2 Thessalonians 3
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
Section IV. (continued). Ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-51. Finally] See note, 1 Thessalonians 4:1. The chief topic of the letter is disposed of, and the wishes and hopes immediately arising out of it have been expressed. For what remains:—

brethren, pray for us] So in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 (see note): a frequent request with St Paul—addressed to “brethren,” concerned in everything that concerns their Apostle and the Christian cause. Their prayers, desired generally in 1Th, are now to have a more specific object,—viz., that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified (R.V.)

On “the word of the Lord,” see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:8.

This singular metaphor of the running word is probably suggested by Psalm 19:5, where the course of the sun is pictured in glowing poetic language—“rejoicing as a hero to run a race” (2 Thessalonians 3:5), while the latter part of the Psalm sets “the law of the Lord” in comparison with his glorious career. St Paul applies 2 Thessalonians 3:4 of the Psalm in Romans 10:18, with striking effect, to the progress of the Gospel. See also Psalm 147:15, “His word runneth very swiftly.” Through “running” the word is “glorified,” and that is true of it which Virgil writes in his splendid lines on Fama (Aeneid IV. 173 ff.):—

“Mobilitate viget viresque adquirit eundo.”

even as it is with you] Lit., even as also with you. They are to pray that the work of the missionaries may be as successful in Achaia as it was in Macedonia: comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:1. From Thessalonica “the word of the Lord has sounded forth” over all the neighbouring region, and “in every place your faith is gone forth:” might it only be so in Corinth! Reading Acts 18:5-11, we gather that St Paul’s work in the Achaian capital was at first discouraging in its results; and it was during the earlier period of his residence there that he wrote these letters (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8, and notes).

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
2. and (pray) that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men] Better, perverse and evil men. The Apostle is thinking, no doubt, of the fanatical Jews at Corinth (see Acts 18:5-17), who stood in the way of the Gospel; when Gallio’s judgement removed this obstacle, Christianity appears to have spread rapidly in this city. Comp. Romans 15:31, “that I may be delivered from the disobedient in Judæa.” From Ephesus four years later he writes (1 Corinthians 16:9), “A great and effectual door is opened” to me, notwithstanding “many adversaries.” Through this open door the word gloriously ran; at Corinth it was not so as yet.

For “wicked” (or “evil”), see notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:22, and also 2 Thessalonians 3:3 below. For “delivered” (or rescued) comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (note), where the same word is used. It points to enemies who seemed to have the writer in their power. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 for a graphic description of the Apostle’s perils.

for all men have not faith] Or, not to all does the faith belong. There are those, alas, with “no part nor lot in the matter” (Acts 8:21). The Apostle puts his meaning in a pathetically veiled and softened way (see note on “not pleasing,” 1 Thessalonians 2:15). “It is not all who share our faith: many are its enemies, and bear us on its account a deadly hatred. Will you pray that we may be delivered from their power?” Their unbelief in Christ made the Corinthian opposers “perverse and evil.” Not being for Him, they came to be furiously against Him (Matthew 12:30). This is enough, in the Apostle’s view, to explain their conduct; comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

With relief he turns from these perverse unbelievers to think of the safety and confidence that abide within the Church of Christ:—

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
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:—

And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
4. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you] “The Lord” is not, as the English phrase may suggest, the object of this confidence—2 Thessalonians 3:3 declared the Apostle’s trust in Him—but the ground on which rests his confidence in the Thessalonian Church. His relations with them and feelings towards them have the common relationship of both to Christ for their foundation and background, their vital underlying bond; comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 2 Thessalonians 3:12 below. No idiom is more frequent or characteristic of St Paul than this—in the Lord, in Christ. But it is “to you” that his confidence is now directed; the construction of the Greek is identical with that of 2 Corinthians 2:3, “having confidence in you all.” Let us accordingly read here, in the Lord we have confidence in you. Such is the trust that all true Christians should give to each other.

