occupation of a tent maker; and a far greater than Paul, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, was for the greater part of his life engaged in the occupation of a carpenter. "Earthly things," observes Dr. Arnold, "are precious when we use them as the materials with which we may build for ourselves a heavenly habitation; and the humblest and most ordinary trade or employment may be carried on with such a temper and such a spirit that it may advance us daily on our way to heaven; and the angels themselves may behold us engaged in it with respect and love."
2 Thessalonians 3:11.—Evil of being busybodies.
Busybodies are idle, yet busy; idle as regards their own work, but busy with the business of others; ever meddling with what belongs not to them; always counselling others and interfering with their concerns, whilst neglecting their own;—a character at once mean and degrading, the cause of much annoyance to themselves and of mischief to others.
2 Thessalonians 3:13.—Weariness in well doing.
1. The specification, of some different forms of well doing. The advancement of men's temporal interests, the promotion of religion, the diffusion of the gospel, working with and for Christ. We must remember that we ourselves must first be good before we can do good; there must first be well being before there can be well doing. Good works can only proceed from good men.
2. The causes of weariness in well doing. A love of ease and a wish not to put ourselves to trouble; a want of self-denial; the monotony of the work; a want of cooperation and sympathy; a want of apparent success; a want of realization of Christ's claims on our lives and services.
3. Considerations why we should not be weary in well doing. Our duty as Christians; the bright example of Christ; the reward which awaits us—the rest which remains for the people of God.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:2.—The prayers of the Thessalonians asked by the apostle.
He had prayed for them; he now asks them to pray for him.
I. MINISTERS NEED THE PRAYERS OF THEIR PEOPLE. "Finally, brethren, pray for us."
1. Because their work is a great work.
2. Because it is weighted down with opposition and hinderance.
3. Because ministers feel their need, not only of human sympathy, but of Divine grace, wisdom, and strength.
4. Because such prayers knit the hearts of pastor and people more closely together.
II. THE DOUBLE PURPORT OF THE PRAYER FOR THE APOSTLE. It was for no mere personal or selfish object, but had exclusive reference to the furtherance of the gospel. To pray for ministers is to pray for the gospel.
1. It was a prayer for the rapid spread of the gospel. "That the Word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as it is also with you."
(1) There were grave hindrances in its way presented by Jewish prejudice, Gentile fanaticism, and the jealousy of the Roman power. He is anxious that the gospel should not go halting and picking its steps, but "like a strong man rejoicing to run a race," overleaping all barriers of space and prejudice and hatred, Ministers have their "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." It is God only who can remove all impediments and make the mountains a plain before Zerubbabel.
(2) The apostle was anxious that the gospel should be glorified—as "the power of God unto salvation"—by the conversion of large numbers of people, by their cheerful obedience to the truth, and by their orderly walk in the gospel. He quotes the example of the Thessalonians themselves—"even as it is with you"—as worthy of imitation in spite of some exceptional defects. The courteous reference would lead his converts to pray for him with deeper interest and. fervour.
2. It was a prayer for deliverance from obstructive enemies. "And that we may be delivered kern unreasonable and wicked men." The impediments to the free progress of the gospel were evil men. They were his Jewish enemies at Corinth who rose against the apostle and brought him to the judgment seat of Gallio (Acts 18:12).
(1) It was a prayer that his career might not he cut short by their malignity. The apostle's life was, perhaps, the most valuable in all the world in that generation, but it seemed to be at the mercy of men without scruple or mercy. He was, indeed, "in deaths oft." His enemies either lay in wait for him to destroy him, or roused the fanaticism of mobs against him.
(2) It was an enmity directed by men without any check from' reason or principle. His most persevering enemies through life were the Jews. No reason or argument could satisfy them or mollify their hatred. Their conduct was easily explained by the fact that "all men have not faith." As if nothing better could be expected from godless and blaspheming Jews.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:4.—The apostle's cheerful assurance and confidence on behalf of the Thessalonians.
He dismisses all thoughts about himself, and returns to the thought of comforting his converts.
I. THE DOUBLE BLESSING IN STORE FOR THEM. "Who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."
1. An essential factor in their Christian comfort was establishment
(1) in the doctrines of the gospel, which were threatened by godless or fickle speculators;
(2) in the grace of faith, which may be weakened by persecution or by misconceptions of truth;
(3) in the profession of faith, which true believers will be able to hold fast to the end.
2. An equally essential factor was their preservation from evil, either
(1) in the form of sin, that it should not have dominion over them or reign unto death;
(2) or in the form of Satanic temptation;
(3) or in the form of opposition from unreasonable and wicked men.
II. THE ARGUMENT TO ASSURE THEM OF THIS DOUBLE BLESSING. "The Lord is faithful." He will be true to his promises, and not suffer one of them to fail. The Lord Jesus is at once the Author and the Finisher of our faith. "We are complete in him;" we are "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
III. THE CONFIDENCE OF THE APOSTLE BASED ON THIS ASSURANCE. "But we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that you are both doing and will do the things which we command you."
1. The ultimate ground of his confidence touching them was in the grace and strength of the Lord, not in themselves, or their wisdom, or strength.
2. The matter of his confidence—their present and future obedience to his commands. There must be a patient continuance in well doing; a ready, universal, perpetual obedience to the commands he had already given them by the authority of Christ, and to those which he was now about to give to them.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:5.—The apostle's further prayer for his converts.
They needed grace to enable them to discharge all these duties.
I. THE LORD JESUS IS THE TRUE DIRECTOR OF THE HEART. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."
1. The heart needs direction. It is the fountain of life and feeling and action. But it is often wayward in its impulses.
2. The heart that is self-led is misled. We cannot direct our own hearts, neither can apostles do it for us; the Lord only can do it. He directs us by his Spirit, not only into all truth, but into all right feeling and all acceptable obedience. He only can change us into his own likeness.
II. THE RIGHT DIRECTION OF THE CHRISTIAN HEART. "Into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."
1. The love of God is the spring of all evangelical obedience, and the motive force of all spiritual power. The Thessalonians had love already, but the apostle prays for fuller measures of it, that they may be prepared for yet more exact and thorough and unquestioning obedience.
2. The patience of Christ, which so characterized him, is to be copied in the lives of his followers exposed to similar persecutions. His sufferings are their sufferings; and they need his patience to enable them to endure thrum, as well as to sustain that "patient continuance in well doing" in the midst of evil which will keep them free from restlessness and disorderly walking.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:6.—The apostle's method of dealing with the idle busybodies of the Thessalonian Church.
This is one of the leading objects of this Epistle.
I. THE NATURE OF THE OFFENCE REBUKED BY THE APOSTLE. "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition they received from us."
1. It was a habit of idleness caused by the unsettling tendency of the belief that the day of the Lord's coming was near at hand to wind up all human affairs. They were, therefore, "working not at all," allowing themselves to be ignobly dependent either upon richer brethren or upon ecclesiastical funds.
2. Linked with this idle habit was the disposition to be "busybodies"—concerning themselves with matters that did not belong to them. "Bishops in other men's dioceses," as the figure of the apostle elsewhere describes the same class (1 Peter 4:15); like the younger widows who "were wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies" (1 Timothy 5:13). This unworthy habit of life was a serious annoyance and interruption to neighbours, as well as an unwarranted tax upon the generosity of their rich patrons.
3. It was an aggravation of the offence that the offenders were not only "brethren," but were living in deliberate disregard of the apostle's oral instructions during his first visit to Thessalonica. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither let him eat." Thus they showed a reckless defiance of apostolic counsel. This was surely to "break rank," as the word "disorder" suggests.
II. THE APOSTLE'S COMMAND TO THE CHURCH RESPECTING THESE OFFENDERS.
1. The time was past for mere requests or exhortations. He had addressed them in this milder tone in the First Epistle: "We beseech you that ye study to be quiet, and do your own business" (1 Thessalonians 4:11). But his request had been disregarded.
2. The command he now addresses to them was backed by Divine authority. "We command you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1) Because he is the Source of all authority in the Church;
(2) because the conduct of the Thessalonian busybodies was a dishonour to the Lord who bought them;
(3) because it was a command to which obedience could be secured so long as the Christians "directed their hearts into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."
3. It was a command to the body of the Church to "withdraw themselves" from the disorderly brethren.
(1) It was no command to excommunicate them. It was no case of expulsion or exclusion from Church fellowship, but
(2) what may be called social excommunication. The brethren were to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with them, perhaps the richer members to encourage them no longer in their indolent and restless fanaticism by their ill-placed generosity, and thus bring them to a sense of shame and repentance for their laziness and talebearing.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10.—The example of the apostle himself as a support to his command.
I. THE APOSTLE'S EXAMPLE. "For we were not disorderly among you, nor did we eat bread for nought from any one, but in toil and weariness, working night and day." Though there were rich people in the Church, he accepted no gift from them, but laboured at his craft assiduously to earn a living for himself.
1. His refusal of support from his converts did not invalidate his right to it. "Not because we have not authority"—an authority which he fully expounds in 1 Corinthians 9:1-27.—for "the labourer is worthy of his hire," and has he not "a right to forbear working"?
