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Final Instructions to a Faithful Church (II Thessalonians 3)

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.



There is an old hymn, written by Philip P. Bliss, entitled 'Hold the Fort.' The hymn was suggested to him by an incident in the American Civil War. At Altoma Pass the fort, being held by General Corse, was besieged by the enemy under General Hood, who summoned it to surrender. Corse refused to surrender. Many were the casualties, but in spite of the hopeless situation, the defenders remained faithful. Then a white signal flag across the valley, some twenty miles away, waved the message, 'Hold the fort, for I am coming'. General Sherman was marching to the relief of the beleaguered and faithful defenders.

With that incident in mind, Bliss wrote this beautiful song of faith and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the trials of life. He wrote:

1. Ho, my comrades!
see the signal waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing,
victory is nigh.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven,
“By Thy grace we will.”

2. See the mighty host advancing,
Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling,
courage almost gone!

.”3. See the glorious banner waving!
Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph
over ev’ry foe.

4. Fierce and long the battle rages,
but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander,
cheer, my comrades, cheer!

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven,
“By Thy grace we will.”

In the book of II Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul could have written this to the persecuted and harassed church in Thessalonica. They are awaiting the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to get them out of the mess that they are going through, both by those who hate the Christian message and by those who want to pervert it. That is especially true of what Paul had told them about the Catching up of the Church in the Rapture and the coming Day of the Lord to follow. The perverters of these doctrines abounded in this city.

The emphasis of this book has been on how to maintain a healthy church with a proper testimony, all the while continuing to possess sound doctrinal teaching on the end times and the return of Christ. Paul is so thankful that the Thessalonian church has clung to their faithfulness to the Lord and expresses this in both of his epistles to them. At the same time, he reminds them of the teachings from him that they should remember so that they will not be lead astray by false teachers.

Now, in the final chapter, the great Apostle is wrapping things up. In this last section, Paul is addressing some practical matters. The teachings he has been giving regarding the return of Christ are not just abstract doctrines to be studied and examined. Rather, they must change our lives and make us better Christians. We must not simply say theoretically that Christ will return. We should be living as though we believe it was true. And if a person says they believe that the Lord will return, they will act in certain ways. Let's examine this final chapter and see if we believers today are living like we actually believe what we proclaim to be true.

I. True Believers in Christ's Return Seek Prayer from and Offer it for Others (1-5).

We see first that a true Christian who is anticipating the return of Christ is a person of prayer. They seek it from fellow believers and offer it on behalf of others as well. Also, they love the gospel and desire and ask God that it is spread throughout the world unhindered.

Paul starts this section by asking for prayer for himself as well as Silas and Timothy, his companions, that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with them. Notice in his prayer he is also complimenting them that this is just what happened to the believers at Thessalonica.

He further asks that he and they be delivered and rescued from perverse and evil men, for sadly, not everyone has faith. These were Paul's enemies in Corinth,which is the place from which he is writing. Just like the Thessalonians, he is undergoing opposition and is asking for their prayers to overcome them and the enemies' hatred of the Gospel.

But, at the same time, Paul is confident that the Lord is faithful enough to give them the ability to do what the Apostle commands them to do. And he asks that He direct their hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Paul's directions were not merely suggestions but carried the weight and authority of his Apostleship and he knew that the Thessalonians, being people who loved the Lord, would do God's will, especially with His prayers on their behalf that gave to them the power of the Lord to do them.

II. True Believers in Christ's Return are Disciplined and Orderly (6-15)

The next sign of a believer who anticipates the Lord's return is that they follow the traditions that were given to them by Paul and live a disciplined and orderly life. There seemed to be a number of believers in Thessalonica who didn't work and didn't mind their own business. They rather were busybodies. And they apparently lived by taking advantage of others and eating food for which they didn't pay.

Work and accomplishment are not curses from the Fall. Rather they are part of man being created in the Lord's image. God placed man on earth to work, as the Lord Himself does and to bring his Creator glory by the fruit of his labors. From the very beginning, Adam and Eve were to tend and cultivate the Garden of Eden. And we see that our Savior, the perfect God-man, said of HImself: :

" My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." (John 5:17).

Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to keep away from brothers who lead a disorderly life. And he tells them to follow his example. The Apostle says to them:

"For you, yourselves know how you ought to follow our example because we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor, and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For, even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either." (3:7-10).

The undisciplined and disorderly person is to be commanded to work quietly and earn their own bread. And the rest of the church is exhorted not to grow weary doing that which is good either (11-13).

If a person persists in leading an unruly life and doesn't obey what Paul has clearly taught in this letter, the church is to take special note of him and stop their association with this person. The purpose of this is not to disfellowship from him forever but to shame him into doing his duties and to obey the Lord. The person should be restored if he repents. That is why Paul says:

"Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (15).

III. True Believers in Christ's Return Care About the Welfare of Fellow Christians (16)

Another characteristic of one who believes in and is looking forward to Christ's return is a person who cares about the welfare of their fellow Christians. Paul once again offers a prayer for the Thessalonians. He prays:

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all." (16).

Paul knew that God's peace was needed by this church because of the intense spiritual battle that raged all around them. God's peace is not based upon circumstances. No matter what we are going through, we know that the Lord is in control. He can get us through it. And even if He allows us to struggle, it is for our good to conform us to His image. And ultimately, nothing on this earth compares with the glory that we will experience in His presence for eternity one day.

And the God of peace will always be there, no matter what, for those who place their trust in Him.

IV. The True Believers in Christ's Return Listen for His Authentic Voice (17-18)

Finally, in this passage, we learn that the true believer in Christ's return listens for the Lord's authentic voice. There are a number of false teachers out there who claim to be speaking God's word to us. The false teachers at Thessalonica were causing problems, even with the authentic believers at that faithful church. And they are attacking the churches in our day as well.

Paul often wrote his letters through a secretary. However, he took the pen at the end and wrote with his own hand. He tells the Thessalonians that this is the way he wrote. So anyone who would read this, or any other letter by him, would know that it was actually by the Apostle Paul himself. And by this, they could know that they were actually listening to and could safely obey God's word.

Today, also, we always need to make sure that the preacher, or teacher that we listen to is following and giving to us God's Word. Which is all the more reason to read and to memorize it for ourselves, so that we can know if they are teaching truth or error. And by this, we won't be easily deceived by some smooth-talking charlatan who may be in town. God's authentic voice is found in the Bible and in the preachers and teachers who proclaim it faithfully.

After Paul authenticates his writing, he then signs off by a final prayer of blessing:

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." (18).

With that, he ends his second correspondence with his beloved church in Thessalonnica.


In the Gospel Herald, a story is told of a minister who had preached a powerful message on the surrendered life; and as he made an appeal to his hearers to make the surrender, a woman sitting near another woman said: "That is excellent preaching, but I wonder if such a life is possible?" The other woman smiled back at her and said: "Well, I know the preacher lives such a life because I happen to be his wife."

As we bring to a close our study of these great epistles of I and II Thessalonians I am wondering today if someone who knows each of us as well as the wife of this preacher knew him can say the same thing about us as she did about him. And remember, it is possible to live like this through the power of the Holy Spirit living in each of us.

This is proved every day by Christians in many other countries who are going through persecution similar to that of the Thessalonians in Paul's day. They are willing to die and lose everything for our Lord Jesus Christ.

it is essential for us to learn to emulate their example of faithfulness, even unto death. We are living in a culture that quits on everything hard and has trouble committing to anything or anyone. But if we truly believe that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be and is coming back one day, it should affect how we spend the rest of our lives.

As the song states:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

May we be those who seek prayer from and offer prayer for others and for the spread of the gospel message. Let us live disciplined, orderly lives, care about the welfare of our fellow Christians and listen for the authentic voice of our master as He encourages and commands us each day.

Then one day, someone may say: "That is a faithful, loving church. I want whatever they have!" And we can return the favor by leading them to the source of our faithfulness. He is our faithful God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And through us, He, once again, will receive all the glory due to His name. Then we will truly be an authentic church. And our reason for existence will be accomplished. May we all strive to be a part of that kind of beautiful assembly of believers!

And let us each individually ask God to have it start with us! What a difference we can make if we begin being the authentic church that God intends us to be. Indeed, we could change the world with the message of the gospel. That is because we have allowed the gospel to first change us.

© 2020 Jeff Shirley

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