2 Timothy 3

With the opening of chapter 3 the Apostle turns from these instructions, which Sprang out of the dangers which were threatening at that moment, to foretell the conditions which should prevail in the last days. The picture that he presents is a very dark one.

In the first verse he gives us the general character of the last days in two words-"perilous times." We shall do well to bear this warning continually in mind inasmuch as there can be but little doubt that we are now in the last days and spiritual perils are thick around us.

In verses 2 to 5 the characteristics of the men of the last days are brought before us. It is a terrible list, rivalling the list given us in Romans 1: 28 to 31, when the sins of the ancient heathen world are described. The most fearful thing about the list of our chapter is that all this evil is covered under "a form of godliness," that is, the people who are thus described are Christian as far as their claims and outward appearance go. The real power of Christianity they utterly deny.

"Men shall be lovers of their own selves," this is the first item on the list. The second is, "covetous" or "lovers of money." The list ends. "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure are to mark the religious people of the last days, and as for all the evil things mentioned between they indicate the various ways in which the proud, self-sufficient, lawless spirit of fallen man expresses itself-and all this, remember, in people who call themselves followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. If we know anything of the present state of the so-called Christian nations we may well conclude that we have reached the last days.

The attitude of the faithful believer to such is very simple; from such he is enjoined to turn away, rather than go along with them in the hope of reclaiming them. Separation is enjoined for the sixth time in this short passage; the words used being, "shun," "depart," "purge out," "flee." "avoid," and now, "turn away." The present age being one which loves compromise the word, "separation" is naturally not at all popular, still here is that which the word stands for, urged upon us as the commandment of the Lord; and our business is not to reason about it but to obey.

The description of verses 2 to 5 applies generally to the men of the last days. In verse 6 two special classes come into view-first, those who are active deceivers, and second, those who fall an easy prey to their deceits The Apostle's word indicates that there were to be found in his day examples of both these classes. The deceivers, he says, are "of this sort" i.e., of the kind described in verses 2 to 5, and their work is carried on in a semi-private way for they "creep into houses." In the light of this inspired word it is very significant what an amount of house to house propaganda, with considerable success m creeping into houses and beguiling unstable souls, is carried on by the agents of false religious cults, such as Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.

Those deceived are spoken of here as "silly women," doubtless a term of contempt and applicable to that type of person who is always enquiring and yet never reaching any settled convictions, be they man or woman. The reason for their blindness and consequent lack of conviction is their sins and the lusts which bring forth sin. It is a striking fact that this "silly women" class is recruited quite as much from the ranks of the refined and learned as from the rude and illiterate. The rough man of the street generally has pretty definite opinions of some sort; opinions which, right or wrong, he can express with vigour. It is frequently the highly educated who lose themselves in mazes of speculation and finish by accepting some pretentious nonsense which is the very opposite of the truth. Take, for instance, the way in which Christian Science captures its victims almost entirely from the rich and would-be intellectual folk.

We cannot however, shut out from all this the power of Satan, as verses 8 and 9 show us. Jannes and Jambres were evidently leaders of the band of magicians who influenced Pharaoh's court and withstood Moses, working their wonders in league with demons. The deceivers of the last days will be like them, resisting the truth as agents of the devil. God has however, set a limit to their power and ultimately their folly shall be manifest to all. This does not mean that this kind of evil is going to receive an immediate check for, as verse 13 tells us, evil men and seducers are going to wax worse and worse until the end of the age. We are not left in any uncertainty as to what we must expect.

Nor are we left in uncertainty as to our resources in the presence of the evil. They are set before us in our chapter from verse 10 and onwards. Over against the character of the men of the last days the Apostle was inspired to set the character which he bore and which Timothy well knew. What an extraordinary contrast to verses 2 to 5 is presented by verses 10 and 11! Self-love, pride, opposition to and persecution of those that are good, on the one hand; faith, love, patient endurance under persecution, on the other. The one is the full-blown spirit of the world; the other is the spirit of Christ; and it has always been the case that "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit" (Gal. 4: 29). Hence persecution must always be expected by those who "live godly in Christ Jesus," though the form that persecution takes may vary in different countries and in different ages. The type of godliness produced by the law of Moses might excite but little or no opposition whilst godliness "in Christ Jesus" is being hotly resisted.