For command read charge, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:2‚ 11 (see notes). The word is taken up again in 2 Thessalonians 3:6. The Apostle seems to have an eye already to the “charge” that he is about to give, which will put to the test his readers’ obedience. The like satisfaction he has repeatedly expressed (ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
5. And (or But) the Lord direct your hearts] “The Lord” is still Christ: see note, 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

“May He direct (or guide) you as Lord of His people, Shepherd of the sheep” (John 10). The Apostle expects his Thessalonian flock to follow his directions (2 Thessalonians 3:4); but above both himself and them is the Supreme Director of hearts, Whose guidance he invokes. For the transitional, contrastive But, comp. notes on ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and 1 Thessalonians 3:11. “Direct your hearts” is a Hebraism, used in the LXX to translate the words rendered “set” or “prepare the heart” in our Version (Psalm 78:8; 1 Chronicles 29:18‚ &c.) It denotes giving a fixed direction, a steady purpose, as to “stablish the heart” (ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:17) signifies to give a sure position. On direct see also 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ] A. V. margin and R.V., patience of Christ. Patience (or endurance) is what the Greek noun signifies in ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (see note), and in the other numerous examples of its use in the N.T. For the way in which “Christ’s endurance” is made a model for our own, see 1 Peter 2:19-24; 1 Peter 3:17-18; 1 Peter 4:1-2, and Hebrews 12:2-3. Elsewhere St Paul speaks of His sufferings as shared by His people (2 Corinthians 1:5; Php 3:10, &c.); and if the sufferings, surely the patience. The Thessalonians were eagerly awaiting His return (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2); let them wait for it in His patient spirit. Had the Apostle wished to speak of waiting for the glorified Christ, he would surely have called Him, as so often in these Epistles, “the Lord Jesus.”

Christ is in this place the patient Christ, who “endured the cross” and the “contradiction of sinners,” fulfilling the prophetic ideal of Jehovah’s suffering Servant, Isaiah 53; comp. 1 Peter 2:21-25; Matthew 11:29-30, &c. The Greek article is therefore not otiose, but has its distinctive and graphic force—Christ as the prophets foresaw Him, and we know Him: the patience of the Christ. Comp. Romans 15:3, “The Christ did not please Himself;” Ephesians 4:20, “You did not so learn (get to know) the Christ,”—the great Ideal. We wish that the Revisers had seen their way to restore to us the expressive definite article in such passages.

To “love God” was the Lord’s “great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38); it is the soul of religion (see Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 8:1-3; and 1 John, passim). “God our Father has loved” the Thessalonian believers (ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:16); Christ must teach them to reciprocate the Divine love, and in the strength of this love to endure evil and sorrow even as He Himself endured.

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 he received of us.
6. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ] Or, But we charge you, brethren. See note, 2 Thessalonians 3:4.

St Paul has declared his confidence that the readers will do what he enjoins. Well! his injunction is this: that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly. It is uttered “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”—a solemn judicial sentence (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5) pronounced by the Apostle who acts as judge in his Sovereign’s name, and with the deepest sense of his responsibility; similarly, “through the Lord Jesus” in 1 Thessalonians 4:2 (see note).

He does not wish these troublesome persons to be expelled; nor does he invoke supernatural penalties upon them, as in the vastly worse case of discipline at Corinth; he directs the loyal Thessalonians not to associate with them, nor lend countenance in any way to their proceedings. On “walk,” see note to 1 Thessalonians 2:12; and on “disorderly,” 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

The rule of order or disorder in the case in question is thus laid down: and not after the tradition which they received of us (R.V.).

They received” is the older reading, referring to the class of persons just described as “every brother walking disorderly.” This slight grammatical discord the ancient copyists corrected, some by writing “ye received” (R.V. margin), and others “he received” (A.V.).

