Lesson 16: "Pray for Us. . .Do the Things Which We Command You." (II Thessalonians 3:1,4)
II Thessalonians 3:1-18
This is lesson #16. Welcome again! We hope in this lesson to bring II Thessalonians to a close. In our next lessong we shall introduce I Corinthians. May I encourage you to share this course with your friends and neighbors. Please take the time to tell others about your study and encourage them to enroll in this or other courses. We depend upon referrals to spread these courses and to enroll others. So, you have a part in this great work of teaching others. Please share your tapes where it is possible. Please enroll others. You can do a great service. Together, we can teach thousands.
If you have your e;yes on II Thess. Ch. 3, let's read. We'll read the first five verses to start. Are you ready? Ch. 3:1-5 , here we go! "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ."
You sense immediately upon reading this, of course, that Paul here contemplates a change in context that will culminate in his usual final tender greetings. This "Finally, brethren" statement (v.l) is used commonly by Paul as he starts drawing an epistle to a close. He used the statement in II Corinthians, Ephesians and even a couple times in Philippians. It was also common in his other epistles for Paul to ask for the prayers of the disciples. He did so hi I Thessalonians, Colossians and hi Ephesians. Why did Paul ask for their prayers? Paul was unselfish in his request. First, it might be noted he also made this request on behalf of his companions. Timothy and Silas. In second place, he asked the Thessalonians to pray "that the word of the Lord may have free course," i.e. that the gospel cwould spread rapidly into all the world. In third ;place, Paul asked them to pray that the word may be glorified elsewhere as it was with the Thessalonians. Then finally, in fourth place, Paul asked them to pray that he and his companions be deliver from wicked and unreasonable men. At the end of that first sentence, Paul gave his reason for this request: " for all men have not faith." How true! How true! Sometimes it takes us a while to learn that, and, as Paul implied, all men are not reasonable men either. That's v.1-2. Then in v.3, in contrast to what we have just said: Paul reminded them that what the Lord had promised, the Lord would do. In v.4 Paul expressed confidence hi the brethren at Thessalonica that they woulld continue doing what was right and further, that they would correct what needed to be corrected. Notice also in v.4, Paul reminded them hi a tender and round about way that he was giving them certain commands. First, of course, they were to be prepared for the Lord's coming; but, it should not give them such great mental anguish as apparently some were suffering. It should not prevent their learning and increasing in spiritual things and that included proving all things and holding fast that which is good. Then in v. 5, notice that Paul, in his prayerful wish for them, also implored them to be patient in their waiting for Christ, i.e. hi contrast to the situation as it apparently existed at Thessalonica.
Now, we're going to read v.6-14 in just a moment. Before we read; I need to tell you that the commentators are in unison concerning the doctrinal problem that has been mentioned with respect to their anguish, worry and over-reaction that stemmed from their misunderstandings with respect to the Lord's immediate return. Back in 2:2, Paul told them not to be shaken hi mind or troubled. Then, Paul gave instruction to remedy that error. Just how much that had to do with their lack of studying to be quiet, and doing their own business and working with their hands and all of that; as Paul had said back in I Thess. 4:11-12, I'm not sure. Let me say this as respectfully as I can; but, I get the impression that these Greek people of Thessalonica may have been somewhat of a bummy-people by nature. Paul had insisted that they work. Paul had pounded on this point both when he was with them, as well as, when he had written to them. In In that same verse (I Thess. 4:11) Paul said he and his companions had COMMANDED such. I.e. back when they were bodily with them, they commanded them to work. Some may have been using the Lord's immediate return for more of an excuse, than a reason, not to work. Now, I do get the impression though, that Paul was impressed with their genuine brotherly love for each other (I refer to I Thess. 4:9). However, if my judgment of human nature is any where near accurate (and I'm quite convinced there has been no change hi the human nature over the last 1900 years):, it seems there are almost always a few that will use, almost any excuse, to take advantage of a good thing. Another factor that may have figured heavily hi the pie (MAY HAVE BEEN, I emphasize) that Paul knew that some were plucking the goose, as some of my Kentucky friends used to say it. Some generous good-hearted and good-natured brethren with a little more means than average; having been genuinely converted to Christianity and this trying to honestly share their wealth; MAY HAVE (at least I can visualize) a set of conditions under which some were being, hi effect, trained to panhandle so-to-speak. And, as much emphasis as theN.T. puts upon love, and caring, and sharing, and all such; we must realize ALSO that the Bible DOES NOT condone the thing we have just discussed. If you'll hold your finger thereon v.6 long enough for me to philosophize a minute more; I'll go so far as to say that such conditions, not only train panhandlers, it's the very breeding ground of crime itself. In our day, drugs, alcohol, prostitution and the lottery are just a few ingredients that lubricate and facilitate that kind of thinking. The REAL PROBLEM is traceable to the same basic set of conditions that concerned Paul hi Thessalonica. So, my friend this old book is not as tar out of date as some would have you believe.
