This post includes Father Callan’s brief summary of 3:6-15 followed by his notes. I’ve included his notes on verses 6 and 13-15. Notes in red, if any, are my additions.
CORRECTION FOR DISORDERLY MEMBERS, AND EXHORTATION
TO THE LOYAL
A Summary of 2 Thess 3:6-15. Idleness at Thessalonica on the part of many who were looking for the early arrival of the Parousia had become worse since the reception of 1 Thess. These disturbers are now more sternly rebuked by the Apostles, with an appeal to their own example, who worked for their own living while preaching the Gospel (ver. 6-12). After rebuking the disorderly and troublesome, the Apostles address the good members, encouraging them to perseverance in works of faith and asking them to avoid the disobedient (ver. 13-15).
6. And we charge you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they received of us.
We charge you, brethren, etc. Speaking in the name and with the authority of our Lord, the Apostles now command the Thessalonians to avoid all those whose moral conduct (ver. 11) is not according to the written and oral teaching which the Thessalonian Church has received. They therefore issue a species of excommunication against those idle and disturbing members of the Church, who, on pretext of the imminence of the Parousia, have given up their regular pursuits and are living on the charity of their neighbors. These directions, however, are to be executed in charity and for the spiritual benefit of the offenders (ver. 14-15).
The tradition, etc. See above, on 2:14. Here is what Father Callan wrote on that passage:
Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.
Therefore, brethren, etc., i.e., since you are called to so great a destiny.
Stand fast in the faith and practice of your religion.
And hold the traditions, i.e., the instructions, the dogmatic and moral teachings, which we have given you, “whether by word” of mouth, “or by our epistle,” i.e., 1 Thess. In these last words we have a plain case against the teachings of Protestantism, that Scripture is the only source of divine revelation, to the exclusion of what has been passed down by word of mouth or tradition. On this passage St. Chrysostom says: “From this it is clear that the Apostles did not give everything through Epistles, but many things also not in writings; and these also worthy of faith. Wherefore, we also regard the tradition of the Church as worthy of faith. It is tradition, seek nothing further.“
They received. This is the older reading; but some authorities prefer another good reading, “you received.” There is little support for “he received,” as in the Authorized Version. For a more real excommunication, see 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20.
7. For yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, for we were not disorderly among you;
In verses 7-9 the Apostles appeal to their own conduct and example while at Thessalonica as a model which the faithful should imitate.
Disorderly means idle, living on other people, as explained in the following verse.
8. Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing, but in labor and in toil we worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you:
Eat any man’s bread is a Hebraism meaning “to partake of food,” “to feast,” “to live on.” In order not to be any burden to the faithful the Apostle and his comrades worked day and night to make their own living. Cf. 1 Cor 9:15 ff.; 2 Cor 11:7 ff.; 1 Thess 2:9 ff.
9. Not as if we had not power, but that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you to imitate us.
It was not that the Apostles had not the right to demand temporal support for their spiritual services, but that they might give the faithful an example of self-denial in things legitimate for the sake of the Gospel.
10. For also when we were with you this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.
These things St. Paul and his companions had inculcated, not only by example, but also by their express teachings while at Thessalonica.
That, if any man will not work, etc. This was probably a proverbial expression, based on the rule of Gen 3:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, etc.” It is to be noted that the Apostle says “will not work,” and not “can not work”; for the sick and disabled have a right to charity and care by others. Mere idleness for the sake of pleasure is here condemned authoritatively.
11. For we hear there arc some among you, who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling.
12. Now we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they would cat their own bread.
We hear, etc. The tense is present in Greek, as it should also be in the Vulgate, which shows that the Apostle had recent news from Thessalonica regarding those disturbing persons who, instead of working and attending to their own affairs, were going about interfering with the affairs of others. In solemn words he admonishes them to be quiet and to earn their own living.
13. But you, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.
The Apostle now turns his attention to the faithful members of the Church at Thessalonica, and exhorts them to continue “in well-doing,” which most probably means simply perseverance in virtuous living (so Voste and moderns generally), though the older commentators, Knabenbauer and others think the Apostle is here referring to doing works of charity, giving alms, and the like.
14. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed:
15. Yet do not esteem him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
In these verses, while enjoining social and religious ostracism for the contumacious Christians, St. Paul makes it clear that his purpose is for the good of the guilty persons, that they may be led to see the error of their ways and won to better behavior. Therefore, verse 6 is to be explained in the light of these verses.