Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE PERIOD OF THIS APOSTASY. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."
1. The language does not point to the closing days of the Christian dispensation, for it resembles the language of the Apostle John - "It is the last time" - where the present is undoubtedly referred to, and not the future.
2. The contextual injunction, "from such turn away," applies to the present rather that, to a far distant future. The Christian Church has in all ages shown a condition of things only too closely represented by the moral picture in the context. The apostle implies that there were "vessels of dishonour" in the "large house" in his own day, such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, as well as "vessels unto honour."
3. The language has a wide latitude, covering the whole space of the Christian dispensation. The evil had begun to work in the age of Timothy, but the worst development of anti-Christian apostasy will be in the closing days of the dispensation. The "days of the Messiah" are often alluded to in the Hebrew prophets as "in the last days;" literally, "the end of days" (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1).
II. THE DANGEROUS CHARACTER OF THIS APOSTASY. "Perilous times shall come."
1. It will be a time of damager to the faith of God's people.
2. It will be a time of peril to their lives.
3. It will be a time of abounding wickedness as well as error. - T.C.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEN IN THE GRIEVOUS TIMES. "For men shall be lovers of self." "Such men as the apostle here describes there have been at all times, and the apostle does not say that they will be then such for the first time, nor that all men without exception shall be such, but he describes the moral spiritual physiognomy of the times which he beholds approaching." We are not to include in this first part of the description all who are influenced by self-love; for it is only right before God that we should be influenced by an intelligent regard to our interest. The persons intended are the selfish - a word which was only brought in by the Puritan divines toward the middle of the seventeenth century. They are those who exclude God from the central place to which he is entitled in their life. They are those who exclude others from the place of interest to which they are entitled. They thus put self in a false position - make it the beginning and end of all their thoughts and actions. They properly take the place of pre-eminence in the apostle's list; for all classes of sinners are after the selfish type, i.e. put forward self in some way or other that does not accord with eternal truth. In the grievous times will be large developments of selfishness. "Lovers of money." From similarity of composition in the Greek words, the apostle passes on from lovers of self to lovers of money. Under this head are not to be included all seekers of money; for it is right to seek money for good ends. Neither are there to be included all who seek money for selfish ends. But we are to think rather of the avaricious, i.e. those who seek to retain money in a selfish way. They look upon it as that which will make them self-sufficient in the future; and therefore they grudge to spend it even on present necessity. The times will be grievous when the avaricious increase. "Boastful." Derived from a word signifying "a wandering about," this word designated first the vagabond mountebanks, conjuors, quacksalvers, or exorcists, "full of empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats which they could accomplish." Men do not need to go about crying up, advertising, that which is of great value. What men generally boast of is some external advantage which is of little consequence in comparison with the moral worth which should be associated with it. The times will be grievous when the gift is exalted above the moral use to which it is put. "Haughty." The haughty are literally, in the Greek, those who show themselves above their fellows. In the glass of their own minds, they behold themselves standing along with others; and the comparison they make is in their own favour. Their estimate is false in respect of the importance attached to that in which they pride themselves, and in respect of the importance attached to that for which they despise others. Birth is an advantage, but not the only advantage, nor the greatest advantage, and must be taken along with service and character. In the grievous times there will be a great amount of pride. "Railers." The word is "blasphemers," but it would be inconsistent with holding the form of godliness to think of blasphemers in the usual sense in English. It is better, therefore, to think of those who use evil words to each other, i.e. words of contempt, or words of bitterness. There is to be a large development of evil speaking in the grievous times. "Disobedient to parents." Selfishness is early to show itself in the form of self-will. The young generation are to show impatience of being ruled by their parents, which is sure to grow into impatience in respect of all rightful rule. In the grievous times there is to be a large development of lawlessness, beginning in the family circle. "Unthankful." Those who are allowed to have their own way in early life are not likely to grow up to show gratitude to parents for what they have sacrificed for them, nor are they likely to show gratitude in the ordinary intercourse of life, nor can we think of them showing gratitude to God for his mercies. Ingratitude is to be a striking feature of the grievous times. "Unholy." There are certain sanctities which are everlasting, which are anterior to all law and custom, which belong to the Divine constitution of things, e.g. the sanctities of the marriage bond. The unholy are those who have no reverence or love in their hearts for these everlasting sanctities. In the grievous times the most sacred bonds are to be disregarded. "Without natural affection." Affection is that which sweetens life. In the grievous times affection is to die out, even for those for whom nature specially claims affection. Parents will act unnaturally toward their children. "Implacable." The word supposes a state of variance. In the grievous times men are not to come to terms with those who have given them offence, but are to pursue them with all the might of their vengeance. "Slanderers." They are not to be content with pouring contempt and bitterness on one another in ordinary evil speaking, but they are to attack one another with falsehoods. Thus the diabolic character is to be developed in the grievous times. "Without self-control." With self-will uncurbed in early life, it is not to be wondered at that the men of the grievous times are to be men who have lost self-control. "Fierce." In the grievous times there will be loss of self-control, proceeding to deeds of violence. "No lovers of good." In keeping with the personal reference before and after, we prefer to translate, "no lovers of good men." With evil so active in them, the presence of good men will be burdensome to them. They are therefore likely to make the times grievous to the good, by unjustly treating them. "Traitors." Fidelity is the sacred bond that joins friend to friend. In the grievous times friend will be often found betraying friend. "Headstrong." In the grievous times men will go to daring lengths. "Puffed up." The explanation of their daringness is, that they have no right sense of their own position before God - their insignificance, impotence, and responsibility. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Men will be daring especially in sensual gratification. Pleasure will he preferred to God. "Holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof." The remarkable thing is that the men who have been described (we do not need to think of the characteristics being all combined) should hold a form of godliness. The relation of the form of godliness to the men who make the grievous times, is that it conceals their true character. It is self throughout, in a more or less hateful form, and therefore the real power of godliness is denied. But it does not appear so nakedly and hatefully to be self where there is a form of acknowledging God. The relation of the form of godliness to the grievous times is, that it allows evil to work more insidiously. It is not so difficult to meet pure heathenism as it is to meet a Christianity that has become heathenish. Advice. "From these also turn away." Paul would have things put on a basis of reality. Between Timothy and such men there could be no sympathy. Why keep up a semblance of fellowship? Both for them and for him it was better that the line of demarcation should be drawn, and that all further intercourse should proceed on the footing that they did not belong to the same Christian society.
II. THE MEN OF THE GRIEVOUS TIMES ANTICIPATED. "For of these." The apostle follows up his description of the men of the evil times by the advice to turn away from them, as though they were already present. The explanation he gives is that there were forerunners of them, men of the same spiritual kith. Characteristics.
1. Influence with women.
(1) Manner of their influence. "Are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women." Their converts were among women, which was not matter of reproach to them. But it was matter of reproach that it was women so habitually that they sought to influence, and that they did not go openly about the work of influencing them. They crept into houses, as though they did not wish to be seen. And that mode of entrance suggested the employment of other methods than the direct force of truth. By the methods employed they got the women completely into their power. It was matter of reproach to the women that they gave themselves up to such teachers, and therefore they are called silly women.
(2) Explanation of their influence. "Laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." They were not women of the right stamp. In relation to their past they were laden with sins. In relation to their present they were led away by divers lusts - led away to divers, and even conflicting, sources of gratification. They needed a salve for their conscience, and yet a salve that allowed continued gratification. This salve was supplied by the false teachers. They were always getting some new point from them, which gave satisfaction for the time, but they never came any nearer resting in the truth. The reason was that they had not the right moral conditions. Their object was, not to get such truth (to be found in the gospel) as would have delivered them from the guilt of their sins and the power of their lusts, but to have lengthened out to them a mingling of sensual and intellectual gratification.
2. Withstanding the truth.
(1) Type of their opposition. "And like as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith." The apostle here makes use of Hebrew tradition. Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned in the Old Testament, but Hebrew tradition identifies them with the chief of the magicians who withstood Moses. Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and it became a serpent; and the magicians "they also did in like manner with their enchantments." It is also recorded that they succeeded in imitating the first two plagues. They thus withstood Moses - stood between him and the effect which his miracles were intended to produce on Pharaoh. So the false teachers produced a spurious imitation of the truth, teaching what resembled the gospel without being the gospel. As the gospel teachers had also to a late period (Galatians 3:5) the power of working miracles, so we can understand that these teachers made use of magical arts in confirmation of their quasi-gospel teaching. They thus withstood the truth - came between the gospel and the effect it was fitted to produce. In thus acting they were corrupted in mind; their motives were not good. Their object was not to advance the truth, or to benefit those whom they taught, but to advance themselves and to obtain their own ends with their female converts. They were also reprobate concerning the faith; they were making it abundantly clear that their adherence to the faith was a complete failure.
(2) Type of their defeat. "But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be evident unto all men, as theirs also came to be." So Luther used to say of the priests by whom he was opposed. The false teachers used secret and spurious methods with success; but, though they might wax worse and worse themselves (ver. 13), the time of their exposure was come. So was it with Jannes and Jambres. They were in undisturbed possession of power till Moses appeared on the scene. They seemed to be succeeding when they turned their own rods into serpents; but they suffered defeat when Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. They seemed to be recovering their success when they imitated the first plague, and again when they imitated the second plague; but they were baffled in their attempt to imitate the third plague. They were in connection with another plague shown to be defeated, when they could not stand before Moses because of the boils. Moses succeeded in getting the children of Israel out of Egypt; and Hebrew tradition tells that Jannes and Jambres perished in the Red Sea. This is the history of all false teaching, of all spiritual trickery. It may succeed for a time, but its very success often works its ruin. The time comes when its impostures are found out, and it can proceed no further. So we can believe that the great development of evil in the last days will end in complete exposure, and in the brilliant triumph of good.
