2 Thessalonians 3
Sermon Bible
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

2 Thessalonians 3:2

I. It was, no doubt, with surprise and regret that Paul wrote these words, as it is with surprise and regret that any Christian recognises how vast a multitude of men have not faith. In considering the causes which prevent men from coming to Christ and believing in Him he must divide them into two great classes, those who have never felt any desire to enter into fellowship with Christ, and those who have had some desire, but have stumbled at some difficulty. First of all, there are those who have never felt any desire whatever for the salvation that is in Christ, and that is because they have never felt the degradation and defilement of sin, and their helplessness under the defilement and degradation; or they have never felt the attractiveness of holiness. They may, unconsciously, admire goodness, they may admire truth, and courage, and honour, and love, but they never connected the idea of holiness with these virtues. There is no other way, no other way even proposed, whereby a man may reach maturity and manhood than by becoming a Christian. Without Christ a man may reach a very great deal, but he cannot reach all. The man who is not a Christian, who has no connection with those things which we reach in Christ, is a man only in an imperfect sense of the word, it is only by courtesy that he can be called a man. He is by no means like the person that he is yet to become in Christ. But then, until he himself is smitten with the love of holiness, until the beauty of holiness and union with God stands before him as it is shown us in Christ and wins his heart, or until, on the other hand, providential circumstances and the Spirit of God open up to him the deep degradation and defilement of sin, he is not likely to own that Christ is anything that he needs.

II. Closely allied to this great preliminary obstacle is the misconception which looks upon religion as concerned solely about the life to come, and as not likely to bring in considerable light or strength into our present concerns. Many persons deliberately put aside religion, believing that it would interfere with legitimate pursuits, waste their energies, and introduce gloom and constraint into their life. The professed secularist and the practical secularist each says to himself, "I have occupations and duties now that require all my strength, and if there is another world the best preparation for it that I can make is to do thoroughly, and with all my strength, the duties now pressing upon me." Most of us have felt the attraction of this position. It has a sound of candid, manly common-sense. It appeals to the Anglo-Saxon within us, and to our esteem for what is practical, and has its foot upon the solid earth. Moreover, it is directly true that the very best preparation, the only preparation, for any future world is to do thoroughly well the duties of the present. Of course that is so. But the whole question remains: What are the duties of the present? Can we determine what these duties are until we determine whether the proclamation made by Christ is true or false? If there is a God, it is not in the future only that we have to do with Him, but now. All our duties must be tinged with the idea of this sovereign purpose and of God's relation to us. To defer all consideration of God is simply impossible. God is as much in this world as in any world; and if so, our whole life in every part of it must be a godly not a secular life—a life we live well and can only live well in true fellowship with God. A mind that can divide life into duties of the present and duties of the future, really does not understand what life is, and entirely misapprehends what Christianity is.

III. Turning to the other great class of men, we find that many are really willing; their thoughts are always turning towards Christ and His religion; and yet they are continually held back by some misconception of the way in which a fellowship with Him is formed, or some other misconception. One of these misconceptions is the not unnatural, nor altogether unworthy idea that some preparation for coming to Christ is necessary—a deeper conviction, a firmer assurance of continuing in His service, or, perhaps, more feeling is thought to be required. This is a very common state of mind; because it is difficult for any man among us to grasp once for all the idea that Christ has been sent into this world to save us from every kind of evil, and especially from every kind of spiritual faultiness. Uniformly Christ offers Himself to men as they are; He offers the one effectual remedy for our whole condition, whatever it is. And until we accept the remedy that is in Him, we cannot expect to have any more trustworthy repentance or sincere and powerful purpose of amendment. Waiting does no good. To abstain from seeking His help while we strive to make ourselves more worthy of His society, is simply to propose to do the very hardest part of our salvation ourselves. If you are not penitent, Christ is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to bestow repentance. If you are not penitent, you are not very likely to become so anywhere else than at the foot of the cross. It is there that men learn what sin is. If you have no real pain on account of your severance from God, no sorrow that you have preferred your own will to His, no keen thirst for reconcilement to Him, surely this is only what may be expected until we see God and know His love in Christ. This spiritual deadness, which can neither see nor feel as it ought, this is by far the most serious element in our sinful condition; and if without Christ you could save yourself from this, then there is positively nothing else for which you need His aid—nothing at all. The insensibility you are conscious of, your surprising indifference to the spiritual aspect of things, your unconcern about pleasing God, or even about being at peace with God—all this is precisely what identifies you as the person who needed just the revelation of sin and of holiness that Christ made, and just that help of being delivered from sin that Christ offered you. If, then, any one has been delaying to accept Christ, on the understanding that before doing so he must pass through some preliminary and preparatory process, he should recognise that this is a mistake. No preparation is required. What Christ offers He offers freely; He offers to all, He offers on the spot. The preparation for salvation is sin, as danger is the preparation for rescue.

