Online Bible Commentary
2 Thessalonians 3:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (NKJV)
In the preceding passage Paul encouraged his fellow Christians, those set apart for God, at the church in Thessalonica to stand firm in the face of persecution In this passage Paul asks them to pray for him and his associates as they continue their work to spread the gospel throughout the known world at that time, those countries adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.
He asks that the church pray for three outcomes: that the gospel would spread rapidly; that the gospel would be received by those who hear it; and that those who are spreading the gospel would be protected from those without faith, “wicked and evil people” (vv.1-2). The word translated “message” (v.1) is the Greek word “logos” which means “word”. So the message that Paul is asking to spread rapidly is the word of God, the Scriptures or the gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news.” The Bible is good news. We should all look forward to spending time reading the Bible.
The second outcome for which Paul is requesting prayer is that the gospel be “honored, just as it was with you” (v.1). Paul has already praised the church at Thessalonica for their faithfulness. He is asking that he and his associates find the same reception in other places where they preach. He is asking that they find many more groups of believers like those in the church at Thessalonica.
The third outcome for which Paul is requesting prayer is for physical protection as they spread the gospel (v.2). The word translated “delivered” is the Greek word “rhyomai”, which means to rescue. Paul is expecting persecution as the word of God is spoken and his prayer is that they would be rescued from this persecution.
The “wicked and evil people” he is referring to are most likely the Jews of Corinth. This appears to be the source of the persecution at the time. The Jews believed that Christianity was a distorted view of the Scriptures and sought to stamp out this new sect.
Paul’s prayer for rescue was certainly appropriate because the persecution often turned deadly. Paul understood the dangers firsthand since he was once a main persecutor, prior to his conversion.
Paul then compares those without faith, the persecutors, to the One who is the most faithful, the Lord. He is telling us to look away from the faithless, who would persecute us, and look toward the faithful One, who will strengthen us and protect us from the evil one, Satan (v.3).
Paul is saying that persecution of Christians comes from Satan, and his followers. Sin and evil are the same thing. Those who are in bondage to sin, evil, are the same ones who spread Satan’s evil through persecution of Christians. In contrast, those who are faithful to God are the same ones who spread God’s love through sharing the gospel with unbelievers.
Paul writes of “confidence in the Lord”, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that the believers “are doing, and will continue to do the things we command” (v.4). This verse shows us the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. The Holy Spirit directs us into doing the Lord’s will, but the Christian bears the personal responsibility to follow through and actually do that which is the Lord’s will.
After asking the church to pray for him, Paul then offers a prayer for the church at Thessalonica (v.5). His prayer reaches out to all three persons of the Godhead, the Trinity. He asks for the Lord’s Holy Spirit to direct the hearts of the church into having God the Father’s love and the steadfastness that Christ exhibited in the midst of persecution.
In this passage, Paul gives us an example for us Christians to follow. Paul asks for prayer, and then he turns around and prays for those who will be praying for him. He asks for a blessing, but he first gives a blessing.
I am reminded of all those lovely saints now in Heaven that I ministered to during my days as a hospice chaplain. After I prayed for them, so many of them would then pray for me. It mattered not that they could barely speak. They would muster up the energy in their frail condition to bless the one who blessed them. And what a blessing it was. I will always say that they ministered more to me than I ministered to them.