I was encouraged by our lesson on the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to his best disciple, Timothy. It was a sobering lesson because of the nature of it. I believe that it is a necessary lesson for our modern world. Our time was spent studying chapter three of the epistle. Chapter three has a shocking beginning.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. (II Timothy 3:1)
We are in the last days and the difficult times are upon us. The question that we asked during the lesson was, why. Why are difficult times upon us? The Apostle Paul answers that question. A seasoned missionary was once asked how things were going in the new ministry that he was attempting in an area that had never had a church before. His answer was, “the work would be amazing if it were not for the people“. We laugh at that but, there is some truth to it. Working with people is difficult because of humanity’s sin nature. The Apostle Paul attempted to equip Timothy to prosper in the ministry in spite of the difficult people whom he would constantly encounter. We have much to learn from this epistle.
I. A description of difficult people
As we dig down into this teaching, I know that you are going to be tempted to look around and try to find the difficult people around you. Don’t do it. Resist that temptation. Instead, take a long, hard look in the mirror every time that you learn something new about the difficult person category. This chapter can be divided into two parts. Verses one through nine contain the first part and it deals with a description of the difficult people.
1 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. (II Timothy 3)
I just want to go through this detailed description one by one.
- Lovers of self – the Koine Greek word translated as lovers of self is “philautos“. It’s a combination of two Koine Greek words, “philos” and “autos“. Philos is a form of brotherly love. Autos is self. We live in a culture that promotes “self-love” like no other time in history. The Apostle Paul called that almost two thousand years ago.
- Lovers of money – the Koine Greek word translated as lovers of money is “philarguros“. It’s a combination of two Koine Greek words, “philos” and “arguros“. It literally translates as lovers of shiny things. What are the shiny things that demand our attention today that we think that we cannot live without for a second? I can think of a lot of them, right off of the top of my head.
- Boastful – This means “empty pretender“. Imagine a juicy watermelon. It just makes your mouth water thinking about it, I know. Now, imagine if I were to blow up a balloon to the size of a watermelon and then paint that balloon to be a perfect replica of an actual watermelon. Imagine the shock of cutting into that balloon. It’s an empty pretender. Social media has revealed that we are a society full of empty pretenders. It’s as if the Apostle Paul foresaw the age of social media.
- Arrogant – This is the Koine Greek word “huperephanos“. It’s a combination of two Koine Greek words, “huper” and “phaino“. It literally means to shine the light on yourself. In our modern lingo, it would be a person who seeks the spotlight because he deserves it above everyone else. As I dwell on what is happening in modern society, I think of all of the people who want to be social media influencers. They want eyeballs on themselves and are willing to do almost anything to make that happen.
- Revilers – This is the Koine Greek word “blasphemos“. It what we get the English word “blasphemy” from. It’s a combination of two Koine Greek words, “blapto” and “pheme“. Blapto means to harm or injure. Pheme means fame or report. When put together, this means to injure a person’s reputation by saying things that are untrue, false, partially true etc. The scribes did this to Jesus when they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to demonic forces in order to harm His reputation. This is the core of modern American politics. Very few politicians actually explain what their goals are. Instead, they spend the campaign attacking the opposition. Notice how they latch on to words and phrases, take them out of context, and then spin a whole theory based on that word or phrase. That is what revilers do. No wonder our society is in such a mess today.
- Disobedient to parents – The Koine Greek word for disobedient is “apeithes“. It means impersuadable, not to be moved by persuasion, inflexible. In our modern lingo, we would call it being hard headed. I know this seems to describe children but, if you spend any amount of time on social media these days, you quickly discover that as a society, we have become impersuadable, very hard headed.
- Ungrateful – Jesus connects faith and salvation with gratitude. Gratitude does not come naturally to us as sinful human beings. We have to come to faith in Christ and then learn to be grateful. We also have to be reminded constantly to be grateful. As church attendance diminishes in the twenty-first century, ingratitude will increase.
- Unholy – A great word to describe this characteristic is defiled. Think of a red, juicy apple that is brown and rotten on the inside. That is the idea of what defiled means.
- Unloving – In the Koine Greek language, there are four words used for the English word love. One of those words is “storgos“. It is the word for natural love that every human being in born with. It’s why we do not act cruelly to others. That love can be lost. When that happens, a person becomes unloving, or in other words, lacking natural love for something else.
- Irreconcilable – The Koine Greek word used here is “aspondos” and it means “someone who cannot be persuaded“. It’s also used of a person who will not keep his word. Have you ever met anyone like this? Maybe you are like this. The person’s mind is already made up and no amount of evidence will change it. A person like this usually has a bias that keeps him or her from admitting that evidence points against his or her beliefs. This perfectly describes the modern Main Stream Media. Just take a look at the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The evidence is clear yet, the media is promulgating its narrative, no matter the facts. This is a perfect example of the meaning of “irreconcilable”. Remember the “mostly peaceful” protests from the summer of 2020? How about the January 6th “insurrection”? The evidence is irrelevant when a person is irreconcilable.
- Malicious Gossips – This is a tough one. It is going to hit home with a lot of us. The Koine Greek word translated as malicious gossips is “diabolos“. That word should look familiar to you. It is the word that we get the English word “Devil“. It literally means one who accuses another falsely. The root of this word is “diaballo” and it means to throw as many accusations as possible until one of them sticks. I’ll return to American politics because it best describes these words. When one politician continues to lob accusations at his opponent, whether those accusations are true or not is irreverent, the accusations craft an image in the mind of the public. One recent example would be the Russian Collusion accusation against President Donald Trump. The accusation has turned out to be false, based on evidence, yet, the image in the mind of the public is that Trump colluded with Russia to steal the Presidential Election. The common man can fall into this trap on social media these days. It’s easy to pass on information that may or may not have been proven true. That is throwing out an accusation without evidence and it is wrong.
- Without self-control – This is simple to understand. It carries the idea of over-indulgence in a passion or appetite. Think of a drug addict. In the beginning, he controls the substance but, over time, the substance begins to control him.
- Brutal – Synonyms for brutal are savage and fierce. Brutal comes to the English language via Latin. It means bestial, pertaining to or resembling an animal, unreasoning and unfeeling. If you have looked at someone and thought, “how could anyone be so cruel” then you understand the word brutal.
- Haters of good – The Koine Greek word used here is “aphilagathos“. Aphilagathos is a combination of two other Greek words. The first one is “philos” and it means brotherly love. The second one is “agathos” and it means good-natured. The a at the beginning of “aphilagathos” makes the word negative. Have you ever been around a person who simply opposes everything that is good? It does not matter what it is, they find a way to spin things and come out against it. I’ll give you a prime example for our modern times. A person takes a stand for life and proclaims that abortion should be a crime because it is clearly a sin according to the Word of God. He wants to take a stand and lobby on behalf of the vulnerable child who will lose his or her life. A hater of good will not debate the merits of the argument. Instead he or she will spin things and say, “oh, you are against women’s rights, I oppose what you stand for, you misogynist“. Saving a child’s life is good yet this person opposes it.
- Treacherous – The Koine Greek word used here is “prodotes“. It means one who gives things away ahead of time. Have you ever had someone betray your trust? Have you ever betrayed someone else’s trust? Both leave you feeling terrible.
- Reckless – The Koine Greek word used here is “propetes” and it literally means, “to fall forward“. I remember when my son was about four or five years old. He loved to jump from a set of stairs to the floor. My knees ache just thinking about doing that now. He loved it. The problem was, he never measured the distance. He would simply jump and then mid jump, I could see the look of panic on his face like, “um, this is a bit further than I thought“. We have family pictures from two different years that show the signs on his face that he was reckless and simply fell forward without measuring. How do we see this played out in life today? How many people fall for get rich quick schemes simply because they do not stop and think about the logistics before taking action? I also think of how the Main Steam American media fell all over itself to condemn Nick Sandmann without considering the consequences. They paid dearly although they did not learn anything from the experience.