M. Dods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii., p. 64.

References: 2 Thessalonians 3:2.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 98; Homilist, vol. v., p. 217.

2 Thessalonians 3:5The Heart's Home and Guide.

I. The home of the heart. "The Lord direct you into the love of God and the patience of Christ." The Apostle gathers up the whole sum of his desires for his friends, and presents to us the whole aim of our efforts for ourselves, in these two things: a steadfast love to God, and a calm endurance of evil, and persistence in duty, unaffected by suffering or by pain. If we have these two, we shall not be far from being what God wishes to see us. Now the Apostle's thought here of "leading us into" these two, seems to suggest the metaphor of a great home with two chambers in it, of which the inner was entered from the outer. The first room is "the love of God," and the second is "the patience of Christ." It comes to the same thing, whether we speak of the heart as dwelling in love, or of love as dwelling in the heart. The metaphor varies; the substance of the thought is the same; and that thought is, that the heart should be the sphere and subject of a steadfast, habitual, all-pleasing love, which issues in unbroken calmness of endurance, and persistence of service, in the face of evil. Passive and active patience is the direct fruit of love to God. The one chamber opens into the other. For they whose hearts dwell in the sweet sanctities of the love of God, will ever be those who say, with a calm smile, as they put out their hand to the bitterest draught, "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"

II. Notice the Guide of the heart to its home. "The Lord direct you." We have here a distinct address to Jesus Christ as Divine, and the Hearer of prayer. The Apostle evidently expects a present personal influence from Christ to be exerted upon men's hearts. All those movements in our hearts, so often neglected, so often resisted, by which we are compelled to a holier life, to a deeper love, to a more unworldly consecration,—all these, rightly understood, are Christ's directions. He leads us, though often we do not not know the hand that guides; and every Christian may be sure of this—and he is sinful if he does not live up to the height of his privileges—that the ancient promises are more than fulfilled in his experience, and that he has a present Christ, an indwelling Christ, who will be his Shepherd, and lead him by green pastures and still waters sometimes, and through valleys of darkness and rough defiles sometimes, but always with the purpose of bringing him nearer and nearer to the full possession of the love of God and the patience of Christ.

III. Notice the heart's yielding to its Guide. If this was Paul's prayer for his converts, it should be our aim for ourselves. Christ is ready to direct our hearts, if we will let Him. All depends on our yielding to that sweet direction, loving as that of a mother's hand on her child's shoulder.

A. Maclaren, Paul's Prayers, p. 25.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18I. In this passage the Apostle teaches the Thessalonians that in tranquillity, sedateness of heart and life, they are severally, not only to work, but to do their own work, and so have need of no man. Thus the bread which is their own will be doubly sweet to them. If we revert to the military metaphor which underlies the word "disorderly," and may also underlie the word "withdraw," we may place another saying of the Apostle into connection with these injunctions. "Every man shall bear his own burden,"—his own proper and personal load. The word is used to signify a soldier's kit or knapsack. In Christian warfare, then, each faithful soldier must see that he has his own weight, and that he does not encumber another with it, or take up another's instead of his own. All acts of this kind are a walking disorderly.

II. Believers then have daily work to do; not only Christian work, but all work done in a Christian spirit. The record of their days must never be like that said to have been found in the diary of Louis XVI., after the first French Revolution, the simple word occurring on almost every page, "Nothing, nothing!" Time rather must be redeemed, not wasted.

