Last Days Men
Avoiding Being “Last Days Men”
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
It might be tempting to read this passage and conclude that as time goes back the human race will get increasingly worse, yet in the context, Paul gives as an example of such men (3:8), the magicians that opposed Moses. People like this have always existed. Paul starts this section with the phase, but realize this.
Man is not going to just naturally improve over time and is not morally evolving. Time in and of itself does not necessarily bring any real improvement.
All the sins that have always existed will continue to exist - consequently, the gospel will always be relevant, for men will always desperately need it. Every generation must keep sharing truth (4:2).
Despite various noble movements, such as the civil rights movements and others, men who remain in their sin do not get any nicer or kinder. Everyone battles, even people who are part of the anti-war movement, (and are we not all anti-war?) still go to "war" when it comes to their pet issue.
Real Love and False Love
I think we live in a time when many people would consider themselves far more "loving" than the people who preceded them. Yet this section reveals that everyone "loves", the real question is what are you in love with?
The Ungodly: Lovers of self; Lovers of money; Lovers of pleasure; But not loving toward parents; Unloving - without natural affection; Unloving with their words; Unloving when it comes to "goodness"
The Godly: Lovers of God; People are more important than possessions, as proven by their priorities and schedule; Loving their parents; Keeping their commitments in relationships; Not abandoning children and mates; Loving with their words
"Holding a Form of Godliness": 3:5
Surprise! The people described in the previous verses are religious people - and even profess to be Christians! The term "form" speaks of outward semblance as contrasted to inner essence. They are going through all the outward motions, such as attending worship, observing the Lord's Supper and so on, but Christianity is having no impact upon their personal lives. The term "denied" is a perfect tense participle. These people had denied truth a long time ago, and still were denying it by not allowing it to do its work in their hearts and actions. "It is a strong word, implying knowing and yet decisively rejecting the truth" (Reese, p. 496). "Anyone denies the power of godliness when he professes to honor God, but refuses to obey His commandments" (Lipscomb, p. 230). Instead of believing that the gospel message could change their lives (Romans 1:16), they looked at it only as an outward religious system that might be able to meet more of their selfish desires. "Avoid such men as these": There is no spiritual or eternal profit by being in their company. You will learn nothing positive from them. You will only learn how not to live.
"Weak Women": 3:6
The term "enter" means to "worm their way into houses" (Arndt, p. 263). They work gradually, indirectly and artfully. "Their actions are characterized by a certain stealth and secretiveness" (Hiebert, p. 87). Compare with Galatians 2:4; Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 1:2; Jude 4. "Weak women": An idle or silly woman. Ramsay suggests "society ladies"(Robertson, p. 624). The statement was obviously never mean to be a put down to women in general, rather these false teachers who prey predominately on women with the following qualities: "Weighed down with sins": Overwhelmed by their sins. "Uneasy about the consequences of their sins they are receptive to these false propagandists who come to them with their attractive panaceas"(Hiebert, p. 88). "This type of woman, perhaps neurotic and depressed by the guilt of sin, is easily led astray by religious quacks who may satisfy the desire for some sort of religion without demanding abandonment of sin" (Kent, p. 284). "Lead on by various impulses": That is, driven by mere feelings. People who are driven by feelings are easily manipulated. Drive with your head.
There is a warning here to all. Sin that is not forsaken and hidden will make you vulnerable to false teachers. Guilt that is not resolved by the blood of Christ will seek a solution, and if not God's real solutions, it will often jump for the most outlandish, nonsensical approaches.
Never Able to Arrive: 3:7
"Running after error and at the same time living in sin is not a good way to find the truth" (Greene). They are like the Athenians, who always wanted to hear some new thing (Acts 17:21). Not all knowledge is power. There is a difference between wanting more knowledge and wanting the truth! The attitudes displayed in 3:1-5 will prevent any arrival and contentment with the truth. Such attitudes will continually steer a person around and away from the truth when it starts getting too close.
