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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Timothy 3:5

holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Having a form of godliness - The original word μορφωσις signifies a draught, sketch, or summary, and will apply well to those who have all their religion in their creed, confession of faith, catechism, bodies of divinity, etc., while destitute of the life of God in their souls; and are not only destitute of this life, but deny that such life or power is here to be experienced or known. They have religion in their creed, but none in their hearts. And perhaps to their summary they add a decent round of religious observances. From such turn away - not only do not imitate them, but have no kind of fellowship with them; they are a dangerous people, and but seldom suspected, because their outside is fair.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-timothy-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Having a form of godliness - That is, they profess religion, or are in connection with the church. This shows that the apostle referred to some great corruption in the church; and there can be little doubt that he had his eye on the same great apostasy to which he refers in 2 John 1:10-11; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 6:17.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-timothy-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Timothy 3:5

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power

Form and power of godliness

This form is a profession of religion; the outward appearance of piety; the external performance of holy duties.
Its power is the inward experience of its saving efficacy; that is attested by a holy, heavenly walk. This power is denied, not merely by the declaration of the lips, but by all those actions which are inconsistent with it, and which prove that we do not feel its influence.

I. A form of godliness is absolutely necessary if we would be saved. We are unequivocally commanded to assume the form of godliness; to testify by external acts our allegiance to the Lord; and to attend on those ordinances and sacraments which He surely did not appoint that we might with impunity neglect them. Say not that you secretly and in your hearts worship and love Him. It is impossible that there should be internal piety without some outward manifestation of it. If “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, with the lips confession will be made to salvation.” Besides, what right have you to withhold the acts of external worship from Him who is “the God of all flesh,” as well as the “Father of spirits”; who made your body as well as your soul; who confers upon it daily mercies: who purchased it by the sufferings of His Son, who, when He was offered a sacrifice, not only endured agonies of soul, but was also crucified in His body; and who offers at the last great day to raise it up from the grave and crown it with immortality and glory! “Glorify Him therefore in your body and your spirit, which are His.” Without the form of godliness, you will probably render yourselves guilty of the blood of souls; be accessory to the eternal perdition of some who are dear to you. There is no one, whose example has not some influence on those with whom he associates.

II. But this form is insufficient, unless it be united with the power of godliness.

1. This mere outward service is a worship not conformed to the nature of God.

2. It is not conformed to the commands of God (Proverbs 23:26)

3. It is not conformed to the design of the mission of the Saviour,and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

4. It is not conformed to the nature of that covenant which is the foundation of our hopes (Jeremiah 31:33.)

5. It is not conformed to the examples of the pious; all of whom have used language the same in substance with that of Paul, “The God whom I serve in my spirit” (Romans 1:9).

6. It is not conformed to the example of the blessed Redeemer; concerning whom none can be so blasphemous, as to doubt whether His whole soul was engaged in doing and in suffering the will of God.

7. It is not conformed to the great ends of religion. These are to deliver the soul from guilt, to renew it, to re-impress upon it the image of God, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. And how certain is it, that for these great purposes “bodily exercise profiteth little.” (1 Timothy 4:8.)

III. Yet notwithstanding the clear evidence of this truth, these are many who satisfy themselves with the form without the power of godliness.

1. At their head must be placed the intentional hypocrite, who knows that he is utterly destitute of love to God and the Redeemer, who has no desire for holiness, but who assumes the mask of religion to cover his sinful purposes.

2. The cold formalist.

3. The vain enthusiast.

4. The worldly-minded professor.

5. The bitter sectarian.

6. The censorious professor.

7. The unfruitful professor. (H. Kollock, D. D.)

Form and power

I. True religion is godliness--i.e., moral likeness to God.

II. Godliness has its form, or way of expressing itself.

1. Towards God--confession, prayer, praise, worship.

2. Towards man--respect for the right, compassion for the miseries, and a loving desire for the happiness of all.

III. The forms of godliness sometimes exist without its power.

1. There is often a great deal of external worship where there is no godly devotion.

2. There is often a great deal of external philanthropy where there is no godly devotion.

IV. Having the form without the power is practical infidelity. To have nothing but the mere form is to deny the power.

1. The mere form misrepresents the power.

2. The mere form counteracts the power. (Homilist.)

Form and power.

I. Every genuine existence has two characteristics--essence and form.

II. The essence of every genuine existence is a power. This is true in the highest sense of godliness, which is eminently a “power”; and the greatest among men, because it is the channel whereby we communicate with the truth and love of God Almighty.

1. It is a formative power. Originating.

2. It is a controlling power, especially over itself.

3. It is a benificent power over others for their instruction and quickening.

III. Though there cannot be power without form, there may be form without power. A man may have the logic and words of godliness, the litany, music, architecture of godliness; but if he have not godliness itself!

IV. The possession of the form without the power disposes to the denial of the power. He who has the form alone is apt to be deceived, and satisfied with appearances; he resents, as an impertinence to himself, the claims of anything further: he denies it.

1. He strives to ignore it (John 9:29).

2. When it is forced on his notice he denies its existence (John 9:32).

3. When this is impossible, when the power becomes an evident fact, he clothes it with misrepresentation, obloquy, ridicule (Matthew 12:22).

4. When the power becomes too formidable he persecutes it, and strives to counteract and annihilate it. “Crucify Him!” (C. Wills, M. A.)

Form of godliness

I. There is such a thing as a form of godliness.

1. It is natural.

2. Beautiful.

3. Advantageous.

II. A form of godliness may exist without its vital power.

1. This is possible. Church at Laodicea.

2. A lamentable fact.

3. Most alarming consequences.

III. The possession of a mere form of godliness does not entitle a person to Christian fellowship.

1. The formalist has no sympathy with the sentiments of true Christians.

2. He would detract from their usefulness.

3. He is unfit for any exalted pleasure. (J. H. Hughes.)

The form of godliness

In these words the apostle tells us--

1. What these men have, viz., a form of godliness.

2. What they want, viz., the power of it.

3. How we must behave ourselves towards them, viz., we must shun their society; from such turn away.

For the first, they have a vain and empty show of faith and holiness. They are not men without the pale of the Church, such as heathens and Jews, which are open enemies to the gospel; but they have a form of godliness, an external profession of religion in words, ceremonies, and gestures; they make great shows, and put on the vizard of piety; like stage players, they act the part of a king, but strip them of their robes, and they are beggarly rogues. They have not the true form and essence of godliness, which consists in an inward change, and doth denominate and give being to things: but they have formality or an outward show and shadow of holiness. Like pictures and images, which have an external show and shape of a man, whose lineaments and proportion may be so drawn to the life, that there wants nothing but life indeed to act them: they will be great professors, and look what a sincere Christian hath in substance, that have these formalists in semblance, they have no life, no power, no principle of operation in them. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Profession in excess of sanctification

The complaint is general, there is not that mortification, self-denial, and circumspect walking as formerly. There’s more light, but less life; more shadow, but less substance; more profession, but less sanctification, than formerly. There is more fasting, praying, preaching; but where’s the practice and power of religion? As Isaac said to Abraham, behold the wood, but where’s the lamb? So behold the duties, but where, oh where’s the life, the power, the truth of what is done? The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau; for they deny the power of religion not only in their hearts, but also in their works (Titus 1:16; 1 Timothy 5:8). They so live, as if godliness were but an airy notion, and a matter of fashion, without all force or efficacy. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Self-love under a form of holiness

The text may be considered two ways--relatively or absolutely.

1. Relatively as it relates to the eighteen sins before mentioned; so this sin is the cloak to hide and cover them all; men will be lovers of themselves, but under a form of godliness. Hence observe--that a man may have a form of godliness, and yet live in all manner of wickedness. It is tree, the power of godliness cannot consist with the power of ungodliness; but the more ,the power of godliness is lifted up in the soul, the more the power of ungodliness will be suppressed; as the house of David grows stronger and stronger, so the house of Saul grows weaker and weaker. But yet the form of godliness may stand with the power of ungodliness. A man may be a glorious professor in the highest form, and yet a puny in the form of grace. He may be a blazing comet for profession, and yet be a devil incarnate in life and conversation. (T. Hall, B. D.)

The fair covering the foul

They put on a fair glove on a foul hand, and get on the vizard of holiness better to deceive. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Satan covers sin

The devil cannot endure that sin should be seen in its proper dress, for then it would be so odious that all men would abhor it; the devil, therefore, puts a garment and cover upon it. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Profession cannot carry men to heaven

This may as soon carry you to heaven as a dead horse can carry a man a journey, a painted ship save a man from drowning, a painted helmet save the head from wounding, or painted food keep a man from starving. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Formalism

1. His knowledge is merely notional, discursive, and speculative, it is in his head, and not in his heart. Hence it is called a form of knowledge, i.e., a mere empty shadow and show of knowledge (Romans 2:20). But he that hath the power of godliness hath a rooted, affective, saving, sanctifying, experimental, practical knowledge. He knows Christ as the truth is in Him (Ephesians 4:21); he knows and doth Christ’s will (John 13:17). It is a soul-convincing and converting, a sin-crucifying and conquering light (Ephesians 5:14). It is not a dim, glimmering, vanishing, light; but a thorough, soul-awakening, soul enlivening light.

2. The formalities, obedience and practice, is merely external in words and shows; in their deeds they deny the power of godliness, they live as if godliness were but an empty name and matter of fashion, void of all force and efficacy. Such are like a wicked minister in a white surplice, extime lineus, intime lanius, fair without, but foul within, or like an inn that hath an angel without and a devil within. Of such we may say as Erasmus said of a friar’s cowl--it covers a multitude of sins. He comes short in all ordinances: if he read, pray, hear, or frequent the sacrament, it is all pro forma--God is nigh to their mouths, but far from their hearts. (T. Hall, B. D.)

