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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament BooksLipscomb's Commentary on Selected NT Books

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Verse 1

2 Timothy 3:1

But know this,—Notwithstanding the hope just expressed in regard to the recovery of some who follow the ways of men, many evil men will arise in the church who will never be reclaimed.

that in the last days grievous times shall come.—This is the common designation in the Old Testament of the Messianic age—the time after the coming of the Christ into the world. It is thus used in the New Testament to designate the new dispensation, this being the last period of human history. The whole representation points to the immediate as well is to the remote future. Probably such “grievous times” would more than once occur, and the last occurring before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ may be the worst in the wide extent and terrible character of its error and sin.

Verse 2

2 Timothy 3:2

For men shall be lovers of self,—Selfishness will be a general characteristic of the period. It denotes one who as­signs to himself a larger share of wealth, honors, and bodily pleasures than to others. This trait is mentioned first because, as the root of the essence of all sin, it is the source of the other evil characteristics mentioned.

lovers of money,—Filled with selfish greed for the accumula­tion of wealth; improperly desirous of gain.

boastful,—These arrogate to themselves honors which do not fairly belong to them.

haughty,—These are they who contemptuously look down on others beneath them either in social position or wealth or in natural gifts.

railers,—Are scornful, insolent, and blame with bitterness. They carry the war of their tongues into the camp of the enemy and give vent to their vengeance against God or man. It is sinful in either case.

disobedient to parents,—No character has been more con­demned by God than those disobedient to parents. Under the law of Moses the stubborn and rebellious son who would not obey his parents was to be stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 21:18-20.) The parents stood in the place of God to the child, and if it would not obey them they could not expect it to obey God. [Christ has set up a new standard of individual re­sponsibility which sometimes makes it necessary for children, when they have come to years of responsibility, to act contrary to the wishes of their parents in order that they may obey God. The Lord said: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37.) Yet parents have not forfeited all their natural rights, and in all matters where obedience to God is not at stake children are even more bound to yield them respect, obedience, and tender affection.]

unthankful,—[Children who begin life with disobedience to their parents with rare exceptions are ungrateful to all others who may show them kindness in their life journey. 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 Paul speaks.]

unholy,—Not consecrated to God through their want of purity; defiled with sin, irreligious. [Those who scoff at holi­ness of life and character in its deepest sense.]

Verse 3

2 Timothy 3:3

without natural affection,—Without affection for parents or children. The attachment of parents to children is one of the strongest in nature, and nothing can overcome it but the most confirmed and determined wickedness. [An affection which is common to every class of brutes, consequently men and women without it are worse than brutes.]

implacable,—Those who will not be bound by any oath or held by any engagement or obligated by any promise. They readily promise anything, but never intend to perform. Noth­ing could be more indicative of the lowest state of degradation than that in which all compacts and agreements are utterly disregarded.

slanderers,—Accusations maliciously uttered with the pur­pose or effect of damaging the reputation of another. As a rule, it is a false charge (Matthew 5:11), but it may be a truth treacherously circulated with the purpose of destroying the good reputation of another.

without self-control,—Persons of unbridled appetites and passions who do not control their evil propensities. [This seems to mean that in a man’s soul there are two elements, a better and a worse, and when the better controls the worse, then he is said to be a master of himself. The lowest bodily pleasures are a sphere in which this virtue of self-control is specially displayed; that is those bodily pleasures which the other animals share with man and which are consequently shown to be slavish and brutalpleasure of touch and taste. It is manifest that in order to be a virtuous man at all one must at least have control over ones own appetites. When this virtue is illuminated by the gospel its meaning is inten­sified. Its sphere is not confined to the lowest sensual en­joyments, self-mastery with regard to such things is still included; but other things are included also. There is a spiritual frenzy, and there are spiritual self-indulgencies anal­ogous to spiritual madness and there are spiritual self-indul­gencies analogous to bodily indulgence. For these things self-mastery is needed.]

fierce,—[In this resembling savages and wild beasts, the denial of godliness ending in their having no power over their angry passions.]

no lovers of good,—Hostile to every good thought and work.

Verse 4

2 Timothy 3:4

traitors,—Those ready to betray any person or trust com­mitted to their keeping. Treason has been in all ages regarded as one of the worst crimes that man can commit.

headstrong,—[Stubbornly bent on pursuing one’s own plans or accomplishing ones own ends; obstinate; willful, ungov­ernable.]

puffed up,—[Self-conceit, like smoke without substance, puffed out into great volume, envelops and blinds them, dis­torting and magnifying their views of themselves as compared with others.]

lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;—More ready to follow sensual pleasures than to follow the law of God. [They are people who would make any sacrifice to procure a fleeting pleasure and who would give nothing up in order to do honor to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sorrowful catalogue which has just passed before our minds began with “lovers of self,” that unhappy vice which excludes all love for others, closes with the lovers of pleasure which shuts out all love of God.]

