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Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

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In the first part of this chapter 2 Timothy 3:1-8, Paul reminds Timothy of the great apostasy which was to be expected in the church, and states some of the characteristics of it. In 2 Timothy 3:9, he says that that apostasy would not always continue; but would be at some time arrested, and so arrested as to show to all men the folly of those who were concerned in it. In 2 Timothy 3:11-12, he refers Timothy to his own manner of life in the midst of persecutions, as an encouragement to him to bear the trials which might be expected to occur to him in a similar manner. “Perilous times” were to come, and Timothy might be expected to be called to pass through trials similar to those which Paul himself had experienced. in those times the remembrance of his example would be invaluable. In 2 Timothy 3:12-13, he assures Timothy that persecutions and trials were to be expected by all who aimed to lead holy lives, and that it was as certainly to be expected that evil men would become worse and worse. And in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, he exhorts him to be steadfast in maintaining the truth; and, to encourage him to do this, reminds him of his early training in the Holy Scriptures, and of the value of those Scriptures. To the Scriptures he might repair in all times of trial, and find support in the divine promises. What he had learned there was the inspired truth of God, and was able to make him wise, and to furnish him abundantly for all that he was to do or to suffer.

Verse 1

This know also - The “object” of this reference to the perilous times which were to occur, was evidently to show the necessity of using every precaution to preserve the purity of the church, from the fact that such sad scenes were to open upon it. The apostle had dwelt upon this subject in his First Epistle to Timothy 2 Timothy 4:0, but its importance leads him to advert to it again.

In the last days - Under the gospel dispensation; some time in that period during which the affairs of the world will be closed up; see the 1 Timothy 4:1 note, and Hebrews 1:2 note.

Perilous times shall come - Times of danger, of persecution, and of trial. On the general meaning of this passage, and the general characteristics of those times, the reader may consult the 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 notes, and 1 Timothy 4:1-3 notes. There can be no doubt that in all these passages the apostle refers to the same events.

Verse 2

For men shall be lovers of their own selves - It shall be one of the characteristics of those times that men shall be eminently selfish - evidently under the garb of religion; 2 Timothy 3:5. The word here used - φίλαυτος philautos - does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means a lover of oneself, “selfish.” Such a love of self as to lead us to secure our salvation, is proper. But this interferes with the rights and happiness of no other persons. The selfishness which is condemned, is that regard to our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others; which makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion; but it has been so common in the world that no one can doubt the correctness of the prophecy of the apostle that it would exist “in the last times.”

Covetous - Greek, Lovers of silver; i. e., of money; Luke 6:14; see the notes at 1 Timothy 6:20.

Boasters - see the notes at Romans 1:30.

Proud - see the notes at Romans 1:30.

Blasphemers - see the notes at Matthew 9:3.

Disobedient to parents - see the notes at Romans 1:30.

Unthankful - see Luke 6:35. The word here used occurs in the New Testament only in these two places. Ingratitude has always been regarded as one of the worst of crimes. It is said here that it would characterize that wicked age of which the apostle speaks, and its prevalence would, as it always does, indicate a decline of religion. Religion makes us grateful to every benefactor - to God, and to man.

Unholy - see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:9.

Verse 3

Without natural affection - see the notes at Romans 1:31.

Trucebreakers - The same word in Romans 1:31, is rendered “implacable;” see the notes at that verse. It properly means “without treaty;” that is, those who are averse to any treaty or compact. It may thus refer to those who are unwilling to enter into any agreement; that is, either those who are unwilling to be reconciled to others when there is a variance - implacable; or those who disregard treaties or agreements. In either case, this marks a very corrupt condition of society. Nothing would be more indicative of the lowest state of degradation, than that in which all compacts and agreements were utterly disregarded.

False accusers - Margin, “makebates.” The word “makebate” means one who excites contentions and quarrels. Webster. The Greek here is διάβολοι diaboloi - “devils” - the primitive meaning of which is, “calumniator, slanderer, accuser;” compare the notes at 1 Timothy 3:11, where the word is rendered “slanderers.”

Incontinent - 1 Corinthians 7:5. Literally, “without strength;” that is, without strength to resist the solicitations of passion, or who readily yield to it.

Fierce - The Greek word used here - ἀνήμερος anēmeros - does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means “ungentle, harsh, severe,” and is the opposite of gentleness and mildness. Religion produces gentleness; the want of it makes men rough, harsh, cruel; compare the notes at 2 Timothy 2:24.

