Devotional # 191. 5/23/16. 2 Thessalonians 3:5-18.
Intro. One of the reasons I chose to put verses 5-15 together is because of the theme of Christian living. Of course God put it together because of a common theme first but I think it will do us a lot of good not to split it up into different Devotionals. We’ll do things a little differently today and not break it down by verses but instead by teaching: 1. Withdrawal from the Disorderly (vv. 6-7, 13-15), 2. Work, Don’t Gossip (vv. 8-12) and 3. Paul’s Farewell (vv. 16-18).
On a section about how to deal with other Christians Paul fittingly reminds us to accept: 1. direction from Jesus (“the Lord direct your hearts”), 2. “the love of God” and 3. “the patience of Christ” (v. 5). Pay attention to this Devotional if you’re struggling with a relationship of someone in your church or another fellow believer at work, etc.
Withdrawal from the Disorderly (vv. 6-7, 13-15)
In this section we’re told to not hang out with Christians (“brothers”) who don’t follow the Bible (“the tradition…received from us”). But why not and how are we supposed to “withdraw” from them? First, the “why not?” Well, we were told in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (Devotional # 189) to hold to these “traditions.” And because everything from the apostles (and therefore from God) was good and beneficial for believers lives (Matthew 4:4). Paul ties this to a specific problem the church in Thessalonica was having: people not working but instead gossiping. We’ll talk more about this in a minute but here the reason to withdraw was to show those Christians that what they were doing was unacceptable, to make sure the good weren’t counted as one of the wrong people and also to set a good example to non-Christians who are always watching us to see if Jesus is real and Christianity is true.
Second, how are Christians supposed to “withdraw” from those who are doing wrong? First, in absolute love, as we saw in verse 5. Next, Paul lays it out for us to “not keep company with [them]” (v. 13). Note that we don’t just avoid them whether they notice or not, Paul says the end goal is for them to be “ashamed” (v. 14). Not that we take joy in shaming our brothers and sisters but that they would recognize their mistake and change. Remember the goal is always reconciliation (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul couldn’t be more clear that we don’t treat our fellow believers as “enemies” but “admonish as a brother [or sister]” (v. 15).
Work, Don’t Gossip (vv. 8-12)
As I briefly mentioned above Paul is tying the sins of slothfulness and gossip to “walking disorderly” but these are not all that we should “withdraw” from, instead these were issues happening in real time in Thessalonica.
First, why should Christians work? Because any reasonable person recognizes that no one deserves a free ride. If the majority of able bodied people work for a living what makes someone who is fully capable any different? I belong to a generation of entitlement, and it is wrong. Thank goodness I had the Bible to guide me away from that mentality. As Paul says, if you want to eat, you have to work for it (v. 10). In addition to that we are all representatives of Jesus who never took a free ride. If we want to do the right thing then: 1. We should lead other Christians by example as Paul, Silas and Timothy did (vv. 8-9) and 2. We should be a good example to non-Christians also.
Second, let’s define “gossip.” Some people think gossip is lying about someone or something but that’s not true at all. Gossip is telling the truth about something when you should have kept your mouth shut. What determines when you shouldn’t say anything? Usually common sense but if you don’t have that then follow this guide: Would you say it to the person’s face or only behind their back? Would they appreciate it if you told others about their personal issue? Is it helpful? Does it encourage and build up? Does it serve a purpose?
Now that we know what gossip is we should ask how can it hurt others? I’ve been reading a book called Captive In Iran about two Iranian ladies who were imprisoned a few years ago for being Christians. They tell a story about an elderly woman they called “Mommy” who was always gossiping and trying to stir up trouble, turning prisoners against each other. After many attempts to stop her from this behavior it all came crashing down one day when “Mommy” had encouraged a drug addict to bully other ladies. One of the other prisoners named Tahmasebi had enough and almost killed the bully and then she went to “Mommy” and told her if she gossiped and instigated bullying ever again she would be killed. That night the warden moved “Mommy” onto another floor with all of the murderers (Source 1).
Obviously this story is quite dramatic but don’t fool yourself into thinking your gossip wouldn’t have the same effect on you and everyone around you. Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (ESV). If nothing else makes you believe that gossiping is wrong and that you should stop let the verse that tells you God hates it, be the one!
Paul’s Farewell (vv. 16-18)
After these specific things (love, patience, withdrawing from disorderly believers, working and not gossiping) and other things from the letter (perseverance in persecutions, God would be glorified in us, our salvation, sanctification, words and work) Paul says, “may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.” So the title “Lord of peace” is applicable because He will give you “peace” in all things. It’s also interesting that Paul states, “the Lord be with you all” because of the portions of this book (and 1st Thessalonians) where Paul gave us doctrine on the end times (the Rapture, THE apostasy, Antichrist and Final Judgment). For the Christian, Jesus will always be with us, for those who reject Him, He will separate Himself. And that is the worst punishment of all.
Paul proves that he wrote the letter by signing it and then tells them that he does this for all his letters. This is important for us today because the early church would have been able to spot frauds and the fact that they passed these on (and kept the originals as proof) gives yet another assurance that our New Testament books are true, from God and inerrant (without error).
Lastly, as he usually does, Paul finishes with a closing statement from Jesus. Interestingly Paul doesn’t mention God the Father here but the complete authority of Jesus alone. It is Jesus who gives us “grace” which will be with all of us.
Conclusion. The book of 2nd Thessalonians has been short but good. I gave a little summary above but I believe it is a book that can be read over and over, always giving us new things. We’ll make more connections within it (and especially tying back to 1st Thessalonians) the more we read it. I hope it blessed you as much as it blessed me. Look forward to 1 Timothy next week and have a great day!
Source 1: Maryam Rostampour, Marziyeh Amirizadeh, John Perry, Captive In Iran, Tyndale Momentum, pp. 185-186, 2013.