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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

2 Timothy 3



Verses 1-17


2 Timothy 3:1

But know this for this know also, A.V.; grievous for perilous, A.V. Grievous times ( καιροὶ χαλεποί). "Grievous" is not a very good rendering. "Perilous," though in some contexts it is a right rendering, is a little too restricted here. "Difficult," "trying," "uneasy," or the like, is nearer the sense. They are times when a Christian hardly knows which way to turn or what to do. He has to live under a constant sense of hindrance and difficulty of one sort or another.

2 Timothy 3:2

Self for their own selves, A.V.; lovers of money for covetous, A.V.; boastful for boasters, A.V.; haughty for proud, A.V.; railers for blasphemers, A.V. Men ( οἱἄνθρωποι); men in general, the bulk of men in the Church; for he is speaking, not of the world at large, but of professing Christians. Lovers of self ( φίλαυτοι); only here in the New Testament, and not found in the LXX.; but used by Aristotle in a striking passage (quoted by Alford), where he distinguishes those who are φίλαυτοι in a good sense, and those who are justly blamed for being φίλαυτοι, i.e. selfish and greedy. The Christian character is exactly the opposite (see 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 13:5). Lovers of money ( φιλάργυροι); elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 16:14, though not uncommon in classical Greek; φιλαργυρία is found in 1 Timothy 6:10. Boastful ( ἀλάζονες); as Romans 1:30, and in classical Greek. It the derivation of the word is ἄλη, wandering, we may compare the περιερχόμενοι of Acts 9:13, "vagabond Jews." Such vagabonds were usually boasters. Hence ἀλαζών came to mean "a boaster." Haughty, railers. υπερηφανία and βλασφημία are coupled together in Mark 7:22; and ὑπερηφάνους and ἀλάζονας in Romans 1:30. In the New Testament βλάσφημος and βλασφημία are most commonly used of evil speaking against God and holy things; but not always (see Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:4). Here apparently it means generally "evil speakers." Unthankful ( ἀχάριστοι); as Luke 6:35. Found occasionally in the LXX., and common in classical Greek. The ingratitude which they showed to their parents was a part of their general character. We ought to take special note of this passive sin—the not being thankful for good received from God and man. Unholy ( ἀνόσιοι); as 1 Timothy 1:9 (where see note).

2 Timothy 3:3

Implacable for truce breakers, A.V.; slanderers for false accusers, A.V.; without self-control for incontinent, A.V.; no lovers of good for despisers of those that are good, A.V. Without natural affection ( ἄστοργοι); as in Romans 1:31, where in the T.R. it is coupled with ἄσπονδοι, as here. The verb στέργω is "to love," used primarily of the natural affection of parents to their children and children to their parents. And στοργή is that natural love. These persons were without this στοργή, of which Plato says, "A child loves his parents, and is loved by them;" and so, according to St. Paul's judgment in 1 Timothy 5:8, were "worse than infidels." Implacable ( ἄσπονδοι); only here according to the R.T., not at all in the LXX., but frequent in classical Greek. σπονδή was a solemn truce made over a libation to the gods. ἁσπονδος at first merely expresses that anything was done, or any person was left, without such a truce. But, in a secondary sense, applied to a war, it meant an internecine war admitting of no truce; and thence, as here, applied to a person, it means "implacable," one who will make no truce or treaty with his enemy. The sense "truce breakers" is not justified by any example. Slanderers ( διάβολοι); as 1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus 2:3. The arch-slanderer is ὁ διάβολος, the devil, "the accuser of the brethren ( ὁ κατήγορυς τῶν ἀδελφῶν)" (Revelation 12:10; see John 6:70). Without self-control ( ἀκρατεῖς); here only in the New Testament, not in the LXX. but frequent in classical Greek, in the sense of intemperate in the pursuit or use of anything, e.g. money, the tongue, pleasure, the appetite, etc., which are put in the genitive case. Used absolutely it means generally "without self-control, as here rendered in the R.V. The A.V. "incontinent" expresses only one part of the meaning (see ἀκρασία, Matthew 23:25). Fierce (from ferns, wild, savage); ἀνήμεροι; only here in the New Testament, and not found in the LXX., but frequent in the Greek tragedians and others, of persons, countries, plants, etc.; e.g. "Beware of the Chalubes, for they are savage ( ἀνήμεροι), and cannot be approached by strangers". It corresponds with ἀνελεήμονες, unmerciful (Romans 1:31). No lovers of good ( ἀφιλάγαθοι); only here in the New Testament, and not at all in the LXX. or in classical Greek. But φιλάγαθος is found in Wis. 7:22, and in Aristotle, in the sense of "lovers of that which is good;" and in Titus 1:8. The R.V. seems therefore to be right in rendering here "no lovers of good," rather than as the A.V. "despisers of those which are good," after the Vulgate and the new version of Sanctes Pagninus.

2 Timothy 3:4

Headstrong for heady, A.V.; puffed up for high minded, A.V.; pleasure for pleasures, A.V.; rather for more, A.V. Traitors ( προδόται); Luke 6:16; Acts 7:52. It does not mean traitors to their king or country, but generally betrayers of the persons who trust in them, and of the cause of the trust committed to them; perhaps specially, as Bishop Ellicott suggests, of their brethren in times of persecution. Headstrong ( προπετεῖς); as in Acts 19:36. Neither "heady" nor "headstrong" gives the exact meaning of προπετής, which is "rash," "hasty," "headlong." "Headstrong" rather denotes obstinacy which will not be influenced by wise advice, but προπετής is the person who acts from impulse, without considering consequences, or weighing principles. Puffed up ( τετυφωμένοι); see 1 Timothy 3:6, note. Lovers of pleasure ( φιλήδονοι); only here in the New Testament, and not found in the LXX., but occasionally in classical Greek. "Fond of pleasure" (Liddell and Scott). It is used here as an antithesis to lovers of God ( φιλόθεοι), which also occurs only here either in the New Testament or the LXX., but is used by Aristotle. Philo, quoted by Bishop Ellicott (from Wetstein), has exactly the same contrast: φιλήδονονμᾶλλον ἢφιλόθεον. It looks as if the men spoken of claimed to be φιλόθεοι. A somewhat similar paronomasia occurs in Isaiah 5:7, where הפַשְׂםִ is opposed to טפָשְׁםִ, and הקָעָץְ to הקָדָץְ.