Helps against formality

1. Go unto God, who is a quickening Spirit, and beseech Him to quicken thy dead heart So did David, Psalms 119:1-176. God can make dry bones to live.

2. Act and use your graces, this is the way to increase and quicken them, bring good motions into resolutions and actions; blow till the spark become a flame. This stirring is painful, but gainful.

3. Delight in quickening company, get acquaintance with humble, holy, active men, and shun the company of dead, formal, earthly-minded men; we must stand up from the dead before Christ will give us life (Ephesians 4:14). There is a quickening virtue in the society of God’s people. As one living coal sets his fellow on fire, so God hath ordained the gifts and graces of His people for the benefit of others, that those who dwell under their shadow might return (Hosea 14:7).

4. Get sincerity, for therein lies much of the very power of godliness. Let your faith, love, obedience, be unfeigned, and without hypocrisy. Be not only nominal and formal, but be real Christians, be Israelites indeed. Christ says to us as Alexander said to one of his name--either fight like Alexander, or never bear his name; so either act like Christians, or else put off that name. To quicken you, consider that this grace is: commanded, commended, rewarded.

5. It is the grace of our graces, it is not properly a distinct grace, but the perfection of them all. If a man have faith, repentance, obedience, if they be not sincere, they are worth nothing. A pearl if counterfeit is good for little. Gold, if mixed with brass or baser mettle, is debased. It is sincerity that puts a lustre on all our duties. It is the salt that seasons them and makes them savoury.

6. Let the noise of God’s judgments awaken thee out of thy sleep] formality; if a man be in a dead sleep, a great noise will awaken him. God’s judgments have a voice, and we should mark what it says. (T. Hall, B. D.)

The form and the power of godliness

Godliness, what is it? It is, as the very word implies, God-likeness. Godliness is the God in the man; godliness is the man being like his God; and seeing that this image has been lost, godliness in man now is a restored godliness--restored through the mediation of Christ Jesus, and by the ministrations of the Holy Ghost.

I. In our text we read of the form of godliness without the power--without that power which belongs to the form, and which ought to be inseparable from that form. If you pick up an empty shell, you know that there has been a living creature in that shell: just so there is a power belonging to the external form of godliness; but the two things may exist apart. Many examples might be given of form without power. Take a statue representing some man; it is a form without power. There is the form of the eye, but no power of sight; there is the form of the ear, but no power of hearing; there is the form of the mouth, but no power of speech; there is the form of the arm, and of the hand, but no power of working; there is the form of the legs and of the feet, but no power of walking. There is the form that does embody life, but there is no power of life in that form. And a painting, if it be a portrait, is a form without power. Thus in the form of godliness there is the appearance of spiritual knowledge without the knowledge; the appearance of the soul listening to God and hearkening to the voice of His word, without the attentive ear; the appearance of a nature breathed into again by the spirit of life, although still dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore without life. The outward appearance of godliness--what then may it be?

1. It is the appearance of faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness. And where shall we find the appearance of faith without faith? Why here. These doctrines may be held in some articles, or creeds, or theological writings, by the intellect alone. They may be understood as statements, and held by the understanding without being spiritually and religiously appreciated; and they may be held by the tongue.

2. The outward appearance of godliness may be the appearance of sympathy with the ordinances and institutions which are intended alike to express and to cherish godliness.

3. Or the form of godliness may be the appearance of obedience to the laws which are the requirements of godliness. Now these may be fulfilled in the letter and broken in the spirit. “For example, f may love nay fellow-creature in word and in tongue, and fail to do it in deed and in truth.

4. There may be also the appearance of oneness with the godly through associating with such without communion of spirit. Many things may lead me to associate with the godly--things which are not Christian, considerations which are not Christian motives. I may associate with a man who is a godly man, because he happens to be very intelligent, a well-read man, a man of exquisite taste, and I may fancy that I make him my companion, because of his godliness. The godliness of the man is, however, an accident of my association with him. The probability is that if the man were ungodly, I should associate with him still for his intellectuality; for while he stands on my right hand, and I associate with him, there is a man on nay left, not so well educated, not so refined, who is more godly than my well-educated friend, and I pass him by. I might with immense advantage to myself associate with that man, but I do not; his godliness is no attraction to me. Now what does this show? Why it shows that I have the appearance of oneness with the godly, without the affection for the image of God, which would bring me into profitable contact with all who really have and who manifest that image.

5. Further, there may be the appearance of enjoyment of the blessedness of godliness; and this appearance may be made in speech and in tongue, and in a cheerful face on religious occasions. “Having the form, but denying the power.”

II. Now where is the power? The power of godliness is true faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness; the power of godliness is worship in spirit and in truth; is doing the will of God from the heart; is love for the godly as godly persons; is joy in God as God; and, I may add, the power of godliness is that external godliness which is the fruit of an internal godliness

III. Now, listen to this exhortation: “From such turn away.” You know that this is not fashionable advice. The advice nowadays given is, Turn away from no person, as a protest against the principles and character of that person--especially if that person be much thought of, or be in a high position; or be rich, or from any cause popular. Now, it strikes me that for our soul’s health, and especially for our uprightness, we need translate into action some of these directions which demand separation. Let us, therefore, solemnly look at the conduct to be pursued.

1. You see the precept before us requires us to form a judgment of the character of others. You must do so, or you cannot obey this precept. Elsewhere you are forbidden to judge, but you are to bring into harmony that prohibition with this direction. You are to do both. It often strikes me as exceedingly odd, that men who object very much to our forming judgments of the character of others in religious matters, do form judgments of the characters of others in commercial matters. A young man applies for a situation, and the employer, who happens to object to any judgment being formed as to the religious life of another, will thoroughly investigate the character of that young man--not his business habits merely, but everything about him--all his moral habits, and, it may be, even his religious tendencies and dispositions. Well, if the thing be right in one sphere, why is it not right in another? If it have God’s sanction in one sphere, why has it not God’s sanction in another?

2. By the text, too, we are required to act upon an unfavourable judgment when that judgment is unfavourable. You decide that certain persons have the form of godliness, but are denying the power, and from such you are to turn away. What does this show? This shows that, so far as we can secure it, the communion of Christians must be pure. But let us look again at this precept. “From such” let the confessedly religious man “turn away”--from the men who have the form of godliness without the power.

3. From such let the inquirer turn away, he will learn nothing of these. And from such, let the really religious man, as a matter of stern duty in every sphere, turn away where his association with such would seem to be a sanction. (S. Martin.)

Religion more than formality

I. The “power” of godliness is here distinguished from the mere “form”: and indeed it is easy to show the difference between them. The one is the name--the other is the thing; the one is the appearance--the other is the reality. The one is the body--the other is the soul, that inspires every member, and penetrates every particle of the frame. Behold then the life of the real Christian, and trace the operation of the power of godliness there.

1. It appears with regard to the ordinances of divine worship. Others who have only the form, come without expectation and prayer, and return without reflection and concern; they are satisfied with their attendance--but he is not. He is anxious to derive spiritual advantage from it: he enters the closet before he approaches the temple, and his language is, “O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat!”

2. It appears with regard to the dissipations of the world. He voluntarily resigns those amusements in which he once placed so much of his happiness: and returns no more to them. And why? If he were mindful of the country whence he came, he has opportunity to return: he is surrounded with the same allurements as others--why then does he not engage in these diversions again? Because he has found something infinitely more noble and more satisfying. And a greater good has power to abolish the impressions of a less. When the sun arises, the stars disappear. And the grapes of Eshcol cause us to forget the leeks and onions of Egypt.

3. You may see it in the mortification of sin. He denies himself; he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he plucks out a right eye, and cuts off a right hand. You may see it in what he is willing to sacrifice and to suffer. Read history: read the book of martyrs; read the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews--and see what the force of this powerful principle can accomplish.

4. The vigour of this principle appears also in other sufferings. How many are there at this moment, enduring a variety of grief in private, whose names will never be published in history, but who, in the eye of God, are greater than the admired heroes of the age!

II. Inquire whence it is that so many who deny the power are still disposed to maintain the form.

1. The form of godliness requires no strenuous exertions; demands no costly sacrifices. It is the power of it that renders the Christian life a “striving to enter in at the strait gate”; a “wrestling with principalities and powers”; a “running the race that is set before us”; a “fighting the good fight of faith.” And it is this, too, that incurs opposition from the world. It will indeed be acknowledged that sometimes the very form draws forth the rancour of others: and of all people those are most to be pitied who are persecuted for what they have not; who are reproached as Christians without deserving the honour. But upon a nearer inspection of these mere formalists, the world is generally made quite easy. They see that they were mistaken in the characters; they find that they are “of their own,” though wearing a religious uniform.

2. Persons are sometimes induced to take up the form of godliness through the influence of their connections. From some of them they feel the influence of authority; from some, the influence of friendship; from some the influence of business. “Hence,” says M. Henry, “they assume a form of godliness to take their reproach, but not the power of it to take away their sin.”

3. They avail themselves of the form of godliness to preserve peace within. For, without something of religion, conscience would rage and clamour; but by means of this, it is amused and quieted; and this renders it so extremely dangerous. (W. Jay.)

Godliness--its form and its power

I. By the form of godliness may be properly understood, not only a specious practice of religious duties, exhibited to public notice, but all external acts of worship, all rites and ceremonies, all stated observances, and all compliance with temporary and local injunctions and regularities. In ages and countries in which ignorance has produced, and nourished, superstition, many artifices have been invented of practising piety without virtue, and repentance without amendment. As almost every man is, by nature or by accident, exposed to danger from particular temptations, and disposed to some vices more than to others; so all are, either by disposition of mind, or the circumstances of life, inclined or compelled to some laudable practices. Of this happy tendency it is common to take advantage, by pushing the favourite, or the convenient, virtue to its utmost extent, and to lose all sense of deficiency in the perpetual contemplation of some single excellence.

