Sermon Notes & References

United in Ministry

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

May 13, 2018

A.  What Is It to Minister?

      1.  Current Speech

      2.  Biblical Usage 1


B.  Who Are Ministers?

      1.  Those Holding Positions 2

      2.  The Rest


C.  Paul Asks Prayer for His Part in the Ministry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3:1-2

      1.  For the Gospel (v 1) 3

      2.  For His Own Rescue (v 2)


D.  Praying for Their Part in the Ministry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3:3-5

      1.  The Parts of Paul’s Prayer

      2.  God’s Character (vv 3a, 4a) 4

      3.  God’s Work in the Believer (vv 3b, 4b) 5

      4.  The Petition (v 5) 6


E.   Prayer the Means of United Ministry

1 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  United in Ministry


A. What Is It to Minister?

    1. Current Speech

        a. the first common association is that of a religious official

        b. the second is a person with an official capacity in government


    2. Biblical Usage

        a. there are three Greek words used in the NT having the sense of either to minister or being a minister

        b. the first is leitourgos and its associated words

            (A)    this refers to acting in public service, especially religious service

            (B)    that is the one we use today of religious or political officials

            (C)   it is used in that way of Paul in Romans 15:16, of his being “a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” – his official capacity

            (D)   of rulers as “servants / ministers of God” in Romans 13:6

            (E)    and is used of the priests & Levites in the work they did.

        c. the second is hupereth and its associated words

            (A)    this refers to a servant, more particularly as attendant, helper, or one who looks after others, providing their needs

            (B)    this was used of John Mark as servant to Paul & Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5)

        d. the third is diakonos and its associated words

            (A)    which originally meant a person who waited on tables, and is used in that way in Acts 6:2 of the seven deacons appointed to look after the physical needs of the widows; but for spiritual purpose

            (B)    since Acts 6:4 says this was so that the apostles would be freed up and able to minister the word

        e. this last word, diakonos, depicts ministry as spiritual servanthood

            (A)    this was Jesus’ ministry: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) – “not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (AV)

            (B)    it was as noted in Acts 6, the ministry of the apostles

            (C)   including Paul.”6b … through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace…” (Ephesians 3:6-7)

            (D)   that is the ministry of which we shall be speaking today


B. Who Are Ministers?

    1. Those Holding Positions

        a. these are the people that we now tend to think of as ministers

        b. those given of God as leaders in the local church: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:7, 11), where apostles in the NT included what we would term “missionaries”

        c. to which we can add others listed in the NT, such as deacons, elders, presbyters, bishops, overseers

        d. then, there are …


    2. The Rest

        a. but in describing these ministers given to the church by God in Christ, it is stated that “to each one of us grace was given” so that it is clear that the work of the ministry if not limited to those holding positions

        b. the spiritual gifts, such as are listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 as well as in Romans 12:6-13, and other places that do not come to mind, are what qualify the rest of us to take part in the gospel ministry.

        c. we have taken some time since reading our text on this subject of “United in Ministry”, so let us read it again, this time in the NKJV:

        d. “1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. 5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.”

        e. These verses divide into two parts:

            (A)    verses 1-2, Paul ask that they pray for his part in the ministry

            (B)    verses 3-5, Paul prays for their part in the ministry


C. Asking Prayer for Paul’s Part in the Ministry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3:1-2

    1. For the Gospel (v 1)

        a. Finally, keep on praying brethren concerning us, so that the word of the lord should go on progressing freely and should go on being esteemed (even as it was with you).

        b. from what we can tell from the book of Acts and these letters of Paul, they were written from Corinth

            (A)    this was a city where Paul faced immoral lifestyles and spiritual warfare

                 (1)    in the 18 months he spent there establishing Christ’s church

                 (2)    in the time afterward when he wrote letters to them

            (B)    but he loved these people who came out of darkness into light

            (C)   and God had many more people in that city (Acts 18:9-10)

        c. they have already been praying – Paul is assured of that no doubt on account of Timothy’s visit to them – let them keep on praying

            (A)    the gospel has been – literally, running – speeding through this city and its people – let them pray that it continue to run

            (B)    the gospel has been honoured, glorified on account of people turning to Christ from their pagan ways – may that go on

        d. and a note at the end of he verse: pray that what you have experienced there in Christ may be the experience also here in Corinth

        e. let those who hold the various positions of ministry, as well as those who support them in prayer or otherwise, not be content with the past but seek the continued working of God via the gospel of Jesus Christ


    2. For His Own Rescue (v 2)

        a. “And that we should be rescued from unreasonable and malicious men (for all do not possess the faith).”

        b. Paul faced two specific kinds of spiritual opposition

            (A)    the words are such that these could have been people inside the church, or maybe more likely, from the pagans & Jew around

                 (1)    which is not material

                 (2)    either way, they were disrupting the work

                 (3)    for the Christian faith that should have been in their hearts, on the one hand, or absent in unbelievers on the other was not evident in their words and actions

            (B)    the “unreasonable” were people who were out of place; misfits

                 (1)    their presence was disruptive

                 (2)    their attitudes destructive

                 (3)    their actions perverse

            (C)   the “malicious” or wicked speaks of a more open antagonism toward Paul and conscious opposition

