By Barnabas Piper
The final three verses of 2 Thessalonians are a beautiful benediction and blessing. Paul’s tone is warm and personal as he lifts the readers’ eyes to the peace of Christ. What is striking, though, is the seeming pivot from the previous verses in which Paul took a much more stern, fatherly tone and brought to bear his apostolic authority. To go from warnings and commands to peace and grace seems like whiplash at first glance.
That would be true if Paul were wishing his readers a peaceful sentiment or sending good vibes their way. He is not. He is offering them, as his final words, the power and means of living obediently to God and fulfilling the call of this letter. When he says, “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way” (2Thessalonians 3:16), he is not merely offering them his best wishes. The heart of what he is saying is this: Look to Jesus, live in Jesus, and Jesus will hold you close. It is a comprehensive statement, not a vague one. Look at the pieces.
“May the Lord of peace Himself” does not refer to a sentiment or feeling or wish but the living Christ. “Give you peace” speaks to an action and a gift, a delivery of true peace from Jesus to believers. “Always and in every way” is the solution to every challenge and problem addressed throughout the letter; there is no part of life, no conflict, it does not cover.
This idea of “peace” is not distinct to this letter either. It is a recurring theme for Paul as he encourages and exhorts believers. In Philippians 4, he describes how “the peace of God, which surpasses understanding” will guard the hearts and minds of all believers who bring needs to God in prayer (Philippians 4:7). This peace is active and powerful in everything. It protects and transforms needy, fearful hearts.
In Colossians 3:15, Paul says believers should “let the peace of Christ… rule your hearts.” He expands on this, saying this means letting the “word of Christ dwell richly” among us in teaching and encouragement (v.16). Again, we see a peace that is powerful and tied directly to the words and will of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s final words in this letter to the Thessalonians aren’t a pivot from the commands in prior verses, but rather the encouragement and reminder the readers needed in order to obey them. He is showing them that only in Christ and through Christ do they have hope and peace. Out of His abundant love, hope and peace are always available in every way—Jesus never runs out of them. Those who stay close to Him and abide with Him are able to live in this reality.
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