2 Thessalonians Chapter 3: Dealing With Disorderly BrethrenJan 11th, 2010 | By admin | Category: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
2 Thessalonians Chapter 3: Dealing With Disorderly Brethren
2 Thess. 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
“Finally” signifies concluding thoughts. “Pray for us.” Paul was asking for prayers primarily for Timothy, Silas, and himself but also for others such as Luke (2 Thess. 1:1). Paul asked for the prayers of the brethren to the end that “the word of the Lord may have free course [run—see King James margin], and be glorified, even as it is with you.” Other translations have that the word of the Lord might speed on, go forward unhindered, spread rapidly, triumph where it goes, and bring God glory. While Paul was not asking for prayers to escape persecution, he was anxious to fulfill his responsibility in spreading the Lord’s message.
Next Paul complimented the Thessalonians, who were suffering for their faith and Christian walk: “Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may … be glorified, even as it is with you.” Their efforts and zeal cost them something. In the present life, the Thessalonians were disesteemed, but in the Kingdom Age, when films are played and replayed, others will admire what they did and how they stood for the truth.
2 Thess. 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Paul continued his prayer request of the Thessalonians by adding “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” What did Paul mean? It was one thing for him to be persecuted and then go on preaching the gospel, but if he were put to death or jailed for life, his ministry would come to an abrupt end. Paul was anxious for the whole world of his day to hear the message of truth, and since this epistle was written near the middle of his ministry, there remained much work to do. He desired to live long enough to fulfill his responsibility as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Therefore, he asked the Thessalonians to pray that the message would go forth unhindered. If Paul, Silas, and Timothy had been imprisoned with no access to the brethren, Paul’s commission would have gone unfulfilled.
In regard to Paul’s prayer to be “delivered from unreasonable and wicked men,” there are two types of persecution. The Lord’s hand can be seen more clearly in one type because the persecution is for the Word of God. To be persecuted for the truth is an honor and a privilege.
There is more meaning in being persecuted by seemingly intelligent people with rational minds, whether in or out of the brotherhood, for if one is persecuted and put to death by irrational people—like a mob—the suffering is not because of the truth but appears to be an accident. Another example is dying from a stray bullet that is randomly fired at people down below or from a moving car. As prospective saints, we would rather be persecuted for righteousness’ sake than die a seemingly accidental death. Nevertheless, it does not necessarily mean one is not of the Little Flock if he dies an “accidental” death. That type of death is simply not our preference. To state the matter another way, being burned at the stake for the Word of God, as Tyndale was, is a more meaningful death. The pain is not necessarily removed, but the joy of suffering for Christ is added to the pain.
“For all men have not faith.” Not all men believe in God.
In sequence Paul’s itinerary covered Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth; that is, he went from the northern end of Achaia to the middle part and then to Corinth. Paul wrote this second epistle from Corinth. Silas and Timothy had returned to him there in Corinth with news about the progress of the Thessalonian Church, and based on their report, he wrote the second letter. God had told Paul, “I have much people in this city [Corinth],” so Paul stayed for 1 1/2 years and wrote both epistles from there (Acts 18:10,11). During this time the Jews persecuted him and brought him to the proconsul Gallio, but Gallio would not listen to the Jews’ charges. Then the Greeks persecuted Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and again Gallio would not listen. Paul had an experience that is implied, where they tried to apprehend him. The Jews planned to kill Paul when he left Corinth, and knowing of their evil intentions, he asked the Thessalonians to pray for him.
The prayer request and the second epistle were written near the end of Paul’s stay in Corinth. This time frame means that the Thessalonians had been consecrated for only about a year and a half, yet they had made great progress. Paul hoped that the other churches would make as much progress and that the Word of God would similarly activate them (“even as it is with you”—verse 1).
The Bereans were on an even higher plane of activity because they diligently studied the Word on a daily basis, but nevertheless, the Thessalonians were to be commended. Paul wanted them to get the truth as fast as possible, for he knew the growth would come later.
2 Thess. 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
“The Lord is faithful, who shall … keep you from [the] evil [one].” Paul expressed his confidence that nothing could frustrate God’s cause, even though he had a sense of nervousness about his own responsibility.
2 Thess. 3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
Paul exuded confidence in the Thessalonians because he could see that they had progressed considerably in maturity of character. In their zeal they grew fast—just like Stephen, who made his calling and election sure in perhaps one year’s time. His zeal, knowledge, and action were so rapid and unusual that he matured like a rocket. In almost all cases, the Christian experience is a marathon race, but there are occasional exceptions.
