Last time, we got to look at the attitude and motivation of the “man of God,” that unashamed workman that the Lord employs to shepherd His flock on this side of eternity. It was his job, in a phrase, to accurately handle the word of truth. That means that workman must study the Bible, but he must also be prepared to dig for the truth, and to avoid quarrels that can not only waste time, but make a wreck of a person’s faith if care is not taken.
I remarked at the end of that study that the commentary of Paul did not end there, and now we get to see a little of the future that is in store for us as Christians. I wish to tell you that things are going to become easier and easier for us, because what we lack is practice, and with practice, we will get better. I wish to say that – but I can’t. According to Paul, some rough times are coming for Christians. If you think it’s bad now, just wait until later. We’ll pick this up with verse 1.
1: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
- It is a short phrase, but it says a mouthful – and not a pleasant one. And before you get all dispensational on me about how that is still in the future, listen for a moment. In his first epistle, the Apostle John tells us in 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” John said this inside the first century AD. If that doesn’t tell you that these last 2000 years or so has been the last hour, I don’t know what will, so maybe you should just go back to sleep. This is all happening NOW. And what does it say is happening?
- Difficult times will come. The Greek word chalepos means difficult to deal with, or fierce. It is used in Matthew 8 to describe the demoniac in the Gadarenes. A synonym is “grievous.” These things are going to require of a believer that they have a faith that is real, and they only way I know of to get that is to repent of your sins and believe God raised Christ from the dead, and then cooperate and participate in our own sanctification because of these trials that God will bring upon us. See verse 12 – ALL who would live godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution. We’ll say more about that when we get there.
- If you were here this past Sunday, you would have heard my sermon on this subject, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows,” which talked in more detail about this whole idea. But if we will allow God to do His work in our lives (cooperate) and obey Him in everything (participate), God will give us ourselves as a reward. The sermon video is on BereanNation.com, by the way. Difficult times are coming.
2: For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
- Here Paul begins a list of characteristics that will identify the kind of individual that will bring the difficult times upon believers. The best term I could come up with for this is “reprobate.” The idea of reprobation is seen in Romans 1:28, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…” The word “depraved” in this verse is the Greek word adokimos, and means “one who does not stand the test.” This concept occurs later in this chapter again in verse 8 where it talks about the state of those who opposed Moses, where it calls them “rejected,” the same Greek word. Let’s try to unpack this list of characteristics a bit.
- Lovers of Self. Greek philautos, meaning those that have a warm affection for themselves. You may recognize the root phileos there; that’s right, this is an emotional thing! You know how people are always telling you you need to “love yourself?” That’s what this means. And listen carefully, what I’m about to say is kind of controversial to most people. Scripture NEVER tells us to love ourselves. And I can hear the reaction…but what about that New Commandment, Gerry? Well, if you’re a careful reader, Jesus is quoting an Old Testament verse, Leviticus 19:18, which says, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” It is ACTUALLY telling us to love our neighbour. The way it is phrased, it understands that we ALREADY love ourselves, and that’s usually the problem. AND the word for love Jesus used is different – agape, not phileos. It is a commitment, not an emotional connection. Here, these people have strong emotional connections to themselves.
- Lovers of Money. Philarguros, literally lovers of silver. KJV here says “coveteous,” but this is a more specific application than just greedy. This is the emotion behind the greed. This is why I was kind of shunned as a salesman – I wasn’t motivated by money, and that meant bonuses and commissions really didn’t get me going. My supervisors always marveled at that, but I was still consistently one of their best sales people because I was working for Christ, not them.
- Boastful. Alazon. Literally a vagabond, one who wanders around the country, thus an imposter. So not only boaster, but a FALSE boaster.
- Arrogant. Hyperphanos. Showing oneself as better than others. On fact, they kind of get a little extra pleasure if they can put YOU down while doing it.
- Revilers. Blasphemos. Abusive, speaker of evil. Blasphemer. You’ve met this kind of individual – never a nice thing to say about anyone.
- Disobedient to parents. Apeithes. Unwilling to be persuaded, spurning belief, disobedient. Specifically toward their parents. And if you have teens, you know what this means on occasion! [hahahaha]
- Ungrateful. Acharistos. Ungrateful, thankless; without grace. I kind of see this as an attitude of entitlement. “Why should I thank you? I deserve this!”
- Unholy. Anosios. This is the Greek hosios (holy) with the negative prefix a in front of it. It is sometimes translated as profane, the opposite of holy.
3: unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
- Unloving. Astorgos. Without affection for kindred. Without natural affection. This is a specific reference to the kind of love that should exist between children and parents.