Verse 5

2 Timothy 3:5

holding a form of godliness,—All who so live while claim­ing to be Christians have the “form,” the profession of godli­ness, while they fail to live according to its laws. [Keeping up a show by formally keeping the Lord’s appointment, but renouncing its power and influence over the heart and life; showing openly that they neither acknowledge its guidance or even wish to do so. These claiming to be Christians, wearing the name of Christ, but by their lives denouncing his name, do the gravest injury to his cause. Another shameful catalogue of vices Paul gives (Romans 1:28-32), but in that passage he points to the sins of heathenism. Here he describes the characteristics of a class of people who went under the name of Christ.]

but having denied the power thereof:—They deny its power by failing to let its spirit dwell in their hearts, and its laws rule in their lives. Anyone denies the power of godliness when he professes to honor God, but refuses to obey his command­ments.

from these also turn away.—These persons who, while pre­tending to serve the Lord, lived the degraded life of the heathen were to be shunned. No friendly intercourse was pos­sible between the hypocrite and the devoted Christian. It was a declaration that they had in vain exhausted all scriptural means to save him before withdrawing; now this is the last resort. Deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that he may be saved. If they have followed the law of God in the steps leading to it, their action has the full sanction of the divine law, and their act is the act of God himself. A man excluded by a church acting according to the divine law is excluded by God himself and without repentance as surely damned as he will be when God says, “I never knew you: depart from me.” The churches and individuals come to regard this act too lightly. But the letter and spirit of Gods law should be followed in trying to save the sinner. When this is done, it is an awful sentence of God himself as to his condition.

Verse 6

2 Timothy 3:6

For of these are they that creep into houses,—The men with these unworthy characters are described as insinuating themselves into the homes of the Christians, and their influ­ence must have been great, and the church suffered much. The power they acquired over women of this type was great, and their influence abounded everywhere in the apostolic age.

and take captive silly women—These hypocritical men busied themselves in securing popularity among the women of the church. The way by which this was accomplished was by easing their guilty consciences.

laden with sins, led away by divers lusts,—[As if sins were heaped upon them. Their consciences were oppressed with sins, and in this morbid state they lay open to the insidious attacks of these corrupt men who promise them ease of con­science if they will follow them.] Those who reject the truth of God and are not subject to his authority are slaves of sin and are led into the excesses and immoralities of lust.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 3:7

ever learning,—Those who reject the authority of Jesus Christ and the law of God as the standard of right have no standard, and so led by their selfish desires and lusts are always reasoning, always speculating, and always learning.

and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.—Because they reject the only standard by which to determine the truth—the word of God. [As there lies in the womanly character the foundation for the highest development of the power of faith, so also for the highest revelation of the power of sin.]

Verse 8

2 Timothy 3:8

And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses,—These names are not mentioned elsewhere by name in the Bible. They are supposed by early Jewish writers to have been the magicians in Egypt that wrought wonders before Pharaoh when Moses performed his miracles to cause him to let the Israelites go. They used these magical arts to with­stand Moses and prevent the delivery of Israel from Egypt.

so do these also withstand the truth;—So did these men who now opposed Paul and sought to destroy his influence. Prob­ably they used some magical powers to deceive the people with the idea that they exerted miraculous powers as well as Paul and others of the inspired men. God sometimes per­mitted evil men to manifest wonder-working power from the devil which his servants wrought for him.

men corrupted in mind,—They were men who had once been Christians, but had become corrupt in mind and were enemies of the truth.

reprobate concerning the faith.—Their faith had become so perverted by sin that God condemned it as unworthy, leading to ruin instead of salvation. It is possible for man to believe that Jesus is the Christ and yet his faith is so mixed up with error that it will not lead to salvation. This may mean that they are so given over to sin that they lose the ability to dis­tinguish between good and evil.

