2 Timothy 3

The Ruin of Christendom and the Resources of the Faithful
2 Timothy 3
2 Timothy 3. In this chapter Paul warns Timothy of the state of Christianity in the last days. He proceeds through a description of the character of the evil men that would abound in the last days, including their method of deceiving others. The description of these ones is not far from that of the heathen in Romans 1. The awful fact is that 2 Timothy 3 is not describing the heathen, but actually those who profess the name of Christ! This ought to solemnize the believer, and cause him to pass judgment on anything in his own life, as well as in the house of God, that would dishonor the Name of Christ. There are two dangers, (1) that we would not come to grips with the evil of the day, and pass judgment on it and on ourselves, and (2) of becoming focused on the darkness and failing to grasp God’s grace and the resources of the believer in such a time. The last half of the chapter gives to us the blessed resources of the faithful in a day of ruin; i.e. the Word of God. We find that Timothy was acquainted with Old and New Testament scriptures, and this would profit him greatly.
The Apostasy of the Christian Profession. The New Testament foretells the sad breakdown and apostasy, or "falling away" of the Christian profession. In fact, all the New Testament writers universally agree in their prediction of this sad situation.1 It may be helpful to see that this apostasy occurs in phases, whereby the "seeds" of the final apostasy were sown all the way back in the days of the apostles!23
  1. The Latter Times: individuals fall away ("antichrists"), teaching lies (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Jude 18). This began in the latter days of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:29-30), who could say "the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thess. 2:7). This developed into Gnosticism, then other heresies. This is called the "latter times", the "last time", or "the last hour".
  2. The Last Days: widespread false profession, blatant denial of the Lordship of Christ (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3; 2 Pet. 3:3). Most likely this state of things came to be in the era of Constantine. It developed into the Roman system, and then into dead Protestantism. This is called the "last days". This is different from the "last days" of Israel. Read more...
  3. The Apostasy: full apostasy under the man of sin, the "Antichrist" (2 Thess. 2:3-12). This will take place after the rapture, and it will culminate in the middle of Daniel's seventieth week. This is called "that day" or "the apostasy".
It may at first seem strange that when John wrote, only a few decades into the Church period, it was already "the last hour". God has seen fit to extend the period of grace for hundreds of years. But that doesn't change the fact that we are still in "the last hour", still in "the last days", and the Christian profession is heading toward the great apostasy of Antichrist! Read more...

The Ruin of the Christian Profession in the Last Days (3:1-9)

1 But this know, that in the last days difficult times shall be there; v.1 The Last Days. Having already said that “profane, vain babblings” will “advance to greater impiety, and their word will spread as a gangrene”, Paul now enters into the subject of the last days more fully. The departure would not be limited to Asia Minor. The term “last days” refers to the closing days of the Christian profession, which began with widespread false profession and will continue to the appearing of Christ.4 In 1 Timothy 4 Paul warned of “some” departing in the “latter times”. What he speaks of now is a deeper and wider departure. Paul refers to that time as “the last days”, and says “men shall be…” (v.2). These would be spiritually perilous times, because the majority would be false, or in the process of giving up the truth. Paul had taught Timothy many other things, but he wanted the young man to “know” this also. It was important for Timothy (and all believers) to know ahead of time the ruin of the Christian profession in the last days: (1) so that when it came to pass we might be comforted by the foreknowledge of God (John 16:1-4), and (2) so that we might pass judgment on the various forms of evil at the present time in ourselves and in Christendom.

Two "Last Days" Distinguished. The expression "last days" or "end of days" in reference to Israel means the end of Israel's prophetic history (Gen 49:1; Num. 24:14; Deut. 4:30; Deut. 31:29; Job 19:25; Isa 2:2; Ezek. 38:16; Dan. 2:28; Dan. 10:14; Dan. 12:13; Mic. 4:1; Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20-21) and is like the expression "the end of the age" (Matt. 24:3). Christ appeared in "the end of the age" to put away sin (Heb. 9:26), but then the parenthetical period of the Church opened. Once the Church period closes, the "last days" of Israel will continue to unfold. In reference to the Church, the term "last days" refers to the last days of the Christian profession (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3; 2 Pet. 3:3). We can clearly discern that we are in those "last days".

