II Thessalonians 3:6-15 “Do not grow weary in doing good.”

Paul just finished stating that he was confident that his readers would follow their commands, and now he commands them, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received” from Paul and his co-workers (v. 6). This tradition was the apostolic message. To walk “disorderly” was to walk contrary to the apostolic witness. It wasn’t a message that those in question were not aware of, for it was the one which they had supposedly received. In commanding his readers to not be disorderly, he was also reminding them to follow the example of Paul and his colleagues. They had not only preached the word, but they had given them a living example as well, even though the apostolic word carried its own authority (vv. 7, 9).

A case in point was the fact that, even though Paul and his colleagues earned the right to be paid for their labours, they nevertheless toiled night and day not to be a burden to any of them (v. 8). This seems to have been the crux of the problem-there were those who refused to work. Perhaps they mistakenly believed in the heresy of immanence, that the Lord would come at any moment, instead of the unexpected nature of His coming, which is what Paul had taught. In any case, Paul is quite clear, “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (v. 10). Note that he does not say “if anyone can not work,” but rather, “if anyone will not work.” The church must be a help to those who cannot work, in doing so she also should not waste her precious resources on those who can work but refuse to do so.

This is also what Paul meant by “disorderly,” their idleness also giving these people the opportunity to be “busybodies” in other people’s affairs (v. 11). However, for the rest of the brethren, Paul wants to encourage them not to “grow weary in doing good” (v. 13). It seems apparent that since Paul tells them to “withdraw from every brother” who so walks, that he still seems to regard them as brethren who need to repent. In fact he says as much. “Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (v. 12 Cf. v. 6). These busybodies are brethren who need to repent, but until they do the body were to break off fellowship with them, so that they may be ashamed (v. 14). Yet, they were not to yet regard such as enemies, but to “admonish him as a brother” (v. 15).

So we can see church discipline at work here. An enemy would be one who after being disciplined refused to repent. For Paul, he still held out hope that these were simply disobedient brethren. This is a good continuing lesson for the church, that we ought not to rush to excommunicate anyone who simply needs to repent and thus change their ways. Paul’s first impulse was one of peace, but a peace on biblical terms. Our peace ultimately rests in “the Lord of peace Himself” (v. 16). Paul gives us an indication at the end of this letter that even though the main body may have been written by another, this concluding salutation comes from himself alone. This was in fact a kind of signature, so to speak, that this was an authentic Pauline letter. Finally, he prays for the blessing of the grace of Christ to all, since the gospel is all of grace (v. 18).

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians 3:1-5 Pray That The Word May Run Swiftly.

Paul uses a very interesting figure to describe what he hopes will be the reception of the word of the Lord. He asks his recipients to pray for them that the word of the Lord may “run swiftly.” No doubt he had in mind the image of a messenger in ancient times, and one that should run swiftly because of the importance and urgency of the message. However, he not only prayed for its urgent and ready reception, but that it would also be glorified. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he notes how they had prayed for them because they had “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6). The word has one of two effects, opposition or joy, and it is the Holy Spirit that brings joy to those who receive the word.

In that first letter he would go on to say that they gave thanks to God for, among other things, that the Thessalonians had received the word of God “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe” (2:13). It is this effective working in those who hear that Paul was praying for, in this way it would be glorified, for he says, “just as it was with you” (v. 1). He also asks for prayer that they might be “delivered from unreasonable and wicked men,” those who did not have faith (v. 2 Cf. Rom. 15:31). However, in stark contrast with this opposition, Paul affirms that God is faithful, that in the midst of what is a spiritual war, He would establish His people, and guard them and us, from the evil one (v. 3 Cf. I Cor. 1:9; Jn. 17:15).

It is because God is faithful that Paul could say that he had “confidence in the Lord” concerning them, that they would also be doers of the word and not hearers only. Paul spoke and wrote as an apostle, so he had confidence that their current and future behaviour would be such that they would do what the apostles had commanded them (v. 4). It is ultimately the Lord who rules in the hearts of human beings, and so it is Paul’s wish, and no doubt his prayer, that the Lord would direct the hearts of his recipients “into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (v. 5). Our confidence is a deep spiritual one, one that goes to our core thoughts and beliefs (I Chr. 29:18), with a love for God that shows itself in how we live, and in the patience we have in Christ.

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians 2:13-17 Grace From Beginning To End.

In contrast with those who did not “receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (v. 10), Paul had an obligation to give thanks to God for the recipients of his letter because they were “brethren beloved by the Lord” (v. 13). They believed because they were beloved, they weren’t beloved because they believed. “God from the beginning chose” them (Cf. Eph. 1:4; I Th. 1:4). At no point did their salvation depend upon them initiating anything with God. It was because they were chosen that there was a beginning, but it doesn’t stop there. We do not begin with sovereign grace and then carry on in our own strength. The salvation which God began in His sovereign electing grace, He works out “through sanctification of the Spirit” (Cf. I Pet. 1:2; 5:10). It involves both practice and “belief in the truth.” Belief and practice are inseparable, and just as our practice must be undergoing a progressive sanctification, even so must our belief in the truth.

