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3. Warning Against Idleness

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you; 2and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one. 4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command. 5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ. 6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. 7For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you: 9not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us. 10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. 11For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. 12Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing. 14And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. 15And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. 17The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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1 Pray for us. Though the Lord powerfully aided him, and though he surpassed all others in earnestness of prayer, he nevertheless does not despise the prayers of believers, by which the Lord would have us aided. It becomes us, after his example, eagerly to desire this aid, and to stir up our brethren to pray for us.

When, however, he adds — that the word of God may have its course, he shows that he has not so much concern and regard for himself personally, as for the entire Church. For why does he desire to be recommended to the prayers of the Thessalonians? That the doctrine of the gospel may have its course. He does not desire, therefore, so much that regard should be had to himself individually, as to the glory of God and the common welfare of the Church. Course means here dissemination; 692692     “Estendue et auancement;” — “Extension and advancement.” glory means something farther, — that his preaching may have its power and efficacy for renewing men after the image of God. Hence, holiness of life and uprightness on the part of Christians is the glory of the gospel; as, on the other hand, those defame the gospel who make profession of it with the mouth, while in the meantime they live in wickedness and baseness. He says — as among you; for this should be a stimulus to the pious, to see all others like them. Hence those that have already entered into the kingdom of God are exhorted to pray daily that it may come. (Matthew 6:10.)

2 That we may be delivered. The old interpreter has rendered it, not unhappily, in my opinion — unreasonable 693693     Importunos. Wiclif (1380) renders it noyous.—Ed. Now, by this term, as also by that which immediately follows, (τῶν πονηρῶν,) evil, Paul means wicked and treacherous men, who lurked in the Church, under the name of Christians, or at least Jews, who with a mad zeal for the law furiously persecuted the gospel. He knew, however, how much danger impended over them from both these classes. Chrysostom, however, thinks that those only are meant who maliciously oppose the gospel by base doctrines, 694694     “Fausses et peruerses doctrines;” — “False and perverse doctrines.” — not by weapons of violence, as for example, Alexander, Hymeneus, and the like; but for my part, I extend it generally to all kinds of dangers and enemies. He was at that time proceeding towards Jerusalem, and wrote in the midst of his journeyings. Now, he had already been divinely forewarned that imprisonments and persecutions awaited him there. (Acts 20:23.) He means, however, deliverance, so that he may come off victorious, whether by life or by death.

All have not faith. This might be explained to mean, “Faith is not in all.” This expression, however, were both ambiguous and more obscure. Let us therefore retain Paul’s words, by which he intimates that faith is a gift of God that is too rare to be found in all. God, therefore, calls many who do not come to him by faith. Many pretend to come to him, who have their heart at the farthest distance from him. Farther, he does not speak of all indiscriminately, but merely animadverts upon those that belong to the Church: for the Thessalonians saw that very many held faith in abhorrence; 695695     “En horreur et disdain;” — “In horror and disdain.” nay, they saw how small was the number of believers. Hence it would have been unnecessary to say this as to strangers; but Paul simply says that all that make a profession of faith are not such in reality. Should you take in all Jews, they appeared to have nearness to Christ, for they ought to have recognized him by means of the law and the prophets. Paul, there can be no question specially marks out those with whom he would have to do. Now, it is probable that they were those who, while they had the appearance and honorary title of piety, were nevertheless very far from the reality. From this came the conflict.

With the view of shewing, therefore, that it was not groundlessly, or without good reason, that he dreaded contests with wicked and perverse men, he says that faith is not common to all, because the wicked and reprobate are always mixed with the good, as tares are with the good wheat. (Matthew 13:25.) And this ought to be remembered by us whenever we have annoyance given us by wicked persons, who nevertheless desire to be reckoned as belonging to the society of Christians — that all men have not faith. Nay more, when we hear in some instances that the Church is disturbed by base factions, let this be a shield to us against offenses of this nature; for we shall not merely inflict injury upon pious teachers, if we have doubts as to their fidelity, whenever domestic enemies do them harm, but our faith will from time to time waver, unless we keep in mind that among those who boast of the name of Christians there are many that are treacherous. 696696     “Qu’il y a beaucoup d’infideles, desloyaux, et traistres;” — “That there are many that are unbelieving, disloyal, and traitorous.”

