There is actually quite a lot packed into a fairly short chapter in 2 Thessalonians 3. Read through it and meet me on the other side to unpack it.
1Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
16Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
There is a lot we should take note of and apply in our own lives today.
- Paul begins this chapter by asking for prayer not only for him to be protected from wicked men, but also for the word of God to spread quickly and be glorified.
- Paul expresses faith and confidence in the Lord not only for his situation but for that of the believers in Thessalonica. He has confidence in God’s protection from Satan as well as the need to ask God to help direct our hearts to love Him and be steadfast in Christ.
- Paul takes time to encourage other Christians.
- Contrary to what many would teach today, we are not to befriend and be close to unruly, undisciplined people just because they may claim to follow Christ. Their behaviors and attitudes bely the fact that they are not truly submitted to Christ.
- Paul makes special emphasis of saying they should not grow weary of doing good.
- Right before saying this, Paul comments quite a bit on how they set an example by working for and paying for what they needed to survive. He makes two points, both of which seem at odds with what is normal in our culture today. We should take note as our culture may be out of calibration with the early church. First, that even though he could expect the people to provide for him while he ministers to them about Christ, he thought it important to support himself as an example. Second, those that refuse to work “shall eat their own bread”. He clearly states that those who are unwilling to work (not talking here about unable to work), should not be subsidized in their laziness or stubbornness by others but rather encouraged by even their own hunger to work and be productive.
- Paul also makes a point to instruct the church to discipline and admonish members who refuse to live according to the proper instruction in these matters. Too often today churches do not admonish anyone effectively, if at all. All are invited to sit in church regardless of their outward sin and rebellion. Pastors rationalize that “at least they will hear the word”, but individuals take home the message that living in sin as they are is just fine and they are “saved”. Those outside the church can no longer see that the church is any different than they are. People in the church behave the same way that people outside the church do. Effective rebuke is desperately in need, even though it should be done with respect and love. Pastors are too concerned someone may get mad and leave, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There is no trophy for having the biggest crowd sit in church and not follow God. Quite the opposite. Leaders will be judged based on how they accepted sin and offended God instead of man.
Pray and reflect on this message from Paul to Thessalonica. It is still relevant today. Ask God to show you what changes you should make in your life.
Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.