2 Thessalonians 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) But the Lord is faithful.—It must not be thought from this that the word “faith” in the previous verse meant “fidelity.” St. Paul, after his favourite manner, is playing upon two meanings of the word: “But whether men have faith or not, the Lord is faithful.” There is the same play of words in Romans 3:3. “The Lord” seems here to be used, as was said on 1Thessalonians 3:12, without distinct reference to one Person of the Holy Trinity rather than another. This characteristic of God is named because God stands pledged to all who believe in Him.

Who shall stablish you.—How soon St. Paul reverts from his own needs to theirs! He does not continue, as we should expect, with “who will preserve us”

Keep you from evil.—Rather (probably), from the Evil One, as in the Lord’s Prayer. Possibly, the word is used not without a reference to the word rendered “wicked” in 2Thessalonians 3:2, with which in the Greek it is identical.

3:1-5 Those who are far apart still may meet together at the throne of grace; and those not able to do or receive any other kindness, may in this way do and receive real and very great kindness. Enemies to the preaching of the gospel, and persecutors of its faithful preachers, are unreasonable and wicked men. Many do not believe the gospel; and no wonder if such are restless and show malice in their endeavours to oppose it. The evil of sin is the greatest evil, but there are other evils we need to be preserved from, and we have encouragement to depend upon the grace of God. When once the promise is made, the performance is sure and certain. The apostle had confidence in them, but that was founded upon his confidence in God; for there is otherwise no confidence in man. He prays for them for spiritual blessings. It is our sin and our misery, that we place our affections upon wrong objects. There is not true love of God, without faith in Jesus Christ. If, by the special grace of God, we have that faith which multitudes have not, we should earnestly pray that we may be enabled, without reserve, to obey his commands, and that we may be enabled, without reserve, to the love of God, and the patience of Christ.But the Lord is faithful - - Though human beings cannot be trusted, God is faithful to his promises and his purposes. He may always be confided in; and when people are unbelieving, perverse, unkind, and disposed to do us wrong, we may go to him, and we shall always find in him one in whom we may confide. This is an exceedingly interesting declaration, and is a beautiful illustration of the resource which a truly pious mind will feel that it has. We often have occasion to know, to our sorrow, that "all men have not faith." We witness their infidelity. We see how they turn away from the truth. We see many who once gave some evidence that they had "faith," abandon it all; and we see many in the church who seem to have no true faith, and who refuse to lend their aid in promoting the cause of religion. In such circumstances, the heart is disposed to despond, and to ask whether religion can be advanced in the midst of so much indifference and opposition? At such times, how consoling is it to be able to turn, as Paul did, to one who is faithful; who never fails us; and who will certainly accomplish his benevolent purposes. Men may be faithless and false, but God never is. They may refuse to embrace the gospel, and set themselves against it, but God will not abandon His great purposes. Many who are in the church may forget their solemn and sacred vows, and may show no fidelity to the cause of their Saviour, but God himself will never abandon that cause. To a pious mind it affords unspeakably more consolation to reflect that a faithful God is the friend of the cause which we love, than it would were all men, in and out of the church, its friends.

Who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil - see the notes on John 17:5; compare the notes on Ephesians 6:16. The allusion is to the Evil One, or Satan, and the meaning is, that God would keep them from his wiles.

3. faithful—alluding to "faith" (2Th 3:2): though many will not believe, the Lord (other very old manuscripts read "God") is still to be believed in as faithful to His promises (1Th 5:24; 2Ti 2:13). Faith on the part of man answers to faithfulness on the part of God.

stablish you—as he had prayed (2Th 2:17). Though it was on himself that wicked men were making their onset, he turns away from asking the Thessalonians' prayers for HIS deliverance (2Th 3:2: so unselfish was he, even in religion), to express his assurance of THEIR establishment in the faith, and preservation from evil. This assurance thus exactly answers to his prayer for them (2Th 2:17), "Our Lord … stablish you in every good word and work." He has before his mind the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"; where, as here, the translation may be, "from the evil one"; the great hinderer of "every good word and work." Compare Mt 13:19, "the wicked one."

These words are added by way of consolation:

1. With respect to their establishment, which the apostle had before prayed for, 2 Thessalonians 2:17, and here he assures them of it. What God hath promised, yet we may and ought to pray for; and ministers should exhort people to seek that grace which they may be sure beforehand God will give. And this establishment respects either their mind, in the belief of the gospel against false doctrine; or their hearts, against inordinate fears of men; or their practice, against departing from the way of holiness. The apostle well knew the tenure of the new covenant, which contains promises of perseverance and establishment, as well as of pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace, Jeremiah 32:40; and he grounds his confidence of their establishment upon God’s faithfulness, as upon the same account he comforts the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and these Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, and it may be the apostle hath here reference to what he had said before; Though we shall meet with wicked and unreasonable men, yet fear not, God will establish you, for he is faithful. As God’s promises are according to his purposes, so his performances will be according to his promises, which is his faithfulness.

