Living for Christ

Living for Christ

In the final and third chapter Paul gives his readers a number of timely exhortations. These are as follows:

Personal requests

“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may run
swiftly and be glorified, just as it was with you…”
2 Thessalonians 3:1

As ever Paul is aware that he needs the help of God, coupled with the prayers of His children, to enable him to complete the assignment given him when he was first called on the road to Damascus. He is committed to the preaching of the Gospel and in this regard wishes to articulate the message in a way that it, as he puts it, ” will run swiftly” without hindrance from evil people. This reminds us of the following:

1. That we should all embrace the potential and mandate that God has given us in life.
2. That our goal should be to complete the assignment that God has given us. We should end well as Paul did (2 Timothy 3:6-8).
3. That we work with God and not for God in this great endeavor and therefore prayer is the power that makes our partnership with God effective (2 Corinthians 6:1). Without it we can do nothing and, Paul knowing this, calls upon the believers at Thessaloniki to stand with him in it.
4. That we can always expect opposition from people who, trapped in their rebellion against God, will do all that they can to resist our message. Our message is counter culture because the prevailing culture is dark and controlled by the Devil and his hordes (1 John 5:18-19).
5. That, though we live in a world given over to the darkness of the powers of evil, Jesus will keep those who come to Him from these wicked entities. The truth is, the Devil cannot attack Christians when and how he desires! (1 John 5: 18-19). Thanks be unto God, because we have truly been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and placed in the Kingdom of light and of His dear Son ( Colossians 1:13).

In the light of all of this Paul is confident that they will listen to what he has to say and do the right thing before God. Consequently God will direct their hearts to embrace His love and patience. God, living in us by Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, is a wonderful blessing.

Church problems

“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly
and not according to the tradition which he has received from us.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If
anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10

This passage reminds us that the local Church is filled with people who are imperfect even as they embrace the sanctifying power of Jesus in them. They continue to fail and get things wrong. We must be patient with them knowing that God loves them but we must also, if needs be, give them correction when needed. This sometimes has to be tough!

Here at Thessaloniki there were believers, who for whatever reason, were living unruly lives and were consequently not working and providing for themselves and their families. Some suggest that this was happening because they were taken up with the doctrine of imminence (Jesus could come at any time soon) as concerning the second coming of Christ and therefore saw no need to work. Thus Paul corrects this doctrine by the teaching contained in the first part of the epistle and then strongly corrects them in this passage. He is tough indeed and therefore calls upon other believers to shun them if they do not rectify their lazy and sponging lifestyles. If they do not work then they should not be given anything to eat!! Strong words indeed and sadly, totally foreign to the modern Church, that largely embraces a corrupt understanding of the love of God.

Moreover Paul encourages them to model their Christian lives on his. In other words he is saying, as he writes elsewhere, that they should follow him as he follows Christ. All leaders in the household of faith should be able to make this declaration.

Final exhortations

“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13

He closes this short but powerful epistle by making a few recommendations:

1. That they should not grow weary in doing good. Good works, while not the grounds of our salvation, are certainly the evidence of it. Christians should be known in their communities as people who do good, and in fact God has prepared good works beforehand for them to discharge and “walk in” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

2. That, because he is the planter or father of the Church, they should and must obey his exhortations given in this epistle. Obedience to spiritual leaders is a crucial part of local Church life but it is earned because these leaders have labored amongst them in sacrificial ways (Hebrews 13:7;17). Consequently, those who refuse to obey must be marked and disassociated from, not as enemies, but as those who need spiritual correction. Hopefully this will bring to the offender conviction and godly change. Leading God’s people is not an easy business!

The epistle to the believers at Thessaloniki ends with the usual Pauline benediction.

Malcolm Hedding.