Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GOMER PYLE CHRISTIANS”

Second Thessalonians 3.6-15

 

Turn in your Bible to Second Thessalonians 3.6-15:

 

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.

7      For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8      Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

9      Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

10     For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11     For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12     Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

13     But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

14     And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

15     Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

 

How many of you folks remember the television comedy “Gomer Pyle: USMC”? It was a simple television situation comedy based upon a Marine who was anything but a Marine. Passed through basic training by a drill instructor who thought his dad was a Marine Corps general, Gomer continually interfered with the smooth running efficiency of his combat platoon. Gomer’s basic problem, you see, was that he was always out of formation. When standing at attention, Gomer was always out of line. When marching, Gomer was always out of step.

The situation is funny on television. In real life, however, it can be incredibly dangerous. You simply cannot afford a real Gomer Pyle in the real United States Marine Corps. But did you know that there really are Gomer Pyle professing Christians? Always out of formation and marching to the beat of their own drum. Most so-called churches have so many Gomer Pyle type-professing Christians that they don’t really seem all that exceptional.

Some Gomer Pyle Christians seem weird, and some seem to be very spiritual. However, all Gomer Pyle Christians, because they are out of formation professing Christians who insist on marching to the beat of their own drum during a time of spiritual battle, are deadly.

In Paul’s day, remember, the Roman phalanx was the most potent offensive tactic the world had ever seen. Relying, as it did, on close coordination and precise teamwork to accomplish the task of striking at the enemy, one soldier out of position in the phalanx could spell disaster for all the others.

Let’s focus in on what Paul is trying to show us. Ineffective as soldiers of the cross because of their lack of desire to function as a part of a cohesive spiritual combat unit, Gomer Pyle type professing Christians are simply unwilling to subordinate their personal priorities for the greater good.

In our text this evening, Paul uses his zoom lens. Dealing with a general problem of Gomer Pyle Christians, Paul zooms in on a specific type. Although the specific problem happens to be professing Christians who are too lazy to work, remember that the general problem is anyone who is out of formation in the congregation.

Being an out of formation church member is a sin, and a church is to obey three commands to deal with such sin.

 

First, THERE IS THE COMMAND TO WITHDRAW (3.6-9)

 

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.

7      For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8      Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

9      Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

 

I want you to notice three things about this command.

First, there is the command authority. You will remember from Matthew 28.18 that “all power” is given to our Lord Jesus Christ. Let me remind you that this “power” refers not to His infinite might, but to His absolute authority. And Paul, being the apostle of Jesus Christ, has this absolute authority of Jesus Christ backing up his command. For the genuine Christian, with such authority established, the obedience question is settled. This must be done. Though Paul powerfully wielded this authority, it was not without gentleness. “Now we command you, brethren,” he said. He is issuing an order, but he is issuing it kindly.

Second, there is the command action. Not yet knowing who or why, we understand the action we are commanded to take. Paul directs us to “withdraw” ourselves. That is, we are to shrink from, or to avoid, someone. Already some of you may be erecting defenses in your thinking. You are asking yourselves, “Is he trying to get me to shun someone?” However, you’re not going to shun anyone, are you? Not even someone who, by his or her behavior, may have shunned your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let me give three reasons, to those of you who think it is horrible to ever shun anyone for any reason, why you should break down those mental barriers to obedience:

#1, because, in First Corinthians 5.11, Paul told the Corinthians to do the same thing that is described here: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” But notice, that command was issued to someone who was guilty of outrageous sexual immorality. Therefore, the sin Paul is dealing with here must be a very serious offense, indeed.

#2, because, if you judge my motives now, you’re committing sin. You have no right to assume that your own love for someone who is doing wrong is greater than anyone else’s, simply because you are inclined to disobey God’s command toward them and someone else may not be so inclined.

#3, because, I’m not commanding you to do anything . . . God is.

Just a comment about the difference between the great evangelical community and those of us who are referred to by the media as Fundamentalists. One of the more obvious contrasts between evangelical Christians and Fundamentalists used to be the willingness of Fundamentalists to separate from who God tells us to separate from, to shun them, if you will, in accordance with Scripture. Sadly, such a distinction is increasingly blurred these days.

Third, there is the command aggravation. This shows us who from, and when, we are to withdraw ourselves. Note the concept in verse 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.

