Thursday, 26 October 2017
And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 2 Thessalonians 3:14
In these words, Paul is working for unity within the body, not division. But by calling for division from sluggards, it is a call for those who need to be withdrawn from to wake up from their slumber, get their act in order, and become productive, compliant members of the church. It must be remembered that the entire discourse here is based on the fact that some in the church had been swayed by a false word concerning the end times (verses 2:1, 2). From that departure, they had become unproductive members of the body, lollygagging around, and interrupting a normal environment of right worship and proper daily life.
Understanding this, he begins the verse with, “And if any man.” This is the call for division in hopes of obtaining unity. The reason this is so, is that the person is already divided from the body in a general sense. He is not in accord with the rest, and so there is no point in allowing him to continue to be in fellowship with the church. The reason why he isn’t in accord with the rest is because he, as Paul says, “does not obey our word in this epistle.”
“This epistle” is based on apostolic authority, derived from Christ Jesus. Therefore, such a person is being disobedient to the word of God. This continues on today because the epistle has found a permanent place in the word of God. Therefore, the command applies just as much today as it did when it was received by the church at Thessalonica. And the instruction given is to “note that person and do not keep company with him.”
The word translated as “note” means “to set a mark upon.” The individual is to be highlighted as if branded so that we are constantly reminded of his errant ways. Until he is compliant, the note is to remain. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, he’s not holding to the word, but in this case he has an interesting insight I think you should hear.” Instead, he is to be noted, and to be completely ignored.
As seen above, the main thrust of the letter concerns adhering to the word of God concerning end times. It is a call to not speculate on what belongs to the Lord alone (see Acts 1:7 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1). As this is disobedience to the words of Jesus, and the words of Paul (who is Jesus’ representative), we are to not keep company with date setters. We are not to watch their videos on YouTube, and we are not to attend their conferences, if applicable. Instead, we are to remain productive members of the church, not idle speculators wasting precious time which should be directed towards attaining spiritual maturity.
Paul’s words, however, are certainly all-encompassing. Anyone who is not obedient to the words of his epistles – regardless of the infraction – is to be kept away from. Though the words here are centered on end-times date-setters, they must also pertain to all flagrant ignoring of church-age doctrine. He then finishes up with an explanation of why he commands this with, “that he may be ashamed.” In the coming verse, he will further define this, but for now, the intent is one of correction.
Rapture date setters shouldn’t be applauded for their diligence in trying to determine when the rapture will be. They should be shunned for being an embarrassment on the body. Such is true with any infraction. A brother who is sexually immoral is to be expelled from the body because he is bringing disgrace upon the name of Christ, and his actions are harmful to those who may think it is otherwise OK to act in this way. Such things should not be. The place to find out what is and what is not acceptable is the word of God. When it is not adhered to, action must be taken to restore order and to maintain holiness.
Life application: Some people seem to be beyond shame. They make stuff up out of their own heads, and they misuse Scripture willingly in order to appear super-religious. Whether they will acknowledge their infractions or not, we are given our orders – keep ourselves away from such people. Don’t get caught up in that which is misdirected. Instead, grow in sound theology, and hold fast to the word of God!
Most wonderful God, how precious it is to be in Your presence. How good it is to know that You are here for Your people, and that You hear their prayers because of the offering of Christ Jesus. Now, help us to be obedient to Your word, to hold fast to sound doctrine, and to apply it to our daily lives. When we stand before You, it will all have been worthwhile if we pursue You now. May it be so in our lives. Amen.