The apostle expresses confidence in the Thessalonians, and prays for them. (1-5) He charges them to withdraw from disorderly walkers, particularly from the lazy and busybodies. (6-15) And concludes with a prayer for them, and a greeting. (16-18)
Verses 1-5 Those who are far apart still may meet together at the throne of grace; and those not able to do or receive any other kindness, may in this way do and receive real and very great kindness. Enemies to the preaching of the gospel, and persecutors of its faithful preachers, are unreasonable and wicked men. Many do not believe the gospel; and no wonder if such are restless and show malice in their endeavours to oppose it. The evil of sin is the greatest evil, but there are other evils we need to be preserved from, and we have encouragement to depend upon the grace of God. When once the promise is made, the performance is sure and certain. The apostle had confidence in them, but that was founded upon his confidence in God; for there is otherwise no confidence in man. He prays for them for spiritual blessings. It is our sin and our misery, that we place our affections upon wrong objects. There is not true love of God, without faith in Jesus Christ. If, by the special grace of God, we have that faith which multitudes have not, we should earnestly pray that we may be enabled, without reserve, to obey his commands, and that we may be enabled, without reserve, to the love of God, and the patience of Christ.
Verses 6-15 Those who have received the gospel, are to live according to the gospel. Such as could work, and would not, were not to be maintained in idleness. Christianity is not to countenance slothfulness, which would consume what is meant to encourage the industrious, and to support the sick and afflicted. Industry in our callings as men, is a duty required by our calling as Christians. But some expected to be maintained in idleness, and indulged a curious and conceited temper. They meddled with the concerns of others, and did much harm. It is a great error and abuse of religion, to make it a cloak for idleness or any other sin. The servant who waits for the coming of his Lord aright, must be working as his Lord has commanded. If we are idle, the devil and a corrupt heart will soon find us somewhat to do. The mind of man is a busy thing; if it is not employed in doing good, it will be doing evil. It is an excellent, but rare union, to be active in our own business, yet quiet as to other people's. If any refused to labour with quietness, they were to note him with censure, and to separate from his company, yet they were to seek his good by loving admonitions. The Lords is with you while you are with him. Hold on your way, and hold on to the end. We must never give over, or tire in our work. It will be time enough to rest when we come to heaven.
Verses 16-18 The apostle prays for the Thessalonians. And let us desire the same blessings for ourselves and our friends. Peace with God. This peace is desired for them always, or in every thing. Peace by all means; in every way; that, as they enjoyed the means of grace, they might use all methods to secure peace. 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. No matter where we are, if God be with us; nor who is absent, if God be present. It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we hope to have peace with God, and to enjoy the presence of God. This grace is all in all to make us happy; though we wish ever so much to others, there remains enough for ourselves.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 . HE ASKS THEIR PRAYERS: HIS CONFIDENCE IN THEM: PRAYER FOR THEM: CHARGES AGAINST DISORDERLY IDLE CONDUCT; HIS OWN EXAMPLE: CONCLUDING PRAYER AND SALUTATION.
1. Finally--literally, "As to what remains."
may have free course--literally, "may run"; spread rapidly without a drag on the wheels of its course. That the new-creating word may "run," as "swiftly" as the creative word at the first ( Psalms 147:15 ). The opposite is the word of God being "bound" ( 2 Timothy 2:9 ).
glorified--by sinners accepting it ( Acts 13:48 , Galatians 1:23 Galatians 1:24 ). Contrast "evil spoken of" ( 1 Peter 4:14 ).
as it is with you--( 1 Thessalonians 1:6 , 4:10 , 5:11 ).
2. that we . . . be delivered from unreasonable . . . men--literally, men out of place, inept, unseemly: out of the way bad: more than ordinarily bad. An undesigned coincidence with Acts 18:5-9 . Paul was now at Corinth, where the JEWS "opposed themselves" to his preaching: in answer to his prayers and those of his converts at Thessalonica and elsewhere, "the Lord, in vision," assured him of exemption from "the hurt," and of success in bringing in "much people." On the unreasonable, out-of-the way perversity of the Jews, as known to the Thessalonians, see 1 Thessalonians 2:15 1 Thessalonians 2:16 .
have not faith--or as Greek, "the faith" of the Christian: the only antidote to what is "unreasonable and wicked." The Thessalonians, from their ready acceptance of the Gospel ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ), might think "all" would similarly receive it; but the Jews were far from having such a readiness to believe the truth.
