2 Thessalonians 3:13-18
The Apostolic Word Is Not a Suggestion
Even when we are dealing with the Apostle’s final instructions, there is so much compressed in just a few lines. So is the case here. He first encourages the church to “not grow weary in doing good.” We have all felt this weariness, even to our bones. It comes of having our citizenship someplace else. This ole world has had enough of us; we long for home. But we must bend our will to His to keep to the task of doing good. He shall not linger forever; this we know. Life is also fleeting away from us. It is still time to do good. Don’t let this day, this opportunity pass you by. Do not one day find yourself on your deathbed wishing you had done good but had fainted before the finish line. Finish strong; keep doing good.
Then Paul adds a word of warning: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” The apostolic word is authoritative. This is why we must know the Scriptures; indeed, not just know but obey. And as was expected of God’s people before Moses more than a thousand years earlier—the word the Apostle speaks from God must be obeyed. A church gathers together to discern the mind of the Lord in the holy Scriptures for the purpose of obeying them, not to vote whether they should do so. And that word was a hard one. They are to mark that brother who is walking in disobedience and shun him. Paul might have the idlers specifically in mind but any open and manifest disobedience would be included. Still, we note that the purpose of such discipline is not to “regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” The aim of church discipline is repentance and restoration, but how can this be accomplished where such discipline is nonexistent? This is the question the contemporary church in America must answer. Shall the apostolic word be obeyed or shall we cringe at cries of “legalist” and “Pharisee” every time the integrity of the church is at stake?
Paul closes praying that the Lord grant them peace, not as the world gives but as Christ gives (John 14:27). His is a lasting peace regardless of the circumstances; not just the absence of strife, but abundant life and joy. It was common in ancient times to dictate a letter to an “amanuensis” and then take the letter and write one’s “signature” to authenticate it; Paul does so here as he did in other letters (NICNT, 263-64). Finally he prays, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” And that’s really all we need for each and every day.