Let me define some terms and then restate the concept. The word “walketh disorderly” refers to a supposed Christian whose conduct and attitude is out of formation. This does not refer to one’s uniqueness as an individual, but to behavior that is inappropriate and detrimental to the smooth function of a church. This is that dangerous Gomer Pyle type who cares more about doing what he or she wants to do than about serving and glorifying God alongside others. The word “tradition” refers to that which has been handed down or passed along. That “tradition” which comes from men is, of course, worthless. However, in this context Paul is referring to that “tradition” which is the Word of God that he passed along from the Holy Spirit. The concept, then, is this: It is God’s will for you to shrink from or avoid people who claim to be Christians who will not order their lives by divine truth, who will not get in rank and formation to serve God, either by their actions or their attitudes. As well, keep in mind that the disorderly pretender is not helped by the Christian who accommodates sin, or by the Christian who compromises by pretending that sin is not sin. The disorderly pretender is actually helped by the obedient believer who shows by attitude and actions that loyalty to Christ means more than loyalty to a Gomer Pyle so-called Christian who will not straighten up and fly right.

Next, note the comparison in verses 7-9:

 

7      For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8      Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

9      Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

     

Here the apostle Paul is comparing his manner of life to the specific problem of disorderliness faced in Thessalonica. He commands no one to do what he is unwilling to do himself.

Look at verse 7. Christian? You ought to follow Paul’s example. Why? Because he was not disorderly. This greatest of all proponents of Christian individuality saw no conflict between the idea of unique individuality and working in unison for the cause of Christ. He exemplified decorum in the Christian life and ministry.

Look at verse 8. Paul also worked for all that he ate. Note that he was not too proud to receive gifts. Not at all. He wanted to display diligence among those impressionable young believers by working. How different Paul was from that ascetics who came along later in the Roman Church who lived in complete isolation and subsisted entirely on the gifts of others.

Finally, look at verse 9. Why did Paul behave this way when he knew that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel? He had the authority to demand that those believers support his ministry. Why, then, did he labor for his own food? To be an example. You see, he had a design.

This decorum, this diligence, and this design was absent in the lives of the Gomer Pyles in Thessalonica.

 

Second, THERE IS A COMMAND TO WITHHOLD (3.10-11)

 

10     For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11     For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

 

In addition to denying that person who walks disorderly your companionship, you are further prohibited from supplying that which his or her sin feeds off.

The directive is in verse 10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” At this point, note that Paul speaks to the specific problem in that church to which principle must apply. In addition, notice by the words “this we commanded you” that Paul is repeating a command previously issued, probably in person. And what is the command? No work, no food. Folks, this is what the Bible says. Obviously, this directive did not apply to beggars such as we find in the gospel accounts, because they were physically incapable of working to support themselves. Does this seem harsh? It’s the only way some parasites will ever go to work. You think the government knows human nature better and loves people more than God does? God knows that the secret to success against sinful habits is to deny whatever the sin feeds on. Is he lazy? Give him no leisure. Is he proud? Give him no prominence. If you give leisure to the lazy, if you give prominence to the proud, if you give friendship to the fornicator, you are directly disobeying the express wish of God, and you are a part of the problem, not the solution. God help you.

The disorder is in verse 11: “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” There are two immediate consequences of any disorder of the Gomer Pyle variety.

First, it damages testimony. For years the first church I pastored was known as the “smoking Baptist Church” because of one Gomer Pyle who didn’t realize that in God’s squad the smoking lamp is never lit. Paul said, “for we hear.” That is testimony, folks. What folks hear about us. Is testimony important to you? It ought to be.

Second, it creates temptations. For the lazy Christian, as at Thessalonica, there was the temptation to be a busybody because of all the free time you have when you don’t work. Ever notice how people who do nothing never have time to get anything done? Just mess in other people’s business, that’s all. For the bitter one, there are temptations to always be negative, to always find fault, or to judge the motives of the person you have bitterness against. No matter what the out of formation problem is specifically, if you are a Gomer Pyle “Christian” you will always have more temptations to sin than, say, a sergeant Carter will have. So, to protect yourself from the temptations that Gomer Pyle Christians are always faced with, and to help them, withhold from them what their sin feeds on; leisure for the lazy, prominence for the proud, friendship for the fornicator, food for the one who will not work.

 

THE FINAL COMMAND IS TO WORK

 

This is a multi-pronged command, directed to all parties concerned. To the obedient, whether disorderly in the past or not, there is comfort (3.12-13)

 

12     Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

13     But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

 

Instead of being a busybody, be quiet. Amazing how some Christians minister not to minister, but to snoop. Instead of being a sloth, be a worker. Instead of being a parasite, eat your own food. And you who have done right in the past. Does the ease, comfort, and success of the professing Christian in sin discourage you? Don’t give up. The Bible says that “in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.” Exhortation, comfort, encouragement, for all who will stand in formation, for all who will march to the beat of His drum, for all who will fight the good fight of faith in harmony with those God has placed you in harness with.

