3. PAUL’S EXHORTATION TO THE CHURCH
(a). Wait Patiently for Christ
Believers in Christ today, as it was with the Thessalonian believers, in anticipation of our Lord’s return are encouraged to pray “that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored” ; as our Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray – “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, it should be our prayer that the gospel message will be taken to all corners of the earth and that mankind will honour God our heavenly Father by accepting Christ as saviour. He also adds that we should “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men” , for just as Paul and the Thessalonian believers were constantly being threatened and persecuted by evil men, today that threat is still facing believers in Christ and may even be on the increase as Christ’s return is closer now than it ever was. Today believers are not only faced with physical struggles and persecution, we are also reminded that in the spiritual world we are facing danger every hour from the devil and his demons; but we should be aware and always remember, even though this is a reality, that “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” .
In consideration of all this Paul prays; “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” ; if and when our emotions, intellects and wills are totally controlled by the love of God, and we fully understand that we owe everything that we are and have to God, we will be able to love each other as Christ loved us, and we must persevere to this end .
(b). Withdraw from the Disorderly
Paul now returns to a topic he had previously commented on in his first letter , but is now more authoritative: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” . There is an old proverb that my mother used to quote to us as children: “The devil finds work for idle hands to do”, and this is what Paul is implying in his instruction to the Thessalonians, for he proceeds to say “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” . Idleness (inactivity) unfortunately often leads to interference into other peoples affairs, and it is not clear from this context whether they were inactive in their daily living or they were inactive in the Church, or both. Believers who are not active in their church affairs can become busybodies, thus it becomes all of us to be active in what goes on in our church and not to sit idly spreading rumours and gossiping.
It is probably that they were so taken up with the second coming of Christ that they withdrew from all their work and were waiting for this event to occur, so Paul reminds them of his example to them while he was in their city, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”” . So it is clear that Paul is trying to say to them, and us, that Christ’s return is assured, but in the meanwhile we are to conduct our lives to the furtherance of His kingdom by living according to His teaching.
Paul ends this section with a caution to all believers that those who are guilty of idleness should not be considered enemies of the church, because they are still family members of Christ and God; “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” , and further encourages us to “never tire of doing what is right” .
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” . Paul ends his second letter with a similar prayer to his first letter , for we know that all who remain faithful to Christ and His Word are at peace considering all the trials and hardships, including the disorderly, that we are called to endure.