3. faithful--alluding to "faith" ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2 ):though many will not believe, the Lord (other very old manuscripts read "God") is still to be believed in as faithful to His promises ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24 , 2 Timothy 2:13 ). Faith on the part of man answers to faithfulness on the part of God.
stablish you--as he had prayed ( 2 Thessalonians 2:17 ). Though it was on himself that wicked men were making their onset, he turns away from asking the Thessalonians' prayers for HIS deliverance ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2 :so unselfish was he, even in religion), to express his assurance of THEIR establishment in the faith, and preservation from evil. This assurance thus exactly answers to his prayer for them ( 2 Thessalonians 2:17 ), "Our Lord . . . stablish you in every good word and work." He has before his mind the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"; where, as here, the translation may be, "from the evil one"; the great hinderer of "every good word and work." Compare Matthew 13:19 , "the wicked one."
4. we have confidence in the Lord--as "faithful" ( 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ). Have confidence in no man when left to himself [BENGEL].
that ye both do--Some of the oldest manuscripts insert a clause, "that ye both have done" before, "and are doing, and will do." He means the majority by "ye," not all of them (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:11 , 1:3 , 1 Thessalonians 3:6 ).
5. If "the Lord" be here the Holy Ghost ( 2 Corinthians 3:17 ), the three Persons of the Trinity will occur in this verse.
love of God--love to God.
patient waiting for Christ--rather as Greek, "the patience (endurance) of Christ," namely, which Christ showed [ALFORD] ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4 , 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ). ESTIUS, however, supports English Version (compare Revelation 1:9 , 3:10 ). At all events, this grace, "patience," or persevering endurance, is connected with the "hope" ( 1 Thessalonians 1:3 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ) of Christ's coming. In ALFORD'S translation we may compare Hebrews 12:1 Hebrews 12:2 , "Run with patience (endurance) . . . looking to JESUS . . . who, for the joy that was before Him, endured the cross"; so WE are to endure, as looking for the hope to be realized at His coming ( Hebrews 10:36 Hebrews 10:37 ).
6. we command you--Hereby he puts to a particular test their obedience in general to his commands, which obedience he had recognized in 2 Thessalonians 3:4 .
withdraw--literally, "to furl the sails"; as we say, to steer clear of (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:14 ). Some had given up labor as though the Lord's day was immediately coming. He had enjoined mild censure of such in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 , "Warn . . . the unruly"; but now that the mischief had become more confirmed, he enjoins stricter discipline, namely, withdrawal from their company (compare 1 Corinthians 5:11 , 2 John 1:10:11 ):not a formal sentence of excommunication, such as was subsequently passed on more heinous offenders (as in 1 Corinthians 5:5 , 1 Timothy 1:20 ). He says "brother," that is, professing Christian; for in the case of unprofessing heathen, believers needed not be so strict ( 1 Corinthians 5:10-13 ).
disorderly--Paul plainly would not have sanctioned the order of Mendicant Friars, who reduce such a "disorderly" and lazy life to a system. Call it not an order, but a burden to the community (BENGEL, alluding to the Greek, 2 Thessalonians 3:8 , for "be chargeable," literally, "be a burden").
the tradition--the oral instruction which he had given to them when present ( 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ), and subsequently committed to writing ( 1 Thessalonians 4:11 1 Thessalonians 4:12 ).
which he received of us--Some oldest manuscripts read, "ye received"; others, "they received." The English Version reading has no very old authority.
7. how ye ought to follow us--how ye ought to live so as to "imitate (so the Greek for 'follow') us" (compare Notes,
8. eat any man's bread--Greek, "eat bread from any man," that is, live at anyone's expense. Contrast 2 Thessalonians 3:12 , "eat THEIR OWN bread."
wrought--( Acts 20:34 ). In both Epistles they state they maintained themselves by labor; but in this second Epistle they do so in order to offer themselves herein as an example to the idle; whereas, in the first, their object in doing so is to vindicate themselves from all imputation of mercenary motives in preaching the Gospel ( 1 Thessalonians 2:5 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ) [EDMUNDS]. They preached gratuitously though they might have claimed maintenance from their converts.
labour and travail--"toil and hardship"
night and day--scarcely allowing time for repose.
chargeable--Greek, "a burden," or "burdensome." The Philippians did not regard it as a burden to contribute to his support ( Philippians 4:15 Philippians 4:16 ), sending to him while he was in this very Thessalonica ( Acts 16:15 Acts 16:34 Acts 16:40 ). Many Thessalonians, doubtless, would have felt it a privilege to contribute, but as he saw some idlers among them who would have made a pretext of his example to justify themselves, he waived his right. His reason for the same course at Corinth was to mark how different were his aims from those of the false teachers who sought their own lucre ( 2 Corinthians 11:9 2 Corinthians 11:12 2 Corinthians 11:13 ). It is at the very time and place of writing these Epistles that Paul is expressly said to have wrought at tent-making with Aquila ( Acts 18:3 ); an undesigned coincidence.