On tradition (or instruction), see note to ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The nature of Paul’s “tradition” at Thessalonica on Christian behaviour may be gathered from the verses that follow, and from 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24. It consisted of example equally with precept:—

Section V. Discipline for the Disorderly

Ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15In his former letter St Paul had found it needful to exhort his readers to live a quiet life and to attend to their daily duties and pursuits. Some members of the Church were of an idle and improvident disposition. The Day of the Lord, they supposed, was imminent, and worldly occupations would therefore soon be at am end; the only business worth minding any longer, so they said, was to prepare for His coming. Their conduct was likely to bring discredit on the whole community; and they did it a material injury, by throwing the burden of their maintenance on their hard working and charitable brethren (see notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). These men were “the disorderly” of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8 below); they gave trouble to the officers of the Church, whom the Apostle in the First Epistle urges the Thessalonians loyally to support (ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:12), while they united to “admonish” the offenders. This evil, which should have been checked by the reproofs of the first letter, had grown to larger proportions. The startling announcements that were made respecting the Second Advent, tended to aggravate the mischief. Indeed these rumours so unhinged the minds of some of the Thessalonian Christians, that it must have been difficult for them, however diligently inclined, to pursue their common avocations. And the Apostle, having calmed the agitation of his readers by what he has written in the second chapter, proceeds now in strong terms to rebuke the disorder which had thus been unhappily fostered and stimulated.

The chief points in St Paul’s charge on this subject are the following:—(1) First, and last, he enjoins the avoidance of those who persist in disorder, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (whom notwithstanding he still, and pointedly, calls “brethren,” 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:15); (2) he recalls his personal example and teaching in their bearing on this matter, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10; and (3) he solemnly charges the offenders to amend, 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
7. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us] Lit., imitate us: see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:6; and again, ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:14, and 2 Thessalonians 3:9 below. you know of yourselves—“without our needing to tell it all again.” Such references are frequent in these Epistles; see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:1.

How you ought to imitate us” points beyond the mere duty to the spirit and manner of the imitation desired—“with what diligence and devotion.”

for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you] This “for” differs from that at the beginning of the verse; it is a specifying for—giving not a reason for what has just been said, but a definition of its meaning: in that we did not play a disorderly part among you. The readers’ attention is called to this feature of the missionaries’ conduct, and imitation is recommended. There is a meiosis (or litotes) in the expression, resembling that of 2 Thessalonians 3:2, and of 1 Thessalonians 2:15 (see notes). “Far indeed was our walk from giving an example of disorder!” How far, the next line shows.

To-be-disorderly (a single verb in the Greek) is a word applied to soldiers out of rank. Officers in the army are as much subject to its discipline as the rank and file; and the Apostle Paul felt it to be due to the Churches over which he presided, that he should set an example of a strictly ordered and self-denying life.

Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
8. neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought] This clause follows up and makes application of the last, showing by contrast in what lay the chief complaint against the “brethren walking disorderly.” They would not work for their bread, and seemingly expected the Church to support them. The Church officers very properly resisted this demand, telling them to return to their occupations; so the Apostle himself had directed in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. This some of them refused to do; and they went up and down (2 Thessalonians 3:11) retailing their supposed grievances, allying themselves with the false prophets of the Parousia, and making all kinds of mischief. Such is the picture of this unruly faction that we draw from the two Epistles. The fraternal spirit of the Primitive Church and the readiness of its members to put their goods at the common service (see Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35) were thus abused by idlers and fanatics—qualities not unfrequently united—by men impatient of the monotony of daily toil, and who found in spiritual excitement at once a diversion from irksome duty and an excuse for its neglect.

To correct this morbid tendency was one reason of many for which the Apostle practised manual labour. He tries to make these ill-conducted men feel by his own example the disgrace of living, without an effort, at the cost of others: neither did we eat bread for nought at any man’s hand (R.V.) There was a manly pride about St Paul in this matter. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:9-10, and 1 Corinthians 9:15 : “No man shall stop me of this glorying.”—“To eat bread” is a Hebraistic synonym for receive maintenance; comp. 2 Samuel 9:7.

but wrought with labour and travail night and day] Rather, but in labour and travail, night and day working (R.V.). Here are two clauses, the former standing in opposition to the foregoing sentence: “It was not for nought that we ate our bread, but in labour and travail;” then he continues, “working night and day.” Dearly, and with hard labour did St Paul and his comrades earn their daily bread. The Thessalonians had seen him at his task. For the particular words of this clause see 1 Thessalonians 2:9, which it repeats almost identically.

that we might not be chargeable to any of you] More lit., that we might not put a burden on any of you. Comp. again 1 Thessalonians 2:9.

