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2nd Thessalonians
Chapter 3


2nd Thessalonians Chapter Three
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Audio Bible Study - 2 Thess. 3:1-5

Verse 1. "Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;"

What an excellent prayer - "that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified."  Paul was asking for the Thessalonians' to pray that many would come to faith in Christ through his ministry.  This "FAITH comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17), which is also called the "Word of the Lord."  There are "perverse and evil" people in this world, as we will see in the next verse; and we can also find them in the daily newspaper, for they are in the world right now.  Some of them have no doubt done you harm in your life, and it may be you would like them to be paid back for what they did.  Here's a better idea: "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

That's what Jesus suggested in Matthew 5:44, and the spreading of "the word of the Lord" (the "Word of Christ") will not only benefit your enemy, but it will also be helpful to you as well.  For one thing, your enemy will have the love of God infused into his or her being.  They will be less able to hate you when they receive His love.  And most of all, in the change that happens to them, the Lord and His Word will "be glorified," which is what the Christian life is really all about.

Verse 2. "and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith."

You and I can look around the world and see all kinds of people.  Some are Asian in origin; others are so-called "Caucasian" people, while still more are African, and there are all kinds of sub-divisions within those groups, and there are others who don't truly seem to fit into them at all.  But God doesn't look at us in such a limited way.  We are simply, in His sight - people.  The "differences" we notice and emphasize are merely superficial.  This is humanity and we are all part of it in the sight of God.

Yet He is aware of a very real distinction that we often miss, "for not all have faith."  This isn't just any kind of faith, by the way, it's faith in the Lord.  We have faith in His character, His love, and in His Word that we call the "Bible."  We have faith that He is able to deliver us from "evil" and wants to do exactly that, through this mechanism called "faith."  In God's sight, there are only two groups: those who do not believe in the Son of God and those who do.  The latter are men and women of "faith."

Verse 3. "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."

"Not all" in this world "have faith" as we saw in Verse 2.  The real basis of this "faith" that God values so deeply is not based in a sort of "wish" or a vague human hope that things will be better, but in God Himself.  We TRUST in Him.  True faith is a "gift" of the Holy Spirit, as you can see in places like Galatians 5:22.  The analogy in that place is that we are like fruit-bearing trees and an essential "fruit" we are to bear includes "faithfulness."

We are merely people and the kind of faith that God wants from us is more than humanity in its own strength can produce.  HE IS "faithful" and His faith, His strength is what is needed in this life, in order that we might bear the "fruit" that is so necessary, and it is HIS faith that will "protect you from the evil one."  Human faith can be commendable, but to be right with God and safe from harm, we need faith in "the Lord."

Verse 4. "And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command."

The message of these verses is that the Lord in us will do what we cannot do by ourselves - accomplish the will of God.  Verse 2 assures us that "we will be rescued."  Verse 3 reminds us that "the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you."  And in this verse we discover anew that we can "have confidence in the Lord."  If we are going to do any good, lasting work in this life, it is essential that we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive His Holy Spirit.  Only God Himself can enable us to keep the "command" of God.

The Greek word for "command" in this verse is "parangello," which actually means "to pass on an announcement," to "give the word."  It was not like the modern English word "command" in which someone orders someone else to do something.  Paul was confident that the Thessalonian believers were doing what was right and he had heard that they were making good decisions.  He was encouraging them in what they already were doing.

Verse 5. "May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ."

It's entirely likely that the writer Paul has given us a glimpse of what is called the "Trinity" in this verse.  "God" ("Theou" in the Greek) is named, as is Jesus "Christ," and it is the "Lord" who is indicated as the One who will direct you into the "love" of the Father and the "steadfastness" (patience) of the Son.  The term "Lord" is indeed applied in the New Testament to the Holy Spirit, as we can see in 2 Corinthians 3:17, where Paul said, "the Lord is the Spirit."