3 But God is faithful. As it was possible that their minds, influenced by unfavorable reports, might come to entertain some doubts as to Paul’s ministry, having taught them that faith is not always found in men, he now calls them back to God, and says that he is faithful, so as to confirm them against all contrivances of men, by which they will endeavor to shake them. “They, indeed, are treacherous, but there is in God a support that is abundantly secure, so as to keep you from giving way.” He calls the Lord faithful, inasmuch as he adheres to his purpose to the end in maintaining the salvation of his people, seasonably aids them, and never forsakes them in dangers, as in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

God is faithful, who will not suffer
you to be tried above that ye are able to bear.

These words, however, themselves shew that Paul was more anxious as to others than as to himself. Malicious men directed against him the stings of their malignity; the whole violence 697697     “Toute la violence et impetuosite;” — “The whole violence and impetuosity.” of it fell upon him. In the mean time, he directs all his anxieties towards the Thessalonians, lest this temptation should do them any injury.

The term evil may refer as well to the thing, that is, malice, as to the persons of the wicked. I prefer, however, to interpret it of Satan, the head of all the wicked. For it were a small thing to be delivered from the cunning or violence of men, if the Lord did not protect us from all spiritual injury.

4 We have confidence. By this preface he prepares the way for proceeding to give the instruction, which we shall find him immediately afterwards subjoining. For the confidence which he says he has respecting them, made them much more ready to obey than if he had required obedience from them in a way of doubt or distrust. He says, however, that this hope, which he cherished in reference to them, was founded upon the Lord, inasmuch as it is his to bind their hearts to obedience, and to keep them in it; or by this expression, (as appears to me more probable,) he meant to testify, that it is not his intention to enjoin anything but by the commandment of the Lord. Here, accordingly, he marks out limits for himself as to enjoining, and for them as to obeying — that it should be only in the Lord. 698698     “Voyci donc les bournes qu’il limite, et pour soy et pour eux: pour soy, de ne commander rien que par le Seigneur: a eux, de ne rendre obeissance sinon au Seigneur;” — “Mark then the limits which he prescribes both for himself and for them: for himself, not to command anything but by the Lord: for them, not to render obedience except to the Lord.” All, therefore, that do not observe this limitation, do to no purpose resort to Paul’s example, with the view of binding the Church and subjecting it to their laws. Perhaps he had this also in view, that the respect which was due to his Apostleship might remain unimpaired among the Thessalonians, however the wicked might attempt to deprive him of the honor that belonged to him; for the prayer which he immediately subjoins tends towards this object. For provided men’s hearts continue to be directed towards love to God, and patient waiting for Christ, other things will be in a desirable state, and Paul declares that he desires nothing else. From this it is manifest, how very far he is from seeking dominion for himself peculiarly. For he is satisfied provided they persevere in love to God, and in the hope of Christ’s coming. In following up with prayer his expression of confidence, 699699     “Quand apres auoir protesté de sa confiance, il ne laisse pas d’adiouster encore la priere auec la confiance;” — “When after having declared his confidence, he omits not to add besides, prayer along with confidence.” he admonishes us that we must not relax in eagerness of prayer on the ground that we cherish good hope.

As, however, he states here in a summary manner the things that he knew to be most necessary for Christians, let every one make it his endeavor to make proficiency in these two things, in so far as he desires to make progress towards perfection. And, unquestionably, the love of God cannot reign in us unless brotherly love is also exercised. Waiting for Christ, on the other hand, teaches us to exercise contempt of the world, mortification of the flesh, and endurance of the cross. At the same time the expression might be explained as meaning, the patience of Christ — that which Christ’s doctrine begets in us; but I prefer to understand it as referring to the hope of ultimate redemption. For this is the only thing that sustains us in the warfare of the present life, that we wait for the Redeemer; and farther, this waiting requires patient endurance amidst the continual exercises of the cross.




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