Comments On Second Thessalonians
Leslie M. Grant
All second epistles contemplate in some way a tendency to departure, which requires the arresting energy of the Spirit of God, in ministry suited to bring back to the path the sheep that so easily stray. How we need such epistles today! Hence it will be noticed, even in our first chapter, that there is a marked difference from the fast chapter of 1 Thessalonians where the apostle writes with such joy in the fresh, vibrant spirit of faith, love and hope that so characterized these young saints. Here, however, though his joy in them is just as real, it is with more sober, solemn tone that he writes.
Satan had been active in deceitful enmity to introduce that which had brought a cloud over the bright endurance of hope. The second chapter slows that the saints had been troubled and shaken by the false doctrine that the day of the Lord had already come, evidently also backed by forged letters written as though from Paul. The persecution they endured locally was, of course, the occasion that Satan used to alarm them, and this would tend to undermine their confidence in the truth of the word of God, which taught them to look not for the tribulation. but for God's Son from heaven. Thus, with eyes on their afflictions rather than on the Lord, they became like Pear when beginning to sink in the water. But such is the cunning: of Satan, and we must be guarded against his wiles by mans of the dear. sample teaching of the pure word of God.
Yet we must observe that the apostle does not bring up the evil of the false teaching they had heard until he has first given that which will encourage and draw their hearts to the truth as centered in the blessed person of the Lord Jesus, for it is important that the condition of their own hearts should be met before their minds are enlightened. May we know more of such wise and considerate work.
(V. 1) Again, the same brotherly character of address is used as in the first epistle. The threatened dangers to the Thessalonians did not change this, except in the use of the more gentle expression "our Father" rather than "the Father," as though to express the fullest identification of these servants of God with the saints. And young though this assembly was, still it enjoyed the same blessed place as do all saints, "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Does it not remind us of even the "little children" of 1 John 2:24, who are told "If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain (or abide) in you, ye also shall continue (or abide) in the Son, and in the Father?" It is the freshness of a new life - eternal life - by which they are "in the Son and in the Father," and it is this, of course, the apostle seeks to encourage in the Thessalonians.
Moreover, the "grace and peace" he wishes them is fresh and new as though spoken of for the first time, in fact, all the more necessary now that doubts and alarm had attacked them. It is no less available in days of decline than in days of greatest spiritual energy. But we must make use of it if it is to profit us. If we ourselves have failed, yet the blessed source of this grace and peace is unchanging - "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
(V. 3) Thankfulness to God for the saints had not waned in any degree. Indeed, here an additional strong expression is used: "We are bound to." There was no alternative, and their hearts were bound up in this profound gratitude. It was without intermission - "always." It was particularly fitting because in spite of Satan's efforts to thwart the work of God the faith of the saints was growing exceedingly, and their love for one another abounded. How good to see this delight of the Lord's servants in these precious fruits they could commend. This growing faith and abounding love is a precious example for us all, which may well stir a longing within us to be more like them. Indeed the apostle further says, "so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God; for your patience and faith." To these servants it was a deep joy to speak among the assemblies of the endurance and faith of these beloved saints who were so persecuted for their devoted stand for Christ.
Yet, though faith and love shine brightly here, as they did in the first epistle, how sadly conspicuous in the absence of any mention of "hope." Patience is found in verse 4, but not "patience of hope." For hope had been obscured through the false teaching that the tribulation had come, and their eyes had been turned from expecting God's Son from heaven to the boisterous waves of the world's opposition. In this very measure decline had set it. We must not miss this, for it is a salutary warning for our own souls and a danger constantly present in spite of the fact that the coming of the Lord is so much more near now, so that our expectation should be all the more vivid and real. Satan would use persecution and at the same time inject his favorite poison, discouragement, with a view to persuading saints to settle down in the world and to become sufficiently absorbed in it as to lose all distinctive testimony.
