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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

Perilous times for the church

2 Timothy 3:1-5

2 Timothy 3:1 . When the apostle speaks of ‘the last days,’ he means the days following the coming of Christ. We have the days from Adam to Moses, from Moses (under the law) to Christ, and from Christ's coming to the end of the world, called ‘the last days.’ Some mistakenly believed that these days would be a time of peace, holiness, and obedience to God and his word, especially in the churches and among those who claimed to know Christ. But Paul warns Timothy and all true believers to expect perilous, hard, and difficult times, not by reason of outward calamities, scarcity of food, and dangers from the sword, but by reason of the wickedness of men who profess religion! The pastors and people of God will have to contend with legalists, false teachers, hucksters, and evil and profane men and women in the churches. This situation already prevailed during the days of the apostles and has continued, growing worse, to this day (2 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 4:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:14-16).

2 Timothy 3:2-4 . He gives a description of the hypocrites, formal professors, and false preachers that would arise during these last days.

1. ‘Lovers of their own selves.’ This is put first because all error and vices flow from self-love. He who loves himself does not love Christ, despises others, has no concern for the glory of God nor the good of others. Self-love promotes free-will, human merit, and seeks honor and applause.

2. ‘Covetous.’ lovers of money, looking for personal gain and recognition in all that they do. They are not content with the providence of God nor with what they have nor with where they are (Hebrews 13:5).

3. ‘Boasters.’ These people brag of their honor, wealth, gifts, numbers, and righteousness. They are like the Pharisee of old who thanked God that he was not like other men (1 Corinthians 4:7).

4. ‘Proud.’ Nothing is more offensive in the sight of God than pride in the creature (Proverbs 6:17; James 4:6). Someone said, ‘There is pride of RACE, pride of PLACE, and pride of FACE;’ but perhaps the most offensive of all is pride of GRACE.

5. ‘Blasphemers.’ This has to do with thoughts and words regarding the Father, his beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit, to whom all glory, worship, reverence, and praise is due, in whom we live, move, and have our being (both natural and spiritual), and by whom we are redeemed, kept, and made heirs of eternal life. Any thought or word that renders to him any less than full glory is blasphemy.

6. ‘Disobedient to parents.’ These are those who despise authority, whether in parents, magistrates, pastors, employers, or whatever authority God has ordained.

7. ‘Unthankful’ to God for what is enjoyed by them and unthankful to men, ascribing all to themselves and their own merit (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

8. ‘Unholy.’ Without fear of God nor regard for his word nor concern for the testimony of the gospel, they live and walk in the indulgences of the flesh both inwardly and outwardly.

9. ‘Without natural affection’ to husbands, wives, children, parents, and friends. Also leaving the natural use of men and women (Romans 1:26-27).

10. ‘Trucebreakers’ or covenant breakers, loosing the marriage bond, making void contracts, agreements, and promises both to God and men.

11. ‘False accusers’ slanderers of character, careless gossipers and talebearers (1 Timothy 5:19).

12. ‘Incontinent’ not able to restrain fleshly appetites, tempers, passions, and desires even for the glory of God, intemperate in eating and drinking, indulging themselves without restraint.

13. ‘Fierce’ unkind and hateful like cornered beasts striking out at all in reach, wounding and bent on vengeance.

14. ‘Despisers of those that are good.’ Hypocrites hate true believers as the Pharisees hated Christ. The gospel of grace and Christ's righteousness condemn their claims and bring out their malice (1 John 3:11-13).

15. ‘Traitors.’ They will betray secrets of others (words spoken to them in confidence) to preserve themselves or to gain in some way.

16. ‘Heady, highminded’ puffed and swelled up with a vain conceit of their own intelligence, accomplishments, and abilities (1 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 12:11).

17. ‘Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.’ This comes back to the first word (lovers of self, pleasure, sin, applause, worldly honor, and making a god of their bellies) and not loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Love for him puts all things in their proper place!

2 Timothy 3:5 . They have an external show of religion, pretending great holiness, zeal, and concern for the salvation of men and the kingdom of God, yet in reality they deny the very heart of true faith the power of it! They profess the scriptures to be the word of God but deny the power of the word to quicken, to beget life, and to give faith. They profess to believe Christ but deny the power and efficacy of his righteousness, his sacrifice, and his intercession. They talk of the Holy Spirit but deny his power to regenerate, to sanctify, to convince of sin, and to teach. They profess to believe the GOSPEL but deny the power of the gospel to save, to justify, to make men new creatures in Christ, and to fully satisfy every need through and by Christ.

Verses 6-11

False teachers described and denounced

2 Timothy 3:6-11

2 Timothy 3:6 . The false teachers described in the verses above work after the manner of their father, Satan. As Satan attacked the woman and not the man (the subtle tempter beguiled Eve and not Adam), so these, his instruments, work themselves into the affection of the weaker vessel (1 Timothy 2:14). Every cult, sect and free-will Arminian denomination or church is dominated by women silly, easily influenced women who like to be told that they are religious, holy and righteous! They reject the gospel of God's free grace and mercy for sinners in Christ, for they are full of the sins of self-righteousness and are led forth by a lust for new teachers, new doctrines and new heights of personal glory. The exaltation of Mary and the effeminate influence of Catholicism has led women to think that they are morally good and that men are bad! (Romans 3:10-19.)

2 Timothy 3:7 . Both the teachers and the captives of their humanistic religions are always learning driven by restless minds and curiosity, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth in Christ. They learn about missions, prophecy, heaven, standards of morality and gifts of the Spirit, but never ‘how God can be just and justify the ungodly.’ They reform, but never repent; they pray, but never plead for mercy; they testify, but never turn to Christ; they boast of their faithfulness to religion, but never bow to the lordship of Christ. Without apology, I declare that where women reign in religion, they ruin! (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.)

2 Timothy 3:8 . We need not be surprised when adversaries rise up against our Lord to oppose his gospel of grace. Moses likewise had those who opposed him when he went to Egypt to deliver Israel. (Jannes and Jambres were the magicians put forward by Pharaoh.) Satan will use any vessel, any trick and any method to discredit the gospel. False teachers have corrupt minds with neither the glory of God nor the good of men as their goal, but are counterfeits and have no understanding of the doctrines of saving faith!

2 Timothy 3:9 . The false teachers, may wax worse and worse in error; they may proceed to more ungodliness and deceive many, but they shall not deceive the elect (Mark 13:22-23). They shall proceed no further than the magicians in Egypt. Though they did lying wonders, deceived the Egyptians and caused Pharaoh to harden his heart, Israel was delivered! The folly of all followers of false religions shall someday become obvious to everyone, as was that of the magicians. The destruction at the Red Sea glorified God's salvation, but it also revealed the folly of all who opposed him!

2 Timothy 3:10 . What follows in this verse and the next is said in opposition to the preaching, practice and principles of these false teachers. Timothy was not ignorant of Paul's doctrine; he received it from God, it was the doctrine of Christ, of the scriptures, and was preached by the other apostles. Timothy knew Paul's manner of life: he spent his time in labour (often with his own hands), his conduct was above reproach and he was fully separated to the gospel of Christ. Timothy knew Paul's purpose: it was open and manifest, not to obtain glory, applause or possessions, but that Christ might be magnified in his life and his death, and that men might be saved for the glory of God (Romans 9:1-3; Romans 10:1). Timothy knew Paul's faith, either his faith in Christ or his faithfulness in the discharge of his ministry. Timothy knew Paul's long-suffering, both towards the Jews who were open enemies and persecutors of the gospel and towards the weak brethren in the church whose infirmities he bore! Timothy knew Paul's charity, including his love to God, to Christ and to men (1 Corinthians 13:1-7). Timothy knew Paul's patience, in bearing all indignities, reproaches and persecutions for the sake of Christ and his gospel. Paul was not moved by these but persevered with courage and boldness.

