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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

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Verses 1-7

Last Days and Difficult Times

2 Timothy 3:1. To do the will of God the circumstances are not particularly favorable. Paul wants you to know that we live in the “last days” and that the times in these days will be perilous. With ‘last days’ is indicated that we have come to the closing stages of the era of the church as a testimony on earth. With “difficult times” it is indicated that you do not see any more directly a clear distinction between true Christians and those who are that only by name. The devil will do everything to make as many Christians as possible to become unfaithful to the Lord. He will as he always did tempt Christians to sin, but he will make maximum efforts to introduce worldly elements in living the life of a Christian.

2 Timothy 3:2-Numbers :. That appears from the list of characteristics that Paul summarizes after this. When you compare this list with the list in Romans 1 (Romans 1:29-Jonah :) you see a major similarity. Only in Romans 1 it is about characteristics of people who live without God, while here the characteristics are written of people who confess to be related to God. In that way you see that the devil seeks to undermine the Christian testimony by introducing worldly elements in order to make it nothing more than an empty case. In that way the same degeneration that existed among the Gentiles will come out from under the cloak of Christendom. The result of this is that to the sins of Romans 1 the sin of hypocrisy is added.

When we pass the list you see how numerous the forms are in which evil comes to expression with religious people. We don’t need to dwell too long on each expression. Though try to be honest to yourself and confess the things you recognize in your own life before the Lord and not to do or be that anymore.

1. The list starts very telling with “lovers of self”.
2. The next is “lovers of money”, materialism.
3. When they open their mouth they appear to be “boastful”.
4. What they say shows that they are “arrogant”.
5. “Revilers” speak evil, bad things about others to harm the other.
6. They have no respect for their father and mother but are “disobedient to parents”. It demonstrates the degeneration of the family life.
7. These people are also “ungrateful”, an attitude that takes everything for granted and demands to be served any time. It is the blown up feeling of being entitled to anything I want and don’t need to thank anyone for it.
8. Such people often live an “unholy” life, a life that is filled with uncleanness and ungodliness.
9. They are “unloving”. There is no mention of love with them. They even lack natural love, which can lead to homosexual relationships.
10. They are also “irreconcilable”. They cannot tolerate anyone else and are not willing to forgive anybody.
11. They love to put other people in a bad light which they show by “malicious gossips”.
12. “Self-control” is a strange matter to them, there is no self-restraint,
13. whereby they do not shun “brutal” behavior in words and deeds.
14. That’s because in their life they show to be “haters the good”. They have no eye and no taste for the good. They act almost like robots. There is almost nothing really human in their performance.
15. “Treacherous” are willing to commit treason. Judas is an example of that (Luke 6:16; cf. Acts 7:52).
16. Without considering the consequences they speak and act “reckless”. It is no use to warn them.
17. “Conceited” as they are they are themselves the center of their thinking.
18. It is therefore not surprising that the list concludes with the absolutely lowest point: “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. The love for God has totally been driven out by the love for pleasure.

The whole list describes a life that only consists of the pursuit of selfish goals, whereby the rights of God are totally being ignored.

2 Timothy 3:5. It is all about instruments of the enemy that give the appearance that they live in fear for God. But it is only a form (Matthew 23:25). Their life does not radiate the power of a life with God. They even deny that God is able to give them some strength. They keep the Word of God that is living and powerful closed. They have their own ideas about God. God is for them Somebody Who supplies their need, while they count on themselves when it comes to the fulfillment of those needs. In fact they are God themselves. You cannot afford to remain in contact with such people. You are not to argue with them, but you ought to obey God and avoid them.

2 Timothy 3:6. Such a company is an ideal place for those who creep in, people who say and teach wrong things to undermine the testimony of God. It is often women by whom the false teachings are spread. Generally speaking, women are more emotional by nature than men. There is nothing wrong about that and that doesn’t automatically have to lead to a way of acting as it is described here. It is not surprising that John writes his second letter, concerning false teachings, to a woman (2 John 1:1). She is considered to recognize false doctrines.

