II Thessalonians 3:6-15 “Do not grow weary in doing good.”
Paul just finished stating that he was confident that his readers would follow their commands, and now he commands them, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received” from Paul and his co-workers (v. 6). This tradition was the apostolic message. To walk “disorderly” was to walk contrary to the apostolic witness. It wasn’t a message that those in question were not aware of, for it was the one which they had supposedly received. In commanding his readers to not be disorderly, he was also reminding them to follow the example of Paul and his colleagues. They had not only preached the word, but they had given them a living example as well, even though the apostolic word carried its own authority (vv. 7, 9).
A case in point was the fact that, even though Paul and his colleagues earned the right to be paid for their labours, they nevertheless toiled night and day not to be a burden to any of them (v. 8). This seems to have been the crux of the problem-there were those who refused to work. Perhaps they mistakenly believed in the heresy of immanence, that the Lord would come at any moment, instead of the unexpected nature of His coming, which is what Paul had taught. In any case, Paul is quite clear, “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (v. 10). Note that he does not say “if anyone can not work,” but rather, “if anyone will not work.” The church must be a help to those who cannot work, in doing so she also should not waste her precious resources on those who can work but refuse to do so.
This is also what Paul meant by “disorderly,” their idleness also giving these people the opportunity to be “busybodies” in other people’s affairs (v. 11). However, for the rest of the brethren, Paul wants to encourage them not to “grow weary in doing good” (v. 13). It seems apparent that since Paul tells them to “withdraw from every brother” who so walks, that he still seems to regard them as brethren who need to repent. In fact he says as much. “Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (v. 12 Cf. v. 6). These busybodies are brethren who need to repent, but until they do the body were to break off fellowship with them, so that they may be ashamed (v. 14). Yet, they were not to yet regard such as enemies, but to “admonish him as a brother” (v. 15).
So we can see church discipline at work here. An enemy would be one who after being disciplined refused to repent. For Paul, he still held out hope that these were simply disobedient brethren. This is a good continuing lesson for the church, that we ought not to rush to excommunicate anyone who simply needs to repent and thus change their ways. Paul’s first impulse was one of peace, but a peace on biblical terms. Our peace ultimately rests in “the Lord of peace Himself” (v. 16). Paul gives us an indication at the end of this letter that even though the main body may have been written by another, this concluding salutation comes from himself alone. This was in fact a kind of signature, so to speak, that this was an authentic Pauline letter. Finally, he prays for the blessing of the grace of Christ to all, since the gospel is all of grace (v. 18).