The Latter Epistles -2 Timothy 3

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with such people.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth.  They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.  But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.  Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  • 2 Timothy 3:1-17

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

On ‘terrible times’: “’Perilous’ [or the Gr. word] is used to describe the savage nature of two demon-possessed men (Matt. 8:28).  The word for ‘times’ had to do with epochs, rather than clock or calendar time.  Such savage, dangerous eras or epochs will increase in frequency and severity as the return of Christ approaches (2 Tim. 3:13).  The church age is fraught with these dangerous movements accumulating strength as the end nears.  Cf. Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 12, 24; 2 Pet. 1:1, 2.”
On ‘form of godliness, denying power’: “’Form’ refers to outward shape or appearance.  Like the unbelieving scribes and Pharisees, false teachers and their followers are concerned with mere external appearances (cf. Matt. 23:25; Titus 1:16)  Their outward form of Christianity and virtue makes them all the more dangerous.”
On ‘those from whom you learned it‘: “See 2 Tim. 1:13.  To further encourage Timothy to stand firm, Paul reminds him of his godly heritage.  The plural form of the pronoun ‘whom’ suggests Timothy was indebted not just to Paul, but to others as well (1:5)…  Two people whom Timothy was especially indebted to were his mother and grandmother (see 1:5), who faithfully taught him the truths of OT Scripture from his earliest childhood, so that he was ready to receive the gospel when Paul preached it.”
On ‘wise for salvation’:  “The OT Scriptures pointed to Christ (John 5:37-39) and revealed the need for faith in God’s promises (Gen. 15:6; cf. Rom. 4:1-3).  Thus, they were able to lead people to acknowledge their sin and need for justification in Christ (Gal. 3:24).  Salvation is brought by the Holy Spirit using the Word.  See Rom. 10:14-17; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:23-25..”
On ‘All Scripture is God breathed’: “Grammatically similar Gr. constructions (Rom. 7:12; 2 Cor. 10:10; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2:3; 4:4) argue persuasively that the translation ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration …’ is accurate.  Both OT and NT Scripture are included (see 2 Pet. 3:15, 16, which identify NT writings as Scripture).  Lit. ‘breathed out by God,’ or ‘God-breathed.’  Sometimes God told the Bible writers the exact words to say (e.g., J. 1:9), but more often He used their minds, vocabularies, and experiences to produce His own perfect infallible, inerrant Word (see 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).  It is important to note that inspiration applies only to the original autographs of Scripture, not the Bible writers; there are no inspired Scripture writers, only inspired Scripture.  So identified is God with His Word that when Scripture speaks, God speaks (cf. Rom. 9:17; Gal. 3:8).  Scripture is called ‘the oracle of God’ (Rom. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:11), and cannot be altered (John 10:35; Matt. 5:17, 18; Luke 16:17; Rev. 22:18, 19).”

  • John MacArthur, One Faithful Life

2 Timothy 3:5 ‘Spiritual versus form’: “True religion is a spiritual thing, but it necessarily embodies itself in a form.  Christian people fall into a certain outward method of procedure, a peculiar outward mode of uttering their faith, which becomes to true godliness what the body is to the soul.  If you get both the form, as modeled in the Word of God, and the power, as bestowed by the Spirit of God, you do well and are living Christians.  If you get the power alone, without the ordained form, you somewhat maim yourself.  But if you get the form without the power, then you dwell in spiritual death.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Timothy 3:12: “The desire for social approbation is one of the less odious self-sins.  It has about it nothing of the offensive quality of, say, self-love or self-righteousness.  Under certain circumstances it might even be a virtue, for it the world were populated with men and women of pure hearts and holy lives it would be right and natural to want to live in such a manner as to earn their approval.
”Undoubtedly those holy beings that inhabit the world above take pleasure in the love and respect of their fellow creatures, but there is and can be no moral parallel between heaven and earth.  We dwell in a world halfway between heaven and hell. In hell there is only evil; in heaven there is only good; on earth the tares and wheat grow together, with the tares vastly outnumbering the wheat.  There was at least one period in the history of the world when the righteous could be numbered on the fingers of both hands, not counting the thumbs, and the language of Christ gives strong reason to believe that the proportion of good and evil will not be much different at the end of the age (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30.
“So corrupt is human nature, so ungodly and rebellious the race of mankind, that the true friend of God is not likely to be accepted by the world, thought it sometimes happens that he will be praised for doing something of benefit to society, such, for instance, as the opening up of the interior of Africa by David Livingstone.  But the more Christlike men become the surer they are to fell the force of our Lord’s words: ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you’ (John 15:19); and the words of Paul: ‘Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12).”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect

2 Timothy 3:14: “It may easily be that before long one or another of our cities may go up in a puff of smoke and leave no one to tell how it happened.  It may be that our own land may be invaded and made to suffer along with the other nations of the earth.  We have been spared hitherto, but we have no guarantee for the future.  God may yet chasten us with fire and blood for our presumptuous sins and for our high-handed flouting of His holy laws.  No one can say for certain, but it could be.
“But suppose it should be?  Does that spell the defeat of all our hopes?  Is our sense of security dependent upon the turn of events in Washington or Moscow?  Is God the God of our better days and not the God of our sorrows too?  Is there not a sure hope beyond the smoke and the rubble and the grave?  Is there no difference between Egypt and the children of Israel?  Is there not blood on a few doorposts here and there?
”We must face today as children of tomorrow.  We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come.  To the pure in heart nothing really bad can happen.  He may die, but what is death to a Christian?  Not death but sin should be our great fear.  Without doubt the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Sooner or later that will come.  But what of it?  Do not we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness?
“Surely this is not the time for pale faces and trembling knees among the sons of the new creation.  The darker the night the brighter faith shines and the sooner comes the morning.  Look up and lift up your heads; our redemption draw near.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men

2 Timothy 3:15 ‘Scriptures in troubled times’: “How remarkably the times repeat themselves!  As I said just now, in the reading of the chapter, the warning Paul gave concerning his own times is as needful for this present age.  Again darkness thickens, and the mists hang heavily around our footsteps.  Evil men and seducers grow worse and worse, and many have turned away their ears from the truth to listen to fables.  Nor do we wonder that it is so.  History must repeat itself so long as we have the same human nature to deal with, the same sins to ensnare mankind, the same truth to be trifled with, and the same devil to stir men up to the same mischief.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

My Thoughts

When you start reading this chapter, it sure seems like the “terrible times” are right here, right now.  People will be lovers of themselves?  Check!  Lovers of money?  Check!  Boastful, proud, abusive?  Check!  Disobedient to their parents?  Check, or is it that the parents have given up?  Ungrateful?  Check!  Unholy?  Check, but unholy seems to sum up all the rest, yet Paul put it in the middle.  Without love?  I recently had someone comment on my post about how this person hated me and all my kind, because “this person’s” Jesus was “love.”  Rev. David Robertson says that to find out what hate speech is, go to an anti-hate rally.  The same could be said about racism speech, go to an anti-racism march.  A wise man once said, “You cannot hate the hate that haters hate without hating.”  I could not find it on the internet, worded this way, so, I claim it all to myself…  Oops, back to “proud” above.

But let’s tap the brakes on that end of times thing here.  Charles Spurgeon thought his time, roughly 140 years ago qualified.  I am sure that a couple of decades earlier than Spurgeon and across the pond in the United States when brother was at war with brother that a certain divided nation in North America thought that the end times were near.

The point is that ever since the writers of the New Testament wrote their Gospels, histories, prophecies and letters, people have thought that they lived in the end times.  As far as not obeying your parents is concerned, I always tried to obey my parents, morbidly afraid not too, even when what they said things that contradicted what they had said the day before.  I still seemed to miss the mark.  As for my boys, I think they never intended to ever do anything that I said, until I got angry.  Some of our judging of end times stems from how the situation affects us.  Maybe MacArthur should have the last word here when he says that the “terrible times” will become more intense and more frequent.  While wildfires have become more intense and frequent consistently, hurricanes still depend on the el niño / la niña cycle.  Many are more intense, but the frequency varies.  It’s just that this year seems to be a doozy.

But the last of these end time indicators from the Apostle Paul starts his next paragraph, those people who have the knowledge, or simply having the “form,” without the power.  I think it was David Robertson who said that the most dangerous state to be in was to be perfectly convinced of Jesus from an intellectual state but not know Jesus personally, spiritually.  Your brain keeps telling your soul to not worry about it and move on as long as you have the “form of religion.”  And as Spurgeon says above, without equivocation, form without power is spiritual death.

