“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.”
Second Thessalonians, like Paul’s other epistles, tells us about divine election unto salvation, that God has chosen some sinners for redemption (2 Thess. 2:13; see also Rom. 9:1–18; Eph. 1:3–6). In light of this, it is clear that the Apostle Paul had no doubt that the gospel will convert all those whom our Creator has chosen to redeem from sin and death. Paul, however, was no fatalist who believed that since the Lord has ordained from all eternity who will be saved, we can just sit back and watch it all happen. He did not believe we have no part to play in God’s redemptive plan. If he did, he could not have asked the Thessalonians to pray for the success of the gospel as he does in today’s passage.
One of the most striking things about the Bible’s teaching on divine sovereignty and human responsibility is that while we might be inclined to set them in opposition, the biblical authors never do so. Commentators note that Paul’s request for prayer in 2 Thessalonians 3:1–2 is connected to his conviction of divine election in 2:13–17 through his use of the word “finally.” Paul saw the certainty of God’s electing grace as making it more necessary to pray for the gospel’s success, not less. While there is some mystery here, this connection is not wholly inexplicable. If we are confident that God has His people all over the world and that His gospel will certainly save them, then we are encouraged to pray because we know that all prayers for the salvation of His elect will be answered in the affirmative.
Paul’s asking for prayer for the gospel’s success in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 is inseparable from the Apostle’s request for deliverance from “wicked and evil men” in verse 2. The Apostle wants to be rescued from his enemies not to save his own skin but so that he can continue proclaiming the gospel. Moreover, Paul notes that “not all have faith,” referring most likely to those who outright reject the gospel as well as those who falsely profess faith in Christ and hinder the gospel’s advance with false teaching and evil living. In any case, as Matthew Henry comments, these verses remind us that “all the forces of hell . . . are . . . raised and mustered to oppose the word of the Lord, to hinder its publication and success. We should pray, therefore, that oppositions may be removed, that so the gospel, may have free course to the ears, the hearts, and the consciences of men, that it may be glorified in the conviction and conversion of sinners, the confutation of gainsayers, and the holy conversation of the saints.”
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Do you pray regularly for the success of the gospel among the unbelievers you know? It is easy for us to forget to pray for the gospel’s advance, but the Lord uses our prayers to make the gospel effective in His elect. Let us pray on a regular basis for the gospel’s success among unbelievers, and let us start doing so today.