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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4070. A.D. 66.

In this chapter the apostle

(1,) Foretels again the great departure from practical godliness which should prevail in the Christian world, and the enemies to the truth and holiness of the gospel which should arise in it, 2 Timothy 3:1-9 .

(2,) He proposes his own example for Timothy’s imitation, in opposition to them, 2 Timothy 3:10-13 .

(3,) He exhorts him to adhere to the doctrines which he had learned from him and from the Scriptures, which, being inspired by God, are sufficient to direct men in the way of salvation, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 .

Verses 1-2

2 Timothy 3:1-2. The apostle, at the close of the preceding chapter, having intimated to Timothy that false teachers did and would arise in the church, he, in the beginning of this chapter, foretels that in future times, through the pernicious influence of corrupt doctrines propagated by these teachers, many professing Christians, and, among the rest, the false teachers themselves, would become so wicked, that it would become dangerous to the truly pious to live among them. As if he had said, It is the more necessary to urge thee, as I do, to use every precaution and every effort which may tend to preserve the purity and honour of the Christian Church, since, after all we can do for this purpose, sad scenes will open in it. This know also Besides what I formerly told thee concerning the apostacy, (1 Timothy 4:1,) that in the last, or latter days That is, under the gospel dispensation, called the latter days, as being intended to wind up the economy of providence, and to remain in full force even to the end of the world: perilous times shall come In which it will be difficult for the faithful followers of Jesus to discharge their consciences, and yet, at the same time, to maintain their safety. For men Even within the pale of the outward church, will be In great numbers, and to a higher degree than ever, lovers of themselves Only, (the first root of evil,) not of God and their neighbours. “The vices mentioned in this and the two following verses have always existed in the world. But their being spoken of here as characteristic of the latter days, implies that, besides being common in these days, they would be openly avowed and defended. Accordingly, it is well known, the clergy of the Romish Church have defended all the enormities mentioned by the apostle, encouraged the people by their false doctrine to commit them, and gone before them in the practice of them.” Covetous Φιλαργυροι , lovers of money, (the second root of evil,) so as to be impelled to the basest practices, by the hopes of obtaining it. The Catholic clergy, it is well known, have carried their love of money to such a height, that they pretend to sell heaven for money, even to the wickedest of men, under the name of indulgences; boasters Of what they have, or are, or can do; proud Thinking highly of themselves on these accounts; blasphemers Of God, and revilers of their fellow-creatures; disobedient to parents Notwithstanding all the obligations they are under to them. “In the language of the Hebrews, parents signified superiors of every denomination. The disobedience of the Romish clergy to princes and magistrates, and even their dethroning princes, is well known. It may also signify their encouraging children to become monks and nuns, contrary to the will of their parents.” Unthankful To other benefactors, and to God for the blessings of providence and grace; unholy Though they profess themselves to be devoted to God, and consecrated to his service by the most solemn rites.