Verse 9

2 Timothy 3:9

But they shall proceed no further:—They shall proceed in their wicked course no longer. [After the apostle had pointed out the fearful ravages in the Ephesian church by the evil men, he proceeds to comfort Timothy with the assurance that, great as the mischief accomplished was, it should proceed no further. To human eyes such a state of things as here de­scribed would appear desperate. It was as though a deadly and incurable disease was eating away the life of the whole body of believers, but Timothy need not fear—the evil would be allowed to reach a certain point. Since Paul thus wrote the same prophecy, not only at Ephesus, but in numerous other churches, has been fulfilled to the very letter. Still the same old foes under new leaders make havoc of the church. But, as a rule, they never advance beyond a certain point, and after all the centuries the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is still full of faith and life, bright, too, in spite of all the discourage­ments and the perpetual presence of these treacherous men with promise for future triumphs.]

for their folly shall be evident unto all men, as theirs also came to be.—Moses exposed the folly of Jannes and Jambres, and Paul will do the same to those perverters of the faith and bring their evil ways to an end. Adam Clarke says: “As the Scriptures are the only rule of morals and doctrine, and 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.”

Verse 10

2 Timothy 3:10

But thou didst follow my teaching,—Timothy followed the instruction given by Paul with full sympathy and approval. The reference is to Timothy’s conversion of which the teach­ing, life, and sufferings of Paul were the means through which it was brought about. No other man knew the history of Pauls life like Timothy, who had been carefully trained to assist in carrying on the Lords work after Paul should be removed. This earnest appeal to Timothys recollection of the past was for two distinct purposes: (1) it was to contrast the life of Paul, with which Timothy was so well acquainted, with the lives of the false teachers who were engaged in the destructive work in the Ephesian church; and (2) his memory of Paul and his devoted and self-sacrificing service of the Lord to stir Timothy to greater zeal in faithfulness in service to the Lord regardless of the cost of suffering and persecution in contending “earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” (Judges 1:3.)

conduct,—Timothy had modeled his life after that of Paul’s in teaching, fidelity to God, his long-suffering and bearing op­position, and his love and patience under all the suffering brought upon him.

purpose,—This refers to Paul’s steadfast purpose to devote himself without reserve to the ministry of the gospel, to which the Lord had called him.

faith,—In the sense of fidelity to God; but probably to be taken in the usual sense of trust in God’s word as an actuating principle of life taking God at his word.

longsuffering,—Long-suffering toward his many bitter ad­versaries, especially toward those of his own countrymen. In spite of all that unwearied, sleepless persecution which he endured at the hands of the Jews, he loved Israel to the end with a love as intense as it was changeless.

love,—It was with eager efforts that he ever sought to realize the wonderful grace of love by resisting temptations to any course of conduct that would hinder it and by using every opportunity to further it.

patience,—Paul bore patiently all things that came upon him. It is among the chief virtues and describes one who has been tested and who cannot be swerved from his course by any opposition or suffering. Jesus forewarned his disciples that they would have much to endure and had strengthened them by the promise that he who endured to the end would be saved. (Matthew 10:22.)

Verse 11

2 Timothy 3:11

persecutions, sufferings;—[Not only were his plans foiled, his hopes baffled, his friends alienated through the per­sistent enmity of his opponents, but bodily sufferings were in­flicted on him—stoning, scourging, long imprisonments were among the repeated sufferings he endured for his Master's sake.]

what things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra;—He recalls the persecutions and afflictions he had endured at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. These were neighboring cities. Timothy was reared at Lystra and was no doubt acquainted with the facts, which are as follows: “The Jews urged on the devout women of honorable estate, and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and cast them out of their borders.” (Acts 13:50.) “And when there was made an onset both of the Gentiles and of the Jews with their rulers, to treat them shamefully and to stone them, they became aware of it, and fled unto the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the region round about: and there they preached the gospel.” (Acts 14:5-7.) When these persecutions occurred, Timothy may not have been a member of the church, but lived at Lystra, and knew of them, and at a subsequent visit of Paul and Silas became a com­panion of Paul and Silas. (Acts 16:11.)

what persecutions I endured:—Timothy was acquainted with the facts of Paul’s persecutions, and he mentions them to encourage him in his work and to strengthen him for the trials which would certainly come upon him in his work.

and out of them all the Lord delivered me.—[He was cared for by the Lord, who said: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), to whom he belonged to order the earthly destiny of his servants. The Lord, who had more work for him to do, delivered him out of the hands of his enemies—gave him up to friends when he was left for dead by his enemies.]

Verse 12

2 Timothy 3:12

Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.—From this consideration of his own suf­ferings and afflictions for Christ’s sake, he lays down this proposition. This truth is universal. A man that is faithful to God in all things will be opposed and persecuted. The persecution takes different forms in different ages and coun­tries. Sometimes it is ridicule, oppositions of various kinds. Even the light-minded and those in the church who lack devo­tion. and earnestness will ridicule, oppose, and persecute those who seek to live and lead others to pure, holy, godly lives. There is an antagonism between the flesh and the desires of the spirit, so they oppose.