            (D)   if within the church, these could have been the forerunners of those who created the party spirit that spoiled the church at Corinth

        c. Paul asks for prayer against these: a dangerous prayer – not to Paul but to those who would harm the church of Jesus Christ – as many who have done such things have found out to their shame


D. Praying for Their Part in the Ministry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3:3-5

    1. The Parts of Paul’s Prayer

        a. now this might not, at first glance, look like a prayer

            (A)    indeed, it differs from the prayer of thanksgiving that precedes in chapter 2:13-15

            (B)    as well as the prayer of blessing in chapter 2:16-17

            (C)   but prayers come in many forms, shapes and sizes – this is quite evident in even a quick glance through the book of Psalms

        b. it is the word “may” in verse 5 – “and may the Lord” that reveals the fact that this is, indeed, a prayer

            (A)    the actual petition is found in that 5th verse

            (B)    but verses 3 and 4 give the basis for making that prayer

                 (1)    when we pray scripturally we follow a similar pattern

                 (2)    recounting the character of God, as in verses 3a & 4a

                 (3)    recalling the works of God, as in verses 3b & 4b


    2. God’s Character (vv 3a, 4a)

        a. 3a “Yet faithful is the Lord” – to give the original order of the words, with the emphasis being on “faithful

        b. 4a “Yet we have confidence in the Lord” – we have come to a settled faith, we have been persuaded – on account of our experience with God

        c. faithful, no matter how perverse men, such as Paul’s enemies may be

            (A)    there is nothing of faith in them

            (B)    God in contrast is completely worthy of our faith in Him

            (C)   “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

        d. the Lord is the One in whom we can have complete confidence

            (A)    there is in His nature and name by which He reveals Himself to us

            (B)    the implicit promise that He will answer our prayers


    3. God’s Work in the Believer (vv 3b, 4b)

        a. v 3b “He will strengthen”

            (A)    echoes one of a number of OT promises

            (B)    such as “Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

        b. v 3c “He will guard you from the evil”

            (A)    the picture behind that word “guard” is the setting up of a circle of warriors about a person, such as was done with Paul when he was transported from Jerusalem to Caesarea to protect Him from the Jews who were plotting to kill him (Acts 23:23-24)

                 (1)    indeed, is not this one of the roles of angels? “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)

                 (2)    “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, ...” Psalm 91:11-12, while having special relevance to Jesus also applies

            (B)    “from the evil”

                 (1)    from the form of this word you cannot tell whether “the evil” is a thing or a person: evil as a phenomenon of this world order, or evil as found in its source, Satan the arch-evil

                 (2)    but, from the earliest times the people of God have understood it here, as in the Lord’s prayer in John 17, to be Satan

        c. v 4b “concerning you, that you are both doing and will continue to do what we command.”

            (A)    implicit in these words is the fact that Paul’s commands are, in reality, commands from God – exercising apostolic authority

            (B)    and that God, who give commands to His children also with them give the desire and impetus to carry them out

            (C)   “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13


    4. The Petition (v 5)

        a. “But may the Lord guide you hearts directly unto the love of God and unto the endurance of Christ.” is a fairly literal translation. Note that the word “endurance” can also be rendered “patience” – it has the idea of bearing, remaining or abiding under some load, stress or difficulty

            (A)    the prayer is that the hearts of Paul’s readers – that is us as well as the Christians in Thessalonica – to two parallel facts

            (B)    the love of God, and the suffering of Christ

        b. these two facts are at the very heart of Christian ministry

            (A)    they are the foundation of the gospel

            (B)    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

            (C)   “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

            (D)   “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

        c. Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Thessalonica – and, if I may say so, for those in this church – is that their hearts may move in tune with God the Father and God the Son, being united in the gospel ministry


E. Prayer the Means of United Ministry

    1. These five verses, first by Paul’s request for their prayers for his ministry and himself, then by Paul’s prayer that ministry be impressed upon their hearts, are a revelation of how prayer is the bond that brings the people of God together, united in carrying out the ministry of the gospel


    2. Let us not neglect these truths in our private & public devotions.




© 2018 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:


              AV          Authorized (King James) Version of 1769

              NAS        New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)

              IGNT              Interlinear Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, 1956; as well as other Greek Texts as W&H, Nestle, etc.

              NIV         New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society

              NKJV              New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers

              Philips     The New Testament in Modern Englis, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd

              RSV        Revised Standard Version © 1946, 1952 National Council of Churches of Christ; Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd

              WEY               The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth

Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:

              BM       Biblical Museum, Editor James Comper Gray, ca 1870

              CP   -      Decision, July & August 1962, Open Your Bible, by Dr Sherwiood E. Wirt

              EBC             The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:

                             1, 2 Thessalonians: Robert L. Thomas

              EGT             The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903

                             1 & II Thessalonians, by James Moffatt

              JFB  -      Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872

              Gill       Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.

              Kerux –   The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site,

              NCBC –    The New Century Bible Commentary – 1 and 2 Thessalonians – I. Howard Marshall – Wm B. Erdmans

              RWP             Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson

              TTB      Thinking Through the Bible, Rev’d John McNicol, D.D., © 1944 by the author; The Upper Canada Tract & Book Society.