2 Thessalonians 3
1Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;
2and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
These men of God ask for prayer that God would use them to spread His Word rapidly so that He would be glorified in the faith and receptive hearts of the hearers. This is what happened at Thessalonica. The believers responded with open and soft hearts toward the gospel message. They wish to see this happen elsewhere to the glory of God. They also want prayer to be rescued from evil and perverse men. Not all are saved, for not all have faith. There are many who stand against Christ and the gospel, some who even purport to be religious, even Christian. They ask for deliverance so that they can keep serving Christ and work to further the gospel.
3But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
Their hope for themselves and for the Thessalonians is the faithfulness of God Who never changes. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:23). He will strengthen them and protect them from the evil one. Satan will only be able to do to them what God allows, and God will cause all things to work for their good (Romans 8:28).
4We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.
5May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
They have confidence in the Lord that the Thessalonians will faithfully do and continue to do their admonitions and desires. They pray that their hearts will be directed by the grace of God into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. The more they see and appreciate God’s love and kindness, the more they will be able to remain steadfast. If they doubt God’s love or promises to them, it is easier for them to fall off track. This is why it is important for them to have a hopeful view of the future.
6Now 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.
A professing brother or sister in Christ who leads a life of rebellion, worldliness, and unrepentant sin of any kind needs to be confronted by one, then two, and then brought before the church (Matthew 18:15-17). If such a one still does not repent, then they are to be treated as if they are not saved (Matthew 18:17). They are to not be part of the fellowship, but they are to be put out of it and turned over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:11). We are explicitly told not to associate with such ones, for bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33) and a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (Galatians 5:9). For our own well-being in practical holiness, we must keep away from those who claim to be saved but who live nothing like it. These are dangerous influences that can drag many down because they don’t hold to the commands and authority of the Scriptures (see also v. 14-15).
7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,
8nor 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;
9not 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.
Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus lived among the Thessalonians without burdening them financially. They worked and labored night and day, doing ministry and earning their keep. They were extremely disciplined and not unruly in their behavior in any way. It is this example of commitment to holiness and hard work that the Thessalonians are to imitate. These servants of God could have exercised their right in the gospel to be paid for their work of the ministry, but for the sake of testimony and example, they did not demand their right. They did not want to be perceived as lazy, undisciplined, and unruly, even if such was not the case (see also 1 Thessalonians 2:9).
10For 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.
11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
When Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus were among these Thessalonians ministering to them, they set up a rule that those who were unwilling (not unable) to work would not be allowed to eat. God is honored by laboring for His glory so that we earn the money that we need to live and support ourselves and/or our families. Yet some among the Thessalonians were now living an undisciplined life, refusing to work at all. These were lazy and occupying themselves with meaningless activities that intruded on the lives of others. They weren’t minding their own business because they were preoccupied with the business of others. These were doing wrong because they were offending others, distracting them from their work, causing trouble, and not being productive themselves. The exhortation is that each would tend to their own labor and then enjoy the fruit of their labor. If they wanted to eat, they needed to work and stop meddling in vain things, trying to freeload off others.
13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
It is not only that we are to be disciplined in the work that provides our income, but we are to be steadfast and persevering in doing the good work of loving others and ministering in the name of Christ. A lack of discipline in one area typically leads to a lack of discipline in the other. God calls us to serve Him wholeheartedly at all times and in all that we do (Colossians 3:23).
14If 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.
15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
The writers now return to the theme of dealing with those who still refuse to change even after hearing these admonitions. Once church discipline is properly carried out and the person remains hardened in sin, such a one needs to be publicly identified so that all in the church can take note of their rebellion. That way, they won’t be taken by them or deceived by them, but they can rather pray for them. Those who remain hardened in sin are not free to enjoy the benefits of the protection and fellowship of a church family. There is to be no association for the purpose of shaming the person. This is not cruel and unreasonably harsh because the one in rebellion must see what they have lost so that they will want to return and repent. It is not that we become enemies with the person and act in cruelty toward them, but because we believe that they are indeed a brother or sister in Christ, we are to treat them that way, admonishing them. We remind them of where things stand, and we assure them of our love and care for them. But we emphasize that we must for the sake of Christ and His church not associate with them. There is a kind way to say this, and it is important that the one in rebellion knows that they are welcome back once they repent.
16Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance The Lord be with you all!
17I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Thessalonians are wished peace in Christ in all circumstances continually because of His constant presence with the believers. He is able and willing to work peace out of these difficult situations of conflict. The prayer is that those who are in rebellion would submit and experience the joy of fellowship and obedience.
Paul identifies himself as the one signing the letter, though it is clear from the opening verse that he co-authored it with Timothy and Silvanus. Given that there were many posing to write letters in the name of Paul, Paul made sure to give his distinct signature and distinguishing mark so that the Thessalonians could be assured that this letter was truly from Paul. Paul gives his customary closure of wishing them grace in the Lord, for we all need the grace of Christ for all things each and every day.