That ye withdraw yourselves - Have no fellowship with those who will not submit to proper discipline; who do not keep their place; ατακτως, such as are out of their rank, and act according to their own wills and caprices; and particularly such as are idle and busybodies. These he had ordered, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12, that they should study to be quiet, mind their own business, and work with their hands; but it appears that they had paid no attention to this order, and now he desires the Church to exclude such from their communion.
And not after the tradition - This evidently refers to the orders contained in the first epistle; and that first epistle was the tradition which they had received from him. It was, therefore, no unwritten word, no uncertain saying, handed about from one to another; but a part of the revelation which God had given, and which they found in the body of his epistle. These are the only traditions which the Church of God is called to regard.
Now we command you, brethren - The apostle now 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 turns to an important subject - the proper method of treating those who were idle and disorderly in the church. In the previous Epistle he had adverted to this subject, but in the mild language of exhortation. When he wrote that Epistle he was aware that there were some among them who were disposed to be idle, and he had tenderly exhorted them “to be quiet, and to mind their own business, and to work with their own hands;” 1 Thessalonians 4:11. But it seems the exhortation, and the example of Paul himself when there 1 Thessalonians 2:9, had not been effectual in inducing them to be industrious. It became, therefore, necessary to use the strong language of command, as he does here, and to require that if they would not work, the church should withdraw from them. What was the original cause of their idleness, is not known. There seems no reason, however, to doubt that it was much increased by their expectation that the Saviour would soon appear, and that the world would soon come to an end. If this was to be so, of what use would it be to labor? Why strive to accumulate property with reference to the wants of a family, or to a day of sickness, or old age? Why should a man build a house that was soon to be burnt up, or why buy a farm which he was soon to leave? The effect of the expectation of the speedy appearing of the Lord Jesus has always been to induce men to neglect their worldly affairs, and to lead idle lives. Man, naturally disposed to be idle, wants the stimulus of hope that he is laboring for the future welfare of himself, for his family, or for society, nor will he labor if he believes that the Saviour is about to appear.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - see the notes on 1 Corinthians 5:4. “That ye withdraw yourselves;” see the notes on 1 Timothy 6:5. This is the true notion of Christian discipline. It is not primarily that of cutting a man off, or denouncing him, or excommunicating him; it is that of withdrawing from him. We cease to have fellowship with him. We do not regard him any longer as a Christian brother. We separate from him. We do not seek to affect him in any other respect; we do not injure his name or standing as a man, or hold him up to reprobation; we do not follow him with denunciation or a spirit of revenge; we simply cease to recognise him as a Christian brother, when he shows that he is no longer worthy to be regarded as such. We do not deliver him over to the civil arm; we do not inflict any positive punishment on him; we leave him unmolested in all his rights as a citizen, a man, a neighbor, a husband, a father, and simply say that he is no longer one of us as a Christian. How different is this from excommunication, as it has been commonly understood! How different from the anathemas fulminated by the papacy, and the delivering of the heretic over to the civil power!
From every brother that walketh disorderly - compare the notes, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13. A “disorderly walk” denotes conduct that is in any way contrary to the rules of Christ. The proper idea of the word used here ( ἀτάκτως ataktōs), is that of soldiers who do not keep the ranks; who are regardless of order; and then who are irregular in any way. The word would include any violation of the rules of Christ on any subject. And not after the tradition which ye received of us - According to the doctrine which we delivered to you; see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:15. This shows that by the word “tradition” the apostle did not mean unwritten doctrines handed down from one to another, for he evidently alludes to what he had himself taught them, and his direction is not that that should be handed down by them, but that they should obey it.
And not after the tradition which ye received of us - According to the doctrine which we delivered to you; see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:15. This shows that by the word “tradition” the apostle did not mean unwritten doctrines handed down from one to another, for he evidently alludes to what he had himself taught them, and his direction is not that that should be handed down by them, but that they should obey it.