You may quibble over the Apostle Paul’s use of “gullible women” in this chapter, but I think he had some specific women in Timothy’s church in mind.  There are sure a lot of gullible men out there.  We need not be gender specific on this one.  There are a multitude of evil desires, lusts – not just sexual, and temptations that seem to be “good ideas at the time.”  We feel comfortable with the slight diversion, even at church, and it becomes the norm.  Now the black-white line becomes a bit blurry and the next generation veers further into the other side until everything seems gray and there is no absolute good or bad (oh, except Hitler – but then he liked dogs) and there is no truth other than what we feel inside us.  To get back to the original topic, that is why each generation seems closer to the end times.  We move further away from God and God’s perfection, most of the time without even noticing.  We have been doing so for 2,000 years.

And if you are wondering, MacArthur supposes that Jannes and Jambres were sorcerers in Egypt that faced off against Moses and Aaron, just not mentioned by name in the Old Testament Scriptures, yet Paul learned their names through other sources that existed at the time.

But Rev. Tozer warns us that the wheat and tares will grow up amongst each other.  We will always have people around us who, without thinking that they are Satan’s tool to tempt the Christian, will entice us to do wrong things, things that might not be what God wishes for us.

But how do we combat the temptations, gullibility’s of life, and those who unknowingly cause us to go astray?  We remember Scripture and if we do not know Scripture, we dig into it.  Timothy had been taught the Old Testament Scripture since he was born.  When he, along with his mother and grandmother, heard the preaching of Paul, it seemed to be an instantaneous realization that Jesus is the One for whom they longed.  They learned of the Messiah in the Old Testament and Jesus fulfills that prophecy.

It is absurd how people claim to be a New Testament Christian and that they do not even believe in the God of the Old Testament.  Could it be that they have never read it?  It was God’s plan from Genesis 3 until the present age to illustrate that He is holy, without sin, we are not, and that He would and did provide a Savior, His own Son.  That Savior, Jesus, came to earth and died to pay the sin penalty for those who would believe.  Then again, Satan convinces us to not believe that the Old Testament God is the New Testament God, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.  And then those people who listen to Satan are among the gullible who walk the halls of the church and vote at congregational meetings.  No wonder the church becomes corrupted by false doctrine.

And is not false doctrine the theme throughout 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy?  While the Apostle Paul mentions other things, those side topics all tend to fold back into the center, to guard against false doctrine.

I have written before about churches that ignore any effort to establish creeds, tenets, confessions, and other such documents based on careful study of Scripture.  They prefer to only have the Bible as their guide.  But often those churches sway from one thought to another based on circumstances or the next pastor who preaches from the pulpit.

I have read the Bible uncounted times.  I could say ‘countless,’ but only because I never counted, probably 15-16 times from cover to cover before I graduated high school.  I still read Scripture, and I will read a passage and a new thought comes forward.  Why?  Because my situation is different, my circumstances are not the same, my experiences have increased, I have heard others preach, or read what others write, on similar passages, and maybe most importantly, the Holy Spirit knows that I am prepared for that deeper understanding.  Then three years from now, I will have a different reaction to the same verse.  Some claim that this is why the Bible is called the “living” Word of God, because God speaks to us what we need for that day.

Now, back to the churches that insist on the Bible alone, you now see why some of these churches become tumbleweeds, blowing hither and yon based on the latest revelation from each Bible verse read from the pulpit.  But, even with the rolling waves of varying Biblical interpretation, God can use the people of that church.  It might well be that the interpretation given for that verse was what God needed in that community to affect great change and Glory to God in the community.

The key is whether you were taught Scripture from birth or you first saw the Bible as an adult when you accepted Jesus, the Bible is the means to know God’s will, the means to hear God’s voice, and instruction to avoid false doctrine, the ideas of gullible people, and the temptations that Satan throws our way.

Young and old, first-time readers and returning readers that keep returning as if they are a yo-yo…  We all need to study the Bible.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. Has an external show of religion taken priority over your heart’s condition?
“2. How do you reconcile 2:25-26 with 3:5 in dealing with those who oppose you?  How will you do so?
“1. What barriers to faithful living do you encounter?  How does Paul’s example and charge encourage you in those situations?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Again, the Serendipity Bible does not break the discussion at the end of the chapter with two questions numbered “1”.  Next week, we’ll start with a question “2”.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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