2 Timothy 3:9
But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
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(9) But they shall proceed no further.—After that St. Paul, with no gentle hand, had torn aside the veil which was hiding apparently from Timothy the real state of his great charge at Ephesus, and had pointed out what fearful ravages among his flock had been committed by these ambitious and evil men, the Apostle proceeds to comfort his friend and disciple with the assurance that, great though the mischief already accomplished was, still it should proceed no further. To human eyes, such a state of things as here pictured by the Apostle would appear desperate. It would seem as though a deadly and incurable cancer was eating away the whole life of the community; but Timothy need not despair: the evil would only be allowed to advance to a certain point; and since St. Paul thus wrote, the same prophecy, not only in Ephesus but in a thousand churches, has been fulfilled to the very letter. Still, the same old foes under new faces make havoc of the Church. But they never seem to advance beyond a certain point, and after all these centuries the Church is still full of faith and life, bright, too, in spite of discouragements, in spite of the perpetual presence of these treacherous, deceitful men, with promise for the future.

For their folly shall be manifest.—Men and women would be led away for a season by the plausible words of such deceivers, but one school of error after another would fall into disrepute, then into neglect, then into the silent darkness of utter oblivion (the event in numberless instances has shown the truth of this prophecy); and Timothy might take comfort, by considering what Holy Scripture had placed on record respecting the Egyptian sorcerers, whose folly was manifest unto all men (Exodus 8:18-19; Exodus 9:11). Their folly was yet more manifest when men considered their latter end. (See Note above on Jannes and Jambres, 2Timothy 3:8.)

3:1-9 Even in gospel times there would be perilous times; on account of persecution from without, still more on account of corruptions within. Men love to gratify their own lusts, more than to please God and do their duty. When every man is eager for what he can get, and anxious to keep what he has, this makes men dangerous to one another. When men do not fear God, they will not regard man. When children are disobedient to their parents, that makes the times perilous. Men are unholy and without the fear of God, because unthankful for the mercies of God. We abuse God's gifts, if we make them the food and fuel of our lusts. Times are perilous also, when parents are without natural affection to children. And when men have no rule over their own spirits, but despise that which is good and to be honoured. God is to be loved above all; but a carnal mind, full of enmity against him, prefers any thing before him, especially carnal pleasure. A form of godliness is very different from the power; from such as are found to be hypocrites, real Christians must withdraw. Such persons have been found within the outward church, in every place, and at all times. There ever have been artful men, who, by pretences and flatteries, creep into the favour and confidence of those who are too easy of belief, ignorant, and fanciful. All must be ever learning to know the Lord; but these follow every new notion, yet never seek the truth as it is in Jesus. Like the Egyptian magicians, these were men of corrupt minds, prejudiced against the truth, and found to be quite without faith. Yet though the spirit of error may be let loose for a time, Satan can deceive the nations and the churches no further, and no longer, than God will permit.But they shall proceed no further - There is a certain point beyond which they will not be allowed to go. Their folly will become manifest, and the world will understand it. The apostle does not say how far these false teachers would be allowed to go, but that they would not be suffered always to prosper and prevail. They might be plausible at first, and lead many astray; they might, by art and cunning, cover up the real character of their system; but there would be a fair development of it, and it would be seen to be folly. The apostle here may be understood as declaring a general truth in regard to error. It often is so plausible at first, that it seems to be true. It wins the hearts of many persons, and leads them astray. It flatters them personally, or it flatters them with the hope of a better state of things in the church and the world. But the time will always come when men will see the folly of it. Error will advance only to a certain point, when it will be "seen" to be falsehood and folly, and when the world will arise and cast it off. In some cases, this point may be slower in being reached than in others; but there "is" a point, beyond which error will not go. At the reformation under Luther, that point had been reached, when the teachings of the great apostasy were seen to be "folly," and when the awakened intellect of the world would allow it to "proceed no farther," and aroused itself and threw it off. In the workings of society, as well as by the direct appointment of God, there is a point beyond which error cannot prevail; and hence, there is a certainty that truth will finally triumph.

For their folly shall be manifest unto all men - The world will see and understand what they are, and what they teach. By smooth sophistry, and cunning arts, they will not be able always to deceive mankind.

