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Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 3: The Faith is not for All (οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις)
In his first epistle to the Thessalonians Paul had discussed the persecution of Christians by those Jews who stood in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. In the last chapter of that epistle he mentioned the promise of the ultimate destruction of those enemies of Christ. Here in his second epistle Paul has elaborated on that very theme, and has more accurately identified the nature of those enemies whom he had mentioned in the first letter, “those who killed both Prince Yahshua and the prophets, and banished us, and are not pleasing to Yahweh, and contrary to all men”, as he had described them in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2.
Here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul has explicitly stated that, as he was writing this epistle, that apostasy had already come, that there was already a “man of lawlessness”, which he characterized as the “son of destruction”, operating “in accordance with the operation of the Adversary”, or Satan. We know that this was Paul’s intended meaning because, as we have explained at length, while he described these things he had used present tense verbs, verbs which describe presently occurring phenomena, as well as aorist tense verbs describing actions which were already initiated relative to that presently occurring phenomena.
The grammar of Paul’s statements do not permit one to imagine that the men and actions which he had described would materialize at some point far off in the future. Using present tense verbs, Paul was speaking of someone who already at his own time was “opposing and exalting himself above everything said to be a god or an object of worship, and so he is seated in the temple of Yahweh, representing himself that he is a god.”
We believe that Paul was speaking collectively, and he could only have been speaking of the Edomite Jewish Sadducees who were the high priests and rulers of his time, for it is they, and nobody else, who were sitting in the temple of Yahweh and imagining for themselves to be above even God. For that very same reason Christ Himself had warned in the Revelation of “those saying for themselves to be Judaeans and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
We will substantiate why we believe Paul was speaking collectively. As we had mentioned while presenting that first part of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, the enemies of Christ were described as the “prince of this world” by Christ Himself in the Gospel, where He was speaking collectively, as they were described as the “princes of this world” by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. There, where he was writing several years later than this epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul had said: “6 Now we speak wisdom among the accomplished; but wisdom not of this age, nor of those governing this age, who are being done away with. 7 Rather we speak wisdom of Yahweh, that had been hidden in a mystery, which Yahweh had predetermined before the ages for our honor, 8 which not one of the governors of this age has known, (since if they had known, they would not have crucified the Authority of that honor)”. Seeing that Paul used plural terms here such as “princes of this world” and “governors of this age” we see he must have been speaking collectively where here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 he spoke of the same people as “that which now prevails” and “he prevailing only presently”.
Understanding this, where Paul had explained to the Corinthians that the “governors of this age … are being done away with”, we see that here in this chapter, where Paul says in verse 7 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already operating, he prevailing only presently, until he should be out of the way,” that he must be speaking of those same “governors of this age” who were seated in the temple of God, imagining themselves to be above God. This is the same devil who in Luke chapter 4 had claimed to rule over all the kingdoms of the world. These are the Edomite Jews who had opposed Christ. Paul can mean to refer to no one else where in 1 Corinthians he had written of the “governors of this age” who killed Christ, and here in 2 Thessalonians he spoke of “he prevailing only presently” who was “opposing and exalting himself above everything said to be a god or an object of worship, and so he is seated in the temple of Yahweh, representing himself that he is a god.” The certainty of the connection is beyond rational dispute. It is of these same people that Paul spoke of when he told the Romans that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly”, where he was speaking collectively once again of the coming destruction of Jerusalem.
In our last presentation of this second epistle to the Thessalonians, we left off where Paul, speaking of those same devils in Jerusalem, had said: “9 Whose presence is in accordance with the operation of the Adversary [or Satan] in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, 10 and in every trick of unrighteousness in those who are perishing, because they accepted not the love of the truth, for them to be preserved. 11 And because of this Yahweh sends to them an operation of error, for them to believe in that which is false, 12 that all those should be judged who believing not in the truth, rather have satisfaction in unrighteousness.”