II. The power of godliness is contained in the love of God and of our neighbour; in that sum of religion in which, as we are told by the Saviour of the world, the law and the prophets are comprised.

1. The love of God will engage us to trust in His protection, to acquiesce in His dispensations, to keep His laws, to meditate on His perfection, and to declare our confidence and submission, by profound and frequent adoration, to impress His glory on our minds by songs of praise, to inflame our gratitude by acts of thanks giving, to strengthen our faith, and exalt our hope, by pious meditations, and to implore His protection of our imbecility, and His assistance of our frailty by humble supplication; and when we love God with the whole heart, the power of godliness will be shown by steadiness in temptation, by patience in affliction, by faith in the Divine promises, by perpetual dread of sin, by continual aspirations after higher degrees of holiness, and contempt of the pains and pleasures of the world, when they obstruct the progress of religious excellence.

2. The power of godliness, as it is exerted in the love of our neighbour, appears in the exact and punctual discharge of all the relative and social duties. He whom this power actuates and directs, will regulate his conduct, so as neither to do injury, nor willingly to give offence.

III. How far it is necessary to the Christian life, that the form and power of godliness should subsist together. It may be with great reason affirmed that, though there may be the appearance of godliness without the reality, there can hardly be the reality without the appearance. The form of godliness, as it consists in the rites of religion, is the instrument given us by God for the acquisition of the power; the means as well as the end are prescribed; nor can he expect the help of grace, or the Divine approbation, who seeks them by any other method than that which infinite wisdom has condescended to appoint. (John Taylor, LL. D.)

Of the form and the power of godliness

The word μόρφωσις, which is here translated “form,” signifies the show or image of a thing, which is dead and ineffectual: in opposition to the reality and life, which is quick and powerful. And, I think, this word is but once more used in the New Testament, and much in the same sense; viz., for an empty and ineffectual knowledge of religion without the practice of it (Romans 2:17-21).

I. To snow wherein a form of godliness doth consist. In general it consists in an external show and profession of religion, or of any eminent part of it, or of that which is reputed to be so.

1. An external devotion.

2. An orthodox profession of the Christian faith.

3. Enthusiasm and pretence to inspiration.

4. A great external show of mortification.

5. An imperfect repentance and partial reformation.

6. The appearance and ostentation of some particular grace and virtue.

7. A great zeal for some party, or opinions, or circumstances of religion.

8. Silliness and freakishness, and either a pretended or real ignorance in the common affairs and concernments of human life.

9. Much noise and talk about religion.

II. Wherein the power of godliness doth consist.

1. A due sense of God, and suitable affections towards Him. This is the principle and fountain of all religion, from whence all actions of piety and goodness do spring.

2. A sincere and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion, such as prayer, reading, and hearing the Word of God, and receiving the sacraments.

3. A firm and steady resolution of well-doing. This is the result of a true and sincere repentance, and the great principle of a new life; and if it be firm and steadfast, it will derive its influence into all our actions; but if it be wavering and inconsistent, it is only the occasion of a religious mood and fit, but not the principle of a religious state.

4. As the proper and genuine effect of all these, the practice of a good life, in the several parts and instances of it.

III. Some marks whereby we may know when these are separated, when there is a form of religion without the power of it.

1. He hath only “a form of godliness,” who minds merely the external part of religion, without any inward sense of it.

2. He that useth only the means of religion, without regard to the end and effect of it.

3. He that is grossly and knowingly defective in the practice of any part of it.

IV. That a form of godliness, without the power of it, is insignificant to all the great ends and purposes of religion. The great ends that men can reasonably propound to themselves in being religious, are these three:

1. The pleasing of God.

2. The peace and tranquillity of our own minds.

3. The saving of our souls. Now a form of godliness, without the power of it, is unavailable to all these purposes.

V. That he who takes upon him a form of religion, without the power of it, doth not only lose all the considerable advantages of religion, but he hath two great disadvantages by it.

1. He hath the trouble of making a show and appearance of religion, without the real benefit of it.

2. He incurs a heavier sentence upon this account, that he hath a form of religion, and yet is destitute of the power of it.

Concluding inferences:

1. To take heed of mistaking the form of religion for the power of it.

2. To take heed of being captivated and seduced by those who have only a form of godliness.

3. To persuade men to mind the life, and power and substance of religion. (Archbp. Tillotson.)

The form of godliness without the power

I. The men.

1. What they had--“A form of godliness.”

(a) to the ordinances of religion.

(b) Attendance with the assemblies of God’s people.

(c) A great deal of religious talk Tongue-godliness is an abomination if the heart be destitute of grace.

(d) More than this, some have a form of godliness upheld and published by religious activity. It is possible to be intensely active in the outside work of the Church, and yet to know nothing of spiritual power.

(a) Some come by the form of godliness in an hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people, and they almost naturally take up with the professions of their fathers. This is common, and where it is honest, it is most commendable. But remember, not generation, but regeneration, makes the Christian.

(b) Others have accepted the form of godliness by the force of authority and influence. There is danger lest we fail to have personal repentance and personal faith, and are content to lean upon the opinions of others.

(c) So have I seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formal religiousness, lacking heart.

(d) I do not doubt that, in these silken days, many have a form of godliness because of the respect it brings them.

(e) Certain persons assume the form of godliness from a natural religious disposition. They could not be happy unless they were attending where God is worshipped, nor unless they were reckoned among the believers in Christ. They must play at religion, even if they do not make it their life business.

(f) From the days of Iscariot until now, some have taken up the form of godliness to gain thereby. To make gain of godliness is to imitate the son of perdition.

(g) A form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience, and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are.

2. What they did not have--“The power.”

II. The wicked folly of this hypocritical conduct.

1. They degrade the very name of Christ. If there is no spiritual power in godliness, it is worth nothing.

2. There is no value in such a dead form. I have read that the swan was not allowed to be offered upon the altar of God, because, although its feathers are as white as snow, yet its skin is black. God will not accept that external morality which conceals internal impurity.

3. There is no use in mere formality. In the depth of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry?

4. There is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, raise the spirits, or strengthen the mind against the day of sickness, or in the hour of death.

5. To have the form of godliness without the power of it, is to lack constancy in your religion. You never saw the mirage, but those who have travelled in the East, when they come home are sure to tell you about it. It is a very hot and thirsty day, and you are riding on a camel. Suddenly there rises before you a beautiful scene. Just a little from you are brooks of water, flowing between beds of osiers and banks of reeds and rushes. Yonder are palm trees and orange groves. Yes, and a city rises on a hilt, crowned with minarets and towers. You are rejoiced, and ask your guide to lead you nearer to the water which glistens in the sun. He grimly answers, “Take no notice, it is the mirage. There is nothing yonder but the burning sand.” You can scarce believe him, it seems so real; but lo, it is all gone, like a dream of night. So unsubstantial is the hope which is built upon the form of godliness without the power. The white ants will eat up all the substance of a box, and yet leave it standing, till a touch causes the whole fabric to fall in dust: beware of a profession of which the substance has been eaten away. Believe in nothing which has not the stamp of eternity upon it.

6. In reality, this kind of religion is in opposition to Christ. It is Jannes and Jambres over again: the magician of hypocrisy is trying to work miracles which belong to God only. Nobody can do so much damage to the Church of God as the man who is within its walls, but not within its life.

7. This nominal godliness, which is devoid of power, is a shameful thing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The power of godliness

I. Godliness is powerful because it is the embodiment of God.

II. Godliness is powerful because it is a new birth to righteousness, truth, and love.

III. Godliness is powerful because it is a growth.

II. Godliness is powerful because it is a personal property. You see upon the desk of that organ a music book; but the book does not sing. The gospel is like a music book. Here are the rules for the harmony of life. Godliness is singing from the book of Christ; it is playing upon the heavenly harp; it is putting the music of God into one’s own life. (W. Birch.)

Motives and dissuasives from familiarity with wicked men

1. Consider that familiarity with wicked men will make us like them, we are very apt to resemble those that we converse with, and as he that walks with wise men shall be wiser (Proverbs 13:20), so he that walks with wicked men shall be worse. The best mettles, when mixed with baser, are embased thereby; mix gold with brass or silver with copper, and you debase the coin; for saints to familiarly join with the limbs of Satan, not only endangers, but debaseth them. Man is a poor, weak, unconstant creature, and apt to go astray, and therefore we should shun temptations.

2. This familiarity with them may harden them in their sin, God hath ordained our separation, and withdrawing ourselves from them, as a means to humble them, and turn them from sin (1 Thessalonians 5:22.)

3. There is no comfort to be found in such society; when trouble comes, miserable comforters are they all. When Judas fell into trouble of conscience, he ran to his wicked associates, but see what miserable comforters they are to him in his extremity (Matthew 27:4).

4. It is a dishonour to our Lord and Master to be familiar with known traitors and rebels to Him. Every wicked man rebels against God.

5. It is impossible that ever we should be good so long as we delight in wicked company.

6. By familiarity with such we do not only endanger our spiritual, but our temporal estate also. (W. Birch.)

Form and power

I do not suppose that these words need much explanation. “Godliness,” in the New Testament, means not only the disposition which we call piety, but the conduct which flows from it, and which we may call practical religion. The form or outward appearance of that we all understand. But what is the “denying the power thereof”? It does not consist in words, but in deeds. In these latter epistles we find “denying” frequently used as equivalent to “abjuring,” renouncing, casting off. For instance, in a passage singularly and antithetically parallel to that of my text, we read “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,” which simply means throwing off their dominion.

