These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

2 Thessalonians 3 Discussion Questions and Cross-References

Outline:

I. General Encouragement (Verses 1-5)
II. Command to live a quiet and disciplined life (6-15)
III. Closing Greeting (16-18)

I. General Encouragement (Verses 1-5)

Discussion Questions

  • What final reminders did Paul give to the Thessalonians?
  • How did Paul want God’s Word to spread? (rapidly) What can we do to make sure that God’s Word spreads rapidly?
  • What kind of people was Paul referring to in verse 2? Why did he need to be “rescued” from them?
  • What final encouragement did Paul offer in verses 3-5?

Cross-References

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Teaching Points

1. Pray for us – Prayer is a two way streak. We have seen Paul’s sincere prayers for the churches throughout the epistles. He loves them. Because he loves them he is often thinking about them. From a long distance he does what he can for them including paying them visits, sending others to visit, writing letters and very importantly prayer.

Here Paul makes it clear that prayer should not only be flowing from the leader for his students/disciples, but also the other way around. This shows that no believer should have a “taking” mentality, even if he is new in Christ. Every believer has certain responsibilities. One of those is to regularly pray for our leaders. These leaders face great opposition from the world and from Satan. They are right in the middle of heavy spiritual warfare. Satan would like nothing more than to bring these leaders down and in doing so to bring disrepute to the name of Christ.

This is why it is so important that you pray for your spiritual leaders. How much more could they accomplish with an army of prayer warriors supporting them? We may have the tendency to put certain spiritual leaders on a pedestal thinking that they are immune to temptation and the struggles we face, but they most certainly are not. Jesus Himself faced great temptation from Satan in the wilderness. And your leaders are not divine like Jesus. Flesh and blood, they struggle against sin just like we do.

Application: Do you regularly pray for your spiritual leaders? How can you begin to make this a habit? What will you pray for them?

2. Verse 1b; that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly – Here I want to highlight Paul’s use of the word “rapid.” The word used in Greek is “tre’-khō.” Basically this means haste or running a race. It has the idea of exerting oneself, striving hard. When this word occurs in Greek writing it denotes incurring extreme peril, which requires the exertion of all one’s effort to overcome. So what is the idea here?

The spread of the gospel is urgently needed and must be treated as so. Paul wasn’t content to just help one or two people. He wasn’t content to just start one or two churches or train one or two leaders. He had a big vision.

Acts 9:15 – But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.

He was called to the Gentiles. And there are a lot of Gentiles! It is such a mammoth task that it is impossible to finish it unless it is a rapid spread. The world’s population is growing at a fast rate meaning that we are actually losing ground unless the gospel spreads rapidly.

Application: Do you have the same vision that Paul does? Do you have a vision for your family to be reached with the gospel? That is excellent, but it is not enough. Do you have a vision for your school campus to be reached for Christ? Wonderful! But it is still not enough. Brothers and sisters, today I want to challenge you in the vision you have for Christ. Is your vision too little? Are you taking it seriously like Paul? Is it urgent to you? Are you exerting yourself to see it completed? Are you even praying for the rapid spread of the gospel?

3. Just as it did with you – The vision is not impossible to achieve. The Thessalonians were living proof that it can happen as their lives and their community were rapidly transformed in just a short amount of time. From them the gospel went out to the rest of the province. If we have the right vision and the right model and depend on the Holy Spirit He could use us to accomplish great things just like He did with the Thessalonians.

4. That we will be rescued – Paul’s first prayer request focused on the spiritual side of their mission. His second prayer request was for God’s help from evil people who were obstacles to this mission. We have learned that Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica because of evil people setting themselves up against his mission and trying to thwart the spread of the gospel. However, this was not an isolated case. Wherever Paul went he faced similar opposition. Sometimes these men even followed him from town to town just to oppose the work that he was doing. These people often made ministry very difficult.

It is important to note that God in His sovereignty allowed these persecutions and obstacles. It is likely that this opposition ended up aiding the spread of the gospel by forcing Paul to go place to place as well as quickly train up leadership who could lead in his absence. Nonetheless, this doesn’t negate the need for prayer of deliverance from these types of people as well as for God to work in their hearts and bring them to Himself.

5. Paul’s encouragement – Throughout these two letters we have seen Paul’s continued encouragement to the Thessalonians. In this final passage, he continues with even stronger encouragement. He himself is absent, but God would strengthen them and protect them. He would also enable them to continue growing as well as obeying what they had learned. You see, God delights in using us, but He doesn’t actually need us. The world did not fall apart when Paul had to leave the Thessalonians. God’s love and care for them did not end.