2. It was based upon a supreme regard to Thessalonian interests.
(1) "That we might not be a burden to any one of you,"
(2) and "that we might give ourselves for a pattern unto you to imitate us." The apostle had evidently in view the extravagances of conduct that were beginning at an early period to spring from misunderstandings respecting the time of the Lord's coming. He was not ashamed of his handicraft. No Christian man ought ever to be ashamed of honest labour.
II. THE APOSTLE'S INJUNCTION TO THE DISORDERLY. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any one will not work, neither let him eat."
1. This does not apply to those who cannot work, but to those who will not. The command does not touch cases of charity.
2. It is a command based on the original law of Eden. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). Work is a Divine order, not repealed by Christianity but lifted up to higher blessing and dignity. The idle man ought, therefore, to be allowed to suffer the effects of his idleness.
3. It is a command which, when obeyed, will introduce tranquillity into life, and at the same time conduce to an honest self-respect. "That working with quietness they eat their own bread."
(1) They would thus be eating their own bread, not the bread earned by others' toil, nor that reserved by the same toil for the use of the really destitute and poor.
(2) They would thus carry more quietness into their own lives as well as those of their neighbours, for there would be no time for intermeddling with other people's concerns. We should live "quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:2).—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:13.—Exhortation to well doing.
"Brethren, be not weary in well doing."
I. THIS IMPLIES THAT THEY HAD BEEN HITHERTO ENGAGED IN WELL DOING. "Walking honestly to them that were without" (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
II. IT IS AN INJUNCTION NEEDED BY THE VERY CONDITION OF THE THESSALONIAN CHURCH. Their charity might have been abused by the idle, but they were not to be discouraged by these examples of fanatical restlessness from the practice of beneficence.
III. IT IS AN INJUNCTION POWERFULLY RECOMMENDED ALL THROUGH THE GOSPEL.
1. It was putting into practice the patience of Christ, for which the apostle prayed in their interest.
2. God is glorified by well doing. (John 15:8.)
3. God remembers it. (Hebrews 6:9, Hebrews 6:10.)
4. A blessing attends it. (James 1:25.)
5. It follows us into our final rest. (Revelation 14:13.)—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:15.—The true spirit of faithful dealing with an erring brother.
The apostle returns to this subject again.
I. HIS REITERATED COMMAND. "If any man obey not our word by this Epistle, note that man, and have no company with him." Let him be a marked man, like a leper in your midst, standing wholly isolated in a heathen city. This would be a social extrusion deeply felt by a "brother" who would be cut off from the cordial greetings of the Church.
II. THE DESIGN OF THIS SOCIAL EXCOMMUNICATION. "That he may be ashamed." It is not "for destruction," but for edification; it is to bring the offender to a due sense of his sin, and to a resolution for its abandonment.
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE COMMAND IS TO BE CARRIED OUT. "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
1. It is an injunction not to regard him as your enemy, or as an enemy of Christ, as if he had denied the faith, or sunk into profligacy, or relapsed into heathenism. There must be neither hostility nor carelessness on your side, but rather "the love that suffereth long, and is kind."
2. It is an injunction to affectionate admonition. "But admonish him as a brother." How this would be consistent with the withdrawal of all intercourse it is unnecessary to speculate. There was to be a faithful dealing with him that he might be won back, and "Satan have no advantage" over him.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:16.—A prayer for peace.
"Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way."
I. THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLESSING. "The Lord of peace himself"—Jesus Christ.
1. He is our abiding Peace. (Ephesians 2:14.)
2. He gives it as his legacy to the Church. (John 14:27.)
3. He guides into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79.)
4. He is the Prince of peace. (Isaiah 9:6.)
5. Peace is preached by him. (Ephesians 2:17; Acts 10:36.)
II. THE PEACE IN QUESTION INCLUDES:
1. Reconciliation, with God.
2. Peace with one another.
3. Peace in all the relations of life.
4. Peace in the midst of speculative disturbances.
5. Peace in the midst of persecutions.
6. Peace in the prospect of death.
III. IT WAS A PRAYER FOR A CONTINUOUS PEACE. "Always." It was to be as uninterrupted as a river (Isaiah 48:18), with no breaks made in it by the world, the flesh, or the devil. None but the Lord of peace could sustain such a peace in power.
IV. IT IS PEACE TO BE ACQUIRED IN EVERY WAY—BY PRAYING, BY PREACHING, BY CONVERSATION.
V. THE PENDANT TO THIS HAPPY PRAYER. "The Lord be with you all." A comprehensive benediction upon the disorderly as well as the orderly brethren of Thessalonica. "Be with you all"—"by his presence to comfort and refresh; by his power to keep and preserve; by his grace to assist; and by his Spirit to counsel, advise, and direct."—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:18.—The closing salutation with its autographic significance.
"The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every Epistle: so I write." He takes the pen out of the hand of his amanuensis and writes the closing words himself.
I. IT WAS IMPORTANT TO AUTHENTICATE THE EPISTLE. There were letters falsely attributed to him (1 Thessalonians 2:2). It is essential for Christians to know the distinction between the human and the Divine. The Thessalonians would be able to identify his large, bold handwriting (Galatians 6:11).
II. THE SALUTATION WAS NOT A MERE SYMBOL OF FRIENDSHIP, BUT A PRAYER FOR HIS BELOVED CONVERTS. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."
1. His Epistles began with prayer; they end with prayer—"fencing round that which he said with mighty walls on either side."
2. All the good he desires for his converts is included in the grace of the God-Man. The prayer implies the Divinity of Christ. His name alone appears in his parting supplication.
3. It is a parting request for all the brethren without exception, including even those who received his rebukes.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY B.C. CAFFIN
2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:2.—Prayer for missions.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF IT. Prayer is a mighty power; we must use it. We must not stand by indifferent and uninterested, and leave the progress of the gospel to missionaries abroad, to God's ministers at home. We must all take our part in the work. Success in that work depends in large measure on the prayers of the faithful. All who pray earnestly for the work of missions are really helpers, as really, though not in the same degree, as the most hardworking missionaries. Faithful prayer is as necessary as faithful preaching. The united prayers of the Church, the mighty volume of supplication that ascends in behalf of missions, is the strength of those who labour in loneliness and self-denial among heathen and savages. Each one of us, however humble, may contribute his share to the great result. All who do so are coworkers in the blessed work of saving souls. It is a high privilege; the Lord has committed the progress of Christianity to the prayers of his people. We may well ask ourselves if we have been as energetic as we ought in that great spiritual work.
II. THE DUTY OF PRAYER.
1. For the spread of the gospel. St. Paul urges it constantly upon his converts. He had been praying for the Thessalonians; now he asks for their prayers in return. It is a commandment. He bids us pray that the Word of the Lord may run, that it may meet with no check in its onward course, but spread ever further and wider, from city to city, from country to country, till "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." This is the only limit. The Church must not be stationary; it must be always in movement. The water of life is living water, ever welling up fresh and clear; it is a running stream. Stagnation means corruption. The gospel must keep moving onward, winning fresh hearts, exerting an ever-growing influence over those who have long felt its power. To stand still is to go back, to win no new victories is to lose its ancient triumphs. It is our bounden duty to help on this progress by our earnest prayers. We are met by an inert mass of apathy; we must strive to kindle it into life by our fervent supplications. "Ask, and ye shall have." The apathy of which, it may be, we complain so bitterly, may be due in large measure to our own spiritual sloth, to the sluggishness of our prayers. Where the Word of the Lord runs, it will be glorified; it is living and powerful; it will manifest its energy in the blessed lives, the holy deaths, of converted men; it will show forth the glory of the Lord in that glory of holiness which, springing from his indwelling presence, will transform the souls in whom that presence abides.
2. For the missionaries themselves. They are exposed to many dangers; it was so with St. Paul. He was now at Corinth, a city where there was a great work to do, for the Lord had much people there. But be met with much opposition, at first from fanatical Jews, afterwards from "false brethren" and "false apostles" He bids the Thessalonians pray that he might be delivered from these men, not for his own sake—he counted not his life dear unto himself—but that he might finish his course with joy, and be blessed in saving many souls. So we should pray now for faithful missionaries, that they may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.
1. Pray constantly for the success of the gospel in all the world. Christ bids you; his apostles bid you.
2. Do not think yourself too weak and sinful to do so; such humility is false humility; it defrauds God's ministers of the assistance which you are bound to give them.
3. Believe in the power of prayer; it is an important element in a living faith.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:3-5.—St. Paul's confidence.
I. HE TRUSTS IN THE LORD.
1. The Lord is faithful. All men have not the faith; the faith is not the possession of all. These unreasonable and wicked men seem to be beyond its saving influences. But the Lord is faithful. He is the Truth; his promises are sure. Amid the tumult of opposition, the rude fanaticism of the Jews, the sneers of the philosophic Greeks, St. Paul still trusted in the Lord. "The Lord is faithful." It is a great word; we may well pray that it may be engraven in our hearts, as the centre of our hopes, the strength of our souls.
