3. Appeals, commands and prayers, 3:1-15
i] God's faithfulnessArgument
In the passage before us Paul speaks of the faithfulness of God. First, he presents a prayer-point concerning the business of making known the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then expresses his faith in God's willingness to protect the Thessalonian believers from the evil one so that they will be free to continue to serve the Lord as Paul has instructed them.
i] Context: See 1:1-12. It is likely that the probatio, the section of the letter which contains the proofs / theses, with the peroratio, conclusion / recapitulation, concludes at the end of chapter 2, although some commentators think that it runs through to 3:5. So, we now move to the exhortatio, exhortation, with a general exhortation covered by v1-5, followed by a more specific exhortation dealing with the issue of working for a living rather than sponging off others.
ii] Structure: This passage, God's faithfulness, v1-5, presents as follows:
A request for prayer, v1-2;
An expression of confidence, v3-4;
A prayer, v5:
"may the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance."
The passage is somewhat awkward. This has prompted the suggestion that some verses were added, but it is more likely that Paul was distracted, started on a conclusion, but then moved to a word of affirmation before dealing with a practical issue facing the congregation.
The main issue in the concluding exhortation is the need to get the trouble-makers in the congregation back to work rather than sponging off their fellow members. To do this Paul employs a rhetorical tactic, a captatio benevolentiae, "an introductory word of praise", Fee. This serves to gain a good hearing from the trouble-makers before addressing an issue which could well prompt a negative reaction.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 3:1
A general exhortation, v1-5. i] Paul asks that the Thessalonian readers pray for both his mission team and gospel ministry - for the spread of the gospel and protection from the powers of darkness, v1-2. Paul's first prayer point concerns the "message of the Lord", the gospel. He asks that it may "spread rapidly" (run). Paul is asking for the free movement of the gospel in the communities in which he ministers. He also asks that the gospel "may be honoured" (glorified). The gospel is certainly honoured when people respond to it, so Paul's request may be that people submit to it. His second prayer point is that he might be delivered out of the hands of "wicked and evil men". He is most likely thinking of those who opposed his gospel ministry. These men dogged his mission and sought to undermine his evangelistic outreach in the local synagogues. A substantial element of this opposition came from Jewish Christians who opposed Paul's Gentile mission, and particularly his teaching on God's free grace through faith apart from obedience to the Mosaic Law. For Paul, this opposition, based on concepts of legalism and nationalism, were most likely the "secret power of lawlessness .... already at work". Here was the present "coming" and "display" of the Man of Lawlessness. Mr. Loss was doing the "work of Satan" and therefore Paul could rightly ask that the powers of darkness be stayed for the sake of gospel proclamation, cf., chapter 2.
to loipon adv. "As for other matters" - the remaining. The article to serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb into a substantive, "the last matter" = "finally."
peri + gen. "[pray] for [us]" - Possibly reference / respect, "concerning us", but more likely used instead of uJper, advantage / representation, "on behalf of" = "for".
iJna + subj. "that" - that [the word of the Lord may run and may be glorified, extolled]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that."
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[the word] of the Lord" - The genitive is best taken as ablative, source / origin, "from", but possibly verbal, objective, "about the Lord / Christ", or subjective, even adjectival, possessive.
doxazhtai (doxazw) pres. pas. subj. "be honored" - The NRSV has moved to "glorified" from "triumph" in the RSV. The sense being that "the word of the Lord might be held in honor or extolled", Wanamaker. The two points of prayer, that the gospel may spread rapidly and be honored, are based on propositional truth and thus can be prayed for in faith with the sure knowledge that the prayer will be answered. This is an example of a faith-prayer based on the revealed will of God, as against a faith-prayer based on an aberration of the mind (which is often delusional!!!!!)
kaqwV "just as" - Comparative.
kai proV "it was with [you]" - and toward [you]. Taking kai as emphatic, "indeed", and proV expressing association, "with", we end up with the phrase "as indeed it was with you". This phrase qualifies the purpose clause such that Paul is praying that others will receive the gospel as the Thessalonians received it. The tense is a guess: "as has been the case with you", Zerwick.
iJna + subj. "and pray that [we may be delivered]" - Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that."
apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from wicked and perverse people." It is unlikely that Paul is praying for his personal well-being, given that there is no protection from harm promised for a believer, in fact, the opposite is promised. This is all about Paul's gospel ministry and the determination of the powers of darkness to run interference. Paul's prayer is that those not of faith, those who seek to undermine the gospel, may be blocked by divine power.
gar "for" - Expressing cause / reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul asks to be "rescued from perverse and wicked men", "for it is not all who have faith", Barclay.
pantwn gen. adj. "everyone" - [for the faith is not the possession] of all. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive. The article with pistiV, "the faith", may imply the content of Christian belief, although Morris argues it is "faith" in the sense of "trust", reliance on Christ for salvation. Of course, the word in this context may simply mean "trustworthy".
