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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1


Dangerous times in the latter days, from the apostasy and

wickedness of men, of whom an affecting description is given,


It shall happen to them as to Jannes and Jambres, who withstood

Moses, 8, 9.

The apostle speaks of his persecutions and sufferings, and shows

that all those who will live a godly life must suffer

persecution, 10-12,

because evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, 13.

Timothy is exhorted to continue in the truths he had received,

having known the Scriptures from a child, 14, 15.

All Scripture is given by Divine inspiration, 16, 17.


Verse 2 Timothy 3:1. In the last days — This often means the days of the Messiah, and is sometimes extended in its signification to the destruction of Jerusalem, as this was properly the last days of the Jewish state. But the phrase may mean any future time, whether near or distant.

Verse 2

Verse 2 Timothy 3:2. For men shall be — The description in this and the following verses the Papists apply to the Protestants; the Protestants in their turn apply it to the Papists; Schoettgen to the Jews; and others to heretics in general. There have been both teachers and people in every age of the Church, and in every age of the world, to whom these words may be most legitimately applied. Both Catholics and Protestants have been lovers of their own selves, c. but it is probable that the apostle had some particular age in view, in which there should appear some very essential corruption of Christianity.

Lovers of their own selves — φιλαυτοι. Selfish, studious of their own interest, and regardless of the welfare of all mankind.

Covetous — φιλαργυροι. Lovers of money, because of the influence which riches can procure.

Boasters — αλαζονες. Vain glorious: self-assuming; valuing themselves beyond all others.

Proud — υπερηφανοι. Airy, light, trifling persons; those who love to make a show-who are all outside; from υπερ, above, and φαινω, to show.

Blasphemers — βλασφημοι. Those who speak impiously of God and sacred things, and injuriously of men.

Disobedient to parents — γονευσιν απειθεις. Headstrong children, whom their parents cannot persuade.

Unthankful — αχαριστοι. Persons without grace, or gracefulness; who think they have a right to the services of all men, yet feel no obligation, and consequently no gratitude.

Unholy — ανοσιοι. Without piety; having no heart reverence for God.

Verse 3

Verse 2 Timothy 3:3. Without natural affection — αστοργοι. Without that affection which parents bear to their young, and which the young bear to their parents. An affection which is common to every class of animals; consequently, men without it are worse than brutes.

Truce-breakers — ασπονδοι. From α, negative, and σπονδη, a libation, because in making treaties libations both of blood and wine were poured out. The word means those who are bound by no promise, held by no engagement, obliged by no oath; persons who readily promise any thing, because they never intend to perform.

False accusers — διαβολοι. Devils; but properly enough rendered false accusers, for this is a principal work of the devil. Slanderers; striving ever to ruin the characters of others.

Incontinent — ακρατεις. From α, negative, and κρατος, power. Those who, having sinned away their power of self-government, want strength to govern their appetites; especially those who are slaves to uncleanness.

Fierce — ανημεροι. From α, negative, and ημερος, mild or gentle. Wild, impetuous, whatever is contrary to pliability and gentleness.

Despisers of those that are good — αφιλαγαθοι. Not lovers of good men. Here is a remarkable advantage of the Greek over the English tongue, one word of the former expressing five or six of the latter. Those who do not love the good must be radically bad themselves.

Verse 4

Verse 2 Timothy 3:4. Traitors — προδοται. From προ, before, and διδωμι, to deliver up. Those who deliver up to an enemy the person who has put his life in their hands; such as the Scots of 1648, who delivered up into the hands of his enemies their unfortunate countryman and king, Charles the First; a stain which no lapse of ages can wipe out.

Heady — προπετεις. From προ, forwards, and πιπτω, to fall; headstrong, precipitate, rash, inconsiderate.

High-minded — τετυφωμενοι. From τοφος, smoke; the frivolously aspiring; those who are full of themselves, and empty of all good.

Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God — This is nervously and beautifully expressed in the Greek, φιληδονοιμαλλονη φιλοθεοι lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; i.e. pleasure, sensual gratification, is their god; and this they love and serve; God they do not.

Verse 5

Verse 5. 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, c., 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.

Verse 6

Verse 6. For of this sort are they — He here refers to false teachers and their insinuating manners, practising upon weak women, who, seeing in them such a semblance of piety, entertain them with great eagerness, and at last become partakers with them in their impurities. Among the Jews there are remarkable cases of this kind on record, and not a few of them among the full fed monks of the Romish Church. But in what sect or party have not such teachers been occasionally found? yet neither Judaism, Protestantism, nor Roman Catholicism makes any provision for such men.

