2 Thessalonians 3
Final Exhortations (3:1-18)
1 Paul was a great and influential apostle. Nevertheless, his success did not depend on his own strength and ability; rather, it depended on God’s grace and on the prayers of other Christians (see Colossians 4:3-4 and comment).
2 The wicked and evil men Paul mentions here are mainly the Jews, who opposed the Gospel and persecuted Paul wherever he went. Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, where he had received great trouble from the Jews (Acts 18:12). Later on, Paul asked the believers in Rome to pray that he might be rescued from unbelievers—that is, from the Jews in Judea (Romans 15:31).
3 Paul had confidence that the Lord would strengthen and protect the Thessalonians from the evil one—that is, from Satan (Matthew 6:13).
4 Paul always praises his fellow Christians. But notice, his confidence is not in the Thessalonians themselves, but in the Lord. It is the Lord who will strengthen the Thessalonians and protect them from Satan. And the Lord is faithful (verse 3).
5 Paul prays that the Thessalonians’ hearts may be filled with God’s love, and that they may be strengthened by Christ’s perseverance.
6 Paul here writes with the full authority of an apostle of Christ; that is, he writes with Christ’s own authority. Paul commands the Thessalonians to keep away from every brother who is idle. Such brothers are the same as those mentioned by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. They did not live according to the teaching that Paul had given. They were expecting the Lord to come immediately. Therefore, they had stopped working; they no longer earned their own living. They had become lazy, and were asking for help from the others who continued to work. They had already received teaching from Paul on these matters in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Now, if they refuse to obey Paul’s command, they must be put out of the fellowship of the church. We must have no fellowship with those who refuse to repent and continue knowingly in sin (see 1 Corinthians 5:11).
Here a question arises. For what kind of sin must we keep away from our brother? Because many verses in the New Testament tell us to remain at peace with our brother, but only a few tell us to separate from him. This is a difficult question. Each case must be looked at individually. There are two purposes for remaining separate from our brother: first, to bring our brother to repentance; and second, to keep the church pure. In order to decide how to behave toward a brother who is sinning, we need the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
7-9 During the time they stayed in Thessalonica, Paul, Timothy, and Silas earned their own living. Surely, then, the Thessalonians ought to do the same! In fact, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they should be following his example. Paul taught not only by word, but also by the example of his own life. If our lives match our preaching, then people will be much more likely to heed what we say (see 1 Corinthians 9:4,12,14;1 Thessalonians 2:7-9 and comments).
10 According to the teaching of the Bible, begging is wrong. If a man has the strength to work, then he must work. If a man strong enough to work refuses to do so, then let him not eat, says Paul. Let all Christians remember that to be lazy is a sin.6
11 Some of the Thessalonians were lazy and simply sat or wandered about doing nothing; they were idle. Whenever a man has no work of his own to do, he usually ends up interfering with his neighbor’s work. If we remain idle, Satan will always find us something to do! Our minds are constantly running. If we are not busy doing good, we will soon be busy doing evil!
12 Here Paul especially exhorts those who are idle. Such people we command and urge … to settle down and earn the bread7 they eat (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11). Paul did not admonish people just to put them down, but rather to help them improve their lives. Paul did not want to drive anyone out of the church permanently.
13 Even if the lazy and idle people don’t heed Paul’s admonition, at least let the other Thessalonians heed it and continue doing good; let them continue to follow Paul’s example and work hard (see Galatians 6:9).
14 Paul here repeats the thought of verse 6. We must remain separate from a brother who knowingly keeps on sinning, in order that he may feel ashamed. The hope is that once he feels ashamed, he will repent and be cleansed of his sin.
15 However, we must behave toward the sinning brother, not as an enemy, but as a brother. He is still a beloved brother in the Lord. All discipline must be given in love and because of love.
16 See Philippians 4:7 and comment.
17 See Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18 and comments.
18 See 1 Corinthians 16:23 and comment.
1 For believers, heavenly rewards for good works are in addition to their salvation. Salvation itself does not depend on good works, but on faith.
2 In place of the word prophecy, some translations of the Bible say “spirit,” that is, man’s human spirit. Prophecy that comes from man’s spirit is likely to be false prophecy; only the prophecy that comes from God’s Holy Spirit can be trusted. For further discussion, see Word List: Prophecy.
3 It is not certain what temple Paul has in mind here.
4 The thing or person who is “holding back” the man of lawlessness is the same as the one who now holds … back the power of lawlessness in verse 7 (see verse 7 and comment).
5 In place of the words secret power of lawlessness, some translations of the Bible say, “mystery of lawlessness.” The meaning is the same.
6 Even those who are handicapped can usually do something to help earn their living. Those, of course, who are truly unable to meet their own needs will require assistance from others. But if they are believers, they should not resort to begging.
7 Bread is the main food of the Middle East.