October 20, 2011

Friday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.37:1-24, 1 Kings 17:1-16, 2 Thess. 3:6-17
Evening - Ps. 22, Job 11:7, Mt. 13:24-43

Commentary
2 Thessalonians 3:6-17

There is a God-ordained order, or, pattern for life. It revolves around God and consists of faith, worship, love, and work. We could express it as; love God, love your neighbor (especially those of your own household), go to Church, and find a useful occupation to provide for your needs and honour God.

A small group of people in the Thessalonian Church were not living by this pattern. They were, "walking disorderly" (3:6). They were not carousing or fornicating, but neither were they living by the pattern of life God intended. Their primary departure from the pattern was that they had stopped working for a living and were expecting the others in the church to feed and clothe them and their families. Why? They believed the Return of the Lord to bring in the fulness of the Day of the Lord, was so immanent that it made all preparations for future life on earth meaningless. These people believed the Second Coming would occur within the next few weeks, or even within the next few minutes (2 Thess. 2:1-2). Therefore, they had stopped working and caring for themselves and their families, expecting others in the church to clothe and feed them. Thus, Paul exhorts and commands them, "that with quietness they work and eat their own bread."

Paul and the evangelists exemplified this when they were in Thessalonica, working night and day to both preach the Gospel and provide for their own expenses (3:7-9). Though they had the right, as do all ministers of Christ's Church, to receive a wage for their work, just as any other person in any other honourable occupation, Paul and his companions did not want to burden the new Christians, so they earned their meager living by working another job in addition to their labours in the Gospel. The implication is that, if Paul can provide for himself, so can the Thessalonians. And Paul offers himself and his conduct as an example to the disorderly in Thessalonica (3:9). The word used in the original Greek is the word from which we get our English word, "mimic." So Paul is exhorting these people to mimic him and his companions by returning to work and providing for themselves.

Those who refuse to live by this teaching (tradition) are to be avoided (3:6). This is not formal church discipline, and it is certainly not excommunication, for the people are to be treated as brothers rather than unbelievers (3:15). It does mean those who work are not to enable idleness in others by feeding and caring for them. They are to stop subsidising the sin of idleness and let every one live by the rule "that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (3:10).

Paul closes his exhortations with a prayer that the Lord of peace Himself will give His peace to the Thessalonians (3:16). The disorderliness of some has caused disruption in the peace of the Church and the lives of its members. Their disorder is in stark contrast to the Lord of peace. His ways are the ways of peace. His order for quiet Godliness brings peace. So this is a prayer that the Thessalonians will return to His ways and restore His peace in the church. "By all means" refers to the means by which God works peace in His people. These are usually the ordinary means, rather than miraculous gifts. Peace comes through trusting God with this life and the next, and by accepting what He gives. It comes through living peacefully with others and by conducting ourselves humbly and lovingly toward others, with words and actions that promote peace rather than instigate hostility. It comes from hearts and minds that are being transformed and renewed by constant immersion in the Scriptures, the Church, and all the means of grace. These things work peace in us individually and corporately.

Verse 17 simply tells us that Paul wrote it with his own hand as proof that the letter is from him. The rest of the epistle was probably written by someone else as he dictated it. Verse 18 closes the epistle with a benediction very characteristic of Paul and full of his love and hopes for the Thessalonians. Like all Scripture, it is not just for those first recipients, but for all of God's people in all times and all places; "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."