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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Thessalonians 3

 

 

Verse 1

4. Hopeful prayer for their continued firmness, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5.

1. Finally—Note, 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

Pray for—Rather, concerning us. The prayer is rather for the success of the gospel, and for Paul only as its minister.

Have free course—A circumlocutory translation of simply the word for run. Compare Psalms 147:15 : “His word runneth very swiftly.” The prayer is, for the rapid spread of the gospel.

Be glorified— By a triumphant universality in the salvation of men.

Is with you—It being your true glory, and you being the happy models for a Christian world.


Verse 2

2. Delivered from—The great impediment to the free course of the word.

Unreasonable—The word means, etymologically, out of place; and hence, as an adjective signifies, unsuitable, unfitting. In Luke 23:41 it is rendered “amiss;” in Acts 28:6 it is rendered “harm,” meaning harmful. At this time of writing at Corinth, probably St. Paul was being harassed by the unbelieving Jews, who raised an “insurrection,” and arraigned him before Gallic, (Acts 18:12-17,) and it is very possible that it is to them he here alluded.

All… not faith—Why state so obvious a fact as that all men are not Christians in faith? To obviate this difficulty some commentators understand by faith, fidelity, good faith, sincerity. And such meaning it has in Matthew 23:23, and Titus 2:10. This is strongly favoured by the apparently antithetic word faithful in next verse, and in have confidence, in 2 Thessalonians 3:4. Let us suppose that the unsuitable and evil men were unreliable professors of Christianity, “false brethren,” who were out of place in Christian communion, and we get a very consistent train of thought. Pray deliverance from untrusty adherents, (who prevent the gospel’s being glorified,) for not all prove faithful; yet faithful is the Lord, and we have faith through him in you. This seems better than Lunemann’s (followed by Alford) interpretation of faith as receptive predisposition. Every other interpretation than ours reduces the antithesis between faith and faithful to one of “sound,” (Alford,) and does not notice the confidence of 2 Thessalonians 3:4 at all.


Verse 4

4. Confidence in the Lord touching you—That on the divine side, since the Lord is faithful, every thing possible will be done; that possibility and faithfulness being limited only by the laws of God’s action in the kingdom of grace, laws prescribed by himself upon himself. And among those laws is the postulate by him required, that man, as free-agent, should use granted grace, and power to meet the conditions necessary to justification, sanctification, persevering grace, and eternal life.

Ye both do and will do—That they will do he trusts, first, because God, on the divine side, will stablish and keep; and you, on the human side, will consent to be stablished and kept; that is, that you will do the conditions of the full realization of God’s stablishing and keeping.


Verse 5

5. Love of God—The feeling in us of love towards God.

Patient waiting for Christ—Literally, την υπομονην του χριστου, the patience of Christ. It may mean Christ’s patience; and then Christ’s patience and the Christian’s patience, the patience to which Paul prays that God may direct their hearts, are one holy patience. So the Christian, in 2 Corinthians 1:5, undergoes the “sufferings of Christ.” Our translators, and many commentators, apply the words to the awaiting the second advent. Lunemann objects, that the Greek word for such waiting in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 is slightly different; but the same word is used for it in 1 Thessalonians 1:7.


Verse 6

6. Command you—An authoritative phrase, in Greek terms which are used by kings to their subjects or generals to their soldiers. These are now, our apostolic orders, solemnly enforced by being in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are his orders, by his representative apostle. Paul commences, severely, with charge to the Church to deal with the offenders, 6-11; delivers but a brief charge to the offenders themselves, 12, as he had on former occasions pretty much said his say to them; and then encourages the liberal part of the Church to continued duty, 13, 14.

Withdraw yourselves—The Christian people were to note, (2 Thessalonians 3:14,) specialize, the individual, and withdraw themselves from any recognition or intercourse by which he was acknowledged as belonging to the Christian body—a passive expulsion of the offender. It was thus signified that no idler, able to work, yet sponging upon the industry of others, could be an accepted Christian.

Disorderly—Like a soldier wandering out of the ranks, and so destroying discipline.

Tradition—See note on 2 Thessalonians 3:15.


Verses 6-15

6. Charge that idlers be required to become industrious or be disowned, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

When the apostle first came to Thessalonica he gave an example of manual labour, and gave special charge to his converts to be models of industry. This charge was made necessary, evidently, from the fact that some of his converts were from among the class of idlers, and needed the most stringent instruction that to be a Christian was to be a faithful performer of every secular and industrial duty. Yet as the gospel opened the hearts of the wealthier portion to liberal charities, the temptation became strong, after Paul’s departure, for the idler to avail himself of these means of support in idleness. The apostle, therefore, in his first epistle, (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12,) gave them a gentle admonition. This failing, he now, in the most authoritative style, requires that these brethren correct or be disowned. He recalls his own example and previous precepts, and concludes with this solemn direct appeal to them.

