Order In The Church

Bible Book: 2 Thessalonians  3 : 6-18
Subject: Church; Christian Living; Exhortation

Sometimes little negative feelings can grow into nasty behavior. A good reminder of this is the short story by G.W. Target entitled "The Window," which tells of two men, both seriously ill, who occupied the same small hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room 's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the outside world.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band, he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an alien thought entered his head: Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything? It didn't seem fair.

As the thought fermented the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He began to brood and he found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window-that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room he never moved, never pushed his own button, which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes the coughing and choking stopped, along with the sound of breathing. Now there was only silence - deathly silence.

The following morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take it away-no words, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.

When negative feelings are not resolved in a godly way, improper behavior results. When problems are not solved, they grow worse. Church problems are like physical problems: if left unsolved, they grow and become worse, and they infect more people. The local church is a body; and what germs are to the physical body, sin is to the spiritual body. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonican church, he warned the idle busy-bodies to get to work. He admonished the church leaders to "warn them that are unruly". The word unruly means "a soldier out of rank." Apparently these troublemakers did not repent, because Paul devoted the rest of his second letter to this problem.

What was the problem? 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. It is possible that this group of lazy saints was the source of the false teaching Paul mentioned in II Thessalonians 2:2.

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!"

Misinterpretations and misapplications of the truths of God's Word can cause endless trouble. History records the foolishness of people who set dates, sold their possessions, and sat on mountains waiting for the Lord to return. Any teaching that encourages us to disobey another divine teaching is not Bible teaching.

Let's see what Paul said in II Thessalonians 3:6-18. 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. There is the Exhortation of the Word (V. 6).

Paul had used this powerful word command in his first Thessalonian letter and we met it earlier in this chapter. The word means, "a military order handed down from a superior officer." Paul considered the church to be like an army and if the army does not obey the orders, there can be no order. Unfortunately, some of the saints were "out of rank."

What authority did Paul have to issue this command, "If any is not willing to work, neither should he eat"? (v.10). He had the authority of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does the Bible teach about labor? For one thing, labor was a part of man's life before sin entered the scene. God gave Adam the job of dressing and guarding the Garden. Though sin turned labor into almost hopeless toil, it must never be thought that the necessity for work is a result of sin. Man needs work for the fulfillment of his own person. God created him to work.

Have you noticed that God called people who were busy at work? Moses was caring for sheep. Joshua was Moses ' servant before he became Moses ' successor. Gideon was threshing wheat when God called him, and David was caring for his father's sheep. Our Lord called four fishermen to serve as His disciples, and He Himself had worked as a carpenter. Paul was a tentmaker and used his trade to support his own ministry.

Paul recognized the fact that some people could not work, perhaps because of physical handicaps or family responsibilities. This is why he phrased the statement as he did: "if any man is not willing to work." It was not a question of ability but willingness. When a believer cannot work, and is in need, it is the privilege and duty of the church to help him.

The exhortation of the Word should have motivated these lazy believers to work, but Paul added a second motivation.

II. We See the Example of the Apostle (VS. 7-10).

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.

He had referred to his example in labor in his previous letter. His readers knew that Paul and his associates had not taken any support from the infant church. Instead, they had set the example of meeting their own needs and also helping to meet the needs of others. "You ought to imitate us," he admonished his readers.

The greatest influence is that of godly living and sacrifice. A Christian leader may appeal to the authority of the Word, but if he cannot point also to his own example of obedience, his people will not listen. This is the difference between authority and stature. A leader earns stature as he obeys the Word and serves His people in the will of God. Authority comes from position. Stature comes from practice and example. Stature earns the leader the right to exercise authority.

Paul's policy not only encouraged the new believers but also silenced the accusers. In every city there were itinerant teachers who "peddled their wares " for what they could earn. Paul did not want to be classified with them. Nor did he want any unsaved person to say, "Paul preaches only to make money." As he stated in I Corinthians 9, Paul wanted to make the Gospel "free of charge!" He would not permit money to hinder the winning of lost souls.

Needless to say, the careless attitude of these believers was affecting the church, so Paul added yet a third motive for their obedience.

III. We See the Encouragement of the Church (Vs. 11- 15).

Second Thessalonians 3:13 is the key: "And you, brothers, do not lose heart doing good!" (Literal translation.) The faithful Christians were discouraged by the conduct of the careless saints who refused to work. "If they don't have to work, why should we?" was their argument!

Sin in the life of a believer always affects the rest of the church. As members of His body, we belong to each other and we affect each other. The bad example of a few saints will destroy the devotion, and hinder the service, of the rest of the church.

Paul named the sins of the group. To begin with, they were 'disorderly," or out of order, out of rank. They were disobeying orders, and this brought confusion and division to the assembly. Further, they were "busy-bodies," not busy workers. The Greek word for "busybody" literally means, "to be working around, that is, busy but "fooling around" and not accomplishing anything.

Instead of noisily running around, these people should "with quietness ...work, and eat their own bread." Their false views about the return of Christ had worked them into a pitch of excitement. "Your overemotional attitude is wrong," warned Paul. "Settle down and get to work." Work is a great antidote to unbalanced speculation and unthinking activity.

But suppose these saints did not obey God's Word and go to work? What then should the church do? Paul had already taken the first step when he exhorted them in his first letter and warned them that they were wrong. But they had still persisted in their unruly behavior. He now warned them again in his second letter, and then added a further step: if these believers did not obey, the members of the church should personally discipline them. Church discipline is to the church member what family discipline is to a child: it is an exercise of, and evidence of, correcting love. When a parent disciplines his child, he is not a judge punishing a criminal. He is a loving father seeking to make his child a better person.

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. Verse 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". 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 cautioned them not to treat the offenders like enemies. "They are still your brothers in Christ," he added. 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. We See the Enablement of the Lord (Vs. 16-18).

No believer can say, "I am not able to obey God's Word and go to work," because God has made every provision for us to obey Him. He is the Lord of peace. If He is the Lord of our lives, then we will have peace in our own hearts, and we will help to encourage peace in our church fellowship.

If there is trouble in the church, it is because there is trouble in somebody's heart. If Christ is Lord, then there is peace in the heart.

Finally, Paul reminded them of God's grace (v. 18). He mentioned this because of the counterfeit letter they had received. If we depend on the grace of God, we can do His will to the glory of god.

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" (I Corinthians 14:40).

Are you a part of the peace of the church or a part of a war in the church?

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.