PAUL's SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS

~A Devotional Commentary by Nate Wilson

With Quotations from
The 1901 American Standard Bible
and from Jay Green's Interlinear Bible.

 

INTRO

According to Spiros Zhodiates, Paul planted a church in Thessalonica around A.D. 50, but had to leave prematurely. He sent Timothy back to his first successful church plant to see how it was doing and was encouraged by the report. He then wrote letters to them, addressing some ethical problems and eschatological problems.

CHAPTER 1

1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; 2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth;

The first three verses are almost identical to the first 3 verses of I Thess. Once again, we have Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy writing, greeting them with a blessing and thanking God for their faith and love. They use a strong word "we are BOUND to give thanks." Is that how I feel about giving thanks--BOUND--just can't help it? After the exhortation in I Thess. 5:18, they'd better practice what they preach! Paul is touching base once again with them after having heard a report. There is apparently persecution, and Paul spends a lot of time talking about God's judgement on wicked men. Then there's an eschatological matter and a practical exhortation or two. A pretty short letter, compared to Paul's others, but we are assured it is Paul at the end.

Paul is looking for growth in faith toward God and growth in love toward others as indicators of true Christianity. (Paralleling the two great commandments: "Love the Lord...and...love your neighbor!") Dear God, as I look at my life, I must say that marked growth in those two areas is absent. So, what do I do? Well, I guess some of it is simply showing faith in God by praying and having a right attitude in the little things throughout the day. I need to once again write love notes to my wife, be more purposeful in spending special time with my boys, and find some way of witnessing to others. Another way to live out faith in God is to turn from sin, demonstrating faith that obeying God is better. Dear God, please work in me and enable me to "grow exceedingly" in my faith and "multiply" love to others! I want to abound in these true marks of a Christian!

1:4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;

Is it therefore right to brag on other people? Perhaps so if it is done in an edifying way--to set up someone as an example and to challenge others to follow. You just have to make sure that person is really worth copying!

1:5 which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

How can "afflictions" be a "clear token" of God's righteous judgement, when it is Christians being afflicted?? All I can think of is Hebrews 12:5-11--God disciplines the children He loves in order to cultivate greater righteousness in us. Paul reminds them that this affliction is "righteous" or "just" so they will not get frustrated that God seems to be punishing them for being Christians! Paul also reminds them that they are suffering for God's kingdom so that they will remember it is for a right cause. The way Paul finishes verse five, he takes for granted that being a Christian means you will suffer persecution.

But what does it mean that suffering persecution makes us worthy of God's kingdom? We are not worthy of God's kingdom; we deserve to go to hell and nothing we do can earn us heaven. So what good does it do for us to endure affliction? It makes us look forward more to heaven, and it provides a context for making us more like Christ. Looking at it from God's point of view, just as it makes a father want to pick up his child and hold him tightly and comfort him after the child is disciplined, so God, too, must desire all the more to draw us to His heaven after we have endured persecution. Persecution is also a test of true faith--we see who really is a Christian. So, perhaps the meaning of this verse is not that suffering persecution qualifies us for heaven (only Jesus' work on the cross can do that), but that it makes it all the more right and desirable that we enjoy heaven.

1:6 if so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.

Paul goes on to describe the Judgement Day when the wicked are cast into hell and those made righteous through Jesus Christ are given heaven. What a sense of perspective and comfort this brings to a persecuted church!

What is hell? Paul calls it "eternal," "destruction," and implies that eternal destruction will be in a place that is away "from the face of God," his "glory," and His "strength." Hell can't be stopped; once the damned begin it, it will never end for them. Hell is a place of destruction--nothing will grow or develop there. There will be no way to set goals and achieve them. And it is a place apart from God's face, glory, and power. All the good things on earth are gifts from God (James 1). The earth flourishes because of His presence. Remove all that is good and you get a partial picture of hell--no light, no good smells, no pretty colors, no pleasant sounds, no happy relationships with people, etc. That is terrifying! Why don't we Christians really act like this is true and become desperate to see souls saved? Oh Lord, help this to sink into my calloused soul and soften my heart for the lost!

