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4 The Resources of the Godly in the Last Days
( 2 Timothy 3 )
In the second chapter we have been instructed as to the low condition of the professing church, manifesting itself already in that day. This third chapter gives a solemn description of the terrible condition into which the Christian profession will fall in the last days.
Living in these days we may be thankful that we are not left to form our own judgment as to the condition of Christendom. God has foretold and described this condition, so that we can have a just and divinely-given estimate of the professing people of God.
Having no true thought of Christianity as presented in Scripture, the mass of the Christian profession view Christianity merely as a religious system whereby the world will be gradually reformed and the heathen civilised. Even many of God's children, with but a partial knowledge of the salvation that the gospel brings, cherish the false expectation that, by the spread of the gospel, the world will gradually be converted and the Millennium introduced.
Thus amongst mere professors, and with many of the true children of God, there is the wrong impression that Christendom is progressing towards a triumphant victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. The plain truth of Scripture is that the church, viewed as in the responsibility of men, has been so entirely ruined that the mass of those who form Christendom are passing on to judgment.
The inspired writers of the New Testament unite in warning us of the prevailing evil of the Christian profession in the last days and of the judgment that will overtake Christendom. James tells us that “the Judge standeth before the door” ( Jam_5:7-9 ); Peter warns us that “judgment must begin at the house of God” and that, in the last days, the Christian profession will be marked by scoffers and gross materialism ( 1Pe_4:17 ; 2Pe_3:3-5 ); John warns us that in the last hour antichrists will arise from the Christian circle ( 1Jn_2:18 ; 1Jn_2:19 ); Jude tells us of the coming apostasy; and the apostle in this solemn passage prepares us for the appalling corruption that will mark the Christian profession at its close.
Nevertheless, if for our warning we have this detailed description of the end of the closing days, so for the encouragement of the godly we have an equally plain unfolding of the fulness of our resources to enable the believer to escape the corruptions of Christendom and live piously in Christ Jesus.
These, then, are the two great themes of this third chapter - the evil of professing Christendom in the last days and the resources of the godly in the presence of the evil.
(a)The corruption of Christendom in the last days (verses. 1-9)
(V. 1). God would not have us ignorant as to the condition of Christendom, nor, under any specious plea of charity, affect indifference to the evil. Therefore the servant of the Lord opens this part of his instruction with the words, “This know also ... ” He then proceeds to warn us that “in the last days perilous (or 'difficult') times shall come.”
(Vv. 2-5). The apostle proceeds to give with the utmost precision a terrible picture of the condition into which Christendom will fall by delineating in detail the outstanding characteristics of those who will form the mass of the Christian profession in these last days. The Spirit of God speaks of these religious professors as “men” for there is no ground for calling them saints or believers. Yet, be it noted, the apostle is not describing the condition of heathen “men” but of those who make a Christian profession by affecting the outward form of godliness. In this terrible picture nineteen characteristics are passed before us.
(1) “Men shall be lovers of their own selves.” The first and outstanding characteristic of Christendom in these last days is the love of self. This is in direct contrast with true Christianity which teaches us that Christ “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”
(2) “Covetous” or “lovers of money”. Loving self will lead to loving money, for therewith men can purchase that which will minister to the gratification of self. Christianity teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that those who covet it will wander from the faith and pierce themselves through with many sorrows ( 1Ti_6:10 ).
(3) “Boasters”. The love of money will turn men into boasters. We read in Scripture of those “that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches” ( Psa_49:6 ); and again, “The wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth” ( Psa_10:3 ). Not only do men boast in their skill in acquiring wealth, but, having accumulated riches, they often take occasion to blazon forth their deeds of charity, in contrast with the lowly grace of Christianity which teaches us so to give that the left hand knows not what the right hand doeth.
(4) “Proud” or “arrogant”. The boastfulness that glories in self is closely allied with the arrogancy or pride that makes much of birth, social position and natural endowments, in contrast with Christianity which leads us to count these things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.
