We are Called to Prayer and Service
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
2nd Thessalonians 3:1-5
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. 5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
Last week we ended our study of 2nd Thessalonians 2, We were looking at the last three verses. We asked, “What should be the result of our having become chosen in Christ?”
As you know, this epistle was a letter to the church at Thessalonica. It had no chapter or verse divisions. So, whatever was being discussed at the end of one chapter usually led into what would begin the next. (For example, we read the teaching about the Rapture, back in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. But it leads directly into the Tribulation, in 1st Thessalonians 5:1-11.)
So, let’s go back and see the transition between the end of 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 and the beginning of 2nd Thessalonians chapter 3:
What Should the Result Be? (2nd Thessalonians 2:15-17)
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
He says we are to stand fast, and to hold to sound doctrine. We are to be obedient to the Word of God as we have been taught. We are taught by the Holy Spirit, by Christ Himself, and by whatever teachers He has sent to us.
Ephesians 4:14, 15 says we are to “grow up into Him!” We are to grow to be like Him!
And Ephesians 5:1-20 tells us what that “looks like.” We are to leave behind our old ways, along with all the “unprofitable works of darkness.” We leave the darkness behind, because we now are “children of the light.”
Children of Light
He says that because we are children of the light, we are to walk as the children of light. Behave like a child of God because you have become one, by the new birth. You were born again through placing your full trust in His blood alone for redemption. (Behaving that way as an unbeliever will not save you. But if you truly are a saved child of God, then the results should begin to show in a changed life.)
And (v. 17) as we continue to learn to walk with Him, we can expect that He will “comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work.” The result will be that our work and our words will all prove to be to His Glory.
2nd Thessalonians 3
Prayer is Part of That Result
Paul said, “1 Finally, brethren, pray for us.” But, take note of what Paul asks the Thessalonian believers to pray for his sake:
“…that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
He asked prayer that the Word of the Lord would have “free course,” and be glorified. Flowing water, as in a river or a stream, when unrestricted, is said to have “free course.” The stream’s course, or water-way is not obstructed by anything.
Numerous farmers have had to remove beaver dams. The dams had stopped the flow of water in their irrigation systems. (I am thrilled by God’s creation: that a rodent could instinctively know how to build dams of sticks and mud. And I’m amazed that the dams can hold back thousands of tons of water!) But… I can sympathize with the farmers, who only want the beavers to go somewhere else!) All the farmers hoped to do was to restore the “free course” of the water. That way, the water could freely flow to their fields. In some cases, they needed the water to flow away, draining their fields to prevent flooding.
Praying for “free course” for the Word of God means Paul asked for the obstructions to be removed. He desired that the effect of the Gospel would not be diminished. Also, he said that the unrestricted Word would be glorified in those who heard it. He said, despite their persecution, that the Gospel had “free course” in Thessalonica. So, we can see that persecutions are not the “obstructions” to which Paul referred. The obstructions are the arguments of “unreasonable and wicked men.”
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”
Looking Back to Berea
Remember what happened in Acts 17:10-14…
“10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.”
We can see in Acts 17:11 that the people of Berea were receptive. The Word had “Free Course” there. The people “received the Word with all readiness of mind and they searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” That is what we call “free course.” That is the best we can hope for. We want people to hear the word, and go check their Bible to be sure we told them the truth. (Wonderful! That is exactly what we want!)
But, in Acts 17:13 we see that the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica were not content to have “run Paul out of their own town.” They sent a delegation over to Berea, to do the same thing there! And it worked! The “unreasonable and wicked men” were able to stir up the unbelieving Jews of Berea, just as they did in Thessalonica. So, Paul left town, because he was the one they were mostly clamoring against, but he left Silas and Timothy there to continue teaching the new believers. Paul moved on to Athens, and then to Corinth.
So, How Do We Respond?
Some churches, still today, name themselves after that little town, calling themselves the “Berean Bible Church,” or the “Berean Baptist Church,” or the “Berean Brethren” or some such thing. Why? Because they want to be associated with, and (hopefully) to emulate those who were “noble” in their behavior, at Berea.
Do they actually maintain that attitude? Well…I’m sure it varies. It is easy to start off receptive and obedient to the Written Word. But the tendency is to gather together and work out some sort of “set-in-stone, no-longer-to-be-questioned DOCTRINAL STATEMENT.” That in itself is not a problem, provided that all it really says is “this is what we have gained so far.”
The problems begin later: The believers may become complacent in their “solid teaching.” And, after that, they frequently quit being receptive. They just “drop anchor” on that document, saying, “This is what WE believe,” and they neglect to “search the scriptures daily, whether these things are so.” At that point, Jesus, the Living Word, no longer has “Free Course” in that assembly, even if the “doctrinal statement” is completely correct. They feel they have “arrived,” and that they no longer need to “Feed on the Word of God.” They have set Jesus aside!
