Category Archives: 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Working it all out

“As for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13


Paul’s brief letter is coming to an end. It has been a positive letter toward the Thessalonians, referring to them as brothers and sisters and showing gratitude to God for the work that he is clearly doing in the church there. He has reassured them that they will not miss the Lord’s coming and that while they wait, they ought to pray for one another to stand firm in the gospel. The Thessalonian Christians are not regarded as wicked or evil people but as people who honoured the Lord’s message when it came to them.



  • 3:6-10 No idle matter
  • 3:11-13 Stop it
  • 3:14-15 Stretching the friendship
  • 16-18 Grace and peace

3:6-13 No idle matter

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (also in verse 12) Paul uses a strong phrase here to underscore what he is about to say. It seems over the top to invoke the highest authority to discuss idleness just as it seems over the top to conclude his letter with this subject. Perhaps in a letter that is aimed at reassuring believers of the second coming and of assurance in the faith that it is right to conclude with how to live our lives now. Paul doesn’t need to use this phrase if we believe that ‘all scripture is God breathed’ (2Tim3:16) but it works to draw attention to this as a matter of high concern. It lets us know that what he is addressing is a serious matter. We ought to listen carefully to what he says.

“…keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive…” Here is the command put plainly. Paul is writing to the church about members of the church. They may be true believers but, as it seems Paul believes, they might only be believers by association. Time will tell. Verses 11-13 instruct idle believers to stop being idle and verses 14-15 instruct believers to remove themselves from idle ‘believers’ who are not ready to obey. The logic of the passage is that those who are for the Lord will do good. A part of loving your neighbour is to live a productive life rather than idle. Conversely, an idle and disruptive life is not a sign of conversion.

“…according to the teaching you received from us.” This refers to the way of life that Paul and his company demonstrated and which he goes on now to outline.

“…we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” Here is the Christian work ethic. When there is work to do, the Christian gets on with it. Remember that the creation account placed mankind in the world to work it. While looking after others is a Christian mandate, it also follows that Christians ought to be ready to work for themselves and others. To be in the position of idleness as a chosen state is to deny the created order and the nature of God.

“…as a model for you to imitate.” Even Paul, when given the choice, will choose to work. His strategy in mission was for his home church to provide resources or else he would earn his own wage while preaching the gospel. He avoided receiving financial help from the communities he was bringing the gospel to.

“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Take note of the qualifying word ‘unwilling.’ Paul is not lashing out at underprivileged people but at slackers. And so the proverb goes ‘The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on.’ (Prov 16:26)

3:11-13 Stop it

“We hear that some of you are idle and disruptive…not busy; they are busybodies” Where or how Paul heard this is a mystery but we hear that this is his second reason for writing to the church (the first was concerning the 2nd coming). The ESV reads, “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” The NET reads, “For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others.” The NIV, the ESV and the NET all bring out the play on the word ‘work’. Disruptive, meddling busybodies. No wonder Paul is concerned. It is not just that they are not earning their own wage but they are wasting their time hindering others. Just as Paul asked for the gospel to spread rapidly and unhindered (3:1) he prays that the church community be unhindered by idle folk also. See 1 Timothy 5:13 “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.”

“…settle down and earn the food they eat.” Just stop it. The rebuke is to stop being idle and put your life into good use. The objective is stated in verse 13: never tire of doing what is good. We may think that Paul is being an old fuddy-duddy but he is bringing out the elementary goal of life – to love the Lord and be as God created you to be.

14-15 Stretching the friendship

“Take special note of anyone who does not obey…” Paul is addressing all who do plan to listen to his instructions.

“Do not associate with them…that they may feel ashamed…yet not an enemy…but as a fellow believer.” A very revealing verse when it comes to church dynamics. In the purest form, the church is the gathering of all who honour the gospel of the Lord. Anyone who does not is not part of the true body of Christ. But the gatherings may include folk who wish to believe or think they believe or simply like the environment. That is, there are people who gather with the church of God who are not truly or spiritually part of the church of God because they have not truly received Christ as Lord and Saviour. The problem is that we cannot see plainly who that is.

So Paul says here that there is wisdom in treating all in the church as a believer but be sure to let them know that they need to change in accordance with the gospel. (See also Romans 16:17; 1 Thess 5:14; 1 Cor 5:11). Give them your arm of friendship (not an enemy) but steer them clearly back on track like a brother.

Paul is clearly not talking about ex-communication. The take home here is to voice disapproval for the sake of the church (do disarm meddlers) and for the sake of the idle to teach them the gospel way.

