Summary: When the church fails to practice biblical discipline it loses its influence for the cause of Christ and ruins its members. A difficult work requiring committed leadership and obedient membership, see how Paul commands it and instructs it for the Thessal
No Discipline = No Love
On the flight home from Honduras there was a sitcom about discipline. The title of the sitcom was “Yes Dear.” It involved two couples with young children. The son of one couple lied to the mother and they were discussing how to discipline him. They first tried to reason with the five year old. That failed. Then the father tried a fear tactic. He said he would make his son sorry if he did it again. The son lied again. This time they discussed spanking. One mother said it was immoral and psychologically damaging. The other mother said that she was spanked as a child and didn’t think it hurt her too much. They tried a spanking. The dad did it and he acted like he felt horrible about it. But he didn’t want to raise a liar so he told his son that every time he lied he would get another spanking. Afterward the son came to him and the dad apologized for it and promised him to go ride go-carts that afternoon. The son lied again. This time neither the mom nor the dad would spank him. But when the son came in to go ride go-carts the dad said, “I’m not taking you to ride go-carts.” The son said, “But you promised!” And the dad said, “I lied. Now how does that feel?” The son was sent to the room to think about it. Then both the mom and dad decided that since spanking didn’t work they would never spank again, but would use a more appropriate punishment.
I was both amused and disgusted. Where are people getting their directions for raising children today? Wouldn’t it be nice if children were all born with an instruction manual? God’s word provides just such a manual for raising children in his Word. One of the best books in the Bible for child rearing is the book of Proverbs. But this is not a lesson on disciplining unruly children, this lesson is about disciplining unruly Christians. Another important question is raised: Where are churches getting their directions for raising faithful Christians today? We see in this final chapter of 2 Thessalonians some specific instructions about discipline for certain behaviors of Christians who are not walking according to the way God would have us walk. While spanking is not mentioned, discipline is.
In 1 Thess. 2:7-8, 10-12 we see the clear parental relationship that Paul, Silas and Timothy have with the church here. As a mother caring for her little children or a father deals with his own children we dealt with you! It is clear that this includes both encouragement and discipline. But now that "mom and dad" are not there, (in Paul and company), they must learn to practice discipline procedures among themselves.
Interestingly enough Paul writes this letter from Corinth. At the time of writing this letter to the Thessalonians, he is working hard to spread the gospel there in Corinth and is meeting with resistance. Later he writes letters to the Corinthians and his letters are filled with disciplinary procedures. Finally, in the close of his second letter to them he says he is coming to take care of things himself. Like a Father who tells his kids on the phone, "Just wait till I get home." Listen to his words that are just like a father toward unruly children. 2 Cor. 10:1-6; 12:14-15; 13:1-4. These are words of righteous indignation toward unruly children of God!
The early church had problems from without. But they also had problems from within. It is one thing to deal with an unruly person who is not a Christian, it is quite another thing to handle an unruly member of the church. Lets look at what God’s word tells us about this in 2 Thess 3.
Verses 1-5 set it up for us nicely.
2 Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;
2 and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.
5 And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
This word “command” in verse 4 is important. This refers to the Christian’s charge for how to live in Christ. Paul, Silas and Timothy have not just left them an example. They have not just told them about the love of God in Christ and the saving work of Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. They have not just led them to become Christians. They have given them the commands of God for Christian living: The commands of Christian love and how to show it to one another and share it with the lost until Jesus comes. Anyone disobeying these commands threatens the community of Christ and endangers the mission of the church.