Studies │Separating from Evil │ Separations in Fellowship

Doctrinal Failures

Some people within a local assembly will lead an unruly life, not according to the traditions of the apostles. In such case, the local assembly must take decisive action towards that unruly person.

2 Thessalonians 3:6, Page 1853

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the the tradition which you received from us.”

In the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, page 1853, we see that some of the believers there were apparently not working, but still eating by mooching off of the working believers. 1In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, page 1853, Paul explained that the Thessalonians should stand firm and hold to the “traditions” (“παραδόσεις“) they were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Paul included all of his word-of-mouth teachings and his written teachings. Therefore, if anyone departed from the teachings of Paul, then they were subject to the “keep away” command directed in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, page 1853 command. Paul commanded those moochers to “work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” (2 Thessalonians 3:12, page 1853). If they refused to work, but were able to work, the local assembly must “keep away” from those slothful believers. 2The Greek term for “keep away” (“στέλλεσθαι”) means to stay away from, to hold oneself aloof from another person or thing. In this context, notice the forceful command in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please observe that the unruly behavior of some Thessalonians caused them to be removed from the fellowship. The basis for removing them was that the unruly did not follow the “tradition” delivered to the Thessalonians by Paul. 3The Greek term for “tradition” (“παράδοσιν”), literally a handing over or passing down, means here that these unruly people ignored the example of Paul and the missionary team, but instead refused to work for their own food, and had no disability preventing them from working. Paul used the term “unruly” (“ἀτάκτως“) which means lazy and idle. Paul’s remedy for the “unruly” is to confront (“νουθετεῖτε“) them in love and patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14, page 1850). Because Paul prescribed the remedy in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, the problem must have been growing worse as people expected the return of Christ, or had grown worried that Christ had returned, but they missed the day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, page 1852). The point here is that Paul considered it a doctrinal failure for some believers at Thessalonica to be unruly (lazy), and not just a moral failure. Fidelity to the doctrines taught by the apostles formed the basis of fellowship in the New Testament. 4Compare 1 John 1:1-3, page 1904; there, we learn that fellowship with God and other believers depends upon believers following the testimony of the apostles who had personal contact with Jesus Christ, and declared the words and teachings of Jesus to believers. The proper remedy for doctrinal failures requires the bond-servant of God to avoid quarrels, but rather with gentleness correct opponents, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, page 1863).

In Romans 16:17, page 1781, Paul concluded his epistle with greetings to many individuals. He also provided a clear warning about people who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching from the apostles.

Romans 16:17, Page 781

“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

Paul urged the Romans to keep their eyes on certain people. We must do likewise today. We must first spot the people who cause dissensions 5The Greek term for “dissensions” (“διχοστασίας”) means to stand apart, and in this instance conveys the thought of separating into factions. This same root word occurs as part of the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, page 1825. and hindrances. 6The Greek term for “hindrances” (“σκάνδαλα”) was used to describe the bait stick in a trap, or symbolically as a snare. In this context, the hindrances amount to stumbling blocks and offenses, that hinder the practice of the Word of God in the lives of believers at Rome. Instead, they are caused to stumble. Paul also explained that those people were slaves of their own appetites and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceived the hearts of the unsuspecting. Today, we see so many believers split into factions and hindered by false teaching contrary to sound doctrine delivered by the apostles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. But, as Paul promised, the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under the feet of the believers (Romans 16:20, page 1781). Paul again urged believers to remove other people from the fellowship who departed from the teachings of the apostles, especially those who hindered and ensnared unsuspecting believers.

