2 THESSALONIANS 3
“Deliver us from the Evil One” – this is a basic part of the prayer pattern that Jesus himself taught us. Paul begins this chapter in that frame of mind too. Pray that the gospel message he speaks will be honoured and obeyed. Pray that he, and all God’s people, will be delivered from wicked and evil people. Notice that Paul is not some kind of masochistic persecution-seeker; he wants to avoid the taunts and insults of the ungodly as much as anyone else. But he will not compromise his faith for the sake of a quiet life!
God will strengthen us and will protect us from the Devil – we can be sure of that. But that does not mean that persecution will always be held at arm’s length from us, either. The key factors are our motivation and our resolution… “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love (‘motivation’) and Christ’s perseverance (‘resolution’) – v5.
This Second Letter ends with some very down-to-earth advice to us to avoid those believers who are idle and disruptive. This may seem rather harsh, but God is passionate about the unity of his Church, whom he purchased at huge cost to himself. Paul and his team worked very hard to support themselves financially and not be a burden on a small and persecuted church – despite having a right to be supported by the believers. They did this to ‘model’ the principle that everyone should earn their living, if possible.
There was a general rule that anyone who was unwilling to work should not be given hand-outs. Their own hunger would quickly pull them back from a lifestyle of laziness. In recent years, society in general has increasingly opposed free financial hand-outs being given to the so-called ‘undeserving poor’; there is gathering public support for recipients to be seen to be doing something to help themselves too, and a requirement for the unemployed to ‘give something back’. This mood appears to emanate from 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
The other problem with idle Christians is that they cause hard-working Christians to become idle, by interfering and by ‘modelling’ an alternative lifestyle that appears to be free and full of grace but is in fact centred on selfishness. The Church has enough issues with apathy without apathy getting help from the Body of Christ! So, Paul says, warn them and then avoid them altogether until they repent.
Paul has thus far dictated his letter to a scribe, but now he applies his signature to prove his authorship. He had probably anticipated this whilst still in Thessalonica and had left the church leaders there with a sample signature – similar to the way that banks operate today! And, even beyond this, the Greater Author and Inspirer of these letters also left His mark on them, evidenced by their teachings producing life, power and holiness in their hearers and readers. (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Finally: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). What more could any of us possibly need!