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul could not be there to see this work completed in their lives, but God was there. Everything we need for life and for godliness is found in God not in ourselves or in any leader no matter how good. While this does not negate our responsibility to encourage and teach others, it is a reminder that God is in control and cares for the people we minister to even more than we do. That means we don’t have to stress out if everything doesn’t go according to plan. Maybe it is going according to plan, just not our plan.

II. Command to live a quiet and disciplined life (6-15)

Discussion Questions

  • What did Paul’s use of the word “command” show us about his authority? Why did he not command them more often?
  • List all of Paul’s commands to the Thessalonians in this passage.
  • What is the central theme of all of these commands?
  • What is an unruly life?
  • What tradition is Paul referring to?
  • Why should they keep away from this kind of brother? Shouldn’t we try to help this type of person?
  • Describe the kind of undisciplined life Paul may have been referring to.
  • What would the disciplined life we should strive for look like?
  • Why didn’t Paul rely on the Thessalonians for his daily needs? Could he have? Should he have?
  • How can a Christian worker decide whether or not to request or accept this type of help?
  • What is the significance of verse 10? How can we apply this verse today?
  • How would you describe a busy-body?
  • What does it mean to work in “quiet fashion?”
  • Do you ever grow weary of doing good? If so, why?
  • What kind of people should they disassociate with? Why?

Cross-References

1 Corinthians 9:27 – No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Proverbs 20:13 – Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.

Ephesians 4:28 – Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Proverbs 18:9 – One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Proverbs 13:4 – A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

Genesis 2:15 – The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Matthew 11:28 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

John 6:27 – Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

Teaching Points

1. We command you – Throughout these two letters we have seen that Paul primarily encourages the Thessalonians through positive feedback and reminders. But here we see that Paul issues them a couple of commands point blank. From this we can learn several important principles:

A. Paul did have the authority to give commands. Not using that authority all the time didn’t mean he didn’t have it.

B. In most cases it is likely more effective for leaders to use encouragement, reminders, testimonies, sharing, and even pleading rather than giving commands right and left.

C. Sparing use of giving commands will make the times when commands are given that much more stark.

D. Just because you are in a position of authority does not mean you have to use it. For example husbands should not often play the “you should submit to me” card to their wives. There may be times to do that, but if you do it often this “card” loses its luster.

It is a leader’s job to shepherd people’s hearts. Before you issue commands ask yourself if it is really the best way to shepherd their heart. Sometimes the answer might be yes, but not always.

2. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – This is where Paul’s authority came from. He wasn’t self-anointed. He was appointed by Christ.

3. Keep away from unruly brothers – In Greek the word for unruly used here is “ä-tä’k-tōs.” It means disorderly, like a soldier out of rank. It could also refer to someone who enjoys immoderate pleasure or who deviates from a prescribed order or rule. The problem seems to have stemmed from some incorrect interpretation of Paul’s first letter, in which he wrote about the day of the Lord. Some people thought that this day was coming very soon. Since Christ’s return was upon them, what was the point of working? Quitting their jobs and hanging around waiting seemed a decent alternative.

Because of our sin nature we are predisposed toward interpreting Scripture in a way that can satisfy our own flesh. A naturally lazy person would be predisposed to deciding to quit his job and “pray, play, and wait,” for Jesus’ return. It was not only a problem during Paul’s time. We have heard stories of so called believers in China today who do the same thing. What is the problem with this? Among other problems it is a very bad testimony to unbelievers around us.

Moreover it is completely the opposite of what the apostles taught and did. Paul said that these people were not following the tradition which they had received from him. In laymen’s terms, “When we were around you, did you see us indulging ourselves and just having fun? No, we didn’t schmooze off of you. We worked and we worked hard. Whatever these guys are doing or not doing, they didn’t learn it from us.”

Paul’s command is that they stay away from these people. We should note that it is implied that this letter was read to the whole church so these brothers who were doing this had a chance to repent. Only those who willfully continued to disregard Paul’s instruction should be avoided. Why should they be avoided?

Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.

If you hang out with lazy people, it is easy to become lazy like them. At the same time, avoiding these people is a type of spiritual discipline. It reminds them that they are living a life of sin which is unacceptable to the Lord and that they must change to be restored. If believers who are willfully sinning enjoy the same fellowship as everyone else, there is little deterrent in the church to sin. Staying away from these types of people is a visible picture of this fellowship, which is broken until the sin is confessed. At first glance, it may seem hard and uncaring, but in actuality it is a type of tough love which must be practiced to show just how serious sin is.

Imagine a child disobeys his parent and runs into traffic. Fortunately he doesn’t get hurt. His dad is so happy he doesn’t get hurt that he goes and buys an ice cream for his child. He hugs him many times, laughs together and gives him the ice cream. The child not only does not realize how dangerous his behavior is, but also enjoys the special attention. To get more special attention he will likely do the same thing again and again. Eventually it will lead to a serious accident. A wise parent must discipline the child for his long-term good.

