2 TIMOTHY - CHAPTER 3
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come,”
The “last days,” in the
present context, refers to the last days of the Church age, including possibly also
the Tribulation era, and everything points to the fact that we are already in those
last days. “Perilous” means
literally reducing in strength; difficult; dangerous; furious, fierce. In many parts of the world today Christians do live in peril of
their lives, many of them sealing their testimony with their blood.
But even in the western world the times are perilous in that the allurements
of this evil world have reduced the spiritual strength of many Christians to the
point where they are virtually useless as far as promoting the kingdom of our Lord
It is instructive to note
that the evils spoken of here are similar to those listed in Romans 1.
The description is of a world that has totally repudiated God and become
bestial as depicted in the nondescript beast of Daniel 7, and to be headed up in the
Tribulation by the man who is described as a beast in Revelation 13
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,
blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,”
We would be spiritually
blind if we didn’t recognize that these are the very things which mark our western
world. It is painfully obvious that
selfishness (love of self) is the norm even amongst professing Christians, rather
than the selflessness which marked the believers of the early apostolic age.
literally “lovers of money,” and who will deny that this is the character of
society today, many professing Christians also evincing by their lifestyles that they
love money just as much as do unbelievers, their scrabbling for this world’s wealth
robbing them of eternal riches. The
warning that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” 1 Tim 6:10, is little
heeded today by believer and unbeliever alike. In
Lk 16:14 we read that, “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these
things (Christ’s sayings): and they derided him.”
literally “self-confident braggarts,” and again, does not simple observation of
the lifestyles of many, especially in our western world, confirm the truth of
Paul’s words? And sadly, increasing numbers of professing believers are to be
charged with the same fault. They speak
and act as if God hadn’t given them what they boast of, forgetting that but for His
grace, they might have been given the feebler mind or body possessed by those they
scorn because of their lesser ability and achievements.
“blasphemers” is better
translated railers: those who use harsh words.
those who are grateful for nothing, but who rather have the attitude that they are
entitled to everything that others have. It
is in fact the opposite of the submissive spirit which obeys the injunction to, “Be
content with such things as ye have,” Heb 13:5, and which marked Paul’s life as
described in Php 4:11, “... for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith
to be content.”
“unholy” needs no
The prevalence of these
evils confirms the accuracy of the Apostle’s prediction.
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent,
fierce, despisers of those that are good,”
affection” describes those who are hard-hearted, callous, lacking in love for
anyone but themselves.
“... trucebreakers” is
literally truceless, they will never make a truce, i.e., they are
irreconcilable, unforgiving, implacable. They
will never forgive an offence, real or imagined, and sadly the description fits some
“... false accusers”
i.e., slanderers, and again, this is an evil to which some professing
Christians are given. The remedy lies in
obeying God’s command, “To speak evil of no man,” Tit 3:2, or the old adage,
“If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything.”
“... incontinent” is
literally self-indulgent: without self-control; while “... fierce” means savage;
brutal towards others, the very opposite of the selfish love which indulges self;
and again, these things are becoming an increasingly fit description, not only of the
world in general, but of western society today.
“... despisers of those
that are good.” It is doubtful if
there has ever been a time when this evil trait was more evident than today. Moral standards have been virtually abandoned, the dissolute being
hailed as heroes and set before us as role models, while virtue is despised and
“Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God;”
“Traitors” is literally
betrayers; untrustworthy; treacherous; false to their friends; and “heady” means
reckless; without regard for the consequences of their actions; while
“highminded” means blinded with pride; bursting with self-importance; puffed up
with pride. “... lovers of pleasure
more than lovers of God.” “...
“more than” is better translated “rather than.”
It is not that they have some love for God, but
that they have none. The goddess
Pleasure is worshiped world wide, Hollywood being her temple, and America her
“Having a form of godliness, but denying (having renounced) the power
thereof: from such turn away.”
They will maintain a pretext
of being godly by hiding their dissoluteness behind the facade of formal but godless,
and therefore powerless, religion. This
is professing, but apostate Christendom. It
has deliberately rejected the truth so that it may indulge the lusts of the flesh.
As noted already, organized religion, whether pagan or apostate Christian, is
the inveterate foe of God and His people. Hiebert
has very aptly commented that, “It is the portrayal of an apostate Christendom, a
new paganism masquerading under the name of Christianity,” Second Timothy,
God’s command to Timothy
through Paul, to have nothing to do with such people, is no less His command to us.
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly
(gullible) women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,”
Amongst these so called
Christians are those who are always looking for an opportunity to get into the homes
of silly sinful women, who though burdened with the guilt of sin, are still driven by
lust to continue in it. The words “and
lead captive” are more accurately
translated “captivate” these women by their pretended piety and knowledge.
Of such are the agents of the many cults of Christendom.
As Willima MacDonald points out in Believer’s Bible Commentary ,
“... false cultists ... withstand the work of God by imitating it.
They have their own Bible, their own way of salvation - in short, they have a
substitute for everything in Christianity. They
withstand the truth of God by presenting a cheap perversion.”
It is to be noted also that
“silly” doesn’t necessarily imply lack of intelligence, but rather the misuse
of it; and it is to be further noted that lust is not confined to the sensual, but
may include also the desire for new teachers and teaching,
and new spiritual experiences, e.g., trances, speaking in tongues, etc.
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
These women are always
inquiring, seeking information, trying to learn something new, following every so
called teacher who comes along; but
never learning the truth because the “teachers” themselves are strangers to it.
“Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the
truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.”
Some suggest that Jannes and
Jambres may have been magicians hired by Pharaoh to duplicate the miracles performed
by Moses, just as the evil men described above are opponents of all that is of God.
While these names are not recorded in Scripture there are references to them
in other Jewish, Christian, and pagan literature, so that Paul may have learned of
them in those writings, or have had them revealed to him by God.
“These” refers, not to
the women of verses 6 and 7, but to the evil men who mislead them, and who are
opponents of all that is of God.
“Corrupt minds” is
literally debased: depraved, so distorted by evil as to have lost the power to
In the present context reprobate
describes those who display none of the characteristics of true believers, i.e., as
measured by the scriptural standard of faith they are disqualified.
“But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto
all men, as theirs also was.”
The NEB renders “shall
proceed no further” as “their successes will be short-lived.”
Evil cannot go beyond the limits imposed by God.
Others will eventually see through such men and realize that they are evil
frauds. If Jannes and Jambres were
Egyptian magicians they were also quickly discredited.
“... manifest unto all,”
(“men” is not in the original), is generally understood to refer to believers,
for obviously the unconverted lack the ability to recognize wrong doctrine.
“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith,
longsuffering, charity (love), patience,”
“Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at
Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”
It was very different with
Paul. His life confirmed his profession. Timothy was well aware of what his mentor taught, and equally well
aware of how obedient he was to the truth he taught so that he could exhort others,
“Be ye followers of me,” 1 Cor 4:11, adding in 1 Cor 11:1, “Be ye followers of
me, even as I also am of Christ.”
“... purpose” is
“... longsuffering” is
used here with reference to patient waiting,” i.e., bearing long with his
opponents; while “patience” is related to the idea of enduring trouble or
afflictions” relate to all that he had suffered in the three cities mentioned.
For details of what happened in Antioch see Ac 13:45-50; in Iconium, Ac
14:1-6; and in Lystra, Ac 14:19-20.
Many another man would have
given up, but Paul, having been forewarned that he would have to suffer for
Christ’s sake, see Ac 9:16, practiced what he preached as recorded in Php 3:13-14,
“... this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching
forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of
the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is instructive to note
that the Lord didn’t keep Paul from trial and persecution, but He delivered
him out of them, as he had done Daniel’s three friends, see Dan 3, far more glory
being brought to Him and to them as a result of their being cast into the furnace
than if He had spared them that experience. We
should realize that trials are for the testing and strengthening of our faith, and
ultimately for our own and God’s glory.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
This is the assurance that
not all Christians, but all who are determined to live godly, i.e., obedient lives,
will suffer persecution. Experience
teaches that this is particularly related to spreading the gospel, for nothing
provokes the anger of the unconverted more than being told that if they are going to
be saved from hell and fitted for heaven, they must confess themselves sinners, and
trust in Christ as Savior, His death and resurrection securing forgiveness of all sin
apart from any good works on the part of the repentant believer.
In view of Paul’s warning
it is clear that if we are not suffering persecution it is because of delinquency in
spreading the gospel.
Because of this, it is
imperative that this truth be impressed on every new or would-be convert.
The new polite popular “gospel” which presents Christ as the Panacea for
life’s problems, and the beginning of a smooth rose-bordered way to heaven, is
spurious. It will produce lots of
professions, but no genuine conversions, because it is unscriptural.
Genuine conversion and persecution are Siamese twins which can’t be
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being
“... seducers” is
related to the idea of wailing, particularly the mutterings of a wizard when casting
spells, (see also the references to the occult in Re 9:21).
These men are imposters, charlatans, agents of Satan, who being misled
themselves, try to mislead others, for their own gain.
Such are those who promote the cults, both pagan, and so called Christian,
these latter being the most dangerous in western society, some of the principal being
Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Christian Scientists, to name but a few.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been
assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them,”
This exhortation given to
Timothy is given to us also, his and our assurance of the validity of what we have
been taught, resting on the character of those from whom we have learned them, and on
the incontrovertible internal evidence of the Scriptures,
themselves, e.g., prophecy, relative to which is is written, “We have also a
more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light
that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your
hearts,” 2 Pe 1:19. The exact
fulfillment of the major part of prophecy confirms that God is the Author of the
Scriptures, for no man could have so accurately foretold the future events that have
already come to pass. There is also the
testimony of the Bible’s numerical structure, and the consistency of its typology.
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Timothy had been taught the
Scriptures from childhood by his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, see 1:5,
and it was their teaching that had given him the wisdom to obtain salvation by
trusting the the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
The use of the term
“Christ Jesus,” rather than “Jesus Christ,” (the one more frequently used),
may be related to the fact that Christ means the anointed one; the Messiah,
and has primary application to the Lord’s relationship with Israel; while Jesus
meaning Savior, relates to His relationship with all men.
Timothy, though of a Greek father, appears to have been reared in the
tradition of the Jews, who had to learn that their Messiah, Jesus, is the Savior of
Jew and Gentile alike.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
Human hands held the pens,
but it was God Who dictated the writing which constitutes the Bible, and which is
profitable (useful, helpful) for doctrine (teaching), for reproof, which is primarily
related to the idea of refuting error; and for correction, which also includes the
thought of correcting error, but with the emphasis upon thus guiding or directing a
man’s life. “... instruction in
righteousness” has to do with giving instruction relative to godly living, so that
the activity of the life will confirm the testimony of the lips.
How often in our lives the one contradicts the other!
“That the man of God may be perfect,
throughly (thoroughly) furnished unto all good works.”
While perfect in its
usual sense applies to the state of believers according to God’s imputation of
Christ’s righteousness to us, the sense here is of being complete, proficient,
fully equipped to do God’s work, and to live our lives for His glory and our own
continues to emphasize the idea of being thoroughly equipped to live our lives to
God’s glory. In other words, study of, meditation on, and obedience to
Scripture, is all we need to be all that God wants us to be.