2 Timothy 3:5

Holding for having, A.V.; hating denied for denyiny, A.V.; these also for such, A.V. Holding ( ἔχοντες). There is no reason to change "having." Perhaps "indeed" after "having" would give the emphasis conveyed by ἔχοντες preceding the object. A form ( μόρφωσιν). It should be the form; i.e. "the outward semblance," i.q. μόρφωμα, form, shape, figure (Liddell and Scott), here in contrast with δύναμις, the reality. In Romans 2:20, the only other place in the New Testament where μόρφωσις occurs, there is no contrast, and so it has the sense of a "true sketch" or "delineation." Having denied ( ἠρνημένοι); possibly more correct than the A.V. "denying," though the difference, if any, is very slight. The meaning is that by their life and character and conversation they gave the lie to their Christian profession. Christianity with them was an outward form, not an inward living power of godliness. From these also does not give the sense at all clearly. The A.V. does, though it omits the καὶ, which is not wanted in English. In the Greek it marks an additional circumstance in the case of those of whom he is speaking, viz. that they are to be turned away from as hopeless. Turn away ( ἀποτρέπου); only here in the New Testament, or, at least in the middle voice, in the LXX.; but frequent in classical Greek in different senses. St. Paul uses ἐκτρέπομενος in the same sense in 1 Timothy 6:20. "This command shows that the apostle treats the symptoms of the last times as in some respects present" (Alford). With this catena of epithets comp. Romans 1:29-31; and, though of an opposite character, the string of adjectives in Wis. 7:22, 23.

2 Timothy 3:6

These for this sort, A.V.; that for which, A.V.; take for lead, A.V.; by for with, A.V. Creep into ( ἐνδύνοντες); here only in the New Testament. It has the sense of "sneaking into," "insinuating themselves into," as in Xenophon, 'Cyrop.,' 2. 1. 13. Take captive ( αἰχμαλωτεύοντες); as in Ephesians 4:3. The other form, αἰχμαλωτίζοντες which is that of the R.T., is in Luke 21:24; Romans 7:23; 2 Corinthians 10:5. The word well describes the blind surrender of the will and conscience to such crafty teachers. Silly women ( τὰ γυναικάρια, diminutive of γυνή); nowhere else in the New Testament or LXX., but is used by some late Greek authors. It is a term of contempt—he will not call them γυναῖκας—they are only γυναικάρια. In the passages quoted by Alford from Irenaeus and Epiphanius, the women made use of by the later Gnostics are called γυναικάρια. See, too, the striking quotation in the same note from Jerome, specifying by name the women whom Nicolas of Antioch, Marcion, Montanus, and others employed as their instruments in spreading their abominable heresies. So true is St. Paul's forecast in the text. Laden with sins ( σεσωρευμένα ἁμαρτίαις); elsewhere only in Romans 12:20, "heap coals of fire." It occurs in Aristotle and other Greek writers in the sense of heaping one thing upon another, and heaping up anything with something else. The last is the sense in which it is here used. It seems to convey the idea of passive helplessness. Led away ( ἀγόμενα); with a strong intimation of unresisting weakness. Lusts ( ἐπιθυμίαις); all kinds of carnal and selfish desires (see Matthew 4:19; John 8:44; Romans 1:24; Romans 6:12; Romans 7:7, Romans 7:8; Galatians 5:24; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Timothy 4:3 : Titus 2:12; fit. 3; 1 Peter 1:14, etc.; 2 Peter 2:18; 1 John 2:16, etc.).

2 Timothy 3:7

Ever learning, etc. This is the crowning feature of this powerful sketch of those "silly women," whose thoughts are busied about religion without their affections being reached or their principles being influenced by it. They are always beating about the bush, but they never get possession of the blessed and saving truth of the gospel of God. Their own selfish inclinations, and not the grace of God, continue to be the motive power with them.

2 Timothy 3:8

And like for now, A.V.; withstand for resist, A.V.; corrupted in mind for of corrupt minds, A.V. And; but would be better. Jannes and Jambres; the traditional names of the magicians who opposed Moses; and, if Origen can be trusted, there was an apocryphal book called by their names. But Theodoret ascribes their names to an unwritten Jewish tradition. Their names are found in the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:22; and are also mentioned, in conjunction with Moses, with some variation in the name of Jambres, by Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' Exodus 31:2), who probably got his information from a work of Sergius Paulus off magic, of which the materials were furnished by Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:6-8). Withstood ( ἀντέστησαν); the same word as is used of Elymas in Acts 13:8 (so Acts 4:15 and elsewhere). Corrupted in mind ( κατεφθαρμένα τὸν νοῦν); elsewhere only in 2 Peter 2:12, in the sense of" perishing," being "utterly destroyed," which is the proper meaning of καταφθείρομαι Here in a moral sense κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν means men whose understanding is gone, and perished, as διεφθαρμένος τὴν ἀκοήν means one whose hearing has perished—who is deaf. In 1 Timothy 6:5 St. Paul uses the more common διεφθαρμένων. Reprobate ( ἀδόκιμα); as Titus 1:16, and elsewhere frequently in St. Paul's Epistles. It is just the contrary to δόκιμος (2 Timothy 2:15, note).

2 Timothy 3:9

Evident for manifest, A.V.; came to be for was, A.V. Shall proceed ( προκόψουσιν); as 2 Timothy 2:16 (where see note) and 2 Timothy 2:13. The apostle's meaning here is, as explained by the example of the magicians, that heresies shall not prevail against the truth. ἐπὶ πλεῖον means beyond the point indicated in his description of their future progressive evil. They would "proceed further in ungodliness," as he said in 2 Timothy 2:16, but not up to the point of destroying the gospel, as history has shown. The various forms of Gnosticism have perished. The gospel remains. As theirs also came to be (Exodus 8:18, Exodus 8:19). Surely the A.V. "was" is better.

2 Timothy 3:10

Didst follow my teaching for hast fully known my doctrine, A.V. and T.R.; conduct for manner of life, A.V.; love for charity, A.V. Didst follow ( παρηκολούθησας, which is the R.T. for παρηκολούθηκας, in the perfect, which is the T.R.). The evidence for the two readings is nicely balanced. But St. Paul uses the perfect in l Timothy 2 Timothy 4:6 (where see note), and it seems highly improbable that he here used the aorist in order to convey a rebuff to Timothy by insinuating that he had once followed, but that he was doing so no longer. The sentence, "thou didst follow," etc., is singularly insipid. The A.V. "thou hast fully known" gives the sense fully and clearly. Timothy had fully known St. Paul's whole career, partly from what he had heard, and partly from what he had been an eyewitness of. My teaching. How different from that of those impostors! Conduct ( ἀγωγῇ); here only in the New Testament, but found in the LXX. in Esther 2:20 ( τὴν ἀγωγὴν αὐτῆς, "her manner of life"—her behaviour towards Mordecai, where there is nothing to answer to it in the Hebrew text); 2 Macc 4:16 ( τὰς ἀγωγάς); 6:8; 11:24. Aristotle uses ἀγωγή for "conduct," or "mode of life" ('Ethics'), and Polybius (4:74, 14), quoted by Alford, has ἀγωγὴ and ἀγωγαὶ τοῦ βίου, "way" or "manner of life." The A.V. "manner of life" is a very good rendering. Purpose ( πρόθεσιν); that which a person sets before him as the end to be attained (Acts 11:23; Acts 27:13; 2Ma Acts 3:8; and in Aristotle, Polybius, and others). Used often of God's eternal purpose, as e.g. 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:11, etc. In enumerating these and the following," faith, long suffering, charity, and patience," St. Paul doubtless had in view, not self-glorification, which was wholly alien to his earnest, self-denying character, but the mention of those qualities which he saw were most needed by Timothy. Long suffering ( τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ); as 1 Timothy 1:16, of the long suffering of Jesus Christ towards himself, and elsewhere frequently of human patience and forbearance towards others. Patience ( τῇ ὑπομονῇ). This is exercised in the patient endurance of afflictions for Christ's sake. It is coupled, as here, with μακροθυμία, long suffering, in Colossians 1:11.

