“As he lies in his cell, a prisoner of the Lord, Paul is still preoccupied with the future of the gospel. His mind dwells now on the evil of the times, now on the diffidence of Timothy. Timothy is so weak, and the opposition so strong.” (John Stott)
A. Perilous times mean that discernment matters.
1. (1) Perilous times in the last days.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
a. In the last days perilous times will come: The word translated perilous has the idea of troubles, difficulty, and stressful situations. This sort of atmosphere will mark the last days.
i. “The word was used in classical Greek both of dangerous wild animals and of the raging sea. Its only other New Testament occurrence is in the story of the two Gaderene demoniacs who were as savage and untamed as wild beasts and whom Matthew describes as ‘so fierce that no one could pass that way’ (Matthew 8:28).” (Stott)
ii. The characteristics Paul will describe speak not of bad times, but of bad people. “We should note what the hardness or danger of this time is in Paul’s view to be, not war, not famine or diseases, nor any of the other calamities or ills that befall the body, but the wicked and depraved ways of men.” (Calvin)
iii. “The description in this and in the following verses the Papists apply to the Protestants; the Protestants in turn apply it to the Papists; Schoettgen to the Jews; and others to heretics in general… but it is probable that the apostle had some particular age in view, in which there should appear some very essential corruption of Christianity.” (Clarke)
b. In the last days: This is a broad term in the New Testament, broad enough to where one could say that the last days began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). The days of the Messiah mark the last days; yet the term is especially appropriate to the season immediately before the return of Jesus and the consummation of all things.
i. Though some think that any attention paid to the last days or Biblical prophecy is frivolous, we should be able to discern when the last days are; or at least when world conditions are like the Bible described they would be in the last days.
ii. “There are sanguine brethren who are looking forward to everything growing better and better and better, until, at last, this present age ripens into a millennium. They will not be able to sustain their hopes, for Scripture gives them no solid basis to rest upon… Apart from the second Advent of our Lord, the world is more likely to sink into a pandemonium than to rise into a millennium.” (Spurgeon)
iii. In Matthew 16:1-4, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day because they did not or would not understand the meaning of their times: Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3). It is possible that Jesus would have the same rebuke for some Christians today who are unaware of the last days and the soon return of Jesus Christ.
2. (2-5) A description of the human condition in the last days.
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
a. Men will be lovers of themselves: This is certainly characteristic of our present age, when men and women are encouraged to love themselves. People are told to love themselves unconditionally and that such self-love is the foundation for a healthy human personality.
i. We don’t need to be encouraged to love ourselves; we naturally have such a love. Neither should we be taught to hate ourselves, but as Paul said in Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. We must see ourselves as we really are – both the bad of what we are in the flesh and the glory of what we are in Jesus Christ.
ii. This love of self is the foundation for all the depravity that follows in Paul’s description: “But readers should note that lovers of themselves, which comes first, can be regarded as the source from which all the others that follow spring.” (Calvin)
iii. “It is no accident that the first of these qualities will be a life that is centred in self. The adjective used is philautos, which means self-loving. Love of self is the basic sin, from with all others flow. The moment a man makes his own will the centre of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible. The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement but the obliteration of self.” (Barclay)
iv. “‘Lovers of self’ aptly heads the list since it is the essence of all sin and the root from which all the other characteristics spring. The word is literally ‘self-lovers’ and points to the fact that the center of gravity of the natural man is self rather than God.” (Hiebert)
b. Men will be… lovers of money: The love of money is nothing new, but today people have the ability to pursue our love of money like never before.
i. In recent years newspapers featured a story about a woman named Brenda Blackman, who enjoyed some measure of success teaching a course titled How to Marry Money. The course attempts to show men and women how to marry rich, and costs $39 per person. In the course Blackman offered helpful hints, such as how to search through your prospective mate’s checkbooks to study their deposits and then assess their income levels. She built her student’s confidence by leading them in a chant several times through the lecture: “I want to be rich! I deserve to be rich! I am rich! I was born to be rich!” In one class, Blackman was asked by a woman if it was all right to settle for a man whose income was about $100,000 a year. “No way,” she replied. What if he was perfect in every other way? “If he was in his peak earning years and he was maxed out at $100,000 – forget it,” Blackman advised. When someone asked her about the place of love in such relationships, Blackman said that finding a mate with that much money is the hard part; learning to love that person is easy by comparison. “How could you not love someone who is doing all these wonderful things for you?” she said. Blackman was single as she taught these courses.
c. Men will be… boasters, proud, blasphemers: Boasting, pride, and blasphemy are nothing new; but today, they seem far more prominent than ever.