[It is the duty of the Christian so to teach and to live as to commend himself to everyone in the sight of God, as Paul says: “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every mans conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2), and thus compel the inward respect of even wicked men for his sincerity and consistency; but a decided, earnest Christian spirit and life will always evoke some form of opposition from the ungodly.]

Verse 13

2 Timothy 3:13

But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse,—Men who are given over to evil themselves and who beguile and lead others into sin wax worse and worse. There is no standing still morally or religiously. If a man is not improv­ing, he is going backward. If he is going downward, he grows worse and worse every day he follows this course.

deceiving and being deceived.—One who starts out in a wrong course that seeks to deceive others deceives himself worse than he does others. As a rule, men deceive themselves as to their own course and character more than they deceive their fellow men. When one imagines he gains anything by deceiving others, he badly deceives himself. When a man wrongs another, he commits a greater wrong against himself. [He who perverts the truth in the very act destroys his own power to see the truth and opens his soul to the influx of error.]

Verse 14

2 Timothy 3:14

But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of,—Paul had been Timothy’s spiritual father and chief teacher in the gospel. He taught under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and always maintained the divine authority of that teaching, and reminded him to continue in this teaching, which he had learned, and of which he had been assured by the spiritual power manifested to confirm them. This course would make Timothy grow better, wiser and wiser, in contrast with the evil men who wax worse and worse.

knowing of whom thou hast learned them;—This refers to Paul, from whom Timothy had heard the gospel, as he had learned the Scriptures of the Old Testament from his mother and grandmother.

Verse 15

2 Timothy 3:15

and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writ­ings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation—[These words are corrective and explanatory of the foregoing asser­tion, indicating the only means whereby the salvation in ques­tion can be attained; provided we superadd faith in Christ Jesus, who is “the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Romans 10:4.) Thus we are drawn from the letter of the law to its spirit in the gospel. (John 5:39-40; John 5:46.) The apostle here grants that the Old Testament Scriptures were able to make him wise unto salvation, but he adds]:

through faith which is in Christ Jesus.—[Wherefore, with­out the teaching of the New Testament that Christ hath wrought the redemption of the world, which redemption the Old Testament did foreshow he should work, it is not the Old Testament alone which can perform so much as Paul claims who presupposes this when he magnifies that so highly. Of the intent of the Old Testament as compared with that of the New Testament, the general end of both is one, the dif­ference between them consisting in this: the Old Testament did make wise by teaching salvation through the Messiah that should come; the New Testament, by teaching that Christ the Savior is come, and that Jesus, whom the Jews did crucify and whom God did raise again from the dead, is he.]

Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16

Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable—There have been doubts as to the proper translation of this sentence, but the translations—King James and the American Standardmake no material difference in the meaning. The two Ver­sions give the point in the difference of translation. One says: “All scripture” (the Old Testament Scripture), referred to in verse 15, that had made Timothy wise unto salvation, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.” The other says: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable.” They both declare the Scriptures of God that had gone before were profitable to the man of Godhim who believed in Christ Jesusfor teaching. The same thing is in the following: “Now these things hap­pened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11.)

for teaching,—The man of God can find teaching and exam­ple, warning and instruction in God’s dealings with the Jewish people to help him in every temptation and trial through which he is called to pass.

for reproof,—For reproving mistakes and wrongs in our­selves and others.

for correction,—The Scripture is perceived as the rule of faith, convicting of error and guiding to truth.

for instruction which is in righteousness:—The Scripture trains by guiding and inspiring the soul in holiness and right living. These instructions are given as in accordance with the will of God as revealed through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Verse 17

2 Timothy 3:17

that the man of God may be complete, furnished com­pletely unto every good work.—The teachings of Jesus and the apostles, in connection with examples, teachings, and the warnings of the Old Testament Scriptures, are suffi­cient to make the man of God perfect—perfect him in the knowledge of Gods will as revealed through Jesus Christ. Man should not treat the New Testament requirements in a way he does not find authority for treating them in the Old Testament. As God punished for disobeying, rejecting, turn­ing aside, adding to or going beyond the requirements of the Old Testament, so he will punish for a similar course toward the requirements of the New Testament. As he blessed for faithful and trusting obedience to the Old Testament, so he will bless for faithful requirements of the New Testament.

Bibliographical Information
Lipscomb, David. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dlc/2-timothy-3.html.
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