2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Brief Intro: Paul has just finished praying for the believers in Thessalonica (2:16-17) and now petitions them to pray for him and his companions. He begins this petition with the word “finally,” signaling to his readers that he is concluding this letter.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.”
FOCUS ONE: If you haven’t taken notice yet, prayer is of extreme importance to Paul. Prayer for others and also prayers for him! There are many examples throughout Paul’s epistles of the former, but I would like to reference a few examples of the latter.
- Romans 15:30-32: “strive together with me in your prayer to God for me.”
- 2 Corinthians 1:10-11: “you also joining in helping us through your prayers.”
- Ephesians 6:18-20: “and pray on my behalf.”
- Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; and of course 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
I think we can safely surmise from reading all of these references for prayer that Paul was more telling them to pray than he was asking them to pray! But don’t take that as Paul being arrogant or cold. As one commentator notes: “It is a sign of the apostle’s humility that he would ask his convert’s, young in the faith, to pray for him.” It’s not hard to understand why: Prayer is commanded in scripture, prayer is necessary for every child of God, and prayer changes things! Christ, Himself, expects that His beloved would be a prayerful people (Matthew 6:6).
We are urged to pray for:
- The salvation of sinners
- For the comfort and encouragement of others
- For their joy and peace and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives
- For safety
- Our government and its leaders,
- The right words to say
- For our spiritual leaders
The list goes on and on. Now, that doesn’t mean that we always have to pray for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g every time we pray, but we are to be diligent in our prayer lives to pray broadly when we do pray so that we cover more than one area of need each time we pray. We witness this very thing in Paul’s petition for their prayers on his behalf (vv. 1,2). These requests of the Apostle are focused and directed at one item: The proclamation of the gospel and protection while proclaiming it everywhere He opens doors. But that isn’t always the immediate focus, as evidenced above.
The gospel is not the words of men but the very words of God! That is why it has such a tremendous effect in the hearts and minds of those who hear and believe. It is not about politics, crime, or entertainment. Instead, it is a message about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done to save us from God, our creator (Psalm 7:11; John 3:36; Revelation 20:15)! Paul wants it to spread rapidly because when God’s people are boldly proclaiming it, it spreads, and souls are saved from eternal damnation (Matthew 7:21-23), and that brings God glory!
However, the Apostle realizes that there will always be opposition to the gospel, fierce opposition. We are used to being mocked, ignored, and perhaps may even lose our job or influence because of it. But, Paul is thinking on a much higher plane here. He is thinking about beatings, stoning, and imprisonment, to name a few things.
Paul knows that unbelief is prevalent in society and so perverse and evil people will always be against the truth, always turn from the light, and always attack those who share the “gospel of peace.” Perhaps in the apostles’ mind, (1) “praying for his safety and for others who spread the gospel is tantamount to praying for the progress of the gospel.”
“But, the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
FOCUS TWO: Even though perverse and evil people exist and seek to stop the spread of the gospel, Paul is confident in the Lord’s faithfulness, and why shouldn’t he be? “If we are faithless, He remains faithful-for He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13)! Paul told the Corinthians that God is faithful and would not let them be tempted beyond their ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). John wrote that God is faithful in His forgiveness of our sins if we confess them (1 John 1:9). GREAT is thy faithfulness is the shout of the lamenter, Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:22-23). Since He is faithful (credible) in all those things, He most certainly will be with these petitions since they are according to His will! But what does Paul mean by these terms?
- Establish you
- Guard you against the evil one
He is speaking about their need for strengthening to continue the “good fight of faith” amid the opposition and persecution they are facing. And their need for protection as they do so. But take notice of a subtle shift in opponents! In verse two, Paul spoke of evil and perverse men. In this verse, he is directly referencing the evil one.
Behind all the evil in the world and the people who practice it is this evil one. Satan is the arch-enemy of God and, therefore, those who are God’s. He’s referenced in scripture as a serpent and dragon (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12). We are told that he is a murder and the Father of lies who promotes false teaching and loves to keep the lost, lost in their transgressions and sins (John 8:44; 1 Timothy 4:1). To face such a foe would be utter foolishness if it were not for the faithfulness of God in supplying us His Holy Spirt and the “armor of God!”
“And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into steadfastness of Christ.”
FOCUS THREE: The confidence that Paul holds regarding these believers to obey the commands given is not based on human wisdom, power, or resolve to do what is right. Instead, it is based on, and tied to, the Lord. His knowledge; His power; His resolve to fulfill His word (Jeremiah 1:12; Isaiah 55:6-11). As such, he is also confident in them, these young converts, because of their love for Christ and desires to be with Him in glory (2:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
In verse five, the Apostle writes another short prayer or benediction; perhaps, such as we see in verse 16 and his other writings. His desire for them is that the Lord would accomplish two things in their hearts:
- To grow in their love for God
- And into the patience of Christ
It is not that these believers were stagnant in their faith or love for God and others, quite the contrary (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10). But, the Apostle wholly desired continual growth in these areas of their lives. We grow physically, we grow mentally, and we must grow spiritually (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 6:1-2). Spiritual growth is vital for us as individual believers, but its benefits do not end with us. Spiritually growing believers, spiritually mature followers of Christ are examples to those around them of how faith works out in daily practice (Philippians 3:17; Matthew 5:16; Hebrews 13:7).
Growing love for God is not Paul’s only desire; growth into the patience of Christ is as well. It appears that Paul may be reflecting on the patience of Christ when He walked among us and suffered to fulfill the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 53). Such patience would be needed for these believers to endure the persecution they would be facing while following the example Christ gave while he suffered and died in their place (1 peter 2:21-24)!
- David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians