2 Thessalonians 3 Commentary

vv.1-5 “Paul left the eschatological teachings of chapter 2 and moved on to instructions for daily living. He began by asking the Thessalonians to pray for us. This request for himself, Timothy, and Silas shows the human side of these three great men. Like everyone else, they depended on the prayers of others to carry on their work and remain steadfast in their lives.

“Paul’s request reminds us that we never reach a place in our Christian maturity or service where we progress beyond the need of prayer. Prayer remains essential to the life and work of all believers, not as a ritual, but as an honest interaction of longing and trust with our Lord. Prayer that agrees with Christ’s will always result in divine empowerment. We are foolish if we assume that the work of God can be carried forward without prayer.”[1]

vv.6-10 “The second section moves to a topic which had arisen previously in 1 Thes. 4:11–12; 5:14. It makes clear that the problem of certain members of the church living in idleness off the generosity of others went back to the time when the church was founded (10). Evidently there were people who were living on the poverty line and relied on the gifts of the richer people. The belief that the day of the Lord had come may have encouraged their attitude. This way of life was giving the church a bad name, and therefore Paul speaks out strongly against it. V 6 begins with a sharp command (cf. 1 Thes. 4:11), backed up by the authority of the Lord, that the church members must avoid those whose conduct is unworthy. The latter are not to be deprived of their place in the church, but there is to be a certain distancing from them so that they recognize that their conduct is not acceptable or in accord with the established teaching of the church handed on by Paul (1 Thes. 4:1–2). That teaching was illustrated concretely in the way of life of Paul and his fellow-missionaries whose conduct is here put forward as an example to follow. The missionaries did not live in a disorderly or idle manner (cf. 5:14 note), and they had not therefore needed to receive gifts of food from people in the church. (niv without paying for it suggests that they did pay for it. More likely Paul means that they did not ask for or receive free gifts of food from the church but went to the shops and bought what they needed.) It should be needless to say that this does not mean that the missionaries rigidly refused to accept hospitality when they were offered it. Rather, they had worked hard to avoid being a nuisance to other people (cf. 1 Thes. 2:9). This was despite the fact that Paul believed strongly and taught that churches had an obligation to provide for their teachers (1 Thes. 2:6b; 1 Cor. 9:4–6, 14; Gal. 6:6). For the sake of the situation in Thessalonica Paul gave up this privilege. There were thus more reasons than one why Paul worked with his hands while carrying on his missionary work. His example matched the instructions which he gave (the tense used suggests ‘repeatedly’). Although the command has the form of an instruction to the well-off not to give to the idle hungry people, it is primarily meant as a warning to the latter. It is worth repeating that the proverb-type saying applies to people who are unwilling to work, not to those who have no opportunity, and is therefore not an argument against welfare provision for the unemployed.”[2]

vv.11-12 “The niv brings out well the deliberate play on words not busy … [but] busybodies. Instead of working themselves, they were keeping other people back from their work. They are very sharply commanded—again on the authority of the Lord—to avoid being nuisances to other people (niv, settle down; cf. 1 Thes. 4:11), and to work hard so as to be able to buy what they need.” [3]

v.13 “Then by contrast Paul addresses the rest of the church and, despite the danger of their being taken advantage of by the idlers, tells them not to tire of doing what is right (cf. Gal. 6:9). In this context it must mean that they are not to give up on caring for the needy even if sometimes people take advantage of them.”[4]

vv:14-15 “Paul commands that those who disregard his instructions must be dealt with by the community. But they are to be dealt with not as enemies but as brothers. The discipline given by a man who contemptuously looks down upon the sinner and speaks to hurt may terrify and wound but it seldom amends. It is more likely to produce resentment than reformation. When Christian discipline is necessary it is to be given as by a brother to a brother, not in anger, still less in contempt but always in love.”[5]


[1] Larson, K. (2000). Vol. 9: I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (124). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (2 Th 3:1–16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (2 Th 3:1–16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (2 Th 3:1–16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[5] The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (219). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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