I. Observe the sad frequency of such a condition. Wherever any great cause or principle is first launched into the world, it evokes earnest enthusiasm, and brings men to heroisms of consecration and service. And so, when Christianity was first launched, there was less likelihood of its attracting to itself men who were not in earnest, and who were mere formalists. As years go on, the primitive enthusiasms die out, and the cause which was once all freshly radiant and manifestly heaven-born becomes an earthly institution, there is a growing tendency to gather round it all sorts of superficial, half-and-half adherents. And every church has its full share of such people; loose adherents, clogs upon all movement, who bring down the average of warmth like the great icebergs that float in the Atlantic and lower the temperature of the summer all over Europe. They make consecration “eccentric”; they make consistent, out-and-out Christian living, “odd,” “unlike the ordinary thing.” And they pull down the spirituality of the Church almost to the level of the world.

II. Think, next, of the underground working of this evil. These people about whom Paul is speaking in my text were, I suppose, mostly, though by no means exclusively, conscious pretenders to what they did not possess. But the number of hypocrites, in the full sense of the word, is amazingly small, and the men whom you would brand as most distinctly so, if you came to talk to them, would amaze you to find how entirely ignorant they were of the fact that they were dramatising and pretending to piety, and that there was next to no reality of it in them. A very little bit of gold, beaten out very thin, will cover over, with a semblance of value, an enormous area. And men beat out the little modicum of sincerity that they have so very thin that it covers, and gives a deceptive appearance of brilliancy and solidity to an enormous amount of windy flatulence and mere pretence. The worse a man is, the less he knows it. The more completely a professing Christian has lost his hold of the substance and is clinging only to the form, the less does he suspect that this indictment has any application to him. The more completely a man’s limbs are frost-bitten the more comfortable and warm they are, and the less does he know it. I need say little about the reasons for this unconsciousness. We are all accustomed to take very lenient views, when we take any at all, of our own character; and the tendency of all conduct is to pull down conscience to the level of conduct, and to vindicate that conduct by biassed decisions of a partial conscience. The underground enemies of our Christian earnestness are far more dangerous than the apparent and manifest antagonists; and there are many men amongst us who would repel with indignation a manifest assault against their godliness, who yield without resistance, and almost without consciousness, to the sly seductions of unsuspected evil. The arrow that flies in darkness is more deadly than the pestilence that wasteth at noonday.

III. Further, notice the ever-operating causes that produce this condition.

1. I suppose that one, at anyrate, of the main examples of this “form” was participation in the simple worship of the primitive Church. And although the phrase by no means refers merely to acts of worship, still that is one of the main fields in which this evil is manifest. Many of us substitute outward connection with the Church for inward union with Jesus Christ. All external forms have a tendency to assert themselves, and to detain in themselves, instead of helping to rise above themselves, our poor sense-ridden natures. Seeing that the purest and the simplest of forms may become like a dirty window, an obscuring medium which shuts out instead of lets in the light, it seems to me that the Churches are wisest which admit least of the dangerous element into their external worship, and try to have as little of form as may keep the spirit. I know that simple forms may be abused quite as much as elaborate ones. Let us be very sure that we do not substitute Church membership, coming to chapel, going to prayer-meeting, teaching in Sunday schools, reading devout books, and the like, for the inward submission to the power.

2. Another cause always operating in the tendency which all action of every kind has to escape from the dominion of its first motives, and to become merely mechanical and habitual. Habit is a most precious ally of goodness, but habitual goodness tends to become involuntary and mechanical goodness, and so to cease to be goodness at all. And the more that we can, in each given case, make each individual act of godliness, whether it be in worship or in practical life, the result of a fresh approach to the one central and legitimate impulse of the Christian life, the better it will be for ourselves.

3. And then, still farther, there is the constant operation of earth and sense and daily duties and pressing cares, which war against the reality and completeness of our submission to the power of godliness. Grains of sand, microscopically minute in the aggregate, bury the temples and the images of the gods in the Nile Valley. The multitude of small cares and duties which are blown upon us by every wind have the effect of withdrawing us, unless we are continually watchful, from that one foundation of all, the love of Jesus Christ felt in our daily lives.

IV. So, lastly, let me point you to the discipline which may avert this evil.

1. First and foremost, I would say let us cherish a clear and continual recognition of the reality of the danger. Forewarned is forearmed. Rigid, habitual self-inspection, in the light of God’s Word, is an all-important help to prevent this sliding into superficiality of our Christian life. In a country which is only preserved by the dykes from being swallowed up by the sea the minutest inspection of the rampart is the condition of security, and if there be a hole big enough for a mouse to creep through the water will come in and make a gap wide enough to drown a province in a little while. And so, seeing that we have such dangers round about us, and that the most formidable of them all are powers that work in the dark, let us be very sure that our eyes have searched, as well as we can, the inmost corners of our lives, and that no lurking vermin lie beneath the unturned-up stones.

2. And then, lastly, and as that without which all else is vain, let us make continual and earnest and contrite efforts day by day to renew and deepen our personal communion with Jesus Christ. He is the source of the power which godliness operates in our lives, and the closer we keep to Him the more it will flood our hearts and make us real, out-and-out Christians, and not shallow and self-deceived pretenders. The tree that had nothing but leaves upon it hid its absence of fruit by its abundance of foliage. The Master came, as He comes to you and to me, seeking fruit, and if He finds it not He will perpetuate the barrenness by His blasting word, “No fruit grow upon thee henceforward forever.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Forms of religion necessary

1. Forms are necessary to religion as the means of its manifestation. As the invisible God manifests His nature--His power, wisdom, and goodness, in visible material forms, in the bright orbs of heaven, in the everlasting hills, in the broad earth with its fruits and flowers, and in all the living things which He has made,--so the invisible soul of man reveals its convictions and feelings in the outward acts which it performs. A form is the flag, the banner, the symbol of an inward life; it is to a religious belief what the body is to the soul; as the soul would be utterly unknown without the body, so religion would be unknown without its forms, a light hidden under a bushel, and not set up in a candlestick that it may give light to all that are in the house.

2. Forms are necessary not only to the manifestation of religion, but to its nourishment and continued existence, h religion which expressed itself in no outward word or act would soon die out of the soul altogether. The attempt to embody truth and feeling, to express it in words and actions, is necessary to give it the character of living principle in the soul: in this respect forms are like the healthy exercise which at once expresses and increases the vigorous life of the body, or they may be compared to the leaves of a tree, which not only proceed from its inward life, but catch the vitalising influences of the light, the rain, and the atmosphere, and convey them down to the root.

3. What, then, is that formalism which is everywhere in the Scripture, and especially in the discourses of our Lord, described as an offence and an abomination in the sight of God? It is the substitution of the outward rite in the place of the inner spirit and life of the soul; it is the green leaf which still hangs upon the dead branch which has been lopped off. (Christian Age.)

Form without power

Some years ago the captain of a Greenland whaling vessel found himself at night surrounded by icebergs and “lay-to” till the morning, expecting every moment to be ground to pieces. As the morning dawned he sighted a ship at no great distance. Getting into a boat with some of his men he carefully picked his way through the lanes of open ice towards the mysterious looking craft. Coming alongside he hailed the vessel with a loud, “Ship ahoy!” but there was no response. He looked through the porthole and saw a man, evidently the captain, sitting at a table as if writing in a log-book. He again hailed the vessel, but the figure moved not. It was dead and frozen! On examination the sailors were found, some frozen among the hammocks, others in the cabin. From the last entry in the log-book it appeared this vessel had been drifting about the Arctic seas for thirteen years--a floating sepulchre, manned by a frozen crew. And there are souls to-day who have refused the Divine offer of life, forsaken the centres where they were warmed with hallowed influences, and drifted into the chilling regions of Arctic darkness and frost. Many of these have certain appearances of Christian life, and a name to live. (Christian Journal.)

A deceptive form

On the farm of Manorlees, in Fifeshire, and in the house of Mr. Alexander Gibson, a large and very tempting ham hung from one of the rafters running across the ceiling. In the same house there was a rat, whose taste lay strongly in the direction of ham, and this rat, with rare instinct, gnawed a hole in the woodwork directly over the tempting morsel, and, descending, ate itself into the inside of it. How long the excavating went on is not known, but one day the housewife found it necessary to commence operations on the ham, when, on lifting it down, out bolted the depredator. The ham was a perfect shell, skin and bone only remaining to show its form. The animal, after feeding sumptuously, had commenced to build a nest inside. This anecdote is not simply amusing; it serves well to illustrate the operation of secret sin, eating away our spiritual life till nothing remains but a deceptive form of godliness--the mere rind and shell of religion. (Christian Herald.)

Form without power

Across your path, and on the ground, lies stretched out in death, a mighty tree, tall and strong--fit mast to carry a cloud of canvas, and bear unbent the strains of tempests. You put your foot lightly on it; and how great your surprise when, breaking through the bark, it sinks deep into the body of the tree--a result much less owing to the pressure of your foot than to the poisonous fungi and foul, crawling insects that have attacked its core. They have left the outer rind uninjured--but hollowed out its heart. Take care your heart is not hollowed out, and nothing left you but the crust and shell of an empty profession. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Religion, false and true

A painter has undertaken to portray on his canvas flames of fire. He does it so exactly that you can hardly detect it from real flames. But look! you see flies and other insects passing across it; they could never pass across real flames. Just so spiritual insects, in the shape of sins, will pass across the mere professor, which they could never do across one who had the power of real religion in his heart; the former has but the “form” of flames “of godliness,” the influential power is wanting. (Dr. Jenkyn.)

Hollow professors

Hollow professors are as hollow trees in an old wood--tall, but pithless, sapless, unsound. Their formality is fitly compared to a bulrush, whereof the colour is fresh, the skin smooth: he is very exact that can find a knot in a bulrush (Isaiah 58:5). But peel it, and what shall you find within but a kind of spongeous, unsubstantial substance? These, as if religion were a comedy, do in voice and gesture act Divine duties, in heart renounce them. Hypocrites only act religion, play devotion; like they are to the ostrich, saith Hugo, which hath wings, but flies not. The swan in the Law was rejected for sacrifice because of her black skin under white feathers. Art may take a man more than nature; but with God, the more art the less acceptance: He loveth truth in the inwards (Psalms 51:6). (J. Trapp.)