As their's also was - That of Jannes and Jambres. That is, it became manifest to all that they could not compete with Moses and Aaron; that their claims to the power of working miracles were the mere arts of magicians, and that they had set up pretensions which they could not sustain; compare Exodus 8:18-19. In regard to the time to which the apostle referred in this description, it has already been observed (see the notes at 2 Timothy 3:1), that it was probably to that great apostasy of the "latter days," which he has described in 2 Thessalonians 2:and 1 Timothy 4:But there seems to be no reason to doubt that he had his eye immediately on some persons who had appeared then, and who had evinced some of the traits which would characterize the great apostasy, and whose conduct showed that the great "falling away" had already commenced. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, he says that the "mystery of iniquity" was already at work, or was even then manifesting itself; and there can be no doubt that the apostle saw that there had then commenced what he knew would yet grow up into the great defection from the truth. In some persons, at that time, who had the form of godliness, but who denied its power; who made use of insinuating arts to proselyte the weak and the credulous; who endeavor to imitate the true apostles, perhaps by attempting to work miracles, as Jannes and Jambres did, he saw the "germ" of what was yet to grow up into so gigantic a system of iniquity as to overshadow the world. Yet he consoled Timothy with the assurance that there was a point beyond which the system of error would not be allowed to go, but where its folly must be seen, and where it would be arrested.

9. they shall proceed no further—Though for a time (2Ti 2:16) "they shall advance or proceed (English Version, 'increase') unto more ungodliness," yet there is a final limit beyond which they shall not be able to "proceed further" (Job 38:11; Re 11:7, 11). They themselves shall "wax worse and worse" (2Ti 3:13), but they shall at last be for ever prevented from seducing others. "Often malice proceeds deeper down, when it cannot extend itself" [Bengel].

their folly—literally, "dementation": wise though they think themselves.

shall be manifest—Greek, "shall be brought forth from concealment into open day" [Bengel], (1Co 4:5).

as theirs … was—as that of those magicians was, when not only could they no longer try to rival Moses in sending boils, but the boils fell upon themselves: so as to the lice (Ex 8:18; 9:11).

But they shall proceed no further; God will preserve those in his church that are sincere; though they may captivate a few poor, ignorant women, they shall have no great success.

For their folly shall be made manifest unto all men; for God will in his providence so order it, that their folly or madness shall appear to all, and their party shall decline. The Divine Providence, that governs all things by the invincible light of truth, discovers and confounds the most specious and subtle seducers in his own time. And this prediction of the apostle was exactly fulfilled with respect to those primitive seducers. As theirs also was; as God by his providence laid open Jannes and Jambres.

But they shall proceed no further,.... They may proceed to more ungodliness, and wax worse and worse in error; but they shall proceed no further than the magicians of Egypt, who did lying wonders, hardened Pharaoh's heart, and deceived him and the Egyptians; but could not destroy the Israelites, nor hinder their departure out of Egypt, when their time was come: so these wicked men do false miracles, harden the popes of Rome, and deceive the nations subject to them; but they cannot deceive the elect of God, nor destroy the church of God, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail; nor could they hinder the reformation, or the departure of the Lord's people out of Babylon.

For their folly should be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was; as the folly of Jannes and Jambres was, when Aaron's rod devoured theirs; and when they could not produce lice, but was obliged to own to Pharaoh, that that plague was the finger of God; and when they could not stand before Moses, because of the boils that were upon them, Exodus 7:12. And so the Arabic version renders it, "as is manifest the folly, or madness of these two"; and it is notorious in how many instances the frauds, impostures, tricks, and villanies of the church of Rome, and its votaries, have been detected and exposed; which have been the means of hindering them from proceeding any further than they have. The Alexandrian copy reads, "their understanding"; that which they pretended to have of divine things.

{3} But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

(3) He adds a comfort: the Lord will at length take off all their masks.

2 Timothy 3:9. A ground of comfort.

ἀλλʼ οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον] This appears to stand in contradiction with 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 2:16-17. Bengel remarks: non proficient amplius: non ita, ut alios seducant; quamquam ipsi et eorum similes proficient in pejus 2 Timothy 3:13. Saepe malitia, quum late non potest, profundius proficit. This, however, is not a satisfactory explanation, since νομὴν ἕξει, 2 Timothy 2:17, and πλανῶντες, 2 Timothy 3:13, point to the increasing extent of the heresy. Chrysostom, however, says rightly: κἂν πρότερον ἀνθήσῃ τὰ τῆς πλάνης, εἰς τέλος οὐ διαμένει. The contradiction exists only when the apostle’s words are wrongly pressed so as to contain a denial of every further extension of the heresy. For the present their influence is extending; but later it will come to an end; this does not contradict the apostle’s prophecy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, since Paul does not say that the demoralization of men will be brought about by the heretics of whom he is thinking here. Hofmann sees no apparent contradiction, as he supposes that Paul in the passages mentioned is not speaking of the same people; but in this he is wrong, since both the context and the expression show that those mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:13 are the same as those in 2 Timothy 3:6-9.

