2 Timothy 3
1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
As time nears the second coming of Christ, the world will grow more and more evil, and it will become more and more of a dangerous, savage place for Christians to be. The world will grow increasingly hostile and violent toward believers and even toward one another. This will be a result of increased sin and abhorrence of truth and God’s commands. As Matthew 24:12 says, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” The world is not going to become a utopia, and men are not going to be able to solve men’s problems. Only Christ can solve our true problem, which is sin, and true and lasting peace will only come when He returns to set up His kingdom on earth (Micah 5:5). The true church will continue to grow and spread, but persecution and corruption in the world will as well.
2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
Paul here gives a list of specific identifiable marks of how the world will grow more corrupt. People will become lovers of self, meaning that they will be consumed with their own interests, pleasures, and welfare, even at the expense of others. Certainly, they will not be thinking of others’ interests or viewing them as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4). They will be consumed with themselves, thinking of their own self-esteem and doing whatever they can to boost it. They will totally miss the call to deny themselves (Matthew 16:24) and be the servant of all (Mark 9:35). Life is not about loving ourselves but loving God and others. Neither are we to hate ourselves or look down upon ourselves. The issue is that life is not about serving the pleasures of self but seeking the glory of God as we love and serve others. The world will increasingly look toward self and therefore become more and more disgruntled, unsatisfied, and fragmented. Even the professing church will become asphyxiated on self, thinking about its own wants and needs rather than what God tells them He wants and desires.
They will be lovers of money, greedy, and enslaved to avarice. They will think life is found in riches and wealth, and they will covet what they wealthy have, compromising all morality and integrity to “get ahead.” Society will increasingly worship wealth and prosperity to the extent that even the professing church gets consumed with seeking after riches.
They will be boastful, arrogant, and reviling. People will act tough and strong or as if they have it all together and have arrived just because weakness will be frowned upon and scorned. People will gloat in themselves, being self-promoting, and heralding their own glory and achievements. They will be consumed with trying to make themselves look better than others, and they will tend to look down on others for the sake of feeling better about themselves. Self will be on the throne and at the center while others are put down. There will be an extreme desire to be in the limelight and get everybody to want to be you. Society’s approval and vote of confidence will mean everything to a person. They will be blasphemers, scorning the one true God and His people. They will mock what is right, true, good, noble, pure, and holy, choosing rather to love what is despicable, defiled, and evil.
They will be disobedient to parents, ungrateful, and unholy. They will honor youth and beauty above age and wisdom, even scorning the old as being better off dead. They will despise, dishonor, and refuse to comply with the desires of their parents, casting off authority because of their arrogance and desire to self-promote. They will show no reverence for their parents or other authorities unless they are forced to act submissive or when it best suits their own interests. Being obedient to parents will not be valued in the culture or by the culture, particularly as the family erodes. There will be a prevalent attitude of a right to selfish indulgence which leads to an ungrateful attitude that takes everything for granted. Those who deserve credit for sacrifice and service will be despised and go without proper thanks. Children will seek to please themselves, rather than their parents or God. They will be downright wicked and evil, living out the full range of their inherent sinfulness, for they will refuse to submit to parents who will refuse to be there in love and discipline. Evil will thus be unchecked, encouraged, and ruinous as it runs amuck.
The world will grow increasingly unloving and irreconcilable. There won’t be any care, good-will, or brotherly affection for other human beings. It will all be about self and pleasure, and love will be a rare commodity. But this will allow believers, whose mark is love (John 13:34-35) to stand out more powerfully and boldly to a world in great need. Seeking their own agendas as individuals, groups, and nations, people will not be able to find peace or be reconciled one to another. Without being reconciled to God first in faith in Christ, this should come as no surprise that selfish sinners can’t get along. Thus, we can expect wars and rumors of wars to increase (Matthew 24:6).
They will be malicious gossips, devoid of self-control, and downright brutal. They will speak slanderously and hatefully toward others, demeaning them for the purpose of elevating themselves. Whether it takes lying, cruelty, deception, or any other measure, these things will be done for the gratification of self. There will be no self-control or even an effort to be self-controlled. In fact, it will be advised in society to let the natural lusts and pulls take over in order that self can be all that it can be. God’s way is to refrain from sinful pleasures and lusts, but the world will encourage the fulfillment and gratification of them all, which leads to death, enslavement, and despair. Like wild, untamed animals that act unpredictably and uncivilized, so too will be the supposed “civilized” world. People will be downright violent, fierce, cruel, and harsh toward one another, not showing mercy, let alone turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). This violent tendency will lead to murderous acts becoming more and more common, grotesque, and reprehensible. Killers will kill coldly and without feeling, caring nothing about truth and being blinded with sin.
They will be haters of good, treacherous, and reckless. Rather than loving what is good and hating what is evil (Romans 12:9), people will despise what is good, moral, and right along with those who do good. They will want nothing that reminds them of God’s holy standards and of those who have by faith sought after them. The will be treacherous, backstabbing one another and betraying one another left and right. There will be no loyalty or character because each will seek his own. Words and covenants, whether from friend to friend, from spouse to spouse, or from nation to nation will be only as good as the selfish pleasure they provide. Convenience and ease will dictate choices and behavior. People will be traitors one to another, and they will also be reckless. There will be a general hopelessness and scorn for life and service. People will do ridiculous, extreme things just for the cheap thrill which they can get, not concerning themselves about what might happen to others as a result of their thoughtless, foolish decisions.
They will be conceited and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. People will be so puffed up with pride and self-sufficiency, glorying in what they think they know, which in reality is foolishness and error. They will be blinded from the truth because of their own haughty opinions of themselves and of man’s abilities and supposed inherent goodness. They will be pursuing their own pleasure and seeking and constructing philosophical and theological systems that put man in the center and remove God from His imperative centrality and preeminence (Colossians 1:18). Morality will be based around what feels good in the moment, and man’s happiness will be viewed as the ultimate end and objective. The reality is that the glory of God should be the ultimate objective, and man glorifies God when He is holy, even when life’s circumstances bring unhappiness.
Some will try to explain religion away, but some form of religion will always remain. Some will even pretend to worship God and revere Him, yet their sinful lifestyles will show that they don’t really believe what they profess. There will be traces and forms of religion, and there will be those who profess to believe in God, even in Christ. Yet they will be denying the power that is God’s and in Christ. True strength comes by humble, submissive, and reverent faith toward God and in His Word. It is by Christ alone, but men will try to do religious deeds in their own righteousness rather than in Christ’s. They will miss the centrality of the gospel and thereby lose out on the redeeming power of Christ (Ephesians 1:7), the convicting power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), the infilling power of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), the effective power of prayer (James 5:16), and the instructive power of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Their religious acts, rituals, and duties will be empty and devoid of Christ’s presence, blessing, and empowerment. These are the type of people whom Timothy is to avoid. Any who wish to be godly and honor Christ must stay away from those who profess religion and godliness and yet deny the sufficiency of Christ and His Word. Man is helpless and hopeless apart from Christ (John 15:5), but false teachers and those who serve empty religion think otherwise. They think they can do what only God, Christ, and His Word can do.
6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,
7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
As the whole world grows more and more sinful, those who proclaim to be godly, pious, and religious will also morally slide, particularly as they reject the power of Christ and His Word. They will practice sin as a lifestyle rather than living as holy sacrifices to God. They will prey on the weak and naïve and particularly those who are weighed down by various sins and led on by willful enslavement to various lusts. Rather than confess sin and gain victory by faith in Christ, one sin is left unchecked and it grows and leads into others and still others. Thus, these women, whether saved or unsaved, are so downtrodden spiritually that they are grasping for just about anything that looks like it might help. They can’t see right from wrong or identify truth from error because they have grown so far apart from accurately appreciating and appropriating Biblical truth. Thus, those who can talk about morality and God, even using the Bible effectively, though erroneously, will be able to lead these weak ones astray. They will take their money and their hope, convincing them that they have some special inside track with God. They will create those who are dependent upon them as they usurp God’s position in their lives. The worst part is that the deception can grow even worse and worse such that these weak ones and those who lead them astray can keep gaining knowledge, even memorizing Scripture, and still fail to see the truth for what it is.
8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.
9But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes's and Jambres's folly was also.
These false teachers reveal themselves for who they really are, being unredeemed, depraved men, devoid of the truth. (It is possible for believers to teach some things that aren’t totally Biblically right, but what Paul has in mind here are those who are themselves error as they teach it and practice it, having nothing good within them). Since they are not advancing the kingdom of God, they are opposing it, for all that we do is either for God or against Him. False teaching always opposes the will of God because it runs counter to the Word of God. False teachers have corrupt minds, and they fail the test (the literal meaning of “rejected”) when it comes to the genuineness of their faith in light of Christ. They are unapproved, spurious, and reprobate, wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Though false teaching will increase and grow worse (v. 13), eventually false teachers will be judged by God for who they really are. God is not deceived, and there is no need for believers to be deceived either. Yet it is too often a reality that believers do get deceived because they lack the proper training and truth based on the knowledge of God’s Word (Hosea 4:6). Believers who are discerning, however, will be able to identify false teachers before they can do much harm because they will look at the bad fruit and identify the wolf. Mature believers are able to see the truth as they compare a person with God’s Word and the standards for a true servant of God, and the folly of the false teacher will be realized. (Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is believed that they were the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses- Exodus 7:11, 22.)
10Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
11persecutions, 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!
12Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Timothy, on the other hand, has continued to show that he is of the faith, having followed Paul’s instruction, behavior, discipline, and sound doctrine. He has stayed the course, supporting Paul and being willing to suffer with him. Paul experienced suffering and persecution at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, yet the Lord had been faithful sustain him throughout it all. He kept his testimony and defended the gospel, and the Lord preserved his life so that he could fulfill the purpose He had for him. Persecution will come no matter what time and what place if a person is willing to stand for Christ (2 Timothy 3:12). Even in so-called Christian environments, there will be those who don’t truly walk after Christ and who will ridicule the one who is truly faithful and committed to Christ. Timothy has been steadfast, enduring, patient, loving, and committed to the same purpose which drives Paul to preach the gospel and uphold the faith, and Paul wants him to continue in this, realizing that deception will continue to be a reality, even getting worse.
13But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15and 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.
Evil, deception, and those being deceived will increase and multiply as time goes on. False teachers will continue to deceive and be deceived themselves. Timothy, however, is not to succumb to their errors because he has become convinced of the truth of the Scriptures and what he has learned by observing Paul and his faithfulness and devotion (Philippians 4:9). Paul has endured persecution for the cross of Christ, and Timothy must be willing to do this as well. Only a person who is convinced and completely assured of the truth of Christ and the Bible will be likely to stand in the day of distress. Timothy was learned in the knowledge of the Word so he could know how to respond, and he was convinced that what he knew was the truth. Thus, he wasn’t likely to buckle when under stress and duress. He was fortunate to have been taught the truth of Scripture from early on, and thus he has long understood how a person is saved through faith in Christ. He didn’t celebrate doubt or uncertainty, but he believed fully that Christ was God, that His gospel was true, and that he must preach the gospel fervently and faithfully. Growing in knowledge, in discipline, in faith, in love, in confidence, and in endurance are all important for the follower of Christ, particularly one in leadership in the church as Timothy was.
16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Paul just referenced the sacred writings in verse 15, speaking of all that was written and inspired of God up to this point. These precious letters and manuscripts were the very Word of God. They were written by men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21). Thus, God’s very Word to man came through the pen of these human authors. Because God’s Word is inspired by God Himself, we can take confidence in it and know that it is profitable for teaching (instruction), reproof (admonition), correction (restoring one to a state of uprightness), and training in righteousness (educating in purity, cultivating righteousness, and curbing the sinful passions such that a person can walk in holiness). Righteousness is a way of living that must be learned and taught, and the only way for believers to begin to walk in holiness is to learn, listen to, obey, and apply the Word of God. As we do this, we will become specially tailored and fitted by God for the good works which He has ordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We will not lack understanding or wisdom, and we will be ready and able by the power of Christ and by His Word to meet the needs of others, bear fruit, and honor Christ. Those who do not know the Word or obey it will be prone to being led astray, and they will be unready and ineffective for the purposes which God has for them. Thus, it is extremely important that we be taught and that teachers teach the Word of God. All that has been written as Holy Scripture is for our learning, encouragement, and hope so that we persevere and bear abundant fruit (Romans 15:3). We are sanctified by the Word of God, for it is truth (John 17:17).