2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
I. BY ST. PAUL'S EARNEST APPEALS.
1. He commands, and that in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were some among the Thessalonian Christians who walked disorderly, whose lives were not ordered according to the teaching which they had received from St. Paul. The Church generally was sound, as the Epistle shows, but there was a section that needed counsel and firm treatment. Probably the prevalent restlessness about the approach of the day of the Lord so filled their minds that it seemed hard to attend to less exciting matters. In view of an event so awful, the little details of daily occupation seemed trivial and insignificant. The whole course of life, with all its complex interests, might any moment be abruptly checked by the sudden coming of the Lord. It was hard to descend from the contemplation of a topic so absorbing to the little duties of work and everyday life. But the apostle commands, and that with the greatest earnestness. It is just in those little duties that our responsibility chiefly lies. It is in the small matters of daily life that the battle between good and evil is fought out for each individual soul. "The daily round, the common task," is the field in which we are trained for heaven; or, if not for heaven, it must be for hell. Ordinary lives are commonplace; they do not present opportunities for showy action; there are few emergencies, little excitement in them. The lives of most of us are, by God's appointment, ordinary and commonplace; it is the discipline for eternity which he has provided for us. The quiet, faithful performance of those common duties is the best preparation for the coming of the Lord. He cannot find us better employed than in the work, whatever it may be, which his providence has given us to do. And, in truth, those commonplace lives afford ample opportunities for self-denial, if only we will use them; a road for drawing daily nearer to God, if only we will take the path pointed out by his providence, not some self-chosen way of our own. A commonplace life may be in the eyes of the holy angels full of beauty and heroism. To do each little duty, as it comes, faithfully and thoroughly; to keep the thought of God's presence constantly before us, and to try in all things, great and small alike, to please him; to persevere all the day, and every day, in the quiet life of duty; - this involves a sustained effort, a lofty faith, a holy love, which are in the sight of God of great price. The life of duty, however humble and quiet that duty may be, is the life of holiness. Religious fervour, religious excitement, if it ends in excitement and does not issue in obedience, is but a counterfeit in the sight of God; it will not abide the day of his coming. In the First Epistle St. Paul had bidden the Thessalonians to study to be quiet, to do their own business, to work with their own hands. He speaks more strongly now. Probably the excitement had increased; it had led to the disorder which he condemns. He commands them now, and that in virtue of his apostolic authority, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose ambassador he was. Sometimes God's ministers must speak with authority. They must be instant in season, out of season; they must reprove, rebuke, exhort; but such rebukes will avail little, unless they are administered with much long suffering, with humility and godly fear, and enforced by that authority of character which only holiness of life can give. To possess such authority, a man must have that reality the absence of which is so soon detected; he must have that ready sympathy which is such a source of power and success in ministerial work.
2. They must withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly. St. Paul is not issuing a sentence cf excommunication, as in 1 Corinthians 5. and 1 Timothy 1:20. The conduct of these Thessalonians was not so utterly wicked as that of the incestuous person at Corinth; their errors were not so dangerous as those of Hymenaeus and Alexander. But they were neglecting the duties of their station; they were living in disobedience. It was not right for Christians to recognize such men as brethren; their lives were a scandal; they were bringing discredit upon the Christian name. True Christians must be jealous for their Master's honour; they must sometimes show openly their disapprobation of inconsistency. It is a difficult and painful duty. It is necessary, in performing it, to keep a very careful watch over our own motives; to speak and act in deep humility and real charity; to cast first the beam out of our own eye; to remember the Saviour's rule, "Judge not." But though a difficult duty, it is sometimes a duty. A true Christian must not live on terms of intimacy with men who disgrace their Christian profession. He will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners. All his delight will be in the saints who are on the earth. Especially he must avoid the companionship of those who make a great show of religion and live ungodly lives. No sin is more dangerous than hypocrisy; none is more strongly condemned by our Lord.
II. BY HIS EXAMPLE.
1. He did not behave himself disorderly. He illustrated in his life the power of true religion. He was a man of warm affections, of enthusiastic character, full of high hopes; but he never allowed any excitement of feeling to interfere with the quiet performance of daily duties. His life and preaching supplemented one another. His preaching disclosed the motives which prompted his actions and regulated his life; his life was his preaching translated into action - it showed the reality, the living force, of the truths which he preached.
