The Second to the Thessalonians 3:1-18

3  Finally, brothers, carry on prayer for us,+ that the word of Jehovah may keep spreading rapidly+ and being glorified, just as it is with you,  and that we may be rescued from harmful and wicked men,+ for faith is not a possession of all people.+  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the wicked one.+  Moreover, we have confidence in the Lord regarding you, that you are carrying out and will go on carrying out our instructions.  May the Lord continue to guide your hearts successfully to the love of God+ and to the endurance+ for the Christ.  Now we are giving you instructions, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother who is walking disorderly+ and not according to the tradition that you* received from us.+  For you yourselves know how you should imitate us,+ because we did not behave in a disorderly way among you,  nor did we eat anyone’s food free.+ On the contrary, by labor and toil we were working night and day so as not to impose an expensive burden on any one of you.+  Not that we do not have authority,+ but we wanted to offer ourselves as an example for you to imitate.+ 10  In fact, when we were with you, we used to give you this order: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”+ 11  For we hear that some are walking disorderly among you,+ not working at all, but meddling with what does not concern them.+ 12  To such people we give the order and exhortation in the Lord Jesus Christ that they should work quietly and eat food they themselves earn.+ 13  For your part, brothers, do not give up in doing good.+ 14  But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked and stop associating with him,+ so that he may become ashamed. 15  And yet do not consider him an enemy, but continue admonishing him+ as a brother. 16  Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace constantly in every way.+ May the Lord be with all of you. 17  Here is my greeting, Paul’s, in my own hand,+ which is a sign in every letter; this is the way I write. 18  The undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

Footnotes

Or possibly, “they.”

Study Notes

the word of Jehovah: Or “the message of Jehovah.” This expression is frequently used in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it often refers to an inspired prophetic message from Jehovah. (Some examples are Isa 1:10; Jer 1:4, 11; Eze 3:16; 6:1; 7:1; Jon 1:1.) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term refers to the Christian message that originates with Jehovah God and that features the important role of Jesus Christ in the outworking of God’s purpose. It is often used in the book of Acts to describe the spread of Christianity.​—Ac 8:25; 12:24; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:20; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; 1Th 1:8.

the word of Jehovah: See study note on 1Th 1:8 and App. C3 introduction; 2Th 3:1.

may keep spreading rapidly: Lit., “may be running.” The Greek verb “to run” is here used figuratively in the sense of “to proceed quickly and without restraint.” The metaphor of a message running swiftly among people was well-known in the ancient world. But Paul may here have had in mind Ps 147:15, which says that God’s word “runs swiftly.” Both scriptures seem to personify the word of Jehovah, speaking of it as a speedy messenger, or runner, who rushes to his destination in order to carry out the will of his master. Paul is apparently asking the Thessalonian Christians to pray that he and his coworkers might spread the word of truth with urgency and without hindrance. At 1Th 1:8, Paul also commented on the swift spread of Jehovah’s word.​—Compare Mt 24:14; Mr 13:10.

being glorified: That is, highly esteemed and accepted “not as the word of men but . . . as the word of God.”​—1Th 2:13.

faith: The term “faith” is translated from the Greek word piʹstis, primarily conveying the thought of confidence, trust, firm persuasion. At Heb 11:1, Paul gives a divinely inspired definition of the term “faith.” Like love, faith is defined by how it acts. (Jas 2:18, 22; see study note on Joh 3:16.) The Scriptures indicate that Christian faith should grow stronger; accordingly, Jesus’ disciples said: “Give us more faith.” (Lu 17:5) Paul commended the Christians in Thessalonica, saying: “Your faith is growing exceedingly.” (2Th 1:3; see also 2Co 10:15.) In the book of Galatians, “faith” is mentioned more than 20 times, most often referring to trust in God or in Christ, as in this verse. (Ga 3:6, 11) At 2Th 3:2, Paul says: “Faith is not a possession of all people.” To have strong faith, a person must have Jehovah’s holy spirit.