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2 for men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, evil speakers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, profane, 3 without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, of unsubdued passions, savage, having no love for what is good, 4 traitors, headlong, of vain pretensions, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 having a form of piety but denying the power of it: and from these turn away. vv.2-5 The Character of the False Professors. Paul next expands the character of the false professors that would abound in the “last days”. Notice that the individuals here are not called “brothers” or “saints”, but rather “men”. This looks on to a time (now the present) when the majority of those who profess the name of Christ are without genuine faith! “Lovers of self” shows that these false professors are self-centered. They have self as their object rather than Christ, and it makes their hearts cold toward others (John 13:34-35). In the words of another, this is “the mother of all evils”5, and it is opposite of the pattern of Christ. “Lovers of money” shows that their motivations are wrong, being worldly-minded. This is the “root of every evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). “Boastful” shows that these ones are looking to attract attention to themselves. “Arrogant” means they have an exaggerated view of their own importance or abilities. “Evil speakers” means they talk bad about others. This is coupled with boastfulness about themselves. “Disobedient to parents” shows that there is no respect for authority at the most basic level. It also indicates a lifetime of self-will. “Ungrateful” shows that they have no appreciation for the mercies of God. “Profane” means they are unholy, or treat  holy things with irreverence (Heb. 12:16). “Without natural affection” shows that sin has so hardened their hearts that even affection in natural relationships is lacking; e.g. mothers for children, husbands for wives, etc. “Implacable” means they are never satisfied. No matter what they get, they always lust after something more. “Slanderers” are those who lie about others to damage their reputation. “Of unsubdued passions” shows they are characterized by unbridled lust. “Savage” means they are cruel and vicious, their will being unfettered by compassion. “Having no love for what is good” shows that their nature is pointed away from good, in the direction of evil, without help. “Traitors” are those who have no loyalty, but will turn against former friends and allies. “Headlong” means they are reckless in their pursuit of evil, and fully invested no matter what the cost. “Of vain pretensions” means they seek to impress others with a false image, usually for fame or fortune. “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” shows that pleasure is their highest aim, and it completely displaces any right feeling toward God. “Having a form of piety but denying the power of it” means that, in spite of all the aforementioned characteristics, these ones still maintain an outward form of godliness, although there is no inward power, because there is no genuine faith or Christ in the heart (1 Tim. 3:16). This is what makes the evil described in 2 Timothy 3 so bad, is that it is all done by those who take the name of Christ! We have seen nineteen difference characteristics of the false professors in the last day laid out; now the exhortation is “from these turn away”, or have nothing to do with them.
6 For of these are they who are getting into houses, and leading captive silly women, laden with sins, led by various lusts, 7 always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. vv.6-7 Their Prey. Timothy was not only to know the character of the false professors, but the tactics of the agents among them. Those who seek to corrupt the Christian testimony do so first by “getting into houses… leading captive silly women”. They error is spread through deception and subtilty. Notice that the deceivers approach women first with their error, as Satan did with Eve. Satan tried to draw the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), out of her place to open her up to deception. A wife or mother has a profound effect on the