2. He will strengthen the Thessalonians. It is what St. Paul prayed for in the last chapter. He knows that his prayer is heard. God will stablish the Thessalonians. He has built his Church upon a rock; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The rain may descend, the flood may come, the stream of adversity may beat vehemently against the Church of God; it cannot fall, for it is founded upon the rock. God is faithful. He will keep them from the evil—from the evil which surrounds them in the world, from the power of the evil one. The words sound like a reminiscence of the Lord's prayer. Compare also 2 Timothy 4:18, "The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." St. Paul, it seems, was accustomed to use the same holy words which we say in our daily prayers. How many generations of Christians that prayer has helped in their heavenward journey! They are safe now with Christ. We are marching onwards to that rest which they have reached. We have the same helps which they had. Let us seek that holy confidence which St. Paul had. The Lord is faithful; he will stablish you; he will keep you from the evil.
II. HE HAS CONFIDENCE IN THE THESSALONIANS. Or rather in the Lord touching them. It is in the Lord always that he trusts; but that confidence in the Lord reaches to the Thessalonians; he believes that they are doing now, and will continue to do the things which he commands them, because he is sure that the Lord will stablish them, and keep them from the evil. It is an exhortation delicately expressed in the language of confidence. He trusts them; the consciousness of being trusted is a strong motive for obedience; there is a sense of shame in disobeying a master, a teacher, who reposes implicit confidence in his pupils. Mark the delicate tact of the apostle.
III. HE DOUBTS THEM NOT, YET HE PRAYS FOR THEM.
1. For growth in love. In 1 Thessalonians 3:11 he had prayed that God would direct his way to the Thessalonians; here he prays that God would direct their hearts into the way of love. The way of love is the way that leads to God, who is love. We need to be directed thither. Our attention is often distracted by the various paths which lead this way and that in the journey of life. God can direct us by his Spirit into the one path which leads to God. That path is love, self-denying, self-forgetting love—the love which comes from God and ends in God. For love is of God, it is his gift; it comes from him who is the only Fountain of pure and holy love. And it ends in him; for God only is the true Object of our highest love; only in him can the deep yearnings of our souls find their proper satisfaction. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." It is his commandment, the first of all the commandments. He does not mock us with commands which we cannot obey; he giveth his Spirit; and the gift of the Spirit is the gift of power. He can direct; he will, if we seek it in persevering prayer, direct our hearts into the love of God.
2. For growth in patience. The Church of Thessalonica needed patience; it was much afflicted from the first. The Lord Jesus Christ was the great Example of patience. He endured the cross, despising the shame. If we would run with patience the race that is set before us, we must consider him, always looking unto Jesus. In our sufferings we must meditate on the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour, and pray for grace to follow his example. We need his patience, such patience as he had. We must pray for it. The Lord will direct us to it.
1. The Lord is faithful; trust in him. He is true; he will establish the hearts of his chosen.
2. We must be stern with ourselves, but gentle with others; gentle words of confidence win those whom harshness would only repel.
3. Pray for love; pray for patience.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.—The importance of the common duties of daily life shown.
I. BY ST. PAUL'S EARNEST APPEALS.
1. He commands, and that in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were some among the Thessalonian Christians who walked disorderly, whose lives were not ordered according to the teaching which they had received from St. Paul. The Church generally was sound, as the Epistle shows, but there was a section that needed counsel and firm treatment. Probably the prevalent restlessness about the approach of the day of the Lord so filled their minds that it seemed hard to attend to less exciting matters. In view of an event so awful, the little details of daily occupation seemed trivial and insignificant. The whole course of life, with all its complex interests, might any moment be abruptly checked by the sudden coming of the Lord. It was hard to descend from the contemplation of a topic so absorbing to the little duties of work and everyday life. But the apostle commands, and that with the greatest earnestness. It is just in those little duties that our responsibility chiefly lies. It is in the small matters of daily life that the battle between good and evil is fought out for each individual soul. "The daily round, the common task," is the field in which we are trained for heaven; or, if not for heaven, it must be for hell. Ordinary lives are commonplace; they do not present opportunities for showy action; there are few emergencies, little excitement in them. The lives of most of us are, by God's appointment, ordinary and commonplace; it is the discipline for eternity which he has provided for us. The quiet, faithful performance of those common duties is the best preparation for the coming of the Lord. He cannot find us better employed than in the work, whatever it may be, which his providence has given us to do. And, in truth, those commonplace lives afford ample opportunities for self-denial, if only we will use them; a road for drawing daily nearer to God, if only we will take the path pointed out by his providence, not some self-chosen way of our own. A commonplace life may be in the eyes of the holy angels full of beauty and heroism. To do each little duty, as it comes, faithfully and thoroughly; to keep the thought of God's presence constantly before us, and to try in all things, great and small alike, to please him; to persevere all the day, and every day, in the quiet life of duty;—this involves a sustained effort, a lofty faith, a holy love, which are in the sight of God of great price. The life of duty, however humble and quiet that duty may be, is the life of holiness. Religious fervour, religious excitement, if it ends in excitement and does not issue in obedience, is but a counterfeit in the sight of God; it will not abide the day of his coming. In the First Epistle St. Paul had bidden the Thessalonians to study to be quiet, to do their own business, to work with their own hands. He speaks more strongly now. Probably the excitement had increased; it had led to the disorder which he condemns. He commands them now, and that in virtue of his apostolic authority, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose ambassador he was. Sometimes God's ministers must speak with authority. They must be instant in season, out of season; they must reprove, rebuke, exhort; but such rebukes will avail little, unless they are administered with much long suffering, with humility and godly fear, and enforced by that authority of character which only holiness of life can give. To possess such authority, a man must have that reality the absence of which is so soon detected; he must have that ready sympathy which is such a source of power and success in ministerial work.
2. They must withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly. St. Paul is not issuing a sentence cf excommunication, as in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. and 1 Timothy 1:20. The conduct of these Thessalonians was not so utterly wicked as that of the incestuous person at Corinth; their errors were not so dangerous as those of Hymenaeus and Alexander. But they were neglecting the duties of their station; they were living in disobedience. It was not right for Christians to recognize such men as brethren; their lives were a scandal; they were bringing discredit upon the Christian name. True Christians must be jealous for their Master's honour; they must sometimes show openly their disapprobation of inconsistency. It is a difficult and painful duty. It is necessary, in performing it, to keep a very careful watch over our own motives; to speak and act in deep humility and real charity; to cast first the beam out of our own eye; to remember the Saviour's rule, "Judge not." But though a difficult duty, it is sometimes a duty. A true Christian must not live on terms of intimacy with men who disgrace their Christian profession. He will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners. All his delight will be in the saints who are on the earth. Especially he must avoid the companionship of those who make a great show of religion and live ungodly lives. No sin is more dangerous than hypocrisy; none is more strongly condemned by our Lord.
II. BY HIS EXAMPLE.
1. He did not behave himself disorderly. He illustrated in his life the power of true religion. He was a man of warm affections, of enthusiastic character, full of high hopes; but he never allowed any excitement of feeling to interfere with the quiet performance of daily duties. His life and preaching supplemented one another. His preaching disclosed the motives which prompted his actions and regulated his life; his life was his preaching translated into action—it showed the reality, the living force, of the truths which he preached.
2. He worked with his own hands. He always asserted the right of the apostles and their companions to maintenance from the Churches. The Lord hath ordained, he said, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But he did not claim this right for himself. It was not pride that prompted his conduct; he accepted the gifts of the Philippians. But he knew the value of an example of self-denying and absolutely disinterested labour. The Gentile world had never seen such a life. It was a power in itself; it constrained the admiration and won the hearts of men; it forced them to admit the reality of a religion which sustained him in such unparalleled self-sacrifices. So he would not eat any man's bread for nought. For nought, he says in his humility; though he knew well that his converts in Thessalonica owed to him, like Philemonon, even their own selves. He wrought with his own hands, and that night and day. It was hard, uninteresting, ill-paid labour. It required the close application of many hours to earn even the simple livelihood which contented him. But he worked on in patience, knowing the power of example.
III. HE INSISTS ON THE DUTY OF HONEST LABOUR.
1. Are had done so during his stay at Thessalonica. He had given his opinion in the words of a short, stern proverb, "If any will not work, neither let him eat." Labour is the ordinance of God; a punishment at first (Genesis 3:19), but it is turned into a blessing (Psalms 128:2) to those who accept it as the will of God, and use it as a discipline of obedience and self-denial. Work, in some form or other, is a necessity for us; without work, life soon becomes dreary, full of restlessness and dissatisfaction. To have nothing to do is far from enviable; it is full of ennui and weariness. Time is a priceless talent, given us that we might work out our own salvation; to waste it day after day, to "kill time," as the saying is, is a miserable misuse of the good gifts of God. We must all work, if we would be happy here, if we would be ready to meet the Lord when he cometh. Mental labour is the lot of some, manual labour of others. God has ordered our lot and appointed our work. Work of some sort we must have. None have a right to eat their bread without labour, neither the rich nor the poor.
(1) If God has given us worldly means, still we have no right to eat the bread of idleness. We must find work to do, the work which the Master has set us. If we need not work for ourselves, we must work for others. There is work enough for all in the vineyard of the Lord; only in work can we find peace and satisfaction. Without work, we are eating the bread which we have not earned; without work, we must in the end be restless and unhappy; without work, how can we bear to read those awful words, "Thou wicked and slothful servant"?
(2) And the apostle forbids indiscriminate almsgiving. When the Lord said, "Give to him that asketh thee," he did not mean to the idle and the worthless. Give freely, but give to the old, the sick, the helpless. It is a difficult thing to give rightly; it needs study, thought, prayer. We must not encourage idleness, but neither must we allow our heart to be hardened by the imposture which we meet so often. Be generous, full of sympathy to the afflicted, but let the idle be corrected by the stern discipline of hunger. To give to such is doubly wrong; it encourages the slothful in their sinful idleness, and it robs the really poor.
2. He repeats his exhortation now. There were busybodies at Thessalonica, who neglected their own business, and busied themselves with matters which did not concern them, or with curious questions which were beyond their reach. It is always so with the idle; the restless thoughts must find occupation, and commonly find it in mischief. St. Paul exhorts them again. He does not sternly leave them to themselves; he longs for their spiritual welfare. He exhorts them, and that in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, to work with quietness; not to let excited feelings interfere with the quiet, well ordered life of Christian duty; but to eat their own bread, the bread earned by honest labour; not to live on the alms of others, when they might preserve a manly, Christian independence.
IV. HE ASKS THE BRETHREN TO SUPPORT HIS EXHORTATIONS.
1. They must not be weary in well doing. There is much to make Christians weary; their own helplessness and sinfulness; the disappointments, misunderstandings, ingratitude, which they meet with in their work. But they must persevere in the quiet walk of duty; they must do good, seeking no reward save that which comes from our Father who seeth in secret. Weariness is hard to bear; it will press heavily upon us at times. We must run with patience the race that is set before us, looking always unto Jesus.
2. They must carry out his censures. His Epistle was an authoritative document; it came from the Lord's apostle, armed with the Lord's authority. It must be obeyed; it was the duty of the Church to enforce obedience. The brethren must show their concurrence with St. Paul by not keeping company with any professing Christians who may still persist in disorderly conduct. But they must be careful not to sin against the law of love. The offender is a brother still; they must admonish him for his soul's sake; they must show by their conduct their sorrow, their disapproval of his disobedience, that the disapprobation of Christians known and respected may bring him to a sense of shame. and, by God's grace, to amendment of life.
1. Duty seems sometimes dull and prosaic, but it is our appointed path; do each little duty as in the sight of God.
2. There is a true dignity in honest labour; never despise it in others; work yourself in the station to which God has called you.
3. Be careful in your choice of companions; avoid the disorderly; seek the society of the pious and obedient.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18.—Conclusion.
I. THE CLOSING PRAYER FOR PEACE.
1. Only the Lord can give it. Again we have the solemn αὐτός, himself. He is the Lord of peace; it is his: "My peace I give unto you." He only can grant that chiefest blessing. The Thessalonians might have their difficulties, their dangers; they might be weary. But it is the weary and the heavy laden whom the Lord calls to himself. "Come unto me," he says, "and I will give you rest." Only we must take up his yoke, the yoke of obedience; only we must bear his burden, the burden of the cross; and we shall find peace, rest for our souls. For his yoke is easy. It seems not so at first; we are tempted often to be disorderly, to forsake the quiet path of duty; it is hard to resist temptation. But if we come to Christ and learn of him, the blessed Master, he will teach us the grace ant blessedness of obedience, and we shall gradually learn something of his own lesson—to do our Father's will as it is done in heaven, gladly and with cheerful submission. His burden is light. It seems not so at first; the cross is sharp. But he bore the cross once for us; he bears it with us now. When he strengthens us we can do all things; the heavy burden becomes light when we rest on his strength. He is the Lord of peace. Peace is his to give; he will give it to the chosen.
2. He can give it always. At all times and in all ways we need the peace of God. We want it in the Church, in the commonwealth, in the family; we want it all the day and every day. We shall have it if he is with us, for with his presence comes the gift of peace. "The Lord be with you." It is a precious benediction. We listen, we accept it in humble thankfulness. We must strive ourselves to keep ourselves in the love of God, to realize the deep truth of his presence, to draw daily nearer and nearer to him.
II. ST. PAUL'S OWN SALUTATION.
1. His autograph. He writes the concluding words with his own hand. His Epistles were sacred writings; they were the work of an inspired apostle; they had the stamp of Divine authority. St. Paul marks their importance by his closing words. He did not, perhaps he could not, write the whole; he writes his signature at the last. In his own handwriting, perhaps, as some have thought, large and clumsy (comp. Galatians 6:11 in the Greek), but known and loved by his converts, he sends his last word of love; he salutes, he greets them with the embrace of Christian charity.
2. His fast benediction. As always, he ends with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had prayed in his first Epistle that it might rest upon them. Now he adds the significant word "all." He had been obliged to blame some of them, to blame them severely; but he will not end his Epistle with words of censure. He prays that grace may be with them all. He loves them all; he longs for the restoration of those who were living disorderly, for the continual progress and sanctification of the whole Church. And so he prays for grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can convert the erring; that same grace can comfort and confirm the faithful. St. Paul closes all his Epistles with a prayer for grace. The grace of God should be always in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our prayers for ourselves and others.
1. Only God can give true and lasting peace; seek it of him; he giveth to all men liberally.
2. We need it always, everywhere; then pray always, everywhere.
3. By grace ye are saved; refer everything to the grace of God; trust only in that grace, not in works of righteousness which we have done.—B.C.C.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5.—Intimation of the close of the Epistle.
I. REQUEST FOR PRAYER ON BEHALF OF THE PREACHERS.
1. For the diffusion and glorification of the Word of the Lord through their instrumentality. Diffusion. "Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run." The Word of the Lord is the Word as given by the Lord to be diffused. It is especially the offer of salvation to perishing men on the ground of Christ's work. The Thessalonians are asked to pray that the Word of the Lord, by their preaching, may run, i.e. have free and rapid course. In the same way we are to pray that the Word of the Lord may be everywhere preached. This is a motto for a Bible Society: "Pray that the Word of the Lord may run." By both means may it accomplish its course. Let no country be shut to the preaching of the gospel, to the circulation of the Scriptures. Let the earth be filled with knowledge. Glorification. "And be glorified." For this, too, prayer needs to be made. May the Divine Spirit accompany the Word in its course through the world. And, wherever it comes, let it be glorified. Let it be shown to be the Word of the Lord, by its powerful saving effects upon the hearts of all who hear it or read it. Commendatory statement with reference to the Thessalonians. "As also it is with you." In its course through the world in those days, the Word came to Thessalonica. And they presented no obstacle in their hearts to its reception. They received it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the Word of God. And it was signally glorified in its being the means of their being turned from idols to the living and true God. Let the Word of the Lord also be glorified in our conversion, in the transformation of our characters. Let us be willing trophies of the power of the Word to change us to the Divine form.
2. For the presence of a condition without which they could not be instrumental in diffusing and glorifying the Word of the Lord. "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men." In most places the preachers had to encounter unreasonable and evil men. If these had their way, the Word of the Lord would be impeded, by there not being freedom for preaching it. The Thessalonians, then, are asked to pray, on behalf of the preachers, for their deliverance from these unreasonable and evil men. They are not forbidden to pray for their personal salvation, but they are enjoined to pray against them as impeders of the Word. Let Divine restraint be laid upon their unreasonableness and malice, but let Divine speed be granted to the Word. Reason for expecting the existence of unreasonable and evil men. "For all have not faith." The meaning is not that all have not aptitude for faith. It is one of the devil's lies that religion is only a matter for some people. The meaning is, that all are not, in the way of faith, receptive of the Word. We need not, therefore, wonder if, in the case of some, their want of sympathy with the Word shows itself in forms of unreasonableness and malice. They are only working out their position more vigorously than some others, even as Paul did in his pre-Christian state.
II. THEY HAD CONFIDENCE THAT THE LORD WOULD ASSIST THE THESSALONIANS. "But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and guard you from the evil one." They at once turn away from their own case to the case of the Thessalonians. There were unreasonable and evil men at Thessalonica too. But the Lord was to be trusted in as Protector of his Church in every place, and stronger than the unreasonable and evil men. And their Lord Protector, the preachers were persuaded, would make them immovable against the assaults of their enemies, and would deliver them from the evil one, the inspirer of their unreasonableness and malice.
III. THEIR CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD EXTENDED TO THE COOPERATION OF THE THESSALONIANS WITH THE LORD ASSISTING THEM. "And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command." In the language, "And we have confidence in the Lord," there is a carrying forward of the thought. Their confidence in the Lord extended to the Thessalonians doing their part. They had no doubt that in the present they were doing what they were commanded. They had no doubt also in their resolution for the future. This expression of confidence has the force of hopeful exhortation.