And of course this describes all of the enemies of Christ, who live their entire lives in deceit, but it also describes at least a portion of the people of God, those who have opportunity for repentance but will nevertheless not accept it. In this manner, in Romans chapter 9, Paul himself had also prayed for his brethren in Judaea, his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, who had not yet accepted the gospel of Christ. Since Paul foresaw the impending doom upon Jerusalem that was prophesied in Daniel and which he had mentioned in Romans chapter 16, he feared that many of his own Israelite kinsmen would be slain along with the Edomite Jews in Jerusalem who were about to be punished likewise.
In that same manner Christians have a warning in Revelation chapter 18, to come out from Mystery Babylon once it falls, that they not suffer its punishments. It is inevitable that many Christian people, “kinsmen according to the flesh” as Paul had put it in reference to Jerusalem, will not heed the call, but would rather live the lies and reject the Truth. This is prophesied by Christ in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Ostensibly, being virgins, they must be qualified for the Body of Christ, but in disregard of their duty they had no oil for their lamps. Oil makes light, which represents knowledge gained from an acceptance of Christ and the Truth of the Gospel. So Christ had explained, in Matthew chapter 25: “1 At that time the kingdom of the heavens shall be like ten virgins, who taking their own lamps went out for a meeting with the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were fools and five wise: 3 for the fools taking their lamps did not take for themselves oil, 4 but the wise took oil in the vessels with their lamps. 5 And with the bridegroom delaying they all had gotten drowsy and slept. 6 Then there came a cry at midnight: 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come for a meeting with him!' 7 Then all those virgins arose and prepared their own lamps. 8 And the fools said to the wise: 'Give to us some of your oil, because our lamps are extinguished!' 9 But the wise replied saying 'Never! By no means would it be sufficient for us and for you! Rather you must go to the dealers and buy it for yourselves!' 10 But upon their having departed to buy it the bridegroom came, and those who were ready entered in with him into the wedding-feast and shut the door. 11 Then later the rest of the virgins also came, saying 'Master, master! Open for us!' 12 But responding he said 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you!'” Not having accepted the truth, we may find ourselves locked out of the Body of Christ and thereby suffering the judgments which are destined to come upon the world of the enemies of Christ.
With this we shall proceed with our presentation of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, where Paul temporarily leaves his discussion of the enemies of Christ to offer praise to Yahweh on behalf of the Thessalonian Christians:
13 Now we are obliged to give thanks to Yahweh at all times for you, brethren beloved by the Prince, because Yahweh had chose you from the beginning for preservation in sanctification of spirit and belief of truth.
Whether one wants to interpret “from the beginning” as the beginning of the Gospel, or, as it is proper, the beginning of the history of Old Testament Israel is immaterial: all of the promises of the salvation of God where it is explicitly mentioned in Scripture were made exclusively to one race of nations, the children of Israel. Here Paul is writing to Thessalonians, who were also descended from Old Testament Israel, for which reason they were already chosen from the beginning.
Even before the birth of Christ, the angel of Yahweh spoke to Joseph, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 1 where he speaks of Mary: “21 And she shall bear a son, and you shall call His name 'Yahshua' [which means Yahweh Saves], for He shall save His people from their sins!” Likewise it gives a more detailed explanation of the same promise of a Messiah, or Saviour, in Luke chapter 1, where Zacharias the father of John the Baptist is speaking even before the actual birth of Christ: “68 "Blessed is Yahweh the God of Israel, that He has visited and brought about redemption for His people, 69 and has raised a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant, 70 just as He spoke through the mouths of His holy prophets from of old: 71 preservation from our enemies and from the hand of all those who hate us! 72 To bring about mercy with our fathers and to call into remembrance His holy covenant, 73 the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, which is given to us: 74 being delivered fearlessly from the hands of our enemies to serve Him...”
On both occasions here in the Gospel, in the beginning, preservation, or salvation as the word is often translated, is a promise made exclusively to the children of Israel. Here in Paul’s epistles, as we have often explained, the “governors of this world” are not those chosen people, and those who rejected Christ in Judaea are not those chosen people, but rather, they are the very same enemies that the Gospel of Luke proclaims that Christians shall be saved from. The ancient children of Israel required two types of salvation: salvation from their sins as it says in Matthew, and salvation from their enemies as it says in Luke. The reasons for this necessity are found only in the Old Testament.