But it is a different story for those who know and obey Jesus! He is coming to receive the glory due His name. His people will still not be preoccupied with their own pleasure in heaven. It is not the sort of place where we will all kick back and live wealthy, self-indulgent lives. We will simply glorify and admire God unhindered by sin and the cares of this life. The two Infinitive verbs here, "to be glorified" and "to be marveled at," appear to be two purposes for which Jesus is coming. It is God's intention that Jesus' coming will result in His holy people glorifying Him and marveling at Him! The two phrases which the ASV translates "in His saints" and "in them that believed" are in the Dative case in Greek, which can be translated locatively (location) or instrumentally (means). In this case, I think it would be much better translated, "He shall come in order to be glorified BY his saints, and to be marvelled at BY all the ones who believed" in order to make the Instrumental sense of the Dative case more clear.

1:11 To which end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire of goodness and every work of faith, with power; 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

How can we be counted worthy of our calling? What do we do to make ourselves worthy of being called by God to His kingdom? Perhaps if we live in love and obedience to God and work to advance His kingdom, it makes God glad--perhaps He even feels a sense of pride in us. What better reward than to see that the God of the universe is beaming because of my deeds? As a father, I can identify with this: when my sons do something wonderful, I think I feel a greater sense of thrill and pride (and relief) than my boys do.

Paul also prays that "our God... will fulfil every desire for goodness" and also "fulfil... the work of faith with power." Whose desire for goodness? Ours or God's? It's unclear, but the context leads me to believe that it is our desire for goodness. However, when you think about it, we have righteous desires only because God puts them into us; we don't naturally have good desires. Yet when He implants those desires for righteousness, it is the most frustrating thing in the world when we fail and sin. What a wonderful blessing to have someone praying for you that you will see your God-implanted desires for righteousness FULFILLED! That's a good idea for a prayer for my friends!

The goal of Paul's work was to see Jesus' name glorified by God's people--not to see a building built or a denomination founded! The important thing is that we desire to see other people worship Jesus and that we ourselves worship Him too!

At the same time, we will be glorified by Jesus. Perhaps it speaks of the peace and joy that changes our face and heart to be glorious when we truly and fully worship Jesus, and perhaps it is ultimately speaking of the time to come when we will be fully glorified in heaven--sinless, radiant, perfect... And all this is done "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." As I mentioned earlier, we don't even have good desires unless God plants them in us. We need God's grace in order to worship Him fully and truly. And it is by grace that we are glorified too. Oh God, I need Your grace! I want so much to worship You more and to be filled with joy and peace, and I long for the time when I will be fully glorified in heaven! Please be gracious to me, Lord!

II Thessalonians CHAPTER 2

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him;

I've run into Christians who believe that it is most accurate to state you conversion and affiliation with God's people as being "gathered to Christ," but this passage makes me wonder if that is inaccurate. Here and in Mark 13:27, the phrase is speaking of Christ's return, where He will take us to heaven with Him. What a glorious thing it will be for Him to come and gather us up to be with Him forever!!!

2:2 to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand;

The word here describing the day of the lord (enesthka) could literally be translated "has been standing in." In the Perfect tense, this refers to continuing action in Past time. Green translates is "has come," I'd probably translate it "has drawn near" since the verb has more to do with proximity than with coming.

Who would be so malicious as to spread rumors that the apostle Paul says the day of the Lord has already come? That would be unsettling to hear! But we should have no fear of that happening, for if we know Jesus, we know that He will never forsake us--He will be sure that every one of His children is gathered up to be with Him forever! There is a lot out in this world that could be unsettling to the Christian, but we are to be singularly peaceful and unafraid because we believe in a loving, sovereign God!

2:3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,

A chief work of the devil is deception, and Paul's warning not to be deceived is important. How can I keep from being deceived? Study God's word and don't become dependent on other people to feed God's word to me. Keep a critical mind to discern right and wrong in what people say.