IV. PRAYER THAT THE LORD WOULD ASSIST THE THESSALONIANS. "And the Lord direct your hearts." Though the Lord promises to assist us, and to assist us in connection with our good resolution, yet we need to pray for his assistance. The prayer is for the directing—not mere directing, but the powerful directing—of our hearts. Of ourselves our hearts are misdirected. But, in virtue of his triumph on Calvary, the Lord has power over our hearts to direct them aright. There is a twofold direction mentioned.
1. The central dispositions. "Into the love of God." Our hearts are rightly directed, when they are directed in love toward him who is the Centre of our being. As being should tend toward its source, so should we tend toward God. As it is natural for a child to love his parents, so surely it is natural for us to love him by whom we have been made, and for whom we have been made. It was the object of the Lord, in his personal ministry on earth, to hold up before men the immeasurable goodness of God. So it is his object in our hearts, by his Spirit, to hold up Divine excellence, so that we may be powerfully attracted toward God. And in this love, as it is real and active, is there motive power for the keeping of the commandments of God handed to us by inspired men. The Lord, then, give us this love for ourselves and our friends. May God be so presented to us that all misdirection of our hearts shall be powerfully overcome.
2. The special disposition in their situation. "And into the patience of Christ." By the patience of Christ we are to understand the patience exhibited by Christ which is held up before us as our ideal. "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." In the midst, then, of unreasonable and evil men—not more unreasonable and evil than those which assailed Christ—let them in the same spirit endure.—R.F.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.—Duty of withdrawing from a disorderly brother.
I. DUTY STATED. "Now we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us." The commandment, being in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, was as authoritative as though it had been given directly by him who has the absolute right to command in the Church. It was a commandment relating to a brother walking disorderly, and not after the received tradition. It is implied that a definite order had been appointed by the Lord for the conduct of members of the Church. This order, handed to the preachers, had been handed by them to the Thessalonians. But how was a brother to be dealt with who did not observe this order? Our Lord had laid down the rule with regard to one who offended directly against a brother. "And it thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church: and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican." What we have here differs from that in being the case of one who by his conduct offended against the general order and reputation of the Church to which he belonged. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. there is the ordaining of discipline in a case of very great scandal in the Corinthian Church. "For I verily, being absent in body, but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him that hath so wrought this thing, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,... to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." The disorderliness in the Thessalonian Church was not of the gravest nature. Nor was it disorderliness with the greatest amount of deliberation; but was rather the consequence of a false impression with regard to the coming. Nor was it the most confirmed disorderliness, being after clear enunciation of duty as shown in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12, and, we may suppose, after warning as directed in 1 Thessalonians 5:14; but disorderliness to which discipline had not yet been applied. There is allowed, then, to the disorderly person the position of brother, and apparently the right to sit down at the Lord's table. But the right minded members of the Thessalonian community are directed to withdraw from him. Let him, in the way of discipline, be shunned in private intercourse. Let him be made clearly to understand that no countenance is given to him in his disorderly course.
II. DUTY ENFORCED BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE PREACHERS. "For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labour and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you." An appeal is made to what was within their own knowledge and observation. They were aware, without their requiring to be told, that there had been nothing disorderly in the behaviour of the preachers among them. They had practised what they had taught. They had been an example in all particulars of the order of which they had been the medium of delivery. Special reference is made to their being an example of independence acquired by manual labour. It could not be said of them that they had eaten bread for nought at any man's hand. They had eaten bread in labour and travail, working night and day, to be raised above the point of being burdensome to any of them. Very similar language is used in the First Epistle. "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you." The thought there is that, by their having adopted this course, they were placed above all suspicion of selfishness. They were only givers to the Thessalonians, as mothers to their infant children. We are here told what led to their supporting themselves by the labour of their own hands. It was the consideration of example. In the excitement into which the Thessalonian Church had been thrown by the announcement of the coming, there had been early observed a tendency to neglect the duties of their worldly calling, which could only result in their making themselves a burden. To counteract this tendency, they had thrown the influence of their example into the scale of industry. As they were not burdensome to the Thessalonians, let none of them be burdensome to any. Reservation of right. "Not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an example unto you, that ye should imitate us." As preachers they had the right to be maintained by those to whom they ministered. In preaching they were as much labouring—giving out their strength, even the strength of their bodies—as when they were tent making, or engaged in other manual labour. And, according to the principle which is brought in elsewhere, the labourer is worthy of his hire. In certain circumstances they felt free to accept of maintenance from those among whom they laboured, and thus to give their whole strength to spiritual work. Even at Thessalonica they felt free to accept of a gift from the Philippian Church. They did not feel free to accept of maintenance from the Thessalonian Church, simply because it was necessary, by their example, to encourage among them a spirit of independence in connection with diligence in performing the duties of their worldly calling.
III. DUTY ENFORCED BY THE PLAIN MANNER IN WHICH THE PREACHERS HAD TAUGHT. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat." In the First Epistle it had been said, "And that ye study to he quiet, and to do your own business, anti to work with your hands, even as we charged you." The Thessalonians are now referred back, beyond that point, to the time when the preachers were with them. In prescribing starvation as the remedy for the shirking of labour, Christianity has a certain aspect of severity. And yet, in this respect, Christianity is only sanctified common sense. There may be doubt in particular cases whether a man has the ability to work or the opportunity to work. But there can be no doubt of this, that if he has the ability to work and the opportunity and will not work, then he should be allowed to starve. That is to say, let the struggle go on in him between hunger and indolence. There is no call for our interposing in the name of Christian charity, which needs to he salted with salt, if it would not lose its flavour. We may expect that the struggle will end in hunger gaining the mastery over his indolence. And there will be an experience gained which may make him a profitable member of society for the time to come. It is well that the Christian rule is so plainly laid down. For there is a false spiritualism that looks askance at labour. It has even been attempted to throw a Christian halo around idleness in the order of the mendicant monks. But there is a sensible practical tone about Christianity which must commend it even to those who are not in sympathy with its central teaching. We do not need to engage in our worldly business with a grudge, as though all the time gained to the body were lost to the soul. We may feel free, with Paul and Silas and Timothy, in labour and travail, to work night and day, that we may not be burdensome to any. There is indeed danger, and very great danger, of our going over to the other side, and neglecting our spiritual duties, becoming worldly in our business. But that is to go beyond the intention of Christ. He means that, by attention to our spiritual duties, we should be fitted for our worldly duties. He means that we should he mindful of him, and loyal to his laws in our worldly duties. He means that, through the right performance of our worldly duties, our highest spirituality should be promoted. And blessed is he who can work out this problem aright in his life.
IV. OCCASION FOR LAYING DOWN THE DUTY. "For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies." There were some, the few among them, who did not observe the order given by the Lord. Specially, they did not observe the Lord's appointment of labor. They are described as working not at all. They were not idlers pure and simple, to begin with. They did not work, because they thought the coming was already commenced. They were really in a high state of tension. And, as their energies were not allowed scope at all within their proper work, they had to find scope in work beyond. This is brought out in the Greek as it cannot so well be brought out in the English translation. It is literally, and in a paradoxical way, "working nothing, but working beyond." They did not busy themselves with work that belonged to them; they even energetically busied themselves in a meddlesome way with work that did not belong to them.
V. THE DISORDERLY BRETHREN ADDRESSED. "Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." The Lord's authority and suasion is brought to bear on them as a class. It was not sufficient excuse for them that they took the Lord's coming to be imminent:. Even though their impression had been well founded, they were not therefore justified in freeing themselves from the Divine ordinance. If we knew when definitely we were to die, it would still he our duty, our strength being continued to us, to work up to the very last moment. That would be in the way of preparing for our change. So they should rather have thought of being called away from their ordinary work by Christ at his coming. They would thereby have saved themselves from much sinful; and disquieting speculation and intrusion into what did not concern them. When we work, and work with all the might of our nature, within our own proper sphere, we can have the accompaniment of quiet. We can have restlessness banished from our mind; and we can avoid the annoyance that comes from meddling with the affairs of others. When we work, too, with a diligent hand, we are put in a position of honorable independence. We do not need to be a burden upon others. We can eat our own bread, eat what we have earned by the sweat of our brow. To orderliness, then, in the form of attention to the duties of their worldly calling, with all the weight of the Lord's authority, with all the charm of the Lord's suasion, the preachers sought to bring back the few among the Thessalonians who had been disorderly.
VI. THE CHURCH ADDRESSED AS RIGHT MINDED. "But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing." From the way in which the Church is addressed, it can be seen that the right minded from their numbers were properly representative. From the context, "well doing" is to be understood in its less restricted sense. Those were doing well, in honouring the Lord's appointment of labour. The position in which they were placed was trying. It was hard for them to work on amid all the excitement that prevailed, especially if they themselves had the impression that the coming was impending. What need was there for work, when a new order of things was being introduced? Was it not more commendable to lay down their tools and devoutly wait for the heavens being opened over them? By this unsettling influence some of their number had been carried away. And the position of matters was aggravated by the support of these unprofitable members being thrown upon the Church. All the more honour, then, to them, the right minded, that, amid temptation, they held to the old order, that they thought it the right thing to labour on diligent]y, till they actually heard their Lord's voice on earth commanding them to cease from labour. Let them not weary in following an upright course. When an upright man sees his unscrupulous neighbours taking many an advantage which in his conscience he is not free to take, he is tempted to ask what advantage there is in uprightness. But, though the disadvantages were a hundred times greater than they really are, it would still be our duty to follow the Divine leadings. Let us not weary in the path that leads to God and life. There is nothing that is in the end wearying and wearing out but a mind that is conscious of wrong doing.
