COMMENTARY ON SECOND THESSALONIANS
2 Thess 3:14 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 16 Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. 17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” KJV
(2 Thessalonians 3:14-18)
The freedom that we experience in Christ Jesus is extensive. We are liberated from servitude to sin, and enslavement to the devil. We are free to go to the Father through Jesus. We have been emancipated to do what is right, and refuse what is wrong. We are also set free to speak the truth in love, without shame or regret. We have also been liberated from fleshly views of fellow-believers. We can address them in view of eternity and our identity with Jesus, rather than out of mere personal friendship. Those in Christ can also have no company with one who is walking in disobedience, yet count him not as an enemy, and even admonish him as a brother. All of this presumes the primary aim of believers is to bless one another, and assist one another in gaining the crown of righteousness. In order for all of this to be carried out to the honor of the Lord and the benefit of the brethren, it is essential that a generous supply of peace be given to us from the Lord Himself. These things are evident in this text.
HOW TO TREAT A DISOBEDIENT MAN
“ 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” All aspects of spiritual life are not pleasant, but all of necessary. One such unpleasantry is presented in this text. We will be required to react in a godly manner to brethren who are ungodly. You may recall that God “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). He also has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek 33:11). Just as surely as the Lord is not looking for a reason to condemn people, so His children must not culture a critical spirit, but always be eager to see wayward brethren restored to a life that is pleasing to the Lord.
NOT OBEYING. Apostolic letters, or Epistles, carried all of the weight of a word spoken directly from heaven. They were not representations of a lifeless theological position, or a means of promoting a particular sectarian view. These letters are one of the primary means Jesus uses to acquaint His people with the way that leads to life.
The Apostle has already reminded us that He is not delivering a message that originated with him. He is writing “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 6). Christ is speaking through Paul, and His word is not diminished one whit because of that circumstance. This is precisely why a person refusing to obey the word of “this epistle” is singled out. The particular word that is intended is found in verse twelve: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” The individual who chose to “obey not” this word, walking disorderly, and consequently intruding into other men’s affairs (verse 11), is the person of reference.
NOTE THAT MAN. Other versions read, “take special note of that man.” NASB,NIV Such a person is not to be ignored in the name of love, but duly observed and noted. The person is to be marked in order to be avoided. Such an one has strayed from the path of life, and is journeying on the broad road that leads to destruction. He has ignored the Word of the Lord in preference of his own opinion, and he is to be recognized as such a person. He has not broken the laws of the church, but has disobeyed the Word of the Lord.
HAVE NO COMPANY. Other versions read, “do not associate with him,” NASB “have nothing to do with them,” NRSV “keep away from him,” BBE and “stay away from them.” NLT Such a person is to be excluded from the fellowship of the saints. His wayward manner of life and disobedience disqualifies him to be among them. As a body of believers, we have already been admonished to “withdraw . . . from every brother that walketh disorderly” (3:6). A disobedience spirit is always to be taken seriously by God’s people. The fellowship and commendation of the Lord is also to be desired above fleshly camaraderie. Neither, indeed, is the religious institution to be held in such high regard that the Word of the King is viewed as nothing. An even more extensive word concerning such disfellowship is given in First Corinthians. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (5:11). Such people are to be thrust from the society of believers, and even denied the normal courtesy of eating together.
A weak and emaciated church cannot receive a word like this. It seems too inconsiderate to those living at a distance from the Lord. But it is the disobedient who are really inconsiderate. They think nothing of trampling on the Word of the King, giving the advantage to the devil, and imposing themselves upon others, whom they consider owe them support and fellowship. It is to be understood that a person cannot deliberately disobey the Lord and still be welcomed by His people.
COUNT HIM NOT AS AN ENEMY. The attitude of the believer must never allow for hatred, or for a competitive spirit. The disobedient are not to be regarded as personally attacking the brethren, or intending to do them harm. They are not driven by hostility.