i. Boasting, pride, and blasphemy each act as if I am the most important person. Each of them say, “You don’t matter and God does not matter. All that matters is me.”
ii. Today boasting, pride, and blasphemy are apparent everywhere, especially among the celebrities that our cultures idolizes. Many people today become wealthy by calculated boasting, pride, and blasphemy.
d. Men will be… disobedient to parents: Since the mid 1960s there has been a frightening breakdown in the authority once assumed by a child towards their parents.
i. Several years ago a judge in Orlando Florida ruled that an 11-year-old boy had the right to seek a “divorce” from his parents so that he could be adopted by a foster family. But though there are few legal divorces from parents by children, it is far more common that young people simply disregard their parents.
ii. In the 1990s, a 13-year-old Los Angeles area graffiti vandal was quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “It’s like a family to belong to a crew. They watch your back, you watch theirs. You kick it everyday with them… You get friendship, love, supplies, everything.” He also says: “I’ll tag anything… Now I don’t care. Well, sort of. I wouldn’t like no one to write on my stuff. I do it to get known, to get up, regardless if people feel that I’m causing damage to property. I’d say the damage I’ve done is quite a bit. During the day I carry a screwdriver or a knife for protection. But at night I carry a gun. I have three guns. I hide them. My mom took a .38 from me. I’m getting it back.” When asked about once when he got caught, he said: “My parents sort of talked to me about it. Of course they told me, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But I’m not gonna listen, and they don’t have to know about it.”
e. Men will be… unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving: Ever since Adam, humankind has been marked by these things to one degree or another. Here, Paul said these things will be especially prevalent in the last days.
i. Unloving (translated without natural affection in the KJV) literally means, “without family love.” Paul said that the end times would be marked by an attitude of growing disregard of normal family love and obligation.
f. Men will be… slanderers: Men have always told hurtful lies about other men; but today, in media and in politics, slander has been elevated to both big business and big money.
i. In politics, candidates routinely and knowingly distort their opponent’s positions, just to make their competition look bad – and they don’t feel bad at all about the lying if it helps them get elected. In media, editors and news directors serve as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to innocents who are wrongly suspected – and usually refuse to apologize when they are proven to be wrong.
g. Men will be… without self control: The story of no self-control can be written across almost everything today – sex, drugs, alcohol, food, work. Whatever we do, we often do it out of control.
i. In the 1990s the Los Angeles Times published an article about Michelle, who was a successful writer and editor. She feared the day her husband might discover her secret stash of credit cards, her secret post office box or the other tricks she used to hide how much money she spent shopping for herself. “I make as much money as my husband… If I want a $500 suit from Ann Taylor, I deserve it and don’t want to be hassled about it. So the easiest thing to do is lie,” she explained. Last year, when her husband forced her to destroy one of her credit cards, Michelle went out and got a new one without telling him. “I do live in fear. If he discovers this new VISA, he’ll kill me.” A school teacher explained more: “Men just don’t understand that shopping is our drug of choice,” she joked, even while admitting that some months her salary goes exclusively to paying the minimum balance on her credit cards. “Walking through the door of South Coast Plaza is like walking though the gates of heaven. God made car trunks for women to hide shopping bags in.” A young professional named Mary explained: “Shopping is my recreation. It’s my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, it’s like something takes over and you get caught up in it.”
h. Men will be… brutal: Cruelty and brutality are nothing new in the world; but Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the last days would be marked by a particular brutality.
i. A newspaper article in the 1990s described how an Oxnard man was accused of murdering his roommate after the two disagreed over the brand of beer the man had brought home. The accused man brought home Natural Light, and the murdered man wanted him to bring home Michelob. As he poured the Natural Light down the kitchen sink, he was stabbed to death.
ii. We like to think of ourselves as more advanced than previous generations; but surely more people have been murdered in our century than ever before; these are violent, brutal times.
i. Men will be… despisers of good: There just seem to be too many examples of this in modern society to pick out examples. For one example, there was a time when most people thought letting people live was good and killing them was generally a bad thing. Today, we live in a culture when the simple good of life is now despised and attacked, through abortion, through the glorifying of violence and murder, and through euthanasia.
i. On March 6, 1996, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the United States Constitution gives every American the right to kill someone else. Essentially, the court said that if you think someone might want to die – even if they have never said so – you can kill them and no law can stop you. You can kill someone if you are a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, a family member, or a “significant other” to a person you think wants to die. From the Judge’s ruling: “When patients are no longer able to pursue liberty or happiness and do not wish to pursue life,” they can be killed. The Federal Judge directly tied his decision to the right to abortion on demand. The reasoning seems to be that if the state must allow us to kill humans in the womb, it must also allow them to kill them later.
j. Men will be… traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: These characteristics are all about one thing: Self. Men are traitors because of self, they are headstrong because of self, they are haughty because of self, and they are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God because of self.
i. This attitude marks our current age. For example, think of national advertising slogans from the late 1990s:
· Nothing is taboo.
