2 Timothy 3:1-9 The church’s mission is to save and to ensure that the flock stay saved to the end
2 Timothy 3:1-9 The church’s mission is to save and to ensure that the flock stay saved to the end
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.
Paul warns Timothy of the dangers that the church is facing in the last days. Paul lists the 18 vices so that Timothy may discern worldly people and avoid them. In view of the fact that many in the last days will abandon their faith, Timothy must do all to prepare the flock to stand against the tide of evil and worldliness. In today’s devotion, we learn: The church’s mission is to save and to ensure that the flock stay saved to the end.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
“But realise this” underscores the inevitability of difficult times in the last days. The author of Hebrews says that the first century Christians were in the last days,
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… Hebrews 1:1-2a
Thus, it is clear from scripture that the last days began at the time of Christ’s incarnation. Since then, the world has seen the difficult times of unprecedented evil and oppression. Jesus spoke about the difficult times in the last days,
You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. Matthew 24:6-7
The difficult times are characterised by wars, and natural catastrophes. Paul sets forth this warning so that Timothy may prepare the church to withstand the tide of evil. For Jesus said that only those who endure to the end will be saved (see Matthew 24:13).
For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money…
Paul makes a list of vices beginning with “love of self” and concludes with “conceited” and “love of pleasure”. “Love of self”, “conceited” and “love of pleasure” speak of the condition of the heart, the seat of evil that drives all vices. “Love of self” puts personal gratification above God and fellow men. “Conceited” is deluded pride, a state where the ego is mindlessly elevated. “Love of pleasure” ranks pleasure above principle. The list begins with subtle, personal vices, and proceeding to full-on wickedness.
Love of money is a subtle but ubiquitous disease that infects people of all ages, race, and background. The love of money is diametrically opposed to the love of God. So much so Jesus deems it impossible for one to love God and money at the same time (see Matthew 6:24). The rich young ruler passes up on salvation because he loves money while refusing to give them up for the poor (see Matthew 19:23-24). The lovers of money value material things above God, above people and what is right.
Boastful, arrogant, revilers are grouped together as they are manifestations of an inflated ego. Such a one is an empty shell ever desiring to put himself above others in order to dominate them. He constantly spew demeaning words to slander and to intimidate others. A boastful and arrogant person value himself above God, and above others.
Disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable are grouped because they are about relating with God, parents and others. Such a one puts himself above his parents by disrespecting their instructions: disobedient to parents. He is in opposition to God and to what is true: unholy. He is always dissatisfied and unthankful for what others have done for him: ungrateful. He is hardhearted, apathetic and without regard for people: unloving. He is combative and unwilling to come to a peaceful resolution with others: irreconcilable.
Malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless. Here, these go from personal vices to full-on wickedness, from subdued evil to mercurial rage and brutality. Such speak lies with the intention to injure: Malicious gossips. They are led by passion and sensuality as a way of life: without self-control. They are savage, devoid of human civility and conscience, capable of performing the most heinous crimes: brutal. Their only agenda is to benefit themselves, having zero regard for the public good: haters of good. They will not think twice about betraying another to achieve their goals: treacherous. They are led by their flawed instincts while committing mindless acts with no consideration for the consequences that ensue: reckless.
Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
Paul shifts his attention from the people of the world to those within the church. Regrettably, many in the church, (leaders included) share in the vices of the world. However, these are able to operate surreptitiously by projecting an appearance of spiritual elegance but devoid of its substance. And such have denied its power; the essential power of God that sanctifies men towards godliness. Because people are impressionable, they mistake visible expressions, the ascetic practices and endless debates of religious trivia for godliness. Paul warns Timothy to avoid such men, and have nothing to do with them lest they rise up against the truth.
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth.
Paul makes special mention of such men and their penchant for weak women weighed down with sins. They seek out weak women, while being led by their own base impulses. Such men, entrapped by sensuality are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. They possess much knowledge but no truth, much works but no life. Paul brings up two Egyptian names: Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. Jewish and Christian tradition refers Jannes and Jambres to the two magicians who opposed Moses. However, there is a problem with this view because the context clearly states Jannes and Jambres as coming from within the church. Such are supposedly believers who for the sake of personal gain rise up to oppose the truth. They often take to criticising the teachings of the word by infusing it with a worldly perspective. Numbers 16:1 did mention two men: Dathan and Abiram who rose up against Moses. It is possible that Dathan and Abiram, because of their depravity were likened to the Egyptians and given Egyptian names to remember them by. Dathan and Abiram’s mission not only did not succeed, their families were swallowed by the earth at plain sight. The likes of Dathan and Abiram are in the church today actively rising up and leading the naive away from the truth. Nevertheless, when their destruction comes, just like Dathan and Abiram, their folly will be obvious to all.
The church’s mission is to save and to ensure that the flock stay saved to the end.
