“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” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ESV).
Just as a tree can be identified by the fruit it produces, a person may also be known by the “fruit” that his or her actions produce. Jesus made use of this imagery as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew…
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-20).
For his part, Paul the Apostle was certainly familiar with people who exhibited “bad fruit.” Throughout his ministry, Paul regularly confronted those who were unreasonable (KJV), unprincipled (Mounce), perverse (NET), and/or stubborn (NCV). For instance, Paul encountered fierce opposition from the religious world (Acts 18:12-17), the secular world (Acts 19:23-41), and individuals as well (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Of course, this unfortunate reality was something the Thessalonian Christians also knew from their own experience.
Despite these things, Paul sought to encourage the Thessalonians in the following verse: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). While conflict may kindle a sense of discouragement, this passage reminds us that God’s faithfulness is greater and far more durable than the opposition we may encounter. As we’re reminded in the Biblical book of Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).
Finally, one commentator leaves us with some valuable observations on this passage…
“Paul’s statement at the end of verse 2 that all men are not of the faith is a classic understatement. Jesus had put it much more strongly, saying that the world hated them (Jn 17:14), and Paul himself had been often badly misused. The unfaithfulness of men, however, provides a transition to the faithfulness of God, which is a favorite subject of Paul’s (1 Cor 10:13; 1 Thess 5:24; 2 Tim 2:13). The faithfulness of God means here that He will support and keep from evil.” (1)
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2489). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.