· Break all the rules.
· To know no boundaries.
· Relax: No rules here.
· Peel off inhibitions. Find your own road.
· We are all hedonists and want to do what feels good. That’s what makes us human.
· Living without boundaries.
· Just do it.
The message is the same: You make your own rules. You answer to no one. You are the one that matters. Your universe revolves around you.
ii. We don’t have to choose between pleasure and God. Serving God is the ultimate pleasure; Psalm 16:11 says, At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. But we do have to choose between the love of pleasure and the love of God. Living for God will give you many pleasures, but they only come as you love God first and refuse to love the pleasures themselves.
k. Having a form of godliness but denying its power: In our self-obsessed world, people feel very free to have a “salad bar” religion – they pick and choose what they want. They feel free to be very “spiritual,” but sense no obligation to be Biblical.
i. In the late 1990s it was reported that the Reverend John Canning delivered the eulogy after Leo and Hazel Gleese were slain, telling mourners that he had been so close to the couple that he could call them Mom and Dad. On Friday, six weeks later, Canning was led off to jail in handcuffs, charged with beating and strangling the 90-year-old couple. Police say the Gleeses were killed in their home January 2 after they discovered Canning had abused the power of attorney they gave him and was stealing their savings. “It’s the most despicable thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Phil Ramer, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent. “Of all people in the world you should be able to trust, it’s your pastor. They couldn’t do it in this case, and he wound up killing them.” The pastor was a suspect from the start because he waited a day to report he found the couple dead in their home. “When it takes somebody a day to report two dead bodies, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say who the suspect is,” Ramer said. The minister passed the time before reporting the deaths by spending a day at the beach and dining out with friends.
ii. A 63-year-old married woman wrote to Dear Abby to justify her adultery. She writes: “He’s also married. We meet once a week at a motel for three hours of heaven. My husband knows nothing about this, and neither does my lover’s wife. Sex with my husband is even better now, and it’s not as though I am denying my husband anything. I teach a class at church every week, but for some reason, I feel no guilt.”
iii. When we talk about the power of godliness, we often mean it in the sense of “power to give me what I want.” But this is exactly opposite of what Paul meant here. The power of godliness that men will despise in the last days is the power it should have to guide their lives; power in the sense of rightful authority – and many, many, today deny that God has the power to tell them what to do through His Word.
l. From such people turn away! The command to turn away from people described by the characteristics in this list is especially difficult in our present day.
i. People who do the things on this list are not only common today but they are often also our cultural heroes. The simple responsibility of Christians is to turn away not only these attitudes, but also from the people who do these things.
ii. Many think it is enough if they themselves are not like this, and give little heed to the company they keep. But if we spend time with people like this – either personally or by allowing them to entertain us – they will have an influence on us. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
iii. From such turn away also means that Paul knew those marked by the spirit of the last days were present in Timothy’s own day. However, we should expect that they would be even more numerous and have increased power in the last days shortly before the return of Jesus.
iv. “This exhortation clearly implies that Paul did not consider the state of moral depravity just pictured as wholly a matter of the future. He was keenly aware that the evils about which he was forewarning were already at work.” (Hiebert)
3. (6-7) The strategy of the corrupt in the last days.
For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
a. Those who creep into households: Paul knew that the dangers were in the world in his day and would be increasingly present in the last days before the return of Jesus. However, he seemed especially concerned that these would creep into households. It is one thing to have such evil present in the world; it is another thing to allow it into your home.
b. Make captives of gullible women: Those marked by the last days depravity Paul mentioned in the previous verses want to take others captive, and it can do this among the gullible, those who will believe or pay attention to most anything if it is packaged the right way.
i. One should know if they are indeed one of these captives that Paul mentioned, bound by the influence of this end times rejection of God and celebration of self. There is one effective way to know: walk away from any kind of worldly influence and see if there are chains that make your escape difficult. Take a week off from letting anything marked by the spirit of the last days into your household – and see if chains bind you back to those things.
