2 Thessalonians 3
In the close of the foregoing chapter, the apostle had prayed earnestly
for the Thessalonians, and now he desires their prayers, encouraging
them to trust in God, to which he subjoins another petition for them,
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5.
He then proceeds to give them commands and directions for correcting
some things he was informed were amiss among them
(2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)
and concludes with benedictions and prayers,
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18.
|The Apostle's Pious Request.
||A. D. 52.|
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may
have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked
men: for all men have not faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep
you from evil.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both
do and will do the things which we command you.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and
into the patient waiting for Christ.
In these words observe,
I. The apostle desires the prayers of his friends: Finally,
brethren, pray for us,
2 Thessalonians 3:1.
He always remembered them in his prayers, and would not have them
forget him and his fellow-labourers, but bear them on their hearts at
the throne of grace. Note,
1. This is one way by which the communion of saints is kept us, not
only by their praying together, or with one another, but by their
praying for one another when they are absent one from another. And thus
those who are at great distance may meet together at the throne of
grace; and thus those who are not capable of doing or receiving any
other kindness may yet this way do and receive real and very great
2. It is the duty of people to pray for their ministers; and not only
for their own pastors, but also for all good and faithful ministers.
3. Ministers need, and therefore should desire, the prayers of their
people. How remarkable is the humility, and how engaging the example,
of this great apostle, who was so mighty in prayer himself, and yet
despised not the prayers of the meanest Christian, but desired an
interest in them. Observe, further, what they are desired and directed
to pray for; namely,
(1.) For the success of the gospel ministry: That the word of the
Lord may have free course, and be glorified,
2 Thessalonians 3:1.
This was the great thing that Paul was most solicitous about. He was
more solicitous that God's name might be sanctified, his kingdom
advanced, and his will done, than he was about his own daily bread. He
desired that the word of the Lord might run (so it is in the original),
that it might get ground, that the interest of religion in the world
might go forward and not backward, and not only go forward, but go
apace. All the forces of hell were then, and still are, more or less,
raised and mustered to oppose the word of the Lord, to hinder its
publication and success. We should pray, therefore, that oppositions
may be removed, that so the gospel, may have free course to the ears,
the hearts, and the consciences of men, that it may be glorified in the
conviction and conversion of sinners, the confutation, of gainsayers,
and the holy conversation of the saints. God, who magnified the law,
and made it honourable, will glorify the gospel, and make that
honourable, and so will glorify his own name; and good ministers and
good Christians may very well be contented to be little, to be any
thing, to be nothing, if Christ be magnified and his gospel be
glorified. Paul was now at Athens, or, as some think, at Corinth, and
would have the Thessalonians pray that he might have as good success
there as he had at Thessalonica, that it might be as well with others
even as it was with them. Note, If ministers have been successful in
one place, they should desire to be successful in every place where
they may preach the gospel.
(2.) For the safety of gospel ministers. He asks their prayers, nor for
preferment, but for preservation: That we may be delivered from
unreasonable and wicked men,
2 Thessalonians 3:2.
Note, Those who are enemies to the preaching of the gospel, and
persecutors of the faithful preachers of it, are unreasonable and
wicked men. They act against all the rules and laws of reason and
religion, and are guilty of the greatest absurdity and impiety. Not
only in the principles of atheism and infidelity, but also in the
practice of the vice and immorality, and especially in persecution,
there is the greatest absurdity in the world, as well as impiety. There
is need of the spiritual protection, as well as the assistance, of
godly and faithful ministers, for these are as the standard-bearers,
who are most struck at; and therefore all who wish well to the interest
of Christ in the world should pray for them. For all men have not
faith; that is, many do not believe the gospel; they will not
embrace it themselves, and no wonder if such are restless and malicious
in their endeavours to oppose the gospel, decry the ministry, and
disgrace the ministers of the word; and too many have not common faith
or honesty; there is no confidence that we can safely put in them, and
we should pray to be delivered from those who have no conscience nor
honour, who never regard what they say or do. We may sometimes be in as
much or more danger from false and pretended friends as from open and
II. He encourages them to trust in God. We should not only pray to God
for his grace, but also place our trust and confidence in his grace,
and humbly expect what we pray for. Observe,
1. What the good is which we may expect from the grace of
God-establishment, and preservation from evil; and the best Christians
stand in need of these benefits.
(1.) That God would establish them. This the apostle had prayed for on
and now he encourages them to expect this favour. We stand no longer
than God holds us up; unless he hold up our goings in his paths, our
feet will slide, and we shall fall.