VII. FURTHER SPECIFICATION OF THE COURSE TO BE FOLLOWED WITH THE DISORDERLY BROTHER. "And if any man obeyeth not our word by this Epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed." The right minded being numerous could act in the name of the Church. The disorderly brother could be called before them, or before a court representative of the Lord's authority in the Church. In some way his attention was to be specially directed to the part of the letter which pertained to him. And obedience was to be demanded of him to what was laid down in the letter. The ground was taken from under the position he occupied by the announcement that the coming was to be preceded by an apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin. That put the coming into the distance, and gave an aspect of stability to the old order of things, including the six days' labour of the fourth commandment. But it was not easy to get rid of all the false excitement at once. And the habit of idleness had to be overcome, so far as it had been formed. Against these hindrances the authority of the teachers was to be brought to bear. If after trial he persisted in neglecting to work, then the course to be followed was to note that man, and have no company with him. He was to be dealt with even as others who are mentioned in l Corinthians 5: "But now I write unto you not to keep company if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat." The idler among them was to be a marked man, even as the greater offender; the whole sentiment of the Church was to be brought to bear against his idleness. They were not to have free intercourse or companionship with him. They were not to admit him into their privacy. They were not to invite him to their houses, to contribute to his support, or in any way to show him countenance in his disorderly course. They were to do this with a disciplinary end in view, viz. to shame him out of his idleness. It was a shame for a man, being able-bodied, to be idle and to throw himself as a burden upon others. It was especially a shame in a Christian, who was surely not to be behind his heathen neighbour in the ordinary duties of life. By producing in him a feeling of shame his amendment would be secured. Caution to be observed. "And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." They were not to take the extreme step of cutting him off altogether from Church fellowship. He was not hopelessly removed from good. There was nothing decisive against the reality of his Christianity. They were therefore, while withdrawing from him, to acknowledge him as a brother, giving him to feel that, on returning to orderliness, they would welcome him back to freedom of Christian intercourse. There is a rule laid down here for our guidance in Christian intercourse. We are only to have free intercourse with those who are at one with us in the great essentials of the Christian faith and life. We are not to be on easy terms with those of whose sentiments, or of whose mode of life, we cannot approve. That would be to tolerate their sentiments, to tolerate their conduct, and thus to compromise our position and open up the way for our own deterioration. It would also be to encourage them in their position and prevent their amendment. Our duty is to withdraw from them, so far as it is necessary to conserve our own position, and so far as it is necessary to convince them that we do not countenance them in their position. But we are not to go to the extreme of bearing ourselves toward them as though they did not belong to the Christian circle. We are not to treat them as enemies. But we are to perform toward them the brotherly duty of trying to remove sin from them, so as to open up the way for the restoration of all suitable Christian intercourse. It is to be feared that many Christians are not sufficiently careful as to those with whom they freely associate. They look to position, to convenience, to companionableness, to sympathy in smaller matters, and not so much as they should do to the great ends of intercourse. There are even those belonging to the Christian circle against whose ideas and conduct it is necessary for us to protest. When they are habitually worldly, or unsettling, or uncharitable, or unbrotherly in conversation, or given to intemperance, even as we love the order which Christ approves, and as we would not be partakers with them in their sins, we must withdraw from them, while not, in moral cowardice, shirking the duty of speaking out what we think and admonishing them for their good.—R.F.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18.—Concluding words.
1. Invocation of peace.
(1) From whom peace is invoked. "Now the Lord of peace himself." We are to rise above what we can do for others to the Lord of peace himself. He has purchased peace for us by his death. "He is our Peace;" "The chastisement of our peace was upon him." He is, therefore, the sovereign Dispenser of the blessing of peace in the Churches. Peace was the legacy he left to his believing people in the world. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." When, after his resurrection, he appeared to his disciples, he hailed them with the salutation of peace. "As they thus spake," we are told, "Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you;" and yet again, on the same occasion, he said, "Peace be unto you." We wish, then, for all in whom we are interested, that our ascended Lord would bestow peace upon them, even as he bestowed peace upon the disciples before he ascended.
(2) The peace invoked. "Give you peace." "Peace be with you," is a sentiment which we should have in our hearts, and often on our lips, especially in parting with our friends, as Paul here in his letter parts with the Thessalonians. They leave us for a time, but not without our sincere wishes for their peace. Now, what is the peace that we wish especially for those that we are interested in? To be clear with God. There is no greater evil than to be in a state of unreconciledness to God. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." They have sometimes a peace, a want of such dispeace as might be expected, but only by blinking the facts of their case. They do not thus get quit of their sins, any more than men can get out of debt by pertinaciously refusing to look into their accounts. Their state remains unaltered. Their sins will find them out, it may be in this life. Certainly, when earthly things cannot longer preoccupy them, and in the presence of eternal realities they are thrown back upon themselves, then will conscience fill them with dispeace. For persons who are insensible to their actual condition as sinners we can only wish dispeace. "Let sinners in Zion be afraid, let fearfulness surprise the hypocrites." What we wish for our friends is a peace that corresponds to facts. We wish them to be in a state of reconciliation, and to be conscious of that. We wish them to be so that they can inquire most narrowly into their state, and honestly come to the conclusion that they have an interest in Christ, while repeated self-examination can only result in the discovery of something more in their character that needs to be removed. To have a feeling of repose in God. We are such beings that our peace is only to be found in dependence, in leaning. We are apt to seek a resting place in the creature; but, alas, all that is beneath the highest fails us, and we are driven from one resting place to another, like the dove that could find no rest on the unstable waters. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." True peace is only to be found in him from whom our being has come and to whom it tends, in leaning our weakness on his strength, our ignorance on his wisdom, our sinfulness on his grace. This is a rest out of which we cannot be driven, which makes us independent of the creature, which cures our restlessness of spirit. And as this is what we so much wish for ourselves, so we wish it for our friends. To have a feeling of satisfaction in being employed as God wants them to be employed. It is essential to our peace that our faculties should be truly and healthily employed. "Great peace have they who love thy Law." And what we wish for our friends is that, in some worthy way, they should work out the plan of their life given them by God. To have peace from without. It is said that, when a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. And that is often strikingly fulfilled. But it is not what every one can enjoy. Even Christ had his enemies, who gave no cause of offence to any. And we cannot calculate on escaping, who fail so much in our social duties. But still we wish this outward peace for our friends so far as it may please God. Let them be delivered from unreasonable and evil men. "Let no root of bitterness springing up trouble them." May causes of annoyance, elements of discord, be removed from families and from Churches!
(3) Time for which peace is invoked. "At all times." That would not be a good wish which was limited to a certain time, and was not made to extend over a longer period. If we wish peace at all, we will not wish it merely for a day, or for a month, or for a year, but for all time. Let them not by carelessness lose their evidences. Let not the coming years bring discord into their hearts or into their circle. The Lord give them peace in the season of affliction. The Lord especially give them peace in their dying hour. The Lord give them peace when they enter upon a new and solemn scene. May peace abide with them forever.
(4) Ways in which peace is invoked. "In all ways." The Lord of peace knows best how to see to the peace of our friends; with him, therefore, the ways may be left. The Lord use us, if we are his way of promoting their peace. The Lord work even against them in his providence, if that is necessary to their being ejected from their false confidences. The Lord especially, increase their faith, that their peace may flow as a river, broadening and deepening, until it loses itself in the ocean of eternity.
2. Invocation of the Lord's presence. "The Lord be with you all." This is a brief but comprehensive form of salutation. The Lord be with our friends, wherever their lot is cast. The Lord go with them where they go, and dwell with them where they dwell. The Lord be with them in their going out and in their coming in. The Lord be with them in their basket and in their store. The Lord especially be with them in the great work of their life.
II. REMARK REGARDING THE HANDWRITING OF THE SALUTATION. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hard, which is the token in every Epistle: so I write." Paul, here dissociating himself from Silas and Timothy as joint writers, singles out himself by name. It is he who has given turn and form to the thought throughout. It is he who pre-eminently had the care of the Gentile Churches. At the close of 1 Corinthians, and also at the close of Colossians, there is the same language as here. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand." In those places there is no salutation preceding; we require, therefore, mentally to supply a salutation. Here, where there is a salutation preceding, we are supplied with what the salutation is. We are to think of the weak-eyed Paul as seated in his room in the city of Corinth, and dictating the letter to the amanuensis beside him. While he had anything on his mind to say to these Thessalonians in the way of commendation, or direction, or advice, the amanuensis continued to write. But, having fully unburdened his mind, he took the roll of parchment into his own hand, and, in his own handwriting, put down these words: "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all." Still continuing to write, he adds the explanatory note: "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand." In his explanation he includes his reason for giving his own handwriting: "Which is the token in every Epistle: so I write" (i.e. in these characters). A forged epistle in his name had been circulated in Thessalonica; to prevent such imposition in future, he gives them, in the few words in his own handwriting, a token or seal by which to assure themselves of the genuineness of his letters. Let them accept of no letter which did not carry with it the evidence of its genuineness.