ADMONISH HIM AS A BROTHER. The action of the brethren is intended to restore the disobedient. As Corinthians says, that his “spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5). Although believers are to withdraw from such a person, yet care must be taken to admonish him, notifying him of the reason for the withdrawal. The purpose: “that he may be ashamed” (verse 14). Even then, the admonition should be given by the “spiritual,” and in the spirit of meekness, “lest thou also be tempted” (Gal 6:1). It should be apparent from this text that there is a seriousness associated with life in Christ Jesus that needs to be heartily embraced by the brethren. Spiritual life is always attended by the utmost sobriety.
PEACE FROM THE LORD OF PEACE
“ 16 Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.” There are certain Divine benefits that are essential to the life of faith. The Apostle, moved along by the Holy Spirit, is always careful to hold these benefits before the saints, and to confirm their origin. Here Paul prays that copious and frequent peace will be given to the people of God. His prayer is not private, but is put into writing and shared with those for whom he prayed. In this way, those who live by faith can say “Amen” at the giving of thanks (1 Cor 14:16). It is often helpful for others to know what we are praying for them.
THE LORD OF PEACE HIMSELF. Elsewhere God is called “the God of peace” (Rom 15:33), and “the very God of peace” (1 Thess 5:23). A considerable amount of activity is expended by Bible students to establish the role of men in salvation. Their choice, desires, and effort are all involved. They are to “seek,” “run,” “fight,” “look,” and “be sober.” Admonitions to be so found are certainly always in order. But there is another message the saints also need to hear. They must be reminded of the commitment of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to our salvation. Our efforts are never encouraged in isolation of that involvement. We need “help” (Psa 20:2; Heb 4:16) “strength” (Eph 2 Cor 12:9), and often must be made to stand (Rom 14:4), and kept from falling (Jude 24). The Father is orchestrating all things for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). The Son is mediating the New Covenant (Heb 12:24), always interceding for us (Heb 7:25), and is bringing us to glory (Heb 2:10). The entire Godhead, together with the holy angels, are involved in our salvation – immediately and effectively involved
Now Paul reminds us that “the Lord of peace Himself” is identified with us. As “Lord of peace,” the Lord dispenses peace, and “and none can stay His hand, or say unto him, What doest Thou?” (Dan 4:35). Here is a work God has not delegated to another, like an angel, or some unusually holy man. This is something He does “Himself,” personally and effectively. We learn from this that Jesus has so thoroughly dealt with sin, and so completely satisfied the Father, that both the Father and the Son can make Their abode with us (John 14:23), dispensing to us things required to navigate through this world.
GIVE YOU PEACE. Peace is not achieved, it is given! It is not the result of human effort, but is a gracious gift that comes “from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:2). This is the sort of peace that settles the heart, enabling it to be undistracted by the oppositions of this world. Jesus spoke of this peace in this way: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Many a timorous soul has sought to quiet themselves in the energy of the flesh. Those who make such an attempt soon find how futile it is. The Lord commanded Aaron to “bless the children of Israel.” He gave him precise words to say, and how gracious they were. “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: the LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num 6:24-26). David affirmed, “the LORD will bless His people with peace” (Psa 29:11). Confirming that once given, peace must be maintained, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa 26:3). Following His resurrection, Jesus thrice said to His disciples, “Peace be unto you” (John 20:19,21,26). He did so as “the Lord of peace,” who can give it to whoever He desires.
These things being true, the people of God should zealously seek for peace for themselves and one another. When their hearts are disquieted by difficulty, oppositions, and Satanic harassment, they should pray that the Lord of peace would give them peace. I must confess that I have not often heard such prayers.
BY ALL MEANS. Other versions read, “at all times and in every way,” NIV “every circumstance,” NAS and “continually in every way.” DARBY This includes outward peace, or the subduing of our enemies (Prov 16:7), and inward peace as well. It is peace in the dungeon (Acts 16:25), on Mars hill before Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:22), standing before Agrippa (Acts 26:2), and when landing on a barbarous island (Acts 28:1-3). There is no place or time when the Lord of peace cannot give peace. We do well to eagerly seek this peace, for it has no substitute, nor is there any other grace that can do for us what peace will do.