Progress: Yes and No
On the one hand Paul says, "But they will not make further progress" (3:8), and then on the other hand Paul notes a little later, "But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (3:13). They will continue to make movement, but movement in all the wrong directions. Real progress? No. While these men will make further progress in sin (2 Timothy 2:16; 3:13), this verse notes that error does reach a point in which it does not make further progress among God's own people. "This restriction upon the progress of the apostates must refer to their influence and success in gaining followers" (Kent, p. 286). "For their folly will be obvious to all": "Absurdity and fraud eventually overstep their bounds and thus expose their folly" (Hiebert, p. 90). The term "all" certainly refers to the faithful, but it might also include non-Christians as well. Even the world often sees through the error of various cults and false religions. "As also that of those two came to be": While error may succeed for a while, eventually it is exposed. Jannes and Jambres lost the battle with Moses and the truth! "Not only was there public ridicule to be endured when folly becomes obvious, there is also the Judgment and eternity separated from God to be considered"(Reese, p. 502).
For the faithful there is tremendous encouragement here. Error may always take away a percentage of those who claim to be God's people, but it will not make progress among the truly committed. An error may be quite popular for a period of time, yet I have lived long enough to see many errors facing ridicule and a lack of interest in future generations. In addition, please note that in this section those who teach error only succeed in captivating people who have not spiritually prepared themselves (silly women weighed down with lusts). In that sense error only tended to purify the church and cull out those who would weaken its resolve.
"But You Followed": 3:10-12
Paul does not dwell on those who don't follow the Lord. He certainly does not become preoccupied with them; rather he focuses in on men like Timothy who followed the Lord, even to the point of persecution."Purpose": This is His aim in life, the sense of purpose that dominated his whole life. "That steadfast purpose in Paul to devote his life unceasingly to the furtherance of the Gospel" (Hiebert, p. 92). See Acts 26:19-20; 20:24. "Faith": This is unswerving fidelity to God and trust in God's word (Lipscomb, p. 233). "It might speak of faithfulness in our every day contact with people, being a person who does what he promises people he will do" (Reese, p. 504)."Patience": "It is the ability not to lose our patience when other people are foolish, not to grow irritated when people seem unteachable. It is the ability to put up with perversity, blindness, and ingratitude on the part of others and still to remain gracious, and still to toil on" (Reese, p. 504). "Paul's work did not always receive a kindly reception, therefore in his dealings with opposers and erring brethren, Timothy had seen Paul's longsuffering" (Hiebert, p. 93)."Love": This is a beautiful love for souls (2 Corinthians 12:15; John 13:34; 1 John 3:16). Timothy had this same love (Philippians 2:19-20). "His love enabled him to win many for whom others showed no concern, and made him rise above jealousy and strife" (Kent, p. 287)."Perseverance": While patience is the temper that does not easily succumb under suffering, perseverance is the self-restraint that does not hastily retaliate a wrong. Patience is opposed to cowardice and despondency while longsuffering is opposed to wrath and revenge. "Such an attitude caused Paul to remain firm under the most discouraging circumstances, never capitulating to self-pity or despair"(Kent, p. 287).
Rescued out of all of them: 3:11
This is encouraging to Timothy who would also suffer. "Surely no danger, no trouble, however great, need appall you. You know what I have gone through, yet in all, the Lord was with me and has helped me through. Be sure He will be with you too!" (Reese, p. 506). "In every instance the Lord protected and delivered. Now Paul is persecuted with no hope of release, but his confidence in divine deliverance is still unshaken (4:18). Deliverance, however, does not always mean escape. Of far greater significance is the delivering power of God in preventing eternal harm from being done to His children by wicked men. See 2 Timothy 4:18" (Kent, p. 288). The Lord does not prevent us from suffering, but will deliver the faithful. At times this deliverance is out of death, and at other times this deliverance is by means of death. Compare with Romans 8:38-39. Even while suffering, Paul knew that Jesus was caring for him.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017