2 Timothy 3 - Expect Grievous Times

INTRODUCTION: In the previous chapter, Paul gave Timothy advice for ways to keep a congregation focused on the truth of scripture, while dealing with questions that could cause confusion and dissent. The goal was to handle those questions in a way that might reconcile wayward people to the Word. In this chapter Paul began to describe some of the severe difficulties that will challenge the man of God who desires to live a holy life and spread the Word of God. It is important to understand that there will be some people who have no desire to follow the Lord, and in fact will actively oppose those who have faith in Christ.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible.


A - PERILOUS AND GRAVE CONDITIONS

2 Timothy 3 "1 But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, c, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power. Turn away from these, also. 6 For some of these are people who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

COMMENTS: Paul warned Timothy to expect perilous, terrible, grave conditions that are contrary to the gospel to be present around him. Paul made very similar comments in Romans chapter 1, verses 21 through 32, and that letter was written a number of years before Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. Based on Paul's letter, we should not be surprised that there are people who are lovers of self and money. Material gain is uppermost in their minds. They will be boastful and arrogant, unafraid to speak of God in an irreverent manner, disobedient to parents, and unthankful. Their unholy ways will include unnatural affection of men for men and women for women. They will be unwilling to forgive, slanderous in speech, without self-control, and even violent to others. They will not love good conduct, and will readily betray trust. They will be willful and obstinate in the belief their opinions are superior to those around them. They will love pleasure rather than choosing to love God. Some will hold a form of godliness, but it will not be from the Lord. Paul advised Timothy (and us) to especially turn away from the latter, because of the behavior they display. Some who have a form of godliness will captivate gullible women who are already in sin and subject to their own lusts. Those with only a form of godliness are always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, their learning has no true value for them, or for others they want to impress and influence.


B - DIRECT OPPOSITION TO THE GOSPEL WILL BE DEFEATED BY TRUTH

2 Timothy 3 "8 Even as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so do these also oppose the truth; men corrupted in mind, who concerning the faith, are rejected. 9 But they will proceed no further. For their folly will be evident to all men, as theirs also came to be."

COMMENTS: the names of these two men appear only here in all of scripture, and those names are of Egyptian origin. Extra-Biblical Jewish literature identifies these men as the sorcerers who served Pharaoh, and that seems to be the reference Paul is using. Some excerpts below illustrate scripture passages that would have been familiar to Timothy, and to others who had exposure to Jewish tradition and teaching. Exodus 7 "8 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 9 "When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, 'Perform a miracle!' then you shall tell Aaron, 'Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent.'" 10 Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments. 12 For they each cast down their rods, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. 13 Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he didn't listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken." the Egyptian sorcerers were able to simulate miracles from God, but only up to a point. Exodus 8 "16 Yahweh said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.'" 17 They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were lice on man, and on animal; all the dust of the earth became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried with their enchantments to produce lice, but they couldn't. There were lice on man, and on animal. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God": and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he didn't listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken."

The LORD told Moses how additional miracles would glorify God even as he hardened Pharaoh's heart. Exodus 10 "1 Yahweh said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I may show these my signs in their midst, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your son's son, what things I have done to Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that you may know that I am Yahweh." Whenever the Holy Spirit leads people away from false teaching, the LORD is glorified. There is a time coming when that will happen universally and with finality! Jesus said those who call him Lord but do not do the will of the Father as demonstrated by their characteristic actions will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 7 "15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. 18 A good tree can't produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. 21 Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' 23 Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'"


C - TIMOTHY OBSERVED PAUL'S TEACHING AND HIS CHARACTER

2 Timothy 3 "10 But you did follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, 11 persecutions, and sufferings: those things that happened to me at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. I endured those persecutions. Out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

COMMENTS: Paul reminded Timothy of the many things he had witnessed of Paul as they traveled together to various cities. Paul gave praise to the Lord that he was delivered out of all of those violent difficulties brought about by the opponents of his message of Christ. Paul said this was not unique for him, for many forms of persecution should be expected for any who BOLDLY carry the message of Christ TO OTHERS. There will be malicious and angry men, and impostors who only become worse through time as they deceive others and are themselves deceived as they completely believe their own lies.


D - REMAIN ASSURED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

2 Timothy 3 "14 But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. 15 From infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. 16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

COMMENTS: Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in the course he has been following through knowledge of scripture, as he has been growing in his faith since his early childhood. Those scriptures made him able to be wise and to place his faith in Christ Jesus for his salvation. Paul declared that all scripture is God-breathed or inspired, and that places it far above all other forms of literature. It can provide positive results for teaching, for exposing error, for rectifying error, and for instruction about living in a manner that pleases God. The application of scripture to the life of each Christian will help them to be "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" for the Lord.

Paul had explained in his first letter to the Corinthians the special quality of scripture, and that it is only to be understood by those who have the Holy Spirit within themselves through faith in Christ. 1 Corinthians 2 "7 But we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this world has known. For had they known it, they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, "Things which an eye didn't see, and an ear didn't hear, which didn't enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him." 10 But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God's Spirit. 12 But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. 14 Now the natural man doesn't receive the things of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can't know them, because they are spiritually discerned." For Timothy, and for all who want to live for Christ, the holy scriptures are the resource for instruction from the Lord, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for correct understanding and application.


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Help me Lord to remember that the conditions described by Paul will continue to be in the heart of man to be in opposition to the gospel. Even if I do not personally observe all of these conditions, I want to conduct myself in a manner that is distinctive from those attributes so I will be used in service to your kingdom. When you brought a people for your name out from their slavery in Egypt, your glory greatly overwhelmed the sorcery depended upon by the ruler of that land. Paul used that demonstration of the superiority of your truth over all other gods that men worship, to be an assurance that you have power over all counterfeit religion at any point in time. I want to remember the record of Paul's service through your Spirit in him, to profit from it in the same manner as he had encouraged for Timothy. Your Holy Word has been transforming my mind to help me resist the old nature that can have such a strong influence even on a Christian. I believe the scriptures are inspired by your Spirit and are the source to expose error, to correct error, and to provide reliable instruction about living in a manner that bears the fruit of good works to bring all glory to you, the true and living God. Amen.

Published 27 November 2013