2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who leads an undisciplined life that is not in keeping with the tradition you received from us.
Apostolic AuthorityA. Barnes, D. D.2 Thessalonians 3:6
Coming Clear Out2 Thessalonians 3:6
The Apostle's Method of Dealing with the Idle Busybodies of the Thessalonian ChurchT. Croskery 2 Thessalonians 3:6
Withdrawal from Such as Walk DisorderlyE. Hopkins, D. D.2 Thessalonians 3:6
Withdrawal from the DisorderlyCanon Mason.2 Thessalonians 3:6
Withdrawal from the DisorderlyJ. Hutchison, D. D.2 Thessalonians 3:6
Duty of Withdrawing from a Disorderly BrotherR. Finlayson 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
The Importance of the Common Duties of Daily Life ShownB.C. Caffin 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

This is one of the leading objects of this Epistle.

I. THE NATURE OF THE OFFENCE REBUKED BY THE APOSTLE. "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition they received from us."

1. It was a habit of idleness caused by the unsettling tendency of the belief that the day of the Lord's coming was near at hand to wind up all human affairs. They were, therefore, "working not at all," allowing themselves to be ignobly dependent either upon richer brethren or upon ecclesiastical funds.

2. Linked with this idle habit was the disposition to be "busybodies - concerning themselves with matters that did not belong to them. Bishops in other men's dioceses," as the figure of the apostle elsewhere describes the same class (1 Peter 4:15); like the younger widows who "were wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies" (1 Timothy 5:13). This unworthy habit of life was a serious annoyance and interruption to neighbours, as well as an unwarranted tax upon the generosity of their rich patrons.

3. It was an aggravation of the offence that the offenders were not only "brethren," but were living in deliberate disregard of the apostle's oral instructions during his first visit to Thessalonica. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither let him eat." Thus they showed a reckless defiance of apostolic counsel. This was surely to "break rank," as the word "disorder" suggests.


1. The time was past for mere requests or exhortations. He had addressed them in this milder tone in the First Epistle: "We beseech you that ye study to be quiet, and do your own business" (1 Thessalonians 4:11). But his request had been disregarded.

2. The command he now addresses to them was backed by Divine authority. "We command you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

(1) Because he is the Source of all authority in the Church;

(2) because the conduct of the Thessalonian busybodies was a dishonour to the Lord who bought them;

(3) because it was a command to which obedience could be secured so long as the Christians "directed their hearts into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."

3. It was a command to the body of the Church to "withdraw themselves from the disorderly brethren.

(1) It was no command to excommunicate them. It was no case of expulsion or exclusion from Church fellowship, but

(2) what may be called social excommunication. The brethren were to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with them, perhaps the richer members to encourage them no longer in their indolent and restless fanaticism by their ill-placed generosity, and thus bring them to a sense of shame and repentance for their laziness and talebearing. - T.C.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly
I. THE NEEDS BE FOR THIS COMMAND. Rather abruptly, the Apostle turns from a very important and pleasant subject to one of a totally different character — the proper method of treating those who were idle and disorderly in the Church. He had adverted to this subject in his previous epistle, but in the mild language of exhortation. When he wrote to the Thessalonians, he was aware that there were some among them who were disposed to be idle, and he had tenderly exhorted them "to be quiet, and to mind their own business, and to work with their own hands." But it seems that the exhortation, and the example of Paul himself when at Thessalonica, had not been effectual in inducing them to be industrious. It, therefore, became necessary to use the strong language of command, and to require that if any members would not work, the Church should take due action concerning them. What was the original cause of their idleness is not known. There seems no reason, however, to doubt that it was much increased by their expectation that the Saviour would soon appear, and that the world would soon come to an and. If this was to be so, of what use would it be to labour? Why strive to accumulate property with reference to the wants of a family, or to a day of sickness, or to the requirements of old age? Why should a man build a house that was soon to be burnt up? Or why buy a farm which he was soon to leave? The effect of the expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord Jesus has alway been to induce men to neglect their worldly affairs, and lead idle lives. Man, naturally disposed to be idle, wants the stimulus of hope that he is labouring for the future weal of himself, his family, or society; nor will he labour if he believes that the Lord is just about to appear.