“The disorderly,” without any right, were leaning heavily on their brethren and taxing their charity; the orderly apostles, with every right to do so, had never charged them anything.

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
9. not because we have not power] Better, have not the right (moral power, authority)—viz., “to lay the charge of our maintenance upon the Church;” see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:6. In the other Epistle St Paul refers to this matter in order to prove his earnest care for the Thessalonian Church; but here, for the sake of making his behaviour an example to them. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 11:1; and Acts 20:34-35; compare with 2 Corinthians 12:14-15.

but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, &c.] Or, more freely rendered: to furnish you with an example in ourselves, so that you might imitate us. The apostles sacrificed their own rights and comfort for the benefit of the Thessalonians (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:8, also 2 Thessalonians 1:5), wishing to supply them with the kind of example most suitable for their imitation; and we learnt from 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7, that this purpose had in most respects been realised.

On example (or pattern), see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:7; and on imitate (follow, A.V.), 1 Thessalonians 1:6, and 2 Thessalonians 3:7 above.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
10. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you] Better, For also: St Paul’s present charge on the subject repeats and reinforces what he said in his oral teaching; this we used to charge you—same verb as in 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (see note), and same tense as in ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:5 (“I was wont to tell you”), and 1 Thessalonians 3:4 (see note). To this original “charge” the Apostle referred in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, touching the same point; it formed part of “the tradition” which he and his fellow-missionaries “delivered” to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:6, ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

that if any would not work, neither should he eat] In the Greek this is put vividly in direct narration: If any will not work, neither let him eat. A stem, but necessary and merciful rule, the neglect of which makes charity demoralising. But this law of St Paul’s touches the idle rich, as well as the poor; it makes that a discredit which one hears spoken of as if it were a privilege and the mark of a gentleman,—to “live upon one’s means,” to live without settled occupation and service to the community—“natus consumere fruges.”

The form of the Greek implies in this case a positive refusal to labour: the man wont work (Latin nonvult operari). Then it is God’s law that he shall starve.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
11. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly] Rather, we hear of some walking, &c. It was not simply that the Apostle heard that there were such people at Thessalonica; he knew about them,—who they were, and how they were behaving. Further news had come since he wrote the First Epistle, in which he touched briefly, in mild and general terms, upon the subject (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). Now he is compelled to single out the offenders and to address them with pointed censure. For similar allusions to reports from a distant Church, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 10:18.

He writes, “some which walk among you disorderly” (not “some among you which walk,” &c.), which implies that their public conduct and relations with the rest of the Church were irregular.

On “walk disorderly,” see note to 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

This disorder was not merely negative, consisting in refusal to work: mischief and idleness are proverbially companions; and we are not surprised to find the Apostle adding the further condemnation, that work not at all, but are busybodies (R.V.).

There is a play of words in the Greek, which gives to this reproach a keener edge, whose one business is to be busybodies; or rendered still more freely, minding everybody’s business but their own,—idly busy with the concerns of others. These mischief-makers the Apostle had already bidden to “study to be quiet and to do their own work” (1 Thessalonians 4:11); comp. the extended note on 2 Thessalonians 3:8 above. For the same disposition St Paul in 1 Timothy 5:13 reproves certain “younger widows”—“not only idlers, but tattlers also and busybodies.”

For similar examples of paronomasia in St Paul, see 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (“faith … faithful”), Romans 1:20 (“The unseen … clearly seen”); Introd. p. 33.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
12. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ] The “exhort” of the first Epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:10) is now charge and exhort, put with a new tone of sternness.