III. CONTRAST IN TIMOTHY.
1. Timothy reminded of his conduct at a former period, which was a following of Paul as his guiding star.
(1) A leading up to sufferings. "But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, long suffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings." The period referred to is Timothy's early ministry. He then acted as assistant to Paul, and what Paul gratefully calls to mind was his close following of him as a disciple. He not only followed him so as to be familiar with details, but followed him so as to direct his course by what he saw in him. The great lines of his teaching, the great lines of his conduct, Timothy made his own. The special purpose of his life (ruling so many details), which was to spread the gospel of Christ, was also after Paul. So, too, was his disposition towards Christ, viz. faith, especially in his power to make his gospel to tell upon men. So, too, was his disposition toward opponents, viz. his long suffering with their bitter opposition. So, too, was his disposition toward those in whose interest he laboured, viz. love for their souls. So, too, was his disposition under all the adverse conditions of his ministry, as appointed for him, viz. patience. This forms a point of transition to past troublous times when Paul was persecuted, and persecuted so as to be a sufferer in many ways. Even to the apostle's persecutions and sufferings Timothy's following extended; i.e. he thoroughly appreciated the fidelity which led to them and brave bearing under them. They may have had to do with his joining the apostle, and determined his own relation to persecutions and sufferings.
(2) Sufferings specified. "What things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured." At Antioch he suffered expulsion. At Iconium he had to flee from maltreatment, particularly stoning. At Lystra under Jewish instigation, the mob stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. Such were the persecutions, the last especially sharp and extreme, under which Paul bore up, of which Timothy bad a distinct impression, and which were fitted to embolden him still.
(3) Comfortable issue of the sufferings. "And out of them all the Lord delivered me." He was cared for by the great Head of the Church, to whom all power in earth had been committed, to whom it belonged to order the earthly destiny of his servants. The Lord, who had more work for him to do, delivered him out of all the machinations of his enemies - gave him up to sorrowing friends when he was left for dead by his enemies.
2. Timothy forewarned.
(1) Regarding persecutions. "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." To live godly is to take the rule of our life from God. This can only be carried out in communion with Christ Jesus. Were all living according to the Divine rule around us, we should be abundantly encouraged. But seeing we live in the midst of so many who hate goodness and do not like to be reminded of God, we must expect to suffer persecution, i.e. to be misjudged, to be opposed, to be assailed, if our godliness is active and aggressive against evil, as it should be. We must have a mind to live godly, whatever consequences it entails. It was because he lived according to the Divine rule that Paul was stoned. As the principle involved was universal, Timothy, in proportion to the vitality of his godliness, must expect to suffer persecution.
(2) Regarding evil men, and especially one class of them. "But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Of the evil men that make persecutions, the worst specimens had not yet been seen. The rule is that good men wax better and better, the good men of one generation outstripping the good men of former generations. This may not apply to particular specimens, for we do not find any to outstrip Paul. But it is true of good men as a class that, with better helps, more experience to go by, better education, better books, better methods, better organization, they are of more value to the society to which they belong. We have laymen in our Churches now whose Christian enlightenment and activity is above what any previous generation has seen. While the good are better, the bad are worse. This applies especially to the class specified, who, with reference to what has before been said, are called impostors, or tricksters in religion. The original reference of the word is to those who chanted their spells in a sort of howl. We have worse specimens of withstanders of the truth than Jannes and Jambres were, or their successors in the early times of Christianity. Infidels are a worse class of men now than they were half a century ago. The incantations used in the free thinking press are of a more dangerous nature than any potions or howlings that were resorted to by magicians of old. Our free thinkers are deceivers; they habitually subject Scripture to the most unfair treatment. And deceiving, they are also deceived; conscious of their own trickery, they do not subject the statements of their friends to examination, but are known for their amazing credulity.
3. Timothy incited to present duty founded on past early training.
(1) Early teaching. "But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned." Timothy was no longer in the position of the child taught, but in the position of a teacher of others. To one in that position it might have been thought that the appropriate thing would have been advice about his reading - and he does appear to have had books and parchments from the apostles - but the advice which he gives him here is to continue in the things which he had learned, i.e. as a child. And there was really nothing better for him; nothing except this, that the Messiah whom Lois and Eunice taught him to look forward to was now come, and that there had been done to him and by him all that the Old Testament Scriptures had said of him. And so to those who are grown up, and have power to think and to read and to grasp things with a firm grasp, there is never anything better than the old story of Jesus and his love, learned at a mother's knee.
