In the close of chapter 2, Paul had prayed for the Thessalonians. Now he desires their prayers. He encourages them to trust God and joins it with another petition for them. He then gives them commands and directions for correcting some of the problems among them that he has been informed of, concluding this second letter his usual benedictions and prayers.
2 Thessalonians 3 (NIV)
Request for Prayer
3 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Paul not only asks for, but also directs the Thessalonian church to intercession (prayer) for himself, his co-laborers, and a few matters that had come to his attention.
He asks them to pray that the “message of the Lord may spread rapidly”, some translations say “run swiftly” (meaning “have free influence on people”) and “be honored” or “be glorified”. Paul’s desire was that God’s name be sanctified and His kingdom advanced. His desire was that all opposition be removed so that the gospel could be freely heard by all.
Paul was also seeking deliverance for his companions and himself from those who opposed him; he refers to his opposers as wicked and evil. Note that Paul always encouraged his churches by assuring them that he is praying for them, and yet, he does not have any issue with requesting their prayers for him and his companions. He was teaching them to pray; not only together or with one another, but also to pray for one another when they are apart. Also, that it is the duty of the people to pray for all who minister to them, not just their own pastors.
Paul goes on to express his confidence that the Lord is faithful and will establish and guard them from the “evil one” and instructs them to obey God’s commands, given to them through him. And he prays that God will direct their hearts to God’s love and Christ’s patience.
Warning Against Idleness
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.
13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
Paul instructs the church to wisely withdraw from “disruptive and idle” believers. He further instructs them that those who are able to work should do so, insuring that they support themselves and not become a burden to others. Paul uses their experience with him as an example here, reminding how he and his companions worked and did not make themselves a burden on the Thessalonian church; even though they had the right to expect it. He further reminds them of the specific teaching he had given them: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
As is Paul’s style, he points out that he did specific things, like work when he was with them so as not to be a burden to them, as an example of how they should conduct themselves. In the example of an apostle, Christians should continue to do good, they should withdraw from those who were disobedient to God’s word so that the offender might become ashamed leading them to repent and to be restored. He didn’t want the offender to be treated as an enemy, but simply as a brother who required correction; warned and guided, by them.
16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Again, as is Paul’s style, he prays that the Thessalonians always have God’s peace and that God always be with them. Pointing out here that he has personally handwritten this letter to them, authenticating his signature for them.
a 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Or tradition