And the function of the Holy Spirit is consistent with the statement of this verse that He will "direct your hearts."  Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, in John 16:13, that "He will guide you into all truth."  To be directed into "the love of God" and to find the patience, the peace that only God can give, is better than money, fame, power, health or anything else considered valuable by this world.  He will give you real love and everlasting peace.  There is no greater gift and it comes from God's Son, through the Spirit.

Father, give us real love and everlasting peace through the Holy Spirit.  Protect us from the evil one and from perverse and evil men.  Let us be part of the process that brings the Word of the Lord to people everywhere.  Bring many to Christ.  Give them -and us- Your peace.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Audio Bible Study - 2 Thess. 3:6-10

Verse 6. "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."

Paul directed this "command" to the Thessalonians, but the Holy Spirit of God has in mind that these words will be directed to us all.  Paul spoke about those who are "unruly" in another place (1 Thessalonians 5:14), with the idea that we are to "admonish" ("avoid") such people.  This time it's a "command," with the power of the name of "our Lord Jesus Christ" added to it.

"Keep away" or "withdraw yourselves" as in some translations was a term used by the navies of the time, and it literally meant "shorten the sails."  Don't let yourself be drawn to such people, but instead "shorten" your "sails" and stay away from them.  "Unruly" was a military term, denoting someone who walks out of the ranks.  Those who think they can do anything they want because they have had some kind of "Christian" experience are wrong.  Don't associate with such people!

Verse 7. "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,"

To be "unruly" as we saw in the preceding verse is, in this context, a specific reference to a deliberate failure to earn one's living.  You'll be interested that most pastors are what is called "bi-vocational," which means they have a job in addition to being in ministry.  Paul did that.  He was a "tentmaker" by vocation (Acts 18:3 & context) and he left that profession reluctantly, when he simply had no time to make tents anymore.

Paul did not ask for handouts, but there came a time when it was necessary that the ministry itself would support him.  He saw the need, commenting in a letter to Timothy that "the worker is worthy of his hire" (1 Timothy 5:18 & context).  The Lord Himself told us that, as God leads, ministers can and should be supported by their congregations.  He said, "the worker is worthy of his support" (Matthew 10:10).  The Thessalonians had seen the lives of Paul and his co-workers and knew that even though he had the right to ask for money from them, he did not, because that was how the Lord led him to act.

Verse 8. "nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;"

Paul was in the city of Thessalonica for at least a few weeks, where he "reasoned with (the Thessalonians) from the Scriptures" (Acts 18:2 & context).  As was his custom, he initially spoke in the local synagogue of the Jews, and some of them trusted in Christ.  So did some Gentiles (non-Jews called "God-fearers" at that time) who were attending the synagogue.  Paul and the others who were with him did not ask for money for their food.  They worked and earned money for it.

As we will see in the next verse, Paul, as led by the Holy Spirit, did this in order to set himself as an example, that we should be quick to give and slow to take from others.  Paul noted this in 1st Thessalonians, where he said, "you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

Verse 9. "not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example."

We obviously are not required to become precisely like Paul.  If we did, we would all have to become Jews, move to somewhere near the eastern Mediterranean Sea and go back 2000 years in time.  Paul was indeed a "model" we should follow, but not in the way that most expect.  If you think about his life as a worker and as a pastor, you'll note that at some times, in some communities, he worked and at other times he received donations.

He insisted, in 1 Corinthians 9:11, that he had the right to "reap material things" from them.  "Nevertheless," he continued, "we did not use this right" (1 Corinthians 9:12).  And he "did not use this right" in other cities as well, as we can see in places like Acts 20:34-35, where he quoted Jesus as saying, "It is more blessed to give than receive."  What's the difference?  How do we know when to receive and when to give?  The answer is that we are to look to the Lord, and as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit "will teach you all things" (John 14:26).

Verse 10. "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either."