Despisers of those that are good - In Titus 1:8, it is said of a bishop that he must be “a lover of good men.” This, in every condition of life, is a virtue, and hence, the opposite of it is here set down as one of the characteristics of that evil age of which the apostle speaks.

Verse 4

Traitors - This word is used in the New Testament only here and in Luke 6:16; Acts 7:52. It means any one who betrays - whether it be a friend or his country. Treason has been in all ages regarded as one of the worst crimes that man can commit.

Heady - The same word in Acts 19:36, is rendered rashly. It occurs only there and in this place in the New Testament. It properly means “falling forwards; prone, inclined, ready to do anything; then precipitate, headlong, rash.” It is opposed to that which is deliberate and calm, and here means that men would be ready to do anything without deliberation, or concern for the consequences. They would engage in enterprises which would only disturb society, or prove their own ruin.

High-minded - Literally, “puffed up;” compare the notes at 1 Timothy 3:6, where the same word is rendered “lifted up with pride.” The meaning is, that they would be inflated with pride or self-conceit.

Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God - That is, of sensual pleasures, or vain amusements. This has been, and is, the characteristic of a great part of the world, and has often distinguished even many who profess religion. Of a large portion of mankind it may be said that this is their characteristic, that they live for pleasure; they have no serious pursuits; they brook no restraints which interfere with their amusements, and they greatly prefer the pleasures to be found in the gay assembly, in the ball-room, or in the place of low dissipation, to the friendship of their Creator.

Verse 5

Having a form of godliness - That is, they profess religion, or are in connection with the church. This shows that the apostle referred to some great corruption in the church; and there can be little doubt that he had his eye on the same great apostasy to which he refers in 2 Thessalonians 2:0:, and 1 Timothy 4:0: All these things to which he refers here have been practiced and tolerated in that apostate church, while no body of men, at any time, have been more zealous in maintaining “a form of godliness;” that is, in keeping up the forms of religion.

But denying the power thereof - Opposing the real power of religion; not allowing it to exert any influence in their lives. It imposes no restraint on their passions and carnal propensities, but in all respects, except in the form of religion, they live as if they had None. This has been common in the world. The most regular and bigoted adherence to the forms of religion furnishes no evidence in itself that there is any true piety at heart, or that true religion has any actual control over the soul. It is much easier for people to observe the forms of religion than it is to bring the heart under its controlling influence.

From such turn away - Have no contact with them as if they were Christians; show no countenance to their religion; do not associate with them; compare 2 John 1:10-11; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 6:17.

Verse 6

For of this sort are they which creep into houses - Who go slyly and insidiously into families. They are not open and manly in endeavoring to propagate their views, but they endeavor by their address to ingratiate themselves first with weak women, and through them to influence men; compare Titus 1:11. The word translated “creep into,” is rendered by Doddridge, “insinuate themselves;” by Bloomfield, “wind their way into,” in the manner of serpents; by Bretschneider, “deceitfully enter;” by Robinson and Passow,” go in, enter in.” It is not certain that the idea of deceit or cunning is contained in this “word,” yet the whole complexion of the passage implies that they made their way by art and deceitful tricks.

And lead captive silly women - One of the tricks always played by the advocates of error, and one of the ways by which they seek to promote their purposes. Satan began his work of temptation with Eve rather than with Adam, and the advocates of error usually follow his example. There are always weak-minded women enough in any community to give an opportunity of practicing these arts, and often the aims of the impostor and deceiver can be best secured by appealing to them. Such women are easily flattered; they are charmed by the graceful manners of religious instructors; they lend a willing ear to anything that has the appearance of religion, and their hearts are open to anything that promises to advance the welfare of the world. At the same time, they are just such persons as the propagators of error can rely upon. They have leisure; they have wealth; they are busy; they move about in society, and by their activity they obtain an influence to which they are by no means entitled by their piety or talents. There are, indeed, very many women in the world who cannot be so easily led away as men; but it cannot be denied also that there are those who are just adapted to the purposes of such as seek to spread plausible error. The word rendered “silly women,” means properly “little women,” and then “weak women.”

Laden with sins - With so many sins that they seem to be “burdened” with them. The idea is, that they are under the influence of sinful desires and propensities, and hence, are better adapted to the purposes of deceivers.