Paul was confident that the Thessalonians both were doing (present tense) and would do (in the future) the things commanded. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16, Paul said that both Jesus and the Father were concerned for and interested in their welfare. Now he added that the brethren were doing well, and he had confidence they would continue to do well and follow the traditions and instructions he had left with them by word of mouth and by epistle.
2 Thess. 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
Paul especially counseled the Thessalonians to develop “into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” They were somewhat impetuous in their response to the truth. Therefore, Paul counseled them not to exhaust themselves in their early zeal, for they had to run a long race. If they ran too fast and furiously in the beginning, they would become winded and would be unable to finish the marathon race.
Notice the order: (1) love of God and (2) patient waiting. How could one patiently wait for the fulfillment of God’s plans and purposes without first knowing them and having a love for, and confidence and faith in, God? This combination constitutes a “love of God,” which is the key to success. Obedience, trust, knowledge, love, faith—all are embodied in knowing God.
2 Thess. 3:6 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 of us.
2 Thess. 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
2 Thess. 3:8 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:
2 Thess. 3:9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.
2 Thess. 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Paul first observed the problem of “disorderliness” (of loafing and not working either physically or spiritually) when he was briefly in Thessalonica for several months. When he noticed these conditions, he was careful to set a good personal example. The fact that he had to bring up this matter again in his second epistle means that sponging had become a growing danger in the church there.
Sponging without working obligated other brethren. If such individuals had been laboring in word and in doctrine, then that might have been a contingency, but even so, it was wrong to embarrass someone into providing hospitality, to obligate that person for a lengthy period of time, without the spontaneity of hospitality being offered. Here in Thessalonica many were not only sponging but also refraining from laboring in doctrine, and thus avoiding persecution. Instead they were loafing and talking (even being “busybodies”—see verse 11). They were not supporting themselves with a profession, and they were not witnessing either.
Verse 6 is a harsh commandment. Spongers were to be denied fellowship. “We command you … in the name of … Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.” This situation was somewhat different from that in 1 Corinthians 5, which was more serious in some respects. Here the command was to “withdraw”; with the Corinthians the command was to expel, that is, to excommunicate. Moreover, the Corinthian instruction was to the ecclesia, whereas this was a command to an individual regarding everyday living.
When someone visits us in our home, that situation is apart from the ecclesia arrangement. “Withdrawing” from the visitor means to make him feel unwelcome. However, he is not to be treated as an enemy (see verse 15). The idea is to show the sponger that we do not appreciate his behavior, his walking in a way that is not orderly and not according to Paul’s teaching (“tradition”—verse 6).
Because Paul was very active in the Lord’s service, he was actually entitled to accept the hospitality and food that were offered, but he purposely refrained from doing so in order to set a good example. The “disorderly” ones were not entitled to receive hospitality, however, for they were inactive in the Lord’s service, as well as not trying to support themselves.
“Sponging” would not be staying just a day or two but would involve taking up residence and tying down the host(ess) to supply meals, whereas the party should have worked and earned his own food. Not only was such an individual not doing the Lord’s work, but he was hindering the host and/or hostess from doing the Lord’s work too. Paul’s advice strengthened those who might be timid in this matter, being hesitant to tell a sponging brother or sister to leave and to extend coolness. It would be wrong for a brother to give the impression that he
was coming to visit for only a few days and then stay for an extended period of time.
2 Thess. 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Sponging can lead to busybodying and evil speaking. Not only would the sponger interfere with the host’s serving the Lord, but he might tear down the brotherhood with evil speaking and undercutting and undermining that would discourage the host from associating with other brethren.
Possibly this could occur in a consecrated marriage where one or the other partner willfully and deliberately ignored his or her duties, that is, homemaking or earning a living. And another thing could happen. In the Society, activity and service were given the prime emphasis, and character development was denied. As a result, it was said that the wife or the husband should devote a lot of time to Pioneer service, thus ignoring regular duties, because witnessing was a “higher service.” This policy often left the sisters with a financial burden.
In a consecrated marriage, if there is a real grievance, the one party can suggest a separation (but not a divorce) to try to bring the erring one to his or her senses. This form of “withdrawal” would prevent a situation from going from bad to worse and becoming a crystallized part of one’s character.
“Working not at all” means working neither physically nor spiritually.
2 Thess. 3:12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Paul said not only that these individuals should work but that they should work “with quietness,” that is, without busybodying. Verse 12 is directed to the disorderly one, to the one doing the imposing, whereas verse 6 gives instruction to the grieved one, to the one being imposed upon. Again Paul commanded in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, this time commanding the disorderly one to work and eat his own bread.
2 Thess. 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
2 Thess. 3:14 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.
2 Thess. 3:15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Sometimes there is group, or communal, judgment where the ecclesia expels (1 Corinthians 5), and sometimes, as here, it is an individual matter. The Apostle Paul’s advice and backing would have encouraged the one being imposed upon to confront the issue and make the sponger feel unwelcome if he did not reform.
“Note that man” means that an individual should personally note the disorderly one. However, if, after being warned, the sponger leaves and imposes upon another family, etc., etc., then the matter should be taken up by the ecclesia with excommunication being the result. On the other hand, if, after being made to feel unwelcome, the sponger leaves and then works to earn his living, he should immediately be received back warmly by the one imposed upon—without any formal repentance through the ecclesia. Nevertheless, an apology should be made to the host.
It is helpful to compare verse 14 (“have no company with him”) with 1 Corinthians 5:11 (“I have written unto you not to keep company”). The Corinthians text pertains to fellowship outside the ecclesia as well as inside. It stresses disfellowship both in the ecclesia and socially. The Thessalonians text emphasizes the outside or social life but is silent regarding the ecclesia in the hope that the erring one will change. Only if the sponger persists should the matter be taken to the ecclesia.
2 Thess. 3:16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thess. 3:17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
2 Thess. 3:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Paul dictated the letter but added the last two verses in his own handwriting. He wanted it known that these strong commands and advice were from him (not from Silas and Timothy).
“The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle.” Here and in a few other instances, Paul included the phrase “with mine own hand” (1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18; Philem. 19). Nevertheless, although the actual phrase is omitted in his other epistles, Paul wrote the salutation in every epistle. In other words, at the end of each of his epistles, he wrote a similar expression about the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 16:20,24; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:23; Col. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Titus 3:15; Philem. 25; Heb. 13:25). Some critics claim Paul did not write the Book of Hebrews because the style is so different, but the same ending ascribes it to Paul. (The critics do not realize that the style is so different because Paul’s purpose was different.) The epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude end in a different way, not mentioning “grace.” The only exception is the Book of Revelation, but that book clearly states the Apostle John to be the stenographer. Incidentally, the only apostle who had a frame of reasoning similar to Paul’s was James, although he lacked Paul’s capability.
In his own handwriting, Paul wrote an expression about grace at the end of each of his epistles in order to stamp his letters as authentic. Since he dictated the epistles to others, his epistles were written in various handwritings and, without his addendum, could easily have been counterfeited.
One or two epistles, such as the Book of Hebrews, Paul wrote entirely with his own hand. Several epistles were dictated by Paul and written down by someone the recipients could also trust to deliver a genuine epistle. One such individual was Timothy, who served as Paul’s righthand man. After Timothy recorded an epistle, he took it to the particular church to whom it was addressed. The church then accepted the epistle as coming from Paul. In other words, every epistle had to be authenticated to be sure it was not a forgery. Since Paul thought an epistle might be deemed a counterfeit, he authenticated it by writing a brief note in his own handwriting. He characteristically opened or concluded an epistle with a benediction about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, one who was familiar with Paul’s teaching would have recognized certain repetitive phrases, or habits of speech, as coming from him.
Of course the circumstances under which the end of 2 Thessalonians was written were a little different from Paul’s writing to the Colossians from Rome while under house arrest (“in bonds”) and manacled to a soldier with one hand so that he had only one hand free. Therefore, it became very meaningful for him to write just that one verse. Under similar conditions Paul wrote Philemon and Ephesians. How zealous Paul was, and how providential that the soldier(s) did not interrupt the witnessing! Paul was right there in the Praetorian, in Caesar’s household, on the emperor’s doorstep, figuratively speaking. Through sheer zeal, preaching, and lack of fear, he was even responsible for the conversion of some in Caesar’s household.
This second epistle to the Thessalonians was written around the middle of Paul’s ministry.
Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon were written near the end of his ministry, as were the epistles to Titus and Timothy. Perhaps the original letters, or fragments thereof, will be found in the future. Similarly, Jeremiah’s deed will be found. The prophet made two copies, one of which was hidden for preservation.
(1998 and 1981 studies)