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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

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Verses 1-5


2 Timothy 3:1. In the last days.—In the time just before the Lord’s appearing, in which wickedness will come to a head—a head that will be crushed. Perilous times shall come.—“Grievous seasons will ensue.”

2 Timothy 3:2. Lovers of their own selves.—“No man ever yet hated his own flesh,” says St. Paul. The men here spoken of are they who make undue provision for softness and ease, the self-indulgent. Covetous.—Obliterates the similarity of sound. As we might say, “lovers of selves” and “lovers of silver” as, it ministers to self. Boasters.—“The word originally designated the vagabond mountebanks, conjurors, etc., and from them was transferred to any braggart or boaster vaunting himself in possession of that which was not his” (Trench). Proud.—R.V. “haughty.” Such as out of a swollen estimate of their own importance look down on others. Quoting Proverbs 3:34, St. James and St. Peter remind us that “God resisteth”—sets Himself in battle-array against—“the proud.” Unthankful.—The graceless. The only other use in the New Testament describes those who take good from the hand of the all bountiful Father without grace (Luke 6:35).

2 Timothy 3:3. Without natural affection.—Especially that between parents and children. Trucebreakers.—R.V. “implacable.” “The absolutely irreconcilable” (Trench). False accusers.—R.V. “slanderers.” Gr. διάβολοι (whence “devils”). Despisers of those that are good.—Gr. “no friends of the good.”

2 Timothy 3:4. Traitors.—The word is used of Judas (Luke 6:16) and the Jewish authorities (Acts 6:15). It means men among whom there is no fidelity. Heady.—R.V. “headstrong”—lit. “falling forward”—the reckless, impetuous. Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.—R.V. “rather than lovers of God.” If the love of pleasure, coarse or refined, is paramount, it will be at the cost of the love of God.

2 Timothy 3:5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.—It is a new heathendom under a Christian name which St. Paul here describes.


The End of the Christian Dispensation.

I. It will be a period of great moral danger.—“In the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1)—difficult and grievous times, when it will be difficult to know what is to be done, what to believe, who to believe, how to act. There will be indifference to revealed truth, nay, to all truth; making light of error, and not reproving it; holding that all religions are so far right and acceptable, and that there are a thousand ways to heaven, if there be a heaven or a hell at all. Laxity of opinion and laxity of morals will prevail. Immorality will overflow in every form, and not be condemned. A loose faith, a loose practice, an easy law, an easy gospel, all the worst forms of a benumbing latitudinarianism will prevail.

II. It will be a period in which all kinds of vice will abound (2 Timothy 3:2-4).—The catalogue of sins enumerated in these verses indicate a relapse of the professing Christian Church into the worst vices of the rankest heathenism. Even the young will be infected with the degeneracy of the times. The leading characteristic of the sinners of that age is described in the phrase, “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”

III. It will be a period in which true godliness will be falsified.—“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). Vice is only aggravated when it is practised under the garb of religion; its assumed guise renders it not less but more detestable: it is a daring attempt to drag God down to the level of our sins. Samuel Rutherford has said that there is a spice of hypocrisy in us all. This may be so; but it is another thing when we consciously and deliberately act the hypocrite. The hypocrite maps out the road to heaven, knows it well, has sounded with plummet the depths of the promises, and can talk about them. But he has accepted a two-parts Christ. There is a little pet sin snugly tucked up in a warm corner of his heart that he is unwilling to part with. Christ is his priest, his prophet, but he will not have Him as his king; he will not have this Man to reign over and in him.

IV. It will be a period in which there will be little hope of reclaiming the apostates.—“From such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5). Their case is hopeless; all efforts to benefit them are unavailing; they must be left to the just recompense of their evil ways. It is the acme of obstinate wickedness when all hope of recovery has to be abandoned. If the gospel is persistently rejected, there is no possibility of salvation. It is a sad reflection that there may be those now in our midst who are as desperately vile as any in the last days can be.


1. The last days will be conspicuous for abounding iniquity.

2. The last days will be a severe trial of faith.

3. The last days will witness the signal punishment of the unbelieving.


2 Timothy 3:1-2. Self-love.

I. Self-love pursuing what is upon the whole absolutely best for us is innocent and good.

II. There can be no culpable self-love but in respect of temporal things.—Even in this respect there may be degree of self-love, not only innocent but praiseworthy.