(2.) That God will keep them from evil. We have as much need of the
grace of God for our perseverance to the end as for the beginning of
the good work. The evil of sin is the greatest evil, but there are
other evils which God will also preserve his saints from--the evil that
is in the world, yea, from all evil, to his heavenly kingdom.
2. What encouragement we have to depend upon the grace of God: The
Lord is faithful. He is faithful to his promises, and is the Lord
who cannot lie, who will not alter the thing that has gone out of his
mouth. When once the promise therefore is made, performance is sure and
certain. He is faithful to his relation, a faithful God and a faithful
friend; we may depend upon his filling up all the relations he stands
in to his people. Let it be our care to be true and faithful in our
promises, and to the relations we stand in to this faithful God. He
3. A further ground of hope that God would do this for them, seeing
they did and would do the things they were commanded,
2 Thessalonians 3:4.
The apostle had this confidence in them, and this was founded upon his
confidence in God; for there is otherwise no confidence in man. Their
obedience is described by doing what he and his fellow-labourers had
commanded them, which was no other thing than the commandments of the
Lord; for the apostles themselves had no further commission than to
teach men to observe and to do what the Lord had commanded,
And as the experience the apostle had of their obedience for the time
past was one ground of his confidence that they would do the things
commanded them for the time to come, so this is one ground to hope that
whatsoever we ask of God we shall receive of him, because we keep
his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his
III. He makes a short prayer for them,
2 Thessalonians 3:5.
It is a prayer for spiritual blessings. Two things of the greatest
importance the apostle prays for:--
1. That their hearts may be brought into the love of God, to be in love
with God as the most excellent and amiable Being, the best of all
beings; and this is not only most reasonable and necessary in order to
our happiness, but is our happiness itself; it is a great part of the
happiness of heaven itself, where this love shall be made perfect. We
can never attain to this unless God by his grace direct our hearts
aright, for our love is apt to go astray after other things. Note, We
sustain a great deal of damage by misplacing our affections; it is our
sin and our misery that we place our affections upon wrong objects. If
God directs our love aright upon himself, the rest of the affections
will thereby be rectified.
2. That a patient waiting for Christ may be joined with this
love of God. There is no true love of God without faith in Jesus
Christ. We must wait for Christ, which supposes our faith in him, that
we believe he came once in flesh and will come again in glory: and we
must expect this second coming of Christ, and be careful to get ready
for it; there must be a patient waiting, enduring with courage and
constancy all that we may meet with in the mean time: and we have
need of patience, and need of divine grace to exercise Christian
patience, the patience of Christ (as some read the word),
patience for Christ's sake and after Christ's example.
|Cautions to the Disorderly.
||A. D. 52.|
6 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
7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved
not ourselves disorderly among you;
8 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:
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an
ensample unto you to follow us.
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that
if any would not work, neither should he eat.
11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you
disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord
Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own
13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
14 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.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a
The apostle having commended their obedience for the time past, and
mentioned his confidence in their obedience for the time to come,
proceeds to give them commands and directions to some who were faulty,
correcting some things that were amiss among them. Observe, The best
society of Christians may have some faulty persons among them, and some
things that ought to be reformed. Perfection is not to be found on this
side heaven: but evil manners beget good laws; the disorders that Paul
heard of as existing among the Thessalonians occasioned the good laws
we find in these verses, which are of constant use to us, and all
others whom they may concern. Observe,
I. That which was amiss among the Thessalonians, which is
1. More generally. There were some who walked disorderly, not after
the tradition they received from the apostle,
2 Thessalonians 3:6.
Some of the brethren were guilty of this disorderly walking; they did
not live regularly, nor govern themselves according to the rules of
Christianity, nor agreeably to their profession of religion; not
according to the precepts delivered by the apostle, which they had
received, and pretended to pay a regard to. Note, It is required of
those who have received the gospel, and who profess a subjection to it,
that they live according to the gospel. If they do not, they are to be
counted disorderly persons.
2. In particular, there were among them some idle persons and
2 Thessalonians 3:11.
This the apostle was so credibly informed of that he had sufficient
reason to give commands and directions with relation to such persons,
how they ought to behave, and how the church should act towards them.