(2) Early teaching along with early convictions. "And hast been assured of." We should read," Thou didst learn, and wast assured of." It is Timothy's early convictions that we are to think of. He not only got the teaching from Lois and Eunice, but it became matter of personal conviction to him. He could set to his own seal to what he had been taught. He knew the worth of a mother's religion in the peace, restraint, hope, it brought into his own soul. It was a legitimate argument for Paul to use with Timothy, not to turn his back on his early convictions, to hold to the God of his childhood. When life was lived according to God's ideas, such as Timothy's was, he was not to be inconsistent and to make the latter part disagree with the former. "There is but one way of making all our days one, because one love, one hope, one joy, one aim, binds them all together; and that is by taking the abiding Christ for ours, and abiding in him all our days. Our true progress consists, not in growing away from Jesus, but in growing up into him; not in passing through and leaving behind the first convictions of him as Saviour, but in having these verified by the experience of years, deepened and cleared, unfolded and ordered into a larger though still incomplete whole."
(3) Personal element in teaching. "Knowing of whom [what persons] thou hast learned them." "Timothy was supposed to have a complete set of recollections from his mother woven into his very feeling of the truth itself. It was more true, because it had been taught by her. There was even a sense of her loving personality in it, by which it had always been, and was always to be endeared. On the other hand, it will be always found that every kind of teaching in religion which adds no personal interest or attraction to the truth, sheds no light upon it from a good and beautiful life, is nearly or quite worthless. And here is the privilege of a genuinely Christian father and mother in their teaching, that they pass into the heart's feeling of their child, side by side with God's truth, to be forever identified with it, and to be, themselves, lived on and over with it, in the dear eternity it gives him."
(4) When teaching begins. "And that from a babe thou hast known." Those who carry the idea of individual responsibility through everything have a difficulty here in the dating of religious instruction from the very earliest age. James Mill, the author of the 'History of India,' taking the education of his more remarkable son, John Stuart Mill, into his own hands, proceeded on the principle that a religious upbringing would be an interference with free development, and systematically kept all religious ideas out of his mind till he considered him able to form an independent and unbiassed judgment upon the subject of religion. Our objection to that course is that it is a virtual selling of the child to the devil. If God and truth are not presented to the mind till a matured judgment can be formed, it is not as though there had not been experience, but the mind is already warped and religion is placed at a fearful disadvantage. Eunice proceeded on the right principle when she seized the earliest opportunity of influencing the mind of Timothy in favour of religion.
(5) Scriptural teaching.
(a) Name. "The sacred writings." The name is suggestive, in the first place, of a written revelation, which has the advantage over oral tradition (the form of revelation which obtained for the first two or three thousand years) in that it does not lie so open to the action of prejudice. Men may come with all manner of prejudices to it, but it is there to witness for itself to every unprejudiced mind. The name is suggestive, in the second place, of many writers being employed in the communication of Divine truth, which is much better than one with his particular idiosyncrasy entering into his writings, inasmuch as all classes of minds can be thus suited, and if they are not attracted by one mode of stating the truth, they may be attracted by another. The name is suggestive, in the third place, of writings connected with religion, such as there do not seem to have been in connection with the religions of Greece and Rome. The Bible can be employed for the instruction of children, inasmuch as it is truly a child's book as well as a man's book. What is needed, at the first stage at least, is truth in the concrete form; and this is to be found in the Bible, which, with some things hard to be understood, has yet many a simple statement and story that is fitted to fill the child's imagination and to touch the child's heart. Eunice had only the Old Testament Scriptures to draw upon: the Christian parent has now an immense advantage, in the addition of the New Testament, and especially of the four Gospels, and in the greater facilities which a printed Bible gives him for getting Bible images and lessons into the mind of the child.
(b) Property. "Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." They form a directory to salvation, containing all the information and pleading with the soul which are necessary. To one inexperienced in the ways of the world it is a great advantage to have a friend at hand, able on every occasion to give a sound advice, to expose fallacies, to put forward weighty considerations. Inexperienced in the ways of the world we certainly are, liable to be deceived by appearances, to be buoyed up with false hopes. In giving us the Scriptures, God acts the part of a friend, giving us the best advice, opening our eyes to reality, so that, with all our inexperience, it is as though we possessed boundless stores of wisdom. They are able to make wise unto salvation, but they may not; for there are some who make themselves wiser than God's Word, and think they know better about things than God does, and so perish by being wise in their own conceits and refusing to be guided.
(c) Condition of efficiency. "Through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The Scriptures cannot do more than make us wise unto salvation; they are not to be put in the place of Christ, whose connection with salvation is more than that of a directory - is of the most intimate nature, who is really the efficient Cause of salvation, the Receptacle of salvation; and they only do their work when they bring us up to Christ, and also induce in us that state of mind which is here called faith, which instrumentally appropriates the salvation which is in him.
IV. SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE.
1. Ground of sufficiency. "Every Scripture inspired of God." According to this translation the inspiration of Scripture is taught, not explicitly but implicitly. We are to regard it as taken for granted that Scripture is God-breathed. Inspiration extends to every part of Scripture. This is a doctrine of vital importance to the Church. Its bearing is that there is not only the absence of error, but the presence of positive perfection in relation to the whole want of man under the present order of things. The Divine influence, however operating, is guarantee that in Scripture, in its manifoldness, we have all fundamentally that needs to be said to man on the subject of religion, and in the form that is best fitted to have deep and lasting effect upon his spiritual nature as a whole. The difference is very perceptible in the post-apostolic literature. "Even where we recognize a lofty flight of the spirit as in the Ignatian Epistles, the inspiration repeatedly is merely a religious enthusiasm, a subjective romance, showing itself in an almost revelling desire for martyrdom, moving and even infectious; so that many who read an Ignatian Epistle for the first time feel themselves doubtless more excited and stirred than by a Pauline one; but this very feature proves that it is not really inspired; for the Spirit who founded the Church does not tolerate the extolling of one isolated tendency in the soul, and cannot bear such subjective partiality of view, be it ever so strong, ever so apparently admirable."
2. Fourfold use. "Is also profitable." In reading the Scriptures what we are to seek above all things is that the truth contained in them may be brought into contact with our minds for our profit. "For teaching." There is first a revealing power in the Bible. It teaches us much that we could not otherwise have known. It supplies us with what is necessary not only for a correct, but a lofty, conception of God. It acquaints us with our fallen state, and with God's dealings with us for our salvation. "For reproof." The reproving power of the Bible results from its great revealing power, along with the state in which it finds us. The light it sheds is not for our justification, but for our being convicted of departures both from truth and righteousness. "For correction." The corrective power of the Bible starts from our being convicted as out of the straight path. By proper directions, admonitions, warnings, encouragements, it brings us back into the straight path. "For instruction which is in righteousness." The disciplinary power of the Bible is specified as being within the sphere of righteousness. In the lofty demands it makes - the loftier the further we advance - it gives us the spiritual drill which makes for right habits.
3. Completeness aimed at. "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." The man of God is man according to the Divine idea. Many excellences go to make the complete man, intellectual, emotional, practical. God desires to see the complete man; and he has given the Bible for that end. The completeness thought of is that of man as a worker, producing good thoughts, good words, good actions. God desires to see the completely furnished worker, and he has given the Bible for that end. It is true that we come very far short of the Divine ideal of our humanity; the reason will be found to be that we neglect the help provided for us. We do not consult God, but our own prejudiced thoughts. Let us go back to the Bible, to be convicted of our error, and corrected, and severely exercised toward the complete man. - R.F.
I. THE SELFISH CLASS. "For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money." Selfishness heads the dreary list. It is regarded by many theologians as the root principle of all sin. As the opposite of love, however, is not selfishness, but hatred, this position cannot be maintained. Yet selfishness is, above all things, the hard represser of love. The "love of money" has been called "the daughter of selfishness."
II. THE CLASS OF ARROGANT BOASTERS. "Boasters, arrogant, railers." The first are ostentatious in speech; the second, full of pride and contempt for others; the third are full of insults to men.
III. THE CLASS WHICH IS DEFIANTLY REGARDLESS OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS. "Disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable." He who is regardless of filial duty will he ungrateful to others, and he that is ungrateful will have no regard for holiness of character; for he will keep covenant with no one who disregards his parent or his benefactor.
IV. THE CLASS DISTINGUISHED BY RECKLESS AND PASSIONATE DEFIANCE OF GOOD. "Slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors." The first term points to the disposition to bring the good down to the level of the base; the second, to the absence of all restraint from law, human or Divine; the third, to the savage temper that delights in cruelty; the fourth, to the spirit that "loves darkness rather than light;" the fifth, to the class of men who could betray their Christian brethren to their persecutors, or behave falsely in any of their existing relationships.
V. THE CLASS OF HEADY AND CONCEITED ACTORS. "Headstrong, puffed up." Rashness and conceit are often allied.
VI. THE CLASS OF PLEASURE SEEKERS. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." It represents a dissipated class under a Christian profession, who have no serious pursuits, and prefer the friendship of the world to the friendship of God. Thus, the long catalogue of moral enormity developed by the apostasy began with "the love of self," and ends with "the love of pleasure," to the utter exclusion, first and last, of the "love of God." - T.C.