For example, in Numbers chapter 33, where the children of Israel were told to exterminate all of the Canaanite races in the land of Canaan, we read: “55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” Pricks in ones eyes cause blindness. The “rulers of this world” of which Paul speaks earlier in this chapter are, in part, descended from those same Canaanites of the Book of Numbers. This ongoing problem was also addressed in the days of the prophets, as Malachi explains that “11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.” Likewise, long before Malachi, Ezekiel (chapter 16) said of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in his own time, that “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.”
Likewise, around the same time that Ezekiel was prophesying, Yahweh through Jeremiah the prophet explained (chapter 2) “13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water…. 20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. 21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD. 23 How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim?...” So this sin of race-mixing resulting in apostasy in the time of Jeremiah was tied directly to the warnings in the Book of Numbers concerning those same Old Testament Canaanites over 800 years earlier, where it also said a little later in the Book of Judges (chapter 2), that because the Israelites failed to exterminate them, “3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods [the Baalim of Jeremiah 2:23] shall be a snare unto you.”
This is the mystery of iniquity of which Paul speaks here, that apostasy which had already come because the children of Israel had followed the gods of the heathen, for which reason those who do not love the truth are deceived by Satan, by the enemies of God who in Paul’s time were sitting in the temple of God and imagining for themselves to be as gods, as the Edomites were also descended from those same Canaanites that many of the children of Judah had mingled with, for which they were slain. The survivors are called Jews today, although many of them are found among the other mixed “arab” races which originated in the near East and on the Mediterranean shores.
For this reason and more, that the enemies of Yahweh God have always been the “princes of this world”, (as today’s circumstance also reflects) do the children of Israel require salvation from their enemies, as we read in Luke. And, as it is evident throughout the Old Testament scriptures, because so many of the children of Israel have followed the enemies of God rather than having followed God (as denominational Christians do today), and have chose to believe the lies of the Jews, they also require salvation from their sins, as we read in Matthew. Yet in spite of all of the words of Christ, most Christians today still honor the Jews, rather than reading the Gospel and seeing them for the devils they truly are.
The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah chapter 52 is also exclusive to the children of Israel, and is given for those very reasons: “1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. [Once they were converted to Judaism, the Edomites and Canaanites became the “circumcised”, another trick of unrighteousness by the devil.] 2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. 4 For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. 5 Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them [the ‘governors of this world’] make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
Here Paul continues after the same manner that Isaiah had preached:
14 For which He also called you [A, B, and D have “He called us”; the MT has “He called you”; the text follows א, where the phrase best agrees in context with the appearance of the pronoun for “our” later in the verse] through our good message to acquisition of the honor of our Prince Yahshua Christ.
Christ had said that he came “but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel”, in Matthew chapter 15. The nations to which Paul was sent were these very same people. Therefore, speaking of Paul, Christ had told Hananias, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 15, “Go! For he is a vessel chosen by Me who is to bear My Name before both the Nations and kings of the sons of Israel.” This is in fulfillment of Isaiah, who was writing about Israel taken into Assyrian captivity when he said (chapter 41) “8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
The chosen and called promised salvation in the Old Testament are the chosen and called to whom salvation is announced in the New Testament. The only difference between the Israelites of Isaiah and the Israelites of Paul is their location and the names by which they are known, and the mercy offered to them by cross of Christ. The change of location was prophesied in many places in Scripture, beginning with Genesis chapters 48 and 49, Deuteronomy chapter 30 and 2 Samuel 7:10. The change of name is evident in places such as Isaiah chapter 65 where it says “15 And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name.” So the name of the Jew and those who claim the name of Israel today are a people accursed unto Yahweh’s true Israel, who became Christians. Paul continues by exhorting the Thessalonians because they had been called:
15 So then, brethren, you stand and hold fast the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter.
Paul encourages his readers to cling steadfast to what they had been taught, both through his writings in these epistles, and to what he and the other apostles had told them in person, as where he was speaking of those enemies of God he had said in verse 5 of this chapter: “Do you not remember that, yet being with you I had told these things to you?” He continues with a prayer:
16 Now our Prince Yahshua Christ Himself, even Yahweh our Father who has loved and given us eternal encouragement and good expectation by [or through] favor, 17 may He encourage your hearts and may He establish you in every good deed and word.