Preachers of the gospel, like Paul and all faithful ministers of the word, have an obligation to call people to repentance and faith, but as Paul states here, it is ultimately God who effectually calls all those whom he has chosen (v. 14). There is no other message than the gospel which can and must save people, and part of this gospel is the knowledge that it is all by sovereign grace or else there would be no salvation at all. The ultimate destination is glorification-“the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So here, as elsewhere, Paul spells out his understanding of what has come to be called the ‘ordo salutis’ or order of salvation-election, effectual calling, (and with these, justification and definitive sanctification), progressive sanctification and ultimately glorification. It is because of these truths that Paul urges his recipients and us to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (v. 15 Cf. I Cor. 11:2; 16:13).

So whether they heard the ministers of the gospel or read the word for themselves, their confidence and ours, must be in that revelation which God has given concerning our great salvation. We should also not miss that this is a Trinitarian activity-chosen by the Father, sanctified by the spirit, for obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, though the Spirit is not specifically mentioned a second time, as the Father wasn’t specifically in the former, Paul nevertheless reiterates this Trinitarian reality, for it is the Spirit who has been sent as our comforter, and to establish us, through sanctification, “in every good word and work” (v. 17). Paul also reiterates that this is all of grace, for the Father “has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (v. 16 Cf. I Pet. 1:3). So we also see that this salvation also includes the perseverance of the saints, for it is an “everlasting consolation and good hope” (Cf. I Cor. 1:8).

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians 2:5-12 Antinomianism Is Apostasy.

The word used for sin above can also be rendered lawlessness-the man of sin is the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition. Paul reminded his readers that he had already told them about the coming of the Day of the Lord which would be a time of judgment which would arrive unexpectedly for many (v. 5 Cf. I Th. 5:1-11). This son of perdition would be “revealed in his own time” (v. 6). However, the mystery of lawlessness was still at work. What restrains him is both impersonal and a person (vv. 6-7). Paul may very well have in mind both the Roman state and emperor. This one will ultimately face judgment (v. 8). One thing is certain-sin is lawlessness, which is also “the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (v. 9). Essentially, to deny the continuing validity of God’s law is Satanic. Only those who love the truth will be saved. To love the truth is to love God’s law. Lawlessness is taking pleasure in unrighteousness (vv. 10-12). The church has spent so much time and energy debating who the man of sin is that she has missed the main point here-that the denial of the continuing validity of God’s law is the essence of apostasy.

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians 2:1-4 Apostasy And The Man Of Sin.

Paul is writing to people he considers as part of a spiritual family, and it seems like one of the issues on their minds was the second coming. The scriptures speak of different comings of the Lord, but when Paul adds being gathered together to the Lord, it seems obvious that he is writing about the final coming. Paul viewed the rapture as happening at the same time as the second coming-together as ‘the Day’ of the Lord (v. 3a Cf. I Th. 2:19; 4:15-17; Mt. 24:31; I Cor. 1:7-8; Phil. 2:16). He wants to assure them that any rumours that the Lord had come was not to be taken seriously (Cf. Mt. 24:4ff.). Paul highlights at least two things which must occur before that day-“the falling away,” and the revealing of “the man of sin…the son of perdition” (v. 3b).

This was not to say that this coming would necessarily immediately follow these two events, because as he noted in his previous letter, that day will come as unexpectedly as a thief in the night (I Th. 5:2). Since Paul mentions the temple, it seems obvious that he is making reference to the temple which still stood at the time he wrote, being destroyed in 70 AD. Viewing these together, the “falling away” likely refers to those apostate Jews who refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The second point is also a fitting description of the Romans, that they set their emperor up as God, worshipping him as such, what is referred to elsewhere as “the abomination of desolation” (Cf. Mt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27; Lk. 21:20).

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians

II Thessalonians 1:1-12 Love, Patience, And Faith.

In Paul’s typical greeting, peace always follows grace, the former being necessary to establish the latter (vv. 1-2). This greeting comes from Paul and his two trusted companions and co-workers-Silvanus and Timothy. It is a greeting “to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1b). Much is made, and rightly so, that we are ‘in’ Christ, but we are also ‘in’ God our Father-we are family. It is also from both that this grace and peace come (Cf. I Cor. 1:3). They were bound to thank God for the Thessalonians, because they were brethren, and that could only be because God had showered His grace upon them (v. 3a). The evidence that their faith was genuine was in the love which they showed to each other (v. 3b). Added to this was their evident patience and faith in the midst of “persecutions and tribulations,” for which Paul makes clear God’s just judgment on their enemies would be well deserved (vv. 4-6).

There will be a final rest for the people of God when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead (v. 7). There will be a final vengeance that will come upon those who have denied the knowledge of God, and have not obeyed the gospel call of repentance and faith (v. 8). Judgment will come from the Glory-Presence of the throne of heaven where the Son reigns at the Father’s right hand (v. 9). Those who believe will give glory to the name of Jesus Christ in that day (vv. 10-12). It was therefore right for Paul and his colleagues to pray, as we also ought to pray, for three things in particular. First, we ought to pray that we would be found worthy of the calling as Christians to glorify God in the midst of persecutions and tribulations. Secondly, we also ought to pray that “the good pleasure of God’s goodness” would be fulfilled in us all (v. 11). Finally, we ought to pray for a faith that shows itself in our work and in power to live it.