Many standard commentators, as Olshausen, Lunemann, and Alford, maintain that the expectation of the immediate advent was the main cause of this idleness. But the only ground for such a supposition is the fact of the coexistence of the two things, namely, the expectation and the idleness. There is not one syllable in either epistle that connects the two things as cause and effect. On the contrary, the whole aspect of the case is the reverse. The idleness existed previous to the existence of the expectation. Paul exerted example and precept, at his first appearance among them, against it. In the first epistle the excitement of expectation had not risen, and yet the idleness existed. Nor does the quality of this idleness suit the expectation of an immediate advent. It was not a solemn giving over of business, and attending exclusively to religions exercises; nor even an overdone religious dissipation; but a lounging and gadding spirit of meddlesome gossip, impudently devouring the charities of the Church. Nor does St. Paul refer to the palpable inconsistency of such a spirit and conduct with the expectation of the immediate judgment, but grounds his solemn charge on the very nature of Christian duty, as if purposing to place honest secular industry—permanent and regular attention to business— among the cardinal virtues of Christianity.

Two periods of excitement in expectation of the advent on a specified day are memorable in American religious history. In the latter of these, which occurred within our own memory, there was an intense religious excitement, but no relaxation of business, and no increase of secular idleness. The evangelical Churches, especially those most exposed to the excitement, received large accessions of converts, followed by an immense diminution the year following. In a former generation in New England, under the preaching of an eloquent divine, named Austin, a day was fixed and a great excitement rose. The appointed day happened, in fact, to be characterized by a great darkness. The Legislature of Connecticut, it is said, was in session, and its members were in no little commotion. But the presiding officer addressed them substantially in the following terms: “Let us keep order, gentlemen; the judgment-day can find us in no better business than the discharge of our regular duties.”


Verse 7

7. Yourselves know—Another appeal to their own consciences in proof of his truth.

Ourselves—Again appealing to his own example. Note, 1 Thessalonians 2:9.


Verse 9

9. Power—See note on Acts 20:34.

Make ourselves an ensample— Literal Greek, we may give ourselves a type. In this phrase the ourselves is plural, and the type singular, showing that St. Paul speaks of himself in the plural.


Verse 10

10. Not work… eat—He is scarce a Christian, whatever his rank, who, possessed of the ability, does not earn his own living. It is a sad account he has to give at the judgment-seat who has not made the world better by his having lived in it. And he who does so earns his living, and the final reward, whether he has worked with his brain or his hands. St. Paul’s converts were doubtless mostly artisans, and he set the example of working with his hands, not because his preaching was not a most arduous and powerful work, but in order to make the idlers among them work at all. Paul’s maxim is based on the primeval law of Genesis 3:19, that “eat bread” should depend on “the sweat of thy face.” And hence saith an old Rabbi: “Whoso laboureth not on the sixth day—what shall he eat on the Sabbath?”


Verse 11

11. Not business men, but… busybodies. For there is such a play upon words in the apostle’s Greek. He describes people who mind no business of their own, and so have time and fancy to “meddle and muddle” in the business of others. The parasites of Greece were a class that lived by dining out, flattering the patrons who fed them, sometimes being made heirs of estates by their rare skill in obsequiousness.


Verse 12

12. Direct appeal to the idlers.

Command—A command on which a penalty depends.

Exhort—A tenderer word, appealing to their own sense of Christian duty.

Quietness—The opposite of a restless, busybody impertinence.

Own bread—Instead of playing the parasite and eating the bread of others.


Verse 13

13. Brethren—An address to the industrious and liberal class.

Be not weary in well doing—Let not the idle selfishness of these eaters at others’ tables weary you in bestowing your charities on the really needy.


Verse 14

14. Note—Literally, set a mark upon. Make him a “marked man.” Let him be viewed by both the world and himself as disowned by the Church.

No company—Avoid such association with him as identifies him with the Church.

May be ashamed—The feeling proper for conduct which is a violation of Christian honour and self-respect, and conducive to the appropriate spirit of repentance.


Verse 15

15. As an enemy—Indulge no hatred; do him all the good in your power.

Admonish—This is the meaning of your withdrawal from him, as an admonition and a guidance of the man to the resumption of his position as a brother. From the entire tenure of this paragraph it is clear that St. Paul held that the possible nearness of the advent should with Christians not change the tenor of life. The artisan should ply his trade, the scholar his books, and the farmer cultivate the soil, as usual. We should, indeed, live as holily as if the advent were to be today, but as practically as if the world were to last forever.


Verse 16

7. Benedictory and salutatory conclusion, 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18.

16. Lord of peaceChrist; as the Father, or rather, the Trinity, is the God of peace, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Give you peace—See note, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

By all means—In every way; by the mutual performance of every duty.

All—Both the reproved and the approved.


Verse 17

17. With mine own hand—So far by amanuensis; now by autograph.

Token in every epistle—His first epistle was without such authentication; but the forged or pretended epistle of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, had warned him to guard against imposition.

Every epistle needing authentication, whether written to the Thessalonians or to others, was to receive its autographic token henceforth. Of those so explicitly authenticated are Colossians, (Colossians 4:18,) and 1 Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 16:21,) Galatians being entirely autographic. In Romans the concluding doxology may have been autographic; as Ephesians 6:24, and Philippians 4:23. Several epistles may not have needed authentication, as 2 Corinthians, which was sent by Titus; and those written to individuals, as Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, which were either autographic or known by circumstances to be genuine.

So I write—This is my penmanship. Grotius, ingeniously, but incorrectly, supposes that Paul appended a complex monogram as his mark. The apostle’s autograph probably included 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18.


Verse 18

18. Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—Paul’s usual benediction. See note on 1 Thessalonians 5:28.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-thessalonians-3.html. 1874-1909.

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