Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. — 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9
When General George C. Marshall took command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he found the post in a generally run-down condition. Rather than issue orders for specific improvements, he simply got out his own paintbrushes, lawn equipment, etc., and went to work on his personal quarters. The other officers and men noticed. First on his block, and then throughout the post, they did the same thing, and Fort Benning was brightened up.
Paul understood and taught the believers at Thessalonica that being in a position of leadership entails responsibility, and that includes being a good example. In the home, in the educational system, in the workplace, in the religious world, in the governmental system, those in authority lead best by setting a good example. Sadly, because of the sinfulness of the world, it doesn’t always happen that way. Many times, those in authority tend to associate their positions with privilege, and take advantage of their position without regard for the example they are setting to those under their jurisdiction.
Whatever the trends of the world may be, in the Gospel authority does not mean privilege, but responsibility and accountability. We must learn how to be a follower before we can effectively lead others.
Where do you lead today? Most of us have someone who looks to us as an example. Whether it be at home, at school, on the job, or in the church, we need to be ready to deny ourselves privileges if that will make us better examples of the Gospel.
In the previous chapters of this book, Paul had written to the church in Thessalonica, continuing the subject of 1 Thessalonians, the Second Coming of the Lord. He had addressed their misunderstanding concerning the timing of the end time events. In chapter 3, he concluded the epistle by expressing his desire for the Gospel to have “free course,” that is, to have maximum effect without any obstructions.
The idea of removing all obstructions underlies everything in this chapter. This discourse has two main sections: prayer and application. Paul started each part referring to himself and then moved to the Thessalonians. He first asked for prayer for himself, and then prayed for the church, expressing his confidence in their spiritual faithfulness. Likewise, when he addressed the practical aspects, he started by giving his own example, and then instructions about how the Thessalonians could be examples. Specifically, he warned them against laziness, manipulating others, and gossiping.
One of the key lessons in this passage is the importance of leading by example. Paul knew that he could not pray for the church to draw close to God if he himself did not have that resolve. Even though Paul could have justly asked to be supported by the church for his work among them, he chose to take on employment to teach by example the importance of working for one’s own living.
The thread running through these admonitions is a warning against “disorderliness.” The word “disorderly” is used three times in these few verses. The point is that socially disgraceful conduct will bring shame on the Gospel and hinder God’s truth from spreading. This matter was so serious that the Thessalonians were commanded twice to stay away from anyone who walked disorderly.
Paul’s words of instruction concluded with a note of gentleness in the handling of discipline. This, too, is practical: just as the Gospel will have freer course in the church and in society if believers behave in an orderly manner, so the Gospel will have freer course to the backslider if correction is done in a loving, respectful way. Once again, God used Paul to show that a high, holy, strict standard of conduct for the church does not contradict compassion and mercy.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. Instructions concerning the believer’s walk (3:1-15)
A. Call to prayer (3:1-5)
1. Prayer for Paul (3:1-2)
2. Paul’s prayer for them (3:3-5)
B. Call to discipline (3:6-15)
1. The problem (3:6)
2. The example (3:7-9)
3. The precepts (3:10-13)
4. The discipline (3:14-15)
IV. Conclusion (3:16-18)
A. The concluding prayer (3:16)
B. The answer to forgers (3:17)
C. The benediction (3:18)
As we grow in our walk with Christ, we have to remember that we do not live to ourselves. We need to live lives above reproach so that there will be no road blocks to the Gospel spreading and deepening, both in the church and in the world.