The apostle confirms the thought expressed by adding the words: ἡ γὰρ ἄνοια αὐτῶν ἔκδηλος ἔσται πᾶσιν] The ἄνοια (= “want of judgment, senselessness”) of the heretics does not refer so much to their doctrines opposed to the truth, as to their conduct described in 2 Timothy 3:6.

ἔκδηλος (ἅπ. λεγ.) … ὡς καὶ ἡ ἐκείνων ἐγένετο] “as they were put to shame before Moses,” Exodus 8:18 f., Exodus 9:11 (de Wette).

2 Timothy 3:9. οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον: There is only a verbal inconsistency between this statement and those in 2 Timothy 2:16 and 2 Timothy 3:13, where see notes. The meaning here is that there will be a limit to the success of the false teachers. They will be exposed, found out; those to whom that fact is apparent will not be imposed on any more. In 2 Timothy 2:16, the increasing impiety of the teachers and the cancerous growth of their teaching is alleged as a reason why Timothy should avoid them. In 2 Timothy 3:13, προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον does not indicate success in gaining adherents, but simply advance in degradation. “Saepe malitia, quum late non potest, profundius proficit” (Bengel).

ἄνοια: dementia (m50) is nearer the mark than insipientia (Vulg.).

ὡς καὶ ἡ ἐκείνων ἐγένετο: “Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (Exodus 7:12); they failed to produce lice (Exodus 8:18). “And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boils were upon the magicians” (Exodus 9:11). During the plague of darkness, “they lay helpless, made the sport of magic art, and a shameful rebuke of their vaunts of understanding” (Wis 17:7).

9. But they shall proceed no further] The same words as in 2 Timothy 2:16, where their advance is predicted. Here the future beyond that advance is seen. The adverbial phrase with the verb lends itself to this double meaning, being in the comparative and so capable of being rendered there ‘still farther’ and here ‘not very far.’ So in St Luke’s usage, Acts 4:17, ‘that it spread no further’; but Acts 20:9, ‘while Paul was very long discoursing’; Acts 24:4, ‘that I may not weary thee at great length’; cf. 1 Timothy 3:14, ‘quite shortly’; 2 Timothy 1:18, ‘very well’; Acts 17:22, ‘somewhat superstitious.’

manifest] Lit. ‘thoroughly manifest,’ a strong classical compound occurring only here in N. T.

their folly] The noun occurs only here and Luke 6:11, where R.V. renders ‘madness’; Ellicott, ‘wicked as well as insensate folly’; Trench, ‘the foolishness which is akin to, and derived from wickedness’ (N. T. Syn. § 75); for the adjective see note on Titus 3:3.

as theirs also was] R.V. literally, came to be; the conjunction emphasises pronoun and verb as in 2 Timothy 3:5.

2 Timothy 3:9. Οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον, they shall proceed no further) not so as to seduce others, although they themselves, and those like them, shall proceed (προκόψουσιν) to worse and worse, 2 Timothy 3:13. Often malice proceeds deeper down when it cannot extend itself.—ἄνοια, folly) though they may think themselves wise.—ἔκδηλος) brought from (ἐκ) concealment into open day.—ἡ ἐκείνων, theirs) Exodus 7:12; Exodus 8:18; Exodus 9:11. A very severe punishment is denoted by the moderate expression, used by the apostle in reference to a well-known fact.

Verse 9. - Evident for manifest, A.V.; came to be for was, A.V. Shall proceed (proko/yousin); as ch. 2:16 (where see note) and ver. 13. The apostle's meaning here is, as explained by the example of the magicians, that heresies shall not prevail against the truth. Απὶ πλεῖον means beyond the point indicated in his description of their future progressive evil. They would "proceed further in ungodliness," as he said in 2 Timothy 2:16, but not up to the point of destroying the gospel, as history has shown. The various forms of Gnosticism have perished. The gospel remains. As theirs also came to be (Exodus 8:18, 19). Surely the A.V. "was" is better. 2 Timothy 3:9Shall proceed (προκόψουσιν)

See on 2 Timothy 2:16.

Folly (ἄνοια)

Only here and Luke 6:11 (note). The senselessness of their teaching, with an implication of its immoral character.

Manifest (ἔκδηλος)

N.T.o. lxx, 3 Macc. 3:19; 6:5.

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