2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
I. DUTY STATED. "Now we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us." The commandment, being in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, was as authoritative as though it had been given directly by him who has the absolute right to command in the Church. It was a commandment relating to a brother walking disorderly, and not after the received tradition. It is implied that a definite order had been appointed by the Lord for the conduct of members of the Church. This order, handed to the preachers, had been handed by them to the Thessalonians. But how was a brother to be dealt with who did not observe this order? Our Lord had laid down the rule with regard to one who offended directly against a brother. "And it thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church: and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican." What we have here differs from that in being the case of one who by his conduct offended against the general order and reputation of the Church to which he belonged. In 1 Corinthians 5. there is the ordaining of discipline in a case of very great scandal in the Corinthian Church. "For I verily, being absent in body, but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him that hath so wrought this thing, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,... to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." The disorderliness in the Thessalonian Church was not of the gravest nature. Nor was it disorderliness with the greatest amount of deliberation; but was rather the consequence of a false impression with regard to the coming. Nor was it the most confirmed disorderliness, being after clear enunciation of duty as shown in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12, and, we may suppose, after warning as directed in 1 Thessalonians 5:14; but disorderliness to which discipline had not yet been applied. There is allowed, then, to the disorderly person the position of brother, and apparently the right to sit down at the Lord's table. But the right minded members of the Thessalonian community are directed to withdraw from him. Let him, in the way of discipline, be shunned in private intercourse. Let him be made clearly to understand that no countenance is given to him in his disorderly course.
II. DUTY ENFORCED BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE PREACHERS. "For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labour and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you." An appeal is made to what was within their own knowledge and observation. They were aware, without their requiring to be told, that there had been nothing disorderly in the behaviour of the preachers among them. They had practised what they had taught. They had been an example in all particulars of the order of which they had been the medium of delivery. Special reference is made to their being an example of independence acquired by manual labour. It could not be said of them that they had eaten bread for nought at any man's hand. They had eaten bread in labour and travail, working night and day, to be raised above the point of being burdensome to any of them. Very similar language is used in the First Epistle. "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you." The thought there is that, by their having adopted this course, they were placed above all suspicion of selfishness. They were only givers to the Thessalonians, as mothers to their infant children. We are here told what led to their supporting themselves by the labour of their own hands. It was the consideration of example. In the excitement into which the Thessalonian Church had been thrown by the announcement of the coming, there had been early observed a tendency to neglect the duties of their worldly calling, which could only result in their making themselves a burden. To counteract this tendency, they had thrown the influence of their example into the scale of industry. As they were not burdensome to the Thessalonians, let none of them be burdensome to any. Reservation of right. "Not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an example unto you, that ye should imitate us." As preachers they had the right to be maintained by those to whom they ministered. In preaching they were as much labouring - giving out their strength, even the strength of their bodies - as when they were tent making, or engaged in other manual labour. And, according to the principle which is brought in elsewhere, the labourer is worthy of his hire. In certain circumstances they felt free to accept of maintenance from those among whom they laboured, and thus to give their whole strength to spiritual work. Even at Thessalonica they felt free to accept of a gift from the Philippian Church. They did not feel free to accept of maintenance from the Thessalonian Church, simply because it was necessary, by their example, to encourage among them a spirit of independence in connection with diligence in performing the duties of their worldly calling.