- Irreconcilable. Aspondos. Literally without libation. Over time, this became known as “without a truce,” because the libation accompanied the making of treaties and agreements. Thus, one who cannot be persuaded to enter into a covenant; implacable.
- Malicious gossips. Diabolos. Slanderous, or false accuser. Literally the main bad guy of the Bible!
- Without Self Control. Akrates. Without self-control is more literal, but it is aimed more at unrestrained.
- Brutal. Anemeros. Not tame, savage. One commentator describes those who forget God as their creator as resembling lions, that is, wild, savage, and fierce.
- Haters of Good. Aphiligathos. Without love of good.
4: treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
- Treacherous. Prodotes. A betrayer or traitor. I’m thinking that loyalty isn’t one of their strong suits.
- Reckless. Propetes. Literally “to fall forward,” and is used metaphorically to signify rash or precipitous action. Another translation is “headstrong” for this verse, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testatment Words.
- Conceited. Tuphoo. Literally, to wrap in smoke. Metaphorically, “puffed up” or “lifted up with pride” or “highminded” are all good translations here.
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. This means what it says. I used to sing this song myself. It goes something like this – “We’re here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, because the sun can’t shine every day.” It places one’s own personal pleasure, whatever it is – and it could be a lot of things – before the love of God the creator and redeemer. Lord please never let me get to that kind of place, even if it means you have to end me before I’m done.
- What does this mean? Isn’t this the way the world already is by default? Maybe – but Paul now says something I find both fascinating and chilling. Remember, John says this is the last hour. These kinds of people will characterize the last days. And those are the days we live in. What does Paul say?
5: holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
- It says that such people hold a “form of godliness.” The Greek phrase is morphosin eusebias, and it literally means a form, or embodiment if you like, of piety – religion if you must, that which is pleasing to God, or the truth as it is consistent with godliness – and yet…
- …have denied its power. Again, the Greek phrase is dunamin hautes heerneenoi, “power its they have denied.” Dunamis is the miraculous power of God. Arneomai means, “to say, ‘not…'” or to contradict, reject, disown, deny. So the phrase they might use would sound something like – “Wow…that must be God’s miraculaous power working in us…NOT…”
- Beloved, we all know folks that talk like this. Paul tells us how to deal with them in this verse. AVOID THEM. Literally, turn away from them. Find someplace else to be and different conversations to have. Find new and better friends, beloved.
- It is my opinion that these individuals are IN THE CHURCH with us today. Jesus in His parables called them goats and tares. We are to recognize them when we can, and you usually know them by their fruits. Preach the Gospel to them. But don’t do what they do. And if they invite you, find someplace else to be and something else to do. It is NOT our job to root them out of the church. In the parable of the tares in Matthew 13, the landowner said to let them grow until the harvest, and then the reapers of the harvest will sort it all out. I know it’s a parable, but it is meant to guide our actions, is it not?
6: For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,
- Paul here begins to talk about certain individuals who are hiding among those tares or goats who are active in trying to gather followers of a very specific sort. It describes both the target and the tactics that these individuals will use. The target? “Weak women, weighed down with sins.” The word for “weak women” is gynaikarion, or silly women. This is NOT calling women silly as feminist haters accuse Paul. This is talking about women who do not use the brain God gave them to make good decisions, It says that these women are “weighed down.” In this verse, Vine says that this could be translated as “overwhelmed.” That might be why she isn’t making good decisions by the way, so this might be a tactic – overwhelm them with things to consider. But what are they overwhelmed with? “With sins.” And those sins are led on by different lusts, literally.
- Here we see a picture of how the enemy can try to overwhelm us. He gives us (with the permission and approval of God the Father I might add) so many things to deal with along with appeals that touch things we want that are either forbidden or tempting us to sin. But it is specifically women. Why? Gen. 3. Who did the serpent in the garden target? Woman. It’s an old story. But apparently it works – and Genesis 3’s narrative also tells us that where the women go, men will follow. Huh. What do you know, John Taffer from Bar Rescue uses that to fill bars. He appeals to the women and the men follow. I’m not saying that he is one of these fellows, that isn’t my point. My point is that even the world sees this. That’s why these servants of the enemy target women for this reason. And it has an implication to those who are unregenerate.
7: always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- When these ladies buy what these servants of the serpent have to sell them, they find more and more information about more and more stuff – but it never leads them to the truth. I’ve seen this at work. “Oh, did you see this show? Did you hear this piece of information? That shows this, as opposed to this other thing…” It gets very monotonous at some point for me to point this out to people, but that’s the job. Don’t buy what these guys are selling. It seems like a horrible state to be in. Compare Romans 1:18-32 [read passage] That’s God’s judgement on all those that will not love Him alone in first place – v.25 – THE Lie! And that’s what these goats/tares in the church are doing. I’m not sure they can actually help it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father the devil. So are these people. And Paul even gives examples!