II. THE AUTHORITY FOR THE COMMAND. "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," says the Apostle, using all the appellations of his Divine Master to stamp his mandate with full authority. By thus using "the name," he means that he was acting on the behalf of Christ, or by His commission or power (Acts 3:6; 2 Corinthians 2:10). A judge occupies the seat of justice on behalf of the monarch who rules the kingdom, and pronounces judgment in his stead on the guilty. But St. Paul's authority was higher than that from the kings of the earth; it was authority derived from the Divine Head of the Church, and his command therefore was paramount.

III. THE MATTER OF THE COMMAND. "That ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." This is the true notion of Christian discipline toward an erring member. Cease to have fellowship with him: do not regard him any longer as a Christian brother. No effort to affect him in any other respect must be made: neither name nor standing must be injured; nor must he be held up to reprobation, or followed with a spirit of revenge. When he shows that he is no longer worthy to be recognized as a Christian brother, leave him to himself and his God. Peradventure God may bring him to repentance.

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

The striking word "withdraw" is, in its simple form, found only besides in 2 Corinthians 8:20. In a still more striking compound it occurs in Acts 20:20-27; Galatians 2:12; Hebrews 10:38. It is a metaphor from the language of strategy; a cautious general shrinking from an engagement and timidly drawing off under cover. Perhaps we might illustrate it by the familiar "fight shy." A social excommunication rather than ecclesiastical seems chiefly meant, though the latter might be involved. The word "disorderly" is rendered "unruly" in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The kind of irregularity is made clear in vers. 10, 11. Bengel quaintly makes this an opportunity for denouncing the Mendicant Orders. "An order of mendicants is not an order; if the Thessalonians had bound themselves to it by a vow, what would Paul have said?"

(Canon Mason.)

1. The matter of the text is separation from those that walk out of line, and keep not their ranks: a word borrowed from military discipline, which requires every soldier to march in his file. But because there can be no irregularity without a rule, and no disorder where no orders have been given, the Apostle explains that he means those who walk not after the tradition, etc., i.e., the doctrine of the apostle. The following therefore are branded —(1) All who commit gross wickedness (1 Timothy 6:3).(2) All who are erroneous and heretical. Others transgress, these destroy the rule.(3) Turbulent and factions persons: such as rend the Church, and despise government because not of their own devising.(4) Idle and impertinent tattlers and tale bearers (ver. 11).

2. To this we are bound by an express and urgent command, on authority the most absolute and sovereign; but we are reminded that the sinner is still a brother.


1. Cases wherein we are not bound to with draw from them that walk disorderly.(1) In the management of civil affairs, and whatever is necessary for subsistence. This was allowed to Christians among heathens, and cannot be denied to us among ungodly professors.(2) So as to violate the bonds of nature, or the respects which are due to them. A godly son must not withdraw himself from the authority of a wicked father; those unequally yoked must not therefore relinquish their relation or neglect its duties; nor servants reject the commands of profane masters. Dominion is not founded in grace, and it would be a wild world if inferiors should acknowledge no superiors but such as are cordially subject to God. No: we ought to converse with all persons according to the relations in which we stand to them.(3) When we have great hopes and strong probabilities of reforming them. This is to act the physician, and to follow the example of Christ (Matthew 11:19; Matthew 9:12). Yet two cautions must be observed.(a) Watchfulness over the heart and actions when in wicked company even with a design of doing good, else we may get the infection instead of curing it.(b) That we venture not unless we have good grounds for the hope that we shall do them good. This we may expect if we have prudence enough to divert them, authority enough to affright them, or reverence enough to overawe and shame them. Otherwise it is hazardous whether we shall keep our conscience safe or maintain our zeal.(4) In the service of God. We may join them in prayer and ordinances, and be glad that they give religion any, though only a complimental, respect. The great scruple is concerning the Lord's Supper. But —

(a)Christ ate with Judas (Luke 22:20, 21; Mark 14:23).

(b)Admitting the contention, your duty is not to withdraw yourselves but to remove them.If you have followed out Matthew 18:15, 16, the offender will be removed by the proper authority, or if not you do not partake of his sin by partaking of the same ordinance.

2. Cases in which we are bound to withdraw.(1) From all unnecessary converse. We are not to make them our bosom friends.(2) We are to withdraw from them our inward respect and esteem (Psalm 15:4). How can we value the companionship of the Devil's slaves, however bedecked, and esteem these whom God condemns?(3) This inward dislike should be manifested, at least so far as to show that we have very different feelings for true Christians. But here let us beware of running into extremes, and mistake a proud disdain for a holy dislike and by the sourness of our converse fright them from our converse and our religion too.(a) We ought to distinguish between our brother's person and his vices, and neither hate nor love the one for the other. He who loves his person for his vices is a devil; he who loves his vices for his person is a flatterer; he who hates his vices for his person is a murderer; and he who hates his person for his vices is unchristian (Leviticus 19:17). This duty is difficult, and can only be done by using the utmost efforts to reclaim our brother, for thereby we express our hatred of his sins by seeking to destroy them, and our love for his person by seeking to save him.(b) We must not withdraw the civility which is due to his station, nor refuse the offices of humanity. The one is not religion but rudeness, and the other unnatural. Religion teaches not churlishness but obligingness.


1. It is an act of the greatest love to their persons. We are not to separate out of spite or peevishness, but out of goodwill, it being the last and probably the most effectual means of reclaiming them (ver. 14).

2. It is an act of self-protection. There is no plague so catching as sin, for —(1) Our hearts are naturally corrupt.(2) It is the glory of wicked men to rub their vices on as many as they can. They would make all like themselves.(3) Our society with them may involve us not only in their guilt but in their punishment (Proverbs 13:20; Numbers 16:26; Revelation 18:4).(4) If no other punishment overtake you, yet their very society must be a burden to the conscientious Christian (Psalm 57:4; Psalm 120:5).(5) Our converse with them must be a great hindrance from doing our duty.(6) We have other company to keep, and need not be beholden to the wicked for society — the good, our own consciences, God.

III. APPLICATION. Ought we to withdraw from those that walk disorderly? Then —

1. Let not wicked men condemn conscientious Christians as though they were proud or unsociable.

2. Let this serve to break all combinations of wicked men. God has prescribed this rule, and converse not regulated by it is conspiracy against heaven. Flee then from wicked companions.

3. See the misery of the wicked. They are deemed unfit for Christian society on earth, much more for that society in heaven.

4. Christians! be exhorted to withdraw.

(1)Get your hearts off those things in which the wicked abound.

(2)Be as little beholden to them as possible.

(3)Let them see your courage and resolution.

4. Christians I so demean yourselves that the wicked shall see that your company is the more desirable.(1) Let your practice be agreeable to your profession. This brings great credit to religion.(2) Labour to outstrip the wicked in those things in which they gain the affections of others.

(a)Some pretend to be very exact in giving every one his due — and triumph over those professors who do not.

(b)Others brag of their courtesy and affability.

(c)Others of their love and agreement among themselves.

(d)Others of their charity and good works.

(E. Hopkins, D. D.)

A military metaphor lies in the latter word (1 Thessalonians 5:14). It describes the unruly as men who are not in their places in the ranks of the Christian army, men who are setting aside the strict rules of discipline, thereby causing disorder and courting disaster. In every such case of insubordination the offender is to be first warned (1 Thessalonians 5:14); but continued contumacy is to be punished by withdrawal. In this word some see a nautical figure, suitable to a maritime and commercial community like the Thessalonians, and we have such a figure in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. It would thus mean, "As you take in your sails to steer clear of a rock or reef, so give a wide berth to every disorderly brother. He and all like him are hidden rocks of danger" (Jude 1:12, R.V.). But it is better to take the metaphor as military, and a natural continuation of the previous one. Thus understood it suggests a strategic movement — the withdrawing, prudent and cautious, but not necessarily timid, on the part of a general with his soldiers from the enemy. It is wise to withdraw from such stragglers out of the ranks; they give the Christian army a bad name, they exert a bad influence, lower the general feeling, and retard progress. They have, therefore, to be avoided even more than if they were openly ranged on the opposite side. They are the most dangerous of foes who belong to the ranks and yet are out of them. It is the disorderly brother and not the heathen who is to be shunned; yet although thus severely treated, he is to be looked upon as a brother after all (ver. 15).

(J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Ko-san-lone, a converted Chinese, when in America on a visit, was deeply impressed with the little difference he saw between the style of living of many professing Christians and the people of the world. Adverting to the matter on one occasion, he said, making at the same time a large sweep with his arm, "When the disciples in my country come out from the world, they come clear out."

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