Paul answers the Thessalonians' fear that Jesus has already returned by giving more signs of the end times. As far as I can tell, these signs were either much better understood by the Thessalonians of that day than they are by me today or else Paul was just communicating the signs as vaguely as the Holy Spirit gave them--God's way of making the exact time obscure. I do not see the wisdom of trying to pinpoint the meanings of these signs; I've seen too many people try to do that, becoming preoccupied with it and neglecting their greater duties as Christians, then being made a fool of when the date they predicted came and went without Jesus' return!

On the other hand, God would not have given these signs at all if He didn't want us to watch for them and know he has not returned yet, so let's look at them:

2:4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.

This man of sin/lawlessness (I John 3 sin = lawlessness) will position himself to be the ultimate god. The Christians in the first Century may have thought that this was the Roman emperor, but those emperors have come and gone and Jesus has not returned. However, Paul was writing this letter to the Thessalonians at a time when the Roman persecution of Christians was beginning. Roman persecution would continue in full force for a couple of centuries, and the Christians of that time needed to hear these things about the sovereignty of God, the need to persevere through persecution, and the hope of Christ's return. This letter bears many similarities to letters that John and Peter wrote in similar circumstances of persecution (Revelation and I Peter).

If the Roman emperors were not it, then the real McCoy will be much worse and influential worldwide--now thatís a SCARY thought! But we'll know when this shapes up that Jesus' return is eminent, and we can take courage and hope!

2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

My suspicion is confirmed that these signs nebulously mentioned in the preceding verses were explained in greater detail to the Thessalonians by Paul when he was with them. This passage is not detailed about the signs because he's simply reminding them of what he had taught earlier.

2:6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming;

I assume that Paul is still taking about the man of lawlessness; he's being "held back" so that he will be "revealed" at the "proper time." I believe in a sovereign God who is good; it makes sense that it is the good, sovereign God who is holding back this sinful, powerful man. This third party holding him back will be taken out of the way at the perfect time, and then the lawless one will be revealed, at which point the Lord will return and destroy the lawless one. God waited for the perfect time to bring Jesus into the world the first time, and He is waiting on the perfect time to send Jesus for His second visitation!

2:9 even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

It also sounds like the antichrist figure may not be Satan himself, but will be in league with Satan, using demonic powers to do miracles.

2:10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

The people who are deceived by the work of the man of lawlessness and perish, do so because they "did not receive the love for the truth" and "took pleasure in wickedness," and because of that, God "sends a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false" so that they "may be judged."

Wickedness is deceptive; it appears attractive at the outset, but is ensnaring and destroying. Wickedness is a trap with bait. Ignore such bait!

So how do I reconcile the balance between God's sovereignty and man's free will here? I believe that God chooses us first and gives us a love for truth so that we are saved. But those whom He does not choose, He mercifully hides truth from them so that they are not doubly condemned by both a violation of His truth AND a knowledge of that truth. The historical books of the Old Testament speak of God sending an evil spirit to distract Saul (I Samuel 16) and, in the Gospel accounts of the New Testament, Jesus speaks of taking away the knowledge of the truth from (Matt. 13:10-15) those that had it, but didn't respond to it (i.e. the Jews).

Lord, I am one of Your chosen children, but I see danger in that I have known enough of Your truth for long enough to lose my love for it; please keep me loving Your truth! That must be an act of the will on my part, too.

On the other hand, I believe we have a certain freedom of the will in responding to God; God's commands can be obeyed or disobeyed. God I want to believe in your truth and not take pleasure in wickedness. You have made the first moves in choosing me and revealing Yourself to me. Why is it so hard sometimes to respond in belief and obedience?

2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It's somewhat comforting that Paul admits his weakness by the word "should/bound to." He's not saying that he DOES always thank God for choosing the Thessalonian church to salvation, he just says he OUGHT to! Therefore, I ought to be always thanking God for choosing me and my friends to be in His kingdom! Lord, please help me to remember continually the awesome salvation You have given me so that I will give appropriate thanks.