2. He worked with his own hands. He always asserted the right of the apostles and their companions to maintenance from the Churches. The Lord hath ordained, he said, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But he did not claim this right for himself. It was not pride that prompted his conduct; he accepted the gifts of the Philippians. But he knew the value of an example of self-denying and absolutely disinterested labour. The Gentile world had never seen such a life. It was a power in itself; it constrained the admiration and won the hearts of men; it forced them to admit the reality of a religion which sustained him in such unparalleled self-sacrifices. So he would not eat any man's bread for nought. For nought, he says in his humility; though he knew well that his converts in Thessalonica owed to him, like Philemonon, even their own selves. He wrought with his own hands, and that night and day. It was hard, uninteresting, ill-paid labour. It required the close application of many hours to earn even the simple livelihood which contented him. But he worked on in patience, knowing the power of example.
III. HE INSISTS ON THE DUTY OF HONEST LABOUR.
1. Are had done so during his stay at Thessalonica. He had given his opinion in the words of a short, stern proverb, "If any will not work, neither let him eat." Labour is the ordinance of God; a punishment at first (Genesis 3:19), but it is turned into a blessing (Psalm 128:2) to those who accept it as the will of God, and use it as a discipline of obedience and self-denial. Work, in some form or other, is a necessity for us; without work, life soon becomes dreary, full of restlessness and dissatisfaction. To have nothing to do is far from enviable; it is full of ennui and weariness. Time is a priceless talent, given us that we might work out our own salvation; to waste it day after day, to "kill time," as the saying is, is a miserable misuse of the good gifts of God. We must all work, if we would be happy here, if we would be ready to meet the Lord when he cometh. Mental labour is the lot of some, manual labour of others. God has ordered our lot and appointed our work. Work of some sort we must have. None have a right to eat their bread without labour, neither the rich nor the poor.
(1) If God has given us worldly means, still we have no right to eat the bread of idleness. We must find work to do, the work which the Master has set us. If we need not work for ourselves, we must work for others. There is work enough for all in the vineyard of the Lord; only in work can we find peace and satisfaction. Without work, we are eating the bread which we have not earned; without work, we must in the end be restless and unhappy; without work, how can we bear to read those awful words, "Thou wicked and slothful servant"?
(2) And the apostle forbids indiscriminate almsgiving. When the Lord said, "Give to him that asketh thee," he did not mean to the idle and the worthless. Give freely, but give to the old, the sick, the helpless. It is a difficult thing to give rightly; it needs study, thought, prayer. We must not encourage idleness, but neither must we allow our heart to be hardened by the imposture which we meet so often. Be generous, full of sympathy to the afflicted, but let the idle be corrected by the stern discipline of hunger. To give to such is doubly wrong; it encourages the slothful in their sinful idleness, and it robs the really poor.
2. He repeats his exhortation now. There were busybodies at Thessalonica, who neglected their own business, and busied themselves with matters which did not concern them, or with curious questions which were beyond their reach. It is always so with the idle; the restless thoughts must find occupation, and commonly find it in mischief. St. Paul exhorts them again. He does not sternly leave them to themselves; he longs for their spiritual welfare. He exhorts them, and that in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, to work with quietness; not to let excited feelings interfere with the quiet, well ordered life of Christian duty; but to eat their own bread, the bread earned by honest labour; not to live on the alms of others, when they might preserve a manly, Christian independence.
IV. HE ASKS THE BRETHREN TO SUPPORT HIS EXHORTATIONS.
1. They must not be weary in well doing. There is much to make Christians weary; their own helplessness and sinfulness; the disappointments, misunderstandings, ingratitude, which they meet with in their work. But they must persevere in the quiet walk of duty; they must do good, seeking no reward save that which comes from our Father who seeth in secret. Weariness is hard to bear; it will press heavily upon us at times. We must run with patience the race that is set before us, looking always unto Jesus.
2. They must carry out his censures. His Epistle was an authoritative document; it came from the Lord's apostle, armed with the Lord's authority. It must be obeyed; it was the duty of the Church to enforce obedience. The brethren must show their concurrence with St. Paul by not keeping company with any professing Christians who may still persist in disorderly conduct. But they must be careful not to sin against the law of love. The offender is a brother still; they must admonish him for his soul's sake; they must show by their conduct their sorrow, their disapproval of his disobedience, that the disapprobation of Christians known and respected may bring him to a sense of shame. and, by God's grace, to amendment of life.
1. Duty seems sometimes dull and prosaic, but it is our appointed path; do each little duty as in the sight of God.
2. There is a true dignity in honest labour; never despise it in others; work yourself in the station to which God has called you.
3. Be careful in your choice of companions; avoid the disorderly; seek the society of the pious and obedient. - B.C.C.
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.