(V. 5) Still, the patience and faith of the saints in bearing persecution and tribulation was a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God. Their endurance indicated the fact that they depended upon divine intervention at the time God saw fit. Even the ungodly ought to have discerned this, for it was a testimony that conscience could not easily ignore. To take patiently wrongful suffering requires faith in a righteous God, who will not always allow evil to go unchecked, but will judge in proper time. But it is also added, "that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer." This present allowance of persecution against saints of God is intended of God for their own good, a training that molds character, producing a true submission to authority as subjects of the King and thus "worthy of the kingdom of God." How thankful we ought to be for this divinely wise means of God by which He secures for us the greatest good.
If verses 3, 4 and 5 have shown their patience in suffering, verses 6-10 now show us that God will eventually answer this in perfect righteousness, and not in the way that the enemy was suggesting to the Thessalonians when deceiving them into thinking the day of the Lord had already come. God would recompense tribulation to those who troubled them; the tables would be completely turned; they themselves would no longer suffer but be in perfect rest with the apostles in the Lord's presence. The assembly would have no part in the awful tribulation that is to come, for it is the vengeance of God against the ungodly. The first epistle had shown this, that the saints would first be caught up to be forever with the Lord before the great tribulation would break upon a careless world. But the truth of it had not properly laid hold of the hearts of the Thessalonians. Hence, they were troubled by false letters. It is a solemn warning that a little neglect of the truth of that Word which has been given us will expose us to the dangers of subtle falsehood.
The day of the Lord too will culminate in His being revealed from heaven with the angels of His power, and the flaming fire of His holiness in judgment will be poured in vengeance on those ignorant of God and disobedient to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 19 depicts for us this awesome event. We know too that the raptured saints, as well as angels, will have their part in this judgment of the world, but here only angels are mentioned, for the supernatural, irresistible character of the judgment is emphasized. It may be that Gentiles are particularly in mind as "them that know not God" (1 Thess. 4:5) and Jews as those "that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 10:16, 21). Yet both things are, of course, true of all unbelievers.
Moreover, this awesome punishment is eternal destruction. How can words more dreadfully describe the horror of such judgment than is briefly done here: "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power?" This is not annihilation but "destruction," as a vessel broken and unfitted for its original purpose, for something destroyed does not cease to exist, but exists in a form of no value.
But more awful is the fact of banishment "from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." One who has known Christ can conceive of no greater misery than to be without Him for eternity. Here is the Fountain of all truth and goodness, righteousness, grace, kindness, compassion, love, and peace. Without Him none of this is known nor can be known. What stark, unmitigated anguish to be forever banished from the pure light and glory of His presence! "From the glory of His power (or might)" would speak of no participation in that sphere of blessing where His might is operative for the great good of His people.
This is linked with the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and great glory; His name then glorified above all; He, Himself, admired by hearts beholding His glory. His saints will not only concur in the fearful vengeance He takes upon the ungodly world, but will admire Him the more for it. The parenthesis, also, is inserted here to remind saints that the gospel they believed through the testimony of the servants of God is the reason for the wonderful difference in their attitude of admiration to that of the future horror of those who are without Christ.
(V. 11) What the apostle refers to as "this calling" is the basis of his prayers for these saints. Their being linked with the Lord Jesus in the matchless glory of His coming revelation is a calling of dignity and blessedness far above every earthly level. And if God is to count us worthy of such a calling, this can only be through a real moral separation from an ungodly world and true attachment of heart to His blessed Son. This will be fully true of us then; therefore, a walk now consistent with this end is that alone which is worthy of it. And this is a matter for which the saints need continual prayer. To this end the apostle prayed "always."
To "fulfill all the good pleasure (or desire) of goodness" is to be not remiss in carrying out all the gracious purposes or desires that are the product of positive goodness. These desires are planted within the soul because of the character of goodness that God implants there. Rather than quenched or ignored, they should be fulfilled.