Verses 3-5

2 Timothy 3:3-5. Without natural affection Even to their own children, as well as of piety toward their parents. “The clergy of the Church of Rome, being forbidden to marry, can have neither wives nor children openly; and so are without the affections natural to mankind. At least they dare not avow their having these affections. It may likewise be meant of the laity, who shut up their female children in nunneries, on pretence of superior sanctity; but in reality from interested motives.” Truce, or rather, covenant breakers For this sin the Roman Catholic clergy have been remarkable, having not long ago professedly held it as a principle of religion, that no faith is to be kept with heretics; and having set subjects free from their oaths of allegiance to their princes. But ασπονδοι may signify persons who, being offended, will enter into no treaty of reconciliation, and so may be translated implacable, as in Romans 1:31. False accusers Or slanderers, as διαβολοι may be properly rendered; in which, as the word implies, they will imitate that diabolical malignity which renders the great enemy of mankind so justly odious. Thus the Romish clergy have imputed all manner of crimes to those who have resisted their corruptions. Incontinent Or intemperate in their pleasures. Fierce Against their opposers, and in their resentments cruel in their revenge. Despisers of those that are good That is, of those who maintain the truth, and are real followers of Christ. Or, as αφιλαγαθοι may be translated, without love to goodness, or good men. Traitors To those that place the greatest confidence in them; yea, such base traitors as to give up their brethren into the hands of persecutors, and even their nearest relations, who oppose their corrupt practices, to death. Heady Rash in enterprising things which can only issue in the disturbance of society, or the ruin of those that undertake them. High-minded Puffed up with such insolence and self-sufficiency as to despise any remonstrance which can be made to bring them to a wiser and more decent conduct. Lovers of pleasure Namely, sensual pleasure, rather than lovers of God And who will therefore sacrifice all considerations of religion to the gratification of their appetites. Indeed, the love of pleasure naturally extinguishes all sense of God and love to him. “It is observable, that the apostle’s description begins with mentioning extreme selfishness as the root, and concludes with the excessive love of sensual pleasure as the end, of all the corruptions that were to prevail in the latter times. Hence we may learn what a pernicious thing the excessive love of sensual pleasure is! It has been the source of those monstrous perversions of religion which took place among Christians in the dark ages. And, governed by it, many, in every age, destroy their health, their fortune, their reputation, the comfort of their families, and every thing valuable in life, for the sake of gratifying their appetites.” Macknight. Having a form Or appearance; of godliness In observing with exactness the rituals and external ordinances of religion, but not regarding, nay, even denying and blaspheming the inward power and reality of it. A prediction too evidently fulfilled even at this day and that not only among the Papists. From such Even from all in whom thou discernest a temper like that here described; turn away Avoid all intimacy with them, lest they should avail themselves of it as an advantage for doing further mischief. Let it therefore evidently appear that thou givest them no countenance. Or, as some would render the original expression, τουτους αποτρεπου , these turn away; that is, turn out of the church all teachers who have any resemblance to the persons I have mentioned. For they are introducing the corruptions which, in after times, their successors will carry to the height I have described.

Verses 6-7

2 Timothy 3:6-7. For, &c. As if he had said, There is need to watch against such, because there are some of them already in the church; for of this sort are those artful deceivers who creep into houses Insinuate themselves into families, and, having the appearance of godliness, lead captive silly women Gain such influence over women of low rank and mean understandings as to obtain the direction of their consciences and purses; women who, whatever pretences they may make to sanctity, are laden with sins, and led away with divers lusts Or desires, which these seducers know how to flatter, so as to make such persons their own property. “This, with the two subsequent verses, is thought by some a prophetical description of the practices of the Romish monks and friars in the dark ages, who, by hypocritical pretensions to extraordinary sanctity, and by auricular confession and other wicked arts, deluded and corrupted their female votaries. But practices similar to those began very early in the church, and, by a gradual progress, were at length, under the Romish hierarchy, formed into a regular system of deceit. We may therefore suppose, that as in the prophecies which foretel the political state of the world, so in those concerning the apostacy, in which its religious state is represented the general course of things through a succession of ages is foretold, rather than the state of things in any particular age. This will be allowed, when it is considered that not the rise only, but the progress and downfall of the apostacy is foretold in these prophecies. So that their subject being a series of things which were to happen throughout a long course of years, and which were gradually to produce a widely-extended and confirmed state of corruption in the church, there is no reason for limiting their fulfilment to any particular period.” Macknight. Ever learning Pretending to hear with great eagerness, and, it may be, charmed with every appearance of fervour and novelty in their teachers, but, being tossed about with every wind of doctrine, they are never able to come to the experimental and practical knowledge of the truth As it is in Jesus, or to attain any fixed and steady principles of religion.