(1.) There were some among them who were idle, not working at
all, or doing nothing. It does not appear that they were gluttons
or drunkards, but idle, and therefore disorderly people. It is not
enough for any to say they do no hurt; for it is required of all
persons that they do good in the places and relations in which
Providence has placed them. It is probable that these persons had a
notion (by misunderstanding some passages in the former epistle)
concerning the near approach of the coming of Christ, which served them
for a pretence to leave off the work of their callings, and live in
idleness. Note, It is a great error, or abuse of religion, to make it a
cloak for idleness or any other sin. If we were sure that the day of
judgment were ever so near, we must, notwithstanding, do the work of
the day in its day, that when our Lord comes he may find us doing. The
servant who waits for the coming of his Lord aright must be working as
his Lord has commanded, that all may be ready when he comes. Or, it may
be, these disorderly persons pretended that the liberty wherewith
Christ had made them free discharged them from the services and
business of their particular callings and employments in the world:
where as they were to abide in the same calling wherein they were
called of God, and therein abide with God,
1 Corinthians 7:20,24.
Industry in our particular callings as men is a duty required of us by
our general calling as Christians. Or perhaps the general charity there
was then among Christians to their poor brethren encouraged some to
live in idleness, as knowing the church would maintain them: whatever
was the cause, they were much to blame.
(2.) There were busy-bodies among them: and it should seem, by the
connection, that the same persons who were idle were busy-bodies also.
This may seem to be a contradiction; but so it is, that most commonly
those persons who have no business of their own to do, or who neglect
it, busy themselves in other men's matters. If we are idle, the devil
and a corrupt heart will soon find us something to do. The mind of man
is a busy thing; if it be not employed in doing good, it will be doing
evil. Note, Busy-bodies are disorderly walkers, such as are guilty of
vain curiosity, and impertinent meddling with things that do not
concern them, and troubling themselves and others with other men's
matters. The apostle warns Timothy
(1 Timothy 5:13)
to beware of such as learn to be idle, wandering about from house to
house, and are not only idle, but tatlers also, and busy-bodies,
speaking things which they ought not.
II. The good laws which were occasioned by these evil manners,
concerning which we may take notice,
1. Whose laws they are: they are commands of the apostles of our Lord,
given in the name of their Lord and ours, that is, the commands of our
Lord himself. We command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord
2 Thessalonians 3:6.
Again, We command and exhort you by our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Thessalonians 3:12.
The apostle uses words of authority and entreaty: and, where disorders
are to be rectified or prevented, there is need of both. The authority
of Christ should awe our minds to obedience, and his grace and goodness
should allure us.
2. What the good laws and rules are. The apostle gives directions to
the whole church, commands to those disorderly persons, and an
exhortation to those in particular who did well among them.
(1.) His commands and directions to the whole church regard,
[1.] Their behaviour towards the disorderly persons who were among
them, which is thus expressed
(2 Thessalonians 3:6),
to withdraw themselves from such, and afterwards to mark that
man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed; yet not to
count him as an enemy, but to admonish him as a brother. The
directions of the apostle are carefully to be observed in our conduct
towards disorderly persons. We must be very cautious in church-censures
and church-discipline. We must, First, Note that man who is
suspected or charged with not obeying the word of God, or walking
contrary thereto, that is, we must have sufficient proof of his fault
before we proceed further. We must, Secondly, Admonish him in a
friendly manner; we must put him in mind of his sin, and of his duty;
and this should be done privately
then, if he will not hear, we must, Thirdly, Withdraw from him,
and not keep company with him, that is, we must avoid familiar converse
and society with such, for two reasons, namely, that we may not learn
his evil ways; for he who follows vain and idle persons, and keeps
company with such, is in danger of becoming like them. Another reason
is for the shaming, and so the reforming, of those that offend, that
when idle and disorderly persons see how their loose practices are
disliked by all wise and good people they may be ashamed of them, and
walk more orderly. Love therefore to the persons of our offending
brethren, even when we hate their vices, should be the motive of our
withdrawing from them; and even those who are under the censures of the
church must not be accounted as enemies
(2 Thessalonians 3:15);
for, if they be reclaimed and reformed by these censures, they will
recover their credit and comfort, and right to church-privileges as
[2.] Their general conduct and behaviour ought to be according to the
good example the apostle and those who were with him had given them:
Yourselves know how you ought to follow us,
2 Thessalonians 3:7.
Those who planted religion among them had set a good example before
them; and the ministers of the gospel should be ensamples to the flock.