III. BENEDICTION. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." This is the short form which is found in the First Epistle, with the thoughtful addition of "all." There were some persons in the Thessalonian Church who had come under his censure. As in the sixteenth verse he has included them in his salutation ("with you all"), so now he includes them in his benediction. He leaves the Thessalonians for the time, with no grudge in his heart against any, but with the catholic desire that they should all be dealt with, not according to their own demerit, but according to the merit of their Saviour, of which he is sovereign Imputer.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
2 Thessalonians 3:1.—Prayer for missions.
Money is not the sinew of the spiritual wars of the Church. The necessary appeals for money so urgently pressed by the friends of missions should not blind our eyes to the higher needs of those great enterprises. All the wealth of the Stock Exchange could not convert one soul. As it was in Israel's great battle with Amalek, when Joshua could only prevail in the field so long as Moses prayed on the mountain, the missionary is successful in proportion as the Church is prayerful. In order that this assertion may not fall powerless as an empty, dogmatic platitude, inquire how it may be substantiated by a consideration of the chief elements of true success in the mission field.
I. THE SPIRITUAL CHARACTER OF THE LABOUR OF THE MISSIONARIES. Money cannot make missionaries. It may send men abroad, feed, clothe, and house them, but it cannot put an apostolic spirit in them, nor cheer and strengthen that spirit when it flags; and yet without such a spirit no missionary work can be looked for. Careys do not come with good balance sheets, nor are Moffats evolved out of glowing financial reports. The great want of the missionary societies is men, not money.
1. Prayer is necessary that the right men may be forthcoming. God only can find the men, and the most gifted men will fail except they go in pursuit of a Divine vocation. St. Paul was appointed "not from men, nor through man" (Galatians 1:1); he was sent on his specific mission through indications of the Holy Spirit in response to the prayers of the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:2).
2. Prayer is necessary that missionaries may be sustained. There is much to damp the ardour and depress the spirit of the missionary amid all the degraded scenes of his work. St. Paul had been praying for his friends at Thessalonica; in return he sought their prayers for his work. He so identified himself with his mission as to regard prayer for the mission as prayer for himself.
II. THE EXTERNAL PROGRESS OF THE TRUTH. St. Paul asks for prayer "that the Word of the Lord may run." Nothing is more striking than the fact that the rate of progress of Christian missions is not at all proportionate to the perfection of the mechanism with which they are organized. The years of biggest subscriptions are not always the years of most numerous conversions.
1. Prayer is necessary that God may remove obstructions to the progress of Christianity. Governments may hinder missions. Countries are sometimes closed against missionaries. Then we must pray that God would open a way. What doors has he opened in our day! The Word is now free to run through the vast populations of China. "The great dark continent" is opening up to the light. This is not done by money. "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
2. Prayer is necessary that God may dispose the minds of men to receive the truth. In a neighbouring Macedonian Church lived the first European resident converted by St. Paul, and of her it is said, "whose heart the Lord opened, to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14). Therefore we must pray that God's Spirit may go with the Word, to prepare the soil to receive it and to quicken it when it is sown.
III. THE INTERNAL FRUITFULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. The apostle is not satisfied with desiring that the Word of the Lord may "run;" he wishes also that it may be "glorified." This further wish strikes a high note. It reminds us that missionary success cannot be measured by the numbers of the converts. The great question is—what is the character of them? Statistical reports are delusive. The missionary who can make no sensational return of long lists of converts may be doing the most real, solid, lasting work in laying the foundation of true Christian character in a few. There are nominal Christians in heathen lands who are a dishonour to the name they bear, as there are also at home. Prayer is necessary that a right character may be cultivated in mission Churches. Christ was glorified when the man who had been a fierce demoniac sat clothed and in his right mind at the feet of his Deliverer. The Christian who has been a savage is the finest witness of the power of the gospel. But it is very difficult to irradicate the vices of heathenism, as missionaries know to their sorrow. Let us pray for this most hard but most needful work.—W.F.A.
2 Thessalonians 3:3.—Security.
It is interesting to notice how much anxiety St. Paul spends on the normal and permanent character of his Christian converts. He is not satisfied with having won their first confession of faith, nor is he content that now and again they should flash out with some brilliant display of spiritual energy. His chief concern is with their life throughout, his chief desire for the strength and persistence of its higher character. It is important for all of us to bear in mind that salvation is not an isolated act, that it is a chronic condition. We are always in danger of failing unless we are kept in a continuous Divine security.
I. THE TWO ELEMENTS OF SECURITY.
1. Internal stability. We are in danger of falling through our own weakness. Badly built houses do not wait for an earthquake to throw them down; they crumble to pieces.
(1) The first requisite for security is a good foundation. Christians should see to it that they are building on Christ, and not on their own doings and habits.
(2) The next requisite is compact, solid building. The building of wood, hay, and stubble is fragile, though it may be erected on a foundation of rock. We want firm principles, sound habits, decided convictions.
2. External protection.
(1) We are in danger from the evil one. In estimating our measure of security we have to take into account the character of our environment. The ship may be well built and yet it may not be able to withstand the pressure of ice floes. The strongest house may give way before an avalanche. The. Christian is beset by temptations. It is not enough that he is firm in his personal will to do right; he needs protection from external inducements to go astray.
(2) To be secure against this danger we need to be guarded. We can never be strong enough to withstand the whole force of an attack of Saran. Some providential warding off of the fiercest blows seems to be necessary.
II. THE GREAT GROUND OF SECURITY. St. Paul does not wish, or hope, or pray for the security of his friends. He knows and is confident that they have a good ground of security. Our fears are due to our unbelief. Faith has her feet on an immovable rock.
1. The ground of our security is Christ.
(1) He strengthens us with internal stability. The indwelling Christ is the source and secret of Christian vigour. Weak, wavering Christians have too little of Christ in their lives.
(2) He guards us against external assaults. Christ has faced and met and defeated the tempter. He interposes the presence of his Holy Spirit between the evil spirit and our hearts.
2. The reason for trusting in Christ for security is his faithfulness. It should be sufficient for us to have confidence in his goodness. He is so gracious, so kind, so generous to help, that we may be sure that he will aid his people in their greatest dangers. But we have more than this assurance. He has promised help (Matthew 28:20); he is appointed by God as our Saviour, and therefore, in fulfilment of his great mission, fidelity leads him to see to the security of his people. W.F.A.
2 Thessalonians 3:5.—The patience of Christ.
The Christian life has two aspects, a heavenward and an earthward aspect. In its heavenly relations it should be filled with love to God; in its earthly relations—especially when under such trials as befell the early Christians—it needs to be fortified to endure with patience. The latter grace claims particular attention.
I. GREAT PATIENCE IS REQUISITE FOR THE ENDURANCE OF EARTHLY LIFE. Very great differences in successive ages and in various individual lots make the amounts of patience necessary for each man to be very unequal. It would be foolish for one in our own day, to whom the lines have fallen in pleasant places, to pose with the solemn, martyr-like demeanour which was natural to Christians in the days of persecution. They needed patience to face cruel calamities which we happily are spared. Nevertheless, "man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward;" the quietest public times see the bitterest private sorrows in some households; great, awful spiritual troubles come upon men whose external circumstances are placid and sunny; and even where no one heavy blow falls, innumerable small vexing cares, like the Egyptian plague of flies, fret and wear the soul. Therefore patience is still greatly needed. It is one thing to suffer trouble and quite another thing to bear it, not to be crushed by it, not to rebel against the Power that sends it, even in secret thought, but to stand up under it, with dumb, unmurmuring endurance, like those sad, calm Caryatides that have stood for centuries bearing on their patient heads ponderous temple structures.
II. THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST IS THE MODEL AND THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PATIENCE OF CHRISTIANS. This wonderful patience of Christ may be best appreciated when we come to meditate on its relation to his circumstances and experience.
1. His previous glory. They who have once known better days feel the smart of adversity most keenly. From heaven's throne to the cross—what a descent!
2. His extreme sufferings. Was ever there sorrow like his? Gross insult was added to cruel torture; and insult tries patience worse than pain.
3. His sensitive nature. There are men who seem to feel a needle prick more acutely than others feel a sword thrust. Our Lord was one who felt most acutely, with the painfully delicate perception of the most refined nature.
4. His powers of resistance. He might have summoned legends of angels to his assistance.
5. The marvellous spirit with which he endured all. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter." He not only prayed for his murderers, but he calmly weighed their guilt and defended them on account of their ignorance. This wonderful patience of our Lord is a model for us; it is also an inspiration. As we turn from the petty complaints of men to the sight of that awful, Divine patience, surely our murmurings must be shamed and silenced.
