2 Timothy 3
What kind of church do we want to be? A gospel church. Guard the gospel, 1:14. Suffer for the gospel, 2:3. Now: continue in the gospel: v14 – ‘but as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of’.
Why? Because ‘there will be terrible times in the last days,’ v1. The present age, between Christ’s first and second comings. If Paul was thinking of some far-off future, why would he tell Timothy in v5 to ‘have nothing to do’ with certain trouble-makers? ‘The(se) last days’.
How do we continue in the gospel? In vv1-10, Paul sets out certain attitudes and behaviours that will arrest our progress. Then comes the turning point in v10 – ‘You, however’ – and then sets out those things which will enable Timothy to continue safely and effectively.
This is, in other words, a chapter of contrasts. Here is a quartet.
1. Love – self, or God?
Lovers of self, v2, vs lovers of God, v4.
‘I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.’ (Lucille Ball)
‘Love yourself and follow your dreams, because if you want it bad enough…it will happen.’
‘Love yourself. You deserve it.’
Scripture does not teach you to hate yourself. It does not encourage low self-esteem. Eph 5:29 – ‘No-one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.’
What self-image did Paul have? True, he calls himself, 1 Tim 1:15, ‘the worst of sinners’, and in Eph 3:8, ‘the very least of all God’s saints’. But see in vv10ff how confidently he holds himself up as an example for Timothy to observe and imitate, v10ff.
But there is a love of self that is selfish, self-centred, and narcissistic. According to vv2-4, it goes hand-in-hand with moral failure, family breakdown, and anti-social behaviour. People who love themselves rather than God are materialistic, covetous and hedonistic. Sound familiar?
Such love of self is idolatrous because it excludes love for God.
Let’s allow Christ to question us as he once questioned Peter: “Do you love me?”
2. Relationships – exploiting, or nurturing?
V6 – The false teachers ‘worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women.’
Why pick on women? Women were particularly vulnerable because they lacked education and had low social status.
Who are vulnerable to false teaching today? Many are younger people at some point of crisis in their lives, such as a broken romance or failure to get the job or university of their choice. They may be lonely, disillusioned and disempowered. The cult seems to offer unconditional love, a sense of belonging, clear rules, and something definite to believe in. But it does not liberate, it ensnares.
But if some relationships in this chapter are exploitative, others are nurturing. There are those who taught Timothy the gospel from infancy (v15; cf. 1:5). His was a home where faith in Christ was both caught and taught.
Then there is Paul himself. V10 – ‘you, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance…’
How many of us could say, “Watch me”?
3. Godliness – form, or power?
V5 – having a form of godliness but denying its power.
The greatest threat to the gospel comes not from without, but from within.
The danger is to have the lip of praise, but not the life; to talk the talk, but not walk the walk; to put our money in the plate but not our lives on the line; to have the appearance of a Christian, but no inward reality; to have faith, but not works; to have Christian beliefs, but not Christian behaviour; to be saints are church, but sinners at home, or at work, or amongst one’s friends. To have the form of godliness without its power.
What is the ‘power’ of godliness? Amongst other things, it is the power to keep on keeping on, v14. It is the power to continue through ‘terrible times’, bearing in mind that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ v12.
Let God’s people have sincerity and integrity, and power failures in the church will be become more or less things of the past.
4. Truth – opposing, or upholding?
V8 – ‘Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth.’
Upholding, v15ff. ‘Sacred writings’. Two things:-
(a) authority. God-breathed. Deut 8:3/Mt 4:4 – ‘Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
He’s thinking of the OT. Lk 24:25 ‘Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’
(b) usefulness: the Scriptures have the power to save through faith in Christ Jesus, and the power to equip the ‘man of God’.
‘Preparing for a long trip, a young man said to his friend, ‘I’m just about packed. I only have to put in a map, a lamp, a mirror, a volume of poetry, a few biographies, a package of old letters, a book of songs, a sword, a hammer, and a library of books I have been studying.’ ‘But,’ the friend objected, ‘you won’t get all that into your case.’ ‘Yes I will.’ He tucked his Bible into the corner of his suitcase and closed the lid.’
What kind of church do we want to be?
A church that continues in the gospel, despite persecution from without, and efforts to dilute, distort, or deny the gospel from within.
We want to be people who are lovers of God, not lovers of self; whose relationships are nurturing, not exploitative; whose godliness is in power, and not in form only; who uphold, rather than oppose, the truth.