Conclusion

The Scripture teaches that we must “remove” certain so-called Christians from the local assembly and further refuse to associate with them, not even to eat with them. As a general rule, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33, page 1802). 7The Greek root term for “corrupts” (“Φθείρουσιν”) describes the destruction of both things and men in the New Testament. It graphically describes the destruction of unbelieving men (Jude 1:10, page 1912– destruction results from dreaming, defiling the flesh, rejecting authority, and reviling angelic majesties) and things (1 Corinthians 3:17, page 1785–the destruction of the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit; Ephesians 4:22, page 1831–the destruction of the old self, which is being corrupted by the lusts of deceit). The local assembly should never move to exclude people as a first choice. The proper order of events would be to confront the person acting against Scripture, and see if you can win your brother (assuming they are truly saved)  by your gentle confrontation (2 Timothy 2:26, page 1863), while seeking to restore them (Galatians 6:1-5, page 1826); if they are unbelievers, then they need to receive eternal life by faith alone in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, page 1800). Second, if they refuse to repent, and depart from their corrupting actions, then they need to be placed under discipline according to the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-18, page 1533. For all those people who complain that such actions are not loving, they should carefully consider 2 John 1:6, page 1910: “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” Notice the next verse. 2 John 1:7, page 1910: “For many deceives have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” We see that real love means you walk according to the commandments of Christ, and also that you oppose the teaching of deceivers. Remember the admonition of 2 John 1:10-11, page 1910:”If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” While these verses apply primarily to unbelievers teaching false doctrines about Jesus Christ, very similar principles apply to all people (believers or not) who cause dissensions, spread false doctrines, and disturb the church by creating factions. In love, spiritual believers must respond to them. 8Consider the work of elders who must protect the flock of believers from: (1) savage wolves coming into the local assembly to attack believers; and (2) people already inside the local assembly speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. But, as we saw above, not only the elders have such duties to the local assembly, but also each individual believer must admonish the unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14, page 1850) and refuse to eat with the unrepentant (1 Corinthians 5:11, page 1787.) We must always seek and pray for repentance and restoration. Real believers will miss the fellowship of other believers, and the lack of fellowship and the other believers standing away from them will promote repentance in their hearts. 

References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, page 1853, Paul explained that the Thessalonians should stand firm and hold to the “traditions” (“παραδόσεις“) they were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Paul included all of his word-of-mouth teachings and his written teachings. Therefore, if anyone departed from the teachings of Paul, then they were subject to the “keep away” command directed in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, page 1853 command.
2. The Greek term for “keep away” (“στέλλεσθαι”) means to stay away from, to hold oneself aloof from another person or thing. In this context, notice the forceful command in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. The Greek term for “tradition” (“παράδοσιν”), literally a handing over or passing down, means here that these unruly people ignored the example of Paul and the missionary team, but instead refused to work for their own food, and had no disability preventing them from working. Paul used the term “unruly” (“ἀτάκτως“) which means lazy and idle. Paul’s remedy for the “unruly” is to confront (“νουθετεῖτε“) them in love and patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14, page 1850). Because Paul prescribed the remedy in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, the problem must have been growing worse as people expected the return of Christ, or had grown worried that Christ had returned, but they missed the day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, page 1852).
4. Compare 1 John 1:1-3, page 1904; there, we learn that fellowship with God and other believers depends upon believers following the testimony of the apostles who had personal contact with Jesus Christ, and declared the words and teachings of Jesus to believers.
5. The Greek term for “dissensions” (“διχοστασίας”) means to stand apart, and in this instance conveys the thought of separating into factions. This same root word occurs as part of the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, page 1825.
6. The Greek term for “hindrances” (“σκάνδαλα”) was used to describe the bait stick in a trap, or symbolically as a snare. In this context, the hindrances amount to stumbling blocks and offenses, that hinder the practice of the Word of God in the lives of believers at Rome. Instead, they are caused to stumble.
7. The Greek root term for “corrupts” (“Φθείρουσιν”) describes the destruction of both things and men in the New Testament. It graphically describes the destruction of unbelieving men (Jude 1:10, page 1912– destruction results from dreaming, defiling the flesh, rejecting authority, and reviling angelic majesties) and things (1 Corinthians 3:17, page 1785–the destruction of the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit; Ephesians 4:22, page 1831–the destruction of the old self, which is being corrupted by the lusts of deceit).
8. Consider the work of elders who must protect the flock of believers from: (1) savage wolves coming into the local assembly to attack believers; and (2) people already inside the local assembly speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. But, as we saw above, not only the elders have such duties to the local assembly, but also each individual believer must admonish the unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14, page 1850) and refuse to eat with the unrepentant (1 Corinthians 5:11, page 1787.) We must always seek and pray for repentance and restoration.