2 Timothy 3
Pastor David Groendyk
If you knew you were dying and you could write one last letter, what would you write? Second Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote in Scripture, and it is filled with what Paul would consider the most important things he could say to Timothy. He is dissecting Timothy’s current situation while also giving insight and instruction for the whole of the church until Christ comes.
Verses 1–9 describe Paul and Timothy’s opponents, and they also describe the kinds of false teachers the church will continue to face. And unlike the false teachers who are corrected with gentleness and come to their senses and repent at the end of chapter 2, these false teachers remain obstinate in their error. Their identifying marker (besides the anti-biblical doctrine they teach) is their misplaced love. They love themselves (v. 2) and they love pleasure (v. 4) rather than love God. Loving yourself more than loving God leads to all these other sins and vices that Paul lists, and doesn’t it seem like Paul is peering into the future to the year 2020 when he lists them? Loving money, abusive, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, capturing women, always wanting to learn but never wanting to find truth—just to name a few that sound shockingly modern. Paul’s one command is tucked away in the middle of this section: “Avoid such people” (v. 5). Surely, Paul and Timothy had spent time trying to correct these opponents with gentleness (2:25), but they would not listen, and their persistent and dangerous denial of the truth was too much.
This is a good pattern for us to follow when it comes to dealing with people who we find opposing the gospel and teaching false doctrine, or even just people we find ourselves disagreeing with. Do you attempt to correct with gentleness? Or do you fall back on mockery or simply trying to be the loudest? How do you know when the time to correct is over and the time to avoid begins?
Let’s also examine our lives in another way. Who are the teachers (pastors, authors, bloggers, etc.) that you listen to the most? Does their teaching align with Scripture? Does their teaching spur you on to a faithful, loving, patient, steadfast life? Or does their teaching lead you to self-love, loving money, loving pleasure, ungratefulness, slandering, and seeking power? Are there any teachers you ought to stop listening to?
Verses 10–17, on the other hand, describe the faithful follower of God. It’s not exactly a glamorous life for the true Christian—persecution and suffering (v. 11), evil people and imposters coming after you (v. 13). But it is the good life. And everything about this good life comes back to the Word of God (vv. 15–17). The Word of God is what leads to godly conduct, love, patience, and steadfastness (v. 10); the Word of God shows us what we can expect to happen in life (v. 12); the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v. 15); the Word of God teaches, reproves, corrects, trains, and equips us (vv. 16–17). Why do we rely so heavily on Scripture? Because God himself is its author. God breathed the words of Scripture out of his mouth (v. 16). God speaks to us in his Word. It is constantly convicting us, correcting us, training us, reminding us of Jesus Christ, exhorting us to be more holy whenever we read it. And this is a particularly good reminder for those of us who have grown up in church and heard the same Bible stories over and over and can recite certain verses backward and forward. Timothy is someone who grew up with Scripture; his mother and grandmother taught him well (vv. 14–15). But Paul is still exhorting him to continue in that same Word. Keep learning, keep digesting, keep meditating, keep searching, keep mining. You will never be done reading and studying the Bible. You can never know it too well.
The Word of God is what makes us like Paul and Timothy (vv. 10–11) rather than like their opponents (vv. 1–7). The Word of God is the difference between salvation and condemnation and the difference between godliness and godlessness. Do you see the importance of needing to know and read and study the Word? We need to cling to the words of God for our life and salvation all the time. Has the Bible gotten too stale for you? How can you combat the temptation to see the Bible as dull and tired?