III. "But ye, brethren, be not weary in welldoing." The Apostle exhorts them not to lose heart, not to faint as cowards, in doing whatever is honourable and good—all actions which are fair in themselves and blissful in their results. An implied commendation is in the injunction. They are even now engaged in welldoing, and they are urged, by perseverance therein, to show forth "the patience of Christ." There is to be well doing in the widest sense of the word. Surveying the huge circumference of human love, Christ's people are never to faint in the work of leaving the world better than they found it. "In due season we shall reap if we faint not."

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 322.

Reference: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 81.

2 Thessalonians 3:13Perseverance.

I. There is a very great inclination in certain stages of society, and certain periods of our life, to feel a kind of contempt for perseverance. Mere patient labour is thought but meanly of for the most part; we give it all sorts of bad names. We sneer at a plodder. We are inclined to fancy when we start in life that great talent—that indefinable power which we call genius—will be sure to bear all before it, and must carry the world by storm. By-and-by we get to find that the world is very much larger than we fancied, and that there is a great deal of talent, nay, a great many geniuses in it, and that eminence is not to be obtained at a bound, but only by long and patient climbing.

II. Even in religion and in the building up of a Christian character, it is perseverance that is of the most vital and essential importance; and that, indeed, without a persevering continuance in the painful practice of what our conscience sanctions and commands, there can be no real godliness, no true religion. If there be one thing more than another which marks the man of genius, it is his courageous steadfastness. They say that the tiger, once baulked in its first spring, will not again renew the charge, but skulks back into the jungle cowed and ashamed. We know that it is ever so with the craven spirits in the world: the first check or discouragement crushes them; they have no heart to recover from a fall. God asks for patience in welldoing; He will have long trial of His wisdom and truth; but they who trust in Him shall not lose their reward.

A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p, 75.

References: 2 Thessalonians 3:13.—W. Walters, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 136; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 95.

2 Thessalonians 3:16The Lord of Peace, and the Peace of the Lord.

I. The deepest longing of every human heart is for peace. There are many ways in which the supreme good may be represented, but, perhaps, none of them is so lovely, and exercises such universal fascination of attraction as that which presents it in the form of rest. It is an eloquent testimony to the unrest which tortures every heart, that the promise of peace should to all seem so fair. Rest which is not apathy, rest which is not indolence, rest which is contemporaneous with, and the consequence of, the full wholesome activity of the whole nature in its legitimate directions, that is the thing that we are all longing for. The sea is not stagnant though it be calm; there will be the slow heave of the calm billow, and the wavelets may sparkle in the sunlight, though they be still from all the winds that rave. We want, most of all, peace in our inmost hearts.

II. The Lord of Peace Himself is the only Giver of peace. Christ is the "Lord of Peace" because that tranquillity of heart and spirit, that unruffled calm, which we all see from afar and long to possess, was verily His, in His manhood, during all the calamities and changes and activities of His earthly life. He sorrowed; He wept; He wondered; He was angry; He pitied; He loved; and yet all these were perfectly consistent with the unruffled calm that marked His whole career. So peace is not stolid indifference. Nor is it to be found in the avoidance of difficult duties, or the cowardly shirking of sacrifices and pains and struggles; but, rather, it is "peace subsisting at the heart of endless agitation," of which the great example stands in Him who was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, and who yet in it all was the Lord of Peace.

III. The peace of the Lord of Peace is perfect. "Give you peace always." That points to perpetual, unbroken duration in time, and through all changing circumstances, which might threaten a less stable and deeply-rooted tranquillity. Christ's peace is perpetual and multiform, unbroken, and presenting itself in all the aspects in which tranquillity is possible for a human spirit.

IV. The Lord of Peace gives it by giving His own presence. When He is in the vessel the waves calm themselves. So, if we are conscious of breaches of our restfulness, interruptions of our tranquillity, by reason of surging, impatient passions and hot desires within ourselves, or by reason of the pressure of outward circumstances, or by reason of our having fallen beneath our consciences and done wrong things, let us understand that the breaches of our peace are not owing to Him, but only to our having let go His hand. It is our own fault if we are ever troubled; if we kept close to Him, we should not be. Keep inside the fortress, and nothing will disturb.

A. Maclaren, Paul's Prayers, p. 37.

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
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.
For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
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:
Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
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.
Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
William Robertson Nicoll's Sermon Bible

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