2 Timothy 3:11

Suffering for afflictions, A.V.; what things befell me for which came unto me, A.V.; and for but, A.V. Persecutions ( διωγμοῖς); as Matthew 13:21; Acts 8:1; Acts 13:50; 2 Corinthians 12:10, etc. Sufferings ( τοῖς παθήμασιν); usually so rendered in the A.V. (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24. etc.); rendered "afflictions" in Hebrews 10:32; 1 Peter 5:9. At Antioch; in Pisidia (Acts 13:14). For an account of the persecutions encountered by St. Paul at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, see Acts 13:1-52., 14. It was at St. Paul's second, or rather third, visit to Lystra that he chose Timothy for his companion (Acts 16:1-3). I endured ( ὑπενεγκα); not simply "suffered," but "underwent," willingly and firmly suffered (see 1 Peter 2:19). As regards the construction, the antecedent to οἷα is παθήμασιν, and the difference between ἁ and οἷα is that ἁ would limit the reference to the actual παθήματα at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, but οἷα extends the reference to all similar sufferings. The proper English rendering is "such as befell me." But the clause at the end of the sentence should be rendered "what great persecutions I endured." As Bengel notes, " οἷος demonstrat rei gravitatem," and οἷους preceding the substantive with which it agrees ( διώγμους), cannot be construed the same as οἷα the relative. The sentence, οἵους διώγμους ὑπένεγκα, is an amplification of the preceding διώγμοις: "Thou hast fully known my persecutions…viz. what great persecutions I endured." And out of them all, etc. This is added for Timothy's encouragement, that he might stand fast in the face of persecutions and sufferings. Delivered me ( με ἐῤῥύσατο). Had the apostle in his mind the clause in the Lord's Prayer, "Deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13)? Comp. 2 Timothy 4:18, where the resemblance is still more striking. Observe the testimony to Christ's omnipotence in this ascription to him, in both passages, of St. Paul's deliverance (comp. Acts 18:10).

2 Timothy 3:12

Would for will, A.V. Yea and all ( καὶ πάντες δὲ). As though he had said. "Mine is not a solitary example of a servant of God being persecuted; it is the common lot of all who will live godly in Christ Jesus" (comp. John 15:20 and 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:12, 1 Peter 4:13).

2 Timothy 3:13

Impostors for seducers, A.V. Evil men ( πονηροί). In 2 Timothy 4:18 it is παντὸς ἕργου πονηροῦ. The adjective is applied indifferently to persons and things—evil men, evil servants, evil persons, evil generation, evil spirits, etc., and evil deeds, evil fruits, evil eye, evil works, etc. Satan, the embodiment of evil, is ὁ πονηρός. Impostors ( γόντες); only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek γόης is a juggler, a cheat, an enchanter. St. Paul still had the Egyptian magicians in his mind. Shall wax worse and worse ( προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον); see above, 2 Timothy 4:9, note.

2 Timothy 3:14

Abide for continue, A.V. Abide thou, etc. Be not like these juggling heretics, blown about by every wind of doctrine, and always seeking some new thing, but abide in the old truths which thou hast learnt from thy childhood. Hast been assured of ( ἐπιστώθης); only here in the New Testament, but found in 2Ma 7:24 and 1 Kings 1:36. In classical Greek it has the same sense as here (among others), "to be made sure of a thing." Of whom thou hast learned them ( παρὰ τίνος ἔμαθες, or, according to another reading of nearly equal authority, παρὰ τίνων). If τίνος is the right reading, it must refer either to God or to St. Paul. In favour of its referring to God is the expression in the Prophet Isaiah commented upon by our Lord in John 6:45, where παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς answers to παρὰ τίνος; the promise concerning the Comforter, "He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26, etc.); and the very similar reasoning of St. John, when he is exhorting his "little children" to stand fast in the faith, in spite of those that seduced them: "Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning;" for "the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,…and even as it hath taught yon, abide in him" (1 John 2:24-28); and other similar passages. There would obviously be great force in reminding Timothy that he had received the gospel under the immediate teaching of the Holy Spirit, and that it would be a shameful thing for him to turn aside under the influence of those impostors. If τίνων does not refer to God, it must refer to St. Paul. If, on the other hand, τίνων is the true reading (which is less probable), it must refer to Lois and Eunice, which seems rather feeble.

2 Timothy 3:15

Babe for child, A.V.; sacred writings for Holy Scriptures, A.V. And that from a babe, etc. Another consideration urged as a reason for standing fast. He was no novice in the Scriptures. His mother and grandmother had been careful to imbue him with that sacred literature which should make him wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, from his very earliest years. Surely he would not throw away such a precious advantage. The sacred writings ( τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα); literally, the holy letters, or learning. An ordinarily educated child learns γράμματα (John 7:15), in contradistinction to the uneducated, who are ἀγράμματοι (Acts 4:13). But Timothy had learnt τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα, whose excellence is described in the next verse.

2 Timothy 3:16

Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, A.V.; teaching for doctrine, A.V.; which is in for in, A.V. Every Scripture, etc. There are two ways of construing this important passage: (A) As in the A.V., in which θεόπνευστος is part of the predicate coupled by καὶ with the following ὠφέλιμος; (B) as in the R.V., where θεόπνευστος is part of the subject (as πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθόν, "every good work," 2 Corinthians 9:8, and elsewhere); and the following καὶ is ascensive, and to be rendered "is also." Commentators are pretty equally divided, though the older ones (as Origen, Jerome (Vulgate), the versions) mostly adopt (B). In favour of (A), however, it may be said

2 Timothy 3:17

Complete for perfect, A.V.; furnished completely for throughly furnished, A.V.; every good work for all good works, A.V. Complete ( ἄρτιος); only here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek. "Complete, perfect of its kind" (Liddell and Scott). Furnished completely ( ἐξηρτισμένος, containing the same root as ἄρτιος); elsewhere in the New Testament only in Acts 21:5 in the sense of "completing" a term of days. It is nearly synonymous with καταρτίζω (Ma Acts 21:16; Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 5:10). In late classical Greek ἐξαρτίζω means, as here, "to equip fully." As regards the question whether the man of God is restricted in its meaning to the minister of Christ, or comprehends all Christians, two things seem to decide in favour of the former: the one that "the man of God" is in the Old Testament invariably applied to prophets in the immediate service of God (see 1 Timothy 6:11, note); the other that in 1 Timothy 6:11 it undoubtedly refers to Timothy in his character of chief pastor of the Church, and that here too the whole force of the description of the uses and excellence of Holy Scripture is brought to bear upon the exhortations in 1 Timothy 6:14, "Continue thou in the things which thou hast heard," addressed to Timothy as the Bishop of the Ephesian Church (see, too, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, where it is abundantly clear that all that precedes was intended to bear directly upon Timothy's faithful and vigorous discharge of his office as an evangelist).


