As I continue to read II Timothy, Paul’s deep commitment and love for his friend, Timothy blows me away. He cuts to the heart of what is most important for Timothy to hear by sharing truth to help prepare him the best that he knew how for the dark days ahead. What are the top qualities that characterize your good friends? Do you have on your list: share truth and help equip you to deal with the challenges in life with God’s strength and His Spirit? Would you say most of your friends agree with you or challenge you?
About a month ago I had a conversation with a friend about how she has noticed that she attracts a certain type of person as a friend. Many of these friendships are very difficult and have ended. She wants to figure out why she attracts them. I asked her: What are you looking for in a friend? She said that she had not seriously thought about it. I would encourage you to take some time to think about it and make a list.
Looking back at the end of chapter 2, Paul knew Timothy needed the encouragement to interact with gentleness and humility in those dark days that he speaks about in chapter 3. Let’s see what Paul has to say in chapter 3.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
Observation – what does the passage say?
- Paul gives Timothy instruction about the terrible times in the last days. (v. 1).
- Paul lists 18 characteristics of humanity in the last days: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (vv. 2-4)
- The last characteristic of humanity is that they will have a form of godliness but deny its power. Paul says to have nothing to do with them. (v. 5)
- Paul warns against the false teachers whom he described above who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women loaded down by sin. (v. 6a)
- These women are swayed by evil desires (v. 6b) and are learning false teaching but not learning the truth of God. (v. 7)
- Like these magicians, Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses, the false teacher’s folly will be clear to everyone (vv. 8-9).
Can you find a few other observations? Please consider sharing them in the comment section below as we always learn so much from one another.
Interpretation – what does the passage mean?
Paul begins his third chapter of 2 Timothy with a chilling account of the days ahead as he refers to the “last days.” Not wanting his dear friend to be unaware and fall prey to temptation, instead he reminds Timothy that God is still sovereign and His plans are moving forward despite the darkness burgeoning in culture. In the Old Testament, Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1, and Joel 2:28 refer to “the last days.” On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:17, Peter quotes Joel 2:28 affirming that the era of the “the last days” are inaugurated from Jesus’ death until He returns. In Philippians 1:6, Paul says “the last days” will continue until Christ’s return.
In verses 2-4, Paul lists 18 characteristics of humanity in those last days. From reading the list, none of the characteristics are new, just watch the news or talk to a friend. So, why does Paul have this seemingly common list here? The intensity and prevalence of these characteristics will spread like a fire or cancer through our bodies, homes, children, schools, communities, and governments.
As noted by Dr. Constable in his commentary, Sonic Light on 2 Timothy, the list of characteristics in verses 2-4 begins and ends with two groups of two words expressing misdirected loves. Then two groups with three terms focus on pride, hostility towards others, and unwillingness to reconcile with one another. The seventh through fourteenth characteristics begin with “a” prefix in Greek, and this prefix negates the word. Instead of becoming lovers of God, they have become lovers of themselves. In verse 5 Paul says that these people described in verses 2-4 will claim to be religious. They will say that they know God, but they do not believe in Jesus or believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The last part of verse 5 is very important. Paul does not say: never talk to people who demonstrate these characteristics. Otherwise, we would be avoiding everyone. He is saying avoid associating very closely with those whose lifestyle and actions are overcome with these vices. Remember this letter is all about instructing Timothy in his ministry and encouraging him in his faith. Paul is saying by all means share the gospel and love these people.
Then in verses 6-7 he addresses the issue of false teachers gaining access to homes through weak-willed women. Please do not think that the Bible is saying women are weak, or Paul is suggesting women are weak. Also, Paul is not describing all women; instead he is exposing the manipulation of these male false teachers in Ephesus who target women. Women who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by evil desires are the most vulnerable. A women loaded down with sin might be one who continues to give into her jealousy, greed, ambition, or seduction. Paul is saying when these passions have so infiltrated your lifestyle, you have become a slave to them. Our culture celebrates living according to your natural desires, while the Bible celebrates living according to healthy desires and redirecting our desires towards Jesus that He might change unhealthy desires and reorder good desires.
Lastly, in vv. 8-9 Paul mentions the magicians, Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses in the plagues (Ex. 7:11; 9:11) to point out the fate of these false teachers. Like these magicians who opposed truth, these false teachers opposed God’s truth, and their foolishness will be evident when their power is inadequate.
Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?
* How am I a lover of myself above God?
* What sin continues to sway me away from God?
* Spend time confessing my sin and ask for God’s help. Seek instruction and direction in how to develop specific tools to fight that sin.
* Thank a few of my friends who encourage me spiritually and prepare me for the days ahead. I love you and thank God for you!
After sharing how God’s Word is impacting my heart, let me ask you:
- How are you a lover of yourself above God?
- What sin is loading you down or swaying you?
- Talk time to unload your sins with Jesus.
- Ask God to help you not deny His truth and to change your misdirected loves.
– Mary Carmen