The Greek text says literally "loved ones under [or in behalf of] the Lord"--it is because of our Lord Jesus that we are loved by God!

God chose us with a purpose in mind--actually TWO purposes. It's easier to see the structure in the Greek text because there are two parallel prepositions ("into") which mark the two purposes. The first is SALVATION, and the second is GLORIFICATION.

This salvation has two traits mentioned here:

  1. "sanctification in the holy Spirit: - That's the ongoing removal of sin and conformity to Jesus' likeness done by the Spirit of God who is living in us. This work of the Holy Spirit produces the famous fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. God, I have not noticed great improvement in the last year or so in my sanctification. I don't mean to sleight you--because I believe you ARE at work, sanctifying me. It may be a case of me not being observant or of me obstructing the work of Your Spirit. Whatever the case, please remove sin from me and please make me more like Jesus every day! Please cultivate me and plant Your goodness in me so that I may see more and more of Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!
  2. "Faith in the truth" - believing God's word, the Bible. Not only intellectually affirming this as true, but living out that faith so that you actually test what is unseen and go beyond human thinking to obey God. Faith truly manifested should be noticed by the world as remarkable and draw men to Christ!

God initially called me, so I should praise and thank Him for doing that! And I am destined to be glorified with Christ in heaven--what an awesome thing to look forward to!

2:15 So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.

So, what is the righteous response to all this truth concerning the coming of the antichrist, the judgement of the wicked, our calling to salvation, and our sanctification and glory in heaven? It is to "stand firm and hold to the traditions." Stand firm when everyone else changes their mind. Stand firm when the mind and the flesh want to slide, but I know in my spirit to obey God instead. Stand firm when truth and righteousness are compromised even in little ways.

And hold to the "traditions/precepts/doctrines/teachings." Paul is not talking about ancient traditions or customs, but rather about his teachings and writings to the Thessalonians. His writings make it clear what he taught when he preached in a city: "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," and his letters are, of course, now part of the Bible. Perhaps he used the word to also connote that his teaching are not a passing fad, but are the culmination of the world's most ancient religion and that this is something to be passed on to future generations. The Greek word used here connotes something you teach to someone else. Am I passing these teachings on in a responsible manner?

2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

It is great to know that we are not left to ourselves to stand firm and follow the teachings of the Bible! Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit (the "Comforter") work together to enable us to do "every good work and word."

Now, if Paul had not prayed that prayer of v.16-17, would God have still enabled the Thessalonians to do good? Probably, but that is a moot question, because Paul DID pray that prayer, and every good overseer of God's flock should do the same!

Lord God, thank You that You love me and that You have given me eternal comfort and good hope of heaven by Your grace! I don't even fathom what a great gift that is. Please Lord, comfort and strengthen me in every good work and word! Notice it is "every" good work and word--actions and speech. Isn't it awesome that our God is so sovereign and involved in our lives that He can be there to strengthen and comfort us in EVERY good action and word?

II Thessalonians CHAPTER 3

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you; 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith.

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy ask for prayer too. They request that:

I hope that people are praying the same things for me and my family. I believe that the window of time to evangelize freely is closing, as persecution of Christians becomes more widespread. I also see that God's word is generally not glorified by Christians as it should be, and my burden is for that tend to be reversed. We need a church that spends its of time studying God's word, thinking and talking about it, and working to conform their lives and their spheres of influence to all that is written in the Bible. We need to see a pagan world amazed at the God who is with us! Yet we are surrounded even now with perverse and evil men in church leadership, educational institutions, the ubiquitous media, businesses, and in civil government. And I mustn't forget the women too, who are deceived by the evil world and, whether inadvertently or not, bring havoc and temptation by their abandonment of submission and modesty. I find myself wondering if I should leave this post-Christian United States..., but is there any better place? Lord, I need You to protect me and my wife and children, too!