ii. Paul singled out gullible women simply because in that day, women spent far more time at home than the men, and were far more exposed to any corruption that would infiltrate the household. “Also he speaks here of women rather than men, for they are more liable to be taken in by such impostors.” (Calvin)
c. Led away by various lusts: Obviously, the spirit of the last days finds its appeal to us by exciting various lusts within us. It appeals to the desire to be excited sexually, or romantically, or to have our desires for comfort or wealth or status satisfied.
d. Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth: The spirit of the last days has a certain intelligence about it; the high priests of the spirit of the last days know how to make things work and how to lead us away by various lusts. But for all their skill, for all of their marketing brilliance and knowledge, they never come to truth.
i. Indeed, the spirit of the last days has a problem with the idea of “true truth” altogether, because it believes that we each are the center of our own universe and we each create our own truth. According to the spirit of the last days there is no truth outside of ourselves, so we can learn and learn and learn, but we will never come to God’s eternal truth.
ii. “There are many professors of Christianity still who answer the above description. They hear, repeatedly hear, it may be, good sermons; but, as they seldom meditate on what they hear, they derive little profit from the ordinances of God. They have no more grace now than they had several years ago, though hearing all the while, and perhaps not wickedly departing from the Lord. They do not meditate, they do not think, they do not reduce what they hear to practice; therefore, even under the preaching of an apostle, they could not become wise to salvation.” (Clarke)
4. (8-9) An example of this sort of corrupt human condition: Jannes and Jambres, who resisted Moses.
Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
a. Jannes and Jambres: Though they were not named for us in the Exodus account, these two men are the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-13, 7:19-23, 8:5-7, and 8:16-19).
b. Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses: These were able to work real miracles – not mere parlor tricks – but by the power of darkness and not the power of God. When Moses cast down his rod and it turned into a serpent, Jannes and Jambres could do the same. When he turned water into blood, they could do the same. When Moses brought forth a plague of frogs, Jannes and Jambres could do the same. Yet eventually they could not match God miracle-for-miracle, and their occult powers were shown to be inferior to God’s power.
i. The ability to do miracles by the power of darkness and the willingness to receive them as authentic will characterize the end times (Revelation 13:13-15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
ii. Some of us are amazed by any spiritual power that is real, without carefully thinking that real power may have a demonic source instead of a Godly source. And even if a psychic or new age power seems to feel right, we must not be seduced by it because demonic powers can come masquerading as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:15).
c. Resisted Moses: The resistance of truth by Jannes and Jambres was shown by their ability to cooperate with demonic powers to do miracles. In the last days, men will also resist the truth.
d. They will progress no further: Even as Jannes and Jambres were eventually put to shame (though for a while they matched Moses “miracle for miracle”) and were eventually compelled to give reluctant glory to God, so also will the evil men of the last days. Even as Jannes and Jambres’ power had limits, so does Satan’s power, even in the last days – God is still in control.
i. This is the message of great hope in the midst of this great darkness – the spirit of the last days has an answer to it in Jesus Christ. The spirit of the last days is not stronger than the power of Jesus. The glorious truth is that we don’t have to be bound by the spirit of our times; we don’t have to be slaves to self and have our universe revolve around something as puny as our selves. There is hope, triumphant hope, in Jesus.
ii. “What is remarkable about this analogy, however, is not just that the Asian false teachers are likened to the Egyptian magicians but that Paul is thereby likening himself to Moses!” (Stott)
B. Faithfulness to God in difficulty and opposition.
1. (10-12) Persecution and following Jesus.
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra— what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
a. But you: Paul has just described the kind of people that will threaten the earth in the last days and which Timothy must contend with in his own day. But you showed that Paul drew a clear dividing line between Timothy and those ruled by the spirit of the last days.
b. You have carefully followed: This is what made Timothy from the spirit of his age. He had carefully followed Paul’s doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions.
i. Carefully followed means that Paul did not merely teach Timothy these things in an academic sense; Timothy learned these things by carefully following Paul’s example. The best kind of Christianity is not only taught, it is also caught by seeing it lived out in other people.
ii. It all began with Timothy catching Paul’s doctrine. The reason Paul lived the way he lived was because he believed certain things. What we believe will determine how we live.
iii. Timothy caught Paul’s manner of life: There was just a certain way that Paul lived, and Timothy was around him enough to learn it and follow it.
iv. Timothy caught Paul’s purpose: Paul’s life had a purpose. It was not without direction. He was going somewhere, and that purpose had been established by God. Timothy saw that in Paul, he caught it, and he wanted to live his life that way.
