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Order In the Church 2 Thessalonians 3a

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Stephen Caswell © 2000

Virtues of Work

Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know. -- Charles Kingsley


In chapter one Paul comforted the Thessalonians about their suffering. In chapter two he corrected their understanding about the Day of the Lord. Then he challenged them regarding Christian living; or living by the truth. In chapter three he chastises some unruly brethren who were troubling the Church. Some members of the assembly had misinterpreted Paul’s teachings about the return of Christ, left their jobs, and were living off the generosity of the church. They were idle while others were working. Yet they expected the church to support them. They were also spreading gossip about people in the church.

They had time on their hands and gossip on their lips, but they defended themselves by arguing, “The Lord is coming soon!” Paul expected the whole church to work together in solving this problem. The church in love must deal with its own members and seek to help each one obey God. To assist them in this task, Paul gave four motives to encourage the careless believers to turn from their sins and start earning their own bread. 

I.   The Exhortation Of The Word  

II.  The Example Of The Apostle

III. The Encouragement Of The Church

IV. The Enablement Of The Lord

I.   The Exhortation Of The Word

2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.


The first motivation Paul gives believers for orderly living is a command. He commands them to withdraw from disorderly brothers. The word withdraw stellw means to avoid, to abstain from associating with. This meant that they shouldn't have fellowship with the disorderly. Paul handed down this order from His commanding officer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament Church is sometimes describes as an army. Jesus Christ is our commanding officer. Believers are expected to obey His commands. As soldiers in Christ's army we are called to work together in harmony. We are to follow the same rules. We are to conduct ourselves in an orderly way. The Christian soldier must be disciplined in all areas of life. He must lead his family well and set a good example in the community also.

Unfortunately some of the Thessalonians weren't doing this. They were walking in a disorderly way. Disorderly ajtaktw" means irregular, out of step. It described a soldier who was marching out of step with the rest of the battalion. One who is doing his own thing.

In the army soldiers can be charged for disorderly conduct. For conduct unbecoming their station. God commanded Adam to work in the garden of Eden. He had to dress it for the Lord. God still expects men today to work so that they can provide for their families. Some of the Thessalonians weren't doing this. Therefore Paul commanded the faithful brethren to withdraw from them. Why? So that they wouldn't be lead astray too. Paul didn't want this to disorderly conduct to spread; he wanted to stop it.



Are you walking in step with your brethren? Or are you behaving in a disorderly way? Are you working to support your family? God commands us to be disciplined, to work together under one standard. We are commanded withdraw from unruly brothers.

II.  The Example Of The Apostle

The second motivation Paul gives for orderly living is his own example.

a. Paul Lived An Orderly Life

2 Thessalonians 3:7-8 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,


Paul reminded them how he had lived in an orderly way amongst them. Paul didn't take the easy life when he ministered at Thessalonica. He wasn't lazy but instead worked hard to support himself and his ministry team. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; Paul had lived a disciplined life with them. He loved them and didn't want to burden them with the expense of providing for his needs. Paul willingly worked to the point of exhaustion to help them. He didn't take food from his brethren, but fully supported himself. Paul and his associates lived orderly lives. These disorderly brethren ought to take note of this.


b. Paul Left A Good Example


2 Thessalonians 3:9-10 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.


Leaders Don't Push

General Eisenhower used to demonstrate the art of leadership with a simple piece of string. He'd put it on a table and say: "Pull it and it'll follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere at all."

Why was Paul so keen to leave this sort of example? Why didn't he ask for support, surely he was entitled to it? Yes, Paul did have the right to be supported, he even says so in verse 9.

As an apostle, Paul had the right to expect financial support; but he deliberately gave up this right that he might be an example to the young believers. In this attitude, Paul proved himself to be a mature Christian leader. Selfish leaders use people to build up their support, and they are always claiming their rights. A truly dedicated leader will use his rights to build up the people, and will lay aside his rights and privileges for the sake of others.

Every Christian worker has the right to support from the church as he serves the Lord. We must not use Paul’s example as an excuse not to support God’s servants. But any servant of God has the privilege of setting aside that right to the glory of God. Paul did this so that he might be an example to the young believers in Thessalonica.

Paul left them a good example to follow.  If the apostle Paul worked hard whilst he preached the Gospel shouldn't believers work hard too. In fact he tells them to follow his example. The word follow mimeomai in verse 7 and 9 means to mimic or imitate. Paul wants believers to be known as honest, hard working people. He didn't want Christians to be known as bludgers. God desires us to work hard. If we don't work honestly we bring reproach on the name of Christ. Paul commanded them not to feed lazy brothers unwilling to work. This doesn't relate to people who can't work because of health or age. But to those who won't work. They refuse to work when they are capable of doing so. The Church does have the privilege of helping those in genuine need. I praise God that folk in this Church do this!

A second reason Paul worked is shared in Second Corinthians. Paul didn't want the Gospel to be identified with the false religions being peddled by itinerant teachers. They preached their philosophy for money wherever they went. Paul didn't want the Gospel to be identified with them. The Gospel is the truth and mustn't be cheapened by money issues. No unsaved person could say, Paul only preaches to make money. Money mustn't hinder the Gospel. Many televangelsists would do well to adopt this principle instead of their constant appeals.


Are you living an orderly life? What sort of example are you presenting to other believers or non Christians regarding work? Are you working hard and supporting your family? Or do you bring reproach on the name of Christ?

