PAUL'S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS
Reflections on the Greek Text
2 Thess. 3:1-18
At first blush it appears that Paul has left behind the topic of the second coming; however, the misunderstanding of the Thessalonians regarding the second coming probably explains the problem Paul addresses here in chapter 3. Some of the Thessalonian Christians are refusing to work. They are able to work; however, they are refusing to work. Although Paul does not specifically state their reasons, their misunderstanding about the second coming may explain the reason. Their attitude might have been: "Why work? Jesus is just around the corner! We just need to prepare ourselves spiritually for His return! In the meantime we will let you who are foolishly working supply us our needs."
VERSE BY VERSE ANALYSIS OF THE GREEK
Word order in this verse emphasizes strongly the word "faithful" ("pistos" pron. pis-TAHS). Because Christians live in the last days, we live in a time of great struggle and tribulation. On the surface it seems like God may have abandoned us. The reverse is true. FAITHFUL is God. Whereas everybody and everything else may fail us, GOD never will--because He is FAITHFUL.
The word translated "we have confidence" ("pepoithamen" pron. peh-POY-tha-men) is in the perfect tense, meaning "we had confidence in you and continue to have confidence in you; we remain in a state of continual confidence in you."
The words "of God" (the love of God) can mean either God's love for us, or our love for God. The words "steadfastness of Christ" mean the steadfastness which Christ displayed while He was here on earth. In spite of all the difficulties He experienced, He was steadfast in His commitment to God. We are to display that same steadfastness even during times of great trouble.
Although the New American Standard Bible translates the word "ataktos" (pron. ah-TAHK-toes) "unruly," a better translation would be "idly."
The word translated "tradition" ("paradosis" pron. pa-ra-DOE-sis) means "the thing handed down." All traditions are not bad, especially the teachings handed down from Jesus. The good "traditions" in the NT are those teachings which come from the lips of Christ and His apostles. These we are NOT to mess with. The apostles did not think they were coming up with new teachings. They believed they were simply applying the teachings of Jesus to the new situations they were now facing.
The word translated "follow our example" (mimeisthai pron. meh-MICE-thigh) is the word from which we get our English word "mimic." How do you live the Christian life? By mimicking Paul, by mimicking Jesus, the way they lived.
The word translated "we did not act in an undiscipline manner" (etakesamen pron. a-tahk-TAY-sah-men) literally means "we didn't get out of rank." It has the idea of military parade in which all the soldiers stay in the right place, stay in file, in rank. There is much freedom in the Christian life (Gal. 5:1); however, there are also parameters within which we live the Christian life. Those parameters may be wide; however, they do exist. Refusing to work is an example of going outside the boundaries/parameters of Christianity.
The word order emphasizes "in labor and in hardship." Although it would have been easier for Paul to have mooched off the labors of others, he stayed within the parameters and worked tirelessly while among them, supporting himself and his followers financially.
The word "model" ("tupos" pron. TOO-pahs) is the basis for our word "type." Paul and the other apostles were like our type in typewriters in that they were striking upon us (the paper) their own lifestyles, the lifestyle of Christ.
Again, that "you might follow our example" comes from the Greek word "mimeistha" (pron. meh-MICE-thigh), meaning "to mimic us."
What Paul says next should not surprise the Thessalonian Christians. The verb "we used to give you orders" ("pareggellomen" pron. pair-rang-GEHL-ah-men) is in the imperfect tense, meaning that when Paul was with them, he repeatedly gave them the following instruction: "You don't work, then you don't eat."
The conditional clause "if anyone is not willing to work" is called a first class conditional clause. A better way to translate it would be: "If anyone is not willing to work--and there ARE some who are unwilling to work!"
The preposition "about" ("peri" pron. pair-REE) is attached to the 2 verbs: "doing no work at all" and "acting like busybodies." Instead of getting into their proper place, into the ranks, they are wandering around, not where they should be when it is time to work.
Emphasis is on the word "own." In other words, eating bread is not the primary issue here. Eating YOUR OWN bread, bread which you have worked for, is the only kind of bread you are supposed to eat.
This verse seems out of place; however, Paul emphasizes "you"--"YOU YOURSELVES." The Thessalonian Christians who were working were not to grow weary not simply in working but in doing good. Lazy Christians can cause you to grow callous towards ALL people in need. It is better to be scammed by a few and to help the many, than to make sure you are NEVER scammed by a few and thereby hurt some which might need help.
Paul though hopeful is also realistic. The clause translated "If any man does not obey this instruction" is a first class conditional clause. A better way to translate it would be: "But if anyone does not obey this instruction, and some are NOT obeying it . . ."
The verb translated "take special note" (semeiousthe pron. say-my-OOSE-they) literally means "brand him." From this point on what that man has done is so bad that you are to treat him as a marked man.
"That he might be shamed" is a purpose clause. In other words, the whole purpose of marking him and not associating with him is that he may experience shame. Hopefully, if he feels shame, he will repent and start working. At that point in time we are then to associate with him, but not before then.
Why should we treat a parasite on society like this? Because if we let this kind of attitude go unchecked, all of society will become parasitic. Well, parasites don't feed on other parasites. They need something healthy to feed on. Society will collapse if we allow people to become parasites.
Word order puts stress on the 2 phrases "not as an enemy" and on "but as a brother." We may mark that person but not brand him. Marks may come off; brands are permanent. Our whole purpose is redemption, not punishment. Why? Because such a person is our brother in Christ. If Christ values that man to the extent He makes him His brother, how much more should we value him? In fact we refuse to allow him to become a moocher off society because we do value him. We expect more of such a valuable person.
P.S. Both verbs are commands (in the imperative mood). It is not optional that we do NOT treat him as an enemy and that we treat him as a brother. Paul is commanding us not to treat him as an enemy and to treat him as a brother.
By adding Himself ("autos" pron. OW-tahs) to "Lord," Paul is emphasizing that he doesn't just want peace from anywhere. The only peace he wants is the peace which comes from Jesus, the only peace that lasts.
Apparently somebody has been forging letters in Paul's name because here he emphasizes in 3 differents ways that this is HIS greeting and nobody else's:
(literally) "This greeting with THE hand, MY hand, the hand of PAUL!"