Formalism not religion

A hypocrite is a contemptible person, whether he is in the Church or out of it; whether he is deceiving in the name of respectability or religion. He is not a Christian any more than a crocodile is a nightingale or a fungus is a lily.

Formalism in religion

A gentleman once entered a hall with his son. They saw a number of well-dressed people--some of them standing together in groups, others apart; some sitting in various postures. The son’s attention was fixed by a pleasant-looking gentleman, somewhat gaudily dressed. He said, “Father, who is that gentleman? He seems a mild, pleasant looking person; but what a singular dress he wears! Who is he?” “Ask the gentleman who stands near you,” said the father. “If you please, sir, can you inform me who that gentleman opposite is?” No answer. The boy thinks it strange. At last the father tells him, “My son, those are only wax figures: there is no life in them; they are all outside, very fair to look at, but there is no soul, no life: they are outside and nothing else.” So it is with those who have no internal religion. (Dictionary of Illustrations.)

False profession

Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates, the king of Pontus, sending a crown to Caesar at the time he was in rebellion against him, he refused the present, saying, “Let him first lay down his rebellion, and then I will receive his crown.” There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet plant a crown of thorns upon His head by an evil conversation. (T. Secker.)

Danger of the office of preacher

There is always danger to those who have to talk much about religion that their religion may become that of the head, rather than the true religion of the heart. I have found it necessary myself to dedicate an hour or two at midnight to serious meditation, self-examination, and prayer. (Dean Hook.)

Formalism

Some may live upon forms, but there is no dying upon forms. Formalists, like Pharaoh’s lean kine, are full-fed, yet lean. To pursue the ways of God with a guilty conscience is Satan’s great receipt for perpetual failure.


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Timothy 3:5". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-timothy-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.

The fact of the gross sinners described here "holding a form of godliness" identifies this particular discussion of the apostasy as descriptive of the inner character of many in the apostate religion that shall characterize the last days. Outsiders are not primarily in view here, but those who hold a form of godliness. "Paul here described a class of people who went under the name of Christ."[9] Hervey quoted Alford thus, "This command shows that the apostle treats the symptoms of the last times as in some respects present."[10] This ought not to be surprising, however, for in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul also represented the "spirit of lawlessness" as already working. Neither passage may be pressed into service for the support of the noxious error that Paul expected the Second Advent in his own days.

Note also the powerful implication of this passage regarding the "power" of the form of godliness, a power denied by the evil behavior of some, but nevertheless a power resident in the form of holy religion itself. "Genuine Christians must also be professing Christians."[11] The very ordinances of holy religion are power-laden; they are not mere symbols. Many today hold to such forms but in a positive unbelief of the gospel as a regenerating force. The admonition here is not to leave off the forms of the gospel, but not to deny the power of them through godless living. Gould has a very perceptive passage on this, as follows:

This is not intended to suggest that true religion is formless. Indeed form and power are not natural enemies or mutually exclusive. In fact, there must be a marriage between form and power if the worship of God is to be the thing of grace and beauty that God desires.[12]

From these also turn away ... Lipscomb and DeWelt believed that here is apostolic authority for withdrawal, or excommunication of gross sinners. De Welt said, "Here is the reason for withdrawal of fellowship."[13] True as this assuredly is in many instances, Paul was here speaking of the general apostasy in which evil souls would themselves be in control of the visible machinery of the church; and the thought seems to be directed to the proposition that the true Christian should himself turn away from the corrupt majority. There have been many historical examples of that situation. This is no less difficult to do than the other. When one becomes convinced that a whole communion of professing Christians has so far departed from the word of God that he must turn away from them, the social consequences can be very unpleasant.

[9] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 229.

[10] A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 21,2Timothy, p. 41.

[11] Newport J. D. White, Expositor's Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), Vol. IV, p. 171.

[12] J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 648.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-timothy-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Having a form of godliness,.... Either a mere external show of religion, pretending great piety and holiness, being outwardly righteous before men, having the mask and visor of godliness; or else a plan of doctrine, a form of sound words, a scheme of truths, which men may have without partaking of the grace of God; and which, with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, the church of Rome has; or else the Scriptures of truth, which the members of that church have, and profess to hold to, maintain and preserve; and which contains doctrines according to godliness, and tend to a godly life and godly edification:

but denying the power thereof; though in words they profess religion and godliness, the fear of God, and the pure worship of him, yet in works they deny all; and though they may have a set of notions in their heads, yet they feel nothing of the power of them on their hearts; and are strangers to experimental religion, and powerful godliness: or though they profess the Scriptures to be the word of God, yet they deny the use, the power, and efficacy of them; they deny the use of them to the laity, and affirm that they are not a sufficient rule of faith and practice, without their unwritten traditions; and that they are not able to make men wise, or give them a true knowledge of what is to be believed and done, without them; and that the sense of them is not to be understood by private men, but depends upon the infallible judgment of the church or pope:

from such turn away; have no fellowship with them, depart from their communion, withdraw from them, and come out from among them: this passage sufficiently justifies the reformed churches in their separation from the church of Rome.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-timothy-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: 2 from such turn away.

(2) We must not tarry with those men who resist the truth not from simple ignorance, but from a perverse mind, (which thing appears by their fruits which he graphically displays here); rather, we must turn away from them.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-timothy-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

form — outward semblance.

godliness — piety.

denying — rather as Greek,having denied,” that is, renounced.

the power — the living, regenerating, sanctifying influence of it.

turn away — implying that some of such characters, forerunners of the last days, were already in the Church.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-timothy-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A form of godliness (μορπωσιν ευσεβειαςmorphōsin eusebeias). For μορπωσινmorphōsin see note on Romans 2:20. The outward shape without the reality.

Having denied (ηρνημενοιērnēmenoi). Perfect middle participle of αρνεομαιarneomai (see note on Romans 2:11.).

Power (δυναμινdunamin). See 1 Corinthians 4:20. See Romans 1:29-31 for similar description.

Turn away (αποτρεπουapotrepou). Present middle (direct) imperative of αποτρεπωapotrepō “turn thyself away from.” Old verb, only here in N.T. See 4 Maccabees 1:33.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/2-timothy-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

A form ( μόρφωσιν )

Only here and Romans 2:20. Μορφὴ Form(for the want of any other rendering) is the expression or embodiment of the essential and permanent being of that which is expressed Μόρφωσις , lit. forming or shaping. Yet the meaning differs in different passages. In Romans 2:20, μόρφωσις isthe truthful embodiment of knowledge and truth as contained in the law of God. Here, the mere outward semblance, as distinguished from the essential reality.

The power ( τὴν δύναμιν )

The practical virtue. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:20. It is impossible to overlook the influence of Romans 1:29-31in shaping this catalogue.

Turn away ( ἀποτρέπου )

N.T.oComp. παραιτοῦ avoid 2 Timothy 2:23; ἐκτρεπόμενος turningaway, 1 Timothy 6:20; and ἐκκλίνετε turnaway, Romans 16:17.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/2-timothy-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Having a form — An appearance of godliness, but not regarding, nay, even denying and blaspheming, the inward power and reality of it. Is not this eminently fulfilled at this day?


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-timothy-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

A form of godliness; an outward pretension to godliness.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/2-timothy-3.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

5From those turn away. This exhortation sufficiently shows that Paul does not speak of a distant posterity, nor foretell what would happen many ages afterwards; but that, by pointing out present evils, he applies to his own age what he had said about “the last times;” for how could Timothy “turn away” from those who were not to arise till many centuries afterwards? So then, from the very beginning of the gospel, the Church must have begun to be affected by such corruptions.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/2-timothy-3.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Ver. 5. Having a form of godliness] Hollow professors are as hollow trees in an old wood; tall, but pithless, sapless, unsound. Their formality is fitly compared to a bulrush, whereof the colour is fresh, the skin smooth; he is very exact that can find a knot in a bulrush, Isaiah 58:5. But peel it, and what shall you find within but a kind of spongeous unsubstantial substance &c. These, as if religion were a comedy, do in voice and gesture act divine duties, in heart renounce them. Hypocrites only act religion, play devotion; like they are to the ostrich, saith Hugo, qui alas habet sed non volat which hath wings but flies not. God is in their mouths, but not in their reins, as the prophet Jeremiah complaineth; and all they do is an effect rather of art and parts, than of the heart and grace; shells not kernels, shadows and pageants of piety, not heart workings. The swan in the law was rejected for sacrifice, because of her black skin under white feathers. Art may take a man more than nature; but with God the more art, the less acceptance: he loveth truth in the inwards, Psalms 51:6.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-timothy-3.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

This is the last, but not the least sin of the perilous times: the apostle,

1. Tells us what these men have, a form of godliness; that is, a vain, empty show of piety and religion, which discovers itself in external devotion, in a profession of the Christian faith, in an external show of mortification, in a great zeal for some particular party, or private opinion.

2. What they want, the power of godliness, that is, the truth and sincerity of it, consisting in true love to God and our neighbour.

3. The apostle directs us as to our behaviour towards such men, From these turn away.

Learn hence,1. That a person may go far, and advance high, in an external profession of piety and religion, and yet have no more than a form of godliness.

2. That notwithstanding this, there is such a thing as the internal and inward power of godliness and religion, which few maintain, but most deny.