III. The Encouragement Of The Church

a. Command Lazy Brothers To Work

2 Thess 3:11-12 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

These disorderly brothers placed extra burdens on the rest of the Church as they supported them. They were eating other people's food. But it didn't stop there since they used their time in causing mischief. They became busybodies. The word for busybody periergazomai literally means to be working around; that is, busy but fooling around and not accomplishing anything. In fact they usually stir up trouble by going from house to house spreading gossip. 1 Timothy 5:13 suggests that busybodies meddle in matters that do not belong to them. Paul has one command for them, Get to work. They're to work quietly minding their own business.

They were to buy their own food with money they had earned. 1 Timothy 5:8 addresses this: But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  Instead of noisily running around, these people should with quietness... work, and eat their own bread.

Results Of Idle Hands

Almost every culture has its saying about idleness. The Romans said, By doing nothing, men learn to do evil. Isaac Watts wrote: For Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do. The Jewish rabbis taught, He who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to be a thief.


b. Chastise Disobedient By Exclusion

2 Thess 3:13-15 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Many in the Church had been discouraged because of these lazy brethren. So Paul encouraged them to keep doing good works. They shouldn't allow these disorderly brothers to sidetrack them from good works. However they shouldn't feed these lazy brothers. Paul then shared a second step to take with those who disobey Paul's commands. They were to take note of them and not keep company with them. Paul explains why they should withdraw. To make them ashamed of their sin. In the case of the “lazy saints,” Paul told the believers to exhort them, warn them, and if they did not repent, withdraw intimate fellowship from them. This probably meant that these believers were not permitted to share in the Lord’s Supper, and that the church members would not invite them to their homes. Second Thessalonians 3:14 does not apply to every case of discipline. It applies only to the matter of saints not working for a living.

Have no company literally means do not get mixed up with; the same word is used in 1 Corinthians 5:9: I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company sexually immoral people. In verse 11 Paul then qualifies this by saying that we should not associate with believers that live this way, not the people of the world. There is a difference between acquaintanceship, friendship, and fellowship; for fellowship means to have in common. For obedient saints to treat disobedient Christians with the same friendship they show to other dedicated saints is to give approval to their sins.

However, Paul knowing the tendency of human nature to go to extremes cautioned them not to treat the offenders like enemies. They are still your brothers in Christ, he added. We are to admonish them to do what is right. The word admonish nouqetew means to warn, reprove, put in mind. Out of love we should remind them of God's Word so that they might repent of their sin. If they refuse to listen then we must not have fellowship with them. 


How should we treat disorderly brothers who won't work and cause strife? Firstly we should tell them that God commands them to work. If they don't listen then we should not keep their company lest we be snared by their sin. Also by breaking off fellowship we show our disapproval of their lifestyle. All the while we should point them back to the truth.

Do you distinguish between needy people and lazy people? You need to.

Abraham And Lot

Lot was out of fellowship with God and Abraham because he lived in Sodom; yet Abraham rescued Lot from the enemy because Lot was his brother It requires much patience, love, and grace to help an erring brother; and this is why Paul added a final motive for earning a living.

IV. The Enablement Of The Lord

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

a. The Peace Of God

The final motive to live orderly lives is God's enablement. He is the Lord of peace and order. Therefore He can bring peace and order to believers and the Church. We need only submit to His Lordship and ask for His help. When strife and conflict prevail in the Church it is usually because people are out of fellowship with God. If war prevails in someone's heart then it will spread to the Church as well. The Lord desires peace within the Church. In fact He is with us at all times and longs to help us if we will look to Him.

War In Sunday School

There was a particular Sunday School class that was in a constant state of confusion and competition. The leaders would just get matters settled down for a few weeks when the volcano would erupt again. After much prayer and examination, the pastor discovered that one class member wanted to be the teacher. She was proud of her own spiritual attainments and felt she could do a better job than the devoted lady who was teaching the class. Even though this class member never openly attacked or criticized the teacher, her attitudes and the things she did not say sowed seeds of discord in the fellowship. When this problem was dealt with, the Lord of peace took over in the class, and God began to bless.

b. The Grace Of God

God gives His peace to those who will submit to Him. But verse 18 says He can also give the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to believers. Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  The Lord is able to give us grace to help in all of our trials. He can give us grace to deal appropriately with disorderly believers. The Lord can give grace to disorderly believers so that they might get back in step. His grace is sufficient for all our needs.

Surely this is what we want in the Church. The soldier who is out of rank and disobedient of the Lord’s command proves that he is not surrendered to his Master. Church problems are individual problems, and they must be solved individually. God wants order in the church. Let all things be done decently and in order. Paul emphasized his signature in the greeting so that they could have confidence in this letter. This was wise considering the false letter!



Are you a part of the peace of the church or part of a war in the church? Let's submit to Christ's Lordship. Let's keep in step in Christ's army.


In this passage Paul dealt with some disorderly brethren at Thessalonica. We have seen Paul's four motivations for orderly living.

I.   The Exhortation Of The Word


God commands us to work and eat our own bread. He doesn't want us to live disorderly lives.


II.  The Example Of The Apostle


Paul behaved in an orderly way. He even put aside his rights for the sake of the Gospel.


III. The Encouragement Of The Church


Gods people can help disorderly brothers by commanding them to work, by removing fellowship if they don't listen and admonishing them.


IV. The Enablement Of The Lord


God gives His peace and grace to help us live orderly lives. Are you drawing on this?


Let’s do what Joshua did and fall at the feet of the Captain of the Hosts of the Lord, that He might enable us to win the victory and fulfill His purposes for His people.


2 Thessalonians 3:16,18 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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