"And the work of faith with power" is added here, for if the exercise of the soul is seen in "the good pleasure of goodness," it is also necessary for the spirit to be in activity. The singleeyed work of faith involves this. It is that spirit of willing obedience to the Word of God, apart from feelings and issues, in true work for God. For with the spirit are connected intelligence, conscience, faith rather than emotions, feelings, passions, which are the characteristics of the soul. Divine power may be counted upon fully to back up the work of faith, for this is acting for God according to His Word without reference to our natural senses.
But such testimony in them would glorify the name of the Lord Jesus, while they also would be glorified in Him. This is no doubt a present result, for in the future we shall be glorified with him, while here a walk of faith will cause us to glory in the Lord and thus in a practical, precious way be glorified in Him. And all of this is according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ - the accomplishment, therefore, of pure divine favor with nothing of human merit.
In the first twelve verses of this chapter we are now presented with the striking, central message of the epistle. These things are not intended to satisfy indolent curiosity or to stir the excitement of the flesh at prospects so impressive as these must be. Therefore the apostle has first sought to put souls under the pure light of the presence of God in contrasting the end of the wicked and that of the saints. Prophecy should always produce in us a wholesome self-judgment and practical sanctification or it is not rightly regarded.
(V. 1) The tenderness of the apostle's entreaty here is precious. It reveals a heart yearning over them but with no desire to have dominion over their faith. The basis of his entreaty is his only mention in this book of the rapture of the saints: "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him." This is the immediate hope of the Church, which had been beclouded by the subtlety of evil teaching. Let us keep our eyes fixed steadily upon Christ in true expectation of His coming and our circumstances will not deceive us into considering the doctrines of men that reduce Christianity to an earthly level. For this was the effect of such deception, to turn the eyes toward earthly circumstances rather than to Christ in glory in expectation of His coming.
They were not to be shaken in mind (the word "mind" here speaking of both the faculty of knowing and the characteristic of settled purpose.) It is, of course, the mind set upon things in heaven that will not be shaken. Or again this type of doctrine had evidently caused them to "be troubled," even to the point of "tumult," as this word for trouble implies, so that it wrought unrest amoung the saints. There was a threefold attack of the enemy: first "by spirit," which refers to a prophetic utterance, professing to be of God but false (compare 1 Cor. 12:1-3); secondly "by word," which appears to imply oral reports falsely attributed to Paul; and thirdly "by letter as from us." This was, of course, deliberate wicked deception, the forging of letters in the name of the Lord's servants. The object was to persuade the saints that "the day of the Lord" was present - not simply near, but already come. Behind this was the object of undermining faith in the Living God by overoccupation with local distress, and fomenting doubt as regards the distinctive truth of the rapture preceding "the das of the Lord," which indeed would be doubt as to the reliability of the word of God. The day of the Lord would not be tribulation and anguish for the Church, but for her persecutors, while her portion would be "rest" with the apostles in the presence of the Lord.
(V. 3) With the Word of God in our hands the saints have no excuse for being deceived. Honorable self-judgment and honest exercise of soul to do the will of God will, with the Word of God open, preserve the soul from falsehood. Let us approach it, therefore, both in thorough distrust of ourselves and in fullest confidence in Him who has given us of His Spirit, for this passage tells us of Satan's masterpiece of deception, to be manifested publicly only after the Church is taken to glory, yet whose doctrine of falsehood has preceded him in the world. "The day of the Lord" will not be until "the apostasy" has come. This is of course a revulsion against the truth of Christianity, the rejection of Scripture as being from God, the rejection of Christ as being Himself the revelation of the glory of God. This will be seen in the very realm in which Christianity was once professed, for it is the abandonment of what was once acknowledged. It is this that opens the way to the grossest deception of Satan. In any complete way this will not be true until the Church is taken to heaven, though we may even now be deeply alarmed at the large-scale giving up of the truth of God in many so-called Christian denominations of our day. These are signs of the nearness of the apostasy and therefore indicate that the rapture of His own is most near.
