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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
2 Timothy 3

 

 

Verse 1

2 Timothy 3:1. This know also, What follows is thought by some to contain part of the prophesy concerning the grand apostacy which was to happen in the latter times. If we keep our eye too closely upon the place, and consider what is here said alone, and without comparing it with what St. Paul had said and written to Timothy before, we shall perhaps doubt whether this refers to any other time than that in which the apostle wrote; or, at the furthest, to the time which was immediately to succeed. But if we enlarge our view, and take in the whole compass of what he has said about the great apostacy, and endeavour to put ourselves in the situation in which the apostle and the evangelist then were, we shall probably see things ina very different light: see 2 Thessalonians 2:7. 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:16 from a comparison of which places it will appear, that he is here prophesying of the same grand apostacy as was there foretold. Besides, he never says that this prophesy concerning the dreadful times which were to come, was then fulfilled; but on the contrary, 2 Timothy 3:13.—he shews that the mystery of iniquity was then only beginning to work, and these wicked men and impostors would grow still worse, deceiving others as well asthemselves: and in Ch. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 after he had bid Timothyuse his utmost diligence, he intimates, that there was still a future time, when men would not endure sound doctrine; and charges Timothy to do what he could to prevent any steps toward that amazing scene of wickedness.


Verse 3

2 Timothy 3:3. Without natural affection The word Στοργη, signifies that natural affection which even the brute creatures, as well as men, manifest, in cherishing, feeding, and taking care of their young ones; and the word αστοργοι signifies persons divested of that natural tenderness. The apostle does not mean that God would not implant such a principle in those apostates, as well as in other men; but that they would, by their cruelty and other wickedness, do all they could to root it out; or at least they would refuse to act as such a principle would dictate. The word ασπονδοι, rendered truce-breakers, signifies not only implacable, but treacherous persons; and may be applied to men, who, when once offended, will come to no treaty of reconciliation;—and also to those, who will not think themselves bound by such treaties, when they may accomplish any purposes of their own by a violation of them.


Verse 4

2 Timothy 3:4. Traitors Betrayers of civil and sacred trusts, and delivering up even their nearer relations to miseries and death.


Verse 6

2 Timothy 3:6. For of this sort are they, &c.— Some begin this verse with the last clause of the preceding. The word rendered creep, ενδυνοντες, signifies to insinuate, or slide in, like snakes. Some read who dive into families. This and the next verse contain a lively description of the practices of the monks and friars and other religious orders in the church of Rome, who creep into houses, and by auricular confession, and many other wicked arts, not only dive into the secrets of families, but, under the form and pretence of extraordinary sanctity, delude and corrupt their votaries.


Verse 8

2 Timothy 3:8. As Jannes and Jambres Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned Exodus 7 nor any where else in the Old Testament; but their names are said to be mentioned, though with some variety as to the spelling, in both the Talmuds, and in the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 7:11. It is remarkable, that the former of them is mentioned together with Moses by Pliny, and both of them by Numenius the philosopher (quoted byEusebius) as celebrated magicians. The Jews affirmed them to have been princes of Pharaoh's magicians, and greatly to have resisted Moses. See Plin. Nat. Hist. 1. 30. c. 1. and Euseb. lib. ix. c. 8.


Verse 9

2 Timothy 3:9. But they shall proceed no further, &c.— "But I foresee, that they shall not proceed much farther in these artifices, for their folly shall be manifested to all; as theirs also was, when God sent upon the Egyptians plagues; which, far from being able to remove, or mitigate, they could not, as in former instances, so much as imitate."


Verse 10

2 Timothy 3:10. But thou hast fully known Having in the preceding verses described the apostates of the last days, and shewn how much the wicked Judaizers made way for that apostacy, the apostle here, by way of opposition, proposes his own example and doctrine, that Timothy might observe and follow them: to incite him to which, he appeals to his many and great sufferings, as proofs of his sincerity; and he not only intimates that Timothy had been instructed by one who had sufficient attestations to his apostolic character, but that the true Christian revelation was agreeable to the scriptures of the Old Testament, with which Timothy had been acquainted from his infancy, and which might still be profitably read, if carefully compared with, and made subservient to the true Christian revelation. In this view the study of them would not lead him aside, as it did the Judaizers, but would help to make him a proper and perfect instructor of mankind in the Christian religion.


Verse 12

2 Timothy 3:12. Yea, and all that will live godly, &c.— This may import something peculiar to the godliness to be exercised by Christians, as being agreeable to the revelation of Christ, animated by his example, and dependant on his Spirit for assistance, and his atonement for acceptance with God:—important topics, upon which all who desire to obtain and promote godliness, ought to dwell much.


Verse 13

2 Timothy 3:13. Seducers. The word Γοητες properly signifies sorcerers, magicians, jugglers, witches, or enchanters. Jannes and Jambres were evidently such; impostors, who endeavoured to vend a false religion for a true one, and to support it by their incantations.