Led away with divers lusts - With various kinds of passions or desires - ἐπιθυμίας epithumias - such as pride, vanity, the love of novelty, or a susceptibility to flattery, so as to make them an easy prey to deceivers.

Verse 7

Ever learning - That is, these “silly women;” for so the Greek demands. The idea is, that they seeM to be disciples. They put themselves wholly under the care of these professedly religious teachers, but they never acquire the true knowledge of the way of salvation.

And never able to come to the knowledge of the truth - They may learn many things, but the true nature of religion they do not learn. There are many such persons in the world, who, whatever attention they may pay to religion, never understand its nature. Many obtain much speculative acquaintance with the “doctrines” of Christianity, but never become savingly acquainted with the system; many study the constitution and government of the church, but remain strangers to practical piety; many become familiar with the various philosophical theories of religion, but never become truly acquainted with what religion is; and many embrace visionary theories, who never show that they are influenced by the spirit of the gospel. Nothing is more common than for persons to be very busy and active in religion, and even to “learn” many things about it, who still remain strangers to the saving power of the gospel.

Verse 8

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses - The names of these two men are not elsewhere mentioned in the Bible. They are supposed to have been two of the magicians who resisted Moses (Exodus 7:11, et al.), and who opposed their miracles to those of Moses and Aaron. It is not certain where the apostle obtained their names; but they are frequently mentioned by the Hebrew writers, and also by other writers; so that there can be no reasonable doubt that their names were correctly handed down by tradition. Nothing is more probable than that the names of the more distinguished magicians who attempted to imitate the miracles of Moses, would be preserved by tradition; and though they are not mentioned by Moses himself, and the Jews have told many ridiculous stories respecting them, yet this should not lead us to doubt the truth of the tradition respecting their names. A full collection of the Jewish statements in regard to them may be found in Wetstein, in loc.

They are also mentioned by Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30:7; and by Numenius, the philosopher, as quoted by Eusebius, 9:8, and Origen, against Celsus, p. 199. See Wetstein. By the rabbinical writers, they are sometimes mentioned as Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses in Egypt, and sometimes as the sons of Balaam. The more common account is, that they were the princes of the Egyptian magicians. One of the Jewish rabbins represents them as having been convinced by the miracles of Moses, and as having become converts to the Hebrew religion. There is no reason to doubt that these were in fact the leading men who opposed Moses in Egypt, by attempting to work counter-miracles. The point of the remark of the apostle here, is, that they resisted Moses by attempting to imitate his miracles, thus neutralizing the evidence that he was sent from God. In like manner, the persons here referred to, opposed the progress of the gospel by setting up a similar claim to that of the apostles; by pretending to have as much authority as they had; and by thus neutralizing the claims of the true religion, and leading off weak-minded persons from the truth. This is often the most dangerous kind of opposition that is made to religion.

Men of corrupt minds; - compare the notes at 1 Timothy 6:5.

Reprobate concerning the faith - So far as the Christian faith is concerned. On the word rendered “reprobate,” see the Romans 1:28 note; 1 Corinthians 9:27 note, rendered “cast-away;” 2 Corinthians 13:5 note. The margin here is, “of no judgment.” The meaning is, that in respect to the Christian faith, or the doctrines of religion, their views could not be approved, and they were not to be regarded as true teachers of religion.

Verse 9

But they shall proceed no further - There is a certain point beyond which they will not be allowed to go. Their folly will become manifest, and the world will understand it. The apostle does not say how far these false teachers would be allowed to go, but that they would not be suffered always to prosper and prevail. They might be plausible at first, and lead many astray; they might, by art and cunning, cover up the real character of their system; but there would be a fair development of it, and it would be seen to be folly. The apostle here may be understood as declaring a general truth in regard to error. It often is so plausible at first, that it seems to be true. It wins the hearts of many persons, and leads them astray. It flatters them personally, or it flatters them with the hope of a better state of things in the church and the world. But the time will always come when men will see the folly of it. Error will advance only to a certain point, when it will be “seen” to be falsehood and folly, and when the world will arise and cast it off. In some cases, this point may be slower in being reached than in others; but there “is” a point, beyond which error will not go. At the reformation under Luther, that point had been reached, when the teachings of the great apostasy were seen to be “folly,” and when the awakened intellect of the world would allow it to “proceed no farther,” and aroused itself and threw it off. In the workings of society, as well as by the direct appointment of God, there is a point beyond which error cannot prevail; and hence, there is a certainty that truth will finally triumph.