It is the duty of Christians not only to walk according to the
traditions of the apostles, and the doctrines they preached, but also
according to the good example they set before them, to be followers
of them so far as they were followers of Christ. The particular
good example the apostle mentions was their diligence, which was so
different from what was found in the disorderly walkers he takes notice
of: "We behaved not ourselves disorderly among you
(2 Thessalonians 3:7),
we did not spend our time idly, in idle visits, idle talk, idle
sports." They took pains in their ministry, in preaching the gospel,
and in getting their own living. Neither did we eat any man's bread
2 Thessalonians 3:8.
Though he might justly have demanded a maintenance, because those who
preach the gospel may of right expect to live by the gospel. This is a
just debt that people owe to their ministers, and the apostle had power
or authority to have demanded this
(2 Thessalonians 3:9);
but he waived his right from affection to them, and for the sake of the
gospel, and that he might be an example for them to follow
(2 Thessalonians 3:9),
that they might learn how to fill up time, and always be employed in
something that would turn to good account.
(2.) He commands and directs those that live idle lives to reform, and
set themselves to their business. He had given commandments to this
purport, as well as a good example of this, when he was among them:
Even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any man
would not work neither should he eat,
2 Thessalonians 3:10.
It was a proverbial speech among the Jews, He who does not labour
does not deserve to eat. The labourer is worthy of his meat; but
what is the loiterer worthy of? It is the will of God that every man
should have a calling, and mind his calling, and make a business of it,
and that none should live like useless drones in the world. Such
persons do what in them lies to defeat the sentence, In the sweat of
thy face shalt thou eat thy bread. It was not the mere humour of
the apostle, who was an active stirring man himself and therefore would
have every body else to be so too, but it was the command of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that with quietness we work, and eat our own
2 Thessalonians 3:12.
Men ought some way or other to earn their own living, otherwise they do
not eat their own bread. Observe, There must be work or labour, in
opposition to idleness; and there must be quietness, in opposition to
being busy-bodies in other men's matters. We must study to be quiet,
and do our own business. This is an excellent but rare composition, to
be of an active yet quiet spirit, active in our own business and yet
quiet as to other people's.
(3.) He exhorts those that did well not to be weary in
(2 Thessalonians 3:13);
as if he had said, "Go on and prosper. The Lord is with you while you
are with him. See that whatever you do, that is good, you persevere
therein. Hold on your way, and hold out to the end. You must never
give over, nor tire in your work. It will be time enough to rest when
you come to heaven, that everlasting rest which remains for the
people of God."
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16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all
means. The Lord be with you all.
17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the
token in every epistle: so I write.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
In this conclusion of the epistle we have the apostle's benediction and
prayers for these Thessalonians. Let us desire them for ourselves and
our friend. There are three blessings pronounced upon them, or desired
I. That God would give them peace. Note,
1. Peace is the blessing pronounced or desired. By peace we may
understand all manner of prosperity; here it may signify, in
particular, peace with God, peace in their own minds and consciences,
peace among themselves, and peace with all men.
2. This peace is desired for them always, or in every thing; and he
desired they might have all good things at all times.
3. Peace by all means: that, as they enjoyed the means of grace, they
might with success use all the means and methods of peace too; for
peace is often difficult, as it is always desirable.
4. That God would give them peace, who is the Lord of peace. If we have
any peace that is desirable, God must give it, who is the author of
peace and lover of concord. We shall neither have peaceable
dispositions ourselves nor find men disposed to be at peace with us,
unless the God of peace give us both.
II. That the presence of God might be with them: The Lord be with
you all. We need nothing more to make us safe and happy, nor can we
desire any thing better for ourselves and our friends, than to have
God's gracious presence with us and them. This will be a guide and
guard in every way that we may go, and our comfort in every condition
we may be in. It is the presence of God that makes heaven to be heaven,
and this will make this earth to be like heaven. No matter where we are
if God be with us, nor who is absent if God be with us, nor who is
absent if God be present with us.
III. That the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ might be with them.
So this apostle concluded his first epistle to these Thessalonians; and
it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we may
comfortably hope to have peace with God and enjoy the presence of God,
for he has made those nigh that were afar off. It is this grace that is
all in all to make us happy. This is what the apostle admired and
magnified on all occasions, what he delighted and trusted in; and by
this salutation or benediction, written with his own hand, as the token
of every epistle (when the rest was written by an amanuensis), he took
care lest the churches he wrote to should be imposed on by counterfeit
epistles, which he knew would be of dangerous consequence.
Let us be thankful that we have the canon of scripture complete, and by
the wonderful and special care of divine Providence preserved pure and
uncorrupt through so many successive ages, and not dare to add to it,
nor diminish from it. Let us believe the divine original of the sacred
scriptures, and conform our faith and practice to this our sufficient
and only rule, which is able to make us wise unto salvation, through
faith which is in Christ Jesus. Amen.