The eternal encouragement can only refer to the promises made to Israel which are found in the Old Testament prophets. The word for favor is usually translated in the King James Version as grace, as it is here. The eternal encouragement and good expectation come through grace, as the King James Version has it here. In Jeremiah chapter 31, where the Word of God discusses the captivities of Israel and the New Testament is prophesied, we see the promise of such grace: “1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.” This must be the same eternal encouragement, love of God and grace promised to Israel which Paul references here at the end of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.
Now we shall proceed with the final chapter of this epistle:
3 1 For what remains, pray brethren, for us - in order that the Word of the Prince may move quickly and be extolled, just as even with you,
As we have seen in his other epistles, saying “for what remains”, Paul is finished with the main purpose of his letter and only wishes to clear up some odds and ends before giving his salutation. At the end of chapter 2 Paul offered a prayer for the Thessalonians, and now he requests a prayer from them.
Here it is also evident that Paul naturally wanted the Gospel of Christ to spread throughout the nations of dispersed Israel and the Adamic οἰκουμένη as rapidly as possible. He could not have imagined that the process would take a thousand years, which to a great extent was due to the persecutions of Christians by the Jews, and by Roman pagans at the instigation of the Jews. In that manner Paul continues his prayer:
2 and that we should be protected from those disgusting and wicked men, since the faith is not for all.
The last clause of verse 2, which is perfectly consistent in all of the ancient manuscripts which are cited by the Nestle Aland Novum Testamentum Graece in both its 27th and 28th editions, is indisputably οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις, which is a phrase of five simple Greek words. Two words appear in the translation of this phrase found in the King James Version which are not at all found in the original Greek. The first is the word men, which is italicized, whereby the King James translators admit that the word does not appear in the Greek. But the second word is the verb have, which does not appear in Greek but which is not italicized in the King James Version.
There is no Greek verb in this phrase. If we read the King James Version without the added words, because they are not found in any ancient Greek manuscript, we read only “for all not faith”, and that certainly does not make any sense in English. So in order to explain our own translation, “since the faith is not for all”, we shall discuss the words in this phrase individually.
The conjunction γάρ is primarily “I. Argumentative, to introduce the reason for a statement, which usually precedes...”, according to Liddell & Scott. So Paul is telling us that the reason he needs protection from “those disgusting and wicked men” is because “the faith is not for all.” The other uses of γάρ which they list are “II. Epexegetic” and “III. Strengthening”, but they do not fit the grammatical purpose or context here. Liddell & Scott also explain that in the Greek writing γὰρ is “regularly placed after the first word of a sentence” although of course this is not the case in English. So γὰρ here is rendered as since, while it could have also been because. Γάρ is one of only a few words in Greek that were always written second in a sentence, even though in meaning they are first, and in English they have to be given the first place.
The third word here, πάντων, is the genitive plural of πᾶς, which basically means all or the whole. The genitive case marks a relationship between two nouns, generally denoting something such as the source or possession of one noun from or by another noun. Surely in this case it does not indicate source, but possession. Like its English equivalent, all, the Greek word πᾶς is also used as a collective pronoun, as it is in this clause.
Here in the Greek word order, the particle οὐ is the first word in the clause. It is an unconditional negative, as opposed to the conditional negative μή. (So the faith is not for all without condition.) The particle οὐ negates the word which it precedes, although in this case γάρ is overlooked because while it stands second in the sentence, it actually introduces the clause. So here it negates πάντων.
The final two words are ἡ πίστις, “the faith”. The noun πίστις accompanied with the definite article ἡ are in the nominative case, and therefore they certainly cannot be the object of any verb, as the King James Version attempts to make them here. If “the faith” were an object of any verb, only the accusative case τὴν πίστιν would have been appropriate. Since ἡ πίστις is nominative, the word and its article must represent the subject of the clause. This is a fundamental of Greek grammar which should be readily evident in any Greek grammar textbook.