III. IT IS REQUISITE THAT GOD SHOULD DIRECT OUR HEARTS INTO THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST.
1. The patience must penetrate to our hearts. Patience of language and of constrained demeanour is superficial and will not satisfy God, nor can it remain long without the deeper patience of the heart.
2. Our hearts cannot receive this patience till they are directed aright by God. It depends on our disposition, which we must have moulded by the hand of God into a firm faith and a calm endurance.
3. This patience follows love to God. Our hearts are to be first directed into love. When we love as Christ loved we can endure as he endured.—W.F.A.
2 Thessalonians 3:10.—Pauperizing charity.
There appear to have been idle, talkative persons in the Thessalonian Church who neglected their trades while they made themselves very prominent in the Christian assemblies, expecting to be supported out of the common funds. St. Paul justly rebukes their disgraceful conduct. He points to his own example. Even he, an apostle, devoted to the work of the Churches, did not draw from the funds of the Churches, but supported himself by his own labour. The wholesome direction which he gives has a certain grim humour about it. Here is his remedy for the tiresome, loquacious idlers: starve them into industry. That process will bring them to their senses. It would have been well if the same wise, manly counsel had always prevailed in the Church. A weak and foolish administration of Christian charity has too often fostered the poverty it aimed at curing. Some of the reasons which make it positively wrong for the charitable to support the idle should be well weighed by those persons who are more kind hearted than reflective.
I. IT INJURES THE RECIPIENT. Thus paupers are bred and multiplied.
1. The sin of idleness is encouraged; for idleness is a sin. Those who encourage it will have to bear part of the guilt of it.
2. The indolent are tempted to many vices. The idle members of the Church gave to the Thessalonians the greatest trouble. Work is a moral antiseptic.
3. Independence is destroyed. The able-bodied pauper is quite unmanned by the loss of his independence. There was some sense in those stern old Elizabethan laws against sturdy beggars and vagrants.
II. IT INJURES THE GIVER.
1. Where public funds are thus misappropriated, an injustice is done to those who contribute to them. We do not pay poor rates in order to encourage idleness, nor do we give communion offerings for that unworthy object. District visitors who have the administration of moneys subscribed by other people should remember this, and not permit soft-heartedness to oust justice.
2. Where only private benevolence is concerned, the heart is hardened in the end by the sight of the abuse of charity.
III. IT INJURES THE TRULY NEEDY. We take the children's bread and give it to dogs, and the children starve. The idlers are the most clamorous for assistance, while the deserving are the most backward to make their wants known. Suffering in silence, they are often neglected, because greedy, worthless persons step in first and ravage the small heritage of the poor.
IV. IT INJURES THE COMMUNITY.
1. It discourages industry generally. Not only are the idle encouraged in their discreditable way of living, but a tax is put upon industry, and men do not feel so strongly inclined to work honestly for their daily bread.
2. It propagates the worst class of society. The idle part of the population of great cities are the canker of civilization. There vice and crime breed most freely. It is the law of England that no man need starve. But it is right and necessary that when the state gives bread it should compel labour—i.e., of course, if there is health for work. Idleness is the curse of the East; Syrian felahin will sit to reap their corn. Wise Christians will ever protest against this fatal vice, and all who administer Church funds should feel a heavy responsibility resting upon them to guard against increasing it by well meant but foolish doles of charity.—W.F.A.
2 Thessalonians 3:14.—Church discipline.
There are several references to Church discipline in the writings of St. Paul, showing that he was desirous to see order and a healthy character of Church life maintained among his readers. In an earlier verse of the present chapter (2 Thessalonians 3:6) he advises the Thessalonians to withdraw themselves "from every brother that walketh disorderly;" now he bids them not keep company with those who refuse to obey his apostolic message.
I. IDLENESS IS AN OFFENCE HEAVY ENOUGH TO MERIT CHURCH DISCIPLINE. The preceding verses show that St. Paul has in mind those idle busybodies who walked disorderly (2 Thessalonians 3:11, etc.). We visit dishonesty, intemperance, etc., with censure. The apostle goes further, and selects idleness for special notice by the Church. So great does he feet the evil of it to be.
II. NEGLECT OF APOSTOLIC INJUNCTIONS IS THE IMMEDIATE OCCASION FOR THE EXERCISE OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE. The idle are first to be admonished (2 Thessalonians 3:12). When admonition fails, further measures must be taken. The apostles had no ambition to be lords over Christ's heritage; though their commanding influence naturally gave great weight to their directions, similar to that which comes unsought to the European missionary among converts from heathen savagery, Nevertheless, it was not this adventitious authority that St. Paul relied upon. He wrote under inspiration. His message was prompted by the Divine Spirit. When we refuse to hearken to the admonitions of the New Testament we are resisting the Holy Spirit of God.
III. CHURCH DISCIPLINE IS TO BE EXERCISED BY MEANS OF QUIET SEPARATION. There is no word here of physical force. It was impossible for a Christian community living in a pagan city to call in the aid of the civil power to execute its decrees; but there is every reason to believe that, had the possibility of anything of the kind been contemplated in the mind of St. Paul, he would have repudiated it—holding as he did that his weapons were not carnal. Further, there is no reference to spiritual excommunication, no cursing with bell and book. Simple separation is all that is advised. This is a peaceful, gentle, but effective mode of censure. It would, of course, directly stop the evil practice of idlers living on the Church funds. And it would administer a rebuke that would be all the more eloquent that it was silent. It is always our duty to see that our Church fellowship is kept pure. We should have the courage to separate from those who disgrace the Christian name. We should be careful for our own sakes that the society we select to move in is healthy and elevated in moral tone. For the sake of others we should discourage unworthy conduct by refusing to associate with those who are guilty of it. Some who are not brave enough to do this are guilty of great meanness in talking against offenders behind their backs, while treating them in the most friendly way when in their presence.
IV. THE OBJECT OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE IS TO RECOVER THE OFFENDER. The most stern penalties are to be inflicted with a merciful end. Here the mild punishment of quiet separation is to aim at restoring the wrong doer. First he is to be shamed, as he will be if there be any right spirit in him. Men should feel ashamed of idleness. Then and throughout he is to be regarded, not as an enemy, but only as an erring brother. Thus tender and sympathetic should Christians be with one another in regard to their failings, remembering that it is only through the forgiving grace of Christ that any of us enjoy the privileges of Christianity. There is no room for a Pharisee in the Church, and we must beware lest the exercise of Church discipline develop his ugly spirit.—W.F.A.
2 Thessalonians 3:16.—Peace from the God of peace.
After giving directions about the small trouble that disturbed the Thessalonian Christians—small indeed when compared with the bitter factiousness and the graver sin that subsequently disturbed the Church at Corinth—St. Paul prays that peace may reign among them and that the Lord may be with all of them, with the erring in their restoration as well as with the faithful brethren. The peace which he desiderates so earnestly is clearly more than mutual concord; it is that deep peace of God in the heart which is at the root of peace among men, and is itself the greatest of blessings.
I. PERFECT CHRISTIAN PEACE IS UNIVERSAL. What most strikes us in regard to the peace here referred to is the universality of its scope and area.
1. Perfect Christian peace is continuous and unbroken. It is to be enjoyed "at all times." In closing the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, St. Paul wished his readers to "rejoice alway" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Now he prays that they may have continuous peace. If we cannot have the joy of the angels we may have the peace of God, which is better. As there are some who have happiness without peace, so there are others who have peace without happiness. There is a transient superficial calm which the world calls peace; but volcanoes slumber beneath, and in a moment it may be shattered as with an earthquake. There is no peace in the wicked. There is an eternal peace for the people of God.
2. Perfect Christian peace comes through various means. St. Paul adds the curious phrase, "in all ways." It is not only that peace may be enjoyed continuously in spite of changing and adverse circumstances, but those very circumstances, even the most unfriendly of them, are to minister to the peace. This may appear paradoxical, but in experience we find that the troubles and distractions which would upset all peace if we only had the surface peace of earth drive us nearer to God, and so help us to realize more perfectly the eternal peace of heaven.
II. PERFECT CHRISTIAN PEACE FLOWS FROM CHRIST. It is not to be got by any efforts of our own wills. We cannot pacify ourselves any more than the sea can calm the raging of its own wild waves. He who said, "Peace, be still!" to the storm on the lake is the only One who can quell the tempests that surge in human hearts. Christ infuses his own peace because he is the Lord of peace.
1. He is at peace in his own soul. Peace is contagious. The peaceful gives peace. We may often see how much one quiet, self-possessed man can do to allay the panic of a whole crowd. "My peace I give unto you," said Jesus (John 14:27).
2. He reigns in peace. Christ does not provoke enmity and warfare except against evil. Among his own people he reigns pacifically.
3. He directly bestows peace. St. Paul's wish is a prayer. We pray that Christ may breathe his peace into us by a direct inspiration. This richest, deepest, purest blessing is for those who dwell near to their Lord and drink of his Spirit.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17