The apostle recommends himself and his brethren to the prayers of the Church, that their preaching might be successful, and that they might be delivered from wicked men, 1,2. Expresses his confidence in God and them, and prays that they may patiently wait for the coming of Christ, 3-5. Gives them directions concerning strict discipline in the Church; and shows how he and his fellow labourers had behaved among them, not availing themselves of their own power and authority, 6-9. Shows them how to treat disorderly and idle people, and not to get weary in well doing, 10-13. Directs them not to associate with those who obey not the orders contained in this epistle, 14,15, Prays that they may have increasing peace, 16, And concludes with his salutation and benediction, 17,18.
Notes on Chapter 3
The words τολοιπον do not mean finally, but, furthermore-to come to a conclusion-what remains is this-I shall only add-any of these phrases expresses the sense of the original.
Pray for us
God, in the order of his grace and providence, has made even the success of his Gospel dependent, in a certain measure, on the prayers of his followers. Why he should do so we cannot tell, but that he has done so we know; and they are not a little criminal who neglect to make fervent supplications for the prosperity of the cause of God.
May have free course
They were to pray that the doctrine of the Lord, ολογοςτουκυριου, might run, τρεχη, an allusion to the races in the Olympic games: that, as it had already got into the stadium or race course, and had started fairly, so it might run on, get to the goal, and be glorified; i.e., gain the crown, appointed for him that should get first to the end of the course.
Unreasonable and wicked men
The word ατοπων, which we translate unreasonable, signifies rather disorderly, unmanageable; persons out of their place-under no discipline, regardless of law and restraint, and ever acting agreeably to the disorderly and unreasonable impulse of their own minds.
For all men have not faith.
The word πιστις is without doubt, to be taken here for fidelity or trustworthiness, and not for faith; and this is agreeable to the meaning given to it in the very next verse: But the Lord is faithful, πιστοςδεεστινο κυροις.
There are many, even of those who have received a measure of the Divine light, in whom we cannot confide; they are irregular, disorderly, and cannot be brought under regular discipline: to these we cannot trust either ourselves or any thing that concerns the cause of God. But the Lord is worthy of your whole confidence; doubt him not; he will establish you, and keep you from any evil to which you may be exposed by these or such like persons.
αποτουπονηρου may be translated, from the devil or from the evil one. They had disorderly men, wicked men, and the evil one or the devil, to contend with; God alone could support and give them the victory; he had promised to do it, and he might ever be confided in as being invariably faithful.
And we have confidence
We have no doubt of God's kindness towards you; he loves you, and will support you: and we can confide in you, that ye are now acting as we have desired you, and will continue so to do.
The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God
The love of God is the grand motive and principle of obedience; this must occupy your hearts: the heart is irregular in all its workings; God alone, by his Spirit, can direct it into his love, and keep it right; κατευθυναι, give a proper direction to all its passions, and keep them in order, regularity and purity.
The patience of Christ.
Such patience, under all your sufferings and persecutions, as Christ manifested under his. He bore meekly the contradiction of sinners against himself; and when he was reviled, he reviled not again.
That ye withdraw yourselves
Have no fellowship with those who will not submit to proper discipline; who do not keep their place; ατακτως, such as are out of their rank, and act according to their own wills and caprices; and particularly such as are idle and busybodies. These he had ordered, 1 Thessalonians 4:11,12, that they should study to be quiet, mind their own business, and work with their hands; but it appears that they had paid no attention to this order, and now he desires the Church to exclude such from their communion.
And not after the tradition
This evidently refers to the orders contained in the first epistle; and that first epistle was the tradition which they had received from him. It was, therefore, no unwritten word, no uncertain saying, handed about from one to another; but a part of the revelation which God had given, and which they found in the body of his epistle. These are the only traditions which the Church of God is called to regard.
We behaved not ourselves disorderly
ουκ ητακτησαμεν. We did not go out of our rank-we kept our place, and discharged all its duties.
Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught
We paid for what we bought, and worked with our hands that we might have money to buy what was necessary.
Labour and travail night and day
We were incessantly employed, either in preaching the Gospel, visiting from house to house, or working at our calling. As it is very evident that the Church at Thessalonica was very pious, and most affectionately attached to the apostle, they must have been very poor, seeing he was obliged to work hard to gain himself the necessaries of life. Had they been able to support him he would not have worked with labour and travail night and day, that he might not be burdensome to them; and, as we may presume that they were very poor, he could not have got his support among them without adding to their burdens. To this his generous mind could not submit; it is no wonder, therefore, that he is so severe against those who would not labour, but were a burden to the poor followers of God.
Not because we have not power
We have the power, εξουσιαν, the right, to be maintained by those in whose behalf we labour. The labourer is worthy of his hire, is a maxim universally acknowledged and respected; and they who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel: the apostle did not claim his privilege, but laboured for his own support, that he might be an example to those whom he found otherwise disposed, and that he might spare the poor. See 1 Corinthians 9:1,
If any would not work, neither should he eat.
This is a just maxim, and universal nature inculcates it to man. If man will work, he may eat; if he do not work, he neither can eat, nor should he eat. The maxim is founded on these words of the Lord: In the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread. Industry is crowned with God's blessing; idleness is loaded with his curse. This maxim was a proverb among the Jews. Men who can work, and will rather support themselves by begging, should not get one morsel of bread. It is a sin to minister to necessities that are merely artificial.