- Conceited – The Koine Greek word used here is “tuphoo” and it literally means, “full of smoke“. In our modern vernacular, we say, “full of hot air“. We also have a saying, “that dog is all bark and no bite“. The word conceited is derived from the word “conceit” and it means to have a mental image. A conceited person has a mental image of himself that does not line up with reality. I’m reminded of the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who go to the temple to pray. The Pharisee is very conceited, He is grateful that he is not like other people. In his own mind, he is better than others.
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – They turn pleasure, a gift that was given to us by God, into an idol that they worship and serve over the God who created pleasure.
- Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power – Here is the kicker. Up until this point, it seemed like the Apostle Paul was discussing worldly people who were far from God. Yes, they are worldly and far from God yet, they are also religious people. They have a form of godliness but they have never experienced the power of God in their lives. They simply go through the motions, perform the rituals, and yet their lives have never been transformed. They are the ones in the Sermon on the Mount who call Jesus Lord, preach in His name, serve in His name, and minister in His name, yet, He tells them to depart from Him because they practiced lawlessness (sin). According to verse seven, they are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth. Why? It is because they oppose the Truth.
- Depraved mind – The Koine Greek word used here is “Katphtheiro“. The root of this word is “phtheiro” and it means “to corrupt, to destroy“. The other Greek word used here is “nous” and it means the mind. When this is all put together, it is a word picture of a perverted mind that destroys the person from the top down.
This is a tough list. The dirty little secret is that these are are characteristics of our sin nature. Apart from Christ, this is who we are. If you look at this list and think, “that could never be me” or “I would never do that” then you clearly do not understand humanity’s sin nature. What does a faithful follower of Christ look like?
II. A description of faithful people
I love the way that the Apostle Paul does not leave us hanging. He does not simply describe the ungodly and leave it at that. He actually lays out a plan of how to become a faithful follower of Christ and then equips us with the tools to stay on track.
10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3)
It all begins with the Scriptures. Timothy was taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother from a very young age. The Scriptures gave wisdom to Timothy to place his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As a follower of Christ, Timothy needed a mentor to guide him on this journey of faith. Paul stepped in and invested in Timothy. He also taught the Scriptures to Timothy. Understanding and applying the Scriptures impacted Timothy’s conduct. The Scriptures gave Timothy a purpose in life. Obeying the Scriptures matured Timothy in his faith. Timothy’s mature faith manifested in his patience, love, and perseverance. As you can see, the Scriptures played a major role in Timothy’s life. This is the key to success. We have to remain connected to the source, the Word of God. Verses sixteen and seventeen walk us through the process of how the Word of God works in us and through us. Every single word in the Bible comes directly from God. The Bible is the exact message that He wants to communicate to humanity. The Word of God is profitable to us if we are being trained in it, meaning , being taught from it. As we are exposed to the Word of God, we are taught things like who God is, what we are like, what is right and what is wrong etc. and as we are taught, God begins to show us where we are wrong. The verb to reprove means to be shown where you are wrong with the purpose of getting back right. God exposes our weaknesses and faults as we are learning from His Word. Once He shows us where we are wrong, He then shows us how to get right and helps us get there. Once we are corrected, God then begins to train us day by day so that we learn to stay on the right path. If we will walk through this process with Jesus leading the way, we will notice that our lives will begin to change day by day.
Are you staying close to the source, the Word of God? If not, your sin nature will bubble to the surface and your attitude, actions, and words will be more closely associated with paragraph one instead of like Christ. Difficult days are upon us because of mankind’s sin nature. The only person who can defeat mankind’s sin nature is Jesus Christ. Surrender to Him and remain connected to the source, the Word of God, and your life will be changed.
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