faith is not a possession of all people: Here Paul refers to the “harmful and wicked men” who were persecuting Paul and his fellow believers. (2Th 3:2, 3) However, Paul’s words about faith can have a broader sense. His statement is well-founded in examples from his own experience. In the face of the same evidence, some people develop faith, whereas others do not. (Ac 14:1-4; 17:32-34; Heb 11:3) Paul’s statement does not mean that some people are incapable of developing faith. However, true faith is an aspect of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. (Ga 5:22 and study note) Therefore, in his letters Paul urges his fellow Christians to allow God’s spirit to influence their life. (Ga 5:16, 25; 1Th 5:19) They would thereby fully discern the evidence that provides a solid basis for faith. (Heb 11:1) To obtain the help of the holy spirit, Christians must petition God for it (Lu 11:9-13; 17:5) and study his spirit-inspired Word (2Ti 3:16, 17). Those who refuse to seek such help will not possess faith, abundant though the evidence is.

not working at all: The individuals Paul mentions were apparently healthy, but they refused to work to provide for themselves. They wanted to live off others, contrary to God’s counsel on laziness. (Pr 6:6-11; 10:4, 5; 13:4; 20:4; 24:30-34) Some may even have thought that the presence of Jesus Christ was imminent, and they used that misconception as an excuse for not working. (2Th 2:1, 2) They were perhaps imposing an expensive burden on the congregation or on some of its members.​—2Th 3:8.

meddling with what does not concern them: Paul here uses a play on words that was common among ancient Greek writers. The expression “meddling” implies an unhealthy curiosity about matters that are not one’s concern or responsibility. According to one reference work, the whole phrase could be rendered “not keeping busy but being busybodies.”

keep this one marked: The Greek word rendered “keep . . . marked” literally means “to put a sign on.” In this context, it conveys the idea “to take special notice of someone.” After the congregation had publicly been alerted about certain wrong behavior, individual Christians were to take note of, or keep marked, any who behaved in that way.

and stop associating with him: A person who was “walking disorderly” in the congregation was not guilty of practicing a grave sin for which he could be disfellowshipped. (2Th 3:11) Still, he was persisting in a course that could reflect badly on the congregation and that could influence other Christians. Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him. (Compare 2Ti 2:20, 21.) This action might help the disorderly one to realize that he needed to conform to Bible principles. Fellow Christians would not completely avoid the person, for Paul advises them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.”​—See study note on 2Th 3:15.

the traditions: The Greek word pa·raʹdo·sis, here rendered “traditions,” refers to something handed down, such as information, instructions, or practices that have been conveyed to others to follow. The word as used in the Christian Greek Scriptures is sometimes applied to beneficial traditions, that is, traditions that were proper or acceptable aspects of true worship. (2Th 2:15; 3:6) For example, the information that the apostle Paul received regarding the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal could properly be passed on to the Christian congregations as acceptable Christian tradition. (1Co 11:23) The same Greek expression is often applied to traditions that were in error or that were followed or viewed in a way that made them harmful and objectionable.​—Mt 15:2, 3; Mr 7:3, 5, 13; Col 2:8.

Now we are giving you instructions: Paul here opens a discussion of a problem that still needed attention in the congregation in Thessalonica. The context indicates that some were not working at all to provide for themselves but were meddling with what did not concern them. (See study notes on 2Th 3:11.) Paul openly counsels them to “work quietly and eat food they themselves earn.”​—2Th 3:12.

to withdraw: Paul advises those in the congregation “to withdraw” from any who were “walking disorderly,” that is, to avoid them, apparently to avoid socializing with them.​—See study notes on 2Th 3:14.

walking disorderly: One reference work explains that the expression means to “behave irresponsibly . . . , apparently without respect for established custom or received instruction.”​—See study note on 1Ti 5:14.

the tradition: Or “instruction.” As at 2Th 2:15, Paul here refers to traditions that were proper or acceptable aspects of true worship.​—See study note on 1Co 11:2.

free: Or “without paying.” The same Greek word is used at Mt 10:8: “You received free, give free.”

by labor and toil we were working night and day: Paul may be referring to his hard physical work as a tentmaker. (Ac 18:3) He hoped that by providing for their own needs, he and his companions served as examples that the Christians in Thessalonica and elsewhere could imitate.​—Ac 20:34, 35; 1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:7-10; see Media Gallery, “Paul Works to Support Himself in the Ministry in Thessalonica.”