v. Timothy caught Paul’s faith, longsuffering, and love: you could see in Paul that he had a faith not everyone had, and Timothy wanted to catch it. Paul was longsuffering – that is, patient with the little irritations of people and life in a special way, and he had a love that made him stand out. Remember all of these flowed forth from the doctrine – the truth – Paul held on to and Timothy carefully followed.
c. Perseverance, persecutions, afflictions: Timothy also caught these from Paul. We might think that the person who lives their life with the right doctrine, with the right manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, and love would be loved and accepted by everyone – but they are not.
i. In fact, some level of persecution is certain for people who carefully follow this kind of life: Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
ii. In our own day, Christians are being persecuted all over the world – in China, in the Muslim world, even in Russia, where a strong anti-missionary law was just passed. And we can face persecution in a social way today.
iii. Christians are persecuted for the same reason Jesus was persecuted: And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
d. Which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra: Paul reminded Timothy of the specific occasions of persecution which he endured.
· At Antioch, where Paul was kicked out of the city for preaching the gospel (Acts 13:50).
· At Iconium, where Paul was almost executed by stoning (Acts 14:5).
· At Lystra, where they actually did stone Paul and leave him for dead (Acts 14:19).
e. And out of them all the Lord delivered me: Paul remembered this as he sat in prison and waited for execution. He knew that God was completely able to deliver him again, or that He might not. Paul seemed at complete peace, leaving it in the Lord’s hands. Persecution was not going to stop Paul from following hard after Jesus Christ.
i. Persecution must not stop Christians today. We may not face much violent or even economic persecution in our culture; but there is a great deal of social persecution Christians must deal with. 1 Peter 4:4 describes the mind-set of many of those who socially persecute Christians: They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. Does anyone think you are strange?
ii. If we are not willing to have others think us strange; if we are not willing to be rejected by some for the sake of Jesus Christ; if we are not willing to be an outcast before some people, then we can never be true followers of Jesus Christ.
2. (13-15) The course of evil men and the course of the godly.
But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
a. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse: Evil men refers to the obvious, open enemies of Jesus; impostors refers to those who appear good and many think of as fine, but they are actually destructive forces among Jesus’ followers.
i. These two kinds of people (evil men and impostors) will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Paul gave us insight into how many people are effective deceivers among God’s people – they themselves are being deceived.
ii. Motives are important, but we can sometimes place too much importance on them. Much harm has been done by people who were sincerely deceived and who tried to do wrong things out of wonderful motives – and because others look at their wonderful hearts, they accept their dangerous deceptions. We can’t always go only by motives in others; we must measure them also by the truth.
b. But you must continue in the things which you have learned: This is the key point to this section, around which the rest of the section develops. The command itself is simple enough to understand. He told Timothy to abide – it’s the same ancient Greek verb as when John wrote, therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning (1 John 2:24).
i. It was as if Paul wrote this: “Timothy, you learned these things. Right now you firmly believe them. Now, you have to continue in the things which you have learned. The important thing is to abide in them, to continue in them, to never let them go.”
ii. But you: A.T. Robertson called this an “Emphatic contrast.” Timothy was to strongly set himself against the course that some other men took.
iii. Yet the words “But you” go back even further, marking a contrast to what came earlier in the letter.
· There are approved and disapproved workers – you must continue in the things which you have learned.
· There will be dangerous times and dangerous men in the last days – you must continue in the things which you have learned.
· There will be hardship and sometimes persecution as you follow the Lord – but you must continue in the things which you have learned.
c. You must continue in the things which you have learned: The plural suggests that the command is somewhat broader. The core is faithfulness to God’s word, but through the letter we see that this refers to a pattern of ministry.
i. This was all centered on God’s word, but “the things which you have learned” seems to be more than just Paul’s Bible studies; it was those, but also his pattern of ministry.
ii. This pattern of ministry doesn’t deal much with specifics, such as when to have Christian services, how long to have them, a schedule for what to do during service, and so on. The emphasis is on a pattern, a philosophy, and then Timothy was to implement that into his own situation.
d. You must continue in the things which you have learned: The rest of the passage – up until the fourth chapter – simply describes for us what this means, and why it was so important for Timothy to do this.
i. It is wonderful to see that God gives us reasons to continue – it isn’t just, “Well, that is what we do” or “We have always done it that way.” God is good enough to give us reasons.
e. And been assured of: This puts the idea in the past tense, as if this was something that Timothy was once assured of, but perhaps now he wasn’t so sure. Perhaps he wavered from time to time, so Paul called him back to this.
f. Knowing from whom you have learned them: Continue in the things you have learned, remembering who taught you those things. It was as if Paul wrote, “Remember, Timothy: you learned these things from me.” Paul was too humble to say his own name here, but it certainly seems that is what he meant.
i. There is some debate among manuscripts whether whom is singular or plural. I think the context pushes us towards the idea that it is singular; Paul here refers to his own influence on Timothy.