direction of her household, and it could be for this reason that the enemy targets Christian women with error; “…who subvert whole houses” (Tit. 1:11). However, the godly woman will be preserved if she lives in the fear of God. We need wise women (Prov. 14:1)! John wrote to such a woman in his second epistle: “The elder to the elect lady and her children“, warning her about “many deceivers”, and what to do if they came to the house. Here the enemy gets into the house through underhanded means, not necessarily coming to the door as in 2 John. We find that it is especially “silly women” that are targeted; i.e. those who are not grounded in the Word of God. It is similar to the way pack predators hunt, singling out the weak, the sick, and the young. These women had formed habits that made them especially vulnerable to attack. (These things can not only be true of women, but also of men who are likewise careless.) First, they were “laden with sins”, which shows that by tolerating unjudged sin in our lives we weaken ourselves and weigh ourselves down spiritually. Second, they were “led by various lusts”, which indicates a progression: unjudged sin leads to habits and addictions that steadily draw us further from the Lord. Third, one in such a condition is unable to make progress in spiritual development; “always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. If we are not willing to practice the truth, we cannot expect to really learn it. These are the types of individuals that the deceivers in the last day will target, and lead “captive”. Instead of being “silly” we must be sensible (Eph. 5:15), instead of being “laden with sins” we need to walk in liberty (Rom. 8:2), instead of being led by “lust” we need to be led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14), instead of “never” coming to the knowledge of the truth we need to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
8 Now in the same manner in which Jannes [‘to seduce’] and Jambres [‘to oppose’] withstood Moses, thus these also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, found worthless as regards the faith. 9 But they shall not advance farther; for their folly shall be completely manifest to all, as that of those also became. vv.8-9 Comparison with Jannes and Jambres. Paul compares the deceivers of the last day to the magicians of Egypt, who “withstood Moses” using their enchantments. We get the detail of their names here, as nowhere else in scripture! The meaning of their names in Greek have to do with opposition through deception, which is fitting with their actions. It is instructive to see how these magicians opposed Moses. When Aaron threw down his rod and it became a serpent, the magicians did likewise (Ex. 7:11), although Aaron’s serpent swallowed the magicians’, and Aaron was able to reverse the sign. When Moses turned the water to blood, “the magicians did likewise” (Ex. 7:22). When Moses brought frogs on the land, the magicians duplicated it (Ex. 8:7). They were using their power to belittle the power of Jehovah, and make His Word of no effect. This is what deceivers in Christendom work to produce: unbelief in the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18). Three things characterize these men: (1) they “withstand the truth” because they are working against God, (2) they are “corrupted in mind” because their thoughts are distorted as a consequence of turning away, and (3) “worthless as regards the faith” meaning that they are devoid of anything essential to Christianity. How solemn to think that this describes the leaders of Christendom in the last day! However, the success of the false leaders will not endure forever; “they shall not advance farther; for their folly shall be completely manifest to all”. God will cause the real emptiness of this false profession to be publicly manifested, for the true evil to be unmasked, just as the powerlessness of the magicians was eventually manifested in Egypt. When it came to the plague of turning dust to lice (or gnats), the magicians could not copy the miracle (Ex. 8:18). They had no Divine power to create life. Then, when it came to the plague of boils, the magicians could not stand before Moses (Ex. 9:11) and had to flee. False professors have no Divine life; no living reality.

