New School Year
Sarah and Tyler China Trip
Pastor Aaron’s Surgery
Daniel's Job Situation
Brad Teaching for the First Time
Text – 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
There are two things you can do when this life is all you have.
When Corinth had stopped believing in the resurrection from the dead, and believed that this world was all there was, what’d they do? They went nuts, sinning all the more, they wanted to get as much out of this life as they possibly could because they didn’t believe there was anything to come.
Thessalonica went the opposite route, which is what we’re going to look at today. I think I’d probably take the Thessalonica direction, which is sit down and stop doing anything that didn't give me instant gratification. We’ll see that Thessalonica and Corinth weren’t that dissimilar in their motives, just their application was different. Paul doesn’t even consider whether they may be right or not in their response if there were no Resurrection, because there is a Resurrection.
The Emergent Church likes to ask stupid questions like that, “I know that Paul wrote Romans, but what if he didn’t? Would that make any difference?” Stupid questions like that. Some if questions are good, like, “What if Christ hadn’t resurrected from the dead?” Then according to Paul we would be much to be pitied among all people, and Christianity would be a dead religion.
1 Corinthians 15:16-19 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
There’s no reason to keep throwing out conditions, “Well, I know that Christ rose from the dead, but if he didn’t, but Christianity was still true, would we be justified in going nuts, or in quitting doing anything?” It’s a dumb question, and Paul didn’t even give it a second thought.
So a real quick overview, why did Paul need to write Second Thessalonians? Because they thought they had missed the rapture. Had they? No. What two things have to happen before Christ returns? A massive falling away from true Christianity, and the coming of the Antichrist.
So that’s our background for this passage, because people thought they had missed the rapture, they weren't being good Christians.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
It’s a pretty straightforward passage, but there are some neat contextual things in it that will make it blossom for you, and hopefully help you put this passage into application.
v.6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
This isn’t pointed directly at the people who were being lazy. Paul doesn’t call somebody out and tell them to get up and get a job. He tells the congregation as a whole to keep working, and to disassociate themselves from people who wouldn't work. Surely some who would hear the reading of this letter would be the very people Paul was talking about, and surely it would cut them to the core knowing that they were sinning against Heaven as declared by Paul.
The tradition that Paul taught them, was it something new that he had made up? No, which Testament was it from? The Old one. We’ll look at it a little more in verse 9.
v.7-8 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.
What was Paul’s profession?
Acts 18:1-3 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
Paul was a tent-maker. This is an awesome profession for him, because it allowed him to make tents pretty much anywhere. It’s not like he needed really special tools, especially since the tanner would do most of the dirty work. Paul mentions things to do with tents all over the place, it’s one of the reasons I’m sure he was the main author of Hebrews. Check out a cool verse that you’d never know what it means if you didn’t know Paul was a tent-maker.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The word for divide, which is sometimes translated “handle”, is orthotomeo, it means to make a straight cut, to accurately measure and then snip. This is how Paul would have rightly measured and cut tents, and he’s applying it to the Word of Truth. If you mismeasured and miscut, what would happen to your tent? It’d be lop-sided. Same with your theology.
It was a totally normal for Pharisees to learn a trade, it was supposed to keep them humble and in touch with the people. It’s pretty neat that Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, would be a tent-maker though, ‘cuz it’s a prophecy fulfillment from 2400 years before he was born.
Genesis 9:27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.
Who is Shem? Israel. Which people group did the Messiah come from? The Semites. Who are the Japhethites? Gentiles, specifically Europeans. Dude, God has this whole thing planned out long before it happened.
Galatians 1:15-16 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…
There is no mention of the professions of Timothy and Silas, so its impossible to say what they did with Paul, whether they helped him or did other things, but this letter is clear that they worked doing something.
The point is that they worked hard while they were in Thessalonica, and paid for everything they ate. Was it because they didn’t deserve to be supported by the church?
v.9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.
They could have subsisted on the congregation for two reasons, but they wanted to set an example. Paul said it best in his letter later to Timothy.
1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."