For their folly shall be manifest unto all men - The world will see and understand what they are, and what they teach. By smooth sophistry, and cunning arts, they will not be able always to deceive mankind.

As their’s also was - That of Jannes and Jambres. That is, it became manifest to all that they could not compete with Moses and Aaron; that their claims to the power of working miracles were the mere arts of magicians, and that they had set up pretensions which they could not sustain; compare Exodus 8:18-19. In regard to the time to which the apostle referred in this description, it has already been observed (see the notes at 2 Timothy 3:1), that it was probably to that great apostasy of the “latter days,” which he has described in 2 Thessalonians 2:0: and 1 Timothy 4:0: But there seems to be no reason to doubt that he had his eye immediately on some persons who had appeared then, and who had evinced some of the traits which would characterize the great apostasy, and whose conduct showed that the great “falling away” had already commenced. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, he says that the “mystery of iniquity” was already at work, or was even then manifesting itself; and there can be no doubt that the apostle saw that there had then commenced what he knew would yet grow up into the great defection from the truth. In some persons, at that time, who had the form of godliness, but who denied its power; who made use of insinuating arts to proselyte the weak and the credulous; who endeavor to imitate the true apostles, perhaps by attempting to work miracles, as Jannes and Jambres did, he saw the “germ” of what was yet to grow up into so gigantic a system of iniquity as to overshadow the world. Yet he consoled Timothy with the assurance that there was a point beyond which the system of error would not be allowed to go, but where its folly must be seen, and where it would be arrested.

Verse 10

But thou hast fully known my doctrine ... - Margin, “been a diligent follower of.” The margin is more in accordance with the usual meaning of the Greek word, which means, properly, to accompany side by side; to follow closely; to trace out; to examine Luke 1:3, and to conform to. The meaning here, however, seems to be, that Timothy had an opportunity to follow out; i. e., to examine closely the manner of life of the apostle Paul. He had been so long his companion, that he had had the fullest opportunity of knowing how he had lived and taught, and how he had borne persecutions. The object of this reference to his own life and sufferings is evidently to encourage Timothy to bear persecutions and trials in the same manner; compare 2 Timothy 3:14. He saw, in the events which began already to develope themselves, that trials must be expected; he knew that all who would live holy lives must suffer persecution; and hence, he sought to prepare the mind of Timothy for the proper endurance of trials, by a reference to his own case. The word “doctrine,” here, refers to his “teaching,” or manner of giving instruction. It does not refer, as the word now does, to the opinions which he held; see the notes at 1 Timothy 4:16. In regard to the opportunities which Timothy had for knowing the manner of Paul’s life, see the introduction to the Epistle, and Paley, Hor. Paul., “in loc.” Timothy had been the companion of Paul during a considerable portion of the time after his conversion. The “persecutions” referred to here 2 Timothy 3:11 are those which occurred in the vicinity of Timothy’s native place, and which he would have had a particular opportunity of being acquainted with. This circumstance, and the fact that Paul did not refer to other persecutions in more remote places, is one of the “undesigned coincidences,” of which Paley has made so much in his incomparable little work - Horae Paulinae.

Manner of life - Literally, “leading, guidance;” then, the method in which one is led - his manner of life; compare the notes at 1 Thessalonians 2:1.

Purpose - Plans, or designs.

Faith - Perhaps fidelity, or faithfulness.

Long-suffering - With the evil passions of others, and their efforts to injure him. See the word explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Charity - see the notes at 1 Corinthians 13:0.

Patience - “A calm temper, which suffers evils without murmuring or discontent.” Webster.

Verse 11

Persecutions - On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Matthew 5:10.

Afflictions - Trials of other kinds than those which arose from persecutions. The apostle met them everywhere; compare the notes at Acts 20:23.

Which came unto me at Antioch - The Antioch here referred to is not the place of that name in Syria (see the notes at Acts 11:19); but a city of the same name in Pisidia, in Asia Minor; notes, Acts 13:14. Paul there suffered persecution from the Jews; Acts 13:45.

At Iconium; - notes, Acts 13:50. On the persecution there, see the notes at Acts 14:3-6.