I. HERE IS A GREAT FORCE. "Lovers!" Love will surely be exercised in some form. Sin is perversion. We are so constituted as to love something. There is an enthusiasm of evil. Men delight in sin; and so the forces of the soul run to weeds.
II. HERE IS A WRONG OBJECT. Pleasure - instead of God. What a contrast! We find that there is sometimes an aesthetic sensuousness that finds pleasure in immoral "art" - where God is not, where there is no reverence, no righteousness, no purity, no goodness. And men worship before the shrine of pleasure till they become idolaters, worshipping worldly applause, fleshly satisfaction, and carnal joy. There is a pleasure that is lawful and healthful; without it brain and body, mind and heart, suffer; but it must ever be subordinated to an earnest life and a godly devotion, or we become "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." - W.M.S.
I. THE EXTERNAL FORM OF PIETY IS TO EXIST UNDER THE APOSTASY. "Having a form of godliness." The picture is that of a Christianized paganism in the Church. There was to be a scrupulous regard for all ritualistic regularity; an outward show of devoutness under strict forms, and the mask of godliness over all to cover a heart in secret enslaved by sin.
II. THERE WILL BE A REPUDIATION OF REAL GODLINESS. "But denying the power thereof."
1. The power of godliness consists in love to God and love to our neighbour. These were both repudiated. The class referred to were strangers to experimental religion, which they dishonoured by saying one thing with their lips and another thing with their lives.
2. Such a repudiation involves graver sin and deeper condemnation than if they had never known the truth or heard of the way of life.
III. THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS IN THE APOSTASY. "From such turn away." We ought to withdraw from their fellowship, avoid all familiarity with them, hold no terms with the enemies of Christ and his kingdom. - T.C.
I. WE MAY DISCOVER THE SIGNS OF MERE FORMALISM. What are they? See vers. 2, 3, and 4, in which men who are "covetous, and lovers of their own selves," are associated with blasphemers and false accusers, unthankful and unholy. All alike find their hypocrisy is detected by the Divine insight. We may well search and examine ourselves; for do not men think lightly sometimes of covetousness and selfishness, or of being unthankful or high minded? Often, indeed, we look to great vices only as our destroyers, and we forget that hypocrisy may be seen in masked ingratitude. Yet here it is discovered, not under the cloak which hides evil enormities, but under the veil which hides from our eyes the presence of the more respectable sins.
II. WE MAY STUDY THE SECRET OF THIS FORMALISM.
1. Prayerless habit which leaves the spirit unsupplied with the nutriment of communion with God.
2. Consciousness of the fact that in the world appearances are enough, and that religion is so respected and so respectable that it will not do to live without its appearance.
3. Fellowship with the world, which denudes us of all earnest endeavours alter the Divine life. - W.M.S.
I. THE ARTS OF THE SEDUCERS. "For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women."
1. They were of a most proselytizing spirit. Like the Pharisees, they would compass sea and land to make one proselyte.
2. They practised unworthy arts. They wormed their way insidiously into the confidence of families. There was a deceitful and tricky method of gaining access to their victims.
3. They used their stratagems to snare women rather than men. They knew that women, as the weaker vessels, were more accessible to soft blandishments and specious pretences of piety. They counted upon an accession of female converts as, above all things, most contributing to the success of their propaganda.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THEIR VICTIMS. "Silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." These victims of their specious arts were morally and intellectually prepared for them.
1. They were, morally, under the sway of evil passions and desires, full, no doubt, of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." Such women would welcome a short cut to peace, or any reconciliation between religion and worldliness that could be devised by the arts of apostasy. The words seem to point to the weight of former sins burdening the conscience, from which they hoped to be released under easier conditions than those prescribed by the gospel.
2. They were incapable, through their sinful life, of attaining a true knowledge of the truth. They were" silly women," with light, frivolous, unbalanced judgments; "ever learning" - with a morbid love of novelties in religion, an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries promised by their false guides, and a constant craving for an adaptation of doctrinal views to their evil desires - "and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Because their hearts had become indurated through an evil life, and so made inaccessible to the truth. - T.C.
I. THEY HAVE THEIR HISTORICAL PROTOTYPES. "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth."
1. These were two Egyptian magicians, called "wise men and sorcerers (Exodus 7:11-22), who appeared at the court of Pharaoh to resist the wonder working power of Moses. Their names do not occur in the Old Testament, but they are found in the Targum of Jonathan, and are also quoted by heathen writers. What was more natural than that the apostle should quote to Timothy one of the two traditions of his country?
2. These magicians, reported to have been sons of Balaam, were thwarted in their arts by the superior power that worked through Moses. The parallel was therefore in a double sense apt.
II. THE FALSE TEACHERS DIRECTLY WITHSTOOD THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.
1. They may have used occult arts like their Egyptian prototypes to attract disciples; for the word seducers," applied to them in the context (ver. 13), has this signification. The claim to possess such powers was not unusual in that day (Acts 8:9-24; Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:18-20).
