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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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2 Timothy 3:0


The Character of Men in the Last DaysPerilous Times and Perilous MenThe Pastor and the Flock(2 Timothy 2:14-5)The Last DaysThe Dangers of the Last Days
2 Timothy 2:20-9
2 Timothy 3:1-92 Timothy 3:1-92 Timothy 3:1-92 Timothy 3:1-5
2 Timothy 3:6-9
Last Charge to Timothy(2 Timothy 3:10-8)The Man of God and Word of GodLast Instructions(2 Timothy 3:10-8)
2 Timothy 3:10-172 Timothy 3:10-172 Timothy 3:10-52 Timothy 3:10-52 Timothy 3:10-13
2 Timothy 3:14-17

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To what does the phrase "last days" refer?

2. To what kind of false teachers is Paul referring? Describe what they believed.

3. List the 9 things Paul asks Timothy to emulate in verses 2 Timothy 3:10-11.

4. What do verses 2 Timothy 3:15-17 say about inspiration?

5. How is the Living Word Jesus, related to the written Word the Bible?

Verses 1-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:1-9 1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes' and Jambres' folly was also.

2 Timothy 3:1 "the last days" This period of time goes by several names.

1. end of the days, Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 8:16; Daniel 2:28; Daniel 10:14

2. in the last days, Jeremiah 23:20; Jeremiah 30:24; Jeremiah 49:39; Ezekiel 38:8, Ezekiel 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Joel 2:28 (Acts 2:17); John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48; 2 Timothy 3:1; James 5:3

3. in the Last Time, 1 Peter 1:5

4. at the end of the times, 1 Peter 1:20

5. during the last of the days, 2 Peter 3:3

6. the last hour, 1 John 2:18

At the end of the last days is the "day of the Lord" (i.e., "the consummation," Matthew 13:39, Matthew 13:40; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 9:26).

The Jews of the interbiblical period saw two ages: the current evil age of rebellion and sin (starting at Genesis 3:0) and the coming age of righteousness inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah in the power of the Spirit. The OT emphasizes the coming of the Messiah in judgment and power to establish the new age. However, it failed to see clearly the first coming of Jesus as (1) the "Suffering Servant" in Isaiah 53:0; (2) the humble One riding the colt of a donkey in Zechariah 9:9; and (3) the pierced One of Zechariah 12:10. From NT progressive revelation we know that God planned two comings of the Messiah. The period between the Incarnation (the first coming) and the second coming involves the overlapping of the two Jewish ages. This is designated in the NT by the phrase "last days." We have been in this period for over 2000 years. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at 1 Timothy 6:17. The last days are now (cf. Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:18).

"difficult times will come" This refers to the "birth pains" of the new age (cf. Matthew 24:0; Mark 8:13; Luke 21:0; Romans 8:22; 1 Timothy 4:1).

There has been much discussion among commentators and theologians about the state of human society when the Lord returns. For some, the power of the gospel and the work of the Spirit are changing human society for the better (postmillennialism). For others, the OT and NT predict a catastrophic conclusion to human history (premillennialism and amillennialism).

Paul's discussion of the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2:0 portends an escalating evil and rebellion, as do 1 Timothy 4:0 and 2 Timothy 3:0. Jesus will come to restore order and righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:2 "lovers of self" For a similar list on rebellion see Romans 1:28-32. This particular characteristic is the essence of human rebellion. It is a compound term (found only here in the NT) from love (philos) + self (auto) (cf. Philippians 2:21).

"lovers of money" See note at 2 Timothy 3:3 and 6:10.

"boastful" This characterizes human boasting or confidence in one's self (cf. Romans 1:30; James 4:16; 1 John 2:16)

"arrogant" This describes someone who thinks he/she is superior and expresses it in words and deeds (cf. Luke 1:51; Romans 1:30; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The Greek term is huperçphanos. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at 1 Timothy 1:14.

NASB"revilers" NKJV"blasphemers" NRSV"abusive TEV"they will be insulting" NJB"rude"

This is literally "blasphemers." It is uncertain whether they speak against

1. God/Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:20; 1 Timothy 6:1; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 21:0)

2. angels (cf. 2 Peter 2:10-12)

3. other humans (cf. 1 Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 4:4)

"disobedient to parents" This may relate to the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:12). For Jews, strong families meant a stable society ("Your days will be prolonged in the land"). Self assertiveness always hurts interpersonal relationships at home, at church, at work, etc.

"ungrateful" This is the term for "grace" negated. Several of the words in this list are negated terms with the alpha privative. These are thankless, self-centered, disruptive people.