The Example of Paul in Contrast with the Impostors (3:10-13)

10 But “thou” hast been thoroughly acquainted with my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings: what sufferings happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra; what persecutions I endured; and the Lord delivered me out of all. vv.10-11 Paul’s Teaching and Conduct, etc. Timothy had just been told of the character of the false leaders that would abound in the last days. But Paul reminds Timothy that he had witnessed a different kind of life in the Apostle Paul. Not everyone would go the way of vv.1-9. In contrast with the impostors, Timothy had witnessed the life of Christ shining out in the Apostle Paul, and it was a powerful example to him! God has provided us with examples like Paul, and this is a resource for us in the pathway, whose faith we are to follow (Heb. 13:7). There are nine aspects of Paul’s life that Timothy was well acquainted with:
  1. Paul’s “teaching” is perhaps the highest truth in the Word of God. Paul was a “chosen vessel” to reveal the characteristic truths of Christianity. Paul’s doctrine is mentioned in two parts in the New Testament; he calls them “my gospel”, and “the mystery”. These two parts, if taken together, are what establish our souls in the full revelation of Christianity. Read more… Timothy was “thoroughly acquainted” with this doctrine, and we should be also.
  2. Paul’s “conduct” supported his doctrine. He lived Christianity every day in his practical walk. This is what gave weight to Paul’s words.
  3. Paul’s “purpose” was in line what God’s purpose for him; to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). How important it is for the servant of Christ to serve with purpose!
  4. Paul’s “faith” is what allowed him to persevere in light of eternity. Faith is implicit and complete trust in God: a total contrast to the unbelief and skepticism in the world around us. Paul lived by faith and not by sight.
  5. Paul’s “longsuffering” was manifested in his interactions with people. Longsuffering is needed because of the interpersonal difficulties a servant may encounter. Losing patience with others can easily result in a spoiled testimony. 
  6. Paul’s “love” was a reflection of the love of God. This was the motive of his service; love to God, love for Christ, and love for souls. Likewise, we are to serve as channels for God’s love.
  7. Paul’s “endurance” was seen in every circumstance he passed through. This refers to severe trials that continue for a long duration. In 2 Cor. 12:12, patience or “endurance” is listed as the first proof of Paul’s apostleship! We wouldn’t naturally think that patience would top the list containing things like signs and wonders. To lose our patience is to be overcome of evil (Rom. 12:21).
  8. Paul’s “persecutions” are that which he bore for the name of Christ, and that for which the “endurance” was needed (read 2 Cor. 11:23b-25a). These persecutions show just how committed Paul was to the pathway of service, and devoted to his Lord and Savior. He reminds Timothy of a particular set of persecutions that the young man had witnessed “in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra; what persecutions I endured; and the Lord delivered me out of all”. Timothy was from the region, and had witnessed persecution against Paul in those cities (Acts 14). He had seen the Lord staying with Paul in the trial, and also delivering Paul from the trial; “the Lord delivered me out of all”. Once again Paul was facing persecution at the hands of the Romans, and even though he might not expect a temporal deliverance, there is always deliverance for the believer at the end of the pathway (2 Tim. 4:18). 
  9. Paul’s “sufferings” are more general, including the cost of following the Lord and carrying out his commission (read 2 Cor. 11:25b-26). We read elsewhere of shipwreck, the stress and hardship of long journeys, of crossing rivers, the danger of being attacked on highways, the danger of riots, of dehydration and starvation, etc. Again, this shows the depth of Paul’s devotion to the Lord.
We might note that Timothy is commended for being “thoroughly acquainted” with Paul’s good example, not with the details of the evil creeping into Christianity. We need to understand the evil, but not be focused on it.
12 And all indeed who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked men and juggling impostors shall advance in evil, leading and being led astray. vv.12-13 What to Expect. In conclusion, Paul sets before Timothy the what the faithful should expect for themselves and of the wicked impostors. The faithful should make up their minds to suffer persecution; “all indeed who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. This is universally true, although the persecution may not always be physical persecution. See Gal. 4:29 where Ishmael’s mocking is called “persecution”. If we are mocked as Christians, that is a form of persecution. On the other hand, we cannot expect the progress of evil in this dispensation to be arrested or reversed before the day of judgment; “wicked men and juggling impostors shall advance in evil, leading and being led astray”. We have confirmed in v.13 that the “wicked men” described earlier in the chapter are really professing Christians, but they are “impostors”. The profession of Christianity will follow the course of this world, to lower depths of evil and deception. They deceive others, but they themselves are deceived. How solemn! This is quite a correction of the idea that the Church in man’s hand will reform the world and usher in the Millennium!

The Resource of the Scriptures, Old and New (3:14-17)

