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Paul’s Personal Request (vv.1-2)
Pray For God’s Message (v.1)
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you,
Paul knows the believer’s in Thessaly are under intense persecution and experiencing all kinds of troubles. Remember one of the reasons Paul wrote this letter was to correct misunderstandings about the coming of Christ; but also to provide comfort, consolation, and hope. Paul wants them to continue to walk faithfully in the Lord Jesus Christ. But Paul and his companions had their hands full as well. Paul’s message in Corinth (the Gospel) was stubbornly resisted by the Jews.
The word “finally” marks a transition from belief or doctrine to behavior and duty. This is the practical exhortation towards discipleship and and sanctification. Paul asks for prayer. Pray for God’s message. Prayer is power. We are left with the impression that in some sense our dependence upon God and His power provides the fuel for the success of any given ministry.
The power of God manifested in heart-felt prayer cannot be underestimated.
Paul the Apostle, God’s veteran in the trenches, knows that hope lies in believing the words of Jesus; “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). In the previous epistle Paul wrote; “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:10).
“the word of the Lord” is the revelation of God in Christ. It is the message Paul preaches. Paul wrote; “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 4:3).
The gospel is the Christian message for those who have done their best and failed! David O. McKay said; “The gospel of Jesus Christ can make bad men good and good men better, can alter human nature, and change human lives”.
The phrase translated “may run swiftly” is a single Greek verb; trecho; which simply means run; and was used of those who run in a race. Paul uses it in the metaphorical sense; to run quickly or proceed swiftly and without obstacle or hindrance. Paul sees “the word of the Lord” like an Olympian runner, carrying the torch that will bring light, bring understanding, bring forgiveness and hope and redemption. Paul’s prayer is that the Gospel will be given a free course and that the Lord would be glorified in the proclamation of the Gospel and what the Gospel provides for those who hear it and believe it and are changed by it.
One of Satan’s chief strategies is to eradicate the Gospel message; if he is unable to eliminate the gospel, then pollute it, or add to it, or make the Gospel seem ludicrous, ridiculous, boring or just plain irrelevant. The gospel is all about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Donald Coggan, former Archbishop of Canterbury has said of Christian pastors: “It is their task to feed the sheep--not to entertain the goats”.
The Bible message is powerful, real, true. But for many the Bible has little power to influence or change, or transform. Why? Opposition, unprepared hearts, sleepy-eyed listeners, daydreaming minds, unprepared or carnal preachers and teachers.
“You cannot tell how much God’s servants are helped by the prayers of his people. The strongest man in Israel will be the better for the prayers of the weakest saint in Zion.” (Spurgeon)
The point of prayer is focused not on Paul but on the centrality of the Gospel.
“The gospel is not presented to mankind as an argument about religious principles. Nor is it offered as a philosophy of life. Christianity is a witness to certain facts--to events that have happened, to hopes that have been fulfilled, to realities that have been experienced, to a Person who has lived and died and been raised from the dead to reign for ever” (Massey H. Shepherd).
The mother of John and Charles Wesley was apt to remind her boys; “there are two things to do abut the gospel--believe it and behave it” (Susanna Wesley).
“When the sheep are fed, they will flock together in love, reproduce, follow the shepherd . . .It is when the sheep are hungry that they start biting each other becoming sick, and wandering away” (Warren Wiersbe; TBEC Vol.2; p.2-3). Healthy sheep reproduce.
Pray For God’s Messenger (v.2)
2 Thessalonians 3:2 (NKJV) and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
The Holy Spirit of God can use dedicated people to support the Word of God; and Satan can use unreasonable and wicked men to oppose both the Word of God and the work of God. The word translated “unreasonable” is atopos; topos--place--a--the alpha-privative--and so negative--so literally out of place. Depending on how the word was used in the ancient Greek world it could mean strange, paradoxical, and in later Greek writings it took on an ethical connotation and so “improper, or wicked” and so here it is translated “unreasonable”. One Bible teacher translates this “moral insanity”.
The second adjective “wicked” is poneros; a word that was used to describe an active, hostile, threat, wickedness could be passive or active, here the word means harmful. Clearly Paul is speaking of the fanatical Jews who were actively opposing Paul in Corinth.
“for not all have faith”
Paul knows the unreasonable and wicked men have religious beliefs. We are not surprised that people do not have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
C.S. Lewis wrote; “I believe that there are too many accommodating preachers. . .Jesus Christ did not say, “Go into the world and tell the world that is quite right.” The gospel is something completely different. It fact, it directly opposed to the world.”
How is it that some have faith in Christ and others do not? There are those who have never felt any desire or inclination to enter into fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are those who have some desire; perhaps who have made an honest inquiry into the truth, but have stumbled over some real or imagined difficulty.
Most people make at least a pretense towards the truth.
Some people set aside Jesus and the gospel because they believe Jesus will interfere with their legitimate or illegitimate pursuits; waste their time, energy or resources; or introduce gloom or restraint in their lives.
Paul asks for prayer. But he does not ask for money, or comfort, or personal needs, or to take Paul away from the pain and problems in Corinth. Paul does not ask for Government help or social justice. Paul asks for prayer that the Gospel will be preached and heard and heeded and provide help.
The Gospel preached and glorified; the gospel given, believed, souls saved and changed, people freed from sin and guilt. People free to honor God and obey Jesus; freed from immoral and evil behavior; from unjust treatment, from ignorance, from carnality. People full, instead of empty, free instead of enslaved, people saved instead of lost, people directed instead of living a life of constant doubt and uncertainty.
Paul’s Personal Reassurance (vv.3-5)
God Is Faithful (vv.3-4)
2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV) But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.
Paul has high hopes that the Thessalonians will not cave in to the schemes of the devil.
The verb phylasso is related to the noun phylax a guard or a sentinel. So here it means to guard or protect; a guard that renders the subject or object being guarded as safe. Clearly the idea is to protect and keep safe. Lightfoot paraphrases this; “He will not only place you in a firm position, but also maintain you there against assaults from without” (p.125) or outside.
The evil one is the devil. This is not evil in the abstract. This is not simply bad thinking or even wicked living. The evil one influences evil men.
God promised to keep Satan on a short leash. The Lord will not allow any temptation to become too great for us (1 Corinthians 10:13), and will not allow Satan to do whatever he wants with us (Luke 22:31-32) (Guzik Outlines 2 Thess. 3:3). Jesus prayed to the Father for our protection; “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
We have a supernatural enemy, powerful, clever, wicked. The Bible teaches that he sows tares among God’s wheat (Matt. 13:24-30); He instigates false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1-3); He perverts the Word of God (Gen.3:1-4); He hinders the works of God’s servants (Dan. 10:12-13); He blinds men to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4); He steals the Word of God from human hearts (Matt.13:19); Satan is involved in a constant campaign of accusation (Job 1:7-12); laying snares for men (2 Tim.2:26); tempting (Matt. 4:1); afflicting (Job 2:7; Luke 13:16; 2 Cor. 12:7); deceiving (Rev.12:9).
Satan undermines the sanctity of the home and he prompts both sinner and saint to transgress the holiness of God (Matt. 16:22-23; John 13:2; Acts 5:3).
People are often unfaithful. But God is faithful. Paul writes in 2 Timothy at the end of his life, in a prison cell in Rome, of the terrible tragedy of being abandoned by all; “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica--Cresens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:10-11).
2 Thessalonians 3:4 (NKJV) And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
Expectation is a very funny thing. What is it that Paul desires from the little band of believers in Thessaly? Paul desires the people’s prayers (vv.1-2). Paul desires that the people trust the Lord (v.3). Paul desires that the people obey what is taught (v.4).
Does that seem odd to you? It shouldn’t. This is what Jesus insisted from His disciples. Paul has confidence in the Lord that they would continue to do; that is exercise obedience to the things of God and Christ. Paul has spent a great deal of time explaining the Word of God; and the Scriptures contain promises we are to believe; and commands we are to obey. Do you remember what the Psalmist wrote; “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8).
Matthew 28:20 (NKJV) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.
The gospel itself calls for people to repent and believe (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; Acts 2:38). The duty of believers was to obey the divine commands (the Scriptures) whether the Pastor is present or absent. The “command” is not limited to the Pastor or the leaders or full time workers. The word command (1 Thess. 3:4) here is a military term; it means “a military order passed down from a superior officer.” If the Christian life can be likened to a battle; then not only must the officers fight; but so must the soldiers. What if the Army were run with the same lack of obedience, order and discipline that we find in any given local church? Battles could never be fought or won! Earthly soldiers obey and serve sometimes out of loyalty and sometimes out of fear. But we serve from a much higher motivation; we love the Lord and long for His return.
God Is Loving And Patient (v.5)
2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NKJV) Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
Paul desires the people’s prayers (vv.1-2). Paul desires that the people trust the Lord (v.3). Paul desires that the people obey what is taught (v.4). Paul desires that the people grow spiritually (v.5).
Look at what Paul writes; the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God” The word “direct” is kateuthunai--which means to make straight or to be straight. What is the shortest distance between two points? What is the shortest distance between the love of God and the place in your heart where the love of God belongs?
The expression carries with it the idea of removing the obstacles or barriers that prevent passage. The highways in the Rocky Mountains are notorious for rock slides. Hardly a week goes by where a boulder doesn’t fall on one of the mountain roads. The Lord Jesus takes the believers hearts and removes and those boulders that come crashing down that hinders your heart in the love of God. The Lord makes straight, the Lord directs and focuses the believer’s heart upon the love of God. The result is the believer learns to love the Lord more and more.
The reassurance Paul offers is when the trial comes, when the trouble comes, when the temptation is overwhelming and the evil attack presses hard; the believer is able to stand in the love of God and overcome the attack.
The word patience is hupomone; “a remaining behind”--patient endurance; fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance. I would add patience in trial and suffering; we might even say a Christ-like fortitude. This is a patience that come from constant contact with Jesus. We could also allow the meaning a patient expectation. There is the hint of the patient expectation of Jesus Himself. There is a sense in which we can understand this as the steadfastness of Christ and waiting for Christ.
By: Gino Geraci