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2 Thessalonians 3

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Pray for Us Pray for Us Closing Appeals, Rebukes and Prayers Pray for Us Encouragement to Perseverance
        (2:13-3:5)
3:1-5 3:1-5 3:1-5 3:1-2 3:1-5
      3:3-4  
      3:5  
Warnings Against Idleness Warnings Against Idleness   The Obligation to Work Against Idleness and Disunity
3:6-15 3:6-15 3:6-13 3:6-10 3:6
        3:7-9
        3:10-12
      3:11-12  
      3:13-15 3:13-15
    3:14-15    
Benediction Benediction   Final Words Prayer and Farewell Wishes
3:16 3:16-18 3:16 3:16 3:16
3:17-18   3:17-18 3:17 3:17-18
      3:18  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-18

A. Paul asks for prayer for his gospel preaching (cf. Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3). He sought the blessing of God for his future preaching as it occurred in his first messages to them (cf. v. 1).

 

B. Paul warns of the disruptive consequences of false teachings about the Second Coming as seen in the believers who have refused to work.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:1-5
 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.

3:1 "Finally" This phrase ("for the rest ") is used by Paul to mark off his last major truth or subject (cf. 1 Thess. 4:1). It is the beginning of the conclusion. It is also used to introduce his closing statements (cf. II Cor. 13:11).

There is also the possibility that this is a literary marker for the central thrust of a chiasm (cf. 1 Thess. 4:1).

▣ "pray for us" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. Paul felt the need for prayer and believed it affected the effectiveness of his ministry (cf. 1 Thess. 5:25; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3). See SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER at 1 Thess. 1:2.

▣ "that the word of the Lord" Paul asks prayer for the sake of the gospel, not himself.

In Genesis 15:1,4 the phrase "the word of the Lord (YHWH)" referred to God's message to Abraham. It is used in a prophetic sense in I Sam. 15:10 and Isa. 1:10.

In the NT it occurs in two forms.

1. using rhēma (spoken word), Luke 22:61; Acts 11:16; I Pet. 1:25

2. using logos, Acts 8:25; 13:44,48,49; 15:35; 16:32; 19:10,20; 1 Thess. 1:8; 4:15

There seems to be no theological distinction between the two forms.

NASB, NRSV"will spread rapidly and be glorified"
NKJV"may have free course and be glorified"
TEV"may continue to spread rapidly and receive glory"
NJB"may spread quickly, and be received with honour"

There are two present subjunctives. The term "spread" is literally "run a race" (present active subjunctive). This may be an allusion to Ps. 147:15. "Glory" (present passive subjunctive) in this context must be understood as "honor." It refers to the gospel being received and rejoiced in. The gospel is honored when fallen humans respond to it appropriately (cf. v. 2) and are changed.

3:2 "we will be rescued from perverse and evil men" This is an aorist passive subjunctive. This tense and the article with two adjectives, show that a specific incident is being referred to in Paul's life. This church understood what incident was intended (cf. 1 Thess. 2:16). Paul, writing from Corinth, had so many trials while there (cf. II Cor. 4:8-11; 6:4-10; 11:23-28).

▣ "for not all have faith" This is literally "the faith." This can refer to (1) the personal experience of receiving the gospel or (2) the truth of the gospel in a doctrinal sense. Evil often masquerades as good (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). See Special Topic: Believe at Gal. 3:6.

3:3 "But the Lord is faithful" Here the term "faith" is used in its OT sense of faithfulness. Jesus is exactly opposite of the evil men of v. 2 (cf. 1 Thess. 5:24). See Special Topic: Believe in the OT at Gal. 3:6.

▣ "strengthen" In the Septuagint (LXX) this term was used of establishing something like a city. It came to be used metaphorically of establishing or confirming a person (cf. Rom. 16:25; 1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Thess. 2:17; 3:3). The faithful Lord will establish and guard His own from evil, evil men, and the evil one.

▣ "protect" This is one of many military terms in this chapter (cf. I Pet. 1:3-12; I John 5:18).

▣ "from the evil one" This inflected Greek form can be neuter or masculine. The Eastern Church Fathers and Tertullian interpret it as masculine , while the Western Church Fathers interpret it as neuter (cf. Rom. 12:9). The NT seems to support the masculine (cf. Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19,38; John 17:15; Eph. 6:16; I John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL at 1 Thess. 2:18.

This context has two possible orientations: (1) the false teachers of Paul's day (antichrists, cf. I John 2:18) or (2) the eschatological evil of the Anti-Christ (cf. Revelation 13). Evil is always present, but so too, the faithful Lord! He will rescue and preserve His followers from evil men and He will strengthen and protect them from the evil one.

3:4 "We have confidence in the Lord concerning you" This is a perfect active indicative, an action that occurred in the past and has now become a state of being. Paul's confidence was "in the Lord" but also in these believers. This same balance can be seen in Phil. 2:12-13. Salvation is both from a sovereign God and a responsive human being ("doing" and "will continue to do"). All of God's dealings with humans involve unconditional, yet conditional, covenant promises.