14 But “thou”, abide in those things which thou hast learned, and of which thou hast been fully persuaded, knowing of whom [plural] thou hast learned them; v.14 New Testament Scripture. The great resource that Timothy had was the Word of God. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). Paul first speaks of that which Timothy had learned from himself; i.e. New Testament doctrine as revealed to the apostles and prophets, including Paul (Eph. 2:20). John could say, “We [apostles] are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us” (1 John 4:6). Timothy was to “abide in those things”, without changing or compromising. He had learned the truth from the apostles, and was “fully persuaded” of them on Divine authority. It would be a serious thing to give up any of those things he had learned. The last part of the verse provides a helpful principle regarding trustworthy ministry. Although the primary thought in this verse is that Timothy knew those he had learned from had received Divine communications, we can apply the principle generally, even in our day. Timothy knew Paul’s character, conduct, etc. and therefore he could trust what Paul said! This is a guiding principle for us, to know whether we can trust a source of ministry. We need to see how a life is lived, and how the truth of God is practiced. This is the scriptural way to know if a source is trustworthy.
15 and that from a child thou hast known the sacred letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. v.15 Old Testament Scripture. Not only had Timothy known the doctrine of the New Testament, but “from a child” he had known “the sacred letters”; i.e. the Old Testament scriptures. What a blessing this was to Timothy! Those Old Testament scriptures had the ability to save or preserve Timothy from error, but only if used “through faith which is in Christ Jesus”. The Old Testament, with its history, poetry, and prophecy, gives the moral principles of God’s government. Even a child, in the simplicity of faith, can receive Divine wisdom for the pathway from Old Testament scriptures. 
16 Every scripture is divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work. vv.16-17 All Scripture. Rounding out the subject, Paul summarizes the great resource of the man of God in a day of ruin. He had spoken of New Testament scriptures in v.14, Old Testament scriptures in v.15, and now he concludes by saying “Every scripture is divinely inspired, and profitable…”. This refers to the entire Word of God. There are two great reasons why we should value the Word of God. First, we should value every scripture because it “is divinely inspired”. Inspiration is the process in which God communicates His thoughts to man. Inspiration comes from the Greek word ‘theopneustos’ or God-breathed. Inspiration can be both oral and written, but it is really a supernatural act of God. Inspiration involves a human element and a divine element. The human element is the prophet, used as an instrument. The divine element is the Spirit of God. We read in 2 Pet. 1:21 that the Spirit of God moved Holy Men to give prophecies. He explicitly states that it did not come by the will of man! That is, the inspired words ultimately came from God. Read more… Every scripture is important because it is God-breathed! Second, every scripture is important because it is “profitable”, meaning it is is beneficial to the Christian. There are four ways the Word of God is profitable to us: (1) “for teaching” or giving us the knowledge of divine things, (2) “for conviction” or bringing the revelation of God to bear on our conscience, (3) “for correction” or setting right errors in our thinking or practice, and (4) “for instruction in righteousness” or practical directives for how to live pleasing to God. If we heed the scriptures, the description in v.17 will be true of us; “that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work”. Whenever the expression “man of God” is used (used first of Moses, but most often for prophets in 1 and 2 Kings), it has to do with an individual standing for God as His representative in a day of ruin. The Word of God is our resource to be fully outfitted for every kind of service!
  1. In the gospels (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43), in the Acts (Acts 20:29-30), in Paul's epistles (1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 3), in Peter's epistles (2 Pet. 2; 3:3-4), in the epistle of James (James 5:7, 9), in the epistle of Jude (Jude 1:4), and in the epistles of John (1 John 2:18), the ruin of the Christian profession is duly attested.
  2. The mischief here set out is not the wider and later evil of 2 Tim. 3:1-9, when Christendom would be but men professing the Lord's name, a form of piety with the denial of its power, no better than heathen in reality (cp. Rom. 1:28-32), though with the semblance and the responsibility of God's final revelation of grace and truth in Christ. Still less is it the frightful apostacy of 2 Thess. 2:3-12, which is to close the age before the Lord Jesus be revealed in judgment from heaven to introduce the new age and the kingdom of God to be manifested in power and blessing universally over the earth. - Kelly, W. The First Epistle to Timothy.
  3. In the preceding Epistle (1 Tim. 4:1-3) a prophetic warning had been given, but of evil quite distinct in time, character, and extent, from what we have here. Instead of "last days", the Spirit spoke expressly of later, or after, times, i.e., times subsequent to the apostle's writing. Instead of a widespread condition of "men" in Christendom, he there spoke of "some" only. The language suits and supposes but few comparatively; which only controversial zeal could have overlooked or converted into a prediction of the vast if not worse inroad of Romanism. It is a description of certain ones to depart from the faith into fleshly asceticism, paying heed to seducing spirits, etc... But in 2 Tim. 3:1 the view is a larger field... It is the counterpart of the great house in 2 Tim. 2:20, wherein are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also wooden and earthenware, and some to honour, and some to dishonour. Here, however, we have, not a symbolic figure, but a plain matter-of-fact account of a return to heathenism practically. Yet 2 Thess. 2 gives us to descry very far worse at hand. We ought not to be deceived in any manner, whatever the success of false teachers with some of the Thessalonian saints so young in the faith as they were. We know that the Lord is coming Who will gather us together, sleeping or alive, unto Himself, and therefore we need not be quickly shaken in mind, nor yet troubled by any power or means, to the effect that the day of the Lord is present. We know that it cannot be unless first there have come "the apostasy" — not a falling away, as substantially in all the well-known English Versions as well as the Authorized. It is not "discencioun" (Wiclif), nor "a departynge" (Tyndale), as Cranmer's Bible repeats in 1539, and the Geneva in 1557, nor "a revolt", as in the Rhemish of 1582. It is "the apostasy", and nothing else: worse there cannot be, unless it be the person who is its final head in direct antagonism to God and His anointed, the man of sin, the son of perdition, whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the Spirit of His mouth and destroy with the manifestation of His presence. - Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  4. The phrase plainly covers the closing days of the Christian economy, however long God may be pleased to protract them, the time generally which precedes the coming of the Lord, when an end will be put to the present ways of God, and the kingdom will come in displayed power and glory. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  5. Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.