Verse 7

Verse 7. Ever learning — From their false teachers, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, because that teaching never leads to the truth; for, although there was a form of godliness, which gave them a sort of authority to teach, yet, as they denied the power of godliness, they never could bring their votaries to the knowledge of the saving power of Christianity.

There are many professors of Christianity still who answer the above description. They hear, repeatedly hear, it may be, good sermons; but, as they seldom meditate on what they hear, they derive little profit from the ordinances of God. They have no more grace now than they had several years ago, though hearing all the while, and perhaps not wickedly departing from the Lord. They do not meditate, they do not think, they do not reduce what they hear to practice; therefore, even under the preaching of an apostle, they could not become wise to salvation.

Verse 8

Verse 8. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses — This refers to the history of the Egyptian magicians, given in Exodus 7:0, where see the notes (Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:12), and particularly the concluding observations at the end of that chapter, Exodus 7:25 where several things are said concerning these two men.

Men of corrupt minds — It appears as if the apostle were referring still to some Judaizing teachers who were perverting the Church with their doctrines, and loudly calling in question the authority and doctrine of the apostle.

Reprobate concerning the faith. — αδοκιμοι. Undiscerning or untried; they are base metal, unstamped; and should not pass current, because not standard. This metaphor is frequent in the sacred writings.

Verse 9

Verse 9. But they shall proceed no farther — Such teaching and teachers shall never be able ultimately to prevail against the truth; for the foundation of God standeth sure.

Their folly shall be manifest — As the Scriptures, which are the only rule of morals and doctrine, shall ever be preserved; so, sooner or later, all false doctrines shall be tried by them: and the folly of men, setting up their wisdom against the wisdom of God, must become manifest to all. False doctrine cannot prevail long where the sacred Scriptures are read and studied. Error prevails only where the book of God is withheld from the people. The religion that fears the Bible is not the religion of God. Is Popery or Protestantism this religion?

Verse 10

Verse 10. Thou hast fully known my doctrine — And having long had the opportunity of knowing me, the doctrine I preached, my conduct founded on these doctrines, the object I have in view by my preaching, my fidelity to God and to my trust, my long-suffering with those who walked disorderly, and opposed themselves to the truth, and did what they could to lessen my authority and render it suspected, my love to them and to the world in general, and my patience in all my adversities; thou art capable of judging between me and the false teachers, and canst easily discern the difference between their doctrines, conduct, motives, temper, spirit, &c., and mine.

Verse 11

Verse 11. Persecutions - which came unto me at Antioch — The Antioch mentioned here was Antioch in Pisidia, to which place Paul and Barnabas came in their first apostolic progress, and where Paul delivered that memorable discourse which is preserved in the 13th chapter of Acts, Acts 13:16-43. In this city, it is said, the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts; but they shook of the dust of their feet against them, and came to Iconium, Acts 13:50-51. Here there was an assault made both of the Gentiles and also of the Jews with their rulers, to treat them despitefully, and to stone them, and they fled unto Lystra and Derbe; and there came thither certain Jews, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. The historian informs us that his life was miraculously restored, and that he departed thence, and came to Derbe, and afterwards returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where they had lately been so grievously persecuted. See Acts 14:5-6; Acts 14:19-21. These are the persecutions, c., to which the apostle alludes and we find that he mentions them here precisely in the same order in which, according to the relation of St. Luke, they occurred. Now it is said here that Timothy fully knew all these things; and we may naturally suppose they could not be unknown to him, when it is evident he was either a native of, or resided in, those parts; for when the apostle, sometime after the above, visited Derbe and Lystra, behold, a certain disciple was there named Timotheus, well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium; Acts 16:1-2. As these things happened in his own neighbourhood, Timothy must have known them; for a person who had such a religious education as he had could not be unacquainted with these persecutions, especially as we may believe that his mother and grandmother had been converts to Christianity at that time. See several useful remarks in Dr. Paley's Horae Paulinae, on these circumstances, page 312.

Verse 12

Verse 12. All that will live godly — So opposite to the spirit and practice of the world is the whole of Christianity, that he who gives himself entirely up to God, making the Holy Scriptures the rule of his words and actions, will be less or more reviled and persecuted. "If religion gives no quarter to vice, the vicious will give no quarter to religion and its professors."