· Paul led him to Christ.
· Paul gave him ministry opportunity
· Paul taught him by both word and example.
· Paul laid hands on him in ordination.
· Paul guided and mentored him in the midst of ministry.
ii. So, Timothy was to remember who taught him these things, knowing from whom you have learned them. Paul’s idea included:
· Remember how I strongly and confidently I believe these things.
· Remember the love with which I believe these things.
· Remember the urgency with which I believe these things.
g. That from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures: Continue in the things you have learned, that you have received as a heritage. This truth didn’t begin with Timothy or even with Paul, but it is part of a long heritage that was passed on to Timothy.
i. From childhood means that it came to him through the influence of his grandmother and mother – Lois and Eunice, respectively. From his young childhood, they taught him.
ii. Timothy learned this starting in childhood. “The story of Mistress Elizabeth Wheatenhall, daughter of Mr. Anthony Wheatenhall, of Tenterden in Kent, late deceased, is very memorable. She being brought up by her aunt, the Lady Wheatenhall, before she was nine years old (not much above eight), could say all the New Testament by heart; yea, being asked where any words thereof were, she could presently name book, chapter, and verse.” (Trapp)
iii. Holy Scriptures: This use here referred to the Old Testament, because that is what Timothy would have learned from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
iv. From childhood you have known: Timothy had known the word of God from his earliest years; yet see how strong the exhortation is from Paul that he continue in them! Nothing is assumed; the furthest thing from Paul’s mind is an attitude that says, “Well of course we are all founded on the Bible and we can assume that and move on to other things.” For Paul this was never assumed – not even with his trusted protégé Timothy.
h. From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures: It’s as if Paul said this: “Timothy, continue in what you received from me. But never forget that it didn’t start with me; it’s a heritage that was passed on to you. You came into contact with all this long before you ever knew me. You came into contact with this heritage through the Holy Scriptures.”
i. We’re happy to belong to the same church as Moody and Spurgeon, and Luther and Zwingli; the same church as Wesley and Whitefield, and Polycarp and Ignatius. We are part of them and they are part of us, because we are connected by our trust in the same Jesus, revealed to us by the same Holy Scriptures.
i. Which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus: Continue in the things you have learned, because of their great value. There is no wisdom greater than this in the world. Your wisdom about 20 other subjects means nothing if you are not wise for salvation.
i. This is something each generation must acquire for itself and then hold on to – the appreciation for the wisdom of the Bible, and a deliberate forsaking of any human wisdom that opposes or replaces what the Bible teaches.
ii. We don’t think for a moment that mere Bible knowledge saves; there are those who know the words of the Bible well yet are not wise for salvation. Yet those words mixed with faith do make one wise for salvation.
3. (16-17) Timothy must continue with confidence in the Holy Scriptures.
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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
a. All Scripture: This indicates more than the Hebrew Scriptures. If Paul meant the exact same thing here as what Timothy learned as a child, he might have said “Those Scriptures” referring back to verse 15, or he might have just repeated the exact phrase, “Holy Scriptures.”
i. Paul changed his wording here because he recognized that what God uniquely brought forth from the apostles and prophets in his time was also Scripture; it was also the God-breathed word of God. This included what he and others knew was emerging as the written form of the foundation of the apostles and prophets mentioned in Ephesians 2:20.
ii. This would fulfill the promise Jesus made that the Holy Spirit would speak to the apostles and lead them into all truth.
iii. There is no doubt that Paul thought this way – knowing that God was bringing forth a New Testament through the apostles and prophets of the first century.
· Paul commanded the public congregational reading of his letters, as would be done with the Hebrew Scriptures (Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27).