16-18 Grace and peace

Paul signs off with the tone that he opened the letter with. Peace is blessed on them from the true source of peace and grace is left with them – unmerited favour which speaks volumes of the Christian community. Paul also literally signs his name to assure them that this is an authentic letter. It’s unclear if Paul is referring only to verse 17 or the whole letter but either way, Paul wants them to recognise his letters compared to others (see 2:2).


Work together as gospel partners. Firstly, do all you can to earn a living since that is the order of life – if you don’t work you don’t eat and loving your neighbour includes working your share. Secondly, warn a so-called brother or sister who appears to be wasting their time and others. We may actually fail when we choose to carry others rather than rebuke or correct. Better to correct an idle person than to have them wear others down. The Christian community ought to be seen as living by grace and eager to do good.


  • Given that the problem Paul describes is about disruptive busy bodies, what equivalent would we have in our church community today? NB: remember to love one another in this response especially those not in the room!
  • “…that they may feel ashamed” says verse 14. How is this an act of love or doing good? What countercultural practice is 2 Thessalonians teaching us and how should we be wise in the area of rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness?
  • Is 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 instructing us to be workaholics? Why or why not? Perhaps consider what Paul’s primary agenda was when he was so busy working (compare 3:1 with 3:8-9)

Prayer of the Week

Our Father in heaven, thank you for life and health and safety, for the pleasure to work and the leisure to rest. May we participate in this life as you have planned us to by keeping ourselves engaged in life for the good of others while we wait for Jesus Christ our Lord to return. Amen.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Partnership in prayer

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5


Paul has commenced the letter to the Thessalonians with great encouraging words about their progress in the gospel and he then prayed for their continued faith in the Lord. In chapter 2, he assured them not to be distressed by the current state of affairs but remember that Jesus is Lord and his second coming will not go unmissed. He prayed for them again that they would be encouraged and stand firm in the faith. Paul’s’ concern has been for the Thessalonians to not waver from the message that they received from Paul about the gospel and to make that their comfort and their strength.



  • 1-2 Pray for Paul and co.
  • 3-4 Trust the Lord
  • 5 Prayer for them

1-2 Pray for Paul and co.

“Finally, pray for us” Paul has more to say in the letter but this ‘finally’ (ESV) signals that he has covered the main concern and purpose of his letter. He has prayed for them and prays for them always (1:11). Now he looks for reciprical love. He has been calling them brothers (and sisters) throughout the letter (1:3, 2:1, 2:13) and this emphasises the equality which he views between him and the Thessalonian converts.

“…that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly…” Above health and safety comes the priority for the gospel message to be spread. It is a general prayer in that he doesn’t pray for a particular town or region or person. Yet it is specific because it is about the only message that saves continuing to spread. Again, this is a prayer which calls on God to fulfill his plans and promises. Jesus said that the gospel must go out to the ends of the earth. This reminds us to focus our prayers on the things which God has taught us to pray for. Prayer is calling on the Lord to do his will.

It’s also a specific prayer in that it is for Paul and his partners to be freed to take the gospel far without delay.

“…that the message of the Lord…be honoured, just as it was with you.” Paul is asking for the gospel to find happy recipients. This is the positive side of the prayer. As if to say, if it is God’s will, we desire to take the gospel straight to those who will receive it well and believe without experiencing delay from those who will only reject it anyway. Paul is hoping that Thessalonians will want others to receive the gospel just as they have. That leads us to the other side of the prayer…

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people…” The word delivered is related to ‘saved’. Paul desires to avoid hangups from people who only wish to cause trouble. Paul is realistic, though, and knows from experience that there will be wicked and evil people that need to be held back through prayer.

“For not everyone has faith.” Nor will everyone believe the gospel. Jesus said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matt 7:13). He also said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:23). But…some people will have faith!

3-4 Trust the Lord

“But the Lord is faithful…” Although many will not have faith to trust God, the Thessalonians have no reason to. God is faithful. He does not save through the gospel only to give up on those he has called. So, trust the Lord.

“…he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” Now the promise here is protection from the evil one. It is possible that “wicked and evil people” (3:2) cause delay or harm but those who have “honoured” the gospel will be protected from the evil one, namely Satan. It is those who believe the lie who stand condemned but God will hold the believer in their belief. Predestination is a comfort to those who believe but not to those who will not.

“We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.” Paul cannot guarantee that their gospel mission will go uncontended but he is certain that the Thessalonians will remain in the faith. What is Paul’s command? To stand firm and hold fast to the teachings passed on to them (2:15) and then…(see verse 5 below)

5 Pray for them

“May the Lord…” Paul articulates his prayer and therefore his desire for the Thessalonians.