(5) “Blasphemers” or “evil speakers”. Pride leads to blasphemy. Proud of their achievements and their intellectual abilities, men do not hesitate to “speak evil of the things that they understand not” ( 2Pe_2:12 ); and “speak great words against the Most High” and attack the Person and work of Christ, refusing revelation and scoffing at inspiration.
(6) “Disobedient to parents”. If men are capable of blasphemy against God, it is little wonder that they are disobedient to parents. If they have little respect for divine Persons, they will have no respect for human relationships.
(7) “Unthankful” or “ungrateful”. By those who are disobedient to parents, every mercy from God or men is received as a matter of right wherein there is no call for gratitude. Christianity teaches us that all creature mercies are “to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” ( 1Ti_4:3 ).
(8) “Unholy” or “profane”. If ungrateful for blessings temporal and spiritual, men will soon scorn and despise the mercy and grace that bestow the blessings. Esau profanely despised the birthright by which God would have blessed him.
(9) “Without natural affection”. The man who treats lightly the love and mercy of God will soon lose natural affection towards his fellow men. The love of self leads to indifference to the ties of family life, or even to view them as a hindrance to self- gratification.
(10) “Truce breakers” or “implacable”. The man who is proof against the appeal of natural affection will surely be implacable, or one that is not open to conviction and who cannot be appeased.
(11) “False accusers” or “slanderers”. The one whose vindictive spirit is proof against every appeal will not hesitate to slander or falsely accuse those who cross his will.
(12) “Incontinent” or “of unsubdued passions”. The man that does not hesitate to slander others with his tongue will be one that easily loses control of himself and acts without restraint.
(13) “Fierce” or “savage”. The one who slanders others in speech and is unrestrained in actions will exhibit a savage disposition wholly lacking in the gentleness that marks the Christian spirit.
(14) “Despisers of those that are good” or “having no love for what is good”. The savage disposition inevitably blinds men to what is good. It is not only that there are those in the Christian profession who love evil, but they actually hate “what is good”.
(15) “Traitors”. Having no love for that which is good, men will not hesitate to act with the malice that betrays confidences and has no respect for the intimacies of those that they profess to treat as friends.
(16) “Heady” or “headlong”. The man who can betray his friends is one who will determinedly pursue his own will indifferent to consequences and without consideration for others.
(17) “High-minded” or “of vain pretensions”. Filled with self-conceit, the heady man seeks to cover his self-will under the vain pretence that he is acting for the general good.
(18) “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God”. Men's pretensions being vain, their pursuits will be equally lacking in all seriousness. The clouds of coming judgment may be gathering but Christendom, blinded by its own vanity and selfishness, abandons itself to a whirl of excitement, seeking to find its pleasure in sensuous enjoyment, too often the professed ministers of religion being the leaders in every kind of worldly pleasure.
(19) “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. Thus in the closing days of Christendom the professing mass will be found abandoning themselves to every form of evil, while seeking to cover their wickedness with the cloak of sanctity. Thus nominal Christians become more wicked than pagans, for, while indulging in all the evils of paganism, they add to their wickedness by seeking to hide it under the form of Christianity, though utterly devoid of its spiritual power. What can be more desperately wicked than the effort to use the Name of Christ as a cloak for evil? It is this cloak of sanctity that constitutes the last days' “difficult times”, for the show of piety at times deceives even true Christians.
It will be noticed that the first and outstanding evil in this terrible picture is the uncontrollable selfishness of men that leads to every other evil. Men, being lovers of self, will covet for self and boast in self. Boasting in self, they will be impatient of all restraint upon self, whether human or divine. The love of self and gratification of self will make men unthankful, unholy and lead them to over-ride natural affection, and make them unrelenting and slanderers. The love of self will lead men to give free rein to their passions, leading to savagery in the presence of all that thwarts their will. It will lead men to despise what is good, to betray confidences, and, with headlong vanity, to be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
Such is the terrible picture that Scripture presents of the last days of the Christian profession. Israel, that was set apart from all nations to bear witness to the true God, so thoroughly broke down in responsibility that at last it had to be said to them “the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” ( Rom_2:24 ). But with far greater light and greater privileges, how much more terrible has been the breakdown of the professing church. Set up to be a witness for Christ in the time of His absence, the great mass of those who profess the Name of Christ have sunk below the level of the heathen and have become the expression of the will and passions of men, and so brought the blessed Name of Christ into reproach. Can we wonder that the end will be that that which professes the Name of Christ on earth will be spued out of His mouth?