Not by but in the Lord Jesus Christ (R.V.); on this phrase—both as to the preposition, and the triple name—see notes to 2 Thessalonians 3:4-5 above, also 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 (p. 47). The appeal assumes a character of the most grave urgency.

These idle meddlers, a burden and scandal to the Church, the Apostle “charges, and appeals” to them, on the ground of their relationship to Christ and with all the weight of Christ’s authority committed to him, that working with quietness, they eat their own bread—not the bread of their honest and laborious brethren. See notes to 2 Thessalonians 3:8, and 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

In the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (ch. 1), probably the oldest Post-Apostolic writing extant, there is a remarkable warning addressed both to givers and receivers of alms, which illustrates this passage: “Blessed is he that giveth according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him that takes! For if indeed one takes out of necessity, he will be guiltless; but he who takes without need shall give account why he took, and for what purpose; and thrown into prison he will be examined respecting his conduct, and will not come out thence until he has paid the uttermost farthing. Moreover, concerning this matter it has been said: Let thine alms sweat into thy hands, until thou knowest to whom thou shouldst give.”

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
13. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing] From this do-nothing, or ill-doing fraction of the Church the Apostle turns to the rest, who were busy in “well-doing,” and bids them persevere. Comp. ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:17, and note; also 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10, for the diligent and honourable character which in the main this Church bore.

The pronoun bears marked emphasis: But as for you, brethren,—in contrast with “them that are such,” 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

On “well-doing,” see note to 1 Thessalonians 5:21. The word rendered “well” here is “good” there; it implies a fine quality of action.

The Greek verb for “be not weary” appears in other passages (e.g. Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9) as “faint not,” and signifies failure of courage rather than of strength: do not falter in well-doing; comp. notes on “stablish your hearts,” ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:17 and 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Perhaps the Apostle’s rebuke of “busy-bodies” and commendation of “quietness” might have damped the ardour of some whose activity was praiseworthy, had it remained unqualified. The misconduct of the unruly was of a kind to disappoint and grieve all zealous friends of the Church.

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
14. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle] More strictly, But if any one obeys not, &c. As the writer passes, by a contrasting But in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, from the disorderly fraction to the well-conducted majority of the Church, so he returns again from the latter to the former, in order to give his final directions concerning them. “Obeys not” (indicative): the Apostle is not providing for a contingency, but dealing with the existing case. The matter is put, according to the Greek epistolary idiom, from the standpoint of the readers. The letter has been read to the assembled Church; the disorderly have received the Apostle’s message; some acknowledge their fault, and submit; others—one or more—are still refractory; and he tells the Church how it must now proceed.

“Our word through the Epistle,”—i.e. what we say by this letter. Word and Epistle were distinguished in ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15, here identified; the letter has the force and authority of the writer’s spoken word (see note on ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

note that man, and have no company with him] Better reading: note that man, that ye have no company with him (R.V.); i.e., “mark him as a man with whom you are not to associate,”—literally, not to be mixed up with him: comp. the use of the same verb in 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11. The “noting,” one imagines, would be effected by publicly naming the culprit in the Church as one disobedient to the Apostle’s command.

This “mark” set on the obstinate breaker of rule is intended for his good—to the end that he may be ashamed (R.V.), or abashed. This is all the punishment desired for him. If shame is awakened in him, when he finds himself condemned by the general sentiment and left alone, this may be the beginning of amendment. Compare the directions given in the extreme case of offence at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 2:6-8. The door for repentance is left wide open.

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
15. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother] Lit., And do not regard him as an enemy, &c. The R.V. retains “yet” in italics (“And yet”); but the contrast thus implied is not in St Paul’s thought, any more than in his language. The measure which he directs to be taken in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 is a saving measure, designed to bring the intractable man to a better mind—“that be may be ashamed.” Hence there must be no unkind feeling towards him, no bitter expression. This would provoke him to sullenness instead of shame, defeating the Apostle’s purpose. In its sympathy with St Paul the assembly might easily be stirred, on reading this letter, to some hostile demonstration that would cause a decisive rupture; this he deprecates.

