The Apostle has completed his teaching about Christ’s second coming, and the events which precede it. Now nothing remains to dispose of but some minor matters of personal and practical interest. Paul closes the previous chapter, praying earnestly for the Thessalonians, and now he desires their prayers, encouraging them to trust in God.
“With chapter 3 Paul begins to bring this epistle to a close, but in doing so, we are privileged to see a wonderful model as Paul demonstrates how his team’s confidence lay not in human plans, promotion, programs, or human personalities, but in the Lord Himself. Their confidence for whatever they might need and face was an unending trust in the provision and faithfulness of the Lord and His powerful Word. The Lord Jesus said emphatically, ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ While God uses frail human instruments in accomplishing His work on earth, the ultimate accomplishment of the work depends on the work and faithfulness of the Lord and His Word.” –bible.org
Verse 1a: “Finally, brethren, pray for us…”
“Finally” introduces the last section of this epistle. As was so often his custom, Paul first exhorted his readers to pray, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1). He realized that God will work in response to the prayer of His people. To fail to pray is to fail to receive God’s blessings, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
“Pray for us…”
“There is something deeply moving in the thought of this giant among men asking for the prayers of the Thessalonians who so well recognized their own weakness. Nowhere is Paul's humility more clear to see. And the fact that he, as it were, threw himself on their hearts must have done much to bind even his opponents to him, because it is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him.” –William Barclay
Prayer is one of the most important and most powerful spiritual tools in the Christian life. Yet if you ask most Christians about their prayer lives, you will find that most do not regularly pray and most can’t give a clear definition of how to pray effectively.
We have all heard people say things like, “I have tried everything else, now all I can do is pray.” I recently heard someone explain a similar situation and they had not prayed because they felt they could handle the situation, but now it had grown beyond their control. It reminded me of the story of a lady who was listening to Dwight L. Moody and told him, “I only pray to God about big problems and don’t bother God with the little things.” To which Moody replied, “To God, every problem is little.” How true! We struggle needlessly simply because we don’t ask
It is crucial, especially in our present evil world that we pray for our pastors and their families! “You cannot tell how much God’s servants are helped by the prayers of his people. The strongest man in Israel will be the better for the prayers of the weakest saint in Zion.” –Spurgeon
Verse 1b: “…that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you…”
Other versions read “…that the word of the Lord may have free course,”(KJV);, “spread rapidly,”(NLT); “speed ahead”(ESV); “go forward unhindered” (Phillips) “speed on and triumph”(NRSV); and “will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response” (MSG).
There is such a thing as the Word of God quickly penetrating areas and regions, turning the hearts of men. It is written, “And the Word of God increased” (Acts 6:7), “the Word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24), “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20). “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). “The Word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9).
The preaching of God’s word has “free course” and will “go forward unhindered” when it is empowered by the prayers of God’s people. Today’s church needs to learn, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16), and “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3). Let us be quick to participate in the holy work of praying that the Word of God will “spread rapidly.” This is not the time for the long-range strategies of men, a time that calls for the swift success of the Gospel. Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 2:4, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
Verse 2a: “…and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men…”
Literally, reads, “from the perverse and evil men.” “Unreasonable,” “basically it signifies what is out of place.”–Morris. It also means, absurd, unusual, strange, improper, wicked, unsuitable, and unfitting, and wrong-headed.” This verse infers that one can reject the truth to the point that one becomes “wrong headed” and “unreasonable.” These were those who wanted to hinder the work of the gospel. These were the gospel’s adversaries! Paul wanted God to either deliver him from such men, or change them into reasonable and godly men.
Paul’s was concerned and this was understandable, after his experience here in Thessalonica where they were assaulted by the angry mob (Acts 17:5). Bruce observes that this is a reference “not restricted to Jews or Gentiles, to those in authority, or the ‘rascal multitude’ [but rather] applies to all whose policy or activity [might hinder] the spread of the saving message and [lead] to the detriment of the messengers.” –F.F. Bruce
The terms “unreasonable and wicked” describe wicked, improper, untoward men who do not know Christ and are violently opposed to the things of His kingdom. Such men are among those who do not “have faith.”
Verse 2b: “…for not all have faith.”
This is the reason these men are perverse and evil. “Faith” here is to be understood as “the faith,” the sum-total of what Christians believe. The “traditions (precepts, teachings) which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (1 Thessalonians 2:15). These wicked men are what they are because they have no faith or trust in the Lord.
Verse 3: “But the Lord is faithful…”
“Even if not all men have faith, the Lord is faithful. This was the basis of Paul’s confidence in God’s ability to establish and guard us from the evil one.” –David Guzik
“Our God is a promise-keeping God! Others may make a promise and forget it. But if God makes a promise, he keeps it. The Book of Hebrews announces, ‘God has given both his promise and his oath’ (Hebrews 6:18). The scripture goes on to say, ‘He who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:23). Does this matter? Does God’s integrity make a difference? Does his faithfulness come into play? When your daughter is on life support, it does. When you are pacing the ER floor, it does. When you are wondering what to do with your worst nightmare, you have to choose. Faith or fear, God’s purpose or random history, a God who knows and cares, or a God who isn’t there? We all choose. Choose to trust God’s promises. Choose to believe that God is up to something good, even though all you see looks bad. Choose to believe because God is faithful!” –Max Lucado, God is With You Every Day
It’s so easy to lose sight of God’s faithfulness when problems come. We often find ourselves focusing on our problems when we’re in them and forgetting everything else. So much of the time when we are going through trials, we get so busy worrying or trying to correct the problem on our own that we forget there is a purpose behind them. We are driven by the demands of life and not realizing that God always has a greater purpose. God has a purpose in the struggle and He is faithful, no matter what. “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21).