Paul appeals to two separate laws. The muzzling of the ox, from Deuteronomy 25, refers to letting the ox eat while it is working, for it should share in the harvest. The second about a laborer, from Deuteronomy 24, sets strict requirements for the Jews not to hold back wages. Those familiar with the Old Testament would recognize also that the laborer in that passage is associated with a sojourner, a person who just stops by for a while, who the Jew was required to house and feed. This was Paul, Silas, and Timothy, they they worked.
So Paul and Silas and Timothy didn’t work because they had to, but because they had full rights to food and shelter, but they worked to set an example. One of my favorite parts about being a volunteer pastor is that I am right here with Paul, everything I do with you guys is because I love you and I love Jesus, not because I get money for it. Granted, the more I do it, the more I wish I could do it full time, so sooner or later, hopefully sooner, I’ll find a church to pay me. As you grow up, even if you might go into full time ministry, I implore you to get a job where you work with your hands.
On the basis of this example, Paul is going to give a pretty strong admonition.
v.10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
This is obviously talking about someone who is able to work, but isn’t. We are to totally take care of a person who is unable to work because of a valid reason. If you’re not willing to work, Paul says you ought not be allowed to eat. Consider this when you’re doing chores or helping around the house. Your parents are going to provide for you either way, but you really should do your best to pull your own weight, and we'll see why it a little bit.
v.11-12 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
What’s a busybody? Someone who has so much time on their hand that they’re getting into mischief, either through gossip, or just annoying people. God doesn’t like these people.
1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Peter lumps it in with such serious sins as murder and larceny. We need to stay away from gossip. Paul gives them a gentle exhortation to start working again and earn their own living. His is the beginning of church discipline, you point out that something is wrong, and gently ask them to fix it. What if they won’t fix it?
v.14-15 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
The next thing to do if someone won’t correct their ways, is to disfellowship them. That is, stop talking to them, stop letting them come to church, stop associating with them in every way. The goal is so that they’ll realize that their sin is serious, be ashamed of it, and repent.
We don’t do this to be mean, we do it to straighten out a wayward friend. Sin is serious and it will wreck your life, not to mention your eternity, so it is very important that we consider someone’s holiness, repentance, and regeneration as more important than their feelings.
v.13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
It is tempting, since the world is such a wicked place and we seem to be doing so little good, to just stop doing good altogether. Paul reminds us not to do that. We are storing up crowns in Heaven, we are serving the Living Christ, our good deeds, no matter how little reward we see out of them, are for his namesake and are therefore totally worth it. The best way to get a lot out of doing good is to not expect to get anything in return. That way, when you do something good only because you’re being obedient to Christ, and you get something good back, all the better.
Even if we never get anything back, we need to keep doing good, because it’s the right and godly thing to do. But I guarantee you’ll get something back. We’re going to talk about this a lot more in about a month when we get into First Peter.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever job you’re doing, remember that you’re not just doing it for the money or for your parents or boss, but that ultimately your boss, your master, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything you do reflects on him, so we ought to do everything as well as we possibly can.
So that’s the letter, here is the conclusion, which is a benediction.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
The Lord of peace is Jesus Christ. No matter what you’re going through, he is capable of giving you a peace beyond all understanding, because he has for you taken on and defeated death, he has reconciled you to his father, you were once his enemy, but now you have peace in his blood. And to top it all off, he is with us actively establishing our hearts in hope through good works and words. He has a wonderful plan for us, a plan towards sanctification and allowing us to minister in his name. Even when things look bleak, he is our God, and we are his people.
Finally, what got this whole letter kicked off? A false letter came in from Paul that said they’d missed the rapture. How do they know this letter is genuine?
2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Paul, who had some sort of eye problem, signed this letter. We don’t have the original, but I imagine it was big and blocky and scribbly.
Here we bid adieu to our beloved Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Next week we will look at Psalm 24 with the new Middle-Schoolers, then go to Peter on Pentecost, and then we’ll be in First and Second Peter.
Any questions, comments, or insights about these letters to Thessalonica?