But when emotion rules a women and when she also lives in sin – thereby driven by a depraved mind – she will be willing to be used by false teachers. The false teacher only needs to flatter her to win her for himself. Afterwards he can manipulate her in such a way that she becomes a propagator of his false teachings.

2 Timothy 3:7. They are women who indeed want to learn. They always hunger for new teachings. But instead of “to come to the knowledge of truth” they deviate further and further away from the truth. They are always searching, but never come to a firm conviction. Nowadays there are many new teachings that respond and adapt to the desire after a spiritual life. These teachings consist of a gospel without the cross, without a crucified and resurrected Christ.

The cause that a person does not come to the knowledge of truth often lies in the fact that he does not submit to the truth, but wants the truth to be submitted to him so that he can manage it after his own will and feelings. Then the emotion determines the standard of truth: When he feels good about it, it is good. To come to the knowledge of truth there must first be a living relation with the Lord Jesus.

Now read 2 Timothy 3:1-7 again.

Reflection: Which warnings do you find for yourself in this section?

Verses 8-15

You, However

2 Timothy 3:8. We are still in the portion that describes the time where many people act outwardly as if they are Christians, but they are not inwardly. This is the result of the distortion of the truth. The truth is being imitated, but there is no inward relation with Christ Who is the truth. Imitation is possibly the strongest weapon of the devil. Paul quotes the example of two Egyptian magicians, of whom he seems to know the names, who were imitating Moses (Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22Exodus 8:7). This performance of these magicians happened right before the departing of the people of God from Egypt.

That’s what is happening now also. We live in the last days, right before the rapture of the church out of the world where imitation Christians are being manifest more and more. The Lord Jesus has also warned us for people who will say that they are the Christ (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:23-Jeremiah :). In the last times signs and wonders will happen that have the appearance that they come from God, but they come from the liar (2 Thessalonians 2:9; cf. Acts 2:22). John warns us: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see, whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Testing the spirits is possible by taking Christ as touchstone. Ask them what they think about Him and test whether it is according to the Word.

The strategy of the devil is not new. Already in the time of Moses he used imitation. It even appeared as if he could claim some success. Indeed the magicians did imitate Moses, didn’t they? They didn’t fail, did they? No, but they practiced their magical acts out of resistance against Moses. Their goal was to keep the people of God in bondage. In the same way nowadays ‘Jannesses and Jambresses’ are resisting against the truth. They also respond with mockery to every reference of a soon rapture of the church out of the world (2 Peter 3:2-Leviticus :).

That they are “men of depraved mind” is the result of opening their hearts for the devil and his evil powers. What they preach as faith comes from this source. It is only worth to be rejected, thrown away, without paying any further attention to it. It doesn’t offer any hope for today and no hope for the future.

2 Timothy 3:9. Sometimes it seems that these evil people can unstoppably go their way. Then you read here that God has determined a limit to their wicked performance, in both their time and in their deeds. The magicians in the days of Moses were exposed at the crucial moment of bringing forth life out of death (Exodus 8:18). Seeming Christians may boast on theological discoveries, but that has never made them able to give new life to a person. The scope of their deeds is limited. Therefore for faith the folly of these magicians is totally evident.

Also the end of their performance is approaching. You do not need to expect that the performance of ‘Christian magicians’ will slowly diminish. It will only become worse. But the end of the current age, the age of the church, is approaching. The folly of the deceivers and unbelievers will become completely clear when the Lord Jesus will be revealed in glory.

2 Timothy 3:10. As long as we are on earth the Lord Jesus provides us with remedies to remain saved with Him. How that works you see in the example that Paul presents to Timothy of himself. The contrast between the ‘Christian magicians’ and what you see in Paul is enormous.

Paul addresses Timothy and points him to his own example, like the old Elijah took Elisha with him along several places to teach him (2 Kings 2:1-2 Samuel :). Elijah took Elisha by the hand and gave him understanding in the situation of the people. Therefore Elisha was able to approach the people in the spirit and strength of Elijah, with a double part of that of Elijah’s. Timothy is able to minister the church in the spirit and strength of Paul by observing how he did everything. Not that Paul says anything new to Timothy. He only reminds him of that, for Timothy has already explored it. He did not follow Paul for no reason.

1. First of all Paul points at “my teaching”. Only he, the apostle, can say that. The teaching is the basis. Without teaching there can be no practice.
2. But Paul didn’t only teach, he can also point at his “conduct”. He consistently practiced what he was passing on through his teaching. His life is based on his teaching.
3. Also in his “purpose” he was clear. He had no hidden intentions. He had a clear goal in mind which was not vague to Timothy. His intention was to glorify God in everything whatever the cost was.
4. From what he taught, in how he did and out of his intention his “faith” in and his faithfulness to the Lord appeared. With full confidence in Him Paul fulfilled his ministry, where he met hostility and where he was put to the test.
5. But precisely in that situation Timothy saw his “patience”. He didn’t respond irritated and didn’t repay evil for evil.
6. The hostility of the enemy revealed his “love” for the Lord and for those who are His.
7. Also his “perseverance” was remarkable. All adversary and the fact that he was left alone didn’t make him to be depressed. He did not collapse because of the pressure, but he continued with what the Lord ordered him to do.
8. 2 Timothy 3:11. Everyone who opens his mouth with proclaiming the truth will suffer “persecutions”. That indicates the insecurity of freedom, having no place of rest because they are chasing you.
9. He also lost his freedom several times. His enemies did not spare him, but made him “suffer” (2 Corinthians 11:24-Lamentations :). He speaks particularly about three places he visited during his first mission trip (Acts 13:14-1 Thessalonians :; Acts 14:1-Proverbs :).

Paul has suffered all those persecutions, but he doesn’t boast about that as if he has achieved something. The Lord receives the honor, for it was He Who delivered him “out of them all” (Psalms 34:19). ‘Out of them all’ shows that nothing could stop Paul how violent the resistant was. ‘Out of them all’ also shows that Paul indeed endured it all and was not spared for it.

2 Timothy 3:12. What is mentioned previously does not only apply to Paul but to all Christians “who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus”. If you live your life with reverence for God in fellowship with Christ Jesus you will also have part in persecution. Persecution is not only literally being resisted and chased, but also not to be understood and to be despised. You experience that in any way you testify of the Lord. It doesn’t apply to all Christians. If you do not want to suffer reproach you simply should not make clear that you know the Lord. You should “desire” that. Persecution is only the part of faithful Christians.

2 Timothy 3:13. This persecution will not diminish, for “evil men and imposters will proceed [from] bad to worse”. The word ‘imposters’ is literally ‘magicians’. That may probably indicate the increase of occultism. You may have heard of Christians who seek their luck with magnetizers. They say that these people claim to have received this gift from God. In that way they deceive even Christians, while these people are being deceived themselves by the devil.

Mind you that these are ‘evil men’. They are instruments of the devil to whom they have delivered themselves. With all their nice talks they do not seek your luck, but your destruction.

2 Timothy 3:14. Then there comes a “you, however” (2 Timothy 3:14; see 2 Timothy 3:10). This indicates the contrast with the previous verse. In that verse the environment where you find yourself is depicted, an environment that fully resists against God and His Word. To remain protected against that influence Paul gives Timothy an assurance. Timothy can trust in this assurance to remain steadfast in the truth and in the enjoyment of the salvation of God. He must continue in the things which he has learned and must not be involved with new teachings. There is nothing missing in what he has learned; for that reason there is also nothing to be improved.

Therefore he is fully convinced about that because he has learned it from somebody to whom it was directly made known through Divine inspiration and who has the authority of God to pass that on. Paul is a unique servant. What he has taught we have in God’s Word.

The teachers whom the Lord has given as a gift to His church do not bring new truths. They explain the truths of the apostles: truths that are written in God’s Word. Our source is not Calvin or Darby, but the Word of God. It is not necessary to empower your words by referring to certain teachers, however much you ought to appreciate them and however much they were and are blessed.

2 Timothy 3:15. The second reason for Timothy to remain in the things which he had learned, are the “sacred writings” that he had known “from childhood”. The words of the apostle are in no way in contrast to the writings of the Old Testament (for those are ‘holy Scriptures’), but fully accordingly. Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother in that. This is an important instruction for parents to make their children known and familiar with the Scripture as early as possible in their childhood.

