Chapter 3:1-15, Correction Concerning Practice


J. Deering,




Chapter 3:1-15, Correction Concerning Practice

We're going to deviate from Ryrie's outline[2] in this chapter and follow the NETBible outline for these verses. Paul introduces this last section of His book with the admonition that those who suffer persecution, on behalf of the Lord and His work, will be "rescued" from "perverse" and "evil" men. That rescue will be at the end of this life. While that may seem unfair to our fleshly nature… we need to remind ourselves that this life is a mere "blink" in the whole plan of God for our lives. We were created as eternal beings. Our life here is like the grass. We sprout up, and then we are gone - but gone into His presence and eternal life with Him. The Thessalonians were very aware of this promise.


The rest of chapter three deals, almost exclusively, with the problem of undisciplined lives. On the surface this chapter looks like there were some among the Thessalonian assembly that were using the false doctrine - that they were already amid the wrath part of "The Day of The Lord" to take advantage of the hard working and gracious members of that assembly. They were "using" the other members of the Body of Christ by requiring meals and other amenities. The word that Paul received was that they were "unruly."


The end of Chapter 3 concludes the book of 2 Thessalonians. Paul, once again, will surprise us with his love and affection - based securely in Christ Jesus.


Request for Prayer, 3:1-5


We should remember from earlier verses that Paul often uses the expression "finally" to introduce the last paragraph, or section, of a complete thought. Like many good writers, Paul uses the "finally" statement to highlight something important as a summary of what he has already written before he moves on to a new topic.

In this case Paul has three things left for the Thessalonians. (1) The reminder that prayer is the key to enduring persecution and tribulation, (2) How to deal with undisciplined believers, and (3) His parting words.

(1) The Reminder about Prayer

          The Command, 3:1-2

                pray for us,

How often it is that we gather for prayer and we pray for the unfit, the unhealthy, those who have lost loved ones, etc., and we forget that those who need our prayers the most are those who are fighting spiritual warfare and most of them are yet alive and well.


Paul's prayer is "that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly, and be glorified." Oh, sorry, no! Paul's prayer is, "Brethren, pray for US that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly, and be glorified." Pray for us that we will be used to spread the gospel, that we will used to teach maturity in Christ, that we will be used - through multiplying believers in such a way that the word of the Lord is glorified.


          Those Being Commanded

                brothers and sisters,

Once again we come upon the Greek word adelphos. It is the word the name from which Philadelphia comes. It's often translated as "brethren," and understood as "brotherly love." We understand it as meaning that individuals care about each other as good brothers would - regardless of the sex of the hearer. It implies a platonic, graceful, "I would die for you, my brother," relationship between two or more people. It is caring and sometimes heroic. This translation is from the "NETBible" and shows a realistic representation of the original text.


          The Qualifications

                (1) that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and

                (2) (that the Lord's message may) be honored as in fact it was among you, and

                (3) that we may be delivered from perverse and evil people.


(1)    Here is the root contents of Paul's prayer. First, he calls them to pray that the Lord's message may spread quickly. We should be mindful that "the Lord's message" contains much more than the Gospel (as we call it). For His "good news" includes not only His graceful gift of justification, but also a whole host of other promises for this life and the next. "The Lord's word" should be interpreted, largely here, as representative of His promises leading up to "The Day of the Lord." Paul has just finished instructing us that "That Day" has not come yet, there are other events leading up to it, and that life is still going on in preparation for it.


(2)    Paul's second desire for prayer is that the Lord's message, as presented by Paul and His companions to the Thessalonians, would continue to be honored - both by the Thessalonians - as it was when He was there, and by all those who encounter the Word of the Lord.


(3)    Paul's third desire for prayer is the need for deliverance in a lost world full of perverse and evil people.


          A Qualifier, 3:2-3

                For not all have faith.

                But the Lord is faithful, and


Why is the world full of perverse and evil people? Because not all have faith. Paul certainly knows from whence he speaks - he was without faith - but Jesus called Him to faith and service. This verse does not indicate that the world is without hope - quite the contrary. However, Paul's focus here is upon those who persecute and bring wrath upon God's ministers and people. We have certainly seen in Acts, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians, the hostility of various groupings of people. Whether it be Judaizers, public officials, or just perverse and evil people, Paul and his companions lives demonstrate the depth of the hatred the unsaved often have. Paul does not speak of the lukewarm unbeliever here but the dedicated and focused evil unbeliever.


Then, Paul introduces the contrast between the FAITHLESS and The LORD who is FAITHFUL. He reassures his readers that it is The Lord who will satisfy their every need. He will always be faithful. We can certainly say here that Paul is speaking of the very act of being possessed with faithfulness. The wicked unbeliever is so terribly EMPTY of what The Lord is FULL of - FAITH. He cannot help but be FAITHFUL, it is His character and nature. Paul is not saying that the unbeliever cannot be faithful in a human way toward another, he is saying that they are EMPTY of faith.


          The Promises (general, not specific to the command to pray)

          Who Promises

                He (the Lord)


We need to remember that it is "But The Lord" carried down from the beginning of this verse so that we don't loose track of the contrast presented between the faithless persecutors and The Lord.


          What He Promises

                (1) (He will) strengthen you and

                (2) (He will) protect you from the evil one.


Paul lists two specific aspects of The Lord's faithfulness. (1) He will strengthen you! When you need Him, He's there strengthening you. Paul is specifically speaking about the rapid spreading and glorifying of The Word of The Lord (context).


Did you ever learn in a science class about Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion? His first law is that regardless of weight the velocity of falling objects is the same. His second law is that acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the force applied to it. His third law says that if an object exerts force on another object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first object.


The easiest way to understand this third law is to put a single elastic band around a finger on each hand and stretch it between the two hands. You will notice that the rubber band pulls on both fingers - regardless of which hand you move. In fact you will also notice that your arms are not only pushing against the elastic band, but also the elastic band is pulling your arms together. Not that you want to know, but the force that you use to push out is called "centrifugal" and the force pushing back in is called "centripetal."


I bring this up as a way to illustrate how God uses persecution in the lives of believers. There is a kind of personal growth that can only be gotten through persecution. When you are persecuted for your faith God responds with His faithfulness which results in your growth. The more the persecution - the more faithfulness and growth. The ultimate growth from persecution often results in martyrdom. Maximum persecution is rewarded by instant transportation into the presence of Christ.

"He will protect you from the evil one." Once again we see two parts of this statement. The temporal, how He protects us from Satan and his minions every day - to which we may not even be conscious - and the eternal - Satan and his minions all locked up and sealed away from God and His creation (with the exception of that special place He has created for this purpose) for all of eternity.


Evil is active all around us, all the time. We are largely unaware of the dangers and temptations that The Lord keeps from us who believe. Some believers are actively engaged in the battle against evil and the evil one. Many of those believers have their very lives as the cost. Christians around the world are not only being persecuted at this time, but yielding up their lives in service to their King as He fills them, maturing them, with faithfulness.


          Paul's Confidence, 3:4-5

                And we are confident

                        about "you in the Lord"

                        that you are both doing – and

                        (that you) will do –

                                what we are commanding.


The NASB translates this first part as "We have confidence in the Lord, concerning you." Here in the NETBible the emphasis is till upon confidence in the Lord, "we are confident about "you in the Lord." It would be so easy to put the emphasis upon the Thessalonians - "We have confidence in you." Our humanity hears that when we read this section. "You have been persecuted and therefore we have confidence in you." No, not at all. If we learn anything about our relationships with other people it is, "Never put your trust in another person, they will let you down every time." We're human, shallow, self-involved, wicked, sinful, and idolatrous. Please, Please, do not put your trust, confidence, faith, in me, for I am a sinner. This is why Paul says that their confidence is in the Lord - who works through them. If his confidence had been in the Thessalonians… and they had been worthy of it, there would be no need for these letters. Place your trust, confidence, and faith ONLY in The Lord.


Paul recognizes that the Will of The Lord IS BEING DONE in them. For some there will be immediate growth, for some it will take a lifetime - however in each case, that is the will of God for them.


Paul says, when you pray, pray that The Word Of The Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.

(2) How to deal with undisciplined believers, 3:5-15
Now we enter into a lengthy discussion concerning the importance of proper growth and behavior within the local assembly.


As we have seen in the past two chapters many among the Thessalonian assembly had heard, and believed, misleading teaching - which they should never have believed. Some of these had taken advantage of this spurious doctrine and had become "leeches" upon the rest of the body of believers.


These are believers who have taken advantage of other believers and had made themselves a burden to individuals and the whole body. We all need to pay attention to Paul's words that we ourselves, for whatever reason, don't become a burden to other believers or our local assembly.


