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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-7

False Teachers and False Brethren of the Last Days. 2 Timothy 3:1-9

A description of the dangerous teachers:

v. 1. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

v. 2. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

v. 3. without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

v. 4. traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

v. 5. having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such turn away.

v. 6. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

v. 7. ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This entire passage is prophetical in character, it being the Lord's intention to give to all pastors to the end of time a warning: But understand this, that in the last days there will be upon us perilous times. The apostle is not referring in general to the entire time of the New Testament, but he is prophesying of the time immediately preceding the Day of Judgment. In those days there will be upon the Christians dangerous times, characterized not only by a moral degeneracy of the human race in general, but also of the so-called visible Church. See Matthew 24:12; Matthew 23:24.

This condition the apostle now describes at length, saying that men will be lovers of self, in the bad sense, egoism and self-centeredness being their main characteristic, causing them to seek only their own advantage and ignoring the needs of their neighbors. Lovers of money they will be, covetousness being one form of selfishness, money and wealth being the sum and substance of all happiness to them. These two points, however, selfishness and avarice, are the roots from which such a behavior is developed as to cause the dissolution of all social relationships. For it follows, first of all, that they become boastfully proud, assuming an honor for themselves which they do not deserve. At the same time they are haughty, puffed up with a sense of their own importance, looking down upon others. But it is a false pride to which they have become addicted, for which reason the next step is their becoming blasphemers. They not only desecrate everything that is holy and divine by their absence of proper honor and respect, but they defame both God and their neighbors by their superciliousness. Their own person, their supposed rights, they want to elevate at all costs, those of others may be trodden under foot. Since they do not recognize divine authority, they also will not regard the rights of men: they are disobedient to parents, they refuse to honor the representatives of God. Ungrateful they are, neither recognizing nor appreciating the love which others show them. They are irreligious, profane, irreverent, the divine rules and laws having no effect upon them. They are callously indifferent to every form of true affection, they repress even the feeling of natural relationship and its obligations. Even when friendships and compacts are entered upon and assurances of faithfulness have been given, they do not consider themselves bound by their promises. At the slightest provocation they show themselves implacable. In such cases, moreover, they do not hesitate to become defamers of their neighbor, of besmirching the good name of such as they have called friends; all feeling for truth and fairness is killed in their hearts. They are therefore kept in check by no restraint, they are without self-control and have long ago forgotten the meaning of true temperance. All ennobling influences are set aside by them, they are fierce and savage; neither religion nor morality, neither common decency nor laudable custom, have the power to keep them in control, They are without all love for mankind and everything that is good; they take no interest in any schemes or plans for the amelioration of conditions among men. For that reason they are also treacherous, addicted to the ways and methods of traitors; if people depend upon them, they will betray their trust without a single qualm. They are reckless, without cool consideration of situations, not weighing any possible consequences. This follows, in turn, from the fact that they are conceited in their own mind, so thoroughly convinced of their own excellencies that they have lost their sound judgment. They are lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God; they prefer the desires and pleasures of this world to the fear and love of God. Of true piety and love toward God there is hardly a vestige. And so the apostle summarizes the entire sad picture in the words: Having a form of religion, but denying its power. They find it to their advantage to keep up so much of a show of sanctity and piety, by imitating the manner of true Christians, that the impression may be registered as though they were truly devout Christians. Often, however, the mask is torn from this professional piety, and the picture which is then revealed may well fill all men with horror. There is only one thing to be done when such men become manifest in their true colors, namely, to avoid them, to have nothing to do with them. The nearer we come to the last day, the more the necessity for ceaseless vigilance becomes apparent.

Even in the early Church there were suck hypocrites and false Christians, a fact which causes the apostle to make the application of his warning at once: For to these belong those that enter into the houses and lead captive silly women laden with sins, agitated by various lusts, always learning and never being able to come to the knowledge of truth. To this class of people belong also certain men that arrogate to themselves the right to teach. They insinuate themselves, they worm themselves into the houses, into the families; without a call they manage to gain entrance into houses, into the confidence of their inmates. This has ever been a characteristic of false prophets, that they claimed the right to convert people to their own pernicious views without having been sent by the Lord, Matthew 7:15; Jeremiah 14:14. A favorite method of theirs in our day is to send pamphlets and folders to people belonging to congregations. Thus they become busybodies in other men's matters. The Mormons and other sects are especially aggressive along these lines. Their object is, if possible, to have a conversation with the women of the house in the absence of the husband, especially with such as come under the heading "silly women," such as give strong evidence of their peculiar weakness, of their tendency to be governed by their feelings. All too often a sectarian religious agent, one that is versed in all the blandishments that are intended to make an impression upon women, and knows how to gain their confidence, will succeed in deceiving and leading captive such women, in getting a hold upon them, in making them his willing followers. These women are almost invariably such as are burdened with the knowledge of various trespasses, that feel the guilt of some specific transgressions, particularly against the Sixth Commandment. In their case the false peace and comfort preached by the false teachers is readily accepted; the interest taken in their case flatters their vanity, and they forget all thoughts of real repentance. They become a prey to the suggestions of the errorists all the more readily since they are agitated in their minds with various lusts, not only vanity and the desire for luxuries, but also voluptuousness. History has shown time and again that it was just the false teachers that caused gullible women to be deceived, and the stories connected with some religious cults are often the essence of unsavoriness. And no wonder; for, as the apostle shows, such women are actuated by an altogether abnormal desire for diversion. They are always making a pretense at learning, while, as a matter of fact, they are only on the lookout for every kind of sensational news connected with religion. There is nothing stable, nothing reliable in their interest. Therefore they never come to the knowledge and understanding of the truth; they lose the ability for real study of God's Word and will. What a solemn warning to the women of all times!

Verses 8-9

The certainty of the ultimate exposure of the errorists:

v. 8. Now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth; men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

v. 9. But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

According to Jewish tradition the men here mentioned, Jannes and Jambres, were sons of Balaam and belonged to the Egyptian magicians that were such strong opponents of Moses. By inspiration of the Spirit, St. Paul here changed tradition into history, thus supplementing the Old Testament account. These magicians had heard the Word of God from the mouth of Moses and Aaron, but they had deliberately and maliciously hardened their hearts against the truth, they had persisted in offering the most stubborn resistance to all the evidence of God's power. In the very same manner the errorists of Ephesus were resisting the truth as taught by Paul and Timothy, at the same time hindering the labor of the apostles by their secret opposition. The reason for their actions is found in the condition of their hearts: Men corrupt in their mind, not approved with respect to their faith. Men of that stamp have not only spoiled their minds for the acknowledgment of the truth, but they have also hardened their consciences. Any attempt to change this corruption seems doomed to failure from the outset. They may have a head-knowledge of the Christian doctrine, but they are void of all sound judgment in affairs of true Christian religion; if they are put to a test, they fail most lamentably. Since the knowledge of the Christian truth includes repentance and faith, self-denial and love, they are not at all pleased with the outlook. But their chief danger lies in this, that men of this kind are usually very clever in hiding their real sentiments.

The apostle, however, gives the comforting assurance that they will eventually be exposed: But they will not continue very much longer; for their lack of sense will become manifest to all, just as was that of those men. This statement is not at variance with chap. 2:16; for in that passage the apostle speaks of the increasing influence of the false teachers, while he here refers to the revelation of a hypocritical Christianity, such as may be hidden from the eyes of men for a long time. It is a matter of comfort that there will be a limit to the measure of hypocrisy which people may reach without being detected. The eyes of men will finally be opened to the real status of affairs; the lack of sense and wisdom in the hypocritical Christians will finally become manifest and an end thus put to their machinations. Note: This is a source of great consolation also in our days, since it happens time and again that certain sordid spirits will manage to gain adherents for themselves. Eventually all the opposition of error is bound to break down before the power of the truth. God does not permit the rule to be torn from His hand.

Verses 10-13

The Special Lessons of Paul's Afflictions.

v. 10. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

v. 11. persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

v. 12. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

v. 13. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

The apostle here, by way of contrast to the preceding paragraph, describes the manner of conduct which should characterize all true servants of the Lord: But thou hast carefully followed my doctrine, manner of living, aim, faith, steadfastness, love, patience. Paul commends Timothy for choosing him as an example after which he might model his own life. He had made Paul his type, and he had conformed his life to that type, having thus been approved in the foremost virtues of a Christian teacher. He had preached the Christian doctrine just as it had been transmitted to him by Paul, knowing this doctrine to be the Word of God. He had followed Paul's manner of living, copying the tact which the great apostle showed in the various situations that confronted him. He had made use of Paul's example also in his aims and purposes, in the clear-cut manner in which he brought out the object of his office. For that reason he also made use of proper faithfulness, which is the external manifestation of the faith of the heart. With this there was combined long-suffering or steadfastness in working, even where the Lord does not bless the work with immediate visible success. The exercise of this virtue naturally demands a rich fund of love, both toward Christ on the basis of His wonderful redemption and toward one's neighbors near and far, as people that are included in the salvation of the Lord. And this love, in turn, teaches the right patience, even in the midst of suffering and tribulation, which is always associated with the preaching of the Gospel. With respect to all these virtues Timothy had conformed his conduct to that of his teacher, having followed the example of Paul. This recital reminds the apostle of several occasions upon which he was strongly in need of a number of these virtues: (Thou hast followed) the persecutions, the sufferings, all that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra, what persecutions I endured; and out of them all the Lord delivered me. It seems that the sufferings of the early years of Paul's ministry, of his first missionary journey, made an exceptionally deep impression upon him. It was in and near the home of Timothy that these afflictions and tribulations had come upon him, Acts 13:45-52; Acts 14:1-19. The greatness and intensity of these early sufferings had made an ineffaceable impression upon his memory; he would always think of Antioch, of Iconium, of Lystra as the cities in which he had been taught steadfastness, patience, long-suffering. It is not for the sake of his own praise that Paul makes mention of all these matters, but rather for the sake of voicing his praise and thanksgiving to God, who had delivered him so wonderfully, tearing him out of the midst of all these dangers. See 1 Corinthians 10:13. The thought that is implied is this: Timothy had had evidence enough that the Lord had never forsaken His apostle, even in the midst of the greatest perils; therefore he should not hesitate for even one moment to continue as the Lord's minister. This comforting thought is brought out directly in the next verse: Yes, and all that want to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. That is a general truth, which finds its application at all times. In case he should be called upon to bear his measure of tribulation, Timothy was to remember that his was not an unusual, a singular experience. All men that are really disciples, followers of Christ, and are eager to live a life of godliness in Christ, through the power which He imparts, all believers that give evidence of their faith in Christ in a life that accords with the will of God, must bear also the cross of Christ. Their life affording such a strong contrast to that of the unbelievers, the latter naturally feel that they suffer by the comparison, and resent the implication in a corresponding manner. So they give evidence of their disapproval, of their hatred, in various persecutions, in making life as miserable as possible for the Christians. This fact was prophesied by Christ, John 16:1-4, and therefore His disciples expect nothing else. They take their cross upon themselves daily and follow Him. At the same time the enemies of Christ persist in their godless behavior: But evil men and seducers make continual progress in evil, deceiving and being deceived. By the exposure of their wickedness, of which the apostle spoke in v. 9, the wickedness is not removed from the world. Such men will rather continue with all the greater energy their attempt to lead others astray. Whenever they find a Christian that is weak in faith, they try to seduce him into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice. But by this persistence in their wickedness the enemies of Christ prepare for themselves the greater damnation. In the same measure that they make progress in all vices and continually devise new methods of leading people astray, they themselves sink down into perdition. It is their own fault if they find themselves, in the end, suffering the punishment of hell. Thus also the judgment that will eventually strike wicked men is a source of comfort to the believers.