The Word has been put in writings so in that way God can use it as a permanent authority. Everything that is permanently of profit for the church has been written down in the Scriptures. It is also permanently profitable for your personal life of faith. You find everything you need in the Scripture to ‘make you wise for salvation’.

Without God’s Word you lead a lost life. Through God’s Word you have come to faith in Christ Jesus. You have been saved for eternity. If you as a Christian lead a life without consulting God’s Word in everything, you will lead a lost life. Listening to the Scripture makes you wise to avoid all the traps of life and to arrive safely with the Lord.

Now read 2 Timothy 3:8-15 again.

Reflection: Which contrasts do you find in this portion?

Verses 16-17

All Scripture

These two verses are worthy of paying attention to in a particular section. They deliver you a description that surpasses every expression concerning the importance of the Scripture. It is necessary to stress that, because the attacks on the inspiration and the content of the Scripture will ceaselessly go on and on in its intensity. One of these attacks is that we have God’s Word in the Bible. This formulation opens the opportunity that we also have words in the Bible that do not come from God. It is of great importance to hold on to the literal inspiration of the Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16. “All” means that there are no parts or portions that are less or more inspired than other ones. The inspiration does not focus on the bible authors, but it focuses on what is written in God’s Word. God has inspired the Bible authors what they had to write down. “Inspired” does not refer to the message, as if the bible writers could phrase them afterwards in their own words, as if only the contents but not the form has been inspired.

The words were given by inspiration to them to write those words down, so that also the words of the unbelievers and even of the devil have been written down. God wanted to have those words of unbelievers and the devil in His Word that are important for us to know. That all Scripture is “inspired by God” means that each word that is written in the Bible has been written in it because God has inspired the Bible author to precisely write down that word. When Paul speaks here about “Scripture” (and not’ Scriptures’) it underlines the unity of all Bible books as one whole, “and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In the original language in which the New Testament is written, the Greek language, ‘inspired by God’ is one word. Literally it says ‘God breathed’. That may refer to ‘breathed out by God’, but also ‘breathed in by God’. They are both true. When we say that God has ‘breathed out’ the words of the Scripture it lays the emphasis on the fact that the words of the Scripture are His words. Those are words that come out of Him and are written down the way He wanted them to be written down. When we say that He has ‘breathed in’ them, then we emphasize the fact that He breathed them in people and that He had His words to be recorded in the Scripture by human instruments.

The fact that God inspired the books Himself gives Divine authority to the Bible books. The inspiration coheres with faithfulness, infallibility or inerrancy and the absolute authority of the Bible.

God has given His Word because of its profit for you. The word “profitable” has the meaning of ‘support’, ‘help’, ‘profit’. The Word helps you, it supports you in your activities as a man of God. It makes you able to achieve all good work. All good work is each work in which the rights of God become visible in a Christianity that for a greater part does not consider those rights.

To do that correctly God’s Word is given in the first place “for teaching”. The Scripture teaches you Who God is, Who the Lord Jesus is and who man is. The Scripture teaches us about a lot of issues like sin, redemption, the value of the blood of Christ, the church, sanctification, the future. It is important to read the Scripture, in order to learn to know about these issues. Studying the Scripture in order to know ‘the teaching’, has the side-effect that you will not easily be dragged by your emotions. Within Christianity there are quite a lot of groups or movements that focus on emotions. These movements are focusing more on what you experience than on what you read in the Bible.

There is another danger that you should be beware of if you want to know the teaching of the Scripture. The danger is that you limit yourself to a doctrinal understanding of the Scripture without surrendering yourself to its living power. Then you are to be compared with somebody who pours water from a flowing stream in a cistern, which makes the water stop from flowing. That can be the result of attending all kinds of gatherings and eagerly reading Bible commentaries without absorbing the Word in your heart. Then it remains limited to intellectual knowledge. The opposite danger is to say that those Bible studies are just nothing and that practical Christendom is the only important thing. But how is practical Christendom thinkable if you do not know what you are supposed to be practicing?