O.K. v.6, as you probably suspect what I just said, I hope will help you read between the lines a little hi these verses. Let's read. "Now we command you, brethren, hi 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. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. By ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 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. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Alright, we finally got it read. Focus in on that word "disorderly" hi v.6. It's used again hi v.7 and again down in v.ll. Let me ask you, what's the definition of that term? Well, there are several little not-so-nice words that we might substitute today. What about loafers and idlers and shirkers for starters? Of course, you're probably thinking of some more good words like: bums, beggars, hobos, strays, tramps and sluggards. Now, don't get carried away; but, I think you're hi the right department. If your back to v.6, please notice that Paul emphasized THIS IS A COMMAND. That means it's not just something that you MIGHT consider, this is what you must do. Paul said, "we command you," i.e. Paul, Timothy, and Silas. Now, someone might be inclined to say: what right do those old ancient characters have to tell me how to order my life? Paul didn't just say "we" command you. Paul said, "we command you...in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Look at it close! What does that mean? Do you think this is as important as baptism? O. K. so we get the idea, Paul, what's the command. "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly..." Did you say, brother? Now, wait a minute Paul; he's my brother. Oh, I know, he won't work much. He's got some weird ideas; but, he's my brotherl Now, wait a minute! Is he walking disorderly? Well, it's one of those things you've got to decide. Paul said, if he's walking disorderly; you disfellowship the rascal! Withdraw yourselves! Incidentally, what were those "traditions" which Paul said the Thessalonians RECEIVED from him and Silas and Timothy at the end of v.6? Well, the explanation is down in v.8 and it boils down to a four-letter word spelled W.O.R.K. Some folks dislike four-letter words. Paul said, "Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought..." Do you know what "nought' means? ZERO! No discount! This is saying Paul and his companions paid for every bite of bread they ate in Thessalonica. He says in the last of v.8 that they worked hard, "night and day" to earn that money.
Now waid a minute! They were preachers. Why didn't they pass around the hat? Why didn't they take up a collection, some body may ask. Well, it was not because they didn't have the right to do that. The Bible teaches (Paul himself said) in I Cor. 9:14, "the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." You check the context: Paul was there talking about paying preachers. Paul said the Lord ordained that. Why did Paul wave his right of support at Thessalonica? Paul explains that! Take a look at v.9, Paul said, "not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us." You see, here in the early days of Christianity; someone might have gotten the impression that Paul was panhandling too. It didn't just say, do as I say. Paul said, do as I do, and there's a heap of good "larn'in" in that for us.
Paul pressed the point. Some of those brothers and sisters probably said, "I just can't stand a preacher that calls names in the pulpit." Don't make insinuations! That hurts people! Take a look at v. 11! "We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies." Can you imagine the day this letter was read at Thessalonica? Do you think someone might have been embarrassed? Oh, but what if they didn't come back that night? How terrible? They "orta" fire that preacher and get one a little more discreet. Did you ever hear that one? It's been said! Now, if you that THAT'S getting a little blunt; let's read .10 and tghen we'll get v. 14, "when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." Now, v. 14, "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." Yes, but what about my human rights? That's DISCRIMINATION! Brethren, Christianity is not some piddily-sissy stuff. Christianity is made up of believers, the honest, the pure in heart, the faithful.. It takes guts to be a Christian, it's not easy, I'm talking about a real blood bought believer. The kind that you don't have to be begged and molly-cottled to even get them to attend the services. Someone has said a hotdog will get them there, yes. But, you'll have to keep giving hamburgers to keep them coming.
Please don't think you have to be a hard-nosed bigot to be a Christian. That's not true. Christians much NOT be insensitive to the needs of others, Christians much be sensitive to the commands in this book also, the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before you kick out the benevolence program, take a look at v. 13. "Brethren, be not weary in well doing." So, my friend, don't quit sharing and caring and feeding helping and working because you get tired; or because someone abused the program. Obey that four letter word: WORK. Keep giving and giving and giving for the right purpose. If, with the help of this word and our Lord Jesus Christ; we can persuade enough to do that, the evil will be crowded out. Then in v.15, even those that won't carry their load and those that walk disorderly and those that you are commanded to disfellowship: "count him NOT as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." You see, it's like walking a tightrope. It all comes back to attitude. It wasn't easy for Paul to do his tent making work at night and teach, teach, teach during the day. Some were abusing the system even then. Paul knew it! But Paul didn't toss in the towel. Paul set the example. You see, that tightrope of balance is hard to attain. Paul was trying to get some of those people to work and not be loafer and procrastinators. On the other side of the coin, some of my brethren work seven days a week. The won't even take time off to attend the services, or read the Bible, or pray, or take any part; except, toss a check in the contribution basket and say Oh! What a good boy am I.
Let's read those last three verses, v.16,17,18. Are you ready? "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." A tyhpical benediction by Paul. And, you don't need anyt explanations, I'm sure. Paul meant what he said! In v. 17,1 get the impression that Paul probably dictated most of the letter. He probably wrote a little bit at the end with his own hand to serve the purpose, we know, as a signature. Possibly he held that quill long enough to write what we cal v.16-17-18. He said this was his common practice. It gave the letter a little personal touch and it made forgery much harder. May I echo the sentiments of Paul in v. 16 & v. 18: as we close this lesson. Hurry back to lesson # 17. Until then, you have a good day.