"unholy" This is the negated form of the term hosios, which referred to someone who observed all of God's laws and, therefore, thought he was pious or devout (cf. Titus 1:8) and pure (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8). Hosios was used to describe Jesus in Acts 2:27; Acts 13:35 (a quote from Psalms 16:0). In Hebrews 7:26 it is a characteristic of Jesus, our High Priest. Paul uses it to describe his own actions toward the believers at Thessalonika (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:10).

2 Timothy 3:3

NASB, NKJV"unloving" NRSV"inhuman" TEV"they will be unkind" NJB"heartless"

This is the Greek term for natural affection, negated (cf. Romans 1:31). It refers to a lack of human or family love.

NASB"irreconcilable" NKJV"unforgiving" NRSV"implacable" TEV"merciless" NJB"intractable"

This is the Greek term for making a treaty or agreement, negated (cf. Romans 1:31). It refers to people who are not willing to make up or restore a relationship.

"malicious gossips" This is the Greek term for "slanders" (diaboloi) which is also the term for Satan (Hebrew) or Devil (Greek). See note at 1 Timothy 3:11.

NASB, NKJV"without self-control" NRSV, NJB"profligates" TEV"violent"

This is the Greek term kratos meaning "strength, power, might," negated. It is found only here in the NT. These people lack self-control (cf. Matthew 23:25; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

"brutal" This is the Greek term for "tame, gentle or mild," negated. The NJB has "savages." It is found only here in the NT.

"haters of good" This is the Greek compound philos + agathos (i.e. lover of good, cf. Titus 1:8), negated. It is found only here in the NT. These people are enemies of all that is good and virtuous.

2 Timothy 3:4 "treacherous" This is the Greek compound "to give over" which was used idiomatically for "a betrayer" (cf. Luke 6:16; Acts 7:52).

"reckless" This Greek term is a compound of pros + piptô used idiomatically for not thinking and thereby acting irrationally (cf. Acts 19:36).

NASB"conceited" NKJV"haughty" NRSV"swollen with conceit" TEV"swollen with pride" NJB"demented by pride"

This is a perfect passive participle which denotes a condition brought about by an outside agent; here, the evil one. It is an idiom relating to deception by being smoke blinded (cf. 1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:4).

"lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" Paul has used several compounds with philos:

1. self-lovers (2 Timothy 3:2)

2. money-lovers (2 Timothy 3:2)

3. not lovers of good (2 Timothy 3:3)

4. pleasure-lovers (2 Timothy 3:4)

5. God-lovers (2 Timothy 3:4)

Instead of focusing on God and His will, these people focus on themselves and their own wills (cf. Philippians 3:19).

2 Timothy 3:5 "a form of godliness although they have denied its power" This is a perfect middle participle (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Romans 2:20; Titus 1:16). This is a settled state of willful self-assertion. Institutionalized religion can be a cruel taskmaster! For "godliness" see Special Topic at 1 Timothy 4:7.

"Avoid such people" This is a present middle imperative (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Timothy is to willfully and continually avoid this kind of person. This is an obvious reference to the false teachers and their followers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:19, 2 Timothy 2:20).

2 Timothy 3:6 "those who enter into households" Literally this is "sneak" (cf. Matthew 7:15; Jude 1:4). The tern is found only here in the NT. These false teachers were taking advantage of unwatchful and uninformed housewives.

"captivate" This is a present participle. This is literally "to capture by means of a spear" (cf. Ephesians 4:8; Revelation 13:10). The false prophets continue to use this strategy of seducing families through the wife, who stayed home during the daytime work hours.

NASB, TEV, NET"weak women" NKJV"gullible women" NRSV, NJB"silly women"

This is gunaikaria which is the diminutive form of gunç (woman). Exactly how it should be understood is questionable, but seems to have a negative connotation (cf. BAGD 168). The rest of 2 Timothy 3:6 and 2 Timothy 3:7 are descriptions of these "little women." It is found only here in the NT.

It is uncertain if these are church women or women of the community (note Titus 3:3 and 1 Timothy 5:6).

"weighed down with sins" This is a perfect passive participle. This seems to relate to a problem with "younger" widows seduced by evil (cf. 1 Timothy 5:6).

"led on by various impulses" This is a present passive participle. This implies women continuously led by evil impulses (cf. Titus 3:3).

2 Timothy 3:7 The immediate context and neuter plural verbal forms twice in 2 Timothy 3:6 and twice in 2 Timothy 3:7 confirm the antecedent as the "weak women" of 2 Timothy 3:6. What a tragic description of sin and manipulation!