Paul's comment that "not all have faith" is so obvious that I wonder if he's really saying "not al in the church have faith." We must not be blind when we are with other Christians--we need to keep our discernment up!

3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one.

The focus turns from the authors to the addressees. Interesting that not only does God protect us from evil, He also strengthens us so we can fight against evil. He doesn't do it all for us; He wants our partnership. He will always be with His people to protect us--even from evil that has worked its way in to the church.

4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command.

The first word is "and," indicating that the thought continues--this reinforces the above point that our fighting evil by obeying God is part of our protection, part of the way God works to protect us. When Paul saw the Thessalonians obeying God, he could have confidence that God was strengthening and protecting them and that they were in the true house of faith.

5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ.

May You do so with me, Lord!

"the love of God" - Hendrickson's commentary explains that "of God" indicates possession (i.e. "God's"), and he also points out that Paul often uses this structure in other passages to indicate the same thing. So I guess Paul and company are praying for the Thessalonians to understand more about God's love and of our Messiah's faithfulness (steadfastness, patience...even stubbornness in refusing to sin; perhaps in loving us when we are hard to love).

And for what purpose? Dead knowledge is no good! The purpose is so that we will fulfill the functions of the church better (although the Bible doesn't explain this in detail here). If we are awed by God's love and faithfulness, then we will WORSHIP Him all the more, and if we understand how God is and work to show that same kind of love and faithfulness, then we will do better at EDIFYIHNG other believers and EVANGELIZING the world because we will love them more. We won't give in to sin or give up in doing good.

6 Now 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.

Here comes the strongest command in the book of II Thess. (There are only about 8 commands in the book, only two of which use the phrase "we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus"--both of which are dealing with working for a living.) It may be the main problem Paul wanted to confront, but he waited until he had warmed them up to him by his preliminary comments about how proud he was of them, how God was going to "whup up on" their persecutors, and how they needn't fear the end times. So this first big command is to stay away from "brothers" who are rebellious/unruly/not living their lives by the Bible. I assume from this that Paul is speaking of people who may call themselves Christian, but who do not obey God's word. (See note on I Thess. 5:14, where Paul gives a similar command concering unruly people.) There are certain things we cannot avoid: we cannot help rubbing shoulders with non-christians at work, and we can't prevent nominal Christians from coming to our worship meetings. But we should stay "aloof" (unless, of course, they are seeking the truth.). We shouldn't "hang out" with such people and let them influence us!

The context of this command is in the following verses: Paul is especially concerned that the Christians of Thessalonica work hard for a living and not be loafers and welfare leeches. I guess the best way to stay away from such people is to be a hard worker and work all day at business and all night at home (including, of course, sleep, eating, constructive play with your children, and other things necessary to being a good worker).

7 For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 neither did we eat bread for nought at any manís hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you: 9 not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves and ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us.

Paul and company passed on traditions to the Thessalonians about work: perhaps teaching Solomon's Proverbs while working at making and selling tents. They were self-disciplined to work hard, schedule their time, budget their money, and preach the Gospel. That must have been hard, and it must have required passing up a lot of sleep. But they felt this was the best model to use because 1) It proved they weren't out for easy money, which made their message more believable than those of other religious quacks around town, and 2) the Thessalonians apparently had a problem with free-loading on the welfare system, judging from Paul's words here, and they needed to learn to work for their own living.

Now, this doesn't mean that this is the only right model for financially supporting ministry. "Tentmaking," wordless faith, and overt fundraising all have their places, and should be judged by their appropriateness in a given context. Paul chose a way that has the downside of less ministry time--working a regular job and doing ministry on the side--but a benefit in modeling good working habits.

