When the Thessalonians overreacted to learning about the Rapture by quitting their jobs, it caused several problems. First, it led to the creation of “busybodies” (v.11), people who meddle into the affairs of others. Plus, busybodies are usually “tattlers” (I Tim. 5:13), or idle talkers. And once tattlers start down the road of idle talking, it is not long be-fore they are “speaking things which they ought not” (ITim.5:13). Since most of us love to meddle in the affairs of others and tell them how to work out their salvation, Paul tells us: “work out your own salvation” (Phil.2:12).
Paul commanded these busybodies to go back to work when he was in Thessalonica, and in his first epistle to them (IThes.4:11), and now here again (IIThes.3:12). But he also chooses to “exhort” them. This is a New Covenant word. Under the Law, God never exhorted the Jews to do anything, He commanded them, and they knew it was obey or else. But under grace Paul can’t issue an “or else,” so with this third command he chooses to exhort them. Under grace, you can remind other adult sons that they will reap what they sow if they ignore Paul’s warnings, but adult sons don’t always care. This is why Paul told Timothy to “exhort with all longsuffering” (IITim.4:2). Under grace, all grace pastors can do is convey Paul’s commands and then suffer long if God’s people reject them.
“Quietness” is a lack of strife (Pr.17:1), a lack of trouble (Job 34:29), and a lack of fighting (IChr.22:9). In telling the Thessalonians to work “with quietness,” he was telling them they could avoid strife, trouble and fighting with their brethren. You see, there was money involved. In telling the busybodies they should work and “eat their own bread,” it implies they were eating the bread of their brethren who had not quit their jobs. Not working creates more than just busybodies and tattlers, it creates moochers.
If you think I’m reading too much into that phrase “eat their own bread,” notice Paul tells the brethren they were sponging off of not to get weary in helping people (IIThes.3:13). We know he’s not changing the subject and moving on here because in Verse 14 he instructs them about what to do about the moochers.
Now he’s not telling them to continue to help the moochers; he told them to distance themselves from them. But you know how it is. If you help people who are unworthy of your help long enough, it makes you hesitant to want to help those who are worthy of it, so Paul tells them not to get burned out on helping others.
When Paul spoke about obeying “our word by this epistle,” remember, his words were God’s words. To despise them was to despise God’s words (I Thes. 4:8). God spoke through Paul’s words as He did all Bible writers (IPe.1:21).
People say we elevate Paul over the Lord Jesus, but in the Tribulation, when Trib saints look to John’s book of Revelation to guide them, will they be elevating John over the Lord? No, they’ll just be recognizing that he wrote about the time in which they will live. In the same way, it is not elevating Paul over the Lord to say that Paul wrote about the time in which we live, the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph.3:1-9). Are we elevating President Obama over President Lincoln when we choose to obey the laws that govern our country now? No! Then why would anyone think we are elevating Paul over the Lord when we choose to follow the rules that govern our dispensation?
When Paul says that they should have “no company” with these busybodies (IITh.3:14), it reminds us of how he told the Corinthians “not to keep company” with the fornicator (ICor.5:11). This puts not going to work in a serious class of disobedience. Even unbelievers know they should work to provide for their own families (ITim.5:8), and “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Notice this shunning measure is not punitive, it is restora-tive. It is done to make the busybody “ashamed” (IIThes.3: 14). Shame is a powerful motivator, and shunning to achieve it is a time-honored Bible tradition (Num. 12:14). God used it to cause His people to seek Him (Psalm 83:16).