2 Timothy 3:1-17

Holy Scripture the strength of the man of God.

There is marvellous force in the application to the Christian bishop and evangelist of the title THE MAN OF God When we remember the course of faithful and untiring labour, and patient unflinching suffering, which was run by those to whom alone this title was given in the Old Testament—Moses and Samuel and Elijah, and other prophets of God—we feel at once that the application of this title to the ministers of Christ under the New Testament teaches them with incisive power that the like spirit must be found in them if they are worthy to be classed with the men of God. Evidently the "man of God" must not be afraid of a man that shall die, or a son of man which shall be made as grass; he must not shrink from bearing witness for God before an unbelieving and gainsaying world; he must not be a lover of ease or pleasure, or of the praise of men; he must not be greedy of gain or covetous of reward; he must not be a man of strife and brawls, but a man of love and peace; he must be zealous for God's honour and glory; he must be a staunch upholder of God's truth against errors and false doctrines; and he must be a man of prayer, and very devout towards God; for otherwise how shall he be called a "man of God"? But how shall this unearthly character be maintained? When those perilous times are at their height in which all the natural affections of men seem to be blighted, and all the natural safeguards against the growth of evil seem to be overborne by the floods of ungodliness, when a proud boasting spirit, as empty as it is pretentious, carries men into all kinds of unseemly action, and when religion itself, far from guiding men in holy paths, degenerates into hypocrisy and faction and opposition to that which is good, how shall the man of God maintain his integrity, abide in the true doctrine of God, and hold his own against the teachers of lies, and the seducers of weak and silly souls? God has provided him with an all-sufficient weapon of attack and of defence. In those holy Scriptures which were given by inspiration of God, the man of God finds a spiritual furniture suitable forevery need. By the study of it he acquires fresh wisdom for his task, and by its spirit his own spirit is nourished and refreshed. In the light of its bright truth the pernicious errors of seducers are exposed; by its counsels waverers are established, the weak are strengthened, the crooked are set straight again. Conversant with its heavenly doctrine, the man of God is never at a loss for a word of rebuke, of comfort, or exhortation. And while, on the one hand, he is able to refute every new heresy that arises, by reference to the unchanging Word of God, on the other he daily acquires some new insight into the depths of revelation for his own edification and that of others. He finds that the manifold and many-sided wisdom of the Scriptures is as able to cope with the intellectual difficulties of the nineteenth century as it was with the Gnosticism of the East in the first centuries of Christianity. And so, while some turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables, the man of God finds his faith daily strengthening and increased, and looks forward fearlessly to the time when the folly of the sceptic shall be evident to all men, and the truth of God's Word shall be vindicated before the whole creation at the appearing of Jesus Christ in the glory of his kingdom.


2 Timothy 3:1

The perilous times of the apostasy.

The apostle next proceeds to predict a further progress in error, with the view of putting Timothy on his guard and sharpening his diligence.

I. THE PERIOD OF THIS APOSTASY. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."

1. The language does not point to the closing days of the Christian dispensation, for it resembles the language of the Apostle John—"It is the last time"—where the present is undoubtedly referred to, and not the future.

2. The contextual injunction, "from such turn away," applies to the present rather that, to a far distant future. The Christian Church has in all ages shown a condition of things only too closely represented by the moral picture in the context. The apostle implies that there were "vessels of dishonour" in the "large house" in his own day, such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, as well as "vessels unto honour."

3. The language has a wide latitude, covering the whole space of the Christian dispensation. The evil had begun to work in the age of Timothy, but the worst development of anti-Christian apostasy will be in the closing days of the dispensation. The "days of the Messiah" are often alluded to in the Hebrew prophets as "in the last days;" literally, "the end of days" (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1).


1. It will be a time of damager to the faith of God's people.

2. It will be a time of peril to their lives.

3. It will be a time of abounding wickedness as well as error.—T.C.

2 Timothy 3:2-5

Characteristics of the apostasy.

The doctrinal degeneracy is marked by a widespread moral decay. The apostle, after his usual manner, groups the characters into classes for more distinct consideration.

I. THE SELFISH CLASS. "For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money." Selfishness heads the dreary list. It is regarded by many theologians as the root principle of all sin. As the opposite of love, however, is not selfishness, but hatred, this position cannot be maintained. Yet selfishness is, above all things, the hard represser of love. The "love of money" has been called "the daughter of selfishness."

II. THE CLASS OF ARROGANT BOASTERS. "Boasters, arrogant, railers." The first are ostentatious in speech; the second, full of pride and contempt for others; the third are full of insults to men.

III. THE CLASS WHICH IS DEFIANTLY REGARDLESS OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS. "Disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable." He who is regardless of filial duty will he ungrateful to others, and he that is ungrateful will have no regard for holiness of character; for he will keep covenant with no one who disregards his parent or his benefactor.

IV. THE CLASS DISTINGUISHED BY RECKLESS AND PASSIONATE DEFIANCE OF GOOD. "Slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors." The first term points to the disposition to bring the good down to the level of the base; the second, to the absence of all restraint from law, human or Divine; the third, to the savage temper that delights in cruelty; the fourth, to the spirit that "loves darkness rather than light;" the fifth, to the class of men who could betray their Christian brethren to their persecutors, or behave falsely in any of their existing relationships.

V. THE CLASS OF HEADY AND CONCEITED ACTORS. "Headstrong, puffed up." Rashness and conceit are often allied.

VI. THE CLASS OF PLEASURE SEEKERS. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." It represents a dissipated class under a Christian profession, who have no serious pursuits, and prefer the friendship of the world to the friendship of God.

Thus, the long catalogue of moral enormity developed by the apostasy began with "the love of self," and ends with "the love of pleasure," to the utter exclusion, first and last, of the "love of God."—T.C.

2 Timothy 3:5

The relation of the apostasy to the Christian profession

I. THE EXTERNAL FORM OF PIETY IS TO EXIST UNDER THE APOSTASY. "Having a form of godliness." The picture is that of a Christianized paganism in the Church. There was to be a scrupulous regard for all ritualistic regularity; an outward show of devoutness under strict forms, and the mask of godliness over all to cover a heart in secret enslaved by sin.