2. But, like Elymas, they withstood the truth of the gospel, by representing themselves as possessing as much authority as the apostle himself , and thus neutralizing its exclusive claims. They subverted the hopes of the gospel.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF THEIR ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE. "Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."
1. Corrupt affections depraved their mental judgments. Even that, mind, which is the medium through which the Holy Spirit makes his communications to man, had become darkened. "A corrupt head, a corrupt heart, and a vicious life, usually accompany each other."
2. The doctrines of these teachers had been tested and discovered to be worthless, like silver which was to be rejected by man. They had nothing but the name in common with the Christian faith.
IV. THE CHECK THAT WOULD BE GIVEN TO THEIR PROGRESS. "But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be evident to all men, as theirs also came to be." This passage seems opposed to ch. 2:16, where it is said that "they shall advance to more ungodliness;" but in that place
(1) the apostle is speaking of an immediate diffusion of error, in this of its ultimate extinction;
(2) in that place the advance toward ungodliness is asserted, here there is a denial of its successful advance without exposure. The evil would advance, but only to a certain point, and the true character of its promoters - "their folly" - would be made as manifest as was that of the Egyptian magicians. - T.C.
I. THEY RESIST THE TRUTH. For this reason the truth will not let them alone. It is an active searching power. It is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," and men resent the intrusion of this all-discovering, all-judging power. Impurity hates purity. Falsehood hates truth. Worldly minds resist the claim of God's Word to supremacy over their hearts and lives. They resist its right to reign, and its claim to dominate thought and action too.
II. THEY BECOME REPRORATE. Reprobation is no hard decree of God's; it is man's own act and deed, and it is the result of the "corrupt mind." This breeding corruption spreads. The seeds of evil are scattered here and there till the soul is like a wilderness, and the mind which was made to be a garden of holiness becomes a graveyard of sin. Moral death ensues, and with death always comes corruption.
III. THEY BECOME REVEALED. "Their folly shall be made manifest" (ver. 9). The secret sin becomes a public shame. The thought incarnates itself in deed, and retribution takes the form of disgrace. - W.M.S.
I. IT IS GOOD FOR YOUNG MINISTERS TO OBSERVE AND FOLLOW THE WAYS OF THEIR ELDER BRETHREN. "But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith."
1. They will thus be stimulated to greater effort.
2. They will be guided by wiser counsels.
3. They will be guarded against many mistakes.
4. They will be better able to endure persecutions and trials.
II. IT IS ALLOWABLE FOR A CHRISTIAN MINISTER TO SPEAK OF WHAT GOD'S GRACE HAS ENABLED HIM TO DO AND TO SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL.
1. It glorifies God's grace. The apostle always made this grace the supreme factor in his success. "By, the grace of God I am what I am; Yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).
2. It is an encouragement to other ministers to labour with equal self-denial.
III. THE METHOD OF THE APOSTLE'S MINISTRY AND LIFE. "My teaching," in allusion less to his doctrine than to his manner of giving instruction; "conduct," or manner of life, in allusion to "my ways which be in Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:17); "purpose," for he remained true to the spiritual objects of his life, and, above all, to his mission to the Gentiles; "faith," in allusion to his belief in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, linked with "long suffering" toward his bitter adversaries, whom he longed to lead into truth - "the faith and the patience" being necessary to the inheritance of the promises (Hebrews 6:12); "love," which seemed never to fail, "believing all things, bearing all things, hoping all things;" linked with "endurance," as before (1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 2:2), because it is the sustaining element of this endurance; "persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch," in Pisidia, whence he was expelled by the Jews; "at Iconium," where both Jews and Gentiles made an assault upon him; "at Lystra," where he was stoned and left for dead - the three cities being named because of Timothy's intimate acquaintance with them, the apostle's sufferings there being the earliest in his missionary life. He gratefully records his deliverance out of all his persecutions by the good hand of the Lord.
IV. THE ATTITUDE OF THE WORLD TOWARD GODLINESS. "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
1. The persons thus described.
(1) Those who aim at a godly life - who "wish to live godly." This is the highest aim of man in a world with many lofty ideals.
(2) They are not merely godly, but live in all the outward amenities of gospel godliness. "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him."
(3) This life of godliness finds its source and spring in Jesus Christ. It is "in Christ Jesus."
2. Their lot in this life. "Shall suffer persecution."
(1) This was Christ's prediction. "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).
(2) The world is essentially at war with the kingdom of God. "Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).
(3) Better to suffer as Christians than as evil doers. - T.C.
I. THEIR DEGENERATE COURSE. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse."
1. The persons here described.
(1) Evil men.
(a) They are those in contrast with the men who "would live godly in Christ Jesus."
