Digging Deeper Days
In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance. 6 Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you; 8 we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us. 10 In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” 11 For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. 12 Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves. 13 But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet don’t consider him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
1) Who were the brothers and sisters Paul addresses? (verse 1)
Paul founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey, which is detailed in Acts 17:1-9. Thessalonica was a bustling and prosperous city with a population of over 100,000. As the ESV Study Bible explains, Thessalonica was the capital of a Roman Providence in Macedonia, now part of modern Greece. Most people in the city believed in the Greco-Roman Pantheon, but there was a significant Jewish population. Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica was cut short after only three weeks due to an uprising in the community targeting new Christians. (Acts 17:2) The fledgling church experienced persecution right from the start. The local leaders were imprisoned after Paul left, but the church continued to grow and flourish despite their sufferings. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians after receiving a report from Timothy on the success and faithfulness of the new church. “Paul became so excited that he dashed off this letter to the Thessalonians, probably his first letter to any church.” (Guzik) However, scholars think soon after getting the good news of the church’s growth in Thessalonica, he received a less than positive update. The church was struggling and needed guidance. To further encourage and strengthen these local believers, Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians as a response to specific challenges the church was facing.
2) How did Paul encourage the Thessalonians regarding God’s faithfulness? (verses 2-5)
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by reminding them of truth in verse 3, “God is faithful”. The Thessalonians had concerns about the future return of Christ, and after becoming Christians, had undergone severe persecution. (2 Thessalonians 1:4) Focusing on the faithfulness of God provided the believers with a solid reason to choose not to worry about the future. God was faithful; it was impossible for Him to abandon them. Paul reminded them it was this perfectly faithful God who would establish and guard them against the evil one. (verse 3) In verse 5 Paul asks the Lord to “direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” Paul specifically prayed this, knowing that by anchoring their hearts in the truth of God’s love they would find Christ’s own endurance available to them as they persevered in the face of suffering.
3) Why did Paul command the local church to cast out idle people? (verses 6-15)
Most of 2 Thessalonians 3 addresses how the community of Christians should handle people in their midst who are idle and actively taking advantage of other believers’ generosity. In verse 6, Paul commands the community to keep away from any brother walking in idleness. “Idleness, (gk takos) means undisciplined, irresponsible or disorderly. These people are shirking their obligation to work (Genesis 2:15).” (ESV Study Bible) Laziness contrasted with Paul’s hard work and self-sufficiency in order to love his brothers and sisters in the church well. The underlying imperative was for every believer to generously care for one another. Paul emphasized this importance by stating a natural consequence, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” (verse 10) This consequence was put in place to effectively exclude a member from community, which speaks of the seriousness of the offense. The first Church gatherings typically included communal meals. To exclude someone from the meal meant excluding them from the community. These idlers were not physically unable to work, but instead they chose not to work. Whatever the reason for their idleness, it was unacceptable behavior because it was a source of sin. “It was not only because of the work that they didn’t do, but also because of the harm they created with their idle time.” (Guzik) Paul doesn’t directly address why they aren’t working. Instead, he focuses on appropriate behavior, “We command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves.” In verses 14 and 15, Paul clarifies, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t consider him as an enemy but warn him as a brother.”
1) Who were the brothers and sisters Paul addresses? (verse 1)
We can learn much from the Thessalonians and Paul’s instruction to them. This early church was heavily persecuted. Just as they suffered, neither should we be surprised by persecution and times of suffering. Matthew 5:10-12 tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted and should rejoice because we’ll be rewarded in heaven. Since this church was birthed in conflict, these believers knew the price they might pay for their faith. Those of us who have grown up without persecution may not be well prepared for suffering for our faith and the modern assault on our values. We need to be ready for suffering when our beliefs go against the dominant culture. This passage should also remind us to pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world. Many radical governments have banned Christianity and have outlawed telling others about our faith.
2) How did Paul encourage the Thessalonians in regards to God’s faithfulness? (verses 2-5)
Paul specifically encouraged the Thessalonians to focus on the character of God and the blessings they had already experienced. Paul’s exhortation, “God is faithful”, is a promise we can depend on and share with others today. Because God is faithful we can trust Him to be ever-present with us, provide for us, and return one day. Paul encouraged them to focus on God’s love and Jesus’ steadfastness. Much in this world changes, but God’s love is eternal. We do not have to earn it. It is the eternal gift our salvation rests upon. Paul’s encouragement for the new believers in Thessalonica was also practical. When someone becomes a Christian, they may not know how to live in a way that brings glory to God. Paul articulated how to live as a Christian. He also modeled the importance of working and being responsible, so that new believers would imitate him as he imitated Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) We should both communicate the gospel and model Christ-like behavior so people around us, like our kids and friends, can see and hear how to live in freedom as believers.
3) Why did Paul command them to cast out idle people? (verses 6-15)
In times of persecution, our natural inclination is to look for an escape from suffering. When faced with persecution, this church focused on the return of Christ which seems like a good thing, but can be a distraction from giving and truly living for Christ every day. Some scholars believe some members of the church quit working to await the Lord’s return. Rather than seeing the return of the Lord as a reason to tell others about Jesus, they embraced the fatalistic attitude of Isaiah 22:13, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Today, this attitude keeps us from living every moment for God’s glory. Recognizing our mortality and the imminent return of Christ are not excuses for idleness, or reasons to put off telling others about Jesus. God has designed us to work, so let us work. As Jesus said, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” (John 5:17) Paul advised the Thessalonian congregation to exclude idle believers. They weren’t cast out as unbelievers, but were excluded for taking advantage of others’ generosity. “The intention of ex-communication is not to drive men from the Lord’s flock, but rather to bring them back again when they have wandered and gone astray…. Excommunication is to be distinguished from anathema.” (Calvin) Paul’s command was intended to preserve the community’s equanimity and ensure provision for those truly in need. Interestingly, Paul also linked idleness with being a busybody. In 1 Timothy 5:13 he warned the congregation against supporting young widows because “At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say.” Providing for the poor and widows is still an important ministry of the church. However, those managing these ministries must balance their desire to give with discernment from the Holy Spirit in applying Paul’s command to exclude those taking advantage of other believers’ generosity.
Digging Deeper is for Everyone!
1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!
Why Dig Deeper?
Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.
In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!
Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.
We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.
Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!
Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))
Download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!
Tap and hold on your mobile device to save.