Only when the apostasy has come will "the man of sin" be revealed or "the son of perdition." He is also called "that wicked one" in verse 8, where we are told he will be revealed only after "He who now restrains" is "taken out of the way." These things are intended to be considered together. The Person who now restrains can be none other than the Spirit of God now present on earth in the Church, the body of Christ, and His being taken out of the way is most simply explained by the taking of the Church to glory at the coming of the Lord Jesus for His saints. There have been many and diverse speculations as to this verse, some of them ridiculous, and practically all using the pronoun "He" as applying to no person at all but to governments or other natural influences. But none of these are keys to fit the lock, as does the above simple and uncomplicated explanation which perfectly coincides with the rest of Scripture.
"That man of sin" is given other designations elsewhere in Scripture such as "the king" (Dan. 11:36), "the worthless shepherd" (Zech. 11:17), "antichrist" (1 John 2:18), "another beast" (Rev. 13:11), and "the false prophet" (Rev. 17:13). In all of these it will be seen that the man is a religious leader, not merely political as is the first beast of Revelation 13. The Antichrist is necessarily a supplanter of the true Christ. He will be Jewish to satisfy the expectations of Israel for a Jewish messiah, but "neither shall he regard the God of his fathers" (Dan. 11:37). He arises "out of the earth" (Rev. 13:11) (from among Israel) rather than "out of the sea" (from among the nations) (Rev. 13:1). He will "sit in the temple of God" which, of course, can only be at Jerusalem. It may be also pointed out that in Old Testament prophecy when the expression "the king" is used it refers to the king of Israel, whether the true King, Christ, or to the false, who arrogates to himself the place of Christ.
(V. 4) He "opposeth and exalteth himself above (or ,against') all that is called God." Any denial of God is necessarily self-exaltation. Pride and self-will are behind it. Yet notice he opposes "all that is called God or that is worshipped." We know that as well as a true conception of God there are existent a multitude of false conceptions so that people call their many idols "God," but the man of sin will refuse all of these together, true or false, and make himself the object of veneration. "Sitting in the temple of God, he shows himself that he is God." The temple was not the place for even the high priest to sit: "every priest standeth daily ministering and offering" (Heb. 10:11), but this man (not even a priest) will assume the throne that is God's.
The first "beast" of Revelation 13, the head of the revived Roman Empire, will be of the same wicked character, and ~ese two will form an alliance, with the Antichrist setting up image to the (first) beast, which is called "the abomination desolation," standing where it ought not, in the temple area, d requiring Israel to worship this image. This will be the Pleat evil that calls for the dreadful desolation of "the Great Tribulation." (Compare Rev. 13:11-18 and Matt. 24:15-22).
It is evident then that the temple will be rebuilt by the time this takes place. The so-called "Dome of the Rock" must be replaced by "the temple of God." Whether this will be so before the Church is taken to glory we have no indication in Scripture. Indeed there is nothing that requires to be fulfilled before the coming of the Lord for His saints, though we may see signs of the fulfillment of many things as sort of a preparation for the time of the end. But we look for the Lord Himself, not for signs nor for prophetic fulfillments.
Yet the believer is not to be ignorant of prophecy, which gives him knowledge of what is to take place following the rapture, just as Abraham, because of his character of godliness, was given previous knowledge of the destruction of Sodom, though he had no part whatever in this (Gen. 18:17-21).
(V. 5) It was not lack of information that caused the undue distress among the Thessalonians but slowness of heart in taking in the truth they had been taught. Alas, is this not too often the case with the people of God at all times? How little we lay hold of the precious reality of all the living truth of God, though we may hear it over and over again. But Paul had not neglected to tell them this important aspect of the truth. Perhaps now that he writes, they would recall it.
(V. 6) The Thessalonians are told they "know that which restrains," and this is further referred to in verse 7: "He who restrains now until He is gone." This can apply to no one but the Spirit of God, who dwells in the Church of God and will remain in the world until the rapture, His very presence in His saints being a powerful influence of restraint so far as is concerned the full development of wickedness headed up in "the man of sin." As the Lord Jesus told His disciples concerning the Spirit, "Ye know Him" (John 14:17), so the Thessalonians had this same vital knowledge and in their own assembly was this precious living, restraining power, which had effect on all the region round about. So long as this was true the wicked one would not be revealed, and God had purposed that this man would only "be revealed in his time."
Yet already "the mystery of lawlessness" was at work striving to accomplish its destructive ends. This is but one of the "mysteries" of Scripture, but allowed of God for the present in order that He might perfectly accomplish His own divine will. The involvements of all this may greatly puzzle men's hearts, and it is well if this causes serious soul-exercise before God on the part of believers, but our great God is in perfect control, and even this will yet be seen to glorify His Holy Name, though Satan and men had used it with the opposite object in view, their hearts only moved by hatred toward the blessed Son of God. But God will allow this to reach its full development only when the Spirit of God is gone from the world. "And then shall that wicked be revealed."
This man may well be living on earth today, but not until the Church is taken to glory will he be "revealed," so that we should recognize him. The title "wicked" or "lawless one" implies his insubjection to any authority but his own strong will. What a breeding ground is our present-day civilization for such characters! But how salutary it is that, before describing his apparently plausible credentials, the Spirit of God declares his awful doom as directly from the Lord Jesus Christ whom he had defied. "Whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the breath of His mouth, and shall annul by the appearing of His coming." The accomplishment of this is seen in Revelation 19:11-21 when at Armageddon the beast and his armies are gathered to make war against the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Their intention will be to defend the Jews against the king of the north and his armies, but it is God who has sent the king of the north to punish Israel. Therefore the interference of the beast is actually war against the Lord Jesus. The judgment will be swift and awesome. The beast (the political head of the ten nations) will be taken and with him the false prophet (the son of perdition of whom our chapter speaks), both of them to be cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).
(v. 8) How significant is the simplicity with which the Lord Jesus deals with this man of sin. Many things have come out of his mouth: "the words of his mouth were smoother than butter but war was in his heart" (Ps. 55:21). The repulsive wickedness of his doctrine is seen in Revelation 16:13, 14: "I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of demons, working miracles." But the Lord will consume him "with the breath of His mouth." "The word of the Lord abideth forever," while the great, swelling words of men will be consigned to utter oblivion. "And shall destroy with the appearing of His coming." What terror will fill the heart of such a man when Christ is manifested in His great glory. It will mean "sudden destruction," and no recovery from the ruin that engulfs him for eternity.
The coming of the man of sin "is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." It is necessary, of course, that Satan must prepare men to receive this delusion, and his present campaign to discredit the Word of God as a divine revelation is leading rapidly to this end. These "powers, signs, and lying wonders" will be of a startling, amazing kind, not only the result of astute intellect and advanced technology, but having Satanic power permeating it and therefore unexplainable by natural means.
Satan will have secured a man so thoroughly committed to this horrible object that he will allow himself to be completely the tool of Satan. And though thoroughly unrighteous, yet because of the great supernatural power involved, multitudes will willingly accept him. Having no regard for what is morally upright, men throw themselves open to be willingly deceived. "They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." The pure precious truth of the Lord Jesus Christ having been rejected, then God in righteous judicial government "sends strong delusion, that they should believe the lie." There will be no second chance after the rapture for those who have despised the gospel of grace. They have sold themselves into a state of such contempt for Christ that the life of Antichrist will completely snare them and eternal damnation be their awful end.
Men may say they have a right to believe what they please, but it is false. We have a right to believe only what is right, and those who willingly refuse truth in favor of falsehood are manifestly those who "have pleasure in unrighteousness." Grace may bear long with them, but the end must certainly come in judgment.
Verse 13 introduces the third (and last) division of the epistle, which is in lovely contrast to what we have been considering.
If it was necessary to give clearest instruction as regards that which would attack the very foundations of Christianity, yet none of this could affect the unceasing thanksgiving of the apostle for his brethren beloved of the Lord. In them God had exemplified a marvelous difference: He had chosen them "from the beginning," in view of salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. It may be a question as to the precise time of "the beginning" mentioned here, though the expression "from the beginning" is most commonly used in the New Testament in connection with the manifestation of the Son of God on earth. It is not necessarily so in this case, but it seems the emphasis is on the fact that there could be no change in their position, for they had been chosen long before. In Ephesians 1:4 we are told "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world," and this, of course, is true of all saints.
But here salvation is in view and this is accomplished through sanctification of the Spirit (God's internal work in the soul) and belief of the truth (the response of the soul to Him in faith). Sanctification of the Spirit is found also in 1 Peter 2:2 and indicates the work of the Spirit in dealing with and separating the soul even before the believing of the truth, according to God's pre-knowledge. Sanctification by the blood of Christ is positional, the believer being set apart in his position by virtue of the shedding of the blood of Christ (Heb. 10). Sanctification by the truth (John 17) is progressive, dealing with a daily, practical setting apart of the saints to God.
The apostle says it was "by our gospel" that God called the Thessalonians to this salvation. How blessed a privilege for His servants to be thus found sharing in the blessed work of the matchless grace of God. "To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Salvation is not, therefore, merely from something but involves blessing beyond the highest imagination of man, an eternal participation in the glory which the Lord Jesus Christ is given in His being raised from the dead and exalted at the right hand of God. John 17:22 is the Lord's own word as to this, "the glory which Thou hast given N(e I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." The perfection and dignity of such blessing in contrast to the dreadful end of apostate Christendom is the basis of the following exhortation.
(V. 15) If some fall away let the believer all the more firmly "stand fast," not swayed by any artifice of the enemy, but holding to the solid instruction given by the apostles, whether orally given or by their genuine epistles. The apostle had given them enough to put them on their guard against falsehood, which had so insidiously sought entrance among them. Let them pay close attention to the truth and hold it; this would fully preserve them. It will be noted the word "instruction" is used in the above verse rather than "traditions," for the former is more accurate.
(V. 16) The preciousness of the unity of the Father and the Son in this vital activity is to be well considered here. The Lord Jesus Himself had said when on earth, "If a man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). And again the entire title, "Our Lord Jesus Christ," is used here, "and God, even our Father," as though to press upon us the blessed fullness of supply that is ours in communion with the Father and the Son, for he first speaks of the eternal provision made for us - His love and everlasting consolation and good hope through grace. And the certainty of this is the basis of their practical comfort and establishment in every good word and work. Appreciation of the eternal, unchangeable blessings would certainly work mightily in this practical communion and progress, both in word and in work.
As in the first epistle, so the apostle again asks for their prayers: first for the positive blessing of the Word of God which thy proclaimed that it might have free course to go forward and be glorified, and secondly on the negative side, that they might be delivered from the oppression of unreasonable and wicked men, for all men had not faith, as indeed his previous reference to "the son of perdition" had fully shown. But it is precious to think of the apostle's so valuing the prayers of these young saints: he well knew that God delights to work by such means.
(V. 3) These saints, too, knew that all men had not faith, for they had themselves suffered persecution, and the cruel efforts of Satan in this way were intended to drive the saints back into evil. But the apostle shows them that they may depend fully upon the Lord. He was faithful; He would use the persecution to establish them; He would keep them from evil. A real work of God would not be abortive, and Paul was confident of its reality in the Thessalonians. His confidence was in the Lord concerning them that they would be diligent in following the commandments left them by the Lord's servants, not forgetting them since they were no longer present.
But though verse 5 had already been true of them in good measure, yet how needful that its truth should again and again be pressed upon them, and us: "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." It is divine workmanship that does this, for our hearts naturally tend to be directed in any other way and must be recalled and directed rightly. His love is the proper home of our souls in which we should find purest satisfaction, comfort and encouragement. And the calm, settled endurance that truly waits for Christ is a precious accompaniment of this.
(V. 6) In the first epistle (ch. 5:14) there is a serious exhortation to "warn the disorderly." Not to do so would be to ignore a manifest responsibility to show godly care for his soul and for the welfare of the assembly. But this chapter is far more strong in its language: "we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." When men have been warned as to their disorderly course and yet persist in it, then much more serious measures of discipline must be used. This would be more painful to have to put into practice, but it is true kindness - the brother who walked disorderly must be withdrawn from. He was not put out of fellowship, but the saints were to have no personal fellowship with him, to maintain a reserve that would be decidedly felt by the offender. There is no thought in this of mere personal impatience or anger, but rather of desire for the true recovery and blessing of the guilty party. The object of all discipline is to be restoration. Consequently it must be wisely exercised, with care not to exceed in punishment, but nevertheless with the firmness of true love.
(V. 7) The Lord's servants had left them a most important example as to orderly conduct and in this the saints were to follow them. They did not depend upon others for their support but worked night and day with labor and travail. What an example indeed! Besides their diligence in preaching the Word of God, which would take no little time, they worked also with their hands for their temporal support. If this were true of the Lord's servants, who were at Thessalonica for so brief a time, how shameful for others who resided there permanently to be guilty of sponging from others for their support! It would have been a perfectly right thing for Paul and his fellow-workers to be supported by the means of those to whom they ministered the Word, but they did not use this in order that they might be a more effective and striking example.
Moreover they had commanded the disciples that if any would not work neither should he eat. This should have been plain enough for all of them, whether for the disorderly or for those who might be inclined to be lenient in giving them food or support of any kind.
(V. 11) It is possible that some had so wrong a viewpoint in reference to the nearness of the Lord's coming that they considered it not necessary to work at all. But this reasoning is sinful. Though I am not to be doubtful or worried as to the future, yet I am to labor, working with the hands that which is good in order to have to give to others who may be in need. Work is not simply to be a means of amassing provision for the future on earth but of providing things honestly in the sight of all men, at present. What utter disgrace for a Christian to decide that since Christ is coming soon, therefore he need not work at all, but take his support from others who do work! Nor will it end there. They also become "busybodies," for since paying no attention to their own business, they shamefully interfere in the business of others. The apostle both commands and exhorts such "that with quietness they work and eat their own bread." For one to despise this was to despise the commandment of God.
(V. 13) Though we feel "well-doing" to be a boring, unrewarding occupation, yet we must not become weary in it. If we should take to heart the exhortation of Colossians 3:23, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men," this certainly would lift every responsibility far above the thought of drudgery. But all the saints are seriously admonished not to have company with any brother who persisted in being disorderly. This was with the object of making him ashamed of his indolence in order to work for his restoration. Not that they were to be haughty or cruel to him, but faithful in both their actions and words, never forgetting that he is their brother. If this were fully and graciously carried out by all the saints it would work almost invariably for restoration, unless, of course, the offender were not actually born again, in which case this would likely be exposed.
(V. 16) The designation "the Lord of peace Himself" would be peculiarly comforting to those who had been so troubled both by persecution and by false reports. How good to have the heart directed to Him who had said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). But the desire of the apostle is that the Lord may give them this peace "always" and "by all means." Not that the Lord willingly withholds it, but our state of soul may be such as not to enjoy it, and the answer to this is the drawing of our hearts and eyes to Himself. "By all means," too, would infer that every circumstance He allows may be the means used of God to make this peace a constant reality to the heart. "The Lord be with you all" implies the desire that they should be obedient to Him, for His presence cannot be expected where there is disobedience.
The apostle signs the epistle with his own hand, his unvarying practice, though he employed an amanuensis to do the writing. This would protect them from accepting spurious letters claiming to be from him. The first epistle had closed with the words "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," but the second adds the words "all," as though to include even those believers who were walking disorderly, for his desire for their blessing too has not changed. The precious pastoral character of these epistles is maintained to the end.
Leslie M. Grant