The Hidden Trap of Being “Orthodox”
The word “orthodox” just means having “correct opinions.” But you can have “correct opinions” and still be dead. The whole point is to have those “correct opinions” because the Living Word of God has free course in your life! We need to have those “correct opinions” because we have been born again, and because the Holy Spirit has had the freedom to teach our hearts, not just our minds.
Remember, some time ago, we talked about “having the truth in our library, but not in our living room.” It is entirely possible to “mentally agree” with correct Bible teaching, but not be willing to apply it to one’s own life. Some people claim to “believe the Gospel,” but when they are questioned, it becomes clear that they have never applied it to themselves, personally. It is a good thing for everyone else!
I pray the Lord will grant that we do not make such an error as to become complacent in our “doctrinal correctness.” We must keep feeding on the Word, and searching the scriptures daily. In this way, as we study the Written Word, the Living Word will have “free course” in our lives. We want to eliminate the obstructions in our lives, so that the Holy Spirit is free to flow through us to the world around us.
So, How Can We Avoid the Traps?
3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
Our only Hope is in the Person of Christ! In Philippians 2:13, Paul said, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” God both gives us the desire to do His will and carries us through to the doing of it. All we need to do is to be willing, and to make ourselves available to Him for His service, so that we follow Him and obey Him.
Here, in 2nd Thessalonians 3:3, 4. we see the same Hope. Our Hope is in the Person of Christ. As we feed on Jesus, the Living Word, it says, “the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and keep you from evil.” He is the one to build our “solid teaching” and our “sound doctrine,” and He is the One to continually guide us into deeper truth, and safe relationships and behavior.
We Are Not Alone
We are not left on our own to “build the Church.” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my Church.” Yes, He will use us to accomplish His will, as we submit ourselves to Him, but it is His Church, and He will build it!
In Psalm 23, it says that He makes us lie down in green pastures, and He leads us beside still waters. I am told that sheep only lie down in the pasture when they have been fully fed. They were eating that green grass, and now they are resting in it peacefully. We can rest peacefully because He has fed us on His Word. He “makes us to rest” in that “green pasture.”
Also, we are led by means of His Holy Spirit, the Living Water, because He “leads us beside still waters.” The Holy Spirit does not stir up fear and resentment and chaos among us. There are many loud voices in the world, demanding that we be alarmed. We need to realize that the voice of God brings peace.
The Spirit of Fear or the Spirit of God?
The Holy Spirit does not bring fear and timidity. 2nd Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of Love, and of a sound mind.” Remember this when you “hear news” that disturbs you. We are “called to action,” but we are called in Peace.
Gideon was called to do something that would have been terrifying to anyone, in their natural strength. But God provided Strength and Peace. In Judges 7:15, He sent Gideon into the enemy camp at night, along with his servant. There he heard a message from God, through an enemy soldier! That message caused him to worship the Lord for having given them the victory. As a result, he was in complete peace, as they launched an attack against a vast enemy force. He was only allowed to use three hundred men, and all of them had their hands full so that they could not use a weapon!
They were given the same three-fold task as we are given!
- Stand fast,
- Shine a light, and
- Sound the Alarm!
We are to stand fast in Christ, shining the light of transformed lives, in the midst of a dark world. And, as we shine, we are to sound the alarm that Judgment is coming, but that Jesus Saves! And as we do those three things, we can rest in Him.
Current Events and Our Future
Many of you have heard terrible news in the last two days, and we may feel fearful about the outcome. But they had much worse news back then. What did Paul say about responding to their circumstances?
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
We are not called to fear the future, but rather to delve deeper into a loving relationship with the Holy God we serve. We are to live in cheerful expectation of His soon return. That is it! And this idea was not new.
Old Testament Truth
Habakkuk expressed this truth in Habakkuk 3:17-19, His “current events” were far worse than ours! In his case, there was no “warning that judgment might fall.” Instead, it was God’s promise that Judgment would fall, and very soon, at that! But Habakkuk chose to find his Peace and Joy in the Person of Christ. He said, “Yet will I rejoice in the LORD. I will joy in the God of my Salvation!”
We are called to that same Peace and Joy, regardless of our “current events.” We are called to live every day knowing that He could return today. The only way to do that is to feed daily on His Word, and walk with the Shepherd daily, as His flock, and as His servants.
Lord Jesus, please call us to the three-fold action of Bible Study, Prayer, and Discipleship. Make us aware that the time is short, and that we have only this one opportunity to work with You. Thrill our hearts with the privilege of that opportunity and move us to do Your Will!