With this it surely should be clear that the King James Version rendering of the clause is absolutely untenable. Any valid rendering of the clause must represent ἡ πίστις, the faith, as the subject, and must also negate the pronoun all. The King James Version not only makes ἡ πίστις into the object of a non-existent verb, but it then applies the negative particle to the non-existent verb! So they dishonestly pervert Paul’s original intention.
But for our English language, it is necessary to add a verb in order to render this passage in a way that makes it readable. However that does not mean we can pick a verb of our own choosing. Rather, there is only one Greek verb that is ever generally implied, and therefore is not always written. There are actually many passages in the New Testament that require us to add this verb in one place or another. The verb is εἰμί, which means to be, of which is is a form. The verb εἰμί is unique among Greek verbs in that “as in classical Greek, so also in the New Testament εἰμί is very often omitted… ἐστίν most frequently of all the parts” (quoting Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament in his entry for εἰμί, VI., page 180 column B.). The verb ἐστίν is the 3rd person present singular of εἰμί, i.e. it is or simply is. Examples of this predicament are near at hand, for which we may see 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 1:6, 3:1, 3:16, and 3:18, all of which have the phrase it is or the word be in italics in the King James Version.
So where English construction demands it, we may add the appropriate form of the verb εἰμί, or in this case ἐστίν, so that our translation is readable. But that does not give us license to change the subject of the sentence, misapply the negative particle, and add other verbs of our own choosing. That is what the King James Version has done with this clause. That is indefensible chicanery, and not good translation.
Therefore an acceptably literal and technically correct translation of οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις is “since the faith is not of all”, and there is not much room to deviate from that. Translating the Christogenea New Testament, we interpreted Paul to mean that the faith did not belong to all, since the Genitive case πάντων indicates possession, and therefore we wrote “the faith is not for all”.
Strangely to us, as we certainly did not expect it, even the Modern Greek Bible published in 1850 vindicates our translation, where for this very clause it has the phrase διότι ἡ πίστις δὲν ὑπάρχει εἰς πάντας, a phrase which clearly means “because the faith does not belong to everyone”. The Modern Greek Bible is a translation from ancient Koine Greek into a dialect that modern Greeks can understand, just as we have a hard time understanding some of the early 17th century English of the King James Version (more on that shortly). In this translation found in the Modern Greek Bible, ἡ πίστις is properly the subject of the clause, and because of the modern idiom even they interpreted the genitive case πάντων exactly as we have rendered it in English here, as “for everyone”, using a preposition meaning either to or for along with the accusative case form of the same word.
For a digression (as if we need another digression), an example of my own poor understanding of 17th century English has just been brought to my attention by a dear friend who had listened to the recent presentation of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. There we accused the King James translators of mistranslating a verb which can mean either prevail or withhold as let in verse 7 of the chapter. But our friend has informed us that let in 17th century England was another way of saying withhold, or hinder, the opposite of the meaning of the word today, which we certainly could never have imagined. So saying let in verse 7 the King James translators were using what was more or less a synonym for the same word they interpreted as withhold in verse 6. There is greater fault, however, with the modern commentators who also do not realize the change in meaning of the word let over the centuries. In the context of Paul’s epistle, we contend that in both places the verb should be prevail, and not let, hinder, or withhold. But we do not base our beliefs about Scripture on 17th English. Rather, we resort to the original Greek.
So here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 we see Paul of Tarsus ask his readers on behalf of himself, Timothy and Silas, to “pray for us” that, among other things, they would be “protected from those disgusting and wicked men, since the faith is not for all.” We may have written that last clause as “because the faith is not for everyone.”
Paul did not ask for prayers that these “disgusting and wicked men” be converted, whereby he would no longer need protection from them, so evidently they were not candidates for any repentance or conversion to Christianity by any means. Then Paul himself rules out any such thought where he says that he needs protection from them “because the faith is not for all”, as the phrase may be translated. Because the faith is not for all, this leads to two questions. The first one is that if the faith is not for these men, why is it not for them? The second question is that if that faith is not for these men, then who is it for? These wqere, after all, the rulers of God’s temple in Jerusalem. The reasons for their exclusion must be much greater than simply dismissing these men as sinners, since Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in Mark 2:17, that “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In fact, even Paul had written “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, in Romans chapter 3, and later in this epistle he mentions avoiding “unruly brethren”, who are thereby distinguished from these “disgusting and wicked men”.