We should be aware that there is a very fine line between "leaning on The Lord," and PRESUMPTION. The same is true of "leaning on your brothers and sisters in Christ," and presuming upon them. Paul is going to have harsh words concerning those who do.


Final Things


                may the Lord

                        direct your hearts

                                toward the love of God and

                                (toward) the endurance of Christ.


Paul sets the stage for this final exhortation to the family of God in Thessalonica. "May the Lord direct your hearts!"


Do you remember that old phrase, "Something smells in Denmark"?

It is from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The quote is, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Marcellus (an army officer in the play) has just seen the ghost of Hamlet's father, the late king of Denmark. Someone has said that Hamlet's father was dead and rotting, and his mother was romancing his uncle. Something "Stinks."


Paul says, "May The Lord Direct YOU," "Toward the LOVE of God, and the ENDURANCE of Christ." The ultimate expression of the love of God is Christ on the Cross. It was the ENDURANCE of Jesus through the Cross that brought forth righteousness and resurrection for all who believe.


Thessalonians… something among you who believe… Stinks! Some of you have forgotten the Love of God and the Endurance of Christ - you have taken this opportunity to GIVE UP and be DEPENDANT UPON OTHERS for WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING!


          Response to the Undisciplined (and their correction), 3:6

        But (And)

        we command you,

                brothers and sisters,

                in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,


        to keep away from any brother who lives

                lives an undisciplined life and

                (lives) not according to the tradition they received from us.


We must remember to keep these verses in context. These were believers who (through bad doctrine - or other reason) who had stopped their secular employment as the means of providing for themselves and their families.


Paul, writing scripture for the Holy Spirit of God, uses very strong language here. First, he commands, directs, insists that everyone in that body, IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST (notice the full name), to keep away from, stand aloof from, and avoid ANY BROTHER WHO WALKS AROUND IDLE.


Paul finishes the sentence with an indication that he and his companions who ministered to them - ministered to them and taught them completely the opposite.

The believer's job of administering the Gospel to others, and to each other, requires diligence and labor - in our personal support and our own family responsibilities. Paul says in effect, "Our labor among you cost you nothing."


Paul now continues with the details of their ministry among them.


        For, (3:7-9)

        you know yourselves how

        you must imitate us,


        we did not behave without discipline among you, and

        we did not eat anyone’s food without paying.


                (1) in toil and

                (2) (in) drudgery we worked night and day

        in order not to burden any of you.

        It was not because we do not have that right,


        to give ourselves as an example

                for you to imitate.


Here then is the Key to understanding the importance of these verses - why is this so important? What's so important that we should separate ourselves from these other believers?


The answer comes "to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate." For their example was Christ - The Imitation of Christ. He did not quit when He was persecuted, He did not quit when He was stripped and tortured, He did not quit when He faced the Cross. He did not quit when He died. The imitation of Christ is everything to the believer. "Never give up, never say die."


        For, (3:10-15)

                even when we were with you,

                        we used to give you this command:

                        “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”


                we hear that

                        some among you are

                                living an undisciplined life,

                                not doing their own work but

                                meddling in the work of others.

                Now such people


                                (1) command and

                                (2) urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to

                                        work quietly and so

                                provide their own food to eat.


        But you, brothers and sisters,

                do not grow weary in doing what is right.


        But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter,

                take note of him and

                do not associate closely with him,

                        so that he may be ashamed. Yet

                do not regard him as an enemy, but

                admonish him as a brother.


I waited until the end of these verses to comment. Here's the process…

        (1)    Understand the problem. Those who are idle and not caring for their families (the cause is not the point).

        (2)    Understand the teaching. Both Paul's example and words teach that believers are not to be a burden on each other or those to whom they minister. They are to "work quietly" (without boasting or appealing before others).

        (3)    No one is to "grow weary" of this responsibility

        (4)    a. Take note of the Idle

                b. Don't associate closely with them (that they may be ashamed)

                c. Do NOT regard them as an enemy

                d. Continue to admonish (exhort) them as a Fellow Believer.


It should be clear that the Holy Spirit's heart intends on the loving correction and not the discipline of the believer. First, we are to make sure that we are not among the guilty - then we are to participate in the restoration of any one who is.


(3) His parting words. We'll leave for the next lesson (3:16-18).

[1] All Scriptures from: The NET Bible,

[2] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, First and Second Thessalonians, Everyman's Bible Commentary, Moody Press, Chicago.