“…direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” How beautiful is this prayer! Where your heart is, there is your treasure. Paul desires for the Thessalonians to treasure the love that God has and the work that Christ has done. It is a prayer overflowing with grace. Paul wants the church to grow deeper in the conviction of what God has done. It is God who loves and therefore sends the Son to redeem. It is the Son (Christ) who loves the Father without fault or failing. He remains faithful even when we do not. The phrase ‘Christ’s perseverance’ describes the endurance that Christ showed or is showing. It is both a celebration of the righteousness of Christ as well as the primary example for the Thessalonians to remain faithful even under trial and persecution.


What is of utmost importance is that the gospel be honoured in our lives. It must be spread regardless of possible hostility. It provides assurance and comfort to those who believe. It is to be our treasure. We are to uphold one another in prayer for the sake of the gospel.


  • Paul desired the gospel to spread rapidly. Is this a desire for us? In what way do we seek for the gospel to be passed on? Is ‘rapid’ a word you could use of yourself or the church?
  • Pray for missionaries. Paul requested prayer as he desired to take the gospel abroad and be unhindered in doing that. Talk about the missionaries that we support as a church and how we can be praying for them. Spend time in prayer.
  • Paul promised protection from the evil one and prayed for the hearts of the believers to be oriented toward God. Are you conscious of the spiritual battle and our need to pray for one another in this manner? Paul doesn’t need to ask the Thessalonians for prayer points when he decides to pray for them.

Prayer of the Week

Heavenly Father, we pray for the gospel to go out into all the world. Both at home and abroad, would you hold back wicked and evil people and keep your servants faithful to the gospel. May we all direct our hearts to your love and the work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

The Present Age of Deed and Word

“…saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13


Paul’s letter to the people in Thessalonica who responded to the gospel with belief has been filled with words of affirmation for their growing faith, prayer for their ongoing faithfulness and assurance that they have not missed anything that God is planning to do. The future holds a victory day when all of Satan’s plans and power will be overthrown when Christ returns. Paul sets the attention of the church, not on the future, but on the present where the evil one is presently at work although restrained. We live in a present age of restrained rebellion.



  • 13-14 – Firstfruits of the gospel
  • 15-17 – The present assignment

13-14 – Firstfruits of the gospel

“…we ought always to thank God for you…” See 1:3. Paul is compelled to thank God for what has happened in the creation of a church in Thessalonica.

“…loved by the Lord, because God chose you…” When the world is under the secret power of deception and anti-truth/anti-law (2:7-10), God has chosen some to come to the knowledge and trust in the truth. This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us (he chose us – 1 John 4:10). Here we see the characteristic of someone whom God loves and that is that they are saved by grace.

“…as firstfruits…” Earlier in the chapter we saw that the present age is defined by restrained rebellion – all the world is under the secret influences of lawlessnes to deny to the truth and embrace wickedness. But the age we are in is also, and more profoundly so, defined by the consequences of the cross and empty tomb of Christ. The book of Acts tells of the years that followed the ascension of Jesus with the outpouring of the Spirit and the spread of the gospel. Thessalonica was visited by Paul in Acts 17 in about 48 or 49 AD where he met persecution but also founded the church there. They are the first generation of Christians in the world. They are the firstfruits of the harvest for Christ’s mission. The Thessalonians were worried that the coming of Christ had already happened and that they’d missed it or it was not what they expected or something like that. Paul assures them that they have missed nothing and this is only the beginning!

“…to be saved through…” Here is the first real place to pause in the passage. Two things are listed as the method of salvation and neither of them are the cross of Christ, repentance, baptism or the like.

Firstly, the sanctifying work of the Spirit. This describes the ongoing, life changing transformation that occurs to every believer. 1 Peter 1:2 says, that God’s elect ‘have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.’ The goal of election is for obedience to Jesus Christ and this work is done by or via or with the Spirit. Without the Spirit, there is no progress for the Christian toward holiness and righteousness. These Thessalonians that Paul is writing to are of the first generation in the history of mankind to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus. The Spirit dwells in them and works with their spirit to put to death the evil deeds of the flesh (See Romans 8). Sanctification is a word that describes holiness or being set apart. We cannot see God without being sanctified. This is both an ‘already happened’ word as in 1 Corinthians 6:11 as well as a purpose for the future word as in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and also an expectation of maintenance word as in 1 Thessalonians 4:3. We are made God’s by the blood of Christ and sanctified as well as charged for ongoing sanctification as we live according to the Spirit. The latter may be better referred to as Christian progress.