▣ "command" This is a military term. It is used repeatedly in this context (cf. vv. 4,6,10,12). This shows Paul's authority as an Apostle. This term could refer to (1) Paul's preaching; (2) his first letter, 1 Thessalonians; or (3) his current instructions, 2 Thessalonians

3:5 "May the Lord. . .of God. . .of Christ" The ambiguity of the term "Lord" is obvious. In the OT it is always YHWH. New Testament authors often quote OT passages where they attribute actions of YHWH to Jesus. The fluidity may be purposeful because the original, inspired NT author wanted to affirm the Deity of Jesus and the unified action of the Triune God (cf. 2:16-17).

▣ "direct" This is an aorist active optative, which reflects a prayer (cf. 1 Thess. 3:11-13). It is another military term, "make straight by removing obstacles." It is an allusion to the OT metaphor, "well-worn paths of righteousness" (cf. Luke 1:79; 1 Thess. 3:11). Notice the two aspects of this prayer: (1) the love of God and (2) the steadfastness of Christ.

▣ "hearts" This is used in the OT for the entire person, but can be used more specifically of the mind, which fits this context best. See Special Topic at Gal. 4:6.

▣ "the love of God" This genitive phrase can be understood as objectively or subjectively, that is, God's love for us and our love for Him. In context God's love for us fits better.

▣ "the steadfastness of Christ" This phrase is used nowhere else in Paul's writings. It is somewhat ambiguous. It is an active term for "voluntary, steadfast endurance." Because of Christ's example of patient endurance (cf. Phil. 2:6-11), believers can patiently endure.

This genitive phrase can mean the believers' patience like Christ's patience or the patience that Christ gives to believers. It is possibly a subjective genitive, like the previous phrase. In either case this patience relates to

1. their current persecution

2. their response to false teaching and its resulting idleness on the part of some church members

3. the believers' patience, trust, and expectant faith-living in light of the any-moment return and/or delayed return of Jesus (unlike those of v. 11)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:6-15
 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.

3:6 "we command you, in the name of our Lord" This is the polite plural including Silas and Timothy, but in reality it is a word from Paul the Apostle. He recognizes his inspiration and authority in Christ to lead and command (present active indicative) the church (cf. vv. 10,12). "In the name of" is a Hebrew idiom referring to one's character or person.

▣ "in the name of " This is a Semitic idiom representing a person' character (cf. 1:12). Paul did not speak from his own authority. See Special Topic: The Name of the Lord at 2 Thess. 1:12.

▣ "keep away from" This is a present middle infinitive, often used in Koine Greek as an imperative, "you, yourselves, continue to keep away from" (cf. v. 14). Believers should not enter into intimate personal relationships with those who do not obey (cf. Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 5:11; II Thess. 3:14). This is not referring to casual friendship with lost people and errant believers (cf. v. 15).

NASB"leads an unruly life"
NKJV"walks disorderly"
NRSV"living in idleness"
TEV"who are living a lazy life"
NJB"who refuses to work"

This is another military term "disorderly conduct" (cf. vv. 6,7,11). It is used here for idle, uncooperative believers (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 5:14). The apparent closeness of the Second Coming had caused many believers to quit the normal affairs of life. They expected to be supported by other church members. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at 1 Thess. 4:2.

NASB"which you received from us"
NKJV"which he received from us"
NRSV"that they received from us"
TEV"that we gave them"
NJB"we passed on to you"

There is a Greek manuscript variant related to the form of the verb:

1. parelabosan or parelabon (aorist active indicative, third person plural), "they received" – NRSV

2. parelaben (aorist active indicative, third person singular) "he received " – NKJV

3.  parelabete (AORIST ACTIVE INDICATIVE, 2nd PERSON PLURAL) "you received" – NASB, NJB

There is much manuscript variation in Paul's letters in areas involving the pronouns.

3:7 "ought to follow our example" There was no written NT at this time. These believers had to (1) receive Paul's gospel, and (2) walk in his example (cf. v. 9; I Cor. 4:16; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; I Thess. 1:6).

3:8 "nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it" This is a Hebrew idiom. Paul, like all rabbis, worked for his daily needs (cf. I Cor. 9:12,18; 11:7; II Cor. 11:9; 12:13-14; 1 Thess. 2:9). In the Greco-Roman world many traveling tricksters and con-men preyed upon people. Paul had often been accused of preaching for money. Being sensitive to this charge, he seldom took money from those who heard him preach.

▣ "with labor and hardship we kept working" To the Greeks manual labor was for slaves only, but the Bible affirms work as from God. In Genesis work is both before the Fall and after (cf. Gen. 2:15; 3:19; Exod. 31:3; 35:35; Deut. 5:13; Isa. 54:16). The concept of working for one's own needs is crucial to this context. Some believers had rejected work because they assumed the Second Coming was near.