In Romans 9, where Paul had expressed concern for his “kinsmen in regards to the flesh, those who are Israelites”, he also says “Not, however, that the word of Yahweh has failed; since not all those who are from Israel are those of Israel: nor because they are offspring of Abraham all children: but, ‘In Isaac will your offspring be called.’” Then Paul goes on to compare Jacob and Esau, and if we study Antiquities of the Judaeans, book 13, by Flavius Josephus, we will learn that many Edomites were a part of Judaea and practising Judaism at this very time. From the time of the Edomite king Herod, they had also become the leaders and rulers of the nation. Seeing that, we can imagine why Paul described the Israelites as vessels of mercy as compared to the Edomites as vessels of destruction, later in that same chapter of Romans.
Because those who opposed Christ in Judaea were Edomites, and not true Israelites, Christ had told them in John chapter 8, from verses 37 through 47, that “I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father… If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father…. If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him….” Then He told them in John chapter 10 “I have spoken to you and you do not believe! The works which I do in the name of My Father, these things testify concerning Me. But you do not believe, because you are not My sheep!” The “disgusting and wicked men” whom Paul wanted protection from are not Israelites, so the faith is not for them. Rather, they are children of the devil.
One aspect of the discourse of Christ in John chapter 8 represents precisely what Paul of Tarsus had explained in Galatians chapter 3, that there were several seeds of Abraham, referring to the various lines of Abraham’s descendants, but that the promises were only passed on to one of those seeds, where he said “16 Now to Abraham the promises have been spoken, and to his offspring. It does not say ‘and to offsprings’, as of many; but as of one: ‘and to your offspring,’ which are anointed.” Most interpreters insist that the “anointed” seed of Galatians 3:16 is a reference to Christ, but actually it can only be a reference to Isaac, as Paul repeated the promise in Romans chapter 9 that “In Isaac will your offspring be called.” Out of the sons of Isaac there were two vessels made from one lump: one for honor and one for dishonor, as Paul said in Romans 9:21, again comparing Jacob and Esau. The other “seeds” of Galatians 3:16 refer to the children of Keturah and Hagar, whom Paul makes an example of in Galatians chapter 4. In that same chapter 3, Paul also informs us that the heirs of the covenant are a plurality, referring to the seed of Jacob collectively.
The disgusting and wicked men of 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 must be the children of Esau, the descendants of the cursed bastards of the Old Testament, and not of Israel, in spite of the fact that they claimed to be of the seed of Abraham, and even of Israel. They could not repent or be converted, and therefore were not merely sinners of the people of Christ.
Likewise Paul said in Romans chapter 4 that: “16 Therefore from of the faith, that in accordance with favor, then the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring (seed collectively), not to that of the law only, but also to that of the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all; 17 (just as it is written, "That a father of many nations I have made you,") before Yahweh whom he trusted, who raises the dead to life, and calls things not existing as existing; 18 who contrary to expectation, in expectation believed, for which he would become a father of many nations according to the declaration, ‘Thus your offspring will be...’” And if the promise is certain to “all the offspring”, which Paul defines as Abraham’s seed in relation to the pregnancy of Sarah, then these “disgusting and wicked men” cannot be of Abraham’s legitimate seed, or the promise is not certain to all the seed. And if the promise is not certain to all the seed, and exclusive to that seed, then Paul is a liar, and God Himself would be found a liar. But thankfully God is true, and every man a liar.
When these promises were made to Abraham, none of the nations to which Paul brought the Gospel even existed. They all came into existence later, because they came from the seed of Abraham through the early dispersions of the children of Israel, which occurred as early as the time of the Exodus and did not end until after the Babylonian deportations, which were over 600 years before Christ. When Paul wrote these words to the Romans, there were legitimate descendants of Abraham through Jacob in Judaea still in the law, and many more scattered throughout Europe, in the nations of his ministry and beyond, who had forsaken the law.
