I am teaching through II Timothy with my staff and we have come to II Timothy 3. This is a sobering chapter because as the old saying goes, God separates the wheat from the chaff in this chapter. God reveals that not everyone in the church is a member of the body of Christ. He demonstrates this by showing what our attitude toward the Word of God is. If we are part of the body, this will be shown in our attitude toward the Word of God. If we are not part of the body of Christ, just a member of a church organization, this will also be shown by our attitude toward the Word of God.
Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this chapter, I would like to review the previous lesson. During the last lesson we covered the idea of the differences between the believers and unbelievers in the church. The genuine believers have died with Christ. They have died to their sinful ways of life and now have a new life in Christ. Because of this, they are able to endure the persecutions of the unbelievers in the church. The unbelievers in the church proclaim Christ with the mouths yet deny Him with their lifestyles. They still live in their sins. They create divisions in the church and thrive when arguing over the nonessentials.
Let’s jump right in to the essence of chapter 3.
I. Command and Exhortations
There are 5 commands and exhortations mentioned in this passage. These are important for the genuine believer because of what he is going to face in the church.
- Realize that difficult days are coming. In fact, difficult days are here. The reason that the days are difficult is because of the way that many of the people in the church act. The reason that they act the way that they do is because they are not believers. They are unbelievers who have joined a church. The are not members of the body of Christ. They have just adopted the religious aspect of Christianity but have never been born again.
- Avoid the unbelievers in the church. What does that mean? First of all, the word avoid literally means, “do not group up with them”. It does not mean that we should not speak to them. It means that they are not to be part of the group of people we hang out with and do life together with in the church. When we do speak to them, we need to share the Gospel with them. Part of doing that involved confronting their sin so that they will see their need for the Gospel and be ready to accept It and the life change that comes about as a result. We want to see them won over for Christ and the only thing that is going to do it is the Gospel. If we “hang out” with them then as Paul teaches in I Corinthians, “bad company corrupts good morals”. They will drag you down to their level and whip you because they have way more experience down there than you do.
- Recognition of life transformation and success. Paul acknowledges Timothy’s previous success and life change. Timothy has been following the teaching of the Word of God, unlike the unbelievers in the church, and that teaching has transformed his conduct and purpose in life. As he has served in the Gospel, his faith has been strengthened and as he has invested the Word of God in others, he has had to show great patience, especially to those in the church who are not walking with the Lord. As a result of his faith and patience growing, his love for others has also increased. He is able to persevere under the heavy persecution that comes from the unbelievers in the church.
- Realizing that you are not suffering alone. In fact, all who desire to live godly and follow the Lord will be persecuted. Why are they going to be persecuted? They are persecuted because they are investing the Word of God in the lives of others and that Word pricks man’s sin nature. One of the reactions that people have when they are pricked is that they lash out at the messenger. This will come first and foremost from the people in the church, those who are unbelievers.
- Continue in the Scriptures even when those around you tell you otherwise. This is a major problem in the church today. According to the Scriptures, there is no such thing as too much Bible study, yet, if you hang around church members and leaders for more than 5 minutes, and insist on Bible study, this will be the first thing that they have against you. We assume that everyone does their own personal Bible study, and we know what “assuming” does . . . If you look at First Baptist Church of Jerusalem in the book of Acts, you will see corporate Bible study every day and every where. Oh how far we have fallen from the essentials, or, as Jesus said, from our first love. Timothy was taught the Scriptures from childhood by his mother and grandmother. When Paul took Timothy under his wing, he continued teaching Timothy the Scriptures. Timothy saw Paul live out the Scriptures daily and the impact that it had in his life and ministry. Timothy is to continue on in that which was modeled to him so that he can continue to be successful.
This is what the godly, genuine believers in the church look like and what they do, day in and day out. Are you like they are presented here? Are you connected to God through the Scriptures? Have you seen your life transformed by the Scriptures? How are the people whom you hang around influencing you? How are you influencing them?
What about the unbelievers in the church, what are they like?
II. Evil men in the church
They are the ones who cause the times to be difficult because they have a form of godliness yet do not live by the power of God. Here is a running list of what they are like:
- Lovers of self. They love them some them. In other words, they are very selfish. The word that is used for love is brotherly love. The brotherly love is egotistical, and they are the object of the love. What happens when a bunch of selfish people get together and try and do life together? And we wonder why churches end up being war zones. This is the come as you are and stay as you are mantra, instead of the come as you are and be transformed.
- Lovers of money. This goes hand in hand with the previous. I love money because I love me some me. I want money to spend on myself, trying to satisfy my selfish desires.
- Boastful – this means an empty pretender. No one in the church would ever inflate things like “success” in the ministry or “numbers”, would they? It is a facade, a mirage of reality.
- Arrogant – this means to make yourself seem brighter than you actually are. How would you do that? You do it by putting others down so you can been seen as being better than you really are. This creates the appearance of being better than you actually are.
- Revilers – the word in the Greek used here is the same word that is translated as “blasphemy”. This is connected with the previous mentioned characteristic. A reviler tries to harm the name of another by spreading untruthful information. This would cause them to seem to shine brighter by putting the other person down.
- Disobedient to parents – The word disobedient means “impossible to persuade”. They know what is right and it does not matter what you say to them or how convincing the evidence.
- Ungrateful – self explanatory. For a reference, see Lot and Abraham or Jesus and the 10 lepers.
- Unholy – they are not set apart from the rest of the word when it comes to their way of life. They continue to live as slaves to sin instead of being set free by the power of God, hence, they have a form of godliness yet deny its power.
- Irreconcilable – they are not winnable. No matter what is presented to them, they do not want to concede and change.
- Unloving – They have become so selfish that they have lost their natural affection for others. They do not mind hurting others and they will do it over and over again.
- Malicious gossips – the Greek word used here is the word that is translated Devil in the English language. They are false accusers and they accuse the genuine believers.
- without self control – they are not able to curb their sin nature. It dominates them and they end up doing what they claim they do not want to do.
- brutal – savage or fierce. This is what it means. They will tear you apart, especially if you confront their sinful attitudes and ways using the Word of God. I have seen this with my own eyes, over and over again.
- Haters of good – They actually oppose what is right, as revealed in the Scriptures. They do not mind opposing the Scriptures.
- Treacherous – They will stab you in the back in a heartbeat. The problem with having them in the church is that they claim to be fellow soldiers with you in the spiritual battle yet while you are focused on the enemy, they stab you where you are vulnerable and defenseless.
- Reckless – They are quick to charge and fall forward. They do not reason and think out their plans.
- Conceited – They are puffed up with smoke. There is no real substance. They can make things seem one way but in reality, it is all smoke and mirrors. The good part is that they will be exposed sooner or later.
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
- They hold to a form of godliness. It is just an echo. It is not the real thing. It is a morphing form of faithfulness to God. There really is no faithfulness, it’s just a mirage, an echo of reality.
- They are on the prowl. They seek out others who are enslaved in their sins and enjoy each other’s company.
- They are led by the impulses of their sin nature and not by the Spirit of God.
- They seem to study and love the Scriptures. But, in reality, it is all a show. They never understand the Scriptures and are not able to apply the Truth to their own lives. They can talk the talk but they are not able to walk the walk.
- They actually openly oppose the Truth.
- Their minds are corrupted and that is why their actions follow.
- Their faith is useless. They claim faith but it is not living, saving faith. It is dead and useless.
- They will be exposed sooner or later.
- They are evil.
- They are imposters. In other words, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
- They will only get worse.
- They are deceived and they deceive others.
Are any of these characteristics a part of your life? Do you realize that you are surrounded by people like this in the church? What is the hope?
III. The Scriptures
This is the only hope that we have. This is how we are changed and this is how the imposters in the church can be exposed and changed. The Scriptures give us wisdom that leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Once we come to faith in Christ, the Scriptures become profitable to us when we are in them and they are teaching us. As they teach us, they do the following:
- Rebuke us – show us where we are wrong in certain areas of our thinking and actions.
- Correct us – not only do they show us how and where we are wrong, they also help us get back right.
- Train us – they get us back on the right path and keep us there.
When we go through this process constantly, the results are that we are made adequate for everything that God calls us to do. We are constantly being equipped so that we can do the good works that the Lord has prepared for us to walk in once we come to faith in Christ. We become useful to God and to the people around us. Are you going through this process? Is God rebuking and correcting you? Is He training you to be useful to Him and to the people around you?
So, my dear friend, where do you find yourself as a member of your church? Are you a believer and part of the body of Christ or are you an unbeliever who just happens to be a member of a church? What is your view of the Word of God? Has it changed you and is it currently changing you? What do your actions and attitudes say about your faith, is it genuine or an echo of the real thing? May the Lord help us be more than just members of a church. May He make us members of the body of Christ.