The first effect of sound Bible study will be that you thank God for everything that you were able to learn from the Scripture. Praise and worship Him for every teaching. Sound Bible study also implies that everything you were able to learn from the Scripture will have influence on the practice of your life.

The second profit of the Scripture is that it offers you a mighty weapon in your hand “for reproof” false allegations. You see in Matthew 4 how the Lord Jesus reproves the allegations of the devil by quotations from the Scripture (Matthew 4:1-2 Samuel :).

The devil may for example approach you in the image of your biblically critical Bible teacher or catechist teacher, or of a person who comes to your house, or of a prominent person in Christianity. They can, like the devil, also say: ‘It is written.’ Then you need to know how to reprove them. Pay attention to how the Lord Jesus goes to work when He is being tempted by the devil. He simply responds to each challenge by: “It is written” (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7Matthew 4:10). After the Lord cited three times from the Scripture the devil runs off.

The way the Lord Jesus goes to work is an example for us to follow. He did not chase the devil away by Divine power, but by using the means that is also available to you. Therefore you need to have some Bible verses ready. You need to exercise in using them. Have you ever heard about ‘memorizing’? That means learning Bible verses by heart. Do that with as many Bible verses as you possibly can. It does not come down to win a dispute. You will always lose a dispute with the devil. You ought not to argue, but to let the Word speak itself.

Each Christian needs correction. That is the third profit of the Scripture, “for correction”. Sometimes you want to go a way that is not good or do things that are not well without being aware of that. By reading the Bible by praying you will discover that. You after all want to do the will of God, don’t you? God speaks to you in the Scripture and helps you in that way to find the right way or to do the right thing. It is hazardous to be content with yourself as if nothing is to be corrected. In the mirror of the Word you always see things that need to be corrected.

The exhortation for correction is not intended to discourage you, but on the contrary to encourage you. The intention is not to make you performance centered but ‘Christ centered’. And whom of all those who are focused on Him, dares to say that there is nothing to be corrected anymore?

The fourth profit is the “training in righteousness”. That does not imply the doctrine of the righteousness of God. Of course it connects to that and it coheres with that, but righteousness is seen here with a view to the practice. The point here is that you live in accordance to your position. Therefore you need to be taught. You ought to be ‘trained’ or ‘educated’ in righteousness.

You undergo that training or education when you read the Bible. Then you receive instruction on how your behavior is supposed to be towards God and men. You are being trained to give to God what He is entitled to. You also obtain instruction on how you suppose to give to your fellow man what he is entitled to. Actually in the word ‘righteousness’ the whole Christian life is embedded.

2 Timothy 3:17. God has given His Word, the Scripture, with a purpose. This purpose, indicated by the words “so that”, is that “the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. Less than that will not do when you read the Bible. The Scripture wants to shape you into a ‘man of God’. It is worthy to examine once who in the Bible are being called ‘man of God’. You will discover that those are all people who defended God’s interests in spiritually dark times. They represented Him towards people who turned away from Him.

When reverence for God in the society and also in Christianity is diminishing, a ‘man of God’ shows in his or her life that God is there and how He is. In such a man the features of God become visible. God reveals Himself through him or her. God uses people who lean on nothing else than the Scripture alone for that purpose. ‘Man of God’ is an honorary title. The eternal, almighty God relates Himself to a weak, mortal human being when he is willing to be shaped by the Scripture.

The Scripture makes a ‘man of God’ “adequate”, which means that he is brought to full maturity by the Scripture. That is regarding the person. The Scripture also gives ‘the man of God’ everything that is needed for him to be able to do “every good work”. That is regarding his work. If you want to be a ‘man of God’ you will not be made equipped for your task by an academic education. You find the equipment for the work which you are ordered to do, in the Scripture.

I sincerely hope that you desire to be a ‘man of God’. Then you will find everything in the Scripture that meets your desires.

The true man of God on earth was the Lord Jesus. As Man He showed all features of God in a perfect way in the midst of a nation that had turned its back on God. You will grow to look like Him the more the Scripture gains more foothold in your heart. The Scripture shapes you to His image.

Now read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 again.

Reflection: Do you want to be a man of God? What should you do for that?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Timothy 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-timothy-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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