· Paul called his own message the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
· In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul combined a quotation from the Old Testament, and some words of Jesus recorded in Luke 10:7 and he called both of them “Scripture.”
iv. Paul wasn’t the only one who thought this way. 2 Peter 3:15-16 indicates the same idea, especially when Peter included Paul’s writings under the heading, Scriptures.
v. All this reminds us that even in Apostolic times, they were well aware that God was bringing forth more Holy Scripture, just as Jesus promised, just as Paul described, just as Peter understood.
b. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God: Paul exhorted Timothy, “Continue in these things because the Bible comes from God and not man. It is a God-inspired book, breathed out from God Himself.”
i. This means something more than saying that God inspired the men who wrote it, though we believe that He did; God also inspired the very words they wrote. We notice it doesn’t say, “All Scripture writers are inspired by God,” even though that was true. Yet it doesn’t go far enough. The words they wrote were breathed by God.
ii. It isn’t that God breathed into the human authors. That is true, but not what Paul says here. He says that God breathed out of them His Holy Word.
iii. Some protest: “This statement doesn’t mean anything because it is self-referential. Anyone could write a book and say that it is inspired by God.” Of course it is self-referential. Of course the Bible says it is Holy Scripture. If it did not make that claim, critics would attack the lack of such a claim saying, “The Bible itself claims no inspiration.”
iv. Yet the difference is that the Bible’s claim to be Holy Scripture has been tested and proven through the centuries. Every generation gives rise to those who really believe they will put the last nails in the coffin that will bury the Bible – yet it never, never works. The Bible outlives and outworks and out-influences all of its critics. It is an anvil that has worn out many, many hammers.
v. And to the critic who claims, “Anyone could write a book and say that it is inspired by God” we simply say, please do. Write your book, give it every claim of inspiration, and let’s see how it compares to the Bible in any way you want to compare. We invite the smarter critics of the Bible to give us another Bible, something more inspired, something with more life-changing power. The great critic or professor or skeptic is surely smarter than a Galilean fisherman 2,000 years ago, having all the qualifications, all the culture, all the brainpower necessary. It should be easy for them to write something greater than the Bible.
vi. But of course this is impossible; there is no equal to the Bible and there never will be. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our Lord stands forever. What can compare to the Bible? What is the chaff to the wheat?
· There is no book like it in its continuity and consistency.
· There is no book like it in its honesty.
· There is no book like it in its circulation.
· There is no book like it in its survival.
· There is no book like it in its influence and life-changing power.
c. By inspiration of God: One may easily argue that the Bible is a unique book, but it does not prove that God inspired it. For greater evidence, one can look to the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy.
i. Peter wrote about how we can know the Scriptures are really from God and he spoke about his own certainty because he saw Jesus miraculously transfigured before his own eyes and he heard a voice from heaven say, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Yet, Peter said that we even have something more certain than a voice from heaven in knowing the Bible is from God: We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19).
ii. God’s ability to precisely predict future events in the Bible is His own way of building proof for the Bible right into the text. It proves that it was authored by Someone who not only can see the future, but Who can also shape the future.
iii. For example, there are at least 332 distinct Old Testament predictions regarding the Messiah which Jesus fulfilled perfectly (such as His birth in Bethlehem, His emergence from Egypt, His healing of the sick, His death on the cross, and so forth). Collectively, the combination of this evidence together is absolutely overwhelming.
iv. Professor Peter Stoner has calculated that the probability of any one man fulfilling eight of these prophesies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (10 to the 17th power); that many silver dollars would cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Stoner says that if you consider 48 of the prophecies, the odds become one in 10 to the 157th power.
d. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God: Remember that one may believe in the inspiration of the Bible in principle, but deny it in practice.
· We do this by imposing our own meaning on the text instead of letting it speak for itself.
· We do this by putting more of our self in the message than what God says.
· We do this by being more interested in our opinions when we preach than in explaining and proclaiming what God has said.
· We do this by lazy study and sloppy exposition.
· Instead, we honor God and His word by, as much as possible, simply letting the text explain and teach itself; to speak for itself.
i. “False doctrine cannot prevail long where the sacred Scriptures are read and studied. Error prevails only where the book of God is withheld from the people. The religion that fears the Bible is not the religion of God.” (Clarke)
ii. In 2005 the London Times reported that a new “teaching document” issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland warns that Catholics should not take the Bible literally — that it’s not infallible. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in the booklet, The Gift of Scripture. So what sorts of things aren’t accurate? Creation, for one. Genesis, they note, has two different, and sometimes conflicting, creation stories and cannot be considered “historical.” Rather, the bishops say, it simply contains “historical traces.”
e. All Scripture: This tells us how much of the Bible is inspired by God. The great Greek scholar Dean Alford understood this as meaning, “Every part of Scripture.”
i. Some try to twist this – they try to make it say, “All Scripture that is inspired by God is profitable” and so on. In doing this, they put themselves in the place of highest authority, because they then will tell us what is inspired and what isn’t.
ii. They claim that the grammar is elastic enough in this statement to give the translation, “All Scripture that is inspired by God is profitable.” But this is dishonest to the text, and ignores a critical word present both in the English translation and the ancient Greek: the word and.