And here Paul defines that faith which is not for all, where he continues by saying of Abraham that “19 and he not being weak in the faith, nor having considered his own body by this time being dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadness of the womb of Sarah, 20 but at the promise of Yahweh he did not doubt in disbelief, rather he was strengthened in faith, giving honor to Yahweh, 21 and having full satisfaction that what He has promised, He is also capable of doing; 22 for that reason also ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
Here it is evident, that the faith is not what individuals believe, that makes the promise certain to all the offspring. Rather, it is what Abraham believed that makes the promise certain to all of the offspring. What individuals believe does not matter: it is what Abraham believed which matters, that his seed would become many nations, and the promises of God are made certain to those nations. It is those nations who are the object of the salvation of Christ, and there is no salvation or redemption in Christ promised to anyone outside of that covenant. The promises are irrelevant to outsiders.
Men do not have a choice in the matter. As Christ also said in John chapter 15, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain...” The remaining of the fruit is the fulfillment of the promise of preservation to Israel. Men can believe what they may, but that does not change the promises of God. As Christ also said in Matthew chapter 7: “21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Those men are depicted as working iniquity simply because they are not part of the covenant. Those men who are described as prophesying and casting out devils and doing other wonderful works in the Name of Christ must certainly “believe in Jesus”, but that is not enough, because the Faith is not for all. Here Paul reinforces the assertion:
3 But trustworthy is the Prince, who will establish you and keep you from the wicked.
Once again, there is no thought of converting the wicked, and they shall be distinguished from mere sinners as Paul continues his with closing thoughts. Paul continues to encourage the Thessalonians:
4 And we are persuaded by the Prince concerning you, that the things which we have instructed [A and the MT interpolate the pronoun for “you” here, where we would also add a comma; the text follows א, B, and D] you are doing [B has “you have done and are doing”; D “you have done”; the MT “you are both doing”; the text follows א and A] and you will do.
The verb παραγγέλλω (Strong’s # 3853) is basically to transmit a message, and not necessarily to command, as the King James Version has it here. It may even be to encourage or exhort. Here it is more appropriately to instruct. The same verb appears in verses 6, 10 and 12 here in this chapter. As Paul had told the Corinthians, he did not rule over their faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
5 Now the Prince is to keep your hearts straight in the love of Yahweh and in the endurance of the Anointed.
The Christian hope is that Yahweh God Himself may keep one from sin, which is the only way a man can truly abstain from sin. Christ told the apostles at Gethsemane “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”. This very thing which Paul describes here was promised to the children of Israel in a Messianic prophecy which also foresaw the scattering of Israel, which is found in Deuteronomy chapter 30: “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” So it is Yahweh God Himself who turns the hearts of men and permits them to love Him, and this is done through Christ, as Paul has informed us here.
6 And we instruct you, brethren, in the name of our [B and D want “our”; the text follows א, A, and the MT] Prince Yahshua Christ, you are to avoid every brother conducting himself in a disorderly manner, and not in accordance with the tradition which they have received from us.
The Codex Vaticanus (B) has the end of the verse to read “which you have received from us”; the Majority Text has “which he has received from us”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus (A), and the Codex Claromontanus (D) which varies only slightly in Greek.
Brethren acting in a disorderly manner are distinguished from “those disgusting and wicked men”. These brethren acting in a disorderly manner are described as having heard the Gospel, and ostensibly have opportunity for repentance. But those “disgusting and wicked men” are not extended any opportunity to be brethren, or to receive anything from the apostles. Paul does not pray that Yahshua bring “those disgusting and wicked men” into the love of God, but rather he only prays that he and his companions are protected from them, giving them no opportunity to even hear the Gospel. That can only be because “the faith is not for all”. On the other hand, unruly brethren are not excluded from the faith, but are only to be avoided so long as they are unruly. In this regard, Paul continues his admonition:
7 For you yourselves know how it is necessary to imitate us, seeing that we have not been disorderly among you, 8 nor did we eat bread from anyone freely, but in labor and hardship, working night and day, by which not to be burdensome to any of you. 9 Not that we have not authority, but that we ourselves would give to you a model by which to imitate us.