▣ "night and day" This is the Jewish order of time (cf. Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). This is an idiom meaning "worked full time," not literally 24 hours a day.

3:9 "not because we do not have the right to this" Paul was affirming the concept that believers should support their leaders (cf. I Cor. 9:4-17; Gal. 6:6). However, in this specific situation he acted (1) to set an example for those who had quit working and (2) to avoid possible criticism.

▣ "model" See Special Topic: Form at 1 Thess. 1:7.

3:10 "we used to give you this order" This is an imperfect active indicative, which in context must mean that Paul had told them over and over when he was with them. This command was not new information. This problem must have surfaced early in this church, possibly even before Paul had left.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence. There were people like this in the church.

▣ "anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either" This is a present active indicative followed by a present active imperative. This is the point of the entire chapter. It addresses lifestyle inactivity, not temporary unemployment. One must balance this with Paul's other letters on his care for the poor (cf. Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:26-29; II Cor. 8-9; Gal. 2:10). This command can be understood as (1) not feeding those who refused to work or (2) excluding them from the common Christian meal or love feast (cf. vv. 13,14).

3:11 "we hear" This is a present active indicative, which is literally "keep hearing."

NASB"but acting like busy-bodies"
NKJV"but are busy-bodies"
NRSV"not doing any work"
TEV"who do nothing except meddle in other people's business"
NJB"interfering with everyone else's"

This is a play in the Greek text on the word "work" — "not working (epgazomenous), but working around (periergazomenous)." Their "work" had become interfering with everyone else's business (work). Paul uses the term "work" often in this chapter (cf. 3:8,10,11,12 and 1 Thess. 4:11).

3:12 Paul uses strong words of admonition

1. "command" present active indicative

2. "exhort " present active indicative)

3. "in the Lord Jesus Christ"

This could imply (1) that the idlers are Christians or (2) that it is in the name of Jesus that Paul commands them.

▣ "to work in quiet fashion" This is a recurrent admonition of Paul's (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; I Tim. 2:2). This seems to mean that believers are not to draw undue attention to themselves by strange, unusual behavior, but by living appropriate quiet, gentle, patient, moral, loving, caring, working lives (the opposite of 3:11).

So often in our day believers make the "headlines " because of their strange beliefs or actions! As Paul was an example to working and witnessing, so too, should modern believers. If the message causes conflict, so be it, but not the messengers!

NASB, NKJV"eat their own bread"
NRSV"do their own work"
TEV"work to earn their own living"
NJB"earning the food that they eat"

This is an idiom which means to support yourself with your own labor.

3:13 "do not grow weary of doing good" This refers to the church's quiet, gentle, daily living (cf. Luke 18:1; II Cor. 4:1; Gal. 6:9). People are watching and taking notice of godly living.

3:14 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

NASB"take special note of that person"
NKJV"note that person"
NRSV"take note of those"
TEV, NJB"take note of him"

This is a present middle imperative. This is literally "tag" or "mark." This is a metaphor of "taking notice of" mentally.

"do not associate with him " This is a present middle (deponent) INFINITIVE used in an imperative sense. This is the same as "draw back from" of v. 6. It is uncertain if this involved

1. a full excommunication

2. an exclusion from the collective church meals (agape feasts)

3. some type of exclusion from leadership roles or fellowship situations

It is similar to I Cor. 5:9,11 (same word, found only here and I Cor. 5), which refers to intimate fellowship/friendship. Paul did not want these to radicalize the other believers, but neither did he want them to leave the fellowship of believers (and possibly start a rival eschatological faction).

▣ "so that he will be put to shame" The purpose of church discipline is redemptive as well as disciplinary (cf. v. 15; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 4:15). The goal is restoration!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:16
 16Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

3:16 "the Lord of peace" This is a common title for God the Father (cf. Rom. 15:33; 16:20; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20). Notice how the close of 2 Thessalonians is similar to the close of 1 Thessalonians. Paul is developing his letter-writing style.

▣ "The Lord be with you all" The Greek term "all" (pantos) is in this verse twice and in v. 18. Paul's admonition involves even those erring ones. "Lord" could refer to Jesus or the Father. See parallel in 1 Thess. 3:11.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:17-18
 17I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

3:17 "write this greeting with my own hand" Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, but he wrote the closing sentences in his own hand to verify his authorship (cf. 2:2; I Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18; Philem. 19). This may have set the pattern for all of Paul's following letters.

3:18 This closing is very similar to 1 Thess. 5:28. Most Greek manuscripts add "Amen," but it is absent in א and B. Scribes tended to add it to every book.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is the church to treat others in their midst who reject the Scriptures?

2. What does this chapter say to our modern welfare state?

3. Why is the truth of verse 16 so important?