Lesson 26: "Men Shall Be Lovers of Their Own Selves. . .Ever Learning, and Never Able to Come to the Knowledge
Paul’s Letters To Preachers. This is lesson # 26, welcome again! Are you ready? The text is II-Tim. ch. 3! Please do a precursory reading; by that I mean you should do your own introductory and exploratory reading before attempting these lessons. The section we're launching upon has a slight prophetic stunt; but, not as is generally supposed when this passage is read. Two or three things I want you to stand on, lean against and hold to, as we consider and as we probe into this section. First of all, we are fast approaching the last writings we have of the apostle Paul and his demise as preserved for us through the Holy Ghost.
Secondly, you will need to see this section and hold it with a firm grip as connected up with the last verse in chapter two. The apostle plainly says to Timothy that "the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle ...apt to teach, patient [and] meek" in instructing them that oppose themselves (v.24). By them that oppose themselves (v.25), the apostle means: as sad as it really is and even contrary to common sense, these false teachers are not really achieving their own best interest. Ultimately, their own error is going to bring them down. They are lost. Now, the reason the apostle gave for this approach (of meekness, gentle, patient) on our part (in v.25) is THAT those people that oppose themselves, might have a second chance, i.e. be led to "repentance" (v.25, see that?). In other words, in Timothy's case, Hymeneus, Philetus, and that general category of false teachers (whoever they were) along with their converts, might have a second chance, "that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil..." (v.26). We must be very modest in our teaching approach, while striving to correct error; we must do it in meekness, not denouncing them with harsh words and not with a holier-than-thou attitude. This is very important, really. Now, after you have done it PROPERLY two or three times, then there's a time to move on. Do you remember Titus 3:10? "A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing... that he is subverted, and... condemned of himself." In other words, try to persuade them gently (make your point); but, don't try to force them and don't plague them.
Then in the third place, I want you to spend a moment or two on that phrase "the last days" (3:1). It seems there is a tendency on our part to think of this as "the last times," i.e. very near Christ's second coming as if tomorrow is judgment day. It is true, we are two thousand years closer to that event than Paul and Timothy were; however, the point here is that in this passage (I'm talking about v.1) this term THE LAST DAYS is a reference to the entire Christian era, not just near the end of the Christian dispensation. Paul here prophesied that this dispensation in which we live is different in this respect, the church age is different. In the prior dispensations of the Bible, they were stoned to death immediately for certain sins and the general attitude was different. In the church age, punishment of sin is certain; but, it comes at the end of this age. Because of this long- suffering of God, so-to-speak, a different attitude exists in our dispensation than in prior times. This attitude separates the sheep from the goats. Keep in mind, Paul is writing to Timothy and he says to Timothy (down in v.5), "from such turn away." So, what is said here encompasses the time of Timothy as well as the times in which you and I now live. This term THE LAST DAYS occurs in Joel 2:28 as quoted by Peter on pentecost (Acts 2:17), and the term is used in Heb. 1:2, just like here, you might want to review that. Then, finally, in the fourth place, please get an outline breakdown in your mind of what Paul is going to cover in this chapter. Two main things you will want to keep in mind. First (#1) is this symptomatic sin nature of the church age in which we live, THE LAST DAYS. The church, of course, is a perfect institution, established by our Lord, a perfect Saviour; however, the church is made up of imperfect human beings, blood bought and cleansed of past sins. Thus, a perfect institution was left with sinful and imperfect human beings (Matt. 25:14-30). Secondly, (or #2 and last) the apostle covers the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures in this section. Now, I've given you a good bit to chew on, you might need to review that; however, if you keep these things in clear view as you read and analyze this chapter, I believe your comprehension of this material will be much smoother and much more meaningful. Let's read! Beginning in II-Tim. ch. 3, we'll break up these 17 verses into two parts. We'11 start by reading v.1-9, are you ready?
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was."
O.K., now, what the apostle says here makes what was said at the end of ch. 2, doubly important. Our teaching, our conduct, our attitude! The servant of the Lord must NOT strive, i.e. we must not literally fight or even indulge in bitter strife. Such behavior and such practices are forbidden of Christian conduct. Alright, we've covered THE LAST DAYS term already. It is the designation found in the Old Testament of the age in which the Messiah would come. Thus, with the coming of Jesus, we are now in that age. We said, in that age, things are going to be different. Different how? O.K., the list the apostle gives in v.2,3,4,5 is his description of the attitude characteristic of this age. He describes these things as "perilous time," (v.1), others translate this "grievous times," "troublesome times," "difficult times," "times of stress," "hard times," and "dangerous times," (etc), so, take your choice. Now, most of the commentators go through the list the apostle gives here in v.2,3,4,5 word by word and thus consume pages in doing so. At the rate we're going this would take about two lessons. So, I'm going to trust you on this one. Please analyze this list on your own. Several sermons could easily be unearthed in this list. You might need to consult a common dictionary on two or three of these words; but, most of them are self explanatory and familiar terms to you, I'm sure. Some of them will stick out in your mind without even trying, some will hit you harder than others; but, don't be partial to your pick. Examine the thought in each word, cover the whole list and try to relate each one to a personal example from your own experience. There are great ramifications behind each of these terms; for example, "without natural affections" relates to the effeminate and homosexual closet bursting community trying to assert and usurp their so- called rights today. There has been some of that nonsense in every generation. What about "despisers of those that are good?" (end v.3). This characteristic is developed to a rather high degree today. In our government, in our society and in our nation, there is an antagonistic feeling generally against those who believe the Bible and really try to practice pure Christianity. They are looked upon as kooks. But, let me tell you: it's not nearly so bad in our generation as it has been in centuries past. This hatred, at times in the past, has provoked wars and wholesale destruction on some societies and some communities. Those who promote abortion, homosexuality, racial supremacy and all of that even today usually claim to be religious people...i.e. Christians by their own homespun definition. However, you cannot posses the attitudes and the characteristics of a Christian that the apostle covered at the end of ch. 2 (meekness, gentle, patient, long suffering and that non-strife factor) and then participate in such things. The two are mutually exclusive. So, the apostle ends his list by saying: Timothy, "from such turn away," i.e. do not participate in these things and that covers a lot of territory. Many of those who resist these Christian principles claim to be the smartest, the most educated and possessors of real knowledge. They appeal to scientific and academic circles as possessors of truth (the truth) in opposition to the Bible. But, my friend, true scientific knowledge and true academic knowledge harmonizes with the Bible every time (re-read the last two verses in I-Timothy).
V.6-7 (here) are a continuation of these thoughts. If we had more time we would explore with greater depth. Paul's statement in v.7, "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" always strikes me as so very applicable in our day. Every organization, every educational institution and every company and association in our day is researching something. They are always just about ready for a break-through; but, they never seem to quite get there and especially when they get those dollars flowing their way. Verse 8-9 is Paul's example of this attitude from history. This refers back to Exodus ch. 7-8-9 in the Old Testament when Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh. You'll not find Jannes and Jambres back there (where Paul got those names I do not know); but, you will find a very striking example of this attitude Paul has been describing. I suggest you go back and re-read the first half of Ex. ch. 7 (at the very least), where Moses and Aaron went in before the Egyptian Pharaoh. I'll leave that with you.
Let's read again, v.10-17...II-Tim. 3:10 beginning, here we go. "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Alright, after Paul discussed that LAST DAYS ATTITUDE in the previous verses through his list and then illustrated; the apostle said all such FOLLY (that's his word for it) shall be manifest, i.e. made know (v.9) "unto all men." (Did you get that?) There's going to be a day of reckoning. Paul teaches it on every turn. However, in contrast to all that, the apostle turns the coin over in the verses we just read (i.e. v.10-17) and discusses how it is with Christians, people like the apostle himself and Timothy and "any that will live godly in Christ Jesus" (v.12). Call it pie in the sky, if you want to; but, the picture of which the apostle reminds Timothy (here) might be better described in other terms. The apostle is saying, Timothy, I have left you an example...! am your example. You have had an opportunity to observe these Christian traits in me (me Paul). Timothy, you have "fully known my...manner of life." Christianity is a way of life, a manner of life. It's not something where you pick a brand most compatible with you, to fulfill your social needs, take a little when you feel like it and skip it when you don't. Christianity is the only route to heaven, i.e. those "that will live godly in Christ Jesus," (v.12). Timothy, it may require suffering, it may require persecution (end of v.12). Christians are the salt of the earth.. .you are the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-14). The Christian "doctrine," (here in v.10), the Christian "purpose" (v.10), is to light the way, serve the Master, seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), point the way of salvation. Timothy could remember how Paul had persevered back at Antioch and at Iconium (this is recorded in the last half of Acts ch. 13 and the first few verses of Acts ch. 14). Then at Lystra, a few miles from Timothy's hometown of Derbe, Paul was stoned and left for dead (that's in Acts ch. 14). Those with that LAST DAYS attitude sometimes make it rough for those who "will live godly in Christ Jesus," (v.12). Paul said, "what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me," (end of v.11). There is always a way of escape (I- Cor. 10:13). Then in v.13 (here) the apostle says to Timothy: "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." The delusion will get stronger and stronger (II-Thes. 2:11-12). Then in v.14-15 (here in II-Tim. ch. 3), Paul is saying: Timothy, hold on, hang-in-there, be a real trooper. Someone said, they told me cheer-up, things could be worse. He said, I cheered-up and sure enough things got worse. Paul, laboring on that big scroll there in that Roman prison, didn't hold out any artificial carrot to Timothy in the hope that things would improve. The apostle could see the end for himself and he was reconciled to being executed and beginning his journey through eternity. His real concern was for Timothy. His advice to Timothy was (v.14-15), Timothy, "continue thou in the things which thou has learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou has learned them; and that from a child thou has known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Timothy, it's our only hope; but, it's a great hope. Our hope is in the Scriptures, faith in the Scriptures, the Scriptures that can make us wise unto salvation (v.15). The Scriptures that give us faith in Christ Jesus. "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17) and hearing the Scriptures. All Scripture is God breathed (v.16), i.e. inspired of God. It's God's word. These Scriptures are profitable for us. They record the doctrine, i.e. the teaching, the pattern, the way and it's the only road map we have to heaven. It's God's handbook for a worthwhile life. It can thoroughly furnish a man "unto all good works," (v.17). It does not equip us for every work, just the good works. Some works are NOT good works and the learning about those other kind comes from another source, God's arch enemy. The Scriptures do not teach many roads to heaven, many churches, or that all are going to be saved. But, the Scriptures can "make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," (end of v.15). Have a good day.