2 Thessalonians 3
Shawn Bumpers / General
2 Thessalonians / God: Faithfulness; Person having Strong Faith; God: Providence; God’s Love; Patience; Work
Paul closes out his letter to the Thessalonians by confronting idleness and gossip and reminding them that God is faithful.
The troubles experienced by the Thessalonians led to another, very specific worry.
Paul had taught them that Jesus would return, to catch the believers up into the clouds.
Paul had also taught them about “the Day of the Lord.”
This is a phrase that is found in both the Old and New Testaments.
Zephaniah 1:14–15 NKJV
The great day of the LORD is near;
It is near and hastens quickly.
The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter;
There the mighty men shall cry out.
That day is a day of wrath,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of devastation and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
In the short time that Paul was with them, he taught them about the rapture of the church after which comes the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation culminating in the second coming of Christ.
After he had left, some began to spread a rumor that they were already in the tribulation and the persecution they were enduring was proof of it.
Of course, this disturbed them, because they expected “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him” to take place before the great time of troubles (2 Thes. 2:1).
He said that they were to disregard rumors that “the Day of the Lord has already come” (v. 2).
Paul said the “Day of the Lord” will be ushered in by the Antichrist’s rebellion.
But then, how then do we explain present persecution?
But, Paul said, that time was not here yet, and he told them to stand firm in the midst of present persecution.
Paul has dealt with 2 of the concerns of the Thessalonian believers.
He has reminded them that those who persecute them will be judged by God.
The second coming of Christ is more than a doctrine to examine and study; it is a truth to grip our lives and make us better Christians.
It is not enough to know about His coming or to believe it; we must practice it in daily life.
• Some were falsely teaching that Christ had already come for his church … they had missed it, and the Tribulation was on.
• But there were others that, while not falling for the false teaching that they were in the Tribulation, decided that since Jesus was soon to return for the church, they could be idle.
That is, they fill their idle time by gossiping and stirring up trouble.
In contrast, Paul says here that we are to keep busy, … but keep busy “doing what is right” (vv. 11–13).
Next, the instructions that Paul gives in this chapter were obviously very important because he says that anyone who fails to obey is to be disciplined by the church (vv. 14–15).
The letter then closes with a brief personal note (vv. 16–18) containing a very important statement, “The Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.”
• Pray, be patient, and committed to the Word (v1-5)
Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
• Don’t be idle (v6-12) - Idolatry is bad, but idleness also.
• Hear the Word and do it (v13-18)
James 1:22 NKJV
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
That covers most of the chapter, except for the very end where Paul reminds them of the source of peace.
“Furthermore” might be a better choice than “Finally” here because the Greek λοιπός Loipos (yoo-POHS) means “the remaining” and here it is “As for what is left.”
So, Paul is signaling that he is moving on to what remains to be said and not necessarily that he is ending the letter, although he is.
Like I said in the introduction, Paul is taking what he has said in this letter and directing it toward practical application.
The first application is: Pray, be patient, and committed to the Word (v1-5).
If we call the Word of God “truth” then we should apply it in our lives … otherwise, in saying it is truth but not doing it we are hypocrites.
Paul uses a Greek word in verse 1 which is translated “run” and appropriately so.
Psalm 147:15 NKJV
He sends out His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
2 Timothy 2:9 NKJV
for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
Isaiah 55:11 NKJV
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Acts 12:24 NKJV
But the word of God grew and multiplied.
The Word of God is glorified in the lives of those who share it and those who receive it.
Acts 13:48–49 KJV 1900
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
Dr. Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, said of Christian pastors: “It is their task to feed the sheep—not to entertain the goats.”
Of course, there is always opposition to the Word and work of God, even in the church.
Paul asked his friends to pray that he might be delivered from unbelieving men who were evil and wicked.
Matthew 16:22–23 NKJV
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
And while we cannot have confidence in ourselves, we can and should have confidence in God.
It refers to, “A military order passed down from a superior officer.”
1 Thessalonians 4:2 NKJV
for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 2:10 NKJV
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
2 Timothy 2:3–4 NKJV
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
This is also true of Christians in the local church.
But the comparison doesn’t hold up in every way.
John 14:15 NKJV
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.
The LORD is coming back for me … He’s coming back for you.
This has been the theme of both Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.
But he didn’t just put that truth out there without relating it to everyday practical living.
2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
1 John 2:28 NKJV
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
When problems are not solved, they begin to grow and become worse.
If your child gets a splinter in their hand, you take it out.
The local church is a body; and what germs are to the physical body, sin is to the spiritual body.
Galatians 5:9 NKJV
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 NKJV
that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
1 Thessalonians 5:14 NKJV
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
It would seem that these troublemakers (the busybodies, gossips, and false teachers) did not repent.
Paul devoted the rest of his second letter to this problem.
There were some members who chose to remain idle while others were working.
“Follow” in verse 7 would be better put “imitate.”
As he has done previously, he points to the example that he and his ministry team presented to them through their own behavior.
To “eat bread” meant “make a living.”
When Paul was with them, he did not expect to live off of them, though they were certainly hospitable to him and made sure he was taken care of.
And remember that Paul wrote this letter to the church of Thessalonica … it was written to everyone in that church.
Our next Admonition (or practical application) is “Don’t be idle.”
Look with me at verse 10.
Again, we see that word, “Command” and again it implies a military order handed down from a superior.
Of course, whenever correction comes people are likely to question the authority of it’s source.
20 times in his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul used this complete title of the Savior.
Now, what does the Bible teach about labor … and remember that work can be both manual and mental.
Well, labor was a part of life before sin entered into the world … God gave Adam the job of caring for the garden.
All that being said, God created man for fulfilling occupation.
But before we reach the point of saying free time is a sin … we need to recognize that the issue here is not that some people had free time.
The issue was not necessarily inactivity, but the wrong kind of activity.
It was not only because of the labor they resisted doing, but also because of the harm they did with their idle time.
The greatest witness to the world is that of godly living and sacrifice.
A Christian may appeal to the authority of the Word in witnessing to others; but if he cannot point also to his own example of obedience, people will not listen.
Grace is not an excuse to continue to do unrighteous things as one did before salvation.
Also in verse 10, notice the phrase, “Will not work.”
A better translation of this is, “If anyone is unwilling to work.”
Paul uses it in verse 11 … “Busybodies.”
• Hear the Word and do it
And we come to this wonderful admonition from Paul … Do not grow weary in doing good.
A believer who holds the blessed hope of Christ’s soon return should not grow weary of working for the Lord.
Ephesians 6:7 NIV
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,
If we are serving for the appreciation or recognition of people, we’ll burn out, grow weary, and eventually become idle.
Are we doers of the Word and not hearers only?
No believer can say, “I am not able to obey God’s Word.”
God has made every provision for us to obey Him.