Nevertheless, let us not forget that in the midst of this vast profession God has His own, and the Lord knoweth them that are His. Not one of His own will be lost, and at last those who form the true church of God will be presented to Christ without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
In the meantime the true people of God - those who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart - are plainly instructed to “turn away” from the corrupt profession of Christendom. We are not called to strive with those who form this great profession, still less call down judgment upon them. We are to turn away from such and leave them to the judgment of God.
Only as we are separate from the corrupt profession of Christendom shall we truly appreciate its fearful condition or be any adequate witness to the truth.
Realising the condition of Christendom, we shall humble ourselves before God, confessing our failure and weakness, remembering that we too have the flesh in us that, but for His mercy, can easily betray us into any of these evils.
(Vv. 6-9). The writer has described the terrible condition that will mark Christendom as a whole in the last days. He now warns us against a particular evil that will develop out of this corruption. A special class will arise who are the active instruments in resisting the truth by teaching error.
Quite apart from their false teaching such are condemned by the underhand methods they adopt. We read that they “creep into houses”. It is characteristic of error that it shuns the light and must first be promulgated secretly. Then, when the ground has been secretly prepared by underhand methods, the propounders of the error do not fear to declare openly their false doctrine. The error being publicly declared, it generally comes to light that for years it has been secretly held and taught.
Further, these false teachers are condemned by the fact that they make their appeal to those characterised as “silly women”, who would be in a position to influence the homes and families of professing Christians. The apostle probably uses the contemptuous term “silly women” to set forth an effeminate class of persons (whether male or female) who are governed by their emotions and lusts, rather than by conscience and reason. With minds obsessed with error, though priding themselves that they are “ever learning”, they are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Error leaves its victims in the darkness of uncertainty.
Such teachers, like Jannes and Jambres of old, withstand the truth by the imitation of the outward forms of religion, while wholly destitute of all that is vital in Christianity. Such are “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith”. Every false system in Christendom can be traced to men whose minds have been corrupted by evil and who are found worthless as regards the faith.
Nevertheless, God, in His governmental ways, often allows these false teachers to be thoroughly exposed before the eyes of “all men”. Again and again “the folly” of these religious systems, as well as the evil lives of many of their leaders, have been so fully exposed before the world that they have become objects of contempt in the eyes of all but their deluded victims.
(b)The resources of the godly in the presence of the evil (verses 10-17)
In the latter half of the chapter we are instructed in the rich provision that God has made in order that His people may be preserved from the corruptions of Christendom and act as becomes the man of God in the last days.
(Vv. 10, 11). Firstly, we are definitely told that the great safeguard against all that is false is the knowledge of that which is true. Thus the apostle can say to Timothy, “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions.” There is no necessity to know fully the evil, for we do not escape evil simply by the knowledge of it. It is by the knowledge of the truth that we can detect that which is false and contrary to the truth; and having detected the evil, we are exhorted not to be occupied with it, but to “turn away” from those who pursue it. The truth has been set forth in the apostle's doctrine and unfolded to us in his Epistles. It may be summed up as the complete setting aside of man after the flesh as wholly corrupt and under death, the condemnation of the old man in the cross of Christ, and the bringing in of a new man in life and incorruptibility, set forth in Christ risen and glorified, to whom believers, from the Jews and Gentiles, are united in one body by the Holy Spirit.
This doctrine Paul can say to Timothy, “Thou hast fully known”. The more fully we enter into Paul's doctrine the more definitely we shall be able to detect and turn away from the evil of these last days.