And to the disobedient, to the rebellious, to the spiritual Gomer Pyle who is not funny. To the disorderly professing Christian who grumbles and gripes, or moves carelessly or selfishly through life, there will be consequences. (3.14-15)

 

14     And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

15     Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

 

The disorderly will be noted first. The, word “note” comes from a verb which means to mark out or identify for yourself. This may be church discipline, but I am persuaded that what Paul is referring to here is also on a personal level, on a private level. I know, from counseling sessions, that some of our people have “noted” some folks who attend our church. They are glad they are in church, and they want them to be saved and live right, but their behavior leaves some cause for concern. Have you been so marked out by people because of your disorderly behavior? Keep in mind that marking out people is not judgmentalism. Rather, it is obedience to the Word of God.

Then, the disorderly will be isolated. Folks, don’t for a moment think that this means that Christians ought to form cliques. Cliques are based upon pride, arrogance, and selfishness, not the desire to obey God and protect yourself from sin. The motives, in this instance, are godly, pure, right, and holy. To “keep company” refers to mixing and mingling. You will not mix and mingle your life with one who is disorderly if God’s will for you life is important to you. You will have other things to do and other places to go than with the Gomer Pyle professing Christian. This will result in him or her being ashamed, hopefully, ashamed enough to begin doing right. You might say that this is the God-ordained use of peer pressure to help mold godly behavior and character.

The final consequence of disorderly behavior is admonition (3.15): “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” This word “admonish” refers to confronting someone who is in the wrong with a view toward correcting him. Here is the scenario that will unfold. Georgia begins to do wrong. Not openly, so that adults would see it, but enough so that all the kids know she is becoming a Gomer Pyle Christian, doing her own thing. If you are half as spiritual as you think you are you will pass up her invitations to go to the mall with the other kids. You will decline her invitations to come over and listen to the wrong stuff or talk about the wrong stuff. But you never treat her as an enemy. You are never unkind or discourteous. You mark it down. Soon after you begin to withdraw and withhold from her, Georgia is going to walk up and ask, “Hey! What’s the big deal? I thought we were supposed to be friends. Ya know?” It is at that time that you have been given an opportunity by God to admonish her. And mark my words, that time will always come. The question is, when it comes will you love Georgia enough and love God enough to say what needs to be said? In addition, Gomer Pyle Christian? When you are noted, isolated, and then admonished, realize that that person who has done this may very well be the only one who actually loves you the way a Christian ought to.

 

May I conclude this message by pointing out some areas of your life that are disorderly? If you are a believer who is not obedient in giving God the tithe, 10%, then you are disorderly. If you are a believer who is not consistently faithful to our services when we gather as a church, more than just Sunday mornings, you are disorderly. If you think you are growing in maturity, but you resist God’s leading to involve yourself a ministry, you are disorderly. If you will not engage the lost and seek to bring them to church to hear the gospel, and do so on a consistent basis, you are disorderly. If you are not willing to join together with your church family as we interlock arms and stand united against our common foe, but insist on standing for what we stand against and standing against what we stand for, you are disorderly. You see, the disorderly Christian is like a soldier out of uniform, trying to pass as a noncombatant in this spiritual warfare. Miss services in the evenings because you have other things to do? Absent without leave. Unwilling to give or serve or seek the salvation of the lost? That’s like a frightened or reluctant soldier who is willing to let others fight for him, but will not fight for them. Friends, the apostle Paul properly described the struggle we are in as a spiritual war. This church is properly understood to be a combat outfit. Gomer Pyles we cannot afford to have and you cannot afford to be. And Gomer Pyles you cannot afford to tolerate among the ranks. For the life and testimony Gomer Pyle causes to be lost may be the life and testimony of your husband or wife, your son or daughter.

Funny on television. Not at all funny in real life where the souls of men hang in the balance. In the real Marine Corps, the Gomer Pyle types either straighten up fast or find themselves civilians again. But in the Lord’s army things are somewhat different. In the Lord’s army, soldiers straighten up when admonished in Christian love. And what about those who don’t straighten up, what about those who stay out of step and out of formation? In all probability, they were never in the Lord’s army in the first place. How about you? Are you a pretender or are you the genuine article? Whether you respond and get back in ranks will let us know.

Folks, let me leave you with this encouraging thought about our text for today. Remember when Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Our text for today shows us how we are to keep our brothers and sisters from sins that will ruin them for effective Christian service.

Let us at Calvary Road Baptist Church be our brother’s keepers.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org