Verse 14

2 Timothy 3:14. Knowing of whom thou hast learned, Meaning himself, but modestly declining to say so. Timothy was to continue in these things, because he knew of whom he had learned them,—namely, of a true apostle; and that they were agreeable to the scripture of the Old Testament, with which he had been acquainted from his infancy, through the instructions of his grandmother and mother, who were both Jewesses. See ch. 2 Timothy 1:5.


Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, The scriptures with which Timothy had been acquainted from his infancy were evidently those of the Old Testament; for none of the books of the New Testament were then committed to writing. The same thing seems plainly to be intended here byall scripture, which, in the preceding verse, is called the sacred scripture, and which St. Paul asserts to be divinelyinspired. The Old Testament revelations were not final, but preparatory to the New Testament; and therefore the scriptures of the Old Testament are here represented as able to make Timothy wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. There is, however, no reason to confine St. Paul's assertion, that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, to the Old Testament. If in the Mosaic dispensation the written rule was given by inspiration of God, where the church was conducted in every step at first by divine oracular responses, and afterwards by a long series and continued succession of prophets; and all this under an extraordinary administration of Providence, such as might well seem to supersede the necessity of scriptural inspiration; how confidently may we conclude that the same divine goodness would give the infallible guide of an inspired scripture to the Christian church, where the miraculous influence of the Holy Spirit is supposed to have ceased with the apostolic ages? Nor can it be said, that what St. Paul predicates of scripture, must be confined to the law, and what is prefatory to it, since the largeness of his term, all scripture, extends to the whole canon of the Old Testament, as then received by the two churches. The canonical books of the Old Testament therefore being inspired, the reason of things directs us to expect the same quality in the New, if there were not a thousand unanswerable arguments besides. And as in the Old, among several occasional writings, there was the fundamental record, or the great charter of the Pentateuch; and in the volumes of the prophets, the oracular predictions of the future states of the church, to the first coming of the Messiah, and so indeed more obscurely to the second coming; so in the New, there is, besides the occasional Epistles, the authentic record or great charter of the Gospel-covenant; and in the Revelations of St. John, the same divine predictions continued, and more fully predicted, to the second coming of the Saviour of the world. We may therefore venture to say, that the general proposition which affirms that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, necessarily includes the scriptures in question; what it predicates of all scripture, taking in the New as well as the Old; as well that which was to be written, as that which was already collected into a canon. For the term scripture, as the context leads us to understand it, is general, and means a religious rule, perfect in its direction for the conduct of human life in belief and practice, it being under this idea that St. Paul recommends the scripture to Timothy. The assertion therefore is universal, and amounts to this, "That divine inspiration is an essential quality of every scripture, which constitutes the law or rule of a religion coming from God." On the whole then we conclude, that all the scriptures of the New Testament were given by the inspiration of God; and accordingly these scriptures are fitted for doctrine, as laying down the most fundamental doctrines and rules of religion, and every necessary truth; for reproof or conviction, as guarding us from all pernicious errors, and shewing us the turpitude of vice; for correction, as affording the strongest arguments under the grace of God for amendment; and for instruction in righteousness, as not only recommending holiness of heart and life in general, but likewise exciting us to a continual progress in holy and virtuous habits.


Verse 17

2 Timothy 3:17. That the man of God may be perfect, "That the furniture of the man of God may be complete, and that he may be thoroughly fitted for every good work which his holy calling may require."

Inferences.—Must we not, on the survey of this chapter, in comparison with what we every day behold in life, cry out, "Verily, these are the last days?" They are assuredly times of difficulty and peril. Self-love, pride, ingratitude, treachery, intemperance, insolence, the contempt of all authority, human and divine, each, all of these characters may too plainly declare it: but none with more striking evidence than the excessive love of pleasure, on which so many are doting to destruction, while every consideration, both of religion and of prudence, falls at the shrine of this favourite idol. Men are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, more than lovers of their families, yea, though self-interest be in many instances so scandalously pursued, yet more than lovers of themselves; and when they have sacrificed every thing else to their gain, they sacrifice even that gain to luxury. And would to God there were none such, even among those that retain the form of godliness, which so many indeed have scornfully cast off. But O! how vain the form, where the power of it is thus denied! And how peculiarly scandalous are these characters in those who call themselves teachers of religion! Yet to such they are here originally applied; and their race is not yet extinct.

