2 Thessalonians 3
Pulpit Commentary
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
Verse 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 (Psalm 19:5; comp. Psalm 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.
And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Verse 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."
But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
Verse 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.
And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
Verse 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, 13).
And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
Verse 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, 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.
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 he received of us.
Verse 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.).
For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
Verse 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.
Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
Verse 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).
Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
Verse 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, 9), at Corinth (Acts 18:3; 2 Corinthians 11:9), and at Ephesus (Acts 20:340; 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.
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Verse 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.
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Verse 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.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Verse 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.)
But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
Verse 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).
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Verse 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.
Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Verse 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.
Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
Verse 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.
The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
Verse 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).
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Verse 18. - The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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