2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14And 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. 15Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Later in the service, we will have the immense privilege of welcoming several folks into membership by transfer, profession of faith, and baptism. These folks have taken our recent membership information class in which we explain the biblical basis for church membership and the obligations that such membership entails. One of those obligations is a willingness to submit to the discipline of the church. As sinners, we need the loving accountability of our brethren to direct us in righteousness and remind us of our obligation to serve the Lord throughout our lives. We need this particularly when we are being tempted to wander astray.
In our text today, Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of that public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper. Paul begins with an exhortation, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” In a fallen world, it is possible to grow weary. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the sinful desires of our own hearts, often make the task of doing good challenging. So Paul warns us lest we grow weary in doing so. Persevere. Be faithful.
Paul then commands us to practice a particular good – to take seriously disobedience to God within the congregation. Paul knows that if we permit blatant sin to go unchecked, then that sin will spread. As Paul says elsewhere, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Cor 5:6). So Paul writes, “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.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, we are to note – that is, mark, point out, or publicly identify – that person. Second, we are to refuse to keep company with him – that is, we are to suspend normal fellowship with that person, including sharing in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of the discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”
It is in keeping with Paul’s words here and elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor 5:4) that the elders announce the Suspension of ———— from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Almost two years ago —— separated from her husband. During that time the elders have striven to be patient, understanding that marital problems are complicated and that they are chiefly the responsibility of the husband to repair. During that time, her elders have repeatedly pleaded with her to submit to joint marital counseling with her husband. She has persistently refused to do so. She has hardened her heart in opposition to her husband and filed for a divorce from her husband, something that God hates (Mal 2:16). Because she has failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore her to her husband and to the church.
In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Your duty is to pray for and, as occasion permits, admonish —— as a professing Christian to repent of her sinful conduct, to submit to the counsel of her elders, and to strive for reconciliation with her husband. Pray that she would desire to honor the vows that she swore to her husband “for better, for worse… till death do us part.” Her husband is still willing to fulfill those vows; pray that —— would be willing to do so as well.
Such sober moments remind all of us of our susceptibility to sin and our need for God’s grace and mercy in our individual lives and in our marriages; they remind us of our need to humble our hearts regularly and to confess our sins to the Lord, submitting to the authorities in our lives lest we bring upon ourselves God’s chastisement. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so.