“When we encounter a tough situation or a trial that seems to go on forever, we MUST remember that God is always faithful, and He is always faithful to His children. Forty years seems like forever but Moses nor Joshua lost sight of who God is. God’s character does not change no matter our circumstances. Do not lose sight of who God is because He is faithful.” –Newspring Church
God doesn’t always come through! What? That’s not true? It seems like that many times, when we need to hear from God so desperately, He is silent. In our anguish we cry out to Him, just one word would be sufficient. But the heavens seem to be closed to our agony! Ever felt like that?
God doesn’t always come through! Let me add a caveat to that statement. God doesn’t always come through…IN THE WAY WE EXPECT!
God didn’t come through to save the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace, He saved them in it. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.” ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God’” (Daniel 3:24,25).
God didn’t come through to save Daniel from the lion’s den, He saved him in it! “Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me…” (Daniel 6:21,22).
God didn’t come through to save Joseph from being sold into slavery by his brothers, or from his many difficulties in Egypt, but He was with him, and blessed him in the midst of his suffering. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
God didn’t come through to save Stephen from the stones of his persecutors, but He was there to welcome him into His presence. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55,56).
By the way, it is notable that Jesus stood! This is the only time in Scripture that God is said to stand for one of His saints. In our world when we come into the presence of a person who holds a high position we honor them by standing. But here Jesus stands! “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). Stephen's life and death were a shining testimony of his faith and commitment to his Lord and Savior.
No matter the problem, God is faithful, He will always come through for you!
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28 MSG).
“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23).
When we come to the Lord, having been storm-tossed and afflicted, disquieted and unstable, He establishes us in righteousness–His righteousness.
Verse 3b: “…who will establish you…”
“Establish” in Greek is sterizo, meaning, "to fix, make fast, to set" also translated “strengthen” (Luke 22:32). It literally means to make firm; to resolutely turn in a certain direction; to render constant.
God will establish you so you will not to be moved away from what you have been taught, or so that you cannot be seduced by those “unreasonable and wicked men.”
“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted… In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you” (Isaiah 54:11,14).
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Romans 16:25).
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT).
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Verse 3c: “…and guard you from the evil one…”
“The evil one,” or the “wicked one” (Matthew 13:19), is Satan, and the meaning is, that God would keep them from his wiles. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
“They had disorderly men, wicked men, and the evil one or the devil, to contend with; God alone could support and give them the victory; He had promised to do it, and He might ever be confided in as being invariably faithful.” –Adam Clarke
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).
Verse 4: “And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.”
The Greek for “confidence” is parresia, meaning, “freedom, openness, bold resolve, and assurance.
There certainly is a freedom in having confidence in our brothers and sisters in Christ. Have you ever felt like you could trust a fellow Christian with anything? Isn’t it wonderful that you can be open and honest with someone that will have your best interests at heart? “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (Proverbs 17:17 NLT).
Are you the kind of person that others can trust with a confidence? Are you the kind of person that others can depend on to always do the right thing? Are you the kind of person that listens to, respects and obeys your church leaders? “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17)
Paul could be assured that the Lord will establish and guard them. He is also confident that his readers, strengthened by the Lord, would continue to follow apostolic instruction as they had in the past. He could have confidence in them, because of their past track-record (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Paul did not have any confidence in wicked men, but he did have confidence in faithful brethren.
Paul often expressed confidence in his brethren:
The Corinthians: “Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything” (2 Corinthians 7:16). “…having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all” (2 Corinthians 2:3).
The Romans: “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, (Romans 15:14).
The Galatians: “I have confidence in you, in the Lord” (Galatians 5:10).
Are we living in such a way that our brethren can have confidence in us? Despite the presence of false brethren. Paul never allowed himself to become cynical about members of the church.
Verse 5a: “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God…”
“In the last verse of this passage we see what we might call the inward and the outward characteristics of the Christian. The inward characteristic is the awareness of the love of God, the deep awareness that we cannot drift beyond his care, the sense that the everlasting arms are underneath us. One of the basic needs of life is security and we find that need met in the consciousness of the unchanging love of God. The outward characteristic is the endurance which Christ can give. We live in a world where there are more nervous breakdowns than at any time in history. It is a sign that more and more people have the feeling that they cannot cope with life. The outward characteristic of the Christian is that when others break he stands erect and when others collapse he shoulders his burden and goes on. With the love of God in his heart and the strength of Christ in his life a man can face anything.” –William Barclay
God will “direct” the hearts of the Thessalonians. The word “direct” in Greek means, “go straight down by the most direct, efficient route; to go in a direct course, avoiding all unnecessary delays, without any undue loss of time or achievement. The idea is to clear away any obstacle in their hearts toward loving God.
Verse 5b: “…and into the patience of Christ.”
Verse 5 NLT: “May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”
Verse 5 CEV: "I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ.”
“The expression, ‘the patience of Christ,’ could possibly be interpreted in three ways: (a)The patient waiting for Christ. (b) That we may be patient in all our sufferings as Christ was in His (Heb. 12:2). (c) That since Christ is expecting till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet (Heb. 10:13), so should we be patient in our hopes of His triumph and our complete deliverance.
The text could possibly be rendered, ‘The Lord teach and enable you to love as God loves, and to be patient as Christ is patient.’ The Greek word for patient is hupomone, literally, ‘an abiding under,’ signifying the need of abiding patience under all circumstances of life. A few thoughts concerning our Lord’s patience will encourage us; so let us ask, what is He waiting for?” –John Bramhall, plymouthbrethren.org
“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7).
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).