Paul is saying here: there are times you should not keep on giving handouts to the one who keeps on asking.  It may be that God intends they will provide for themselves.  Part of the curse upon mankind is that our food and other needs will come to us through great difficulty, and we can see the realization of that curse all around us.  As the Lord said, "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Genesis 3:19 & context).

But note that Scripture also says, in many places and in many ways, "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not ask it back" (Luke 6:30).  Since this verse in Thessalonians says one thing and other verses seem to say something else, how can you know the difference? - You must pray.  As we saw in Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God"... shall be yours (Philippians 4:6-7).  He will show you what to do and when to do it.

Father, show us what we must do.  Help us to know when to work, how to give, and when to receive.  Only You can show us the way.  Thank You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Audio Bible Study - 2 Thess. 3:11-15

Verse 11. "For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies."

Paul had been told about certain problems that existed in the church at Thessalonica.  "We hear," he said, without naming any names, that "some among you are leading an undisciplined life."  They were "busybodies" instead of being busy.  This is a play on words in the Greek language of the time, for the word "busybodies" was built on the root of the word for "work."  There are those in this world who simply will not "work," which is what these verses are all about.

It is also true that some who apparently "cannot" do things, may, in the power of God, do much.  I recently performed a memorial service for a quadriplegic lady and learned in preparing for it that the one who was paralyzed, though she could not use her arms and legs for the last 31-years of her life, nevertheless performed 11,500 actual hours as a volunteer at a local Veterans Hospital.  She did what she could not do, whereas others who can - won't.  It was those who won't that Paul was concerned about.

And by the way, the word "busybodies" is like our modern word, "gossips."  Note that many church-goers are quick to find sins and sinners in their midst and in society, but are often slow to note that "gossip" is rampant within the church.  Yes it is important to help others be delivered from sin, but in identifying "sinners," we encounter the danger of becoming "busybodies" ourselves.

Verse 12. "Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread."

In the preceding Chapter of 2nd Thessalonians, we learned there was a group in the Church at Thessalonica who were very concerned about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.  They had been "shaken" by the idea that the "day of the Lord (had already) come" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).  Paul now addressed ANOTHER concern of the people in the Church at Thessalonica, and it is related to what they were worried about in the previous Chapter.

Many of them had stopped working and it is likely that their decision was based on the concept - "why bother to earn money; the Lord is coming back soon anyway."  This idea has arisen in the church from time-to-time through the centuries.  As the year 1000 AD drew near, Christians in Europe left their work, gave away money and property, put on white robes and gathered on hilltops, expecting the Lord to return on January 1, 1000 AD.  Yes, the Lord will return, but until He does, we are "to work in quiet fashion."

Verse 13. "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good."

We attended a retreat some time ago, which was intended for pastors and their wives.  During the workshops of that retreat, we were given statistical information about the ministry that was often surprising.  For instance, we learned that the "burn-out" rate for those in full-time ministry is much higher than we even remotely expected.  From the time of graduation from seminary or Bible college, the rate of "burn-out" is about fifty percent within five years.

In other words, fully HALF of those who focus their education and life on Christian ministry are gone into some other type of life in only half a decade.  That's what Paul is sharing in this verse.  Human beings simply do not have the emotional strength in themselves to endlessly minister, pray, counsel, teach, comfort, conduct building programs and everything else.  The typical pastor is seldom with his family and both partners in the marriage become exhausted.

Before entering the ministry, we all should "count the cost" of full-time service and recognize that MUCH prayer is needed.  And only the Lord in us, by the way, is able to finish the course.  By ourselves, we can easily "grow weary in doing good" and drift away.  We are to PRAY for the pastor, not forgetting their spouse and their family. 

Verse 14. "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame."

In the preceding verse we observed those in ministry who do NOT "count the cost" before they begin the ministry journey and don't understand that it is only the Lord in us who can "finish the race."  We are insufficient to do it alone.  But the context of this verse relates most directly to Verse 6 of this Chapter, in which Paul warned his readers about "disorderly" members of the Church.