THE LORD BE WITH YOU. Here is a another general blessing, pronounced upon all of the brethren. God has declared to those who take Him seriously, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (2 Cor 6:16). He takes up residence with the “contrite and humble spirit” (Isa 57:15). Moses spoke for us all when he said, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Ex 33:15). God has promised, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5).
A PERSONAL WORD
“ 17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” In closing this Epistle, Paul puts his very heart and soul into it. There is a tenderness in his words that grip the heart, delivering it from cold and lifeless formality. Paul has spoken “by the Lord Jesus Christ,” and yet it has really come from him. The message of Christ had been written upon his own heart, and was a part of Him. He was truly an “ambassador” of Christ(2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20) but he was a “laborer together” with the Lord as well (1 Cor 3:9). He was not a hireling, who cared nothing for the sheep (John 10:12). This is a quality that cannot be imparted by an institution, nor can it be learned in academic halls. It is the result of fellowship with the Father and the Son, and involves walking by faith and living in the Spirit.
THE SALUTATION. The “salutation” included Paul’s greeting to, and prayer for, them. His words were not mere formalities, but came from deep within. Though another penned them, they really did come from his heart. Heartless laborers have no place in the work of the Lord. Jesus poured Himself into His Father’s will, saying, “Lo, I come to do thy will” (Heb 10:9). The fortieth Psalm, from which the Hebrews reference is taken, reads, “I delight to do thy will, O my God” (Psa 40:8). This very spirit is reflected in Paul’s salutation.
MINE OWN HAND. Sometimes Paul dictated his letters to another, who wrote them for him. For example, the book of Romans is said to have actually written by “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle” (Rom 16:22). Paul would, however, conclude with some words personally written by himself. Now He puts his own signature to the letter, as he often did. Thus Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand” (1 Cor 16:21). To the Colossians he wrote, “The salutation by the hand of me Paul” (Col 4:18). When making a pledge to repay Philemon for any debts owed to him by Onesimus, Paul wrote, “I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it” (Phile 9). Particularly weighty Epistles, like Galatians, were sometimes handwritten by Paul, thus confirming their validity. There are indications this involved considerable physical difficulty for Paul: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” NIV (Gal 6:11).
THE TOKEN IN EVERY EPISTLE. Other versions read, “and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write,” NASB “which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters,” NIV “and this is the mark of every letter from me,” BBE and “I do this at the end of all my letters to prove that they really are from me.” NLT The personal handwriting of Paul authenticated his letters. He took care to provide for the confidence of the brethren, not leaving matters to chance or the opinions of men. After all, he had warned them of letters that were being circulated as though they were from him. “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us” (2 Thess 2:2). Some might assume the Lord would make the validity of Paul’s letters plain to all recipients – or that erroneous letters would be quite clear. However, Paul did not rely on such simplicity. He took pains to take every possible precaution to protect his word. After all, he had been given a stewardship, and he was to protect it. This is precisely why he did not allow his accusers to prattle on against him, but rose to defend his own character (Acts 24:10-13; 25:7-8). Suffice it to say, those who speak or write for the Lord Jesus should make every effort to be properly understood, doing all within their power to glorify the Lord in what they do.
THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Ordinarily, “grace” is associated with God: ex, “the grace of God” (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 1:4; 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor 1:12; 6:1; 8:1; Gal 2:21; Eph 3:2,7; Col 1:6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 12:15). However, it is also identified as “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 13:13), “the grace of Christ” (Gal 1:6), “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 16:20,24; 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 8:9; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28; Phile 25). This is because He is the appointed means through Whom grace is dispensed to us. God gives no grace apart from His only begotten Son., who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). All Divine favor and love is channeled through the exalted Savior–through fellowship with Him.
This blessing involves an awareness of the Lord’s favor and support. His presence is both felt and enjoyed within. The realization of this grace is what makes us adequate for the trials of life, and the faithful handling of our stewardship. Without it we can neither be sustained nor successful. In Galatians Paul says, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Gal 6:18). Grace is, therefore perceived by the inner man.
AMEN! So be it! Let it be granted! This, then, is the means by which God supports His people, and through which they become adequate for all things. It is by the presence of Christ’s grace! We ought, therefore, to speak frequently and abundantly about grace!