2 Thessalonians 3:13

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Here we have a subtle jab at those referenced in the previous two verses. Paul has said that he who “will not work, neither shall he eat.” He then built upon that, pointing out these sluggards and what they should do in verse 12. Now, he gives a contrast to them with the words, “But as for you, brethren.”

In other words, he is making a distinction between the two. He has cumulatively called all (both hard worker and sluggard) “brethren” quite a few times already, but he has told those who are diligent and industrious to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (verse 6).

He acknowledges that they are brothers, but now in this verse he gives them a poke by using the term “brethren” as applying to those who aren’t like them. There are brothers, and then there are brothers! The intent here is to convict those who are sitting around watching crazy YouTube rapture videos all day, and who then pass on this false information to the church, to stop doing this, to get to work, to be examples of Christ, and to be obedient to His will.

After this direct and convicting opening, he then tells the “brethren” that they are to “not grow weary in doing good.” The word translated as “weary” is used once by Luke and five times by Paul. It gives the sense of fainting. Paul is exhorting the brethren to not allow anything to interfere with doing good, even exhaustion itself. The word translated as “doing good” is used just this once in the Bible. It comes from two Greek words which together give the sense of “doing good that inspires others to rise up and do what is noble” (HELPS Word Studies).

This exhortation is tied back to the “patience of Christ” of verse 5. Just as Christ continued in His ministry, never faltering in His work, so we are to likewise act. And, we are to do so by inspiring others in the process. The contrast between the sluggardly rapture/Day of the Lord date-setters and those who are acting properly is crystal clear. While they are doing nothing of value, wasting time, and harming the walk of others, those who are obedient to the word are productively working, making the best use of the time they are allotted, and their work is inspiring others on to their noble work as well.

Life application: Are you a rapture date-setting sluggard, or are you a person interested in the whole counsel of God, and in sharing your interest in the word with others? Paul has set a distinction between the two. If you are the former, he tells the rest to withdraw from you. If you are the latter, he tells others to emulate you. Which behavior will receive commendation from the Lord on that Day? Hmmm… I wonder which.

Lord God, our main hope and goal in this life, and in everything we do, should be to receive commendation from You on the Day we stand before You. What a waste to think that You would save us through the agonizing cross of Calvary, and then after accepting what You have done, fritter our time away doing nothing productive in return! Help us to think this through clearly. This life is a breath and then it will be gone. We should endeavor to use it to Your glory right up until the end. Amen.

2 Thessalonians 3:12

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.

2 Thessalonians 3:11

Monday, 23 October 2017

For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 2 Thessalonians 3:11

The words “For we hear,” are an indication that some were at the church in Thessalonica, and they were personal witnesses of those who were being lazy and sponging off of others. It was probably the carriers of his first letter back to the church. They took the letter and had a visit, probably a bit horrified that those who had accepted Paul’s gospel presentation and instruction were already departing from it, and receiving false words from others.

The source may have been someone from the church itself as well, dispatched to get Paul’s thoughts on what was going on. Either way, he has been giving direction, instruction, and correction based on this saddening news, which is “that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner.”

He has already instructed that the church members were to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly” among them (verse 3:6). Now he shows that this wasn’t just an arbitrary statement of instruction, but a preparation for specific accusation, which is now given. Those who were disorderly (and they were already there in the church) were to be withdrawn from. Here they were, repeating false doctrines which had been received from unreliable sources, and they were spreading them around like a growing virus. The way to end this was to end any contact with them.

While most in the church were being productive, living their lives out in a sound and reasonable manner, these sensationalists were “not working at all.” Instead, they were “busybodies.” In the Greek, there is a play on words which is wholly lacking in the English translation. The word “working” is ergazomai. The word “busybodies” is periergazomai. It is used only here in the Bible, and it is a superlative word. Peri means “all around,” and so one gets the idea of “working all around,” and thus meddling.

Instead of doing what should be done, they had their noses in the work of everyone else, fixating on what they were up to. In this, one can almost see then what they would do next. “Gee, you are too busy making a living. Don’t you know that the Day of the Lord has come (or the rapture is going to happen on 23 September). Why are you wasting your time? But, seeing as how you have your wages coming in, why don’t you give me a bit for lunch…”

Whatever attitude was demonstrated in these people, it included a theological misunderstanding (or intentional falsification) of the sequence of events concerning the return of Christ and the tribulation period. In their mishandling of what was to occur, they were not being productive, and they were leeching off of those who were. And doesn’t this sound like the rapture date-setters of today! They put out video after video, monetizing those videos, robbing people of their time which would otherwise be spent more productively, and leading those uninformed in Scripture down unsound paths of doctrine. And with the link to the DONATE button, they rake it in at the expense of people who are too unclear in their life and doctrine to see they are being duped.

Paul has set the timeline of events in his writings; but because people are unwilling to study the word, they get caught up in the false teachings of these people who should otherwise be, as Paul directly commands, stayed away from. How sad it is that people won’t take the time to simply learn the Bible. If they did learn the Bible, the would stop speculating. Instead, they would learn to devote their time, work, and resources to productive things. Rapture-schmapture. It will happen when it happens, and so we can cherish the thought in our heart without becoming duped into false hopes by these abhorrent people.

Life application: Still watching videos and reading commentaries about a particular date for the rapture? Try reading your Bible instead.

Lord God, there have been enough false-predictions about the return of Jesus that maybe it’s time we should just stop paying attention to this nonsense. Maybe… maybe we should instead just read our Bibles each day, and then get out to our jobs, be industrious and hard working there, and then devote our free time to something worthwhile, like telling people about their need for Jesus. What an innovative idea… maybe we should. Amen.