II. THERE WILL BE A REPUDIATION OF REAL GODLINESS. "But denying the power thereof."

1. The power of godliness consists in love to God and love to our neighbour. These were both repudiated. The class referred to were strangers to experimental religion, which they dishonoured by saying one thing with their lips and another thing with their lives.

2. Such a repudiation involves graver sin and deeper condemnation than if they had never known the truth or heard of the way of life.

III. THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS IN THE APOSTASY. "From such turn away." We ought to withdraw from their fellowship, avoid all familiarity with them, hold no terms with the enemies of Christ and his kingdom.—T.C.

2 Timothy 3:6, 2 Timothy 3:7

The insidiously proselytizing habits of these apostates.

I. THE ARTS OF THE SEDUCERS. "For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women."

1. They were of a most proselytizing spirit. Like the Pharisees, they would compass sea and land to make one proselyte.

2. They practised unworthy arts. They wormed their way insidiously into the confidence of families. There was a deceitful and tricky method of gaining access to their victims.

3. They used their stratagems to snare women rather than men. They knew that women, as the weaker vessels, were more accessible to soft blandishments and specious pretences of piety. They counted upon an accession of female converts as, above all things, most contributing to the success of their propaganda.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THEIR VICTIMS. "Silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." These victims of their specious arts were morally and intellectually prepared for them.

1. They were, morally, under the sway of evil passions and desires, full, no doubt, of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." Such women would welcome a short cut to peace, or any reconciliation between religion and worldliness that could be devised by the arts of apostasy. The words seem to point to the weight of former sins burdening the conscience, from which they hoped to be released under easier conditions than those prescribed by the gospel.

2. They were incapable, through their sinful life, of attaining a true knowledge of the truth. They were" silly women," with light, frivolous, unbalanced judgments; "ever learning"—with a morbid love of novelties in religion, an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries promised by their false guides, and a constant craving for an adaptation of doctrinal views to their evil desires—"and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Because their hearts had become indurated through an evil life, and so made inaccessible to the truth.—T.C.

2 Timothy 3:8, 2 Timothy 3:9

The character and aims of the fake teachers.

The apostle vividly depicts their attitude toward the truth.

I. THEY HAVE THEIR HISTORICAL PROTOTYPES. "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth."

1. These were two Egyptian magicians, called "wise men and sorcerers" (Exodus 7:11-22), who appeared at the court of Pharaoh to resist the wonder working power of Moses. Their names do not occur in the Old Testament, but they are found in the Targum of Jonathan, and are also quoted by heathen writers. What was more natural than that the apostle should quote to Timothy one of the two traditions of his country?

2. These magicians, reported to have been sons of Balaam, were thwarted in their arts by the superior power that worked through Moses. The parallel was therefore in a double sense apt.


1. They may have used occult arts like their Egyptian prototypes to attract disciples; for the word "seducers," applied to them in the context (2 Timothy 3:13), has this signification. The claim to possess such powers was not unusual in that day (Acts 8:9-24; Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:18-20).

2. But, like Elymas, they withstood the truth of the gospel, by representing themselves as possessing as much authority as the apostle himself , and thus neutralizing its exclusive claims. They subverted the hopes of the gospel.

III. THE EXPLANATION OF THEIR ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE. "Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."

1. Corrupt affections depraved their mental judgments. Even that, mind, which is the medium through which the Holy Spirit makes his communications to man, had become darkened. "A corrupt head, a corrupt heart, and a vicious life, usually accompany each other."

2. The doctrines of these teachers had been tested and discovered to be worthless, like silver which was to be rejected by man. They had nothing but the name in common with the Christian faith.

IV. THE CHECK THAT WOULD BE GIVEN TO THEIR PROGRESS. "But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be evident to all men, as theirs also came to be." This passage seems opposed to 2 Timothy 2:16, where it is said that "they shall advance to more ungodliness;" but in that place

2 Timothy 3:10-12

The career of the apostle commended as an example to his youthful disciple.

The apostle recalls to Timothy's mind the facts of his own checkered career. partly to mark the contrast between his life and that of the false teachers, partly to stimulate Timothy to like faithfulness and endurance.

I. IT IS GOOD FOR YOUNG MINISTERS TO OBSERVE AND FOLLOW THE WAYS OF THEIR ELDER BRETHREN. "But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith."

1. They will thus be stimulated to greater effort.

2. They will be guided by wiser counsels.

3. They will be guarded against many mistakes.

4. They will be better able to endure persecutions and trials.


1. It glorifies God's grace. The apostle always made this grace the supreme factor in his success. "By, the grace of God I am what I am; Yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

2. It is an encouragement to other ministers to labour with equal self-denial.

III. THE METHOD OF THE APOSTLE'S MINISTRY AND LIFE. "My teaching," in allusion less to his doctrine than to his manner of giving instruction; "conduct," or manner of life, in allusion to "my ways which be in Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:17); "purpose," for he remained true to the spiritual objects of his life, and, above all, to his mission to the Gentiles; "faith," in allusion to his belief in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, linked with "long suffering" toward his bitter adversaries, whom he longed to lead into truth—"the faith and the patience" being necessary to the inheritance of the promises (Hebrews 6:12); "love," which seemed never to fail, "believing all things, bearing all things, hoping all things;" linked with "endurance," as before (1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 2:2), because it is the sustaining element of this endurance; "persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch," in Pisidia, whence he was expelled by the Jews; "at Iconium," where both Jews and Gentiles made an assault upon him; "at Lystra," where he was stoned and left for dead—the three cities being named because of Timothy's intimate acquaintance with them, the apostle's sufferings there being the earliest in his missionary life. He gratefully records his deliverance out of all his persecutions by the good hand of the Lord.

IV. THE ATTITUDE OF THE WORLD TOWARD GODLINESS. "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

1. The persons thus described.

2. Their lot in this life. "Shall suffer persecution."

2 Timothy 3:13

The downward course of seducers.

The apostle connects the persecution with the ways of evil men, while he warns Timothy against them.

I. THEIR DEGENERATE COURSE. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse."

1. The persons here described.

(a) They are those in contrast with the men who "would live godly in Christ Jesus."

(b) They are not simply sinners as all men are by nature and practice, but rather wicked men who wear a mask of godliness, yet are full of malice against the saints of God.

2. They shall go from bad to worse—both in principle and in practice, in the use of their seductive arts and in the gradual depravation of their character. There is nothing to arrest their downward course; there is no grace in the heart; the principles of evil will work with unchecked energy in their natures.

II. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS DEGENERACY. "Deceiving and being deceived."

1. The method of mental and moral debasement. Let men repeat falsities with sufficient frequency and deliberateness, and they will come by and by to believe them themselves. They begin by deceiving others. They cannot deceive God nor the elect, but by their good words and fair speeches, their lying wonders and their specious arts, they may seduce the simple into error.

2. The retribution that follows upon deception is self-deception. Such deceivers have become sincere in their error, because they have blinded their spiritual eyesight; but now they see truth as error, and error as truth.—T.C.

2 Timothy 3:14, 2 Timothy 3:15

An admonition to Timothy to abide in the ways of truth.

Amidst all the seductions of the false teachers, the apostle urges Timothy to bold fast the doctrines which he had received in his early training.

I. THE DUTY AND NECESSITY OF HOLDING FAST BY THE DIVINE VERITIES. "But do thou continue in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of."

1. The strength and comfort of an undoubting persuasion. Timothy was not to be moved away from the doctrines of the gospel either by persecutions or seductive arts. He found his strength and peace in them.

2. He had really learned them, unlike those ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; for he had an experimental knowledge of them. He was, besides, fully assured of them, with "the full assurance of understanding." It is a very unbecoming attitude for a teacher of others to be sceptical in his opinions. He ought to affirm with certainty, and if he is fully assured, he has no right to surrender the truth.

II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CERTAINTY AND ASSURANCE. "Knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou bast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

1. He had been taught sound doctrine by Lois and Eunice. It is, therefore, proper for parents to instruct children in doctrine from their earliest days.

2. He had been trained from his very infancy in the Holy Scriptures. It was, therefore, a right thing for him to be instructed in the Old Testament, since it was all the Scripture he could have had in his childhood.

3. The Scripture he studied was sufficient to lead him to Christ. "Through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17

The authority and utility of the Scriptures.

The apostle is led to emphasize the value of the Scriptures generally for the purposes of spiritual life.

I. THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE. "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable."

1. This does not signify that there may be Scripture not divinely inspired, but merely asserts that the Scripture being thus inspired is profitable.

2. The words "inspired by God" point to the entire agency of God in producing that Divine element which makes the Bible differ from every other book. The inspired person was the organ of God in what he said, so that his words were the words of God.

3. Scripture says nothing concerning the mode of inspiration. The process is supernatural, and it cannot be explained. It is not with the mode but with the result we are concerned.

4. Inspiration differs from revelation—this being that through which apostles and prophets came into possession of Divine information, inspiration being that through which they were able infallibly to communicate it to others.

5. There is nothing in the doctrine of inspiration inconsistent with the idea that the inspired penmen used their own peculiarities of verbal expression or personal idiosyncrasies.

6. The inspiration extends to words as well as thoughts—to the form as well as the substance of Scripture. So far as the record is inspired at all, infallible thought must be definite thought, and definite thought implies words. The apostle claimed that the Holy Spirit guaranteed his words as well as his thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:13, "Not in the didactic words of man's wisdom, but in the didactic words of the Holy Ghost"). Besides, Christ and the apostles argue from the very words of Scripture (Matthew 22:45; Galatians 3:16).

7. The term "every Scripture" in the text seems to include the Old Testament and the New Testament so far as it had been written; else there would have been no necessity for a different term from that used in the fifteenth verse, "Holy Scriptures."

II. THE UTILITY OF THE SCRIPTURE "Is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness."

1. It is useful for teaching—as a medium for communicating instruction, that we may know and believe what is necessary to salvation.

2. It is useful for reproof—for the refutation of error, for convincing a man of his error.

3. It is useful for correction—as to what is practically wrong in life.

4. It is useful for "discipline in righteousness—righteousness being the clement in which this discipline is to take effect, through the agency of Scripture.

III. THE RESULT OR DESIGN OF THE SCRIPTURE. "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."

1. The design is the perfection of the believer in life and service. The description supplies the man of God with all due appliances for this end. They help to make us perfect in knowledge, faith, and holiness, as well as to furnish us with wisdom and guidance in all holy service.

2. Inference to be drawn from the design of Scripture. It is a perfect, a plain, a sufficient rule of faith and life, in answer to Roman Catholics. If it can make wise to salvation, perfect the man of God, and furnish him for all holy work, then there is no need for tradition to supplement its imaginary defects.—T.C.


2 Timothy 3:4

The love of pleasure.

"Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." "Pleasure" is a word used in Scripture to denote, not lawful and wise enjoyment, but a carnal sensuousness which often leads to sensuality. We see what an absorbing power pleasure is, and how by degrees it destroys the sense of duty and ignores the voice of conscience.

I. HERE IS A GREAT FORCE. "Lovers!" Love will surely be exercised in some form. Sin is perversion. We are so constituted as to love something. There is an enthusiasm of evil. Men delight in sin; and so the forces of the soul run to weeds.

II. HERE IS A WRONG OBJECT. Pleasure—instead of God. What a contrast! We find that there is sometimes an aesthetic sensuousness that finds pleasure in immoral "art"—where God is not, where there is no reverence, no righteousness, no purity, no goodness. And men worship before the shrine of pleasure till they become idolaters, worshipping worldly applause, fleshly satisfaction, and carnal joy. There is a pleasure that is lawful and healthful; without it brain and body, mind and heart, suffer; but it must ever be subordinated to an earnest life and a godly devotion, or we become "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."—W.M.S.

2 Timothy 3:5

The hypocrite's garb.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." There may be conscious and unconscious hypocrisy. Either way godliness is "feigned." There is no pulsing heart of life in it. Its appearance is only like phosphorus on the face of the dead; its activity is only the galvanized motion of a corpse.

I. WE MAY DISCOVER THE SIGNS OF MERE FORMALISM. What are they? See 2 Timothy 3:2, 2 Timothy 3:3, and 2 Timothy 3:4, in which men who are "covetous, and lovers of their own selves," are associated with blasphemers and false accusers, unthankful and unholy. All alike find their hypocrisy is detected by the Divine insight. We may well search and examine ourselves; for do not men think lightly sometimes of covetousness and selfishness, or of being unthankful or high minded? Often, indeed, we look to great vices only as our destroyers, and we forget that hypocrisy may be seen in masked ingratitude. Yet here it is discovered, not under the cloak which hides evil enormities, but under the veil which hides from our eyes the presence of the more respectable sins.


1. Prayerless habit which leaves the spirit unsupplied with the nutriment of communion with God.

2. Consciousness of the fact that in the world appearances are enough, and that religion is so respected and so respectable that it will not do to live without its appearance.

3. Fellowship with the world, which denudes us of all earnest endeavours alter the Divine life.—W.M.S.

2 Timothy 3:8

Corruption within.

"Men of corrupt minds." It is here that evil begins, though it does not end here. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." but he does not show in himself the development of evil at once. The hour of revelation, however, will surely come; for "they that be otherwise [than good] cannot be hid."

I. THEY RESIST THE TRUTH. For this reason the truth will not let them alone. It is an active searching power. It is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," and men resent the intrusion of this all-discovering, all-judging power. Impurity hates purity. Falsehood hates truth. Worldly minds resist the claim of God's Word to supremacy over their hearts and lives. They resist its right to reign, and its claim to dominate thought and action too.

II. THEY BECOME REPRORATE. Reprobation is no hard decree of God's; it is man's own act and deed, and it is the result of the "corrupt mind." This breeding corruption spreads. The seeds of evil are scattered here and there till the soul is like a wilderness, and the mind which was made to be a garden of holiness becomes a graveyard of sin. Moral death ensues, and with death always comes corruption.

III. THEY BECOME REVEALED. "Their folly shall be made manifest" (2 Timothy 3:9). The secret sin becomes a public shame. The thought incarnates itself in deed, and retribution takes the form of disgrace.—W.M.S.


2 Timothy 3:1-17

Grievous times.

"But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come." They were in the first days of the Christian era; the times foretold were to be in the last days of that era. There is an intended indefiniteness about the days; nothing is said about their commencement, or about the period over which they are to extend. They are to embrace distinct times, but all characterized by grievousness. From what follows we may infer that the grievousness of the times will consist in the prevalence of moral evil, and in the strange coexistence of moral evil with Christian forms. There will be difficulty in knowing how to act, and also in acting according to knowledge in the face of strong, quasi-Christian solidarities of evil. From a source of revelation open to him, the apostle was able to write with certainty regarding the coming of grievous times in the last days. There is not excluded the ultimate triumph of religion in this world which is taught elsewhere.

I. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEN IN THE GRIEVOUS TIMES. "For men shall be lovers of self." "Such men as the apostle here describes there have been at all times, and the apostle does not say that they will be then such for the first time, nor that all men without exception shall be such, but he describes the moral spiritual physiognomy of the times which he beholds approaching." We are not to include in this first part of the description all who are influenced by self-love; for it is only right before God that we should be influenced by an intelligent regard to our interest. The persons intended are the selfish—a word which was only brought in by the Puritan divines toward the middle of the seventeenth century. They are those who exclude God from the central place to which he is entitled in their life. They are those who exclude others from the place of interest to which they are entitled. They thus put self in a false position—make it the beginning and end of all their thoughts and actions. They properly take the place of pre-eminence in the apostle's list; for all classes of sinners are after the selfish type, i.e. put forward self in some way or other that does not accord with eternal truth. In the grievous times will be large developments of selfishness. "Lovers of money." From similarity of composition in the Greek words, the apostle passes on from lovers of self to lovers of money. Under this head are not to be included all seekers of money; for it is right to seek money for good ends. Neither are there to be included all who seek money for selfish ends. But we are to think rather of the avaricious, i.e. those who seek to retain money in a selfish way. They look upon it as that which will make them self-sufficient in the future; and therefore they grudge to spend it even on present necessity. The times will be grievous when the avaricious increase. "Boastful." Derived from a word signifying "a wandering about," this word designated first the vagabond mountebanks, conjuors, quacksalvers, or exorcists, "full of empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats which they could accomplish." Men do not need to go about crying up, advertising, that which is of great value. What men generally boast of is some external advantage which is of little consequence in comparison with the moral worth which should be associated with it. The times will be grievous when the gift is exalted above the moral use to which it is put. "Haughty." The haughty are literally, in the Greek, those who show themselves above their fellows. In the glass of their own minds, they behold themselves standing along with others; and the comparison they make is in their own favour. Their estimate is false in respect of the importance attached to that in which they pride themselves, and in respect of the importance attached to that for which they despise others. Birth is an advantage, but not the only advantage, nor the greatest advantage, and must be taken along with service and character. In the grievous times there will be a great amount of pride. "Railers." The word is "blasphemers," but it would be inconsistent with holding the form of godliness to think of blasphemers in the usual sense in English. It is better, therefore, to think of those who use evil words to each other, i.e. words of contempt, or words of bitterness. There is to be a large development of evil speaking in the grievous times. "Disobedient to parents." Selfishness is early to show itself in the form of self-will. The young generation are to show impatience of being ruled by their parents, which is sure to grow into impatience in respect of all rightful rule. In the grievous times there is to be a large development of lawlessness, beginning in the family circle. "Unthankful." Those who are allowed to have their own way in early life are not likely to grow up to show gratitude to parents for what they have sacrificed for them, nor are they likely to show gratitude in the ordinary intercourse of life, nor can we think of them showing gratitude to God for his mercies. Ingratitude is to be a striking feature of the grievous times. "Unholy." There are certain sanctities which are everlasting, which are anterior to all law and custom, which belong to the Divine constitution of things, e.g. the sanctities of the marriage bond. The unholy are those who have no reverence or love in their hearts for these everlasting sanctities. In the grievous times the most sacred bonds are to be disregarded. "Without natural affection." Affection is that which sweetens life. In the grievous times affection is to die out, even for those for whom nature specially claims affection. Parents will act unnaturally toward their children. "Implacable." The word supposes a state of variance. In the grievous times men are not to come to terms with those who have given them offence, but are to pursue them with all the might of their vengeance. "Slanderers." They are not to be content with pouring contempt and bitterness on one another in ordinary evil speaking, but they are to attack one another with falsehoods. Thus the diabolic character is to be developed in the grievous times. "Without self-control." With self-will uncurbed in early life, it is not to be wondered at that the men of the grievous times are to be men who have lost self-control. "Fierce." In the grievous times there will be loss of self-control, proceeding to deeds of violence. "No lovers of good." In keeping with the personal reference before and after, we prefer to translate, "no lovers of good men." With evil so active in them, the presence of good men will be burdensome to them. They are therefore likely to make the times grievous to the good, by unjustly treating them. "Traitors." Fidelity is the sacred bond that joins friend to friend. In the grievous times friend will be often found betraying friend. "Headstrong." In the grievous times men will go to daring lengths. "Puffed up." The explanation of their daringness is, that they have no right sense of their own position before God—their insignificance, impotence, and responsibility. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Men will be daring especially in sensual gratification. Pleasure will he preferred to God. "Holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof." The remarkable thing is that the men who have been described (we do not need to think of the characteristics being all combined) should hold a form of godliness. The relation of the form of godliness to the men who make the grievous times, is that it conceals their true character. It is self throughout, in a more or less hateful form, and therefore the real power of godliness is denied. But it does not appear so nakedly and hatefully to be self where there is a form of acknowledging God. The relation of the form of godliness to the grievous times is, that it allows evil to work more insidiously. It is not so difficult to meet pure heathenism as it is to meet a Christianity that has become heathenish. Advice. "From these also turn away." Paul would have things put on a basis of reality. Between Timothy and such men there could be no sympathy. Why keep up a semblance of fellowship? Both for them and for him it was better that the line of demarcation should be drawn, and that all further intercourse should proceed on the footing that they did not belong to the same Christian society.

II. THE MEN OF THE GRIEVOUS TIMES ANTICIPATED. "For of these." The apostle follows up his description of the men of the evil times by the advice to turn away from them, as though they were already present. The explanation he gives is that there were forerunners of them, men of the same spiritual kith. Characteristics.

1. Influence with women.

2. Withstanding the truth.


1. Timothy reminded of his conduct at a former period, which was a following of Paul as his guiding star.

(1) A leading up to sufferings. "But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, long suffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings." The period referred to is Timothy's early ministry. He then acted as assistant to Paul, and what Paul gratefully calls to mind was his close following of him as a disciple. He not only followed him so as to be familiar with details, but followed him so as to direct his course by what he saw in him. The great lines of his teaching, the great lines of his conduct, Timothy made his own. The special purpose of his life (ruling so many details), which was to spread the gospel of Christ, was also after Paul. So, too, was his disposition towards Christ, viz. faith, especially in his power to make his gospel to tell upon men. So, too, was his disposition toward opponents, viz. his long suffering with their bitter opposition. So, too, was his disposition toward those in whose interest he laboured, viz. love for their souls. So, too, was his disposition under all the adverse conditions of his ministry, as appointed for him, viz. patience. This forms a point of transition to past troublous times when Paul was persecuted, and persecuted so as to be a sufferer in many ways. Even to the apostle's persecutions and sufferings Timothy's following extended; i.e. he thoroughly appreciated the fidelity which led to them and brave bearing under them. They may have had to do with his joining the apostle, and determined his own relation to persecutions and sufferings.

2. Timothy forewarned.

3. Timothy incited to present duty founded on past early training.

(a) Name. "The sacred writings." The name is suggestive, in the first place, of a written revelation, which has the advantage over oral tradition (the form of revelation which obtained for the first two or three thousand years) in that it does not lie so open to the action of prejudice. Men may come with all manner of prejudices to it, but it is there to witness for itself to every unprejudiced mind. The name is suggestive, in the second place, of many writers being employed in the communication of Divine truth, which is much better than one with his particular idiosyncrasy entering into his writings, inasmuch as all classes of minds can be thus suited, and if they are not attracted by one mode of stating the truth, they may be attracted by another. The name is suggestive, in the third place, of writings connected with religion, such as there do not seem to have been in connection with the religions of Greece and Rome. The Bible can be employed for the instruction of children, inasmuch as it is truly a child's book as well as a man's book. What is needed, at the first stage at least, is truth in the concrete form; and this is to be found in the Bible, which, with some things hard to be understood, has yet many a simple statement and story that is fitted to fill the child's imagination and to touch the child's heart. Eunice had only the Old Testament Scriptures to draw upon: the Christian parent has now an immense advantage, in the addition of the New Testament, and especially of the four Gospels, and in the greater facilities which a printed Bible gives him for getting Bible images and lessons into the mind of the child.

(b) Property. "Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." They form a directory to salvation, containing all the information and pleading with the soul which are necessary. To one inexperienced in the ways of the world it is a great advantage to have a friend at hand, able on every occasion to give a sound advice, to expose fallacies, to put forward weighty considerations. Inexperienced in the ways of the world we certainly are, liable to be deceived by appearances, to be buoyed up with false hopes. In giving us the Scriptures, God acts the part of a friend, giving us the best advice, opening our eyes to reality, so that, with all our inexperience, it is as though we possessed boundless stores of wisdom. They are able to make wise unto salvation, but they may not; for there are some who make themselves wiser than God's Word, and think they know better about things than God does, and so perish by being wise in their own conceits and refusing to be guided.

(c) Condition of efficiency. "Through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The Scriptures cannot do more than make us wise unto salvation; they are not to be put in the place of Christ, whose connection with salvation is more than that of a directory—is of the most intimate nature, who is really the efficient Cause of salvation, the Receptacle of salvation; and they only do their work when they bring us up to Christ, and also induce in us that state of mind which is here called faith, which instrumentally appropriates the salvation which is in him.


1. Ground of sufficiency. "Every Scripture inspired of God." According to this translation the inspiration of Scripture is taught, not explicitly but implicitly. We are to regard it as taken for granted that Scripture is God-breathed. Inspiration extends to every part of Scripture. This is a doctrine of vital importance to the Church. Its bearing is that there is not only the absence of error, but the presence of positive perfection in relation to the whole want of man under the present order of things. The Divine influence, however operating, is guarantee that in Scripture, in its manifoldness, we have all fundamentally that needs to be said to man on the subject of religion, and in the form that is best fitted to have deep and lasting effect upon his spiritual nature as a whole. The difference is very perceptible in the post-apostolic literature. "Even where we recognize a lofty flight of the spirit as in the Ignatian Epistles, the inspiration repeatedly is merely a religious enthusiasm, a subjective romance, showing itself in an almost revelling desire for martyrdom, moving and even infectious; so that many who read an Ignatian Epistle for the first time feel themselves doubtless more excited and stirred than by a Pauline one; but this very feature proves that it is not really inspired; for the Spirit who founded the Church does not tolerate the extolling of one isolated tendency in the soul, and cannot bear such subjective partiality of view, be it ever so strong, ever so apparently admirable."

2. Fourfold use. "Is also profitable." In reading the Scriptures what we are to seek above all things is that the truth contained in them may be brought into contact with our minds for our profit. "For teaching." There is first a revealing power in the Bible. It teaches us much that we could not otherwise have known. It supplies us with what is necessary not only for a correct, but a lofty, conception of God. It acquaints us with our fallen state, and with God's dealings with us for our salvation. "For reproof." The reproving power of the Bible results from its great revealing power, along with the state in which it finds us. The light it sheds is not for our justification, but for our being convicted of departures both from truth and righteousness. "For correction." The corrective power of the Bible starts from our being convicted as out of the straight path. By proper directions, admonitions, warnings, encouragements, it brings us back into the straight path. "For instruction which is in righteousness." The disciplinary power of the Bible is specified as being within the sphere of righteousness. In the lofty demands it makes—the loftier the further we advance—it gives us the spiritual drill which makes for right habits.

3. Completeness aimed at. "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." The man of God is man according to the Divine idea. Many excellences go to make the complete man, intellectual, emotional, practical. God desires to see the complete man; and he has given the Bible for that end. The completeness thought of is that of man as a worker, producing good thoughts, good words, good actions. God desires to see the completely furnished worker, and he has given the Bible for that end. It is true that we come very far short of the Divine ideal of our humanity; the reason will be found to be that we neglect the help provided for us. We do not consult God, but our own prejudiced thoughts. Let us go back to the Bible, to be convicted of our error, and corrected, and severely exercised toward the complete man.—R.F.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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