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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

2 Timothy 3

Verses 1-17

2 Timothy 3:2

Ingratitude is always a form of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.

Goethe.

The Use and Abuse of Pleasure

2 Timothy 3:4

I suppose we should say, taking a general view of humanity, that while man has to work, and work is essential, man also needs pleasure and recreation. But then this recreation or pleasure will depend very much upon two things for its beneficent results: first, the kind of pleasure, and secondly, the degree in which we indulge in it. We may all have too much of a good thing; we may all indulge in that which is adverse to our advantage.

I. There are different kinds of pleasure, and a man may abuse pleasure in two ways. If you would judge pleasure, you must judge it from the standpoints of degree and kind. (1) If a man gives up too much time to pleasure, you know what happens; it weakens his moral fibres; it introduces a disinclination for work; it impairs his power and capacity for usefulness. (2) The wholesomeness of pleasure will depend upon the character of the pleasure itself. There are some pleasures which are unwholesome; there are some pleasures which are wholesome. I take it that that pleasure which takes the form merely of frivolity at least does the man no good; and by doing the man no good, that frivolous pleasure does him harm, for it makes no demand upon the mind, no demand upon the heart, no demand upon the spiritual energies. Then there are pleasures which are distinctly harmful, and as such are to be avoided. (a) There are the pleasures of over-eating and over-drinking. (b) But there are worse pleasures pleasures of self-indulgence, pleasures of distinct immorality, which degrade a man and bring him to the animal state. (c) And there are pleasures, which turn upon money the chink of money.

II. What, then, is pleasure for? Pleasure is intended for recreation the recreating of the man. And, mark you, there are splendid, wholesome recreations in the world. But pleasure, like everything else, may be used and may be abused; and it is a law of our higher nature that we must be for ever making choice.

III. Now, what is the attitude of Christ towards pleasure? There never was a more natural teacher than Jesus Christ; there never was a more natural life than the life of Jesus Christ. The Master never would say: 'Turn your back upon pleasure as an evil thing,' but He would say: 'Judge your pleasures; judge them from the standpoint of your moral elevation, your moral characters, and the work you have to do for men and for God'.

Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. p. 215.

2 Timothy 3:4

His guide was not duty; it was not even ambition; but his guide was self; it was ease and amusement and lust. The cup of pleasure was filled deep for him, and he grasped it with both hands. But pleasure is not happiness. There is no happiness for him who lives and dies without beliefs, without enthusiasm, and without love.

Osmund Airy, Charles II., p. 416.

2 Timothy 3:4

Most men seem rather inclined to confess the want of virtue than of importance.

Dr. Johnson.

References. III. 4. W. Brock, Midsummer Morning Sermons, p. 146. III. 5. F. C. Spurr, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 86. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2088. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 86. III. 6. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 367. III. 8. Ibid. vol. i. p. 202. III. 10. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 337. III. 10-12. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 16. III. 11. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 274.

The Evolution of Evil

2 Timothy 3:13

Let us consider, first, the law of evolution in regard to several aspects of evil; and, secondly, the principle on which this evolution depends.

I. The Evolution of Evil. (1) The evolution of evil in relation to faith. The development of error is the matter immediately before the Apostle in this place; he is speaking of those who go from one heresy to another. Men begin by questioning the great articles of their creed; they commence the process in no specially offensive temper, they seem only to obey the necessity and follow the methods of an independent mind. Gradually, like as when a moth fretteth a garment, the criticism becomes more antagonistic and destructive, until ere long the critic finds himself renouncing all the great inspiring articles of his faith; what began in an apparently laudable inquiry into the truth of religion ends in universal scepticism. Are we, then, to be afraid of testing our belief, afraid of a life of intelligence, knowledge, reflection? We ought to turn with scorn from any such ignoble intellectual surrender. The point of the Apostle's admonition is, we must take care in what spirit we begin and prosecute our criticism. (2) The evolution of evil in relation to character. Evil possesses wonderful capabilities of expansion, multiplication, transformation, transmigration, exaggeration. Notice specially three points in the susceptibility to development and increase. (a) One evil contains within itself the possibilities of all evil. (6) The mildest form of evil contains within itself the possibility of the most extreme evil. (c) The development of evil is peculiarly rapid. (3) The evolution of evil in relation to destiny. Men in this life often go a long way in the development of evil; they become dead to truth, to decency, to hope. But we have no reason to suppose that this degeneration ends here Revelation fixes no limit to the evolution of good. But at the same time revelation fixes no limit to the evolution of evil. It propounds 'the awful doctrine of a 'bottomless pit,' which in the language of our day, signifies unarrested, limitless degradation.

