This Week's Focus Passage

‘That we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men.’

Focus Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:2

‘That we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men.’

These unreasonable and evil men seem to be defined, or designated, by this expression which Paul has added at the close of the sentence, when he has stated a truism, for all have not faith. We are informed throughout the Scriptures; we might say through the analogy of faith, that there are many that choose the broad way that leads to destruction. There are many that have not faith to choose the narrow way that leads to life. These are the many that form our neighbors, our co-workers, our numerous acquaintances, yea, and our families according to the flesh. Paul speaks elsewhere of them in somewhat ambiguous language; the language of those that are without definitely putting them in contrast to those that are within. In Colossians 4:5, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:12, the apostle uses the expression, ‘are without.’ In Colossians 4:5, he has exhorted believers to Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Again, in 1 Thessalonians 4:12, he employs this terminology once more, saying, that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy regarding the eldership when he said that those who would serve the church in this capacity must, among other qualifications, be those having good testimony from those that are without. Those that ‘are without’ are clearly those that have not faith. Christ Jesus has emphatically distinguished those having faith from those having not faith in His revelation given to John on Patmos, as He brought that revelation to its close, in Revelation 22:14-15, saying to His readers through John;

Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.

Paul feels a necessity of informing his readers in Thessalonica of the fact that he has faced unreasonable and evil men. His concern is great enough that he has pleaded with them to pray for us in regard to the hazard that accompanies the confrontation with such men, that we may be delivered from just such persons.

Should not the church in Thessalonica have recognized the reality that they also would find themselves confronted by unreasonable and evil men? Are these not the men of the world that shall perennially be opposing the church of Jesus Christ? And is not Thessalonica something of a pattern for all such churches? Indeed, should we not, each of us, expect to face these persons described by Paul as unreasonable and evil in our own lives and experience? May it not be expected that we shall meet these folk in the personages referenced above, including close acquaintances, even from among our own family members? Undoubtedly, the immediate reference in our focus passage was to the Jewish opposition to the gospel being proclaimed by Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy. Yet may it not be applied to the opposition toward the gospel that is found in every age by every ‘proclaimer,’ whether they be pastors, preachers, elders, or simply believers striving to behave as both salt and light. It would seem that in the context of our passage, that which begins this pericope becomes most relevant and urgent for every class of ‘proclaimer.’ And that request which begins this pericope is the request of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy for prayer. They state it in an expression of conspicuous pathos when they plead:

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you.

‘Finally, brethren,’ or the end of the matter is this, or, after having said all of these things, the most important is this, pray for us. This plea should be considered as representative of the need of all those proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, that they may be delivered, rescued, preserved, from any who would come in to oppose that precious gospel, like those to whom Christ spoke in Matthew 23:13;

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.

It needs to be recognized that, while we do not live in the time and place when and where we will be opposed by scribes and Pharisees, nevertheless, we do live in a time and place where there is much opposition to the gospel of Christ. There are in our day still men that are unreasonable and wicked. There are many errors and heresies afoot that will stand in the way of men entering into the kingdom of heaven. It is very needful that there be men to stand, and having stood, to stand for the truth of the gospel against every error. And what do these men need most of all? They need the prayers of the saints. As Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy needed and thus requested the prayers of the church of the Thessalonians, so is the need of every and each proclaimer of truth in our day. Pray for the church of Jesus Christ. Pray for every proclaimer. Pray for them that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified.

And for this, that they may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men. And even that these unreasonable and evil men may be delivered from their unreasonable and evil ways. What is it to be unreasonable? What means Paul by this appellation? The word that he has employed under the governance of God the Holy Spirit is, literally, ‘out of place.’ One writer suggests that the intended meaning here in 2 Thessalonians is ‘perverse,’ or, ‘truculent.’ Perverse can mean ‘stubbornly contrary,’ and truculent can mean ‘fierce, cruel, savage, pugnacious.’ Do we know of anyone fitting that particular description? Or perhaps, one who ever did, at one time, fit that description? Can we imagine anyone in the early history of the church who was more stubbornly contrary to the truth as it is in Christ, as Saul of Tarsus? Could we think of any single individual on record that, even according to their own confession, was more fierce, cruel, savage, or pugnacious, than that self-righteous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus? God turned Saul into Paul on the road to Damascus, and if He turn other unreasonable and evil men to Himself this prayer is being answered.

David Farmer, elder,

Fellowship Bible Church

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