Verses 14-17

The Purpose of Holy Scriptures.

v. 14. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

v. 15. and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

v. 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

v. 17. that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

These words place Timothy in direct opposition to the hypocrites and false teachers; for his faith and the work of his ministry are emphasized: Thou, however, remain in the things thou hast learned and hast been convinced of, knowing from whom thou hast learned. Timothy is not to think that there is any such thing as development of doctrine, advancement in the truth by means of human philosophy and investigation. He has learned the truth of the Word of God, and that truth is an eternal truth. Of this Gospel-message he has been made certain; as Paul had taught it, he had been so fully persuaded of its truth that his faith rested upon it as upon the most solid foundation. Moreover, Timothy knew who it was that had taught him, he was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Paul was a teacher sent from God, who did not disseminate his own ideas and opinions, but knew exactly what the content of the Gospel was, namely, the message of redemption through the merits of Jesus Christ.

But Paul, in his great humility, does not take all the credit for Timothy's instruction, but, as in chap 1, 5, refers also to other teachers: (Knowing) also that from infancy thou knowest the Holy Scriptures, that are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. From his earliest childhood, from his infancy, Timothy had enjoyed the glorious privilege of being instructed and trained in the words of salvation. The term used by the apostle is one which was commonly used to designate the writings of the Old Testament, as they were in use among the Jews at that time. Timothy's grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, had taken special care to have the boy learn these writings, as was the custom among the faithful Jews in those days. The knowledge which Timothy had was taken from the Word of God and rested upon the Word of God; his learning had given him a thorough familiarity with the wonderful truths of God. Note that the instruction of Timothy in religion was not postponed to late childhood or youth, but was undertaken as soon as he was able to learn. No wonder that he had the knowledge which could give him the proper wisdom, namely, that which leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. In the Word of Holy Writ there is the power of God unto salvation, because it teaches that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Through this knowledge and certainty, however, which assures every individual believer that Christ is his Redeemer, he gains that knowledge which gives him salvation. The apostle expresses himself in such a manner as to imply that Timothy and every true Christian uses the Gospel continually. The joyful confidence of faith will remain firm and unmoved only if the Christian continues in the Word of the Lord day after day, always refreshing and deepening his knowledge, always providing new fuel for the lamp of his faith.

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Of this Scripture now, which has the unique distinction of having been inspired by God in the manner just indicated, the apostle writes that it is profitable for doctrine, for teaching. Its truths are so clear and simple that this Book is a text-book of the eternal truths for all time. It is profitable and therefore should be used for reproof, for the refutation of error, for the exposure of transgression. Because there are so many heresies that are continually arising, because false doctrine persists in rearing its head, therefore it is necessary that the Christian, and especially the teacher, be able to point out the falseness of all claims of that kind, from clear texts of the Bible itself. Holy Writ should be used for correction, for setting men right again after they have fallen, to bring them back to a normal condition. It is the duty of Christians to reveal the transgressions of God's holy will, to insist upon the removal of sins and weaknesses, always, of course, in the manner prescribed by the Word of God. For instruction in righteousness Holy Writ should be used, it should enable a person to lead a life in thorough conformity with the righteousness of life that pleases God. The Word of God in this respect performs the function of a good schoolmaster, one that not only shows the right way, but also trains, encourages, urges the pupils on in their efforts to make headway. Day after day a Christian is sitting at the feet of the Holy Spirit, receiving from Him all the instructions which he needs to enable him to walk in the paths of rectitude.

In this way the final object of the Word of God in this life will be realized, namely, that perfect be the man of God, toward every good work fully equipped. It is not that the apostle is dreaming of moral perfection, but that he wants every Christian, and especially every Christian teacher, to live up to the requirements of his office and station according to God's will. The man of God, every person that bears the honoring title of a man of God, every believer that has become the special property, the child of God, through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, is here included. Thoroughly instructed, furnished, equipped toward every good work, that is the ideal which the apostle holds before our eyes. Believers find their greatest delight in performing the will of God, in doing such works as will please Him. That is the wonderful value and power of the inspired Word of God.


The apostle characterizes the errorists of the last days, also as to their methods, briefly sketches the lessons of his own tribulations, and gives a wonderful summary of the benefit and value of the inspired Word of God.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/2-timothy-3.html. 1921-23.
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