Blessed be God, there are those yet remaining who are the happy reverse of these; ministers, who can appeal to the consciences of men, as to their doctrine, their conversation, their resolution, their fidelity, their gentleness, their charity, and their patience. Happy are they, how ill soever they may be treated in the world! Happy would they be, though exposed to all the terrors of persecution which the apostles and their first followers endured! but we are all warned to prepare for some degree of it; and indeed who can wonder if, amid so many evils, they who will not go on with the multitude, should sometimes be rudely pressed by them; and it may be, in some instances, cast down and trampled under foot. But be it so; though cast down, they shall not be destroyed: (2 Corinthians 4:9.) A little time will balance all. An hour of eternity will more than balance it. Let us guard against the deceits by which so many suffer. Let us guard, above all, against those deceits which men practise upon themselves, and whereby they hurt themselves infinitely more than all their fraud or violence can hurt any who are not accessary to their own undoing.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle apprizes Timothy of the dangerous days which were hastening on. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, when sad corruptions, creeping into the church, shall make it difficult to preserve a pure conscience. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves, wholly devoted to the pursuits of their worldly honour and interests; covetous, insatiate after filthy lucre; proud, and vain-glorious boasters; blasphemers of God and man; disobedient to parents; unthankful to their benefactors; unholy in heart and conversation; without natural affection, which appears even in brutes; truce breakers, perfidious to the most solemn engagements; false accusers, like devils incarnate, blackening, with every opprobrious calumny, their opponents; incontinent, indulging every bestial appetite; fierce and furious in their tempers; despisers of those that are good, and treating men, far their betters, with contempt; traitors, false to their trusts, betraying their nearest friends; heady, driving furiously in their wicked courses, impatient of controul; high minded, puffed up with a vain conceit of their own superiority; lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; and what is the aggravation of all their other abominations, in making great pretensions to piety, having a form of godliness and affecting rigid attachment to the externals of worship, but denying the power thereof, real enemies to vital religion: from such turn away, and shun them as the plague.

These corruptions began in the Gnostick's, who in the apostle's days appeared; and the perilous times advanced to their height, when the Roman pontiffs, after a train of diabolical practices, raised their blasphemous hierarchy, and consecrated their abominations. And to the papal apostacy are all these characters strikingly applicable.

2nd, The apostle proceeds,

1. To point out the artful and pernicious practices of the seducers. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, with every wheedling art, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, imposing upon them with flattering speeches, and gaining them to their party, ever learning of these vain teachers, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, but bewildered in the endless mazes of error. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, setting up their pretended miracles in opposition to his divine commission, so do these also resist the truth of the gospel—men of like corrupt minds as these Egyptian sorcerers, reprobate concerning the faith, rejected and abhorred of God.

2. He foretells that all their efforts should be impotent. But they shall proceed no further than the magicians did, nor be able essentially and finally to deceive the faithful saints of God; for an effectual check shall be given to them, and their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was; and all their lying miracles shall be detected. Note; Error may, for a time, prevail; but truth shall finally be triumphant.

3rdly, Nothing could better serve to guard Timothy against these seducers, than the striking contrast between their conduct and that of the blessed Paul.

1. He reminds him of what he had seen. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, and the uniform tenor of my preaching; my exemplary manner of life, steady purpose to advance God's glory and the good of men's souls, unshaken faith, fervent charity, unwearied patience amid the many and grievous persecutions, afflictions which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra: what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. With such an example Timothy should be animated to fidelity, and might surely expect the same supports and deliverances.

2. He informs him that suffering must be more or less every Christian's lot, and especially in those times. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution, of one kind or other, from mockery to martyrdom. There is indeed a godliness in form that the world speaks well of; but to be godly in Christ Jesus, in spirit and temper conformed to him, will ever render us abhorred of a world that lieth in wickedness.

3. He predicts the fatal end of these deceivers. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, hurried on from one excess of wickedness to another, deceiving and being deceived, till, having filled up the measure of their iniquities, they perish with the arch-deceiver in everlasting burnings.

4thly, As he would be exposed to great temptations, the apostle exhorts him to cleave to the Scriptures, as the only infallible guide to truth.

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, the pure and unadulterated doctrines of the gospel, which on the most satisfying evidence thou hast believed, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, even from me, divinely commissioned from the great Redeemer: and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, early initiated in these sacred records, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the whole, and to whom both the law and the prophets bear witness. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, both the Old and New Testament have the same divine original; and is profitable for doctrine, no doctrine demanding our credence and submission, but what can be clearly proved from thence; for reproof of errors, heresies, and all manner of evil; for correction of whatever is found amiss in the church; for instruction in righteousness, how holiness can be obtained, and how we can be enabled so to walk as to please God: that the man of God, the true believer, may be perfect, throughly instructed in all the mind of God, and furnished unto all good works, whether as a Christian for those of his station, or as a minister for the arduous service in which he is engaged. Note; (1.) Parents should betimes endeavour to lead their children to the Bible. (2.) All the volumes of mere human learning can never teach us so much wisdom as one page, one line of the book of God; after all these labours we must have been left to perish in ignorance; but in the oracles of truth, life and immortality are brought to light, and the poorest and most unlettered saint of God is wiser, in the things which make for his everlasting peace, than the deepest metaphysician, or the most profound philosopher. (3.) All scripture is of divine authority, therefore on God's testimony to be received with faith. Our wisdom, where any thing mysterious is revealed, is, not to reason, but to believe. (4.) The book of God is the Christian's great magazine; he can be in no state and condition, but he will there find direction, instruction, reproof, or comfort, exactly suited to his circumstances.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-timothy-3.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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