2 Thessalonians Sermon # 6 Sermon Series “What Can Shake Thy Sure Repose?”
November 29, 2015 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 Today’s Sermon: “Nothing Works Unless You Do”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. 14If anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”
Imagine the situation in first century church at Thessalonica:
Some of the members were so convinced that Jesus was coming back any day now, that they quit working. They also stopped planting, harvesting, cooking and baking! They sat around and looked at the sky, anticipating that Jesus was going to come through the clouds at any moment!
But when Jesus didn’t return, these believers didn’t return to their work, either! They kept thinking that the Lord would show up any day now, so they didn’t bother working. Instead, they became “busybodies.” Do you know what that word means? It means a person who wastes all his or her time and energy meddling in other people’s business. It means fixating on what other people are doing and neglecting what you should be doing! And that’s what these Christians were doing: they were going to the homes and businesses of the Christians who were working and making a living, bothering and interrupting them, and then mooching off them for food to eat! And this was going on for months now. (We know that because Paul had already hinted at this problem in his first letter to this congregation; see 1 Thess. 4:11-12 “Work with your hands” and 5:14 “Warn those who are idle.”
So you can see how this internal problem might have shaken the church at Thessalonica.
They were already dealing with persecution from outside the church (chapter one) and with false teaching inside the church (chapter two). Now we learn that they were wrestling with a portion of their own membership who were misapplying the doctrine of Christ’s return, and causing headaches in the church. This is the problem that Paul is addressing in 3:6-15.
Now most of you are probably thinking, “Well, this isn’t a problem at our church. No one is just staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to come back, nor is anyone mooching off other members for food to eat. So… how does this passage apply to us, pastor?” Let me ask you: if you were leading a study on this passage, how would you seek to make it relevant to your group?
I submit that there are at least three significant truths or principles in this passage that relate to us today, at the Maple Glen Church, and to believers in our country:
One: God calls you to recognize, repent of, and overcome your busybody tendencies.
Many of you are retired or have extra time on your hands, and there’s a temptation to slip into the role of a busybody when you aren’t working full time. So let me ask you: Do you concern yourself with other people’s business, when it shouldn’t be your concern? Do you drop in on other people’s conversations, uninvited? Do you neglect your own responsibilities because you are wrapped up in the latest gossip, Facebook posts, and “prayer requests”? If so, then you are probably a busybody, and you are sinning by squandering your time and energy on things that God doesn’t want you involved with. God doesn’t want us to know everybody’s business. Think of what Jesus said to Peter in John 21:20-22, when Peter, after hearing what would happen to him, says to Jesus, “Lord, what about him (John)?” Peter wants to know if John is going to suffer like he will. Do you remember what Jesus told Peter? “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Jesus rebukes Peter for wanting to be a busybody, for needing to know if John’s future is going to be harder or easier than his own.
Is God showing you that you have some busybody tendencies? If so, then He calls you to repent of them (and deal with the root issue behind them, such as jealousy, control, wanting to know more than others [pride], etc.). May the Lord help each of us to focus on Him, and His will for us, not on His will for anyone else.
Two: God may call you to forgo your freedoms and rights, for the sake of others.
7 “You know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”
Paul and his missionary team had a right to be supported by those they labored among, in preaching and teaching the Word of God. See 1 Cor. 9:14 “The Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” But they deliberately gave up this right. Why? “In order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”
The Biblical principle is that we sometimes are called to die to/ give up our “rights” for the sake of others or for the sake of the gospel. What is “lawful” and “right” is not always the best for others.
How does that apply to you? Well, think about a Christian liberty you have; something that in Christ, you are free to do. It may have to do with eating or drinking; or it may be in the area of watching certain shows or reading certain books. Because you are under grace and not under law, you may be free to indulge. But are you willing to forgo that right, that freedom, that liberty, for the sake of other’s conscience or for the sake of not putting a stumbling block in the path of a non-Christian or a weaker brother in Christ? Example: abstaining from eating meat if you are hosting a group of vegetarians; or not serving any products made from pork, if you’re entertaining Muslims or Observant Jews.
Or how about the right to be married? Or the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Are you willing to die to self and to your rights, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of others?
As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” And then again in 1 Cor. 9:19 “Though I am free… I make myself a slave to everyone, to win (to Christ) as many as possible.”
We live in a culture where people demand their rights, but the Gospel calls us to our responsibilities.
Three: We must exercise loving discipline, to restore the sinner and rebuild the church.
Here is the main point of the passage: Paul gave the church clear instructions as to how to deal with those members who were idle and freeloading busybodies. He provided steps of loving church discipline that were meant to restore the repentant sinners and to rebuild the shaken church. Note these steps of church discipline:
1. Clear and correct teaching on the issue: [Instruction]
First there needs to be clear and accurate Biblical teaching on the matter at hand. This is what Paul has done re: the necessity of working, for those who are able to.
1 Thess. 4:11-12 “Mind your own business and work with your hands…”
2 Thess. 3:10 “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
3:12 “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”
[By the way, these biblical commands and principles have profound implications for questions of government welfare programs (if you are able-bodied), for the issue of a free-market economy vs. a socialistic economy, and even for how parents deal with their children’s requests for material things: Do you just give them goodies, or do you make them work for them?]
2. If they refuse to obey these instructions, then you must chastise them [Discipline]
(Do so with varying degrees of severity, but always in love, and always with the goal of winning them back, as they repent of their sin.) Let me remind you: church members are not to be disciplined for committing sin; they are to be disciplined for refusing to repent of their sins.
In this case, the discipline was to rebuke them verbally, and then to have church members distance themselves, socially, from these unrepentant brothers, in order to make them feel the weight of their refusal to repent, for if they truly are believers in Christ, they would miss the fellowship of the saints and the corporate times of worship and the Lord’s Supper.
3:6 “we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” 3:14 “If anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”
Paul believes that the Holy Spirit can use a display of “loving ostracism” or of “sanctified shunning” to lead the sinners to repentance and restoration.
For more on this subject, see Jay Adams’s book, “Handbook of Church Discipline.” (1986)
Therefore, in cases where a church member commits a significant sin and refuses to repent when “care-fronted” about it, the church leaders and eventually the entire church must give clear Biblical teaching on the issue; call the person to repentance in Christ, and if they refuse to turn from their sin, the church must exercise a loving discipline upon that person, aimed at restoring the sinner to fellowship and at rebuilding the unity of the church.
Over the past 25 years, we as a church have had to exercise such steps of discipline five times. These cases were done as lovingly, patiently, and wisely as possible, and yet they were hard on everyone, as you can imagine. But in a least two of those cases, the person who was excommunicated came back to us, sometimes many years later. They told us that they had repented, that they wanted to follow Jesus as Lord, and now they were glad that the church had disciplined them, because the Lord used it in their lives. Brothers and sisters, that was the power of God the Holy Spirit, convicting of sin! That was the pointed effectiveness of the Sword of the Lord, piercing the heart! And that was a reminder to obey God’s Word, especially when it’s hard to do so, for only the Lord knows the end from the beginning, and only He can preserve those He has called to Himself in Christ.
Therefore I call you (1) to repent of being a busybody, and instead focus on what God is calling you to do. I urge you (2) to die to your rights and freedoms, for the sake of others and for the gospel. And I exhort you to (3) follow God’s commands, in every circumstance, in every church problem, and trust that His ways are better and more glorious than anything we would think of.