Generally speaking false teachers of every age are characterized by

1. sexual exploitation

2. financial exploitation

3. revelatory exploitation (God speaks only to me!)

2 Timothy 3:8 "Jannes and Jambres" These are the traditional names of Pharaoh's magicians in Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7, Exodus 8:18; Exodus 9:11. Their names are learned from Rabbinical Judaism, specifically The Targum of Jonathan, but they are not mentioned in the OT. Paul often uses rabbinical traditions (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4).

"so these men also oppose the truth" This is a present middle indicative. These false teachers have a problem with authority and continue to oppose Apostolic teaching. See Special Topic: Truth at 1 Timothy 2:4.

NASB"men of depraved mind" NKJV"men of corrupt minds" NRSV"these people, of corrupt mind" TEV"people whose minds do not function" NJB"their minds corrupt"

This is a perfect passive participle from the compound kata + patheirô, meaning someone who has become and continues to be depraved through an outside agency (i.e., Satan or the demonic) resulting in their own willful rejection of truth (cf. 1 Timothy 6:5 Titus 1:15).

NASB"rejected in regard to the faith" NKJV"disapproved concerning the faith" NRSV"counterfeit faith" TEV"who are failures in the faith" NJB"their faith spurious"

This is the term dokimazô with the connotation of testing with a view toward approval, negated. These failed the test of faith (cf. Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8). This is a frightful description of shipwrecked faith! See Special Topic: Greek Terms for "Testing" and their Connotations at 1 Timothy 6:9; also note SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTÇMI) at 1 Timothy 4:1.

2 Timothy 3:9 "they will not make further progress" This may refer to the false teachers and their followers because the same verb is used of them in 2 Timothy 2:16 and 2 Timothy 3:13. Its root meaning is to advance in something (i.e., 2 Timothy 2:16 in godliness and 2 Timothy 3:13 in deceiving and being deceived).

"for their folly will be obvious to all" "By their fruits you shall know them" (cf. Matthew 7:20; 1 Timothy 5:24). Eternal life has observable characteristics, as does false faith.

Verses 10-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:10-17 10Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:10-11 Verse 10 is a contrast to the lives and priorities of the false teachers. Paul lists the things that Timothy shares with him in ministry:

1. Paul's Apostolic teaching (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6)

2. Paul's lifestyle

3. Paul's purpose

4. Paul's faith (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11)

5. Paul's patience

6. Paul's love (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11)

7. Paul's perseverance (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11)

8. Paul's persecutions

9. Paul's sufferings (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

All of the verbs in 2 Timothy 3:10-11 are aorist. Paul was reflecting on his missionary journeys and how the Lord had delivered him in every circumstance. He passes this encouragement on to Timothy by way of a reminder.

2 Timothy 3:11 "Antioch, Iconium and Lystra" From Acts 13:0 and 14 we know that this was the area of Timothy's home.

2 Timothy 3:12 This is a shocking verse to modern western believers. Our culture has been spared many of the persecutions related to Christianity. But with the lack of persecution has also come a lack of power and godliness! Jesus was perfected by the things He suffered (cf. Hebrews 5:8). The things God uses to develop His children into Christlikeness are the very things modern westerners flee from! The health, wealth, and prosperity movement characterizes our spoiled, pampered culture.

Notice the text says "all"! Persecution is normal for God's children seeking to live for Him in a fallen world; yes, normal (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; John 16:1-2; John 17:14; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19)!

We are not to seek persecution, but we must live ready! If we die daily (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:16) for the cause of Christ, then physical death does not intimidate us anymore!

2 Timothy 3:13 "evil men and imposters" These false teachers were charlatans like the false magicians (cf. 2 Timothy 3:8).

"will proceed" This is the same verb as in 2 Timothy 2:16.

"deceiving" This is a present active participle. They led others astray as they are led themselves by evil.

"and being deceived" This is a present passive participle. Those trapped by sin, self, and Satan tend to trap others!

2 Timothy 3:14 "continue in the things you have learned" This is a contrast to 2 Timothy 3:13 and continues the encouragement from 2 Timothy 3:10-12. This is a present active imperative (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:9).

2 Timothy 3:15 "from childhood" This shows Timothy's religious training at home (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5). It is uncertain whether this refers to Judaism or Christianity.

the sacred writings" This could include more than just the OT, but verse 2 Timothy 3:16 shows us that the OT is what is meant here.