Learn, 3. That Christians must shun familiarity with such as have the brand of the foregoing infamous sins upon them, and not hold correspondency with such as are the avowed enemies of Christ and his kingdom.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/2-timothy-3.html. 1700-1703.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 2252

FORM AND POWER OF GODLINESS

2 Timothy 3:5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

THERE were, even in the Apostolic ages, many awful declensions from piety and sound religion: but in the last days we expect they will prevail to a far greater extent. Even at the present day, a thorough acquaintance with what is called the religious world will bring to our minds many sad characters, who do not indeed fully answer to the description given in the preceding context, but in many respects approximate to it. It is not, however, my intention to take the whole of the character here portrayed; but only the last trait of it, which I have selected for our consideration at this time.

Let me, then,

I. Unfold the character that is here drawn—

They “have a form of godliness”—

[By “godliness,” I understand an entire devotion of the soul to God. This must, of necessity, have forms and services wherein it must display itself: for, circumstanced as we are in the world, it is impossible to serve God without forms. The reading of the Scriptures, the attending on divine ordinances, the observance of the Sabbath, the duties of family worship, and of secret prayer, are all forms, in and by which vital godliness must display itself. Now many have, in these respects, the form of godliness: they live in the external discharge of these duties: they are conscious, that without an observance of these things they could have no credit whatever for true godliness; and therefore they fulfil their duties in these respects; and then flatter themselves that they have performed all that is required of them — — —]

But they deny its power—

[As for real delight in God, notwithstanding all their profession of religion, they are strangers to it. Their prayers are a mere service of the lip and knee; their praises are no other than cold, unmeaning acknowledgments; and the whole service of God, in the Church, the family, and the closet, is nothing but “a form,” a lamp without oil, a body without the soul. Nor does godliness pervade their souls, so as to produce the mind that was in Christ, or to transform them into God’s image. They seem not to think that religion is to operate to such an extent as this; and that, provided they observe the outward duties of religion, the tempers and dispositions of the soul may safely be overlooked. Hence their self-love, their covetousness, and their numberless evil dispositions, retain their full ascendency, and reign without controul. In fact, “they have a name to live; but in reality they are dead.”]

And now let me,

II. Shew in what estimation it should be held—

The Apostle says, “From such turn away.” To explain this, I will shew,

1. In what sense we are not to turn away from such characters—

[We are not to turn away from them in contempt. That were highly unbecoming us; who, if we differ at all, owe the whole of that difference to the distinguishing grace of God. And it would be most offensive to God, who cannot endure such hateful pride. If we say to any man, “Stand off; I am holier than thou;” God will regard us as “a smoke in his nose, a fire that burneth all the day [Note: Isaiah 65:5.]” — — — Nor are we to turn away in indifference, as though we cared not what became of them. We should rather mourn over them, as Paul [Note: Romans 9:1-2.]; and weep over them, as our Lord did over the murderous Jerusalem — — — Nor should we turn away from them in despair; for God is able to save them; and he will hear prayer in their behalf — — —]

2. In what sense we are to turn away from them—

[We are not, on any account, to make them our companions. We should in this respect turn away from them, for their sake, for our own sake, for the Church’s sake, and for the world’s sake. If we associate with them, we shall make them think well of themselves; when, by a becoming departure from them, we may bring them to a measure of self-diffidence and compunction — — — If we associate with them, we shall be in danger of drinking into their spirit, and of learning their ways. We shall have our zeal and ardour damped by them; who, instead of rising with us, would soon bring us down to a level with themselves — — — By associating with them, also, we should lead our weaker brethren to conceive that there is no evil in their ways — — — And we should justify the world in all their censures of religion, when, for the sake of some ungodly professors, they decry all serious religion, and represent all the servants of God as hypocrites — — —]

Address—

1. Those who have not even the form of godliness—

[It is a lamentable truth, that the greater part of nominal Christians live altogether “without God in the world.” Had they been born Pagans or Mahomedans, they would not, as far as Jehovah is concerned, have differed in any essential particular. Now then, I ask, if they who have a form of godliness may yet be in a state so hateful to God, what must be the condition of those who are destitute even of the form? Can it be that they should be approved of the Lord? They will indeed, and with great confidence too, affirm, that they have no ground to fear: but they awfully deceive their own souls: for to them does that declaration of God belong, in its utmost force, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].” O that they would be wise, and consider their latter end, ere it be too late!]

2. Those who have the form, but not the power—

[To what purpose is it that you “profess to know God, if in works you deny him?” In truth, if you will look into the Scriptures, you will find that real godliness is a far different thing from what you are accustomed to think it. Look at the precepts: do they extend only to forms? Examine the promises; are they limited to forms? See the examples of piety: do they rise no higher than to mere formal services? The whole of God’s blessed word declares, that God must “be worshipped in Spirit and in truth;” and that the heart, the whole heart, must be consecrated to his service. Any thing short of this is a mere mockery, and a fatal delusion.]

3. Those who have both the form and power of godliness—

[It is well to combine the two, yet to keep them both in their proper place. We must not elevate either, to the exclusion of the other. As we must not rest in forms, so neither must we rise above them, as though the eminence of our piety superseded the use of them. All external duties, of whatever kind, must be observed: only we must take care that we be filled with the Spirit, in the use of them. Forms are like Jacob’s ladder, by which you are to ascend to God, and God will descend to you. But see to it, that your access to God be daily more near, and your enjoyment of him more sweet: see to it, that you shew forth daily, with increasing evidence, the efficacy of his grace, and the beauty of his religion. Let your whole spirit and temper evince the power of godliness in your souls; and then not only shall all the saints turn unto you in love, but God himself will embrace you as the objects of his tenderest affection.]


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/2-timothy-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

2 Timothy 3:5. ΄όρφωσιν) the outward appearance, not without some internal rudiment of godliness.— ἀποτρέπου) τρέπεται is said of one who, when he is forced, flees: ἀποτρέπεται, of one who ἀναχωρεῖ, withdraws, and spontaneously shuns any one.—Eustath.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/2-timothy-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Having a form of godliness: a form here is the same with a mask, or vizor, or appearance, an accidental form, opposed to substance and reality. It signifieth that in the latter times there should be many such as owned themselves Christians, and pretended to a right way of worshipping God, to be the church, the only church of God.

But denying the power thereof; but in practice, though not in words, denying all substantial godliness, which lieth not in assuming the empty name of Christians, and making a profession, but lies in truth, righteousness, love and peace, self-denial, mortifying our members; it being a thing attended with life and power, a man being no more a Christian than he acts and lives like a Christian.

From such turn away; from such kind of professors as were before described, the apostle willeth Timothy to turn away, both as to having any church fellowship or communion, or any intimacy of converse with them.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-timothy-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

2 Timothy

FORM AND POWER


2 Timothy 3:5

IN this, his last letter and legacy, the Apostle Paul is much occupied with the anticipation of coming evils. It is most natural that the faithful watchman, knowing that the hour of relieving guard was very near at hand, should eagerly scan the horizon in quest of the enemies that might approach when he was no longer there to deal with them. Old men are apt to take a gloomy view of coming days, but the frequent references to the corruptions of the Church which occur in this letter are a great deal more than an old man’s pessimism. They were warnings, which were amply vindicated by the history of the post-apostolic age of the Church, which was the seed-bed of all manner of corruptions, and they point to permanent dangers, the warning against which is as needful for us as for any period.

The Apostle draws here a very dark picture of the corrupt forms of Christianity, the advent of which he tremblingly anticipated. I do not mean to enter at all upon the dark catalogue of the vices which he enumerates, except to point out that its beginning and the middle and the end are very significant. It begins with ‘lovers of self’ - that is the root of all forms of sin. In the centre there stands ‘lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God’; and at the end, summing up the whole, are the words of our text, ‘having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’

I do not suppose that these words need much explanation. ‘Godliness,’ in the New Testament, means not only the disposition which we call piety, but the conduct which flows from it, and which we may call practical religion. The form or outward appearance of that we all understand. But what is the ‘denying the power thereof?’ It does not consist in words, but in deeds. In these latter epistles we find ‘denying’ frequently used as equivalent to abjuring, renouncing, casting off. For instance, in a passage singularly and antithetically parallel to that of my text, we read ‘denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,’ which simply means throwing off their dominion. And in like manner the denial here is no verbal rejection of the principles of the gospel, which would be inconsistent with the notion of still retaining the form of godliness; but it is the practical renunciation of the power, which is inherent in all true godliness, of moulding the life and character - the practical renunciation of that even whilst preserving a superficial, unreal appearance of being subject to it.

This, then, being the explanation, and the rough out. line of the state of things which the Apostle contemplates as hurrying onwards to corrupt the Church after his departure, let us look at some of the thoughts connected with it.

I. Observe the sad frequency of such a condition.

Wherever any great cause or principle is first launched into the world, it evokes earnest enthusiasm, and brings men to heroisms of consecration and service. And so when Christianity was first launched, there was less likelihood of its attracting to itself men who were not in earnest, and who were mere formalists. But even in the Apostolic Church there were an Ananias and a Sapphira, a Simon Magus, and a Demas. As years go on, and primitive enthusiasms die out, and the cause which was once all freshly radiant and manifestly heaven-born becomes an earthly institution, there is a growing tendency to gather round it superficial, half-and-half adherents. What. soever is respectable, and whatsoever is venerable, and whatsoever is customary will be sure to have attached to it a mass of loose and nominal adherents; and the gospel has had its full share of such. I was talking not very long ago to a leading man belonging to another denomination than my own; and he quietly, as a matter of course said, ‘Our communicants are so many hundred thousands. I reckon that a quarter of them, or thereabouts, are truly spiritual men!’ and he seemed to think that nobody Would question the correctness of the calculation and the proportion. Why, ‘Christendom’ is largely a mass of pagans masquerading as Christians.