2 Thessalonians 3:10

Sunday, 22 October 2017

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Food: When you’re hungry, nothing satisfies like food. Paul now ties this wonderful necessity in with an oft-dreaded word, “work.” We both need food, and we enjoy food. We often do not like work, but according to Paul, we need to work if we want that other thing we need and enjoy, “food.” He links the two together as if they are one.

This verse seems to be tied back to verse 6 –

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. … For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

And so, “For when we were with you,” is first based on that command, and then it was practically lived out by Paul and his associates in verses 7-9. Next, “we commanded you this,” is tied to what is spoken at the beginning of verse 6, “But we command you.” This is now repeated in the epistle to remind them of what they had said. While in Thessalonica, it was evident that some were unwilling to work, but instead were sponging off the kindness of others. “Gee, we’re all Christians here, you wouldn’t let a hungry brother down, now would you?”

This is something that is still seen 2000 years later. Some people use their status as Christians to guilt other Christians into tending to them, even for their basic necessities. It happens to individuals, and it happens to churches. There are sponges all over the place who take advantage of this. But Paul advises the Thessalonians (and thus us!) to not be duped into this kind of thing. He says quite clearly, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

It is not an optional thing, and Paul actually presents nothing new. Solomon speaks of the need to be industrious on several occasions, and he tells the sad results of being a lazy-Joe –

Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
8 Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man. Proverbs 6:6-11

In Paul’s words then, there is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing un-Christian, and nothing harsh. Rather, there is wisdom which is intended to 1) Get lazy people up off their duffs and out into the world to earn their bread, and 2) Save industrious people from being seduced by those in category 1. We should not feel the slightest bit guilty when a person actually has to miss a meal because he spent the day at the beach, or whittled his time away on an iPad.

Life application: For obtaining life-prolonging food-intake, get to work.

Lord God, what a treasure it is to open Your word and find in it the words, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Wow! That takes the burden off those who are willing to get out and earn their own way. They don’t have to be used by sluggards and lazy people, and they don’t need to feel guilty when a lazy-Joe misses a meal or two because play is more important that work to him. Whoo hoo! Those who are capable, but don’t get to work, can entertain us with growly-tummy noises. We’ll pray they learn their lesson and get to work! Amen.

2 Thessalonians 3:9

Saturday, 21 October 2017

…not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 2 Thessalonians 3:9

One can see the importance of apostolic authority in Paul’s words. He has explained why he and his associates did not impose upon those in Thessalonica. It was because they did not desire to be a burden on them. However, he now notes that they had every right to do so with the words, “not because we do not have authority.” They had a legitimate right to partake of anything any other apostle was entitled to. They bore the word of God, and they transmitted it to the church there.

The implication is that bearing the word of God carries this authority. As the word of God comes through the apostles, only those who bear the word of God, as given by the apostles, have such a right to the same authority. And as there is only one word of God, only those who hold to it alone have a true right to what accompanies its transmission. Someone who stands in the pulpit and dismisses the word of God, or who adds to it, has no authority, or has abused his authority. He is to be rejected. This is all implied in how Paul reveals these truths. The word of God alone is our authority within the church.

He, and his associates, possessed that authority, but they did not exercise it. This was, as he says, “to make ourselves an example.” The words “to make” means “so that we might give.” They were setting themselves as examples for those in Thessalonica to learn from and to emulate. They had purposefully acted as they did with the intent of teaching those who were slothful among the church. They were to learn by it in hopes that they would emulate what they saw. This is revealed in the words, “of how you should follow us.” Paul and his companions had set themselves as a model, and this model was expected to be applied to the lives of those in the church.

What is seen here is a letter which centers on the coming rapture of the church, and then the coming Day of the Lord. It is to be inferred that there were congregants who were sitting around doing nothing because it was so much easier to speculate about the coming of the Lord than it was for them to get up, get out, and work. And it was also so much easier than studying the word, gaining sound theology, and actually applying Scripture to their lives.

They were the forerunners of today’s YouTube prophecy addicts who spend all their time in the realm of “goofy,” instead of in the realm of reality. The Thessalonians didn’t want to work, and they used the soon coming of the Lord as an excuse to not do just that. They didn’t want to strain their minds on sound theology, and they mishandled Scripture in order to avoid learning how to rightly apply it.

Before YouTube, one can see them setting up stalls on the road and promoting their wares for everyone to see. Instead of a DONATE button, they had a DONATE slot. Instead of computer graphics, they had their wife paint a bizarro screen at the back of the stall. And instead of an open Bible, filled with study notes, they listened to words of false teachers (see verses 2:1-3), or they simply made things up out of their own heads, passing it off as the truth of God. Paul is (and will continue) telling them that this is not appropriate. They needed to get out there, work, and stop idly speculating about something which is known but to God alone.

Life application: Paul set the example of work and industry. Stop watching 60 hours of YouTube a week, get up, get out, and get to work. And in your free time, read the Bible.

Lord God, Your word sets forth an example for Your people that we are to be hard working, self-sufficient, and industrious. It also informs us that this is so because idle speculation about the Lord’s return is unproductive, it is time-wasted, and it is harmful to the body. This can all be inferred from Your word, and some of it is explicit. Help us to get a grip, get off YouTube, and get to work – always anticipating, but never expecting, the great Day when Jesus comes to take us home. Whoo hoo. Oh what a day that will be. Amen.