The mission of the church is to help believers stay true to the very end by keeping God’s commands. For only those who guard their hearts to love God and to serve Him continually will be saved. Paul lists the vices and violence that characterise the last days to draw attention to the rising dangers that threaten to destroy the church. Indeed, there will be many in the last days who will lose their faith and consequently their salvation. Paul spoke about some in the church who having rejected the truth in preference for the world ended their faith like a shipwreck (see 1 Timothy 1:19). He also spoke about the ones who had their faith overturned and destroyed because they bought into a worldly gospel (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18). Indeed, there are dangers facing believers coming from both within and without the church.
Therefore, the church must take steps to guard the people’s hearts against the tide of worldliness, lust and human pride. The church must help believers navigate the tribulations and temptations that threaten to corrupt their hearts with lust and love for the world. It is regrettable that the focus of the majority of churches is to raise their profile through membership growth and overseas missions. Thus, much have been done to equip members to evangelise and to run programmes. But little have been invested to help members grow in divine wisdom and virtues so that they may prosper and become a blessing to the world. It is no wonder many churchgoers are still facing various bondages in their personal life, family and career. Ministers keep preaching the promises and blessings that God has desired for His people. But little has been said about what believers should do to obtain them. And even less has been taught concerning the eternal things in heaven. It is no surprise that the majority of churchgoers have already set their hearts on earthly things. Faith has been reduced to a culture. And God is nothing more than a servant to help them fulfil their personal agenda and to save them from hell.
The church can guard against internal oppositions by preaching the truth continually
Paul warns Timothy to avoid men who project an appearance of godliness, but devoid of its fruit. To avoid is to refrain from associating. In other words, Timothy is to be discerning when making anyone a disciple or to endorse someone for leadership lest he turns against the church. While the church cannot do much to stem the tide of evil from the pagans, it must do all to prevent evil from entering and rising from within. An enemy attacking from within is far more potent than one attacking from without. Ancient Israel (particularly its assault on the City of Ai) shows us that the integrity of its people determines the success or failure of a nation.
Not everyone who comes to the church is loyal to it. For many come to be served, not to serve; to be saved and not to save. Yet many more come seeking a platform to discharge their personal ambitions. They want to be trained, to work out their calling but are not invested in the vision of the church. Such will rise up at an opportune time like Jannes and Jambres to demand and to disrupt the church. Therefore, as a member or minister, we have to be wise and discerning before vouching for someone, or associating or giving someone credit. When Jesus first began His ministry, many came and wanted to associate themselves with Him. But Jesus avoided them because He knew what was in their hearts (see John 2:23-25).
That said, not all who are in the church are of the church. Paul said along similar lines, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,” (Romans 9:6). The Sunday crowd comprises a mixed bag of people with different convictions, backgrounds and agendas. While the church welcomes all unconditionally, it carries the mandate to preach the truth that will divide the righteous from the unrighteous, and separate the wheat from the weed. Indeed, the message of truth carries the power to purify. Those who are in conflict with the truth will invariably leave after a week or two. In John 6, Jesus sought to purify His flock by preaching about the bread of life while refusing to provide the bread they demanded. As a result, many of His disciples opposed His message and followed Him no more (see John 6:66). In preaching the truth, Jesus purified the flock by disassociating Himself from worldly men. And when all had gone, where only the twelve was left, yet Jesus continued to question them of their motive to stay with Him, “Do you also want to go away?”…. “Did I not choose you, the twelve and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:67,70). Jesus has shown Himself relentless in purifying His flock by preaching the truth continually. In so doing, the church builds its foundation on the rock to withstand the tide of difficult times thus ensuring the safety of its flock on the road to salvation.
Paul lists the 18 vices so that believers may hone their senses to discern righteousness from unrighteousness. Of the 18 vices, which are you constantly struggling with? Identify your weakness(es) and seek to do the opposite,
- Lovers of self – Lovers of God and others
- Lovers of money – Lovers of truth
- Boastful – Boasting of one’s weakness and God’s greatness
- Arrogant – Humble and sensitive to the feelings of others
- Revilers – Thoughtful and sensitive in speech
- Disobedient to parents – Respectful and sensitive to parents
- Ungrateful – Grateful and contented
- Unholy – Holy and truth seeking
- Unloving – Compassionate to the poor and merciful to those who has sinned
- Irreconcilable – Affable
- Malicious gossips – Speak kindly of others
- Without self-control – Wisdom and Soundness of mind
- Brutal – Kindness and gentleness
- Haters of good – Principled and uncompromising
- Treacherous – Loyal and faithful
- Reckless – Constructive and purposeful
- Conceited – Modest and humble
- Lovers of pleasure – Lovers of God
Do you have difficulties discerning a person’s heart especially if he appears affable? A discerning person is also a principled person. Until and unless we are principled in all that we do, we cannot discern another accurately. Jesus said,
“… first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5.
Dear Lord, help me understand my weaknesses and purify me by your blood. I desire to sanctify myself so that I can be your vessel to sanctify the church. Help me to uphold the truth in all that I say and do. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.