2 TIMOTHY – SERIES : NR 5
Theme: Be steadfast with the eye on the future
Scripture : 2 Timothy 3: 1 – 9
READ VERSE 1 AGAIN
Here in chapter 3, Paul now turns his focus to the future! And he describes firstly (led by the Holy Spirit) a period of general moral degeneration.
It seems as if there is a connection with chapter 2, where he referred to the heresy of the false preachers. There is a connection between the effect and fruit of false doctrine and corruption in society. Yes, that is right. There is a connection between what happens in the pulpit, and the society outside. And it works through the spiritual realm and not the physical realm.
Keep in mind that false doctrine is ALWAYS gentle and tolerant concerning sin and the holiness of God. It is exactly the same today.
The apostle emphasises it for Timothy: “But MARK this”, he says. There will be terrible times in the “last days”.
In other words: Timothy was already in the “last days”.
How should we understand that? How can “last days” (or end-time) indicate the future AND the present and even as far back as 2000 years ago? In principle, the last days started with the first coming to the earth of the Lord Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Look for example at passages like Luke 4:21 and Acts 2:16-17.
And the end-time reaches its climax and culminates at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The “last days” therefore already lasted 2000years.
But, as the end approaches, godlessness will increase. Especially for the Lord’s true and faithful church, there is no Utopia waiting, but rather oppression. These things shall escalate. The Greek word that translates with TERRIBLE (terrible times) actually means PAINFUL/GRIEVOUS.
But once again: It was in Timothy’s context already the case. But the apostle wanted to prevent Timothy to become disturbed when he observes the grievous things in Ephesus but to know that he must be steadfast in the ministry of the Gospel message. The same is true for us today. In the words of Proverbs 4:25-27: “ Let your eyes look straight ahead, do not swerve to the right or the left”.
READ VERSES 2-3 AGAIN
Now the Apostle gives a list of unrighteousness which is characteristic in the last days – NOT the wickedness of the heathens as listed in Romans 1: 29-32 – but THAT of the false-believers (verse 5). Church members who – knowingly or unknowingly – are still unsaved. And here are listed 19 sins.
The entire list comes down to only one essential sin: the breaking of God’s perfect will – as set out in the 10 Commandments. That is the total of it all.
As people become hardened and the deception of the false religion increases and the second coming approach, the working of sin escalates in all forms. But, the ESSENCE is always the same: love for self – the own ego in OPPOSITION to the will and truth of God. That is the root of sin. MAN in the centre and the living God that in some way or another plays second fiddle.
And in ADDITION to that, says the Apostle: lovers of money. Self-love and money-love – love for possessions.
When love is focused in the wrong direction, it consequently always leads to moral corruption and decay of values. As can be seen from this list.
The list starts with wrongly focussed love of self and money and ends with wrongly focussed love for enjoyment and pleasure. In other words, the list is about sin AGAINST true Divine love.
Where the SELF rules, boasting, pride and slander is present. Almost automatic. Suddenly, respect for other people plays a minor role. If one’s focus on the living God is crooked, your focus on other people is also wrong. Inevitably. The two walk together.
No wonder therefore that healthy family life is destroyed by sin. Because deference is lacking. The gratitude and Spirit-filled religion are absent.
There is a world of difference between religion and Spirit-filled Christ-centred religion.
Verse 3 have very tragic content because it says how wrongly focussed love destroys relationships and creates discord and struggles.
If one listens to this description and you visualise in your mind’s eye Jesus on the cross – absolutely shredded after 39 lashes with a cat-o’-nine-tails – you can understand how only HIS sacrificial death can deliver you from the power and hold of sin. The good news is: His sacrifice is STRONGER than sin!
READ VERSES 4-5 AGAIN
In these verses, Paul continues to draw a picture of the unrighteousness which is indicative of the end time.
Treachery can only be committed among friends or family – someone close to you and known to you. These self-centred people – described in the previous verses – are prepared to stab their friends in the back. It is reckless – in other words – and they are not troubled by the treachery. It is conceit and self-righteousness that is behind it. Terrible to think that one can approach the Communion table while that kind of skeleton is accommodated in your heart. These people were confessing Christians, but they knew very little about the new life in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were still consumed by bitterness and unforgiveness. That is what incites treachery. But THAT is what people are capable of, people who have not been touched by the Holy Spirit.