By that, he was referring to those in the Thessalonian Church who viewed their membership in "the body of Christ" as something like a "free ride."  There were some among them who had deliberately quit working and had become a burden to others.  He told them, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (Verse 10).  In this current verse, Paul revealed the solution to the problem: "Do not associate with" them, a method intended to make such a person ashamed to the point where they would once again earn a living.

Verse 15. "Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

There are always those among us who don't do things the way we think they ought to do them.  They might seem lazy, flippant, sarcastic, or unkind.  They may have doctrinal beliefs that are not quite the way we want them to be.  We might want others to be better husbands or wives, and so on.  Paul here is cautioning us about our own attitudes in such situations.

I attended a church decades ago, where I met a young man who had recently received the Lord.  He left his job, if he had one (I do not recall). He moved right into the church itself and was sleeping at night on one of the pews.  He seemed quite happy, but the elders of the church were concerned.  They went to him gently, but firmly, and read these verses and others out loud to him.  The young man was required to leave, but the elders acted in a kindly manner, addressing and admonishing him "as a brother" in the Lord.  Strength is essential in dealing with such situations, but so is kindness.

Father, give us the strength and the will to do what we ought to do.  Enable us to help others in the power, love and wisdom of God.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Audio Bible Study - 2 Thess. 3:16-18

Verse 16. "Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!"

The Lord Jesus, as He spoke to His disciples right before He went to the cross, gave them (and us) a great deal of valuable information.  One of His teachings to them was about "peace," in which He shared these words: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

Note that the "Lord of peace" gives us the potential for continuing peace "in every circumstance," good or bad, and this peace is "not as the world gives" or knows anything about.  This is the kind of calm that exists in the middle of the storm.  Included is the certain knowledge that the Lord is WITH you, even when it feels like the world is falling apart.  Notice that Paul concludes: "The Lord be with you all," and that, or rather HE (the Lord Himself) is the key to real "peace."

Verse 17. "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write."

It was the custom of the time for writers to use an "amanuensis," a sort of secretary, who would write the thoughts of the author onto parchment, but also they could make minor additions to the text.  It is very likely that one or both of the men named in 1st & 2nd Thessalonians 1:1 ("Silvanus and Timothy") filled such a role for the apostle Paul.  The very fact that he said, "this is the way I write" in this verse, indicates that the rest of the letter was written down by someone else.

Was Paul the author of the letters we call First and Second Thessalonians?  Yes, he was, though that statement must be qualified to include the fact that it was actually the Holy Spirit of God who wrote it through him.  And in addition, it is true that at least one other human hand was the physical writer of most of the text, as revealed by this verse and Chapter One, Verse One.

Verse 18. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."

The New Testament Greek word in this verse for "grace" is "charis," which is rich in meaning.  It can denote the bestowing of pleasure and delight on the recipient.  Used in speech it can include what are called, "gracious words."  It can refer to the friendly manner of the person who treats us well.  It can mean lovingkindness and good will.  It is often used in the New Testament as a favor given, especially one that is not deserved.  It is the gift of the unmerited favor of God.

To have the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" is to receive everything that was just mentioned in the preceding paragraph and it is even more.  We who have done nothing to deserve it are given everything in Christ Jesus.  We were, as the human race and as individuals, GUILTY as charged in the sight of God.  There was nothing we could or would do that would change our status before Him.  And then Jesus Christ came to this earth and gave Himself for our sins; He died for you and me.  It was a sudden, unexpected act on the part of God, and He asks nothing in return, except that we believe in Him, in His character, that He did such a thing.  "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (is) with (us) all," when we simply TRUST in Him and what He has done.

Thank You, Father, that You have given us the perfect sacrifice, Your Son, enabling us to receive the grace, the unmerited favor of God.  Thank You that we are saved forever through believing in Him.  You are with us and we praise Your Holy Name.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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