2 Timothy 3:11 . These incidents mentioned were not all of the afflictions and persecutions endured by Paul for preaching the gospel of Christ, but they took place in those areas where Timothy lived. He knew about them and heard about them from faithful witnesses. To the glory of God and for the encouragement of Timothy, Paul says, ‘God delivered me out of them all’ (2 Corinthians 1:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:17-18).

Verses 12-17

The holy scriptures

2 Timothy 3:12-17

2 Timothy 3:12 . In the preceding verse Paul speaks of the suffering, afflictions, and persecutions he had endured for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; and he adds, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ There are no exceptions.

Satan, the world, and especially unsaved religionists hate the gospel of free grace and justification by faith alone. Going about to establish a righteousness of their own, they are opposed to the imputed righteousness of Christ and count as their enemies all who preach and believe it. Those who wish to be exempt from persecution must necessarily denounce Christ (John 15:18-21). All believers shall not be martyrs; but it is absolutely unavoidable that as soon as a true knowledge of grace and a zeal for the person and work of Christ is manifested by a believer, it kindles the rage of Satan and ungodly men. By persecution, slander, murmuring, or some other method, trial will come!

2 Timothy 3:13 . By ‘evil men’ are meant not openly profane sinners of the world nor wicked men in general, but wicked men under a form of godliness (in the pulpit and the pew) who are bent on seducing and deceiving others to follow their false doctrine and gospel of works (Matthew 23:15; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24). In the last days these religious hucksters and jugglers of truth shall wax worse and worse, deceiving many and being further deceived themselves (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). It is not because error is stronger than truth nor because Satan is more powerful than the Spirit of God, but because natural men are more inclined to embrace error and will embrace that which agrees with their carnal nature (John 5:42-44).

2 Timothy 3:14 . Although wickedness prevails, false doctrine abounds, and the enemies of Christ rise up in religious circles, you continue in the doctrines of Christ, which you have learned and have been convinced of by the word of God. You know that what you have received was not of men, but the gospel of grace has God as its author. We dare not adopt all that is taught nor defend indiscriminately all we hear, but only that which is according to the scriptures.

2 Timothy 3:15 . From your childhood you have been taught the scriptures. The Jews very early taught their children the scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5). Men are not wise of themselves but are without understanding of spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). The scriptures are able to make men wise and knowing in this respect, for they testify of Christ (John 5:39). The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to convince of sin, to reveal Christ's person and work, and to beget life and faith in the sinner (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). Wisdom to salvation lies not in the knowledge of the law, rituals, and ceremonies; but true wisdom to salvation is in a spiritual knowledge of Christ, which comes from the scriptures (Luke 24:44-48).

2 Timothy 3:16 . ‘All scripture;’ the whole of it (both the Old Testament and the New Testament) is verbally inspired by God, or God-breathed (2 Peter 1:20-21). The scriptures are commended by their divine authority. God used men to write his word. These men boldly wrote what the mouth of God spoke! Whoever wishes to profit in the scriptures must, first of all, lay down this as a sure and settled point: that the scriptures are not the words, doctrines, and writings of men only, but were dictated by the Holy Spirit!

Having settled this point we can go to the next; therefore, the scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

‘Doctrine,’ for discovering, confirming, and teaching all doctrine concerning God, man, redemption, eternal life, and all subjects concerning our lives in every area.

‘Reproof’ of errors, heresies, and false teachings concerning the gospel.

‘Correction’ of attitude, spirit, and practice in believers.

‘Instruction in righteousness’ in every branch of duty incumbent upon men. Whether with respect to God or men, the scriptures are a perfect rule of faith and practice.

2 Timothy 3:17 . All scripture is given that the believer may grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ and be well-fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/2-timothy-3.html. 2013.
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