At Lystra; - Acts 14:6. At this place, Paul was stoned; notes, Acts 14:19. Timothy was a native of either Derbe or Lystra, cities near to each other, and was doubtless there at the time of this occurrence; Acts 16:1.

But out of them all the Lord delivered me - See the history in the places referred to in the Acts .

Verse 12

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution - Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians - who live as the Saviour did - and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) That they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) They who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) If we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) Let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

Verse 13

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse - That is, it is the character of such men to do this; they may be expected to do it. This is the general law of depravity - that if men are not converted, they are always growing worse, and sinking deeper into iniquity. Their progress will be certain, though it may be gradual, since “nemo repente turpissimus.” The connection here is this: that Timothy was not to expect that he would be exempt from persecution 2 Timothy 3:12, by any change for the better in the wicked men referred to. He was to anticipate in them the operation of the general law in regard to bad men and seducers - that they would grow worse and worse. From this fact, he was to regard it as certain that he, as well as others, would be liable to be persecuted. The word rendered “seducers” - γόης goēs - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, a “juggler, or diviner;” and then, a “deceiver, or impostor.” Here it refers to those who by seductive arts, lead persons into error.

Deceiving - Making others believe that to be true and right, which is false and wrong. This was, of course, done by seductive arts.

And being deceived - Under delusion themselves. The advocates of error are often themselves as really under deception, as those whom they impose upon. They are often sincere in the belief of error, and then they are under a delusion; or, if they are insincere, they are equally deluded in supposing that they can make error pass for truth before God, or can deceive the Searcher of hearts. The worst victims of delusion are those who attempt to delude others.

Verse 14

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of - To wit, the truths of religion. Timothy had been taught those truths when a child, and he had been confirmed in them by the instructions of Paul. Amidst the errors and seductions of false teachers, Paul now exhorts him to hold fast those doctrines, whoever might oppose them, or whatever might be the consequence; compare the notes at 2 Timothy 1:13.

Knowing of whom thou hast learned them - To wit, of his mother 2 Timothy 1:5, and of Paul; 2 Timothy 1:13. The reference seems to be particularly to the fact that he had learned these truths first from the lips of a mother (see 2 Timothy 3:15); and the doctrine taught here is, “that the fact that we have received the views of truth from a parent’s lips, is a strong motive for adhering to them.” It is not to be supposed, indeed, that this is the highest motive, or that we are always to adhere to the doctrines which have been taught us, if, on maturer examination, we are convinced they are erroneous; but that this is a strong reason for adhering to what we have been taught in early life. It is so, because:

(1)A parent has no motive for deceiving a child, and it cannot be supposed that he would teach him what he knew to be false;

(2)A parent usually has had much more experience, and much better opportunities of examining what is true, than his child has;

(3)There is a degree of respect which nature teaches us to be due to the sentiments of a parent.

A child should depart very slowly from the opinions held by a father or mother; and, when it is done, it should be only as the result of prolonged examination and prayer. These considerations should have the greater weight, if a parent has been eminent for piety, and especially if that parent has been removed to heaven. A child, standing by the grave of a pious father or mother, should reflect and pray much, before he deliberately adopts opinions which he knows that father or mother would regard as wrong.

Verse 15

And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures - That is, the Old Testament; for the New Testament was not then written; see the notes at John 5:39. The mother of Timothy was a pious Hebrewess, and regarded it as one of the duties of her religion to train her son in the careful knowledge of the word of God. This was regarded by the Hebrews as an important duty of religion, and there is reason to believe that it was commonly faithfully performed. The Jewish writings abound with lessons on this subject. Rabbi Judah says, “The boy of five years of age ought to apply to the study of the sacred Scriptures.” Rabbi Solomon, on Deuteronomy 11:19, says, “When the boy begins to talk, his father ought to converse with him in the sacred language, and to teach him the law; if he does not do that, he seems to bury him.” See numerous instances referred to in Wetstein, in loc. The expression used by Paul - “from a child” (ἀπὸ βρέφους apo brephous) - does not make it certain at precisely what age Timothy was first instructed in the Scriptures, though it would denote an “early” age. The word used - βρέφος brephos - denotes:

(1)A babe unborn, Luke 1:41, Luke 1:44;

(2)An infant, babe, suckling.