8: Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.
- I need to say a word about Jannes and Jambres. These two men are not named in the OT, but are understood to be two of the Egyptian court magicians that resisted Moses, duplicating at least some of the miracles Moses performed. They are only ever given names in Scripture here in 2 Tim 3:8 by Paul. Paul may have been directly told their names by God, but I think it more likely that Paul, who was also a scholar and would have been familiar with what HE would have called ancient literature, would have read the names in some of those works of antiquity today, which still remain with us and actually identify these men as having opposed Moses in this way.
- These men are just like them. They oppose the truth. How did Jannes and Jambres do that? If you read the account of what Pharaoh had them do, they duplicated some of the things that God did with Moses’ staff into the snake trick for example. And we read that they were successful in doing so. So these men may oppose you by counterfeiting your works for you! They steal your ministry and turn it into something God does not intend, for example. Or they mock you, as they did Moses. They not only tell you that THEY can do that too, but that they can do it better – and because WE are not of the world, guess who the world will listen to? If you guessed THEM, you’re right.
- It says that these were “men of depraved mind” just like Romans 1 says. The word for “depraved” means those who are corrupted in mind and are reprobate as concerns the faith. How much more of this do we have to read before you see that these individuals are goats/tares in our gatherings? Lord, Increase our faith to deal with such individuals as You described in the previous chapter.
9: But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.
- Paul is assuring Timothy that such individuals will only be allowed to go as far as God will allow, and that ultimately they will be exposed for who and what they are through no doing of ours, just as were these two men. God really IS sovereign. Nothing happens to YOU that HE does not approve in advance. Remember that, and if you need a refresher, look at the first chapter of Job. God has the authority to restrict Satan’s activity to what He desires, or to change its effect entirely. He also has the power to enforce it. Think about that – how did Satan know Job had a defensive hedge around him that was being held there by God? Well it can only be because Satan tried to harm Job prior to that event.
10: Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
- Okay, enough about the bad guys for a moment. By way of contrast, Paul is telling Timothy how he himself should conduct himself by Paul’s own example. And like before, the list continues on for more than one verse. Let’s have a more detailed look at what the Lord wants in OUR lives, not just Paul’s or Timothy’s.
- My Teaching. Didskalia. Instruction. Paul first preached the gospel to people to show them their need for the atonement of Christ to deal with their sin, and once they became followers of Christ, he instructed them how to live.
- Conduct. Agoge. Literally, “a teaching,” is used figuratively for a training or discipline, and so a way of life.
- Purpose. Prothesis. “a setting forth; a purpose.”
- Faith. Pistis. A firm persuasion or opinion held. It has a secondary meaning as well, and that is “an assurance or guarantee.” Paul had his faith in Christ Jesus. He is remarking here that Timothy had not only seen it, but actually followed Paul’s example.
- Patience. Makrothumia. Forbearance, patience, longsuffering. Vines says here that “longsuffering” fits the usage best.
- Love. Agape. That divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing commitment as opposed to the emotional feelings of all the other words used for “love” in Greek. I remind you that Paul is reminding Timothy of this.
- Perseverance. Hupomone. Sounds like that Italian guy from MASH that had a thing for Major Houlihan. But that was Desdemone, and it was his last name. (His first name was Ignacio.) But it means patience, or literally, “remaining under” the circumstances. It is also translated as endurance or patient enduring. And that is what we need to live like Christ Jesus.
11: persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
- Now Paul talks about persecution. We know what this is at least in some measure. We here in the West have not suffered persecution like the rest of the world. I think of that pastor in China, Wang Yi. If you don’t know the story, in December of 2018, Wang Yi and several elders from his gathering were arrested by the Chinese government. It is felt that pastor Wang courageously stood up and told the truth about modern Caesar worship in Communist China. It seems that Chinese President Xi Jinping is being treated like a god, according to Pastor Wang, and that ideology is inconsistent with Christianity. In response, they arrested him and ransacked his home, arresting him and confining him as a subversive without public charges.
- I am not Pastor Wang, but if the Xi Jinping is at the head of a godless system, and they are causing people to essentially worship him by some action of dedication, then he stands with Polycarp of Smyrna who was martyred during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (we think, it is disputed). They burned him at the stake, and when the fire would not touch him, they ran him through with a sword.
- We have not typically suffered like that here in North America, but I sense it ramping up to that, especially here in Canada. Our current sitting Prime Minister has said as much. If you are a Christian, you don’t need to apply for government jobs. That’s persecution.
- Paul also talks about sufferings. Not all suffering is the result of persecution. If you fall down and break your arm, you will suffer. If you have to skip a meal, sometimes you suffer. If the ship you are on is sunk by a storm and you live through it, you will suffer.
- What is more, Paul goes into detail. He names Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra specifically. You can read about those adventures of Paul in the book of Acts. But there is something of note here. Lystra is Timothy’s hometown. Tradition has it that Timothy was standing in the crowd with his mother and grandmother when Paul preached the gospel. It is said that Timothy as a youth of maybe 16 or 17 became a Christian at that time. But that was also the time when they stoned Paul and left him for dead. Maybe Timothy was standing by and saw the cut and bruised Paul rise from the ground, and walk away. Paul is reminding Timothy that it was God who ultimately delivered him out of those persecutions and sufferings. And then he says something that dumbfounds me.
12: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
- If you are to be a real Christian, you WILL be persecuted. I’ve felt some of this personally. I used to live just around the corner from the high priest of a church of Satan. We knew what each other looked like at least, and I would sometimes see him across the street “talking to himself.” When I learned who the fellow actually was, I understood what he was doing. He was literally hexing me, the brothers I lived with, the building, and whatever else he could because I was known in university as a bit of an evangelist. He was simply trying to get his god to stop me. I would be lying if I told you nothing happened. Weird stuff surrounded me for more than a year after that. But so you know how it ended, I knew his address too. I went and sat at a chess table in the park across the street from his door, and I started to pray for his salvation. I don’t know how that worked out, but the nasty stuff stopped right around that time. Wouldn’t it be an absolute trip if he walked up to me in the kingdom and introduced himself as a brother in Christ? I guess we’ll find out!
13: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
- Now given what Paul was saying earlier about what kind of person will be around in these last days, does this really surprise you? It surprises me not at all. If you want the literal meaning of the Greek words, for evil men and imposters, it is “bad men and swindlers.” Swindlers can fool you about their identity. Bad men can be almost anything.
- What is important about both is that they will start out bad and get worse from there. Why? Well, they are deceiving (swindling) and being deceived (swindled). And make no mistake about this, they are swindling people right out of their opportunity to be saved. And they seem to get more outrageous the more time passes. I could go on, but I will only annoy myself.
14: You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
- So that’s the bad guys. Timothy, that is not you. Christian, that is not you! YOU have a very different work if you really are one of His people. It can be summed up in one word.
- CONTINUE. To keep on, to carry on with, to go on with, to proceed with, to pursue. That is our job. There is a slightly different alternate that is noteworthy also: to resume, to take up again, to return to, to begin again. If you are hearing this and realizing that you haven’t been living up to this, then I suggest that you fit that second definition.
- What are we to continue? The things we have learned and become convinced of. As Christians, we have things that convince us of what is right and true. We must continue in those things. Apart from the Gospel, I think of Acts 2:42 – “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (worship), and to prayer.” Become convinced of those things and continue in those things. Why?
- Because you know who taught you. Who is that? Well, I can teach you, just as did Timothy and Paul, and you pastor can teach you. Other believers can teach you. You can read and obey, so you can teach yourself, though I would be careful with that. But who really teaches us? John 16:13 – “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The Holy Spirit teaches us, and that is the third person of the trinity, God Himself. Jesus teaches us that way, and through His parables, which He spoke to people. And He was sent by the Father, so the Father teaches us. You know what? God teaches us. We know Him. Timothy certainly did.
15: and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
- Speaking to Timothy here, but also to us, Paul tells us that as believers, we have “sacred writings” that can give us wisdom and lead us to salvation in Christ. We have access to the very Word of God. And that is one special book.
16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
- These “sacred writings” comprise the Scriptures. Paul tells us here that they are inspired by God even though they had human authors. It is amazing to think that we hold these sacred writings, the very word of God in our hands. And they are profitable. Not only are they worth something, they help generate that worth in a continual pattern. What are they profitable for?
- Teaching. Didaskalia. Instruction.
- Reproof. Elegmos. An expression of blame or disapproval.
- Correction. Epanarthosis. A restoration to an upright state, here in the sense of improvement to life and character.
- Training is what is right. The picture here is teaching little children what to do.
- We have considered a great deal about those who are against the Lord in this chapter, and their character and actions. Paul has already said that we have a different way to take. Here it is. THESE are the things that we should concern ourselves with. In doing so, God delivers us from people or circumstances that will hinder His formation in us.
17: so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
- See? So the man of God may be adequate. Fitted or complete if you like. Where does our adequacy come from? It sure doesn’t come from us. It can only come from Christ, and the mechanism He has chosen to complete us is His holy word. It makes us ready for any task He calls us to. It equips us, or makes us ready. And then we can go do His will, which we have learned in those holy writings, His word to us.
That’s the chapter!