(b) They are not simply sinners as all men are by nature and practice, but rather wicked men who wear a mask of godliness, yet are full of malice against the saints of God.
(2) Seducers, literally magicians, in allusion to those of Egypt; men who are full of sorceries to captivate and betray the unwary into error.
2. They shall go from bad to worse - both in principle and in practice, in the use of their seductive arts and in the gradual depravation of their character. There is nothing to arrest their downward course; there is no grace in the heart; the principles of evil will work with unchecked energy in their natures.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS DEGENERACY. "Deceiving and being deceived."
1. The method of mental and moral debasement. Let men repeat falsities with sufficient frequency and deliberateness, and they will come by and by to believe them themselves. They begin by deceiving others. They cannot deceive God nor the elect, but by their good words and fair speeches, their lying wonders and their specious arts, they may seduce the simple into error.
2. The retribution that follows upon deception is self-deception. Such deceivers have become sincere in their error, because they have blinded their spiritual eyesight; but now they see truth as error, and error as truth. - T.C.
I. THE DUTY AND NECESSITY OF HOLDING FAST BY THE DIVINE VERITIES. "But do thou continue in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of."
1. The strength and comfort of an undoubting persuasion. Timothy was not to be moved away from the doctrines of the gospel either by persecutions or seductive arts. He found his strength and peace in them.
2. He had really learned them, unlike those ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; for he had an experimental knowledge of them. He was, besides, fully assured of them, with "the full assurance of understanding." It is a very unbecoming attitude for a teacher of others to be sceptical in his opinions. He ought to affirm with certainty, and if he is fully assured, he has no right to surrender the truth.
II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CERTAINTY AND ASSURANCE. "Knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou bast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
1. He had been taught sound doctrine by Lois and Eunice. It is, therefore, proper for parents to instruct children in doctrine from their earliest days.
2. He had been trained from his very infancy in the Holy Scriptures. It was, therefore, a right thing for him to be instructed in the Old Testament, since it was all the Scripture he could have had in his childhood.
3. The Scripture he studied was sufficient to lead him to Christ. "Through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
(1) This marks the means by which the salvation can be attained; for Christ is "the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4).
(2) The effect of the salvation is not merely to instruct, but to make wise in the highest sense - giving spiritual wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God's will; for men are naturally without spiritual discernment.
(3) The salvation cannot be enjoyed without faith, resting upon the person of the Redeemer. - T.C.
I. THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE. "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable."
1. This does not signify that there may be Scripture not divinely inspired, but merely asserts that the Scripture being thus inspired is profitable.
2. The words "inspired by God point to the entire agency of God in producing that Divine element which makes the Bible differ from every other book. The inspired person was the organ of God in what he said, so that his words were the words of God.
3. Scripture says nothing concerning the mode of inspiration. The process is supernatural, and it cannot be explained. It is not with the mode but with the result we are concerned.
4. Inspiration differs from revelation - this being that through which apostles and prophets came into possession of Divine information, inspiration being that through which they were able infallibly to communicate it to others.
5. There is nothing in the doctrine of inspiration inconsistent with the idea that the inspired penmen used their own peculiarities of verbal expression or personal idiosyncrasies.
6. The inspiration extends to words as well as thoughts - to the form as well as the substance of Scripture. So far as the record is inspired at all, infallible thought must be definite thought, and definite thought implies words. The apostle claimed that the Holy Spirit guaranteed his words as well as his thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:13, Not in the didactic words of man's wisdom, but in the didactic words of the Holy Ghost"). Besides, Christ and the apostles argue from the very words of Scripture (Matthew 22:45; Galatians 3:16).
7. The term "every Scripture" in the text seems to include the Old Testament and the New Testament so far as it had been written; else there would have been no necessity for a different term from that used in the fifteenth verse, "Holy Scriptures."
II. THE UTILITY OF THE SCRIPTURE "Is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness."
1. It is useful for teaching - as a medium for communicating instruction, that we may know and believe what is necessary to salvation.
2. It is useful for reproof - for the refutation of error, for convincing a man of his error.
3. It is useful for correction - as to what is practically wrong in life.
4. It is useful for "discipline in righteousness - righteousness being the clement in which this discipline is to take effect, through the agency of Scripture.
III. THE RESULT OR DESIGN OF THE SCRIPTURE. "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
1. The design is the perfection of the believer in life and service. The description supplies the man of God with all due appliances for this end. They help to make us perfect in knowledge, faith, and holiness, as well as to furnish us with wisdom and guidance in all holy service.
2. Inference to be drawn from the design of Scripture. It is a perfect, a plain, a sufficient rule of faith and life, in answer to Roman Catholics. If it can make wise to salvation, perfect the man of God, and furnish him for all holy work, then there is no need for tradition to supplement its imaginary defects. - T.C.