Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 2 Thessalonians 3:12
It is of note that Paul uses the word translated as “command” a total of 12 times in all of his letters, and yet four (one-third) of them are in 2 Thessalonians, and all four are in this chapter. It is, therefore, a clear indication that he is not just a bit miffed about the attitude of those sponging off of others in the church, but he is highly upset about it. These, the forerunners of “rapture date-setters,” are uninterested in hard work and sound doctrine, and they are an annoyance to the body. Each time they believe someone who says, “The day of the Lord has come,” and then pass it on to others, they cause harm. Each time they say, “The rapture will be on this day because…,” they cause people to stop their productive lives, and to hope on that which is not based on any type of reality.
Paul had already told the church the things he knows of concerning the end-times when he was with them (2:5), and then he repeated that in this letter. No “word from the Lord” will come along and change these things, and no special insights into when these things will occur will ever be forth-coming, thus contradicting Paul’s words of this letter. Therefore, it is a waste of time and energy to focus on them. Instead, he directs his words to this particular group saying, “Now those who are such…”
It is those who are not willing to work, but are spending all their time being unproductive and passing on unsound theology that he is writing to. Instead of living productive lives, they sponge off of those who do, and sway them with words which have no basis in authoritative words of the apostles (today, those words of the apostles which have been recorded and saved are a portion of the Bible).
It is to these that he says, “we command and exhort.” A command is a directive – “You are to do this thing.” The words require attention and action. However, he immediately follows up with “and exhort” in order to lesson the chance of angry rebellion by those he is commanding. These are, after all, date-setters who are easily miffed over being told their doctrine is unsound. Thus, the word “exhort” is given as a friendly, hopeful way of them taking the “command” in a positive way instead of stomping off in an angry huff.
Remember that it is the same group of people whom he commanded to be withdrawn from in verse 6. Those words were for the people of the congregation who weren’t caught up in the idle speculation. These words are for those who are. “The congregation is to withdraw from you, but you can be brought back into a right relationship with them if you stop this nonsense, get to work, and earn your own bread.” This is still applicable today. We are to withdraw from rapture date-setters until they stop their disturbing posts and learn to be productive. They can then be brought again into a right relationship with the church.
And to bolster his words, Paul continues on with the note that the command and exhortation is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some manuscripts say “in” instead of “through,” but the title is where the main focus is. Whether Christ directly gave this command (which He in fact did in Acts 1:7, 8), or whether Paul is simply giving it under inspiration as an apostle, the words are given by authority of the name of the Lord. And the command and exhortation is “that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”
“Folks, it’s time to stop listening to non-biblical things, to stop spreading those things, and to get to work. At the end of the day, you’ll have your pay, and you can go buy your own food with it. Stop interrupting the church. Stop idly speculating on the day of the rapture. Get wisdom. Get sound instruction. Stand approved before the Lord.” All of this and so much more is tied up in Paul’s words. There are souls who need to hear about Jesus, and it won’t get done while people are watching videos about the rapture coming up on Friday. There are people who see Christians watching those videos and who laugh at them each time another date passes by without anything happening. And there is the name of the Lord which is brought to shame each time this occurs.
Life application: If you see what appears to be a really interesting looking video about the prophetic timeline pointing to the coming tribulation and the rapture of the church, don’t watch it.
Heavenly Father, You have a wonderful plan of redemption laid out for the world. It’s been going on for a long, long time. We are living in a small moment of that plan, and we have this one short chance to be a productive part of it. Help us to be properly directed in our attitude towards the gospel. Help us not to waste our time on idle speculation about the rapture or the coming tribulation period, but to quietly tuck those things into our minds, and keep on working diligently in our daily lives as workers at our jobs, and as Christians with a duty to share the good news of redemption in Christ. Amen.