"which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation" This shows the primary purpose of Scripture is mankind's redemption. It also shows us the mechanism of redemption which is mankind's faith response to God's Messiah. This is the essence of Apostolic preaching (kerygma). However, verse 2 Timothy 3:17 shows that Scripture (which in this text must refer to the OT because the NT was not yet complete or in circulation) has another subsequent purpose equipping the saints for lifestyle Christlikeness. Paul often used the OT to encourage believers to live godly lives. The OT does not function for "justification" (cf. Galatians 3:0), but it does function for "sanctification." See Special Topic at 1 Timothy 1:8.


2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture" There is no article. It could be translated "every Scripture" (NET Bible), but this may imply to some that they are isolated truths (propositions). The plague of modern Bible study is the "proof-text" method of interpretation which destroys the literary context and the intent of the inspired author.

"is inspired by God" This is literally "God-exhaled." The how is not stated, but the who and the why are very specific! In 2 Peter 1:21 the Spirit is the focus of inspiration, but here it is the Father. Both are active in this area!

This is such an important truth that I wold like to add my comments from 2 Peter 1:20-21 (see www.freebiblecommentary.org.

1:20 "Scripture" This is one of several verses in the NT that speak of God's self-revelation in OT and NT writings (i.e., Scripture).

1. Matthew 5:17-19

2. 1 Corinthians 2:9-13

3. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

4. 2 Timothy 3:16

5. 1 Peter 1:23-25

6. 2 Peter 1:20-21

7. 2 Peter 3:15-16

The essence of all of these is that Scripture is from God and of God, not human in origin. God inspired the writers (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21) and their writings (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

"a matter of one's own interpretation" This phrase surely expresses the existing tension caused by the false teachers in the churches. It is possible that they were quoting Scripture and then putting their own spin on it (which is also common today).

In context it is difficult to know whether this phrase refers to (1) the OT writers or (2) the contemporary false teachers. If the first option, it speaks to the theological concept of inspiration (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). The following verse seems to confirm this interpretation. If the second option, it speaks of the theological concept of illumination (i.e., that the Spirit guides believers in interpreting the Bible).

It must be stated that the evangelical concept of "the priesthood of the believer " is usually understood as the Spirit-given ability to interpret the Bible for oneself. However, biblically, the phrase refers to the church as the agent of accomplishing the Great Commission, cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6. Notice in the OT (cf. Exodus 19:6) and the NT the phrase "the priesthood of believers" is plural (i.e., corporate), not individual.

1:21 "men moved by the Holy Spirit" This is literally "carried," which is a present passive participle. This adds emphasis to the truth that the Bible is God's message, not a human message! It is true that the Bible is in human words, but humans were uniquely guided by the Spirit. The Bible is not exhaustive truth, for no human can comprehend that level of reality, but it is trustworthy, adequate truth about God, about sin, about salvation, about godly living, and about eternity.

The exact method of inspiration varies.

1. theophanies

2. Urim and Thummin/lots

3. dreams

4. visions

5. trances

6. angels

7. symbolic acts

8. special events and interpretations

The questions remain (1) does God give the content and the human author the form or (2) does God give both?"

"is profitable for. . ." God's word (Scripture) is characterized by two terms:

1. God-breathed

2. profitable

a. for (pros) teaching

(1) positive, 2 Peter 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:17

(2) negative, 2 Timothy 3:2 Pet. 4:3

b. for (pros) rebuking

c. for (pros) correction

d. for (pros) training (child discipline, cf. Hebrews 12:5, Hebrews 12:7, Hebrews 12:8, Hebrews 12:11) in righteousness

e. that (hina) the man of God may be adequate, 2 Peter 3:17

f. equipped for (pros) every good work, 2 Peter 3:17

This term "Scripture" always refers to the OT. The OT functions in "sanctification" but not "justification" (cf. Galatians 3:0). Salvation (justification) is in Christ through faith (cf. 2 Peter 1:14).

These two verses are the twin aspects of the Great commission.

1. make disciples (Matthew 28:19)

2. teach them (Matthew 28:20)

They must go together! Maturity (Christlikeness) is the goal!

"in righteousness" See Special Topic at Titus 2:12.

2 Timothy 3:17 "so that" This is a purpose clause (i.e., hina) which should be translated "in order that."

"adequate" This term is found only here in the NT. It means "complete, capable, proficient, or entirely suited."

"equipped" "Adequate" (artios) and "equipped" (exartizo) are cognate verbs used for equipping something for an assigned task (cf. Ephesians 4:12). It speaks of gifted, functioning maturity (i.e., Christlikeness) which is brought by the Spirit through the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Salvation is brought about by the work of Christ and a faith/trust human response (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15).

"for every good work" What God calls us to (cf. E Philippians 2:0), He equips us for (cf. 2 Timothy 2:21)!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/2-timothy-3.html. 2021.
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