In the New Testament, it is rendered “babe and babes,” Luke 1:41, Luke 1:44; Luke 2:12, Luk 2:16; 1 Peter 2:2; “infants,” Luke 8:15; and “young children,” Acts 7:19. It does not elsewhere occur, and its current use would make it probable that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he was capable of learning anything. Dr. Doddridge correctly renders it here “from infancy.” It may be remarked then,

(1) That it is proper to teach the Bible to children at as early a period of life as possible.

(2) That there is reason to hope that such instruction will not be forgotten, but will have a salutary influence on their future lives. The piety of Timothy is traced by the apostle to the fact that he had been early taught to read the Scriptures, and a great proportion of those who are in the church have been early made acquainted with the Bible.

(3) It is proper to teach the “Old” Testament to children - since this was all that Timothy had, and this was made the means of his salvation.

(4) We may see the utility of Sunday schools. The great, and almost the sole object of such schools is to teach the Bible, and from the view which Paul had of the advantage to Timothy of having been early made acquainted with the Bible, there can be no doubt that if Sunday-schools had then been in existence, he would have been their hearty patron and friend.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation - So to instruct you in the way of salvation, that you may find the path to life. Hence, learn:

(1) That the plan of salvation may be learned from the Old Testament. It is not as clearly revealed there as it is in the New, but “it is there;” and if a man had only the Old Testament, he might find the way to be saved. The Jew, then, has no excuse if he is not saved.

(2) The Scriptures have “power.” They are “able to make one wise to salvation.” They are not a cold, tame, dead thing. There is no book that has so much “power” as the Bible; none that is so efficient in moving the hearts, and consciences, and intellects of mankind. There is no book that has moved so many minds; none that has produced so deep and permanent effects on the world.

(3) To find the way of salvation, is the best kind of wisdom; and none are wise who do not make that the great object of life.

Through faith which is in Christ Jesus; - see the Mark 16:16 note; Romans 1:17 note. Paul knew of no salvation, except through the Lord Jesus. He says, therefore, that the study of the Scriptures, valuable as they were, would not save the soul unless there was faith in the Redeemer; and it is implied, also, that the proper effect of a careful study of the “Old” Testament, would be to lead one to put his trust in the Messiah.

Verse 16

All Scripture - This properly refers to the Old Testament, and should not be applied to any part of the New Testament, unless it can be shown that that part was then written, and was included under the general name of “the Scriptures;” compare 2 Peter 3:15-16. But it includes the whole of the Old Testament, and is the solemn testimony of Paul that it was all inspired. If now it can be proved that Paul himself was an inspired man, this settles the question as to the inspiration of the Old Testament.

Is given by inspiration of God - All this is expressed in the original by one word - Θεόπνευστος Theopneustos. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, God-inspired - from Θεός Theos, “God,” and πνέω pneō, “to breathe, to breathe out.” The idea of “breathing upon, or breathing into the soul,” is that which the word naturally conveys. Thus, God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life Genesis 2:7, and thus the Saviour breathed on his disciples, and said, “receive ye the Holy Ghost;” John 20:22. The idea seems to have been, that the life was in the breath, and that an intelligent spirit was communicated with the breath. The expression was used among the Greeks, and a similar one was employed by the Romans. Plutarch ed. R. 9:p. 583. 9. τοὺς ὀνείρους τοὺς θεοπνεύστους tous oneirous tous theopneustous. Phocylid. 121. τῆς δὲ θεοπνεύστου σοφίης λόγος ἐστὶν ἄριστος tēs de theopnoustou sophiēs logos estin aristos.

Perhaps, however, this is not an expression of Phocylides, but of the pseudo Phocylides. So it is understood by Bloomfield. Cicero, pro Arch. 8. “poetam - quasi divino quodam spiritu inflari.” The word does not occur in the Septuagint, but is found in Josephus, Contra Apion, i. 7. “The Scripture of the prophets who were taught according to the inspiration of God - κατὰ τὴν ἐπίπνοιαν τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ kata tēn epipnoian tēn apo tou Theou. In regard to the manner of inspiration, and to the various questions which have been started as to its nature, nothing can be learned from the use of this word. It asserts a fact - that the Old Testament was composed under a divine influence, which might be represented by “breathing on one,” and so imparting life. But the language must be figurative; for God does not breathe, though the fair inference is, that those Scriptures are as much the production of God, or are as much to be traced to him, as life is; compare Matthew 22:43; 2 Peter 1:21. The question as to the degree of inspiration, and whether it extends to the words of Scripture, and how far the sacred writers were left to the exercise of their own faculties, is foreign to the design of these notes. All that is necessary to be held is, that the sacred writers were kept from error on those subjects which were matters of their own observation, or which pertained to memory; and that there were truths imparted to them directly by the Spirit of God, which they could never have arrived at by the unaided exercise of their own minds. Compare the introduction to Isaiah and Job.