9. ( 1 Corinthians 9:4-6 , &c. Galatians 6:6 .)
10. For even--Translate, "For also." We not only set you the example, but gave a positive "command."
commanded--Greek imperfect, "We were commanding"; we kept charge of you.
would not work--Greek, "is unwilling to work." BENGEL makes this to be the argument: not that such a one is to have his food withdrawn from him by others; but he proves from the necessity of eating the necessity of working; using this pleasantry, Let him who will not work show himself an angel, that is, do without food as the angels do (but since he cannot do without food, then he ought to be not unwilling to work). It seems to me simpler to take it as a punishment of the idle. Paul often quotes good adages current among the people, stamping them with inspired approval. In the Hebrew, "Bereshith Rabba," the same saying is found; and in the book Zeror, "He who will not work before the sabbath, must not eat on the sabbath."
11. busy bodies--In the Greek the similarity of sound marks the antithesis, "Doing none of their own business, yet overdoing in the business of others." Busy about everyone's business but their own. "Nature abhors a vacuum"; so if not doing one's own business, one is apt to meddle with his neighbor's business. Idleness is the parent of busybodies ( 1 Timothy 5:13 ). Contrast 1 Thessalonians 4:11 .
12. by--The oldest manuscripts read, "IN the Lord Jesus." So the Greek, 1 Thessalonians 4:1 , implying the sphere wherein such conduct is appropriate and consistent. "We exhort you thus, as ministers IN Christ, exhorting our people IN Christ."
with quietness--quiet industry; laying aside restless, bustling, intermeddling officiousness ( 2 Thessalonians 3:11 ).
their own--bread earned by themselves, not another's bread ( 2 Thessalonians 3:8 ).
13. be not weary--The oldest manuscripts read, "Be not cowardly in"; do not be wanting in strenuousness in doing well. EDMUNDS explains it: Do not culpably neglect to do well, namely, with patient industry do your duty in your several callings. In contrast to the "disorderly, not-working busybodies" ( 2 Thessalonians 3:11 ; compare Galatians 6:9 ).
14. note that man--mark him in your own mind as one to be avoided ( 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ).
that he may be ashamed--Greek, "made to turn and look into himself, and so be put to shame." Feeling himself shunned by godly brethren, he may become ashamed of his course.
15. admonish him as a brother--not yet excommunicated (compare Leviticus 19:17 ). Do not shun him in contemptuous silence, but tell him why he is so avoided ( Matthew 18:15 , 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ).
16. Lord of peace--Jesus Christ. The same title is given to Him as to the Father, "the GOD of peace" ( Romans 15:33 , 16:20 , 2 Corinthians 13:11 ). An appropriate title in the prayer here, where the harmony of the Christian community was liable to interruption from the "disorderly." The Greek article requires the translation, "Give you the peace" which it is "His to give." "Peace" outward and inward, here and hereafter ( Romans 14:17 ).
always--unbroken, not changing with outward circumstances.
by all means--Greek, "in every way." Most of the oldest manuscripts read, "in every place"; thus he prays for their peace in all times ("always") and places.
Lord be with you all--May He bless you not only with peace, but also with His presence ( Matthew 28:20 ). Even the disorderly brethren (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:15 , "a brother") are included in this prayer.
17. The Epistle was written by an amanuensis (perhaps Silas or Timothy), and only the closing salutation written by Paul's "own hand" (compare Romans 16:22 , 1 Corinthians 16:21 , Colossians 4:18 ). Wherever Paul does not subjoin this autograph salutation, we may presume he wrote the whole Epistle himself ( Galatians 6:11 ).
which--which autograph salutation.
the token--to distinguish genuine Epistles from spurious ones put forth in my name ( 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ).
in every epistle--Some think he signed his name to every Epistle with his own hand; but as there is no trace of this in any manuscripts of all the Epistles, it is more likely that he alludes to his writing with his own hand in closing every Epistle, even in those Epistles (Romans, Second Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, First Thessalonians) wherein he does not specify his having done so.
so I write--so I sign my name: this is a specimen of my handwriting, by which to distinguish my geniune letters from forgeries.
18. He closes every Epistle by praying for GRACE to those whom he addresses.
Amen--omitted in the oldest manuscripts It was doubtless the response of the congregation after hearing the Epistle read publicly; hence it crept into copies.
The Subscription is spurious, as the Epistle was written not "from Athens," but from Corinth.