And every church has its full share of such people; loose adherents, clogs upon all movement, who bring down the average of warmth like the great icebergs that float in the Atlantic and lower the temperature of the summer all over Europe. They make consecration ‘eccentric’; they make consistent, out-and-out Christian living ‘odd,’ ‘unlike the ordinary thing,’ and they pull down the spirituality of the Church almost to the level of the world. Every communion of so-called Christian men has its full share of these. The same thing applies to us, and every Church of God on the face of the earth has a little core of earnest Christians, who live the life, and a great envelope and surrounding of men who, as my text says, have the form of godliness, and practically deny the power thereof. Widespread, and all but universal, this condition of things is. And so let each of us say, ‘Lord! Is it I?’

II. Think, next, of the underground working of this evil

These people about whom Paul is speaking in my text were, I suppose, mostly, though by no means exclusively, conscious pretenders to what they did not possess. But the number of hypocrites, in the full sense of the word, is amazingly small, and the men whom you would brand as most distinctly so, if you came to talk to them, would amaze you to find how entirely ignorant they were of the fact that they were dramatising and pretending to piety, and that there was next to no reality of it in them. A very little bit of gold, beaten out very thin, will cover over, with a semblance of value, an enormous area. And men beat out the little modicum of sincerity that they have so very thin that it covers, and gives a deceptive appearance of brilliancy and solidity to an enormous amount of windy flatulence and mere pretence. Hypocrites, in the rude, vulgar sense of the word, are, I was going to say, as rare as, but I will say a great deal rarer than, thoroughgoing and intensely earnest and sincere Christians. These men, the precursors of Gnostic heresies and a hundred others, had no notion that their picture was like this, and if they had been shown Paul’s grim catalogue they would have said, ‘Oh! a gross caricature, and not the least like me.’ And that is what a great many other men do as well.

But it is an unconscious hypocrisy, an unconscious sliding away from the basis of reality on to the slippery basis of pretence and appearance that I want to say a word or two about. The worse a man is, the less he knows it. The more completely a professing Christian has lost his hold of the substance and is clinging only to the form, the less does he suspect that this indictment has any application to him. The very sign and symptom of spiritual degeneracy and corruption is unconsciousness, as the great champion of Israel, when his locks were cropped in Delilah’s lap, went out to exercise his mighty limbs as at other times, and knew not, till he vainly tried feats which their ebbing strength was no longer equal to perform, that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him. The more completely a man’s limbs are frost-bitten the more comfortable and warm they are, and the less does he know it. If a man says, ‘Your text has no sort of application to me,’ he thereby shows that it has a very close application to him.

I need say little about the reasons for this unconsciousness. We are all accustomed to take very lenient views, when we take any at all, of our own character; and the tendency of all conduct is to pull down conscience to the level of conduct, and to vindicate that conduct by biased decisions of a partial conscience. And so I have no doubt that there are people thinking how well my words fit some other man from whom there has, without there knowing it, ebbed away, by slow, sad drops, almost all the lifeblood of their Christianity, like some great tree that stands in the woods, fair to appearance, with solid bole and widespread leafage, and expanded branches, and yet the heart is out of it; and when the tempest comes and it falls, everybody can look into the hollow trunk and see that for years it has been rotten.

Brethren, the underground enemies of our Christian earnestness are far more dangerous than the apparent and manifest antagonists; and there are many men amongst us who would repel with indignation a manifest assault against their godliness, who yield without resistance, and almost without consciousness, to the sly seductions of unsuspected evil. The arrow that flies in darkness is more deadly than the pestilence that wasteth at noonday.

III. Further, notice the ever-operating causes that produce this condition.

I suppose that one, at any rate, of the main examples of this ‘form’ was participation in the simple worship of the primitive Church And although the phrase by no means refers merely to acts of worship, still that is one of the main fields in which this evil is manifest. Many of us substitute outward connection with the Church for inward union with Jesus Christ. All external forms have a tendency to assert themselves, and to detain in themselves, instead of helping to rise above themselves, our poor sense-ridden natures. How many of us are there whose religion consists very largely in coming to this place, standing up when other people sing, seeming to unite in prayer and praise, perhaps participating in the sacred rites of the Church; but having most of their religion safely locked up in their pews along with their hymn-books when they leave the chapel, and waiting for them quietly, without troubling them, until next Sunday! We need outward forms of worship. It is a sign of our weakness that we do, but they are so full of danger that one sometimes wishes that they could be broken up and made fluent, and, at least for a time, that something else could be substituted for them.

Seeing that the purest and the simplest of forms may become like a dirty window, an obscuring medium which shuts out instead of lets in the light, it seems to me that the Churches are wisest which admit least of the dangerous element into their external worship, and try to have as little of form as may keep the spirit. I know that simple forms may be abused quite as much am elaborate ones. I know that a Quakers’ meetinghouse is often quite as much a house of formal and not of real communion as a Roman Catholic cathedral. Let us remember how full of dangers they all, and always are. And let us be very sure that we do not substitute church membership, coming to church or chapel, going to prayer-meeting, teaching in Sunday-schools, reading devout books, and the like, for inward submission to the power.

Another cause always operating is the tendency which all action of every kind has to escape from the dominion of its first motives, and to become merely mechanical and habitual Habit is a most precious ally of goodness, but habitual goodness tends to become involuntary and mechanical goodness, and so to cease to be goodness at all And the more that we can, in each given case, make each individual act of godliness, whether it be in worship or in practical life, the result of a fresh approach to the one central and legitimate impulse of the Christian life, the better it will be for ourselves. All great causes, as I was saying a moment or two ago, tend to pass from the dominion of impulse into that of use and wont and mere routine, and our religion and practical godliness in daily life is apt to do that, as well as all our other actions.

And then, still further, there is the constant operation of earth and sense and daily duties and pressing cares, which war against the reality and completeness of our submission to the power of godliness. Grains of sand, microscopically minute in the aggregate, bury the temples and the images of the gods in the Nile Valley. The multitude of small cares and duties which are blown upon us by every wind have the effect of withdrawing us, unless we are continually watchful, from that one foundation of all, the love of Jesus Christ felt in our daily lives. Unless we perpetually tighten our hold, it will loosen, by very weariness of the muscles. Unless the boat be firmly anchored it will be drifted down the stream. Unless we take care, our Christian life and earnestness will ooze out at our finger-tips, and we shall never know that it is gone. The world, our own weakness, our very tasks and duties, the pressure of circumstances, the sway of our senses, and the very habit of doing right - all of these may tend to make us mechanical and formal participators in the religious life, and unconscious hypocrites.

IV. So, lastly, let me point you to the discipline which may avert this evil.

First and foremost, I would say, let us cherish a clear and continual recognition of the reality of ‘the danger Forewarned is forearmed. He that will take counsel of his own weakness, and be taught by God’s Word how unreliable he himself is, and how strong the forces are which tend to throw his religion all to the surface, will thereby be, if not insured against the danger, at least made a great deal more competent to deal with it. ‘Blessed is the man that feareth always,’ and that knows how likely he is to go wrong unless he carefully seeks to keep himself right.

Rigid, habitual self-inspection, in the light of God’s Word, is an all-important help to prevent this sliding of our Christian life into superficiality. If what I was saying about the unconsciousness of decline be at all true, then most eloquently and impressively does it say to us all, ‘Watch! for we know not what may be going on underground unless we have a continual carefulness of inspection.’ We should watch our own characters, the movement of our spiritual nature, and the effect and operation of our habits and of our participation in outward forms of Christianity; we should watch these as carefully as men in the tropics look into their beds and their clothing before they put them on, or get into them, for snakes and scorpions. In a country which is only preserved by the dykes from Being swallowed up by the sea, the minutest inspection of the rampart is the condition of security, and if there be a hole big enough for a mouse to creep through, the water will come in and make a gap wide enough to drown a province in a little while. And so, brethren, seeing that we have such dangers round about us, and that the most formidable of them all are powers that work in the dark, let us be very sure that our eyes have searched, as well as we can, the inmost corners of our lives, and that no lurking vermin lie beneath the unturned up stones.

And then, lastly, and as that without which all else is vain, let us make continual and earnest and contrite efforts day by day to renew and deepen our personal communion with Jesus Christ. He is the source of the power which godliness operates in our lives, and the closer we keep to Him the more it will flood our hearts and make us real, out-and-out Christians, and not shallow and self-deceived pretenders.

The tree that had nothing but leaves upon it hid its absence of fruit by its abundance of foliage. The Master came, as He comes to you and to me, seeking fruit, and if He finds it not He will perpetuate the barrenness by His blasting word, ‘No fruit grow upon thee henceforward for ever.’


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Bibliography
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/2-timothy-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Having a form of godliness; having only its external form. These words mark the men whose character the apostle has drawn in such dark colors, as only outwardly members of the church of Christ.

Denying the power; showing by their lives that they have not the spirit of true religion, and have not experienced its renewing and sanctifying power.

Turn away; do not associate with or acknowledge them as Christians, and do nothing to countenance their errors. The great apostasy from the faith and practice of the gospel which has been and still is witnessed in the world, and which is manifested by its leaders exalting themselves as ecclesiastical and civil rulers, loving and amassing large sums of money, inducing men and women to stifle natural affection, to break away from and not to enter into family connections, falsely accusing men of heresy and putting them to death for reading and obeying the Bible, living in luxury and sinful pleasures, and at the same time abounding in forms and ceremonies of religion and bitterly opposing its spirit-was clearly foretold in the Bible. This is evidence that the Bible was given by the inspiration of God; and thus the wickedness of the wicked is an illustration of his truth. Romans 3:7.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/2-timothy-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

5. ἔχοντες μόρφωσιν εὐσεβείας, having the form of godliness. See on 1 Timothy 2:2.

