The Agora
Waiting For His Son - Thessalonians

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V. Prayerful Preparation For Work (3:1-5)

A. Paul's Request for Prayer (3:1,2)

v. 1
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
v. 2
"and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith."


v. 1 "Finally, brethren, pray for us": Paul had previously requested their prayers (1Th 5:25, notes), but here he is more specific as to objects. Elsewhere also he has requested prayers for the progress of the gospel (Eph 6:19,20; Col 4:3,4).

"That the word of the Lord may have free course": By "the word of the Lord" Paul means his own preaching of it (1Th 2:13). He wants the word of the Lord to "run" (AV mg) as he preaches it, a figure of speech perhaps borrowed from the Greek games (cp 1Co 9:24; Rom 9:16, Gal 2:2; 5:7; Phi 2:16), but also reminiscent of Psa 147:15 ("His word runneth very swiftly") and Psa 19:5 ("a strong man running a race"). In other words, Paul hopes for many rapid conversions. Paul sometimes speaks of his apostolic endeavors as "running" (1Co 9:24; Gal 2:2; Phi 2:16). "Running" is also an Hebrew idiom for a prophet eager to communicate his message from God (Jer 23:21; Eze 1:18,20; 1Ki 18:46; 2Ch 16:9; Hab 2:2; Amos 8:12; Zec 4:10; Dan 12:4).

"And be glorified": Men are led to glorify the Word of the Lord when they see what it can do, and especially when they see it having speedy effect on its hearers. The word had also been translated "triumph" (RSV) to carry forward the figure of running in a contest.

"Even as it is with you": Their fame had spread abroad throughout Macedonia and Achaia, so that everywhere he went the apostle heard of their spiritual progress and firmness in the faith (1Th 1:5-9). Since Paul had left Thessalonica, he had had nowhere near the same sort of success in Berea or Athens -- and he was bound to remember fondly how his preaching had produced swift and solid results among the Thessalonians.

v. 2 "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men": The first of the two adjectives ("atopos") signifies that which is out of place, and is used more often of objects than of men. It is variously rendered "wrong-headed", "perverse", "truculent", and "monstrous." These wicked men were probably unbelieving Jews in Corinth, where Paul was encountering opposition even as he wrote (Acts 18:5,6,12,13; cp 1Th 2;14-16).

"For all men have not faith": "The faith", with the definite article here, refers to the body of doctrines believed by Christians. While some who hear the faith expounded react positively, and develop faith of their own, others react only with hostility and (sometimes) violence. They "receive not the love of the truth", but are deluded into believing lies (2Th 2:10,11), and act accordingly.

B. Paul's Confidence in Christ (3:3-5)

v. 3
"But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
v. 4
"And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
v. 5
"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ."


v. 3 "But the Lord is faithful": The last phrase of v 2 suggests the transition: "All men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful." A similar contrast is evoked from the same word again in 2Ti 2:13:

"If we believe not (ie, have not faith), yet he (Christ) abideth faithful."
As God is faithful (1Co 1:9; 10:13; 2Co 1:18; 1Th 5:24), so the Lord Jesus Christ is faithful.

"Who shall stablish you": "Stablish" is "sterizo" again, as in 1Th 3:2,13; 2Th 2:17.

"And keep you from evil": An echo of the Lord's prayer (Mat 6:13). The word "keep" or "guard" ("phulasso") -- which signifies military protection against a violent attack, is used of God guarding Noah through the flood (2Pe 2:5), and Jesus guarding his disciples in the days of his flesh (John 17:12). It is uncertain as to whether the last expression signifies "evil" as a general principle, or "the evil one" (RV, NIV, RSV mg); if the latter, then Paul may have in mind unbelieving Jews, the Roman authorities, or perhaps -- more specifically -- the "man of sin" (2Th 2:9).

v. 4 "And we have confidence in the Lord touching you": Therefore believers need not rely on their own strength or abilities, since the Lord Jesus Christ is a sufficient and active force on their behalf. Our pride in our natural talents will lead inevitably to failure. But our faith will call forth his faithfulness to strengthen and protect us. Compare similar expressions in Gal 5:10 and Phm 1:21.

"That ye both do and will do the things which we command you": Though it may appear outwardly that believers are solely responsible for what they do, in the divine perspective this is far from the complete picture. Thus to exhort believers to do that which is entirely against natural inclinations is not a pointless exercise, because with God nothing is impossible! For believers, their union with Christ counteracts the weakness of human nature.

"Command": Greek "parangello" = to announce, to give a message or an order, especially from a higher military rank down to a lower. A very strong and authoritative word, used five times in the Thessalonian letters (1Th 4:11; 2Th 3:4,6,10,12) and elsewhere in 1Ti 6:13; 1Co 7:10; 11:17.

v. 5 "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God": As Paul had been "directed" (same word) to them (1Th 3:11), so they would be "directed" into the love of God -- so long as they remained in the faith. The Lord's help is indispensable: the fact that Paul has complimented them (v 4) does not imply that they are self-sufficient.

"The love of God": This could mean three different things, all possible, and probably to be considered inclusively:

  1. That they might learn to love God.
  2. That they might know fully that God loved them.
  3. That they might truly love one another, and all men after the pattern of God's love for them (John 3:16; 1Jo 3:16-18; etc).
"And into the patient waiting for Christ": Paul encourages them to learn patience or endurance (1Th 1:3; notes) in their trials of faith, as they wait for the return of Christ. The faithful endurance of Christ himself is to be their example (Heb 12:2,3; 1Pe 2:21-23).


Undoubtedly Paul is preparing the ground for what will be a difficult reprimand in the section that follows (2Th 3:6-15). He does not intend to ignore the problem, and he will speak quite bluntly when the times comes. But first he carefully reminds his readers of God's love and Christ's faithfulness. Here there is common ground for all believers. Men who truly know and remember such exalted concepts will not be resentful or angry at faithful and searching exhortations. Neither will they respond, "We cannot do what you ask", when they have just been reminded that it is only in the Lord's grace and not their own will and strength that they can succeed.

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