iii. The position of and in the text makes it clear that Paul is asserting two truths about Scripture: that it is both God-breathed and profitable; not that only the God-breathed parts are profitable.
iv. So we believe it forever: it is all inspired, and all profitable. Since it comes from a perfect God, it is perfect and without error in the original autographs; and what we have before us are extraordinarily good copies of what was originally written.
v. The reliability of our copies of what was originally written is a matter which can be decided by science and research, and though some errors have been made in copying the Scriptures through the centuries, today we have a New Testament where not more than one-one thousandth of the text is in question – and not one significant doctrine is in question. The numbers for the Old Testament are even more impressive.
vi. There is something else we can say about the Bible: It is true. And though the Bible is not a science text-book, when it does speak on matters of science as science (not in figures of speech or poetic hyperbole), it is true.
f. And is profitable: Paul exhorted, “Timothy, continue in these things because the Bible is profitable, and profitable in many ways.”
i. Profitable for doctrine: telling us what is true about God, man, the world we live in, and the world to come.
ii. Profitable for reproof and correction: with the authority to rebuke us and correct us. We are all under the authority of God’s word, and when the Bible exposes our doctrine or our conduct as wrong, we are wrong.
iii. Profitable for instruction in righteousness: it tells us how to live in true righteousness. There is perhaps here a hint of grace, because Paul knew what true righteousness was instead of the legalistic false righteousness that he depended on before his conversion.
iv. This all means something else very simple: We can understand the Bible. If the Bible could not be understood, there would be nothing profitable about it.
v. It is profitable when we understand it literally. But when we take the Bible literally, we also understand that it means that we take it as true according to its literary context. When the Bible speaks as poetry, it will use figures of speech that may not be literally true. One example is when David said, All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears in Psalm 6:6. Obviously, he spoke in poetic metaphor and he did not actually float his bed with tears. But when the Bible speaks as history, it is historically true, when it speaks in prophecy, it is prophetically true.
g. That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work: Paul exhorted, “Timothy, continue in these things because the Bible makes you complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
i. Complete doesn’t mean that the whole Christian life is about reading the Bible, or that the only important thing in good ministry is good Bible teaching.
ii. Complete means the Bible leads me into everything I need. If I will be both a hearer and a doer of the word, I will be complete as a Christian, thoroughly equipped for every good work. This reminds us that we are not in the business of building sermon appreciation societies, but in equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
iii. So, I don’t ignore prayer, or worship, or evangelism, or good works to a needy world – because the Bible itself tells me to do such things. If I will be both a hearer and a doer of the word, I will be complete.
h. That the man of God may be complete: When we come to the Bible and let God speak to us, it changes us – it makes us complete and transforms us.
i. One way the Bible transforms us is through our understanding. Romans 12:2 says, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. When we let the Bible guide our thinking, our minds are renewed and transformed, so we begin to actually think like God thinks.
ii. But there is another level by which the Bible transforms us: by a spiritual work, a spiritual blessing which God works in us as we come to the Bible and let Him speak to us. This is a spiritual work that goes beyond our intellectual understanding. With great spiritual power beyond our intellect:
· The Bible gives us eternal life (1 Peter 1:23).
· The Bible spiritually cleanses us (Ephesians 5:26).
· The Bible gives us power against demonic spirits (Ephesians 6:17).
· The Bible brings spiritual power to heal our bodies (Matthew 8:16).
· The Bible brings us spiritual strength (Psalm 119:28).
· The Bible has the power to spiritually build faith in us (Romans 10:17).
iii. Because of this spiritual level on which the Word of God operates, we don’t have to understand it all to have it be effectively working in our lives. Many people get discouraged because they feel they don’t get much when they read the Bible on their own and so they give up. We must work to understand the Bible the best we can, and read it thoughtfully and carefully, but it benefits us spiritually even when we don’t understand it all intellectually.
iv. A critic once wrote a letter to a magazine saying, “Over the years, I suppose I’ve gone to church more than 1,000 times, and I can’t remember the specific content of even one sermon over those many years. What good was it to go to church 1,000 times?” The next week, someone wrote back: “Over the past many years, I have eaten more than 1,000 meals prepared by my wife. I cannot remember the specific menu of any of those meals. But they nourished me along the way, and without them, I would be a much different man!” The Bible will do its spiritual work in us, if we will let it.
v. Paul began the chapter warning Timothy about dangerous times. Some Christians are swept away by these perilous times and some others go into hiding. Neither option is right for us. We are to stand strong and stay on the Word of God.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission