I believe that practicing discipline in our spiritual devotion causes a natural overflow of life into every aspect of our lives. Today’s post is an excerpt from Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians edited by Mark Howell—which analyzes Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church. We’ll be diving deep into a small portion of 2 Thessalonians 3 in today’s excerpt. Before we dive in, I’d like to mention that through Friday, March 6, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) you can get Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians for just $2.99, exclusively on Vyrso.
2 THESSALONIANS 3:6-10
In his letter to the Colossian church Paul sets forth an all-encompassing pattern for how Christians should conduct their lives:
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23-24)
Because Christ’s followers aim to please Him, they seek to live their lives and do their work with passion and excellence. Christians will thus be guided by a different set of convictions about why they work and a different standard for how they do their work.
Although Paul previously taught the Thessalonians these things, some in the fellowship had failed to take his instruction to heart. Even a cursory reading of this passage reveals Paul’s deep concern for how their poor work ethic was reflecting on the Lord and His church. As this passage vividly illustrates, Paul had little tolerance for lazy Christians. He tackles this matter head on by drawing their attention to two reasons why they should avoid laziness: the traditions they received and the example he set.
Be Informed by the Truth (2 Thess 3:6,10)
“The tradition” refers specifically to Paul’s previous teaching on the subject of work. In his first letter Paul gave them the following instruction:
But we encourage you, brothers . . . to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone. (1 Thess 4:10-12)
Considering the profound theological instruction found in the Thessalonian letters, we might wonder why Paul would devote such a significant amount of time on the mundane idea of work. For Paul, Christianity was worthless unless it found its way into the fabric of life. How the church lived said much about what the church believed. If we take God’s Word seriously, then we will take it to work with us. That is, how we do our work will reflect on the One we claim to worship.
So adamant is Paul that Christians should lead by their example that he reminds them of his previous injunction: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (3:10). His use of the imperfect tense of the verb indicates the repetitiveness with which he previously issued this command. In the strongest words possible, Paul wishes to persuade the irresponsible Thessalonians to go to work. Those who refuse this directive must be subject to the discipline of the church.
Be Challenged by the Example of Others (2 Thess 3:7-10)
Added to their reluctance to heed Paul’s instruction was their unwillingness to learn from his example. With confidence that his life was patterned after God’s standard for how to live and work, Paul challenged the Thessalonians to “imitate” him (3:7,9). Morris notes the significance of such a claim:
No preaching of the gospel can ever be really effective unless the life of the preacher is such as to commend the message. Those who hear must feel that they are listening to one whose life shows his sincerity and the power of the message he brings. (Morris, First and Second, 254)
The Greek philosopher Aristotle described the preacher’s trustworthiness, sincerity, and credibility as ethos (Rhetoric and Poetics, 1356a, 1–21). The audience’s receptivity to a message is closely connected to the credibility of the one who shares the message. Paul makes clear to the Thessalonians that his credibility is not in doubt, and he appeals to their personal observation of his life to back this up:
For you yourselves know how you must imitate us: We were not irresponsible among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and struggled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. (3:7-8)
In other words, Paul recognized the vital importance for the matching of his life with his words.
Avoid the temptation to move past these words too quickly. There exists today an unhealthy sense of entitlement among many who claim to be called to serve as ministers in God’s church. All too often, before considering a new pastorate, the first question many pastors ask is, “What’s in it for me?” While churches have a responsibility to care for those who serve (1 Tim 5:17; 1 Cor 9:3-14), those who are called to lead the church can learn much from Paul’s example. Paul, Silas, and Timothy provided for their own needs and at the same time poured their lives into the Thessalonians. Their willingness to support themselves and thus not to burden the church reveals much about the depth of their love for God’s people. One could imagine their diligent work at their jobs during the day and passionate preaching of the gospel at night. It is no wonder that Paul notes how they “labored and struggled” to keep from being a burden to the church (3:8). Such a commitment had to be exhausting. To have more concern for the people to whom they preached and the message they were charged to proclaim than for their own welfare reveals much about the character and integrity of these men.
I believe that practicing discipline in our spiritual devotion causes a natural overflow of life into every aspect of our lives. Today’s post is an excerpt from Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians edited by Mark Howell—which analyzes Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church. We’ll be diving deep into a small portion of 2 Thessalonians 3 in today’s excerpt. Before […]