Saturday

16 December 2017

2 Thessalonians 3:1-17

“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (vv. 3-5)

Psalm: Psalm 140:1-7


Background

Paul writes this second letter to the church at Thessalonica because he is concerned that some members of the church are teaching - even in the year 51 - that the second coming of Christ has already happened (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Not only might this lead to widespread alarm, but it may also lead to idleness. This is because in his first letter he has taught people to seek to be holy in preparation for the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:11 - 4:3a). And if they believe he is already here, they might be like those of us who stop vacuuming as soon as the guests arrive, whether the house is ready or not! But if the interrupting doorbell is not the guests, we need to get back to work.

Such misinformation, spread by "wicked and evil people", is "from the evil one" (vv. 2-3; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:7, 10-11). Paul has confidence that those of faith will go on doing the things that he, Sylvanus and Timothy asked them to do when they founded the church the previous year.

Paul is particularly concerned that people will not follow the bad example of the idle; he claims the authority of Jesus to command them to stay away from such believers (verse 6). This is not as strong as the excommunication of those guilty of sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5:5); after all, they are still believers. But it is a matter of not associating with them intimately and mixing with them (verses 14-15). If people want a good example, then they should copy the way that he, Sylvanus and Timothy supported themselves whilst in Thessalonica (verses 7-9). It is highly likely that Paul himself plied his trade as a tentmaker there, as he carries out the trade in Corinth where he ends up for a while after leaving Thessalonica (Acts 18:1-3). (Note that verse 9 permits the paying of stipends to ministers.) Paul also adds that Christians should certainly not feel obliged to support those among them who are letting everyone else do all the work (verses 10-11).

(Almost) finally, Paul adds his own signature to the letter (verse 17), so that they know that it is genuine - unlike other letters apparently circulating in Thessalonica purporting to be from him (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Paul's writing was distinctive - Galatians 6:11.


To Ponder

  • Margaret Thatcher famously used the phrase "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat" (v. 10). Do you think she was right to use this verse in a political way? Why?
  • What does this passage say to you about what a disciple is called to do and be?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.