“If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat”: Paul quotes counsel that he earlier gave to the Thessalonians, which set the standard for all Christians regarding industriousness. As the context shows, the congregation was not under obligation to provide materially for those who were able to work but refused to do so. (2Th 3:6-15) The exact saying is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the principle may be based on such scriptures as Ps 128:2; Pr 10:4; and 19:15.

not working at all: The individuals Paul mentions were apparently healthy, but they refused to work to provide for themselves. They wanted to live off others, contrary to God’s counsel on laziness. (Pr 6:6-11; 10:4, 5; 13:4; 20:4; 24:30-34) Some may even have thought that the presence of Jesus Christ was imminent, and they used that misconception as an excuse for not working. (2Th 2:1, 2) They were perhaps imposing an expensive burden on the congregation or on some of its members.​—2Th 3:8.

meddling with what does not concern them: Paul here uses a play on words that was common among ancient Greek writers. The expression “meddling” implies an unhealthy curiosity about matters that are not one’s concern or responsibility. According to one reference work, the whole phrase could be rendered “not keeping busy but being busybodies.”

continue admonishing him as a brother: The Greek term translated “to admonish” can refer to strong counsel but does not indicate hostility. The motive behind the admonition is loving concern for the person.​—Ac 20:31; see study note on 1Th 5:12.

keep this one marked: The Greek word rendered “keep . . . marked” literally means “to put a sign on.” In this context, it conveys the idea “to take special notice of someone.” After the congregation had publicly been alerted about certain wrong behavior, individual Christians were to take note of, or keep marked, any who behaved in that way.

and stop associating with him: A person who was “walking disorderly” in the congregation was not guilty of practicing a grave sin for which he could be disfellowshipped. (2Th 3:11) Still, he was persisting in a course that could reflect badly on the congregation and that could influence other Christians. Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him. (Compare 2Ti 2:20, 21.) This action might help the disorderly one to realize that he needed to conform to Bible principles. Fellow Christians would not completely avoid the person, for Paul advises them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.”​—See study note on 2Th 3:15.

admonishing: The Greek word used here (nou·the·teʹo) combines the words for “mind” (nous) and “to put” (tiʹthe·mi). It could literally be rendered “to put mind in.” In some contexts, it could convey the idea of “to warn,” as at 1Th 5:14.

continue admonishing him as a brother: The Greek term translated “to admonish” can refer to strong counsel but does not indicate hostility. The motive behind the admonition is loving concern for the person.​—Ac 20:31; see study note on 1Th 5:12.

which is a sign in every letter; this is the way I write: At the end of some of his letters, Paul includes a greeting in his own hand. (1Co 16:21; Col 4:18) Here he adds that this is a genuine “sign” that the letter is from him. Previously, the Thessalonians may have received a letter that was wrongly attributed to Paul, one that was interpreted as indicating that “the day of Jehovah is here.” (2Th 2:1, 2) The “sign” apparently gave the Thessalonians confidence that this second letter to them was truly sent by Paul.

Media

Paul Sends Greetings in His Own Hand to the Christians in Thessalonica
Paul Sends Greetings in His Own Hand to the Christians in Thessalonica

As Silvanus and Timothy look on, Paul signs his second letter to the Thessalonians. Apparently, some Christians there believed that Jehovah’s day was imminent. Perhaps this idea originated from a letter, supposedly from Paul, that was circulating in the Thessalonian congregation. (2Th 2:1, 2) But Paul warned the brothers that such an idea was wrong. To confirm that he was the author of this letter, Paul included a greeting in his own hand.