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TEXT II Thessalonians 3:6-14
SUBJECT: Church Discipline #5: Less Serious Sins
Should the Lord be merciful to us, this afternoon we will continue the study we began several weeks ago on Training in Godliness. By 'godliness' I mean the kind of life that pleases God-doing the things He commands us to do and not doing the things He forbids.
Nobody comes close to obeying the Lord fully and never sinning. But, while we are not-and cannot be-perfect, we must to strive for holiness in every part of our lives-in how we worship God, in how we treat each other, in how we spend our money, in how we work, in how we use our free time, and so on. What Aaron had engraved on his mitre, we ought to have carved into our hearts-
Holiness to the Lord.
We are not godly by birth or by nature-no one is. If we're going to be holy, we must be trained in it. Who is the trainer? The Holy Spirit is. It is He who-
Works in us both to will and to do God's good pleasure.
When He wants to, He can work all by Himself. It is the Lord who sanctifies you the Bible says. But some times, He doesn't want to do it alone; because He loves us, He uses us to help each other live better lives. I hope I have helped you at times; I know you have helped me many times. Most of the help we provide is one-on-one. Some of it, though, takes more than one. It was John Piper, I think, who said-
Sanctification is a community project.
An African proverb says, It takes a village to raise a child. There's a lot of truth in that. This is equally true: It takes a church to raise a child of God. This is what we're here for-to help each other get to heaven.
Most of that work is positive. We help each other get to heaven by praying for each other, by setting good examples, by encouraging, and the like. But, let's face it: sometimes we need more than prayer and encouragement. Sometimes we need correction.
This is what our passage is about: not punishment and certainly not revenge, but correction-training in godliness.
Let's start with the problem. V.6 tells us what it is and v. 11 confirms it and fills it in a bit-
.brother[s] who [are] walking in idleness.
.some walk in idleness, not busy at work but busybodies.
The problem is laziness and what goes with it: mooching off others. Take note: this is not about poverty, unemployment, or underemployment. Paul had nothing but compassion for the poor, for men thrown out of work and their families. He passed the offering plate everywhere he went; the money, however, wasn't for him or his ministry; it was for the poor, especially the poor in Judea who were struck by famine. When the brethren told him to remember the poor, he answered-
The very thing I was eager to do.
Let's knock this out of our heads once and for all. Paul is not lambasting people for not being able to find work or to make the kind of money they need. Rather than bawl out these bothers and sisters, we ought to help them with encouragement and prayers and money. If you go back to Ephesians 4, you'll find Paul urging us to work hard and take care of our money so.so we can retire early? Travel more? Buy better Christmas presents? No. Do it, he says, that-
You may have something to share with anyone in need.
I know I'm off the subject, but we must not take every unemployed man for a lazy man; we must not assume that if someone needs a bill of groceries, it's because he's a bum! It was our Lord who said, the poor you have with you always, and He assumes we'll want to-
Do them good.
The problem is laziness, deep and lasting and shameful laziness.
In several of his Letters, Paul urges people to work hard, but he spends more time on it in Thessalonians than anywhere else. The reason for it is obvious: it was a bigger problem there. Do you know why?
It wasn't a cultural trait. Some cultures promote work more than others. Look at Japan, for example or Holland. Back in the First Century, one nation was famous for doing as little as possible. Do you know which one? Crete. Paul quoted one of their own prophets-
Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.
Thessalonica was not on the island of Crete. For them, laziness was not a cultural problem, but a religious one. Sad to say, it was a misunderstanding of the Gospel that put some of the members to sleep. When Paul came to this place, he preached the Second Coming of Christ, and they believed him. So far, so good. But, for some reason, they thought the Second Coming was about to happen any minute now, and since they probably wouldn't make it to the weekend anyway, why bother to work during the week?
Back in I Thessalonians Paul gently corrected their thinking, but the quiet words hadn't gotten through and now, he has to raise his voice. He tells them, in no uncertain terms, that the Second Coming of Christ does not mean quit your jobs!
He assumes the layabouts in church will listen to him.
If they don't, the church has got to do something about it. The 6th and 14th verses tell us what-
Keep away from that man.
Have nothing to do with him.
I have to admit these are two of the most baffling verses in the Bible to me. They cannot mean 'have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with him' because, in vv.6, 15, the man is a brother in the Lord, and has to be warned. We can talk about in a few minutes, but for now, I'll quote William Hendricksen, whose comments make more sense to me than any others I've read-
It does not mean complete ostracism.It does mean, however, that the rest of the congregation should not get mixed up with him, that is should not associate with such a person on intimate terms, agreeing with him and following his example.
Maybe it means we ought to be cool toward the offender; not conceited as though we're better than he is, but standoffish until he repents.
In some things Paul counsels patience. We all have our problems and some of them will take a long time to solve, so give God the time He wants to make things right. II Timothy 4:2-
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.
But, in this matter of loafing around all day, Paul has very little patience. He doesn't say, 'Give them time; they'll come around'. He says, withdraw yourselves from them. And he says so as a command and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder why he's so strict about this one part of life? It seems to me, he explains why in vv.6-12.
Firstly, working for a living was part of the tradition, that is the teaching believed by all Christians and imparted to them by Paul himself. In other words, they got the teaching early on and often.
Secondly, Paul and his partners had shown them how to work and take care of themselves.
Thirdly, Paul had explicitly forbidden the church from helping the lazy stay in their rut. Using today's words, he had told them, 'Don't be enablers!' Help them-by not feeding them! He may have been thinking of the Proverb, 16:26-
A worker's appetite works for him;
His mouth urges him on.
Why does Paul want the church to stay clear of lazy brothers? Their example-I suppose-has something to do with it, but that doesn't come up in our passage. His goal is clearly stated at the end of v.14-
That he might be ashamed.
He wants the lazy man to be ashamed of himself. This, however, is not his final goal. He wants him to be so ashamed of himself that he repents of his laziness and becomes the kind of man the Lord wants him to be and his family and church need him to be.
This firm training in godliness, therefore, is not punitive; it's corrective. It's not meant to harm the offender, but to help him.
This means it has to be applied gently, wisely, with due patience, and always in love.
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