2 Thessalonians 3:6–15
The temptation here is to see this passage as a series of disconnected rules, law and instructions. That would be a mistake. Overlying all of this is Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians earlier (vv. 1:5, 11) that they would be worthy of the Kingdom and of their calling. And that means living a faithful life of holiness, discipline, faithfulness and integrity.
The Thessalonians have been saved, and they will be gathered with the redeemed of the ages on the return of Christ to earth. However, in between they have work to do. This is “waiting” in the biblical sense — not sitting, but serving; not idle, but working; and not passive, but active.
Establish Standards (6–9)
While Paul urges believers to keep away from those leading unruly lives, we must not lose sight of his caution in verse 15: “Yet do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.” The object is restoration, not judgment (also see Matt. 18:17).
In our day, this type of passage is not popular with many people. But it’s biblical, it’s fair and it’s Christlike. God’s redeemed are to live lives of discipline, responsibility and quietness. Here Paul warns against the idleness of able people who are unwilling to work. He is not rebuking those willing but unable to work.
Paul’s admonition not to grow weary in doing good reminds us of his similar words in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Staying with what works, what has been called “a long obedience in the same direction,” is the way of faith.
We should not end our brief look at the Thessalonian epistles without a summary point or two. Initially, Paul was wondering if the newly birthed Thessalonian church would survive and grow. From Timothy’s report, he learned five things that filled him with confidence in this young church.
These five realities constitute authentic Christianity:
Faith in Jesus Christ — See 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 3:2, 6–7 and 10. See 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
Changed lives — See 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 2:12 and 4:1–7. See 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13.
Love for fellow believers — See 1 Thess. 1:3, 2:8, 2:19–20, 3:12, 4:9–10 and 5:12–13. See 2 Thessalonians 1:3 and 3:5.
Evangelistic zeal — See 1 Thessalonians 1:8 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1–3.
Hope and expectations for Christ’s return — See 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 3:13, 4:13–18 and 5:1–11. See 2 Thessalonians 1:6–12 and 2:1–15.
Historians tell us the pagan temples of that day were notoriously individualistic. There were no congregational meetings, no hymn singings, no communal prayer times. But when people turned to Christ, they immediately felt the connection with one another, as our Lord said in John 13:34–35, and began to meet for encouragement and worship. And so it continues today.
EDITOR’S NOTE — See accompanying mini-posters for the lessons online at tbponline.org/ss-lessons. Permission is granted to reproduce for a class or church.
By Joe McKeever
Pastor, writer and cartoonist from Ridgeland, Mississippi.