ii] In an affirmation of faith Paul expresses his confidence in the Lord's continued strengthening of the Thessalonian congregation, v3-4. Paul moves his focus from himself to that of his readers. What he says for them in their situation certainly applies to his own difficulties. He knows Jesus is able to stand with him, as well as with the Thessalonians, for he is "Lord". The powers of darkness cannot stand against the King of the Ages. Paul knows that Jesus will do two things. First, he will "strengthen", in the sense of establish them in their Christian lives. They will not be left to the wiles of the powers of darkness. Second, Jesus will "protect", in the sense of guard them from the powers of darkness (Satan). Paul's confidence in "the Lord" is that the Thessalonians will persevere in their Christian lives, living out the directions that Paul has given them in the Lord. Paul can be confident that the Thessalonians, who have put their faith in Christ, will indeed "do the things we command." This confidence rests on the promise of the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
de "but" - Adversative, as NIV; contrasting the faithfulness of those who work against gospel ministry and the faithfulness of God.
oJ kurioV (oV) "the Lord" - The usual statement is "God is faithful", but here Christ may be in Paul's mind, the one who will ultimately set all things right. Of course, "Lord" can be used of "God" so a reference to Jesus may not be intended.
o}V "and he" - who [will establish, make firm, support you and protect, guard, keep safe]. Introducing a relative clause, attributive, limiting by specifying how the Lord is faithful. The Lord is the patron of his people; "he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one", Cassirer.
apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."
tou ponhrou (oV) gen. "the evil one" - The genitive may be taken as neuter, "evil" in general, or masculine, "the evil one" = Satan.
de "-" - but, and. Coordinative; "and".
pepoiqamen (peiqw) perf. "we have confidence" - we have confidence, are persuaded. The perfect tense takes the sense "persuade", expressing a past completed action with abiding results; "we are fully confident", Cassirer.
en + dat. "in [the Lord]" - Local, expressing space / sphere, incorporative union. A uniquely Pauline term; "in and through our intimate relationship with Jesus we have confidence ....." Calvin virtually treats it as instrumental, "the things we command by the Lord", but this is unlikely.
ef (epi) + acc. "-" - Reference / respect; "we rely on the Lord with respect to you."
oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing the nature of Paul's confidence.
poieite kai poihsete "you are doing and will continue to do" - you do, practice and you will do, practice [what things we command, charged, instructed]. As NIV, the phrase "you do and will do" is likely to serve as the subject and verb of the sentence with "what thing we command" serving as the object. This is disturbed somewhat by the variant kai which is presumably adjunctive, "also"; "that what we command you also do and will do." As noted above Paul's words are a captatio benevolentiae, an affirmative statement. Verses 6-15 indicate that Paul is anything but confident that his readers are doing, and will do, all that he commands.
iii] In a concluding benediction Paul prays for the perseverance of the Thessalonian congregation, v5. On the basis of his confidence that the Lord will work his work in the Thessalonians (as in himself), he prays for them. He prays that the Lord will do what he has promised he will do; he prays "according to His will". Paul prays for the removal of obstacles, that their whole beings might be focused first, on "God's love", that the Lord may direct their inner being to love as God loves. And second, that the Thessalonians might persevere in the Christian life with the perseverance that Christ showed. "I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ", CEV.
kateuqunai (kateuqunw) opt. "may [the Lord] direct" = [now] may [the Lord] direct, guide / straighten. The optative expressing a wish-prayer. The Thessalonians are to direct their hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
taV kardiaV (a) "[your] hearts" - the hearts [of you]. "The inner existence of individuals", Wanamaker, "the center of their lives", Green.
eiV "into" - to, into. Spacial.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[God's] love" - [the love] of God. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, possibly objective, of our love for God, but usually subjective, of God's love for believers, so Frame, Best, Wanamaker, Green, Fee, .... Of course, we may just classify it as adjectival, possessive, the love which characterizes God, which is of his person and which we experience in our relationship with Jesus. Note again that "God" in the Gk. is oJ kurioV, "the Lord". Fee argues that "God the Father" is not intended when Paul uses the term "the Lord", rather "God the Son" is the referent.
tou Cristou (oV) gen. "Christ's" - [perseverance, constancy, steadfastness] of Christ. The genitive is again usually taken as verbal, subjective, particularly as the construction stands in a parallel prepositional construction introduced by eiV. None-the-less, an objective genitive makes more sense where the perseverance is that of the Thessalonians focused on Christ and his setting everything right / coming. If taken as subjective, Best proposes two meanings: a) of the Thessalonians adopting Jesus' example of perseverance; "the perseverance that Christ showed." This approach could also apply to the first prepositional construction such that the love of God serves as an example of love; "may the Lord direct your hearts to love as God loves", Green. b) Of taking on the spiritual gift of perseverance realized through the renewing work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, so Bruce. "I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ", CEV.