III. A vicious self-love.

1. Manifested in pride.

2. Sensuality.

3. Avarice or self-interestedness.


1. Self-lovers are not greater enemies to others in intention than they are in effect to themselves.

2. There can be no such thing as true happiness separate from the love of God and our neighbours.—Waterland.

2 Timothy 3:5. A Form of Godliness without the Power.

I. A form of godliness.

1. An outward profession of religion.

2. An affectation of godly discourse.

3. Affecting certain modes and fashionable gestures of godliness.

4. A reliance on outward duties of religion.

II. A man may have a form of godliness when yet he is very far from the power—the truth and reality of it.—Formalists are described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4.—Bishop Bull.

Verses 6-9


2 Timothy 3:6. Silly women.—The diminutive term (“little women”) is not found again in New Testament. The contemptuous epithet indicates their weakness and proneness to temptation.

2 Timothy 3:7. Never able.—In the nature of things whilst such conditions lasted. To come to the knowledge.I.e. the complete knowledge.

2 Timothy 3:8. Jannes and Jambres.—According to Jewish tradition, sons of Balaam, at first teachers, then opponents, of Moses. They perished with the Egyptians in the Red Sea.

2 Timothy 3:9. Shall be manifest.—“Thoroughly exposed.” As theirs also was.—R.V. “came to be.” The pronoun points to these men far removed as monitory specimens of those who oppose truth.


Characteristics of False Teachers.

I. They furtively insinuate themselves into the midst of domestic life.—“For of this sort are they which creep into houses” (2 Timothy 3:6). As a serpent crawls towards its prey, or as a wolf stealthily attacks the sheepfold. The peace of many a home has been destroyed by the cunning of unprincipled men.

II. They practise their wiles on weak women.

1. Women whose sinful lives make them a prey to conflicting passions. “And lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (2 Timothy 3:6). The most abandoned woman has her moments of remorse, when her conscience is roused and her soul bowed down under the load of conscious sin. It is then that the false teacher, who promises ease of conscience, is eagerly listened to, especially if too much restriction is not placed on the indulgence of unholy desire.

2. Women who crave for novelty rather than the knowledge of the truth. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). They quickly disparage what they already know by the restless desire and curiosity to gain something new. It is not a paradox but a truth to say that their constant craving for knowledge leaves them utterly ignorant, for nothing can be known that is forgotten as soon as it is learned. The Gnostic teachers, like more recent heretics, laid hold of the female sex and encouraged them to use all their seductive arts in popularising their theories.

III. They have their prototypes in past ages.

1. In men who audaciously opposed the truth. “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth” (2 Timothy 3:8). These were the traditional names of the Egyptian magicians who sought by their conjuring tricks to discredit the authority of Moses. It is the ambition of false teachers to-day to imitate and if possible outrival the preacher of the gospel.

2. In men whose degraded minds rendered them incapable of appreciating the truth. “Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8). Their own vitiated tastes and misused powers incapacitated them from testing the truth. They were bewitched and misled by their own foolish errors, and infatuated by their own sins.

IV. The inevitable exposure of their wicked and insensate folly limits their power for mischief.—“But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest” (2 Timothy 3:9). Wise as they may seem, their folly shall be exposed. In all wickedness there is an element of weakness which limits its power to do evil. They who seek to deceive others end in being most deceived themselves.


1. False teachers are not particular as to the instruments they employ.

2. Error hopelessly degrades its victims.

3. False teachers expose themselves.


2 Timothy 3:8-9. Opposition to the Truth

I. Is the offspring of ignorance and obstinate wickedness.

II. Is limited in its power.

III. The folly of such an attitude will be exposed and the opponents signally punished.

Verses 10-13


2 Timothy 3:10. But thou hast fully known.—R.V. “didst follow.” The mental process of investigation and the moral process of imitating the good seem to blend in this expression, as the words following indicate.

2 Timothy 3:11. What persecutions I endured.—The old man lives over again the life of hardship and glorifies his Deliverer.

2 Timothy 3:13. Seducers.—R.V. “impostors.” There is “a reference to incantation by howling, and then to the practice of magic generally, and thence to deception and imposture generally” (Ellicott). Shall wax worse and worse.—“Shall make advance toward the worse.” In 2 Timothy 3:9 the apostle says they shall not advance further without exposure; here he seems to say that after exposure they do not mind to what lengths they go. The Nemesis of deception is self-deception.


Characteristics of a Genuine Teacher.

I. The genuine teacher is known by the character of his doctrine and the integrity of his life (2 Timothy 3:10).—In contrast with the false teachers the apostle appeals to his own teaching and manner of life. Both were well known and had been tested in trying circumstances. The genuine teacher is not actuated by selfish motives, but by a desire to spread the truth and promote the glory of Christ, and the purity of his aim is evident in the Christian spirit with which he treats his opponents and vilifiers.

II. The genuine teacher is known by his sufferings for the truth.

1. Suffering for the truth is the lot of the faithful (2 Timothy 3:11-12). Christianity condemns all other religions and claims to be the only religion; it enjoins precepts directly contrary to the instincts of the natural man, and it predicts that persecutions are sure to overtake its most ardent followers. But it promises help in suffering and a future reward of unspeakable glory. A man must be truly in earnest who embraces Christianity with all its conditions and consequences.

2. From all suffering for the truth God graciously delivers. “But out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Timothy 3:11). If Paul was delivered from trials, unparalleled in their number and severity, the most oppressed servant of Christ need not despair. With this example before us we need not fear whatever persecution and suffering may be entailed in a faithful propagation of the truth.

III. The genuine teacher is known by contrast with the wicked and deceptive charlatanry of false teachers.—“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Magical arts were practised at Ephesus; but these were abandoned by all who embraced Christ. The false teachers did not hesitate to use the tricks of the conjuror to deceive the unwary; and as they became more reckless in their methods and more wicked in their lives, they ended by being themselves deceived. As Bengel remarks, “He who has once begun to deceive others is the less easily able to recover himself from error, and the more easily embraces in turn the errors of others.” There is the widest contrast between the showy and tricky charlatanry of false teachers, and the sedate straightforwardness and calmly fervent zeal of the gospel preacher.


1. The truth forms the character of its advocate.

2. Christianity teaches us how to endure and conquer suffering.

3. The genuine teacher is a living witness for the truth.


2 Timothy 3:10-11. Personal Integrity

I. Is founded on belief in the truth (2 Timothy 3:10).

II. Is manifested in the life (2 Timothy 3:10).

III. Is seen in the carrying out of a definite purpose (2 Timothy 3:10).

IV. Is exemplified in the virtues of the Christian character (2 Timothy 3:10).

V. Is tested and strengthened by suffering (2 Timothy 3:11).

VI. Recognises the special help of God in affliction (2 Timothy 3:11).

2 Timothy 3:12. The Persecution of Goodness.

I. The text characterises the morality of believers.—They “live godly.”

1. The believer complies with the will of God.

2. Presents his services as an offering to God.

3. Aims at the glory of God.

4. Seeks the enjoyment of God.

II. The text declares the origin of the morality of the believer.—“In Christ Jesus.”

1. Implies union with Christ.

2. Christ frees from condemnation and punishment.

3. Christ furnishes motives to obedience.

III. The text declares the consequence of the morality of the believer.—“Shall suffer persecution.”

1. The world hates godliness.

2. The world is reproved by godliness.—Stewart.

Verses 14-17


2 Timothy 3:14. Knowing of whom.—R.V. margin, “Gr. what persons.” The apostle does not take the sole credit of the discipleship of Timothy, whose “faith does not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

2 Timothy 3:15. From a child.—R.V. “a babe,” from earliest infancy. The Holy Scriptures.—R.V. “the sacred writings.” A comprehensive term including, like our Lord’s threefold division in Luke 24:44, all the Jewish canonical Scriptures.

2 Timothy 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.—R.V. “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable.” Note that the “scripture” of this verse is not the same as the “sacred writings” of 2 Timothy 3:15. Here it is simply “every writing inspired of God.” The inbreathing of the Holy Ghost is the condition of its being profitable. For correction.—Setting upright again something that was out of the perpendicular. For instruction.—Fatherly discipline or process of education, often by chastisement or severe methods. The word of God does not always speak smooth things to us.

2 Timothy 3:17. Throughly furnished.—Completely fitted out, as a soldier with full accoutrements, or a workman with tools.


The Use of the Bible in the Christian Life.

I. Instruction in the Bible from earliest youth imposes fidelity to its teachings (vers.14, 15).—Timothy had been taught the Scriptures from his childhood. The reverence of his Jewish mother for the word of God was transferred to her child, and his early life was impregnated with the spirit and teaching of the Old Testament. In the study thus early begun, and still further developed as the years sped on, Timothy is urged to continue. Childhood is the most impressionable age, and instructions then received are never forgotten. Nothing makes so lasting an impression on the young mind as the word of God.

II. The most accurate knowledge of the Bible will not save the soul apart from faith in Christ.—“Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). It is a good thing to drill the young mind in a knowledge of the word of God and to store it with memory texts, but care should be taken to show how all scripture reveals Christ and leads to Christ. The knowledge of the Bible makes us wise in knowing Christ as our Saviour. He who has not faith has not the true wisdom. The Jews knew the Bible well, but they remained ignorant because they rejected Christ.

III. The Bible is a collection of Divinely inspired writings.—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). R.V. “Every scripture inspired of God.” As most of the New Testament books were written when Paul wrote this his latest epistle, they are included in the clause. Knapp defines inspiration as, “An extraordinary Divine agency upon teachers whilst giving instruction, oral or written, by which they were taught how and what they should speak or write.” The Bible is true because it is God-inspired. The same cannot be said of any other book. A learned infidel who examined the Bible for himself, and came to the irresistible conclusion of its Divine authorship, said, “It would have been as easy for a mole to have written Sir Isaac Newton’s treatise on optics as for uninspired men to have written the Bible.”

IV. The prime use of the Bible is to teach authoritative truth and mould the Christian life.

1. The study of Divine truth disciplines the mind and heart. “Is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Doctrine and reproof embrace the speculative parts of divinity, correction and instruction the practical. The devout and diligent study of the Bible is a mental and moral discipline. Every man is definitely the better for close and thoughtful contact with the word of God. Queen Elizabeth said, “I walk many times in the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pick up the goodliest herbs of sentences by pruning, eat them by reading, digest them by musing, and lay them up at length in the high seat of memory by gathering them together, so that, having tasted their sweetness, I may less perceive the bitterness of life.”

2. The study of Divine truth is a moral equipment for the highest service. “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17). The man of God loves the book of God; by its study he is more fully perfected in his moral character, and out of its treasury he is accoutred for all the requirements of his work. The best work is done by the man who knows his Bible best.


1. The Bible is the God-inspired book.

2. The young should be taught to know and love the Bible.

3. The Bible supplies the best armour and weapons for the Christian warrior.


2 Timothy 3:15. The Importance of Early Instruction in the Bible.

I. The advantage of a knowledge of the Scriptures.

1. They communicate truths of immense value.

2. These truths cannot be obtained but by Divine Revelation 3:0. Their knowledge is the noblest improvement of the mind.

II. The Holy Scriptures are made effectual to salvation.

1. They discover the method of salvation.

2. They make men wise unto salvation through faith.—P. Hutchison.

2 Timothy 3:16-17. The Inspiration and Utility of the Scriptures.

I. The inspiration of the Scriptures.

1. What is inspiration? The infallible record of an infallible Revelation 2:0. The object of inspiration. To give certainty to that written under its guidance.

II. The utility of the Scriptures.

1. As an unvarying standard of doctrine.

2. Useful in the confutation of all religious error.

3. Useful as an infallible standard of right and wrong.

4. Useful for instruction in righteousness.—Homiletic Monthly.


I. The breath of God is in the Holy Scriptures, but only the man of God can have fellowship with it.

II. By this fellowship with God the man of God becomes complete.

III. By this fellowship with God the man of God gains complete fitness for every good work.Preacher’s Magazine.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-timothy-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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