Jun 18 2016

74. THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS, part 3

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The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians

(Part 3)

CHAPTER 3

1- Final instructions (3:1 – 16)

+ The first part of this Chapter (3:1-4) was published in the previous issue (73).

+ Love and patience (3:5)

The apostle asks God to guide them and direct their hearts on two very important fronts in a believer’s spiritual life:

(1) The first front is “the love of God” hence, God’s love for us; this is the basis of our love for Him: “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  This is the first and greatest com­mandment, from which stem the others: loving our neighbor, selflessness, carrying the cross, rejecting love of the world, and adherence to eternal life to which we have been called: “For the love of Christ compels us, …” (2 Cor. 5:14)

Placing our trust in the lasting and unshakable love of God for us, and in the fact that we are the object of His care at all times (Mat. 28:20), fills us with peace even through the cruelest trials of life, and imparts confidence to us: “… that all things work together for good to those who love God, …” (Rom. 8:28)  God’s love and care for us are also sufficient to strengthen us throughout our sojourn in this world unto our last hour – Satan thus is incapable of inciting us to doubt God’s care for us, and to believe that He had abandoned us.

(2) The second important indispensable front in the believer’s spiritual life is patience which accompanies faith, and which we receive from the hand of Christ: “… knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:3)  It also involves hope: “… patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …” (1 Thess. 1:3)

+ Those who do not work do not eat (3:6-15)

“… In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, …”  St. Paul writes this statement to invoke believers’ commitment to obedience and acceptance of the commandments.  He emphasizes what he had mentioned in his first epistle: believers must labor with their hands1 to earn their living“… that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, … that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing …” (1 Thess. 4:11, 12)  Paul also advises them on how to deal with slackers, who constitute a burden on the service of Christ; those are the ones who felt there was no need to toil and labor, according to their understanding of the closeness of the Lord’s coming – all they had to do was sit around doing nothing, seeking help from others, shunning all responsibilities, and humiliating their human dignity.  They might have even judged hard-working believers, in their belief that they were spiritually superior, and that the others were remiss in their worship.

Those parasites negate St. Paul’s teachings, and obfuscate the discipline which he had imposed on himself before others [despite the Lord’s instruction concerning His servants “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”2 (1 Cor. 9:14)  And “Who ever goes to war at his own expense?” (1 Cor. 9:7)], in order for him to set an example of a servant evangelizing at no cost to those whom he serves.  The Bible records that when St. Paul came to Corinth, he met with Aquila and Priscilla, and “So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tent­makers.” (Acts 18:3)  Furthermore, in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesians Church, St. Paul said, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35)

In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul also says, “And we labor, working with our own hands … but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 4:12 and 9:12)  In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, he furthermore says “… for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” (3:7-9)

He then reminds them of what he had said during his service: “… If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (3:10)  The Church is not a haven for parasites that prefer rest over honorable work.  He refers to this again, because he had heard that some of them “… walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, …” (3:11)  He exhorts those to “work in quiet­ness and eat their own bread.”  Ideally, they should obey him.  He nevertheless advises believers to avoid those who persist down the path of laziness, and to isolate them; such social pressure should make them ashamed of their offensive conduct, which impedes the service.  In any case, the goal is to return them to behavior befitting their faith, rather than segregate them from society; hence, they should not be treated as enemies, rather, as brethren being warned.  In this way, believers should lovingly win slackers over – not alienate them.  This emphasizes what he had written in his first epistle: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” (1 Thess. 5:14)  Paul thus urges believers to embrace the unruly, and not to lose hope in reforming them, “… do not grow weary in doing good” (3:13), no matter how long that may take.

2- Concluding salutation (3:16-18)

After having dictated his letter, behold, St. Paul concludes it by penning the final few lines, thus proving the epistle’s authenticity as a Pauline Epistle.  He finally entrusts them to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

                                             (End of this Epistle)

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, or comments.
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To see all previous parts of this study of Orthodox Spirituality
Go to any of these website addresses (Free and Public)
http://smofarchives.org/toc3.html
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St. Cyril the Great

     The Life-giving Power of God

In what manner can man upon earth, clothed as he is with mortality, return to incorruption?  I answer, that this dying flesh must be made partaker of the life-giving power which cometh from God.  But the life-giving power of God the Father is the Only-begotten Word: and Him He sent to us as a Savior and Deliverer.  And He became flesh … in order that, having implanted Himself in us by an inseparable union, He might raise us above the power both of death and corruption. …

For He clothed Himself in our flesh, that by raising it from the dead He might prepare a way henceforth, by which the flesh which had been humbled unto death might return anew unto incorruption. … And Paul testifies “For as by man is death, by man is also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). …  The Word therefore, by having united unto Himself that flesh which was subject unto death, as being God and Life drove away from it corruption, and made it also to be the source of life…  When therefore we eat the holy flesh of Christ, the Savior of us all, and drink His precious blood, we have life in us, being made as it were, one with Him, and abiding in Him, and possessing Him also in us.

                      On Luke, 22:19; Payne Smith, II, 666-668.

Footnotes:

  1. After creating Adam, God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” (Gen. 2:15) God also told Adam after his fall “… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread …” (Gen. 3:19) Furthermore, our Lord Jesus worked as a carpenter with Joseph, and most of the Jewish rabbis worked in various trades. Christians sanctify work – it is a model of faithfulness, precision and time utilization “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16)
  2. “… For a worker is worthy of his food …” (Mat. 10:10 and Luke 10:7)

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