Verses 8-9

2 Timothy 3:8-9. Now as Jannes and Jambres Some ancient writers speak of these persons as the chief of Pharaoh’s magicians, whose names, though not recorded by Moses, yet being handed down by tradition, are preserved in Jonathan’s Chaldee Paraphrase on Exodus 7:11; withstood Moses We learn from Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22, that Pharaoh’s magicians imitated three of Moses’s miracles by their enchantments; that is, by repeating a form of words known only to themselves, in which they invoked certain demons, and, as they fancied, constrained them to do the things desired. By thus pretending to work miracles equal to those of Moses, they resisted him in his attempts to persuade Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. So these also resist the truth That is, the true and genuine gospel; namely, as he seems to mean, by false miracles. In the early ages of Christianity the heretical teachers are said to have been much addicted to the study of magic, and that some of the Gnostics pretended to have the secret books of Zoroaster. Clemens. Alexand. Strom., lib. 5. p. 104. And we know that in later times the monks and friars have been great pretenders to miracles. Hence ( 2Ti 3:13 ) they are called γοητες , magicians. Men of corrupt minds Impure notions and wicked inclinations; reprobate, αδοκιμοι , disapproved, with respect to the faith And worthy of being rejected as enemies to it. Or, as some render the clause void of judgment as to the faith; quite ignorant, as well as careless, of true spiritual religion. But they shall proceed no further Or, as Doddridge renders the clause, they shall not proceed much further, in these artifices, and in gaining proselytes; for their folly shall be made manifest unto all Ανοια , their want of understanding. The apostle might justly call the errors of the authors of the apostacy, and the base arts by which they established their authority, foolishness, because, though they thought themselves superlatively wise in the methods which they devised for obtaining power and wealth, their doctrines and practices were as void of reason as are the imaginations and actions of fools. As theirs also was To the Israelites, and even to the Egyptians themselves. That is, “the vile arts by which the corrupters of Christianity established their errors being discovered, their folly and wickedness shall be very plain to the people, even as the folly and wickedness of Pharaoh’s magicians were made plain to the Israelites, by the stop which God put to their enchantments. And thus, the truth being set in a more clear light, the wisdom and righteousness of God, in permitting these corruptions to take place for a while, will be demonstrated.” They who are acquainted with the history of the ancient heretics, and of the Romish Church, and of the Reformation, need not be informed how exactly this whole prophecy hath been fulfilled.

Verses 10-13

2 Timothy 3:10-13. But thou hast a better pattern to follow; for thou hast fully known my doctrine In all the branches of it; manner of life My conduct toward God, his people, and all men; purpose The end and design of my ministry, namely, the glory of God in the salvation of men, and not any honour, interest, or advantage of my own; faith My fidelity in the discharge of my duty; long-suffering When treated in the most injurious manner; charity Or love rather, to all men, saints or sinners, not excepting even mine enemies and persecutors; patience Under great and long-continued trials; persecutions From Jews and Gentiles; afflictions Τοις παθημασιν , sufferings; at Antioch In Pisidia; at Iconium, at Lystra See the margin; what persecutions I endured Timothy being a native of Lystra, and Paul’s disciple and companion when the apostle was stoned in that city, and dragged out of the streets as one dead, he may have been present on that occasion, and even one of those who stood round him when he revived, Acts 14:20. But out of them all the Lord delivered me And therefore be not thou discouraged if thou meetest with similar trials; yea, and all that will live godly That will conduct themselves by the strict rules of piety prescribed in the gospel of Christ, not turning aside to the right hand or the left, and having the Spirit of Christ, without which we are not his; shall suffer persecution More or less: there is no exception. Therefore count the cost, reader. Art thou resolved to live godly in Christ Jesus, out of whom there is no godliness? Hence we infer, that either the apostle was mistaken in making this assertion, or those who think they are religious, and are not persecuted in some shape or other, deceive themselves. But evil men and seducers Though they may escape persecution, are yet in a more wretched state, for they provoke God to give them up to the lusts of their own hearts, and so shall wax worse and worse More corrupt in heart and life, and more obstinate in their opposition to the gospel and its faithful ministers; deceiving and being deceived He who has once begun to deceive others, is both the less likely to recover from his own errors, and the more ready to embrace the errors of other men.