Paul points to his own sincerity to assert the validity of his ministry. Paul expected his own conduct among the various assemblies which he had visited to be a model for all Christians. He worked with his hands, and even though the Gospel gives its teachers the authority to live off their students, he chose to work in spite of that authority, as we also see during his ministry in Corinth. As it is described in Acts chapter 18, Paul and Apollos were tentmakers plying their trade as they awaited opportunities to preach the Gospel. And while later in his ministry Paul was supported by others, as he admitted in his epistles to the Corinthians, here he attests that those who wish to do nothing should not expect to be fed freely, where he next says:
10 Also when we were with you, this we instructed you, that if anyone wishes not to work, neither must he eat.
Christian communion is not for freeloaders. Everyone who wishes to eat in a Christian community must also work to the degree that his ability enables him to work. Christian community is not Jewish Marxism, which is the essence of modern Communism.
11 For we hear that some among you are conducting themselves in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but rather meddling with others’ affairs.
Paul is not merely speaking on a personal level here. Rather, he is speaking of the governance of a Christian community which he expects to grow exponentially. This is what professional priests as well as professional politicians do, they do not work for themselves, and they spend their time meddling in others’ affairs. So Paul offers his own ministry as a model for those who would aspire to be servants of God, that whenever they have the ability they work with their hands and make an honest living rather than seeking to rule over others. So Paul’s words are actually a repudiation of the later ecclesiastical governments of the organized denominations, starting with the Roman Catholic Church, most of whose officials have lived as parasites throughout all of these centuries.
12 Now to such we instruct and we exhort by Prince Yahshua Christ, that working with silence, their own bread they should eat.
So Paul further admonishes those who seek to live from the labors of others without doing anything for themselves. Christianity gives no authority to political or ecclesiastical parasites, in spite of the authority that teachers of the Gospel are granted, where Paul had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 that “14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
Paul continues to exhort and encourage the Thessalonians:
13 But you, brethren, doing well do not falter, 14 and if anyone obeys not our [B has “your”] word through this letter, make him known, not to associate yourselves with him, that he may turn about,
The King James Version has “ashamed” here, rather than “turn about”. The critics of the Christogenea New Testament rather foolishly point to our treatment of this particular word as one of our faults. But the meaning of the Greek verb ἐντρέπω (Strong’s # 1788), is primarily “to turn about”, according to Liddell & Scott. After that definition, the 9th edition of the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon states that the word ἐντρέπω was used “mostly metaphorically, [to] make one turn, put him to shame,” So the word, which may be translated either way, is correctly translated here. We chose the literal expression, to turn about, because that is repentance. The object of Christian admonishment is not necessarily to shame a brother, but to bring a brother back into the fold. For this reason the apostle James wrote in the closing verses of his only surviving epistle: “19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Therefore Paul concludes of the sinner that he hopes would repent:
15 and do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
So, contrary to “those disgusting and wicked men” who have no share in the Gospel or the Body of Christ, Christians should pray that the unruly brethren of which Paul speaks do repent, and should make every effort to facilitate their repentance.
16 Now the Prince Himself of peace, may give that peace to you continually in every way. The Prince is with all of you.
The Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Claromontanus (D) have “continually in every place” which may also be understood metaphorically to mean “continually at every opportunity”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) and the Majority Text.
As the Gospel announces, in Luke chapter 2, “peace upon the earth among approved men.” But as it also says in Isaiah chapter 57: “20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” So Paul certainly does not petition for peace with “those disgusting and wicked men”, from whom he only seeks protection. That is because the Faith is not for all, neither in Isaiah nor in Paul’s epistles.
As we saw in Galatians chapter 6, Paul’s very bad eyesight forced him to write in very large letters. So his epistles were always penned by others, but it became a tradition for him to write his own final salutation. So he says here:
17 This salutation of Paul by my own hand, which is a sign in every letter, so I write. 18 The favor of our Prince Yahshua Christ is with all of you.
The Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text append the word ἀμήν to the end of this verse. The Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) want the word.
This concludes our presentation and commentary on Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians.