Study Notes

2Thessalonians 3:1-18

3:1-2 Pray For Us

In these two verses, Paul has three prayer requests for the Thessalonians. Two are in regards to the Word of God, and one is for personal deliverance.

The Word Spreading Rapidly And Being Glorified

First, Paul asks for prayer that the Word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be glorified. I may be preaching to the choir, for I believe that most of you here at Calvary Chapel attend because you know how incredibly important the Word of God is, but I'm going to say it again anyway. Paul knew as I do that the Word of God is of primary importance.

First of all, it must be spread. This is one of the reasons that the early church was more successful and productive than at any other time in the last 2,000 years of history - because the Word of God was being spread.

Acts 6:7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

True revival from God is always preceded by the Word of God spreading through a church, a city, a nation.

Paul's request also included the request that the Word of God would be glorified. When the Word is glorified, the word will spread, and revival will come. Also in the early church, we read that the Gentiles...

Acts 13:48-49 ...began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.

They glorified the Word of God, and the result was that the Word of God was spreading.

Does it somehow seem wrong to you that we should glorify the Word of God? That we should be glorifying God instead? The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 138:2(KJV) ...Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all thy name.

God is glorified when His Word is glorified.

Deliverance From Enemies

Paul's second prayer request was for deliverance from perverse and evil men. The word perverse here in Greek is "AT-op-os," which literally means "out of place." What Paul means by using this word is somewhat of a mystery. He could very well mean perverse - men that are doing things out of the ordinary. He was, after all, still in Corinth, a city well-known for its perverse population.

But maybe the meaning is even more insidious. You see, Paul's mind was on the spreading of the Word and glorification of the Word. He had encountered much opposition to his preaching, but the opposition was from the "religious" community - the Jews.

Remember that they had run Paul out of Thessalonica.

Acts 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds.

These guys followed him around, trying to destroy what he built and silence his preaching. Here he was doing the work of God, trying to spread the Word of God, and his greatest opposition came from people who claimed to be men of God. If Paul is talking about the Jews, then, it makes total sense - these men are out of place - they can be found in the temple of God, but they are opposing oppressing the message of God. They are truly AT-op-os - out of place.

There was nothing Paul could do in the flesh - they outnumbered him, they outweighed him. But Paul knew that deliverance comes from God, and that getting people to pray was vitally important.

3:3 Strength And Protection

Though Paul was asking for prayer, he hadn't forgotten that the Thessalonians, too, were struggling against opposition, affliction, and persecution.

So at the same time as asking for prayer, he reminds them that God is faithful, and He hasn't abandoned them. He reminds them that God was going to strengthen and protect them from the devil and his plans.

Sometimes it seems that God is nowhere, while the enemy is advancing. The king of Aram hated Elisha the prophet, because every time the king made plans to ambush or attack, God would tell Elisha. When the king found out that Elisha was in DO-thawn...

2Kgs. 6:14-17 ...He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The protection is provided by the Lord, and we realize that, we are strengthened.

3:4-5 Apostolic Commands And God's Direction

Notice that there are two things referenced here: commands externally from Paul, and direction internally from the Lord. There are many who adhere to only one, to the exclusion of the other.

For example, some say, "I don't need to go to church, I don't need to be in fellowship, I just pray and God guides me through my life." Well, it is true that God will internally direct your heart to love and steadfastness. But there are some things that you will not and cannot know unless you know the Biblical commands - what the Bible states regarding specific subjects.

Then there is the other side - many try to religiously maintain obedience to the laws and commandments without having a personal, internal relationship with God. But we know that the living, vibrant, healthy church will include both, even as we read in Acts 2.

Acts 2:42 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

They were being instructed externally by the apostles' teaching, and directed internally by the Lord in their hearts in prayer.

So just as other apparent opposites join together (faith and works, obedience and sacrifice, liberty and self-denial), the external commands go together with the internal direction.

3:6-15 The Lazy Brothers

Now Paul is addressing a specific problem that existed in the Thessalonian church: some of the guys weren't earning their keep. Some of the men weren't working hard at their jobs, but freeloading off of others. He had tried to subtly address this in his first letter, saying,

1Ths. 4:10-12 ...We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

It was a bad witness if the world saw Christians in need because they weren't being diligent workers. Unfortunately, some of the guys needed a stronger hint - so Paul hits the issue from two sides:


Firstly, he says, "When you aren't busy working, you're busy being a busybody - a gossiper, a talker, a troublemaker."

Secondly, he approaches this from the side of the other people in the church. He says, "Keep aloof from these guys who are being lazy - don't eat with them, don't hang out with them, don't let them fill up their empty schedule with you."

Now this means that there is instruction for every person in this sanctuary this morning. Number one: if you aren't busy, you're a busybody.

Guys, you who are able-bodied, are you employed? Are you if you've been laid off, are you actively looking for work? You who aren't able to work, are you filling your day with volunteer activities, or going to school? Or are you sitting in front of the TV, or wasting your days drinking?

Ladies, how are you filling your days? Proverbs 31 says that the virtuous woman is busy working with her hands, making meals, buying and selling real estate, sewing, helping the poor, and making clothes.

Prov. 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

If you're not filling your days with work, you're wasting time doing things like talking on the phone all day. And the Bible says,

Prov. 10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable...

Ladies, the longer you talk on the phone, the longer you chat across the fence, the more likely it is that you're entering into gossip, backbiting, and being a busybody - meddling where you don't need to be.

Keep Aloof

Now, maybe you're not a gossip or a busybody. Maybe you're diligently working. There is instruction here for you as well: keep aloof from these people - stay away from them. You have these people over for dinner, and the conversation goes something like this:

"Boy, the church sure is growing, huh? Isn't that a blessing?"

"Maybe so, but there are lots of problems that you're not aware of. Let me fill you in..."

They are the perfect example of the person that God calls wicked:

Ps. 50:19-20 "You let your mouth loose in evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother..."

Now the godly response is to cut them off and say, "That's gossip, and I don't need to hear it - you need to repent!" I have actually hung up the phone in the middle of someone's sentence because they were slanderously gossiping about someone. But the fact is that while I personally don't have a problem saying that, many of you can't imagine ever being that bold.

So don't give them an opportunity to put you in that situation. If you detect that someone is a gossip, a lazy busybody, a meddler, an undisciplined divider, keep away from them. Don't invite them over for dinner. Don't talk to them on the phone. Don't accept their invitation to lunch.

Maybe you're afraid of hurting their feelings, of making them feel bad. But that is exactly the point! If you refuse to associate with them, it will hopefully put them to shame. They will realize, "Hey, no Christians will associate with me because I'm a lazy busybody!"

And I really can't over-emphasize that the really godly thing to do is rebuke it head-on. Jesus said,

Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him."

So tell them to get busy. Tell them that if they've got time to sit and yap, they've got time to get busy doing something productive.

3:16 Peace In Every Circumstance

God's peace is something that is available in every circumstance - EVERY circumstance. His peace is available to to us continually. How can we get that peace? First, remember that we already have peace WITH God:

Rom. 5:1 ...Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

That means that we are no longer God's enemies, separated from Him by sin. But there is still the peace OF God, that many, if not most, of us do not have continually in every circumstance. How can we have that peace?

Phil. 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we are faithful to pray, petition, and give thanks, instead of getting anxious, we will know the peace of God continually in every circumstance.

3:17 Paul's Own Hand

As we discussed over the last two weeks, the church at Thessalonica had received a letter from Paul saying that the day of the Lord had come. But the letter turned out to be a forgery - it wasn't really from Paul. Now, as he closes this letter, he is letting them know how to recognize the genuine article by signing it.

You see, they couldn't just be told to recognize his handwriting, for he wasn't writing in his own hand. Paul's epistles were typically dictated to a writer, and signed with a quick note at the end in his own hand (1Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; Col 4:18; 2Thes 3:17; Philemon 19).

3:18 Grace With All

Paul closes his letter with a short, yet powerful benediction:

2Ths. 3:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

That is my desire as well - that the grace of Christ would be with everyone in this sanctuary. We know that

Eph. 6:24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with {a love} incorruptible.

If you love Jesus Christ, grace is with you.

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