2. As God would establish them, so keep them from evil. There is moral and penal evil, of sin and suffering; the Greek word imports the former; never used but for sinful evil, or sometimes for the devil, with respect to the sin that dwells in him, and occasioned by him, Ephesians 6:16 1Jo 5:18. And it is true, that God will keep his people from the devil, as some read the word. But I suppose the apostle means here by evil, evil work; as he speaks, 2 Timothy 4:18: The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work. But whether the evil work of others, or their own? The latter I incline to, for he could not well assure them of the former. But how could he assure them of the latter? Did he think God would keep them from all sin? The apostle doth not mean so, nor say so; God keeps his people from much evil and sin which others fall into, though not from all. And he keeps them from falling under the power of it. Though they may be tempted by Satan, the world, or their own hearts, yet not so as finally to be overcome. However, the more God doth establish his people, the more will they be kept from evil. And the apostle doth also comfort them in this from the consideration of God’s faithfulness. But these promises of God’s keeping us do not exclude our endeavours of keeping ourselves: He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not, 1Jo 5:18. Hence those exhortations: Keep thy heart with all diligence, Proverbs 4:23, and Keep yourselves in the love of God, Judges 1:21, &c. And our keeping is ascribed to our own faith with the power of God, 1 Peter 1:5. But the Lord is faithful,.... Or "God" as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, as do also the Alexandrian and Claromontane copies. This is said for the comfort of the saints, lest they should be discouraged upon hearing that all professors of faith in Christ had it not, who might be ready to take it to themselves, and fear, that either they had it not, or if they had, that they might lose it, and fall from it. Wherefore the apostle observes to them the comfortable attribute of God's faithfulness, which he will not suffer to fail. He has promised many things, and he is faithful that has promised, who also will do them, nor will any good thing he has promised ever fail.

Who shall stablish you: in the doctrines of the Gospel, so as not to be moved away from them, or be finally and totally seduced by those unreasonable and wicked men; and also in the grace of faith, which though it may be weakened, and there may be a falling from a degree of the steadfastness of it, as to its act and exercise, yet it shall never finally and totally fail, he who is the author will be the finisher of it; and likewise in the profession both of the doctrine and grace of faith, which true believers shall hold fast unto the end; for God will not suffer the righteous to be moved, or to depart from him; he has promised them perseverance, and he is faithful to give it to them.

And keep you from evil: from the evil of sin; not from the being and commission of it entirely, which is not to be expected in this life; but from the dominion of it, at least from its reigning unto death, and from the damning power of it: and also from that evil one Satan; from his snares and temptations, so as to be entangled and overcome by them; for God is faithful, who will not suffer his to be tempted beyond their strength, but will enable them to bear it, and make way for their escape, and deliver out of it; and likewise from evil men, unreasonable and wicked men, so as not to be drawn aside by them, by their principles and practices, by their frowns or flatteries.

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from {b} evil.

(b) From Satan's snares, or from evil.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 3:3. A contrast to οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις, with a play upon the word πίστις, and a return to the statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

ὁ κύριος] not a designation of God (Schott, Schrader, Olshausen, and Hilgenfeld, Ztschr. f. wiss. Theol., Halle 1862, p. 261), but of Christ. His faithfulness consists in this, that He, as Protector of the church, watches over the continuance of the faith, and effects its diffusion in spite of all ἄτοποι and πονηροί. Strikingly, Calvin: “Ceterum de aliis magis quam de se anxium fuisse Paulum, ostendunt haec ipsa verba. In eum maligni homines improbitatis suae aculeos dirigebant, in eum totus impetus irruebat: curam interea suam ad Thessalonicenses convertit.”

τοῦ πονηροῦ] is, by Calvin, Musculus, Estius, Piscator, Menochius, Nat. Alexander, Benson, Bengel, Baumgarten, Moldenhauer, Macknight, Olshausen, Hofmann, also Cornelius a Lapide, Er. Schmid, and Beza, though not decidedly held by the latter, understood as masculine, accordingly as a designation of the devil. In itself nothing can be objected against this interpretation, as in Matthew 13:19 and elsewhere frequently in the N. T., also with Paul in Ephesians 6:16, ὁ πονηρός is found in this sense. But here this interpretation is untenable, because ὃς στηρίξει ὑμᾶς καὶ φμλάξει ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ evidently resumes στηρίξαι ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἀγαθῷ, 2 Thessalonians 2:17, and only arranges it positively and negatively. But if τοῦ πονηροῦ corresponds to the negation of the position ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἀγαθῷ, it must be neuter, and denote moral evil generally. But it would be arbitrary to make this neuter equivalent to τῶν πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων, to which Koppe and Flatt give their countenance.3. But the Lord is faithful] In the Greek order, But faithful is the Lord. Man’s want of faith suggests by contrast the faithfulness of our Divine Lord (Faith and Faithfulness are alike denoted by pistis in Greek; as Believing and Faithful—Trusting and Trusty—alike by pistos). Comp., for this contrast, Romans 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:13.

