Withdraw. . .from Every Brother that Walketh Disorderly

II Thess. 3:6. ” Now we command  you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

So what exactly is this disorderliness Paul is rebuking so severely?  I surely am glad he didn’t leave it up to us to figure it out, because I’m afraid we would tend to broaden our definition much more widely than he did! 

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that the word disorderly is ataktos, derived from a very similar word meaning unarranged, insubordinate (religiously), unruly. That definition still seems to cover a lot of ground, so I did some further searching and here’s what I’ve learned: 

First, the use of every would indicate that the disorderly ones were few; most of the congregation were sound.  In order to maintain the soundness, the unruly ones must be subjected to the stern disapproval of the brethren.

Second, these people are described both positively and negatively; they walk disorderly, and don’t follow the traditions they’ve been taught.  The present tense verbs indicate a persistent practice, not just an occasional lapse. 

In I Thess. 5:14,  the disorderly are described as fainthearted and weak, needing attention. It seems they were guilty of deliberate loafing. Also, more than mere idleness is involved.  While they neglected their own work, they were busy gossiping and interfering with the work of others. Even worse, verse 12 clearly indicates that even though they didn’t work, they expected to be paid–to receive their livelihood from others.   

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 

Some believe that these people were more than just lazy loafers.  They believe that those who expected to be  supported by the church members had taken upon themselves the job of prophesying, edifying and ministering to spiritual needs which they felt were being neglected.  This may be a stretch, but I think it’s an interesting possibility. 

Not only did these folks refuse to work; they also refused to follow the tradition Paul had taught them. Tradition here is the specific teaching Paul had given concerning everyday Christian conduct (II Thess. 2:15). In plain words, they were not walking after the Holy Spirit-inspired oral and written instruction of the Apostle and his coworkers.  Seems to me that it’s a dangerous thing to ignore God’s Word and go do your own thing, and then have the audacity to call it “ministry.”  More like heresy! In it’s origin, the word heresy simply meant to cause division. A dangerous thing to do in God’s Church. 

Our conduct as believers must be governed by guidelines set forth in the Word of God.  There is no self-help book that has the power of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Self-help books can, indeed, be helpful to explain and clarify what God has already said, but we have to remember that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9) and that all of man’s intellectual discussion does not compare to the wisdom of God ( Is. 55:8-9). 

2 thoughts on “Withdraw. . .from Every Brother that Walketh Disorderly

  1. That is tough teaching. A few weeks ago someone at church asked about the word heresy and off hand, I was not sure. I sent them to the preacher! It was probably a wise thing to do. I hope that entering into that conversation may have headed me into a situation I did not want to be involved in. After all these years of church participation, all I want now is to peacefully attend church. I can’t read small enough print to sing/read music anymore. Little children tend to annoy me all too quickly. I like my group at Hickory Creek. I seek to encourage through my blog. I never have been a rabble rouser and certainly don’t want to start now. I sure can recognize one coming at me!


    1. It is a tough teaching. I always approach this type of passage with a great deal of prayer and study, and do my best to simply teach what the verse says, nothing more. And I agree, you were wise to pass on that invitation to a dangerous conversation!


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