The instruction of 2 Thessalonians 3:6 was general in its terms, and would apply to any sort of disorder; so the direction of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Admonish the unruly.” Those two injunctions are here combined, and enforced in this specific instance. For in such a case the disorder takes the form of open and avowed disobedience to the Apostle, such as the Church is bound to deal with publicly and to put an end to. But even now expulsion is not so much as named.

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
Conclusion of the Letter. Ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:16-1816. Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means] Lit., But may the Lord, &c.; for there is a contrast between the directions just given and the peace for which the Apostle prays. Peace was disturbed by an irritating kind of disorder in the Church, by wild rumours and alarms respecting the Parousia (ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2), as well as by the unrelenting persecution from without. St Paul has done his best to tranquillize his readers’ minds, and bring them all to a sober and orderly condition. But he looks to “the Lord of peace Himself” to shed on them His all-controlling and all-reconciling influence. Christ is invoked as the Lord of peace (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:5), just as God was called “the God of peace” in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (see note; and on the import of “peace” in St Paul, note to 1 Thessalonians 1:1). Christ is Lord and Disposer of the peace which the Gospel brings (comp. Colossians 3:15, R.V.). This St Paul asks, first (ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:2) and last, for the troubled and harassed Thessalonians.

“Always” represents a different Greek adverb from that so often used in these letters (1 Thessalonians 1:2, &c.); it denotes not on every occasion, but through all,—“continually,” as the same adverb is rendered in Luke 24:53, Hebrews 13:15 : the Lord … give you peace at all times in all ways (R.V.).

Nor is it the Lord’s sovereign peace alone, but the Lord Himself, in His personal presence and authority (comp. Matthew 28:18; Matthew 28:20), Whom the Apostle invokes. The Lord be with you all, as in 2 Thessalonians 3:18,—not excluding the “brother walking disorderly,” who even more than others needs the presence of the Lord and the virtue of His peace. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:24, 2 Corinthians 13:14, where the “all” of the Benediction has a like pointed significance; also note on 1 Thessalonians 5:27.

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
17. The salutation of Paul with mine own hand] Lit., The salutation with my own hand—of PAUL. In the last word the Apostle’s formal signature is attached. Pen in hand, he adds the brief concluding sentences to the letter, lying now all but complete before him.

The Apostle commonly employed one of his helpers as amanuensis. “I Tertius, who wrote this letter,” e.g., in Romans 16:22; comp. Galatians 6:11, Philemon 1:19, where he notifies his writing sua manu. But it was needful that he should sign his name, with a few words of greeting written by himself, in order to authenticate the Epistle. In other Epistles we find the autograph conclusion without the final signature, which was not usual in ancient letters. There is no reference of this kind at the close of his First Epistle; but since that time his written authority had been alleged for statements he had never made (ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:2). He is careful to guard against this possibility in writing to Thessalonica a second time. He calls attention, as he pens this attestation, to his handwriting, and gives notice that no document bearing his name will be genuine without this seal: which is the token in every epistle (“Paul’s mark,” as one might say)—thus I write.

There was something peculiar and noticeable in the Apostle’s penmanship, which could not he mistaken. Some infer from Galatians 6:11 that St Paul’s script was distinguished by its large and bold appearance; but it may be that he used large characters in that passage for the sake of emphasis. Further allusions to the autograph conclusion are found in 1 Corinthians 16:21, and Colossians 4:18.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all] This sealing Benediction is identical with that of 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (see note), and is repeated in Romans 16:20, and Revelation 22:21. Only the Apostle adds here, as in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (see note), the “all” which is fitting where some had been objects of censure.

The Amen of the Received Text is absent in the oldest copies; comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:28.

On the subscription, see note in 1 Epistle, and Introd. p. 27.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

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