Here’s a quick review of last week’s main points:
- The word of God goes forth through teaching, and will not be bound.
- Truth dynamically impacts the Christian’s life by calling him to pursue righteousness.
- Zealously study the truth and handle it with grace, avoiding foolish arguments.
Today we’ll be studying 2 Timothy 3. Take a moment right now to read it before you continue.
Here are the main points I observed in today’s chapter.
1. Perilous times and ungodly individuals
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” So begins Paul’s warning to Timothy in this third chapter. He’s not only talking about the future, but also the present. In verses 2 through 5, Paul describes the kind of people who will infiltrate the church. Here’s a rundown.
- Lovers of their own selves (selfish)
- Disobedient to parents
- Without natural affection (not caring about others)
- Trucebreakers (breaking promises and not honoring agreements)
- False accusers (slanderers)
- Incontinent (without self control)
- Fierce (lovers of violence)
- Despisers of those that are good
- Heady (headstrong and rash)
- Highminded (arrogant)
- Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God
- Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof
Yikes. What a list. Let’s take a step back and look at these for a minute. Some of the characteristics on this list are a little surprising. Disobedient to parents? Unthankful? We don’t usually think of these are grievous sins. And yet, here they are listed among traitors and despisers of those that are good. And take a look at that last one–“having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” That means going through the motions of religion without allowing the truth to change your heart. Following that last characteristic, Paul instructs, “from such turn away.”
These aren’t people from the world Paul is talking about. He’s referring to people in the church, people who call themselves believers. People who know all the right answers and put on a good Christian smile, but don’t allow the truth to change their lives.
“From such turn away.” In a way, these people are more dangerous than those outside the church’s circle. Why? Because they look like believers. They seem trustworthy and admirable. And they lure true believers away from the truth (see verse 6).
I want to point out one more chilling characteristic, described in verse 7. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Throughout the book of 2 Timothy (and, indeed, many of Paul’s letters), the phrase “knowledge of the truth” refers to the believing and accepting the truth of salvation. What Paul is saying here is there are people who are constantly learning about the world, and yet never come to recognize the truth of His salvation. It seems to perfectly describe the plight of scholars, scientists, and students who are always learning, but do not accept God’s truth.
As he closes out this section, Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres, the names given to two Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses. Paul compares false teachers to the magicians, and says they are “reprobate concerning the faith” (v.8). However, he offers a word of consolation: “…Their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs [Jannes and Jambres’] also was” (v.9).
Upon examining your own heart, do you see any of the characteristics listed here? Are you careful not to be lead away by anyone and everyone who claims to be a follower of God? Who do you know that always seems to be learning, yet not arriving at a knowledge of the most important truth of all?
2. Continue in what you have learned
After that sober description of people to beware of, Paul begins to paint a dynamic contrast. “But thou”–he begins verse 10. He reminds Timothy of how he has “fully known” Paul’s doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity (love), and patience. All things that should be an example to Timothy. But then he takes a bit of a turn, and mentions how Timothy also fully knows the persecutions and afflictions Paul has suffered. Continuing a theme from chapter 1, Paul states that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (v.12). However, he reminds Timothy that the Lord delivered him out of them all.
In verses 13 and 14, Paul portrays one more contrast: evil men will grow worse and worse; deceiving and being deceived (v.13). But Timothy he urges to continue in what he has learned and has been what? Has been assured of. This assurance is the same used back in chapter 1 verse 12, where Paul declares “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able…”
Paul is reiterating to Timothy that these aren’t just things someone has taught him, and he believes because “why not.” The gospel is something he is assured of, something he has examined the evidence for and knows to be true.
There are always going to be people who say they’re Christians but don’t act like it. The world is going to grow worse and worse. But you. But us. We will continue in what we have learned, what we know to be true. We will continue to be faithful. And that’s what matters.
Are you prepared to suffer persecution? Are you continuing in what you have learned and been assured of?
3. God’s inspired word equips us
Paul reminds Timothy that he has known the scriptures from the time he was a child, and that these scriptures are able to make a person “wise unto salvation” through faith in Christ Jesus (v.15). There’s that “knowledge of the truth,” again. Clearly, we receive the knowledge of the truth we need through the scripture.
Paul continues to defend the scriptures, saying that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. This is a very good place to point someone who claims that only parts of the Bible are true. Not only does Paul affirm the truth of the scriptures here, he also explains the purpose of them. Scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” and for what purpose?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Those words “thoroughly furnished” come from the Greek word for accomplished, completed. Obviously, we are not going to become perfect in the sense of without sin here on earth, but God’s word has the power to grow us and complete us–to prepare us and equip us for life in this world.
Are you studying the scriptures God has given you? Are you not just reading the words, but letting their power work in your life? Are you using the Bible like the tool it is?
- We’re living in dangerous times, and ungodly individuals infiltrate the church. How’s your character looking? What kind of protections do you have in place so that you aren’t carried away by something that “sounds good”?
- After detailing the characteristics of those who are false believers, Paul encourages Timothy to continue in the way he has been walking, remembering what he has learned and been assured of. How can you encourage others to keep following God, even when persecution strikes?
- Paul clearly states that all of the scriptures are God’s inspired word, and explains how it can be used. Do you treasure God’s word? How has God’s word equipped you to take action?
Share your answers to these questions and what you learn from 2 Timothy 3 in the comments below! See you next week as we wrap up this study!