Secondly, the apostle can appeal to his “manner of life”. His life was wholly consistent with the doctrine that he taught. In this, doubtless, there is an intended contrast between the apostle and the evil teachers of whom he has been speaking. Their folly is exposed inasmuch as their lives are an evident contradiction to the piety they profess. It is manifest to all that their profession of the form of piety has no power over their lives. With the apostle it was far otherwise. In his doctrine he proclaimed the heavenly calling of the saints and, in consistency with his doctrine, his manner of life was that of a stranger and a pilgrim whose citizenship is in heaven. It was a life governed by a definite “purpose”, lived by “faith”, exhibiting the character of Christ in all “long-suffering, love, endurance”, involving “persecutions” and “sufferings”. Thus the first great safeguard from the evil of the last days is the knowledge of the truth; and the second safeguard is a life lived in consistency with the truth. There is, however, a further source of security, for, thirdly, we read of the support of the Lord. To this Paul can witness from his own experience, for, speaking of the sufferings and persecutions that his life involved, he can say, “Out of them all the Lord delivered me.” If we are diligent to know the doctrine, if we are prepared to live a life consistent with the doctrine, we shall realise the support of the Lord. Others may forsake us even as they did the apostle; others may think we are too extreme and too uncompromising; but, in contending for the faith, we shall find even as he did, that the Lord will stand by us, He will strengthen us, He will enable us to proclaim the truth, He will deliver us out of the mouth of the lion and from every evil work, and He will preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom ( 2Ti_3:11 ; 2Ti_4:17 ; 2Ti_4:18 ).
(Vv. 12, 13). We are reminded how needed is the support of the Lord by being warned that all that desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. The form the persecution takes may vary at different times and in different places, but it remains true that the one who stands apart from the evil of Christendom and seeks to maintain the truth must be prepared for desertion, insults and malice. How can it be otherwise when, in Christendom itself, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived”?
(V. 14). Fourthly, in the presence of evil, the godly will find safety and support by abiding in the things we have learned through the apostle. Thus he writes to Timothy, “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” For the third time in the course of this short Epistle Paul emphasises the importance, not only of having the truth, but of receiving it from an inspired source if it is to be held with full assurance (see 2Ti_1:13 ; 2Ti_2:2 ).
Experience proves too often that believers can make no definite stand against error because they are not “fully persuaded” of the truth. In the presence of error, and especially of error mixed with truth, we need to be absolutely assured that the things we have learned are indeed true. This assurance we can only have by knowing that the one from whom we have received the truth speaks with inspired authority. A teacher can bring the truth before us, but no teacher can speak with inspired authority. He must direct us to the inspired writings of the apostles if we are to hold the truth in faith and assurance. In the presence of evil men and seducers, waxing worse and worse, ever bringing forth new developments of evil, we may well beware of all that professes to be new light and continue in the things we have learned.
(Vv. 15-17). Thus the final safeguard against error is the inspiration and sufficiency of the holy Scriptures. Men pour forth their endless and changing theories, but in the Scriptures we have every truth that would be for our profit preserved in a permanent form, guarded from error by inspiration, and presented with divine authority.
Doubtless, the Holy Scriptures which Timothy had known from a child would be the Old Testament Scriptures. But, when the apostle further states, “Every Scripture is divinely inspired” (N.T.), he includes the New Testament with all the apostolic writings. We know that Peter classes all Paul's Epistles with “the other Scriptures” ( 2Pe_3:16 ).
Moreover, there is set before us the great gain of the Scriptures. Firstly, they are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Secondly, having been directed to Christ so that we find in Him salvation, we shall further discover that “every Scripture” is “profitable” for the believer, inasmuch as in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms, we shall discover things concerning Christ ( Luk_24:27 ; Luk_24:44 ). Furthermore, we shall find how profitable the Scriptures are for “conviction”. Alas! we may be blind to our own faults, and so filled with our own self- importance that we are deaf to remonstrance from others; but, if subject to the word, we shall find that Scripture brings conviction for it is living and “powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword '85 a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Moreover, the Scriptures not only convict, but they are also profitable for “correction”. Having convicted they will correct; and having corrected they will instruct us in the way that is right. Having, then, the inspired Scriptures it is possible for the man of God to be completely established in the truth in the presence of abounding error, and to be “fully fitted to every good work” in an evil day.
These files are public domain.
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17