μόρφωσις is an affectation of, or aiming at, the μορφή of godliness, but not the μορφή itself (cp. Romans 2:20). μορφή is that which manifests the essence or inward nature of anything (see Philippians 2:6) as opposed to the σχῆμα, the outward fashion or bearing; this the semipagan teachers of the future will not have. The melancholy thing is that they will affect to have it, although they have repudiated its power over the heart and life (Titus 1:16), wherein is the real uniqueness of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:20). For this use of ἀρνὲομαι cp. 1 Timothy 5:8.

καὶ τούτους ἀποτρέπου, from these turn away; the καί adds force and speciality to τούτους. Cp. 1 Timothy 6:20 where ἐκτρέπομαι is used in a like context; ἀποτρέπειν is a ἅπ. λεγ. in the N.T. The injunction shews that these corruptions of the Gospel were not merely contemplated as about to arise in the future, but as already a present danger. This is clearly brought out by the next clause ἐκ τούτων γάρ εἰσιν κ.τ.λ.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/2-timothy-3.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

5. Over these vices these men would contrive to throw a form of piety, but the power by which piety removes actual wrong conduct and character they would be ever practically denying. It would be an age of antinomianism, in which doctrine and profession would be contradicted by immorality of heart and life.

Turn away—Have no fellowship with a piety devoid of honesty.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-timothy-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Holding a form of religious behaviour, but having denied its power. From these also turn away.’

And yet they cling to some kind of ‘eusebeias’, religious thinking and behaviour. But they deny the source of true power in genuine religion, response to and recognition of the risen Christ (2 Timothy 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:10). Thus Timothy must turn away from them (compare 2 Timothy 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:4-7; 1 Timothy 1:19-20; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:3-5 with 1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Timothy 6:20-21). It is worthy of note how concerned Paul is in his final letters to warn against distortions of Christianity such as are found in the sects, which include Islam, a religion based on Mohammed’s distorted notions about Christian teaching.

‘Having denied its power.’ On one way or another they deny the resurrection and its significance. For example, they say that the resurrection is past already (2 Timothy 2:18). But its power can equally be denied by any failure to truly believe and come to a genuine knowledge of the truth. The power of the resurrection can only be experienced by becoming one with the risen Christ as a result of our opening our hearts to Him (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 3:17).


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-timothy-3.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Finally these people would (19) make a pretense of being religious but deny the source of true spiritual power (i.e, God"s Word). This last characteristic makes clear that those individuals described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 would even claim to be Christians (i.e, false teachers and their followers). Timothy was to avoid association with people who demonstrated these characteristics except, of course, for purposes of evangelism and instruction.

"Self-love is the basic shortcoming mentioned in the list of vices in 2 Timothy 3:2-5. This vice leads to action in 2 Timothy 3:6-9 that is deceitful, determined to dominate, stubborn, and rejected by God." [Note: Lea, p230.]


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/2-timothy-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

2 Timothy 3:5. Form. The Greek word suggests the idea of a manufactured article, the ‘fashion or semblance’ of piety.

Denying. The Greek participle is in the perfect, ‘having denied’ or ‘repudiated.’

From such turn away. The injunction implies, what is in other ways apparent, that. St. Paul thought of the characteristic features of the last days as already present.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/2-timothy-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

2 Timothy 3:5. ἔχοντες (see note on 1 Timothy 1:19) μόρφωσιν, κ. τ. λ.: Habentes speciem quidem pietatis. We have an exact parallel in Titus 1:16, θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται. They were professing Christians, but nothing more; genuine Christians must also be professing Christians. This consideration removes any difficulty that may be felt by a comparison of this passage with Romans 2:20, where it is implied that it is a point in the Jew’s favour that he has τὴν μόρφωσιν τῆς γνώσεως καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐν τῷ νόμῳ. The μόρφωσις, embodiment, is external in both cases, but not unreal as far as it goes. The ineffectiveness of it arises from the coexistence in the mind of him who “holds” it of some other quality that neutralises the advantage naturally derivable from the possession of the μόρφωσις in question. In this case, it was that they of whom St. Paul is speaking had a purely theoretical, academic apprehension of practical Christianity ( εὐσέβεια, see 1 Timothy 2:2), but a positive disbelief in the Gospel as a regenerating force. Compare what St. John says of the rulers who believed on Jesus but did not confess Him (John 12:42-43). They too were φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον φιλόθεοι. In Romans the case is similar: the possession of an admirable moral code did not make the Jew’s moral practice better than that of the Gentile (see Sanday and Headlam on Romans 2:20). There is therefore no necessity to suppose with Lightfoot that “the termination - ωσις denotes the aiming after or affecting the μορφή” (Journal of Class. and Sacr. Philol. (1857), iii. 115).

δύναμιν: the opposition between μόρφωσις and δύναμις here is the same as that between δύναμις and σοφία in 1 Corinthians 2:5, or λόγος, 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:5; see also Hebrews 7:16.

ἠρνημένοι: To deny a thing or a person involves always more than an act of the mind; it means carrying the negation into practice. See on 1 Timothy 5:8.

καί: perhaps refers back to 2 Timothy 2:22-23.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/2-timothy-3.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Having an appearance indeed of piety, in some things, as we may see heretics affect to be thought more exact than the Catholics in some things, by which the devil more easily deceives souls, but denying by their lives the power, virtue, and force of piety. (Witham) --- These avoid. St. Paul having in the preceding verses described the vices and enormities which were to reign in the world in the latter days, here warns Timothy, that already people given to such extravagancies were in the world, and that consequently in regard to Timothy, those days were already come. (St. John Chrysostom, Theophylactus, &c.) --- How many crimes are covered with the cloak of knowledge, and the exterior of piety, and what mischief arises to religion from such base and hypocritical conduct: it cannot be too severely attacked, as we see in Christ's comportment towards the Pharisees.


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-timothy-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

form. Greek. morphosis. Only here and Romans 2:29.

godliness. See 1 Timothy 2:2.

power. App-172, L

from such = and from these.

turn away. Greek. apotrepomai. Only here.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-timothy-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Form , [ morfoosin (Greek #3446)] - the aiming at the intrinsic form [ morfee (Greek #3444)]: outward semblance.

Denying - practically and habitually [ eerneemenoi (Greek #720)]: a continuing state: 'having denied.'

The power (1 Corinthians 4:20) - the regenerating, sanctifying influence of it.

From such , [ kai (Greek #2532) toutous (Greek #5128)] - 'from these in particular,' about to arise, as distinguished from those already existing (2 Timothy 2:25), of whom there is a hope. The characters here are types of the last matured apostasy.

Turn away - implying that some of such characters, forerunners of the last days, were already in the Church.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-timothy-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

To the outward form. The context shows these people are members of the Lord's church (or at least they seem to be). In order to deceive their followers, they put on an outward show of godliness, and perhaps pretend to be "defenders of the Faith." Read what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23-32. But reject. Compare what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 4:19-20. The real power of our religion is truth and love at work in a holy life! The false teachers cut themselves off from these!!! Lipscomb says: "Anyone denies the power of godliness when he professes to honor God, but refuses to obey his commandments (Matthew 7:21-23)." Keep away. This means: (1) Avoid such people as this! (2) Do not allow such people to influence you. (3) MacKnight thinks it means they should be turned out of the church to protect the others, as you would remove a cancer.


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/2-timothy-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.—Keeping up a show of observing the outward forms of religion, but renouncing its power and its influence over the heart and the life; shewing openly that they neither acknowledged its guidance or wished to do so. These, by claiming the title of Christians, wearing before men the uniform of Christ, but by their lives dishonouring His name, did the gravest injury to the holy Christian cause. Another dreary catalogue of vices St. Paul gives in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:29, and following verses); but in that passage he paints the sins of Paganism. Here he describes the characteristics of a new Paganism, which went under the name of Christianity.

From such turn away.—These, daring to assume the sacred name, no doubt with the thought of claiming its glorious promises, without one effort to please the Master or to do honour to His name—these were to be openly shunned by such as Timothy. No half measures were to be adopted towards these, who tried to deceive their neighbours and possibly deceived themselves. The Pagan was to be courteously entreated, for in God’s good time the glory of the Lord might shine, too, on those now sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. The heretic, seduced by false men from the school of the Apostles, where the life as well as the doctrine of Jesus was taught, was to be gently instructed. Perhaps God would lead him once more home. But these, who, while pretending to belong to Jesus, lived the degraded life of the heathen, were to be shunned. No communion, no friendly intercourse was possible between the hypocrite and the Christian.

The command here is so definite—“from these turn away”—that any theory which would relegate the vices just enumerated to a distant future would require, as above stated, that a strained and unnatural meaning should be given to this positive direction to Timothy. The plain and obvious signification of the passage is: men committing the sins alluded to lived then in the Church over which Timothy presided; they were to be avoided by the chief presbyter and his brethren.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-timothy-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
a form
Isaiah 29:13; 48:1,2; 58:1-3; Ezekiel 33:30-32; Matthew 7:15; 23:27,28; Romans 2:20-24; 1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 1:16
from
2:16,23; Romans 16:17,18; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14; 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 3:10; 2 John 1:10-12

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-timothy-3.html.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

Here we have a clear command to separate from any that profess to believe, yet by their life declare their disbelief.

These look like a believer, may act that way some of the time, but really deny the power of God in their lives and should be avoided.

Further application seems unneeded - but possibly a word as to what does turn away mean. The term can mean shun or avoid thus more than a turn away is needed. It should be a concerted effort to avoid contact with this person.

Some reasons to do so: First you don"t want to be contaminated by their false teaching or false living, nor do you want to be seen as being an associate of someone that is denying the God that you serve.

Is there leeway to talk with them about their condition? I would think this would be right and proper, but only if there is some indication fairly quickly in the conversation that they are listening and actually considering what you say.

Paul taught that the avoidance was to bring about a return to the assembly, thus we should be open to reconciliation with one that is gone astray.


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Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.

Bibliography
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:5". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sdn/2-timothy-3.html.

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