“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thes 3:6).
Of all the commands given to the church, perhaps the one most ignored or refused by restorationists is that of withdrawing from disorderly members, commonly called “practicing church discipline.”
Congregations that practice church discipline are few, and those who withdraw from unruly members consistently are rare as hen’s teeth. But why is this case? Today’s text contains one of several clear statements commanding the local church to separate from itself those who refuse to live in harmony with the doctrine and example of Christ (e.g., Rom 16:17-18; 1 Cor 5)
To “walk disorderly” is to live “out of step” with New Testament teaching. Think of a company of soldiers or a band marching together down the street. Each one is to put the same foot forward in unison with all the others.
In this account, it appears as though some had given up working in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus. In so doing, they had become a burden on the rest of the brethren to provide for their basic needs (vv 7-12).
Paul repeated his admonition of separation in verse 14, “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.”
However, in so doing, Paul also regulated the attitude of those who were to withdraw themselves from the one being withdrawn from, “Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
The primary goal of withdrawing from disorderly members is to keep the church pure (1 Cor 5:6-8). The ultimate goal is the restoration of the erring brother in Christ (1 Cor 5:5).
A lack of discipline creates disrespect for authority, indifference to sin, and a loss of a sense of decency and propriety. The pursuit of holiness (Heb 12:14) necessitates discipline and accountability to God and one another.