Verses 14-15

2 Timothy 3:14-15. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned That is, continue to believe and obey them; and hast been assured of Namely, of their absolute certainty and infinite importance; knowing of whom thou hast learned them And what convincing evidence I have given thee that I have been commissioned by God to attest and teach them. And that from a child Απο βρεφους , from an infant; thou hast known the Holy Scriptures Of the Old Testament, which only were extant when Timothy was an infant. The apostle calls them holy or sacred Scriptures, or writings, because they were given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of holy men, because they treat on holy things, contain holy doctrines, precepts, and promises, and are designed and calculated to make people holy. It must be remembered, that Timothy’s mother and grandmother, being pious Jewish women, had trained him up from his childhood in the knowledge and belief of the writings of Moses and the prophets. And their care in thus instructing him, being commended by the apostle, shows us that little children ought to be made acquainted with the Scriptures as early as possible; and that they may derive much benefit even from that imperfect knowledge of them, and of the principles of religion, which they are capable of attaining in their tenderest years. Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation Even the Scriptures of the Old Testament were able to make men thus wise, through faith in the Messiah, before he came. How much more are those of the Old and New Testaments, taken together, able, in God’s hand, to make us more abundantly wise unto salvation, through faith in him actually come, even such a salvation as was not known before Jesus was glorified? See 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16. All Scripture Or the whole Scripture, received by the Jewish Church, θεοπνευστος , is inspired of God Respecting the inspiration of the books of the Old Testament, I find two opinions, says Dr. Benson, on this passage: “1st, That the writers of the several books had all the thoughts, and even the very words, suggested to them by the Spirit of God: and that they were the penmen of the Spirit to commit to writing just what he dictated. 2d, Others think with more latitude; and allow, indeed, that Moses received the Law from God; and that the prophets were inspired by the Spirit to foretel future events, which lay out of the reach of human foresight; but that they were left to express themselves in their own words and phrases, in which they give a faithful account of what the Spirit dictated to them, 2 Peter 1:20-21. But as to what was handed down by authentic tradition, or the facts with which they themselves were thoroughly acquainted, they could, as faithful historians, commit them to writing, and that without any extraordinary inspiration. And their account, as far as our present copies are exact, may be depended upon as satisfactory and authentic.” He adds, “If the Spirit presided, strengthened their memories, and preserved them from mistakes, this last opinion may not be much amiss.” See Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 7, 8, where the subject of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is more particularly considered. Is profitable for doctrine All the great and important doctrines of religion necessary to be known in order to salvation, are there taught, and that more clearly and fully than elsewhere; and with an authority and influence to be found in no other writings. For reproof Or conviction, as ελεγχον rather signifies; and that not only of error in judgment, but of sin in practice, and of condemnation and wrath due to us on account of sin; as also the depravity of our nature; of our weakness and inability to save ourselves, and of righteousness and salvation for us in Christ. For correction Or amendment, as επανορθωσιν may be properly rendered; showing us clearly, 1st, What evils in temper, word, or work, are to be avoided: 2d, What graces and virtues must be possessed and practised; furnishing us, at the same time, with all proper and needful motives to holiness of heart and life, showing us where our strength lies. For instruction Or training and building persons up, in righteousness Leading them on from one degree of piety and virtue to another, with a progress which will continually advance in proportion to the regard they pay to these divine writings. For the Spirit of God not only once inspired those who endited them, but continually inspires and supernaturally assists those that read them in humility, simplicity, and faith, with earnest prayer to the Father of lights for a right understanding of them, and for inclination and power to reduce their contents to practice. That the man of God Not only every Christian minister, or public teacher of religion, but every man devoted to the service of God; may be perfect May come to the measure of the stature of Christ’s fulness, Ephesians 4:13, &c., where see the note, and on Colossians 1:28; or may stand complete in the whole will of God; thoroughly furnished unto all good works Fitted for discharging every part of his duty. Thus we see that the apostle’s encomium on the Jewish Scriptures consists of two parts; their divine inspiration, and their usefulness for illustrating the gospel revelation; so that a Christian minister, who rightly understands them, is thereby fitted for every part of his work. Our Lord also, on various occasions, bare testimony to the Jewish Scriptures, and to their connection with the gospel. What then are we to think of those teachers who are at so much pains to disjoin the Christian revelation from the Jewish, as if the latter were not of divine original, and had no connection with the gospel; and, instead of illustrating and confirming the gospel, were rather an encumbrance to it?

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-timothy-3.html. 1857.
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