Verse 13

Verse 13. Evil men and seducers shall wax worse — They will yet get on for a season, deceiving themselves and deceiving others; but, by and by, their folly will become manifest to all, 2 Timothy 3:9. The word γοητες, which we render seducers, signifies jugglers, pretenders to magical arts; probably persons dealing in false miracles, with whom the Church in all ages has been not a little disgraced.

Verse 14

Verse 14. But continue thou — No man, however well instructed in the things of God, or grounded in Divine grace, is out of the reach of temptation, apostasy, and final ruin; hence the necessity of watching unto prayer, depending upon God, continuing in the faith, and persevering unto the end.

Verse 15

Verse 15. From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures — The early religious education of Timothy has been already sufficiently noticed; see 2 Timothy 1:5, and the preface to the first epistle. St. Paul introduces this circumstance again here for the confirmation of Timothy's faith. He had learned the doctrines of Christianity from a genuine apostle; and, as Christianity is founded on the law and the prophets, Timothy was able to compare its doctrines with all that had been typified and predicted, and consequently was assured that the Christian religion was true.

Able to make thee wise unto salvation — The apostle is here evidently speaking of the Jewish Scriptures; and he tells us that they are able to make us wise unto salvation provided we have faith in Jesus Christ. This is the simple use of the Old Testament. No soul of man can be made wise unto salvation by it, but as he refers all to Christ Jesus. The Jews are unsaved though they know these Scriptures, because they believe not in Christ; for Christ is the end of the law for the justification of all that believe.

Verse 16

Verse 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God — This sentence is not well translated; the original πασα γραφη θεοκνευστος ωφιλιμος προς διδασκαλιαν, κ. τ. λ. should be rendered: Every writing Divinely inspired is profitable for doctrine, c. The particle και, and, is omitted by almost all the versions and many of the fathers, and certainly does not agree well with the text. The apostle is here, beyond all controversy, speaking of the writings of the Old Testament, which, because they came by Divine inspiration, he terms the Holy Scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:15 and it is of them alone that this passage is to be understood; and although all the New Testament came by as direct an inspiration as the Old, yet, as it was not collected at that time, not indeed complete, the apostle could have no reference to it.

The doctrine of the inspiration of the sacred writings has been a subject of much discussion, and even controversy, among Christians. There are two principal opinions on the subject:

1. That every thought and word were inspired by God, and that the writer did nothing but merely write as the Spirit dictated.

2. That God gave the whole matter, leaving the inspired writers to their own language; and hence the great variety of style and different modes of expression.

But as I have treated this subject at large in my Introduction to the Four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, I must refer the reader to that work.

Is profitable for doctrine — To teach the will of God, and to point out Jesus Christ till he should come.

For reproof — To convince men of the truth; and to confound those who should deny it, particularly the Jews.

For correction — προς επανορθωσιν. For restoring things to their proper uses and places, correcting false notions and mistaken views.

Instruction in righteousness — προς παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσυνη. For communicating all initiatory religious knowledge; for schooling mankind. All this is perfectly true of the Jewish Scriptures; and let faith in Christ Jesus be added, see 2 Timothy 3:15, and then all that is spoken in the following verse will be literally accomplished.

Verse 17

Verse 2 Timothy 3:17. That the man of God — The preacher of righteousness, the minister of the Gospel, the person who derives his commission from God, and always appears as his herald and servant.

May be perfect — αρτιος. From αρω, to fit or adapt. It properly signifies an integer or whole number in arithmetic, to which nothing needs to be added to make it complete.

Throughly furnished — εξηρτισμενος. From εξ, intensive, and αρτιος, complete; see above. Not only complete in himself as to his integrity, religious knowledge, faith in Jesus, and love to God and man, but that he should have all those qualifications which are necessary to complete the character, and insure the success of a preacher, of the Gospel. Timothy was to teach, reprove, correct, and instruct others; and was to be to them a pattern of good works.

From what the apostle says here concerning the qualifications of a Christian minister, we may well exclaim: Who is capable of these things? Is it such a person as has not intellect sufficient for a common trade or calling? No. A preacher of the Gospel should be a man of the soundest sense, the most cultivated mind, the most extensive experience, one who is deeply taught of God, and who has deeply studied man; one who has prayed much, read much, and studied much; one who takes up his work as from God, does it as before God, and refers all to the glory of God; one who abides under the inspiration of the Almighty, and who has hidden the word of God in his heart, that he might not sin against him. No minister formed by man can ever be such as is required here. The school of Christ, and that alone, can ever form such a preacher.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/2-timothy-3.html. 1832.
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