And when one is without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, sin does not matter much. All that is important is pleasure and entertainment. It is an idol because it steals the place belonging to the living God, says the Apostle.
Where the Spirit does not truly control your life, the pleasure-god enters. Sport and entertainment and whatever gratification. But not the love for the Lord, which is priority number 1.
Verse 5 proves that the Apostle is all along still talking about people who are part of the church. How inconceivable it may sound, it is true. They had the outward appearance of godliness, but do not know the power of the truth and God.
What a tragic verse – verse 5.
Have nothing to do with them, says the Apostle. In other words – spiritual discernment is necessary. They must not be allowed to gain access to positions of spiritual influence.
Here Paul is putting his finger on probably one of the greatest problems in the church – even today. Church members who have full right to the sacraments, full right to the offices, full right to the pulpit, full right to everything – but who are not born-again. The outward appearance is there, but the inward Holy Spirit-power is absent. Religious people who are not born-again – preachers also – can do immeasurable harm to the church and bring dishonour to the Lord’s Name.
And yet it is not an unusual phenomenon: The Lord foretold that it would happen, while we pray for the salvation of those people.
READ VERSES 6-7 AGAIN
The THEY the Apostle is talking about here, are the church members who are not BORN-AGAIN whom he referred to in the previous verses – but in the wider context of the previous chapters, it includes the false preachers. These people are living WITHOUT the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and are a danger to the church.
In the culture of the day, it was customary that women stayed at home while their husbands were at work. The women, therefore, received visits from the false believers and false preachers who wanted to indoctrinate them and influence them towards the false doctrine.
The Greek talks about “little women” – a belittling diminution – which says “silly” or “frivolous “ women.
False preachers choose their victims well: Gullible women who are NEITHER flesh NOR fowl and do not have full assurance of the forgiveness of sin and Christ’s deliverance. They are still unsure and insecure and easily fall into fine-sounding theology. They are still restless and driven by carnal desires. They are therefore caught up in many things, conscious of their need, but not yet given over to faith in Christ OR do not yet fully understand the Gospel message. They, therefore, do have a spiritual need but are still seeking and researching all the possibilities, therefore they welcome the conversations with all kinds of teachers and readily listen to everyone’s point of view.
And yet on Sunday’s they are sitting in the services of the church at Ephesus, where Timothy is preaching. Exactly the way it happens even today as verse 7 describes it. A person who is always busy watching YouTube videos and jumping around between “teachers” and investigating new points of view. They are always learning and is eager to learn. But alas, in their instability and uncertainty, they never come to the true knowledge of the Truth as the Apostles of the Lord taught and preached and wrote and lived it.
To be gullible and inconstant when it concerns the Word of God is an extremely dangerous condition. Such a person is a certain target for deception and ought to beseech the Lord for the spiritual enlightenment of the heart. Which only the Spirit of God can bring.
READ VERSES 8-9 AGAIN
That which the apostle has said in the previous two verses about false Christians and false preachers, he now compares to an incident in the OT where Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses and Aaron when they appeared before the Pharaoh. We read that in Exodus 7.
Aaron’s staff turned into a snake and the Pharaoh’s sorcerers had to do the same.
In the OT the names of the sorcerers are not mentioned, but in the Jewish tradition, it is. Of course, it does not have any authority such as the OT-Scriptures have, but the Holy Spirit recognises that the Jewish tradition was correct with the names of the two brothers. They were in league with the devil and they were in opposition with the truth of God – as personified in Moses and Aaron. Their minds were confused and they were a failure concerning matters of faith. The miracles they performed, did not succeed, and their spiritual folly was evident to everyone in Pharaoh’s palace.
It is important to see what authority the Apostle afforded apostolic preaching and teaching. He places his preaching – and that of the Apostles – on
the SAME LEVEL as that of Moses and Aaron.
That is why words like JUST AS and SO ALSO in verse 8 is so important.
He also places the Egyptian sorcerers and the false preachers of his day on one level. THEY too are in opposition against God himself and the Truth – even though they preach so well. THEY too are unreliable and confused and a failure concerning the faith. It is 6 of the one and half dozen of the other.
One thing though is certain: The false preachers shall not triumph, even if they gain a temporary following. Also concerning THAT, the opposite is also true: JUST AS Jannes and Jambres did not get very far, the flame of the wandering spirits at the time of Paul and in the 21st century shall be snuffed.
Translated by Marthie Wilson