And is profitable. - It is useful; it is adapted to give instruction, to administer reproof, etc. If “all” Scripture is thus valuable, then we are to esteem no part of the Old Testament as worthless. There is no portion of it, even now, which may not be fitted, in certain circumstances, to furnish us valuable lessons, and, consequently, no part of it which could be spared from the sacred canon. There is no part of the human body which is not useful in its place, and no part of it which can be spared without sensible loss.

For doctrine - For teaching or communicating instruction; compare the notes on 1 Timothy 4:16.

For reproof - On the meaning of the word here rendered “reproof” - ἐλέγγμος elengmos - see the notes on Hebrews 11:1. It here means, probably, for “convincing;” that is, convincing a man of his sins, of the truth and claims of religion, etc.; see the notes on John 16:8.

For correction - The word here used - ἐπανόρθωσις epanorthōsis - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, “a setting to rights, reparation, restoration,” (from ἐπανορθόω epanorthoō, to right up again, to restore); and here means, the leading to a correction or amendment of life - “a reformation.” The meaning is, that the Scriptures are a powerful means of reformation, or of putting men into the proper condition in regard to morals. After all the means which have been employed to reform mankind; all the appeals which are made to them on the score of health, happiness, respectability, property, and long life, the word of God is still the most powerful and the most effectual means of recovering those who have fallen into vice. No reformation can be permanent which is not based on the principles of the word of God.

For instruction in righteousness - Instruction in regard to the principles of justice, or what is right. Man needs not only to be made acquainted with truth, to be convinced of his error, and to be reformed; but he needs to be taught what is right, or what is required of him, in order that he may lead a holy life. Every reformed and regenerated man needs instruction, and should not be left merely with the evidence that he is “reformed, or converted.” He should be followed with the principles of the word of God, to show him how he may lead an upright life. The Scriptures furnish the rules of holy living in abundance, and thus they are adapted to the whole work of recovering man, and of guiding him to heaven.

Verse 17

That the man of God may be perfect - The object is not merely to convince and to convert him; it is to furnish all the instruction needful for his entire perfection. The idea here is, not that any one is absolutely perfect, but that the Scriptures have laid down the way which leads to perfection, and that, if any one were perfect, he would find in the Scriptures all the instruction which he needed in those circumstances. There is no deficiency in the Bible for man, in any of the situations in which he may be placed in life; and the whole tendency of the book is to make him who will put himself fairly under its instructions, absolutely perfect.

Thoroughly furnished unto all good works - Margin, “perfected.” The Greek means, to bring to an end; to make complete. The idea is, that whatever good work the man of God desires to perform, or however perfect he aims to be, he will find no deficiency in the Scriptures, but will find there the most ample instructions that he needs. He can never advance so far, as to become forsaken of his guide. He can never make such progress, as to have gone in advance of the volume of revealed truth, and to be thrown upon his own resources in a region which was not thought of by the Author of the Bible. No new phase of human affairs can appear in which it will not direct him; no new plan of benevolence can be started, for which he will not find principles there to guide him; and he can make no progress in knowledge or holiness, where he will not feel that his holy counsellor is in advance of him still, and that it is capable of conducting him even yet into higher and purer regions. Let us, then, study and prize the Bible. It is a holy and a safe guide. It has conducted millions along the dark and dangerous way of life, and has never led one astray. The human mind, in its investigations of truth, has never gone beyond its teachings; nor has man ever advanced into a region so bright that its light has become dim, or where it has not thrown its beams of glory on still far distant objects. We are often in circumstances in which we feel that we have reached the outer limit of what man can teach us; but we never get into such circumstance in regard to the Word of God.

How precious is the book divine,

By, inspiration given!

Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine.

To guide our souls to heaven.

It sweetly cheers our drooping hearts.

In this dark vale of tears:

Life, light, and joy, it still imparts,

And quells our rising fears.

This lamp, through all the tedious night.

Of life, shall guide our way;

Till we behold the clearer light.

Of an eternal day.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-timothy-3.html. 1870.
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