III. DUTY ENFORCED BY THE PLAIN MANNER IN WHICH THE PREACHERS HAD TAUGHT. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat." In the First Epistle it had been said, "And that ye study to he quiet, and to do your own business, anti to work with your hands, even as we charged you." The Thessalonians are now referred back, beyond that point, to the time when the preachers were with them. In prescribing starvation as the remedy for the shirking of labour, Christianity has a certain aspect of severity. And yet, in this respect, Christianity is only sanctified common sense. There may be doubt in particular cases whether a man has the ability to work or the opportunity to work. But there can be no doubt of this, that if he has the ability to work and the opportunity and will not work, then he should be allowed to starve. That is to say, let the struggle go on in him between hunger and indolence. There is no call for our interposing in the name of Christian charity, which needs to he salted with salt, if it would not lose its flavour. We may expect that the struggle will end in hunger gaining the mastery over his indolence. And there will be an experience gained which may make him a profitable member of society for the time to come. It is well that the Christian rule is so plainly laid down. For there is a false spiritualism that looks askance at labour. It has even been attempted to throw a Christian halo around idleness in the order of the mendicant monks. But there is a sensible practical tone about Christianity which must commend it even to those who are not in sympathy with its central teaching. We do not need to engage in our worldly business with a grudge, as though all the time gained to the body were lost to the soul. We may feel free, with Paul and Silas and Timothy, in labour and travail, to work night and day, that we may not be burdensome to any. There is indeed danger, and very great danger, of our going over to the other side, and neglecting our spiritual duties, becoming worldly in our business. But that is to go beyond the intention of Christ. He means that, by attention to our spiritual duties, we should be fitted for our worldly duties. He means that we should he mindful of him, and loyal to his laws in our worldly duties. He means that, through the right performance of our worldly duties, our highest spirituality should be promoted. And blessed is he who can work out this problem aright in his life.
IV. OCCASION FOR LAYING DOWN THE DUTY. "For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies." There were some, the few among them, who did not observe the order given by the Lord. Specially, they did not observe the Lord's appointment of labor. They are described as working not at all. They were not idlers pure and simple, to begin with. They did not work, because they thought the coming was already commenced. They were really in a high state of tension. And, as their energies were not allowed scope at all within their proper work, they had to find scope in work beyond. This is brought out in the Greek as it cannot so well be brought out in the English translation. It is literally, and in a paradoxical way, "working nothing, but working beyond." They did not busy themselves with work that belonged to them; they even energetically busied themselves in a meddlesome way with work that did not belong to them.
V. THE DISORDERLY BRETHREN ADDRESSED. "Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." The Lord's authority and suasion is brought to bear on them as a class. It was not sufficient excuse for them that they took the Lord's coming to be imminent:. Even though their impression had been well founded, they were not therefore justified in freeing themselves from the Divine ordinance. If we knew when definitely we were to die, it would still he our duty, our strength being continued to us, to work up to the very last moment. That would be in the way of preparing for our change. So they should rather have thought of being called away from their ordinary work by Christ at his coming. They would thereby have saved themselves from much sinful; and disquieting speculation and intrusion into what did not concern them. When we work, and work with all the might of our nature, within our own proper sphere, we can have the accompaniment of quiet. We can have restlessness banished from our mind; and we can avoid the annoyance that comes from meddling with the affairs of others. When we work, too, with a diligent hand, we are put in a position of honorable independence. We do not need to be a burden upon others. We can eat our own bread, eat what we have earned by the sweat of our brow. To orderliness, then, in the form of attention to the duties of their worldly calling, with all the weight of the Lord's authority, with all the charm of the Lord's suasion, the preachers sought to bring back the few among the Thessalonians who had been disorderly.
VI. THE CHURCH ADDRESSED AS RIGHT MINDED. "But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing." From the way in which the Church is addressed, it can be seen that the right minded from their numbers were properly representative. From the context, "well doing" is to be understood in its less restricted sense. Those were doing well, in honouring the Lord's appointment of labour. The position in which they were placed was trying. It was hard for them to work on amid all the excitement that prevailed, especially if they themselves had the impression that the coming was impending. What need was there for work, when a new order of things was being introduced? Was it not more commendable to lay down their tools and devoutly wait for the heavens being opened over them? By this unsettling influence some of their number had been carried away. And the position of matters was aggravated by the support of these unprofitable members being thrown upon the Church. All the more honour, then, to them, the right minded, that, amid temptation, they held to the old order, that they thought it the right thing to labour on diligent]y, till they actually heard their Lord's voice on earth commanding them to cease from labour. Let them not weary in following an upright course. When an upright man sees his unscrupulous neighbours taking many an advantage which in his conscience he is not free to take, he is tempted to ask what advantage there is in uprightness. But, though the disadvantages were a hundred times greater than they really are, it would still be our duty to follow the Divine leadings. Let us not weary in the path that leads to God and life. There is nothing that is in the end wearying and wearing out but a mind that is conscious of wrong doing.