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. 11 For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

"If anyone won't work, don't let him eat." This is directed apparently toward those in charge of welfare moreso than toward those who were lazy. I'm not sure who was in charge of welfare. Thessalonica may have been one of those cities in the Roman empire where everybody received a stipend from the empire's taxation of other cities, but I don't know about this. Perhaps the richer members of the church were giving the poorer members a free ride or something. The way humans are, they will cease to work if they are guaranteed a living, and if they cease to work, their benefactor will eventually not have enough income to afford all the freeloaders. That's why socialism won't work and has failed so miserably in so many countries. But when God's people work seriously and wisely, God will see to it that their needs are provided. God, I know that when I have to work on an unpleasant project (such as fundraising!), I find it hard to work like I should. Lord, please help me to be diligent in working--even on things I don't like to do--so that Your honor will be upheld by me. If I work quietly and diligently and eat my own bread, people will respect that and respect my God all the more. I will not go on welfare... the receiving of any money from the government could actually increase the government's oppression, for if we add to the ranks of welfare recipients, we will only increase our own taxes. Thankfully, God has been providing us well enough that we haven't been faced with that decision.

One last point: This command to work quietly and eat our own bread is directed to "such persons" who are "leading an undisciplined life" and "not working," not to Christian ministers and civil authorities who work hard and receive provision from their constituency in a proper way.

13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.

This very next command is directed toward the "bretheren" as opposed to the undisciplined non-workers: DO NOT GROW WEARY IN DOING GOOD. Dear God, how easy it is to tire out or get distracted or lose hope in doing good. Please strengthen me and enable me to persevere in the good that I should do.

It just dawned on me that this is not just saying to keep doing good, but to FIGHT AGAINST GROWING WEARY. We do this by getting sleep, participating in fellowship with other believers, planning to avoid problems, managing our resources responsibly, taking Sabbath rests, and spending time in God's word.

14 And 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. 15 And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

What instruction/word in this epistle is Paul referring to? Probably the part about being self-disciplined in working for their own living and not hanging out with unruly people.

Is there any person besides the devil whom we should treat as an enemy? I think the answer to that question is "no." We should care about all people and seek their salvation, admonishing them as a true friend should. But we must not let unruly people influence us, therefore we must not associate with them. Paul and co. may well be speaking of members of the church there who would refuse to obey Paul's letter. They might be Christians, but they are rebellious to authority and they are unrepentant, so they should not be allowed to be associated with the church as members under its common authority--in other words those who flagrantly disobey the Bible must be excommunicated. But, as always, the goal is not to punish them or to show hatred toward them, but rather to facilitate a change of heart in them so that they might be restored.

One problem in the church is that, instead of "admonishing as a brother" a Christian who is in sin, we complain about them to other people or just ignore him instead. This is wrong. We must care enough and be courageous enough to schedule a private talk with him, lovingly showing him from scripture right from wrong, and appropriately encouraging them in specific ways to do right.

16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. 17 The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

WHEN? Now.

WHO? The Lord of peace--Jesus. And not just an angel sent by Him, but Jesus HIMSELF!

WHAT? Be with you, give grace, and grant peace

WHERE In every circumstance.

HOW MUCH? Continually, infinitely!

WHY? Because Paul and co. love the Thessalonians and have asked Jesus for this.

v.17 Paul is so humble. I postulated earlier that maybe Silvanus was the scribe and was taking dictation from Paul, but this last verse says that Paul wrote at least part of this letter with his own hand. I see two possibilities: 1) Paul, as one of the greatest scholars and church planters in the history of the world was, at least in part, taking dictation from his disciples Silvanus and Timothy as they thought together about what to say to the Thessalonians, or 2) Paul wrote the last 3 (or so) verses himself after his letter-writing session with Tim. and Sil., perhaps to distinguish the letter as genuine.

Were God's people are in danger of losing God's presence or not having peace without Paul's prayers? Surely not, yet perhaps there's something to it. We pray for God to give grace and peace to people; does that mean they receive a greater measure of those things than they otherwise would? I think so. I don't understand everything about God, but one thing I do know about Christians is that even the most devout Christians grow cold and fruitless without encouragement from other believers and without the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit! Dear God, I ask this same benediction on myself!

 

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