Secondly, belief in the truth saves us. This was made clear in the previous section (2:1-12). How important it is to believe the gospel and nurture that belief. It’s not our opinion that saves but it is knowing who is Lord and responding to that. This also, by the way, leads back to a life of sanctification. What we believe will modify the goals of our heart.

“He called you to this through our gospel…” Now, isn’t this interesting. Christ died for our sins and the Spirit dwells in us for the work of Christian progress. And now we hear that God called us. This has all been the work of God from beginning to end. And what did we do? We believed the word. The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). And it was the gospel that Paul shared (our gospel) so be careful not to add or transform what has been taught and received.

“That you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gospel was shared by Paul to the Thessalonians in order that the glory might be shared also.

What has been mentioned in these three verses? That they are loved by God; chosen by God; saved by God; being sanctified by the Spirit Himself; summoned by the gospel message in order for them to respond in faith and share in the glory that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is why Paul is burdened to thank God!

15-17 – The present assignment

“So…stand firm…” Where else have they to go? They’ve been given the words of eternal life. They have nothing to do but to hold their ground where God has delivered them.

“…hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you…” Standing firm is described as giving unwavering attention to the gospel that they heard. That is the teaching passed on and that is what they must cling to. They were described as ‘unsettled or alarmed’ in verse 2 about some teaching that they had heard or misheard. The gospel is not something that should shake them. Cling to this message and don’t go far from it. Don’t let other people distract you in their teachings. Don’t have other letters written to you cause you to stumble. Hold everything you hear up against this teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ…gave us eternal encouragement and good hope…” The list of credentials for God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are given as cause for what follows in verse 17. Look at who you are trusting. He is the Lord who is known as Jesus the chosen one – King Jesus. He accompanies God our Father who is OUR Father – a title only received after Jesus became known. And God is good because he loves us and have gifted us with eternal encouragement and good hope. These last two phrases talk, not of God’s character, but of what he has promised to deliver in the future. Our strength through trials comes through the eternal hope that we have in Christ.

“…encourage your hearts…” Having our hearts set on something which is guaranteed is a light load to bear. Imagine the encouragement that a wife gets when she is told that her husband is on a boat right now heading back from the war. Her heart is full of encouragement and joy. She delights in what is promised and the delivers is on the way. Imagine now that your heart is set on making a million dollars in under a year. It is a possibility but there is no encouragement from a hope that is uncertain and will take all your motivation and commitment and single-mindedness and also selfish ambition. Now think of the reality of know that God has you covered and your future is secure with him. No obstacles or persecution or trials will crush you when you are encouraged by the knowledge of the promise keeper who has chosen you and called you and saved you and delivered you and sanctified you.

“…strengthen you in every good deed and word.” It is not just a good deed but a good word. “In every good thing you do or say “ (NET version). What we do and say ought to be flavoured and pouring from the fountain of our hope. We are not like infants who react when we don’t get our way. We are rather wise people who know that we have everything already coming our way. The Thessalonians, as we noted in chapter 1, are in the midst of persecution and trials. Paul has been thanking God for the work that he is doing in them and he now commits the Thessalonians to God in prayer that they will do everything and say only what is good. We only have choices to do what is good or bad. The good is spurred on by love for God and others. The bad originates from selfish desires and the like.


What we believe will affect what we do and say. If we believe that we are spinning freely in this universe without a secure hope or future then we will get on board the earth’s so-called mantra of ‘survival of the fittest.’ If, however, we believe that God has loved us, chosen us, called us, saved us, sanctified us, is perfecting us, and promising us to share in the glory with Jesus for all eternity, no catches, then this will give our hearts great courage and conviction to do what is right and say only what is true and loving.


  • Share how God has been perfecting you over the last few years or months. What can you say about the process of becoming more Christ-like? How has it been occurring? What part do you play in the process?
  • Spend time in prayer now and then practice over the next few days to thank God for all the blessings listed in this passage. For example, thank God firstly that God loves you. Reflect with God in prayer over that before acknowledging that it was God that chose you and not the other way around. Use 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 to shape your prayers about yourself but also for everyone in your group.

Prayer of the Week

Our Father and our God, we thank you for the love that you have shown on us by sharing the gospel with us, helping us to believe, sending your Spirit to us, confirming in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and helping us to become more and more like him. Strengthen us and encourage us to love you and others more and more, especially as the Day of Christ’s return draws nearer. Amen.