VII. FURTHER SPECIFICATION OF THE COURSE TO BE FOLLOWED WITH THE DISORDERLY BROTHER. "And if any man obeyeth not our word by this Epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed." The right minded being numerous could act in the name of the Church. The disorderly brother could be called before them, or before a court representative of the Lord's authority in the Church. In some way his attention was to be specially directed to the part of the letter which pertained to him. And obedience was to be demanded of him to what was laid down in the letter. The ground was taken from under the position he occupied by the announcement that the coming was to be preceded by an apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin. That put the coming into the distance, and gave an aspect of stability to the old order of things, including the six days' labour of the fourth commandment. But it was not easy to get rid of all the false excitement at once. And the habit of idleness had to be overcome, so far as it had been formed. Against these hindrances the authority of the teachers was to be brought to bear. If after trial he persisted in neglecting to work, then the course to be followed was to note that man, and have no company with him. He was to be dealt with even as others who are mentioned in l Corinthians 5: "But now I write unto you not to keep company if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat." The idler among them was to be a marked man, even as the greater offender; the whole sentiment of the Church was to be brought to bear against his idleness. They were not to have free intercourse or companionship with him. They were not to admit him into their privacy. They were not to invite him to their houses, to contribute to his support, or in any way to show him countenance in his disorderly course. They were to do this with a disciplinary end in view, viz. to shame him out of his idleness. It was a shame for a man, being able-bodied, to be idle and to throw himself as a burden upon others. It was especially a shame in a Christian, who was surely not to be behind his heathen neighbour in the ordinary duties of life. By producing in him a feeling of shame his amendment would be secured. Caution to be observed. "And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." They were not to take the extreme step of cutting him off altogether from Church fellowship. He was not hopelessly removed from good. There was nothing decisive against the reality of his Christianity. They were therefore, while withdrawing from him, to acknowledge him as a brother, giving him to feel that, on returning to orderliness, they would welcome him back to freedom of Christian intercourse. There is a rule laid down here for our guidance in Christian intercourse. We are only to have free intercourse with those who are at one with us in the great essentials of the Christian faith and life. We are not to be on easy terms with those of whose sentiments, or of whose mode of life, we cannot approve. That would be to tolerate their sentiments, to tolerate their conduct, and thus to compromise our position and open up the way for our own deterioration. It would also be to encourage them in their position and prevent their amendment. Our duty is to withdraw from them, so far as it is necessary to conserve our own position, and so far as it is necessary to convince them that we do not countenance them in their position. But we are not to go to the extreme of bearing ourselves toward them as though they did not belong to the Christian circle. We are not to treat them as enemies. But we are to perform toward them the brotherly duty of trying to remove sin from them, so as to open up the way for the restoration of all suitable Christian intercourse. It is to be feared that many Christians are not sufficiently careful as to those with whom they freely associate. They look to position, to convenience, to companionableness, to sympathy in smaller matters, and not so much as they should do to the great ends of intercourse. There are even those belonging to the Christian circle against whose ideas and conduct it is necessary for us to protest. When they are habitually worldly, or unsettling, or uncharitable, or unbrotherly in conversation, or given to intemperance, even as we love the order which Christ approves, and as we would not be partakers with them in their sins, we must withdraw from them, while not, in moral cowardice, shirking the duty of speaking out what we think and admonishing them for their good. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
WEB: Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us.