“The Lord” appears to be throughout these Epistles the Lord Christ, Ruler and Defender of His people. Comp. 2 Timothy 4:17, “The Lord stood by me … The Lord shall save me into His heavenly kingdom.” So he continues: who will establish you, and guard you from the Evil One.

On “stablish,” see notes to 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, and ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:17 above. It denotes the settled, steady confidence which this young Church required, assailed by persecution from without and alarms from within.

While the unbelief of men made the Apostle think of the faith-keeping Lord, behind these “evil men” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) he saw another and mightier enemy,—“the Evil One” (R.V.). The Greek adjective may be read either in the neuter (the evil, evil in general), as by A.V. and R.V. margin; or in the masculine, as by the R.V. text. There is the same ambiguity in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, and in the Sacramental Prayer of Jesus (Matthew 6:13; John 17:15); in which instances also the Revisers, rightly as we think, prefer the personal rendering. Both our Lord and the Apostle John, in passages where the termination of the adjective is unequivocal—Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 5:18—point out the Evil One as the enemy of Christ and His people and injurer of their work; and in Ephesians 6:16, while the grammatical form is ambiguous, it is “the Evil One” who shoots “the fire-tipped darts.” So, surely, here; and in the two prayers of Jesus, echoed seemingly in this passage. The conflict of the Church and of the Christian life is not a matter of principles alone and abstract forces; it is a personal encounter, and behind all forces there are living wills. This is the plain teaching of Christ and the New Testament. The Evil One is “the Satan” of ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; and “the Tempter” of 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

“The Lord will guard you;” comp. the words of Jesus in John 17:12, “I guarded them (the disciples), and not one of them perished, except the son of perdition.” Like rescue (2 Thessalonians 3:2), guard is a military word, implying conflict and armed protection: Vulgate, custodiet. Though St Paul began by asking the Thessalonians to pray for him, yet “it is plain that he was more anxious for them than for himself” (Calvin).

Their safety is ensured by the Lord’s fidelity: but it requires their own obedience; and this the Apostle counts upon:—2 Thessalonians 3:3. Πιστὸς δὲ, but faithful) After stating a very distressing fact, he immediately subjoins what may serve as a consolation; so ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. In opposition to the unbelief [want of faith on the part] of men, he praises the faithfulness of the Lord. So 2 Timothy 2:13.—στηρίξει ὑμᾶς, will establish you) although all others may not even receive faith.—ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ) from the wicked one [Engl. Vers. from evil], from Satan; not merely from wicked men, by whom he assails faith.Verse 3. - But; in contrast with the men just mentioned. The Lord is faithful; as if the apostle had said," Man may be faithless, but the Lord is faithful" (see Romans 3:4). "In contrast to the infidelity of man, he praises the fidelity of God" (Bengel). By the Lord, Christ is meant. In the former Epistle, faithfulness is attributed to God (1 Thessalonians 5:24), here to Christ. This faithfulness of Christ consisted in watching over his Church, and in effecting its diffusion in spite of all the opposition of these unreasonable and wicked men. Who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil; or, the evil. The word "evil" may be either masculine or neuter: if masculine, then it denotes "the evil one;" if neuter, then "evil" in general. There is nothing in the word itself to determine its meaning; this must be learned from the context. Most commentators (Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hofmann, Macknight, Ellicott, Eadie, and Bishop Alexander) suppose that the evil one is meant; and it is so rendered in the R.V.: "Guard you from the evil one." But it is better to take the word abstractly "evil" in general, whether evil persons or evil things; as a contrast to "every good word and work" (2 Thessalonians 2:17). So Alford, Lunemann, De Wette, Jowett, Lillie. There is the same difference of opinion with regard to the words in the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us from evil;" or "from the evil one" (R.V.). Here, also, notwithstanding the high authorities on the opposite side, we consider that our Lord's words are not limited to the evil one, but are to be taken generally - "evil" in the widest sense, as being much more forcible. From evil (ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ)

Possibly, from the evil one. Τὸ πονηρόν evil is found Romans 12:9; Matthew 5:39; but general N.T. usage favors the masculine, personal sense. See Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:38; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18. In lxx, τὸ πονηρόν evil is very common: ὁ πονηρὸς a few times, but always of men. See Deuteronomy 24:7; Esther 7:6; Job 21:30. In Tob 3:8, 17, τὸ πονηρόν δαιμόνιον the wicked demon. The masculine is favored by the Jewish formularies, of which traces appear in the Lord's prayer; by the unanimous tradition of Greek interpreters; by the interpretations of Tertullian and Cyprian, and by the evidence of the Syriac and Sahidic Versions.

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