Paul's "manner of life" was based upon his doctrine; it gave expression to it in practice; hence in verse 10 doctrine comes first. With that doctrine Timothy was well acquainted, and he had but to continue in the truth he had reamed from such a source. He also had the inestimable advantage of having known the Holy Scriptures-the Old Testament, of course-from a child. In these two things Timothy's resource lay.

In these two things lies our resource today, only for us the two practically coalesce into one. Timothy had Paul's doctrine from his own lips, expressed in a "form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1: 13), exemplified and enforced by his wonderful manner of life. We have his doctrine in his inspired epistles preserved in the New Testament, and no form of sound words is more reliable than that. In the New Testament we have also an inspired account of Paul's wonderful life, and also the other apostolic writings. We have therefore in this respect a little more than Timothy had, and we have the Old Testament equally with him, though alas! we may not be nearly as fully acquainted with it or with Paul's doctrine as he was. For us then the great resource is the Holy Scripture in its entirety.

This being so the Holy Spirit seized the occasion to assure us of the inspiration of all Scripture. Its profitableness for various uses all depends upon this fact. Who can teach or reprove or correct or instruct in what is right, in any perfect and absolute sense, but God? The reason why Scripture can do these things is that it is "inspired of God" or "God-breathed."

The claim here unquestionably is that the Book which we know as the Bible is a God-breathed book. Some of our readers might like to enquire-What about the Revised Version of this passage? Our reply is that the Authorized Version is right here and the Revised. is wrong. In the original, according to Greek idiom, the verb "is" does not appear, being understood though not expressed. In English it must appear and the question is as to where it should be? Remarkably enough there are eight other passages in the New Testament of exactly similar construction and every one of them but this the Revisers translated just as the Authorized has translated this. Why make an exception in this case?

{*The R.S. V (1952) text is correct here.}

Hebrews 4: 13 is one of the eight passages. Had the Revisers followed their rendering of 2 Timothy 3: 16 they would have made it, "All things that are naked are also opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do," which simply reduces the solemn statement to a trivial absurdity; hardly more so however than the rendering they have given us of our passage.

The thing that Timothy needed was to be assured that he had in the Scriptures that which was of God and therefore wholly reliable-something on which he could safely take his stand when confronted with the dangers and seductions to be expected in the last days. This is exactly what we too want, and, God be thanked, we have it in the Bible.

In the Scriptures we have an infallible standard because they are God breathed. By that standard we may test all that is presented to us as truth and detect and expose all the deceits of "evil men and seducers" though they grow "worse and worse." We have however more than that in them as verses 15 and 17 show us. They can make us wise unto salvation, though it be only a child who is in question. They can equally perfect the man of God and furnish him unto all good works.

In reading verse 15 we must not confine our thoughts of salvation to that which reaches us at conversion. Salvation in that sense is of course included in the statement, but it reaches out to embrace also the daily salvation which we Christians need in a multitude of ways. The whole Scripture-and particularly the Old Testament, which is here primarily in view-abounds with examples which expose before us the snares and pitfalls which beset us, and the workings of our own hearts, and which reveal to us the dealings of God's grace and government. If enlightened by faith in Christ and giving heed to these warnings, we are made wise to salvation from similar snares which exist in our day.

It is one thing to be preserved from danger; it is another to be thoroughly instructed in what is right. The most devoted of God's servants, the man of God, will find in Scripture that which equips him in the completest manner. By it he may be rendered "perfect" or "complete" and be "thoroughly furnished" or "fully fitted" to every good work. These statements make a tremendous claim for Scripture. They clearly infer that within its covers there is guidance in regard to every work that can be called good, and that the man of God, who of all believers most needs light from on high, needs no light outside that which Scripture affords.

We do not overlook the fact that we need the teaching and illumination of the Holy Spirit if we are to profit by the Scripture. That is stated in other passages. Here we have the nature and power of the Scriptures brought before us. We may well rejoice and thank God that the Bible has been preserved to us and that the Spirit of God abides with us for ever.