Hebrews 12:11 – No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Before taking the step of avoiding believers what steps should you take?

A. Matthew 18. They should be confronted with their sin. If people avoid them and they don’t know why, it is useless.

B. It is most effective if it is the church as a whole. If only one or two individuals avoid this person, it will not be effective. In fact division will likely develop. It must be by agreed upon decision. The leadership should certainly be involved in this decision.

C. It should only be done when the person is in clear violation of the commands of Scripture and has been given an opportunity to repent.

4. Paul’s model of ministry – As we discussed in 1 Thessalonians it is good to be a model for other believers as long as we have the right motivation. We need models. It is through modeling that the complexities of Scripture and doctrine can be brought down to daily life and shown through practice not just theory. We should strive to be a good model for others, not to gain followers or glory for ourselves, but to lead people to Christ. In this passage we see Paul’s model of working.

A. Paul and his co-workers had a right to receive support. Much like the right to command others, this is not a right which always has to be exercised. Jesus told the disciples to receive help from the person of peace when he sent them out in pairs (see Luke 10). They were to stay in the house and eat as long as they were in the village. There is a precedent for both taking support and not taking it. Leaders should evaluate on a case by case basis what is the best, not for themselves, but for those whom they minister to.

B. Paul and his co-workers were hard workers. Those who are called to do ministry should follow their example by working hard. Unfortunately some Christian workers are lazy. They don’t have a typical job or typical hours. Neither do they have a boss who is always watching over their shoulder. Many Christian workers are self-motivated and work even much harder than they would in a 40 hour a week job.

But not all are. Unfortunately some go into so called “ministry” because it is easier. Living far away from their supporters they take advantage of others generosity by either living a life of luxury or simply not working hard for Christ. I have met people who called themselves missionaries. They are supported by others. When questioned about their ministry it was discovered that they don’t actually do any and haven’t for years. In between these two extremes are most Christian workers. Even with good intentions, it could be easy for laziness to creep in. Little accountability means that there is a lot of temptation for our flesh to indulge itself.

Application: How can one limit these temptations? How can Christian workers ensure that they are diligent and productive? How can this be applied even to those who are not supported by others or not in Christian ministry?

5. If anyone doesn’t work, he is not to eat – I often heard this verse growing up. Generally my parents reminded us of this verse when we had been less than diligent. Sometimes we also had to skip a meal to remind us of the cost of laziness. It is important for kids to learn the importance of work when growing up. Many people reach adulthood without ever having worked an “honest day in their life.” Their hands are soft like a baby’s. Everything they have has been given to them.

But there is great value in hard work. In the movie “The Ultimate Gift” a spoiled rich kid’s character is changed through a series of unlikely “gifts.” One of these is the gift of work. He learns first how to do grunt work. Then all of his bank accounts and credit cards are taken away and he has to actually work for his paycheck. These experiences slowly change him into a brand new person.

Application: Do you know how to work? Are you willing to work with your hands? Do you complain when you face hard work? Are you doing your work heartily to serve the Lord rather than for men? Work is a good thing and we should do it to the best of our ability for the Lord.

6. Busybodies – Becoming a busy body is often a natural result of being lazy. An idle person has little to do except to get involved in other people’s business. And here is an important lesson. An idle mind is the devil’s playground. If we are sitting at home with nothing whatsoever to do, it is very easy for us to fall into temptation. One way to avoid temptation is to keep ourselves busy serving the Lord. If for example you are in the middle of sharing the gospel with someone it is not so likely that you will suddenly jump up and go rob a bank. Pursuit of the right things is one protection against temptation we should take advantage of.

7. Verse 12 – Eat their own bread. It doesn’t negate the need for hospitality or generosity. Instead it is a reminder that we should not be a leech. We should not take advantage of others or be a schmoozer.

8. Verse 13 – Do not grow weary of doing good. Doing good is not something you did enough of yesterday. There is no limit to how much you should do. We are responsible for ourselves, not others. So focus on what you need to do and do it no matter what obstacles you face.

9. Verses 14-15 – See notes on verses 6-7.

III. Closing Greeting (16-18)

Discussion Questions

  • What distinguishing mark might Paul be referring to?
  • What is the importance of writing the letter with his own hand? Wouldn’t he normally do that?

Application: What is one important thing you have learned about God in the study of Thessalonians? What is one important thing you have learned about yourself? What is one important thin you need to do in order to obey the lessons we have studied?

E-book: If this study is helpful for you, download our all in one updated study on  1 and 2 Thessalonians.

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