II. The Principle on which the Evolution of Evil Proceeds. 'Deceiving and being deceived.' Man may be made worse as well as better by association.

III. The Lessons Suggested by our Theme. (1) Avoid the beginnings of evil. (2) Cultivate purity of heart. (3) Loyally keep the social law.

W. L. Watkinson, The Transfigured Sackcloth, p. 111.

References. 111. 14. H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, pp. 81, 97. III. 14, 15. Archbishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p. 262. III. 14-17. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 241. W. H. Griffith Thomas, Mundesley Conference Report, 1910, p. 287. III. 15. W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches for the Christian Year, p. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1866. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 243. W. M. Sinclair, Words from St. Paul's, p. 164. Bishop Ryle, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 309. S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 218. A. Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 191. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 276. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 55. III. 16. W. M. Sinclair, Christ and Our Times, p. 49. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 143. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 202. C. Gutch, Sermons, p. 214. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 253; ibid. vol. viii. p. 468; ibid. vol. x. 250. III. 16, 17. D. M. Ross, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 27. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 331. T. G. Bonney, Sermons on Some of the Questions of the Day, p. 34. Page Roberts, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiii. p. 970. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 111.

The Man of God

2 Timothy 3:17

Let us look at the detached sentence 'the man of God'. There are some men well known to us, it may be, with whose name we never would think of associating the name of God. They are the miracles, they are the outstanding wonders and monsters of history. I say there are men well known to us with whom we could not associate the name of God, we should be conscious of a revulsion; nay, we might go further still and consider in cool reason that to associate the name of God with some men, or some men with the name of God, would be a kind of profane comedy.

Are not all men men of God? In one sense, the lowest, are not all men men of God? Yes, in the Divine purpose. Then why does not the Divine purpose effect itself, establish itself in a great fact? Because so mysterious is human nature that a man can say No to God.

If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature; he started from a new point, he passed through a new Eden, he is on a new and higher road, he is on the road to the true manhood. O thou drooping and half-despairing soul, the door of mercy stands open, and on it is written in red flame and as it were in red blood struggling with the flame, Jesus Christ, the true Man, the God-Man, the saving Man.

I. Who is this man of God? It is the man who has been born again. God met him in a far country, in a wild, wild land, known for hunger and desolateness and misery; and God made great proposals to him in the name of Jesus Christ, told him that he might return from the land of desolation into the land of plenteousness and long nightless summer. We have all to be born again. Man was made in Genesis, he is born in the Gospel. Before, he had but a kind of foothold on the earth out of which he was raised, but now in Christ Jesus he is a soul held of God, and in Him he lives and moves and has his being.

II. And who is this man of God? The man whose supreme thought is God Himself, who longs to see God with the eyes of faith and love. He misses God if He be gone but for an hour. We know what this is in the house. The individual makes the house, the one person makes the other persons tolerable. There are people who if they were to go out of the house would take everything with them. Whenever I see a little toddling child on the streets, I say, sometimes loudly: 'If that little two-feet-long thing were not to go home to-night, nobody else would go'. But does the house depend on that little toddling creature? It does. Of course the father and mother will say: 'Baby has not come home, but she will turn up in the morning; if she is not close at hand she is safe in the police-station, so we will lie down and get what sleep we can, and we shall see her in the morning'. Is it so? Answer! It is thus that some people miss God. 'Why standest Thou afar off, O God?' 'Oh if I knew where I might find Him!' Hear that voice lonely, hollow, crying voice, appealing as it were to the very wind, that the soul so lonely might be taken into the presence of the Father. A soul thus yearning may be well entitled to be described as a 'man of God'.

III. Who is this man of God? He would take supreme delight in the service of God. It is no burden to him; everything else is comparatively burdensome; he is a truly religious man. There are many religions that are not religious; there is many a sermon that is not religious. Religiousness is a peculiar quality of thinking, a special and incommunicable quality of desire; true religion or religiousness is we can find no better name for it, we have searched all the vocabularies prayer, a living cry to a living God.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 10.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/2-timothy-3.html. 1910.