For we hear that there are some
It is very likely that St. Paul kept up some sort of correspondence with the Thessalonian Church; for he had heard every thing that concerned their state, and it was from this information that he wrote his second epistle.
ατακτως. Out of their rank-not keeping their own place.
Working not at all
Either lounging at home, or becoming religious gossips; μηδενεργαζομενους, doing nothing.
περιεργαζομενους. Doing every thing they should not do-impertinent meddlers with other people's business; prying into other people's circumstances and domestic affairs; magnifying or minifying, mistaking or underrating, every thing; newsmongers and telltales; an abominable race, the curse of every neighbourhood where they live, and a pest to religious society. There is a fine paronomasia in the above words, and evidently intended by the apostle.
With quietness they work
μεταησυχιας. With silence; leaving their tale-bearing and officious intermeddling. Less noise and more work!
That-they work, and eat their own bread.
Their own bread, because earned by their own honest industry. What a degrading thing to live on the bounty or mercy of another, while a man is able to acquire his own livelihood! He who can submit to this has lost the spirit of independence; and has in him a beggar's heart, and is capable of nothing but base and beggarly actions. Witness the great mass of the people of England, who by their dependence on the poor rates are, from being laborious, independent, and respect able, become idle, profligate, and knavish; the propagators and perpetrators of crime; a discredit to the nation, and a curse to society. The apostle's command is a cure for such; and the Church of God should discountenance such, and disown them.
Be not weary in well-doing.
While ye stretch out no hand of relief to the indolent and lazy, do not forget the real poor-the genuine representatives of an impoverished Christ; and rather relieve a hundred undeserving objects, than pass by one who is a real object of charity.
If any man obey not
They had disobeyed his word in the first epistle, and the Church still continued to bear with them; now he tells the Church, if they still continue to disregard what is said to them, and particularly his word by this second epistle, they are to mark them as being totally incorrigible, and have no fellowship with them.
Some construe the words διατηςεπιστολης with τουτον σημειουσθε. Give me information of that man by a letter-let me hear of his continued obstinacy, and send me his name. This was probably in order to excommunicate him, and deliver him over to Satan for the destruction of the body, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The words of the original will bear either construction, that in the text, or that given above.
Count him not as an enemy
Consider him still more an enemy to himself than to you; and admonish him as a brother, though you have ceased to hold religious communion with him. His soul is still of infinite value; labour to get it saved.
The Lord of peace
Jesus Christ, who is called our peace, Ephesians 2:14; and The Prince of peace, Isaiah 9:6. May he give you peace, for he is the Fountain and Dispenser of it.
Both in your own consciences, and among yourselves.
By all means.
παντιτροπω. By all means, methods, occasions, instruments, and occurrences; peace or prosperity in every form and shape.
Instead of ενπαντιτροπω, in every way, in every place, is the reading of A*D*FG, some others; with the Vulgate and Itala. Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Augustine, and others, have the same reading: May God grant you prosperity always, and everywhere.
The Lord be with you all.
This is agreeable to the promise of our Lord: Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world; Matthew 28:20. May the Lord, who has promised to be always with his true disciples, be with you! Christians are the temple of God, and the temple of God has the Divine presence in it. May you ever continue to be his Church, that the Lord God may dwell among you!
The salutation of Paul with mine own hand
It is very likely that Paul employed an amanuensis generally, either to write what he dictated, or to make a fair copy of what he wrote. In either case the apostle always subscribed it, and wrote the salutation and benediction with his own hand; and this was what authenticated all his epistles. A measure of this kind would be very necessary if forged epistles were carried about in those times. See Clarke on 1 Corinthians 16:21.and see ; Colossians 4:18.
The favour, blessing, and influence of our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you all-be your constant companion. May you ever feel his presence, and enjoy his benediction!
So let be! God grant it! This word in this place, has more evidence in favour of its genuineness than it has in most other places; and was probably added here by the apostle himself, or by the Church of the Thessalonians.
The subscriptions to this epistle are various in the MSS. and VERSIONS. The latter are as follows:-
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.-Common Greek text.
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was written at Laodicea in Pisidia, was sent by the hands of Tychicus.-SYRIAC.
The end of the Epistle; and it was written at Athens.-ARABIC.
To the Thessalonians.-AETHIOPIC.
Written from Athens, and sent by Silvanus and Timotheus.-COPTIC.
No subscription in the VULGATE.
Written at Corinth.-Author of the SYNOPSIS.
--------- sent by Titus and Onesimus.-Latin Prologue.
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, written from Rome.
- No. 71, a MS. of the Vatican library, written about the eleventh century.
The chief of the MSS. either have no subscription, or agree with some of the above versions.
That the epistle was neither written at Athens, Laodicea, nor Rome, has been sufficiently proved; and that it was written, as well as the first, at Corinth, is extremely probable. See the preface, and what has been said on the preceding epistle.
I have often had occasion to observe that the subscriptions at the end of the sacred books are not of Divine origin; they are generally false; and yet some have quoted them as making a part of the sacred text, and have adduced them in support of some favourite opinions.
Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition, the shortest day in 1831.-A. C.