The final chapter of 2 Thessalonians begins with Paul’s request for prayer and ends his letter with words of blessing for the Thessalonians. In between, Paul assures his readers that the Lord would accomplish his purposes in the lives of the Thessalonian believers and gives a final encouragement to proper living as a follower of Jesus.
Paul’s initial prayer request centers around the successful spread of the gospel. Paul does this because he knows he was only able to accomplish what he did for the Kingdom due to the prayers of God’s people. He knew that God’s plans and purposes for his life and ministry wouldn’t have been fully realized without the prayers of faithful believers.
This same principle is true for us today. We need the prayers of other Christians, and they need our prayers. It’s through prayer warriors in the life of the church that we see God’s desires accomplished, Satan’s purposes defeated, and the Holy Spirit’s power revealed.
Paul then continues in his request by asking the Thessalonians to pray that he and his companions would be kept safe from evil as they share the gospel. Paul says, “the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” Paul knew that when God’s people pray in truth and with passion, that he protects them from the enemy’s attacks. When God’s people pray, He strengthens us to face any temptation that comes against us and protects us from evil. Which is why Paul instructs us to put on all of God’s armor in Ephesians 6. He says that when we are clothed in the armor of God, we can stand firm against all strategies of the devil. He concludes that famous passage of scripture by saying to stay alert and to be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
As Paul continues in his closing remarks in this letter, he addresses the issue of laziness that exists within the Thessalonian believers. Some translations use the term idleness and say that this is Paul’s warning against idleness. He goes as far to say that those who claim to be believers but exhibit idleness, or laziness, should be avoided. Through this address, Paul teaches about three kinds of individuals needing to be rebuked or corrected for their behavior.
The first is the lazy Christian. In verses 6-10, Paul gives this warning and then explains his own testimony as a counterexample. He demonstrated a selfless work ethic by providing for himself as much as possible. Those who were idle were people who were unwilling to work. Some of the people were too proud to do certain types of work, and others thought that Christ’s soon return meant they didn’t need to occupy themselves with working to make a living. As a result, they were taking advantage of the church’s generosity and receiving support from others who made a living. Paul says to keep away and not associate with such people.
The next type of person that Paul addresses is the gossiper. Paul says in verse 11, “We hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business”. These people were even worse than the “idle” and lazy people because they interfered in other people’s business. Paul says, “we urge them to settle down and work to earn their own living”. Paul was instructing that Christians should be hardworking, productive people as part of their testimony and influence for Christ. That they should work hard in order to provide for themselves, their families, and to contribute to God’s work in helping others.
The last warning that Paul gives is about the disobedient. He addresses this person in verses 14-15 “Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them. Don’t think of them as enemies but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”
As Paul warns the believers about the three types of believers, he also gives three steps to be taken in dealing with these individuals: Identify them, Warn them, and Love them. But wait? Paul said to avoid that person, to keep away from them. I can identify plenty of lazy people, but how am I to warn or love them?
Paul says in verse 7 that we are to imitate him in how he wasn’t idle with the Thessalonians. In other words, he reminds them of the patience and love that they have been shown that changed their behavior. You and I can’t extend this type of warning or love in our strength. But when we remember the love that Christ showed us, we’re empowered to show this same type of love to those that are idle. Which is why Paul concludes this letter saying: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”