Godly Living and Serving in the Last Days

Written on: October 11, 2020

Article by: David Nickele

2 Timothy 3

In this seventeen verse chapter, the Apostle Paul exhorts the young Timothy about those who are dangerous to the gospel and gives examples of how he can continue in the true doctrine of God He reveals in Scripture:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

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Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (II Tim 3:1-17)

Chapter 2 and 3 Bridge

The first word of chapter 3, ‘but,’ indicates a pivotal change in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. This is not how a new chapter would normally start and alerts us to a shift in focus. What is that focus? Ideally, the whole letter should be read and considered together to best understand what Paul is saying to Timothy. And while each chapter can be studied on its own, each should be considered within the context of the whole letter.

Therefore, when Paul begins with the word ‘but’ we must go back to see what led up to this statement and how that influences the message in chapter three.

In chapter 2 Paul urges Timothy to fulfill his work as an evangelist, enduring hardship, avoiding entanglement in worldly affairs and remaining faithful no matter the cost. He does this to prepare Timothy for what lies ahead.

2 Timothy 3:1–9

Chapter 3 paints a picture of the enemies of Christ in these ‘last days’ in which we are living. What is especially troubling is that Paul describes them as having come into the church. They are enemies of the gospel and Timothy must be alert. He must be personally prepared and prepare the church for what is coming.

Paul’s imagery is similar in many ways to the days before Noah, with lawlessness men whose every thought was evil all the time (Genesis 1:5). In verse two the word “men” is of course meant to include all of “mankind,” and not males. All people in general will sink to the depths of godlessness.

Verses 6–7 warn of teachers who will go looking for and take advantage of any women who are easy prey due to their sins and lack of self control. They will warp the truth to captivate and control.

Verses 8–9 introduce the earliest reference to the names of two men (magicians) who opposed Moses in Egypt. These are mentioned in the 4th Christian century in the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, but this is well after they appear here. They may have been known to Paul through oral tradition since he was taught by a leading Jewish elder and teacher, named Gamaliel. Or their names may have been provided by the Holy Spirit. Jannes and Jambres may either:

a) represented the ancient magicians and false teachers of Egypt who taught Moses all about the Egyptian gods before leaving Egypt the first time as well as those whose staffs were turned to snakes in the presence of Pharaoh, or

b) served as the embodiment of those types throughout history.

The Jewish names represent “seduction” and “rebellion.” God will deal with those who like them have abandoned the faith and substituted false doctrine for the gospel of Jesus Christ. God will see to it that they are discredited and destroyed.

2 Timothy 3:10–17

Verses 10–17 turn in a more positive direction setting out ten aspects of Christian living where Paul set a personal example. Paul remembered those times when God had guided and delivered him from death during his ministry.

At Antioch Paul was driven out. At Iconium he was almost stoned. In Lystra he was stoned, and appeared to be dead. Yet in each case God provided an escape. Paul does not sugarcoat the hardships Timothy will face. In verse 12 Paul affirms that persecution will come to all who live godly in Christ Jesus.

Verse 13 may seem out of place, sounding more like the first part of the chapter. But Paul is reemphasizing the contrast between Christian character and godless ones. Thus Paul urges Timothy to overcome hardship and avoid the snares of Satan.

Paul was aware that Timothy had been schooled in God’s word from his youth. He wanted Timothy to continue in what he had been taught and in the further truth contained in the Gospel of Christ. So he urges Timothy to trust God and to put the lessons which come from His Word into practice. (vs 14)

In verse 15, the Word is called the Sacred Writings. In the next verse it is Scripture. These are the writings of the Old Testament, the Bible that Paul, Timothy and his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice knew (1:5).

Paul sums up his thought on scripture in 16–17 by saying:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

“Inspired,” literally means “God-breathed,”. The scriptures include the Old Testament and would ultimately include New Testament. Since it is inspired by God it is truly profitable in important ways for: Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness. Teaching from the Word of God is specifically commanded and encouraged through Old and New Testaments from early childhood to elderly years. Moses and many others continued to learn until they died.

Reproof or rebuke include elements of disapproval with an appeal to repent. The goal is for truth to come out on top so that minds may be changed and hearts softened in a way that leads to obedience to God.

Then there is training, like in the army. Paul often uses examples of training in his writings such as the discipline, focus and loyalty of soldiers and the athlete’s daily training to finish the race well. Paul wraps up this section with the hope that Timothy will be a man of God, adequate and equipped for every good work. Paul’s hope is not of course only meant for Timothy, but for all those who want to be a man or a woman of God, ready and able to do godly works.

General Application

Second Timothy 3 breaks evenly into two sections. The first half is about resisting temptation and deceit while on alert against Satan. The second half encourages us to aspire to be like Christ, and equipped for every good work. There are certainly treasures found in this chapter. It is a pretty good checklist to hold yourself accountable to. Whether male or female we who belong to the kingdom can benefit from this chapter a great deal.

Paul the apostle writes a letter to Timothy, a young man trained by Paul himself, to become a leader of the first century church and in turn appoint leaders of the church. These teachings are not for Timothy alone, but rather to all who seek to understand the hardships and difficulties that arise as we follow Jesus and serve God. Christian leaders should read and reread this chapter. It forewarns of persecution and wakes us up to the danger of false teachers (1–9). It also sets out the positive alternative, the kind of character and training needed to do the work of the Lord. (10–17).

True students of the Word understand how weighty the responsibilities of leadership in the church are. While every Christian will experience hardship, leaders carry a heavier load. God has high expectations of preachers, elders and deacons, along with those leading in a variety of other ways. (James 3:1).

On this subject, William Barclay says:

“The Christian leader will never lack his opponents. There will always be those who have their own twisted ideas of the Christian faith, and who wish to win others to their mistaken beliefs. But of one thing Paul was sure–the days of the deceivers were numbered. Their falsity would be demonstrated and they would receive their appropriate reward.”

It is with this I have hope. Yes, teaching and preaching is difficult. Satan is at work. There will always be those who teach false doctrine, but their days are numbered. The time will come and our race will end. What is important is how we ran. Were we godly? When we faltered, did we let God teach us, reprove us, correct us, and train us? Did we learn from Him and put it into action? Did we complete our lives as well as we could?

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario