1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.

6 For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, 7 who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

8 As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; 9 but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  Version: New Revised Standard Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • In chapter 2, Paul has exhorted Timothy to train others in how to proclaim the word in a gentle spirit, properly dealing with those who resist the truth -- avoiding quarrelling, discouragement, and wasting time in fruitless discussion. Chapter 3 goes into more detail about what the Lord's servant can expect from the opposition:
    • Stress (v.1).
    • Sin (vv.2-5).
      • In place of virtue, there is vice.
      • Five of the sins center around what people love (or don't love).
      • Despite the self-focus of the age, a veneer of godliness covers wicked hearts. Religion itself is worthless, without righteous living. See also Titus 1:16.
    • Manipulation of the weak (vv.6-7).
      • The households may be house churches.
      • This passage is not misogynist. Paul is merely describing how these "smooth operators," the false teachers, increase their influence.
    • Challenge from prominent figures (vv.8-9).
      • Moses' opponents, though outclassed, were still formidable.
      • In such situations, Christian teachers must keep their confidence. Their detractors will not get very far;; they may do damage, but their true character will become apparent to those who seek truth.
    • Persecution is part of the package!
      • Just as Jesus was persecuted, and Paul, so it is with Timothy (vv.10-13). We ought not be surprised.
      • See also John 15:18ff; Luke 6:22-23,26.
  • Then Paul charges Timothy to:
    • Hold to the doctrine without compromise (v.14).
    • Keep studying the Bible -- Old Testament (vv.15-16). Of course, the principle, when extended, applies to the N.T. as well.
    • Realize that it is both inspired and useful (v.17). If Timothy is going to be the workman unashamed (2:15), he needs equipping, as we all do.

Advanced:

  • "The last days" (v.1) has several possible meanings:
    • The period shortly before the end of the world. This seems unlikely, though it is not far-fetched.
    • The period from Pentecost forward (Acts 2:17). That is possible.
    • The period between Pentecost and the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Matthew 24). This seems likely. Paul knew that the end (of the Temple and its cult) was near, and that imperial protections were soon to be lost.
    • Yet since the "times of stress" are defined by the sins of verses 2-5, and we experience all of these in our day, there is a timeless quality about this passage. It always applies.
  • Jannes and Jambres (v.8), in tradition, were Pharaoh's chief magicians.
    • They are mentioned in the Qumran literature (CD 5:18).
    • Other Jewish literature includes Tg. Ps.-J. 1:3 (on Exodus 1:5), 7:2 (on Exodus 7:11), 40:6 (on Numbers 22:21-22); b. Men. 85a; and Exod. Rab. on Exodus 9:7. The passage in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 7:2 reads, "Jannes and Jambres, magicians of Egypt, did the same by their burnings of divination. Each man threw down his rod, and they became serpents but were immediately changed back to what they were at first. And the rod of Aaron swallowed up their rods."
    • They also appear in the secular literature (Pliny Natural History 30.1.11; Apuleius Apol. 100.40).
  • Timothy had been brought up in a Christian home -- although his father seems not to have been a disciple. See Acts 16:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:5. For the early Christians, the Bible was the O.T. -- actually, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. This fact makes the modern church's woeful ignorance of the O.T. all the more lamentable. Not only is three fourths of God's word being ignored, but the hundreds of N.T. connections are read without appreciation for background, allusions, and foundational theology. For an introduction to the O.T., click here.
  • For a full study of the three pastoral epistles, click here.

Thought questions:

  • How do I feel about the sins of 2 Timothy 3:2-5? For example,
    • Am I shocked by the materialism of our society?
    • Do I see that disobedience to parents is a serious sin?
    • Am I sickened by the entertainment culture embraced by most of western society?
    • Do I see the harmful effects of ingratitude?
  • How do I feel about 2 Timothy 3:12? Am I receiving opposition? If not, it is possible I am drifting downstream, having given up resisting the world and its falsehoods?
  • In light of the fact that all scripture -- which includes the O.T. -- can thoroughly equip me, how am I doing? Am I equipped?