2 Timothy 3:1-9 — “Faithful Living in the Last Days”
In this passage, Paul points out a number of godless attributes that will characterize humanity. In the sermon, I will not go into detail about each of these 19 characteristics. The time would be insufficient to do justice to each concept; each serves its role in the list to paint an overall picture. And Paul does this to great effect. I have decided that it would be helpful to use this post to give a general sense of what each word refers to so that if anyone is interested in knowing what one of these means, it’s easy to find. I hope this list will play a role in self-examination for the Table this Sunday. Go through this list, asking the Spirit to reveal which of these have a place in your heart, and ask Him to bring you to brokenness and repentance over them.
- Lovers of self– this is the root problem Paul describes; John Calvin says that this is “the source from which spring all the other [sins].” People love themselves too much and love of God and others too little.
- Lovers of money– the Greek word is a compound of the words “silver” and “lover;” they are “silver-lovers.” People are materialistic and set their hopes on “the uncertainty of riches (1 Tim. 6:27);” their hopes are invested (pun intended) in this life and in the present age, not in the age to come (see Luke 12:15-21).
- Proud– this Greek word is actually a noun rather than an adjective; the word is “boasters.” People will be boasters. They will brag on themselves, their abilities, their wealth, and anything other than the Lord.
- Arrogant– This is the attitude which gives way to boasting. People are haughty and “big-headed” by nature.
- Abusive– literally “blasphemous.” But this word in context is not speaking of blasphemy toward God but reviling others, speaking abusive words toward other image bearers.
- Disobedient to parents– this one seems odd, but I’m of the opinion that it relates to one’s view of authority. Parental authority is the most basic authority in every person’s life. It’s the “elementary school” of learning authority. From a purely human standpoint, it is the most benevolent and loving form of authority, and it follows that if one is not submissive to parents (as even Jesus [perfect] was to His [imperfect] parents, Luke 2:51), he or she won’t relate rightly to any other authority. If one will disobey his parents who love and care for him, he will certainly never obey the governing authorities. And since a person gets a strong conception of God from her parents, if she will disobey them persistently, then she will do likewise toward God.
- This also places an onus on parents to be benevolent, loving authorities in order, especially, to train up our children to love, and live under, God’s authority!
- Ungrateful– These people are without thanksgiving; they are thankless. To word it differently, such people are entitled. They believe they deserve good things, and they act like everyone owes them something. People like this have a hard time believing that they are sinful and rightly deserve condemnation, which serves as a great obstacle to gospel ministry to them.
- Unholy– impious, profane, common, and dishonorable. One commentator said that such people are “directly opposed to God.” This implies an irreverence toward God and the things of God.
- Heartless– hard-hearted and unfeeling. They cannot be moved to compassion or concern for fellow human beings, nor can they be moved to sorrow and repentance over their sins.
- Unappeasable– implacable. Such a person is impossible to make peace with. No form of peacemaking (whether formal or informal) will satisfy their ill will toward others. The literal rendering is “without treaty.” Such people we might, in our modern vernacular, call “impossible!”
- Slanderous– The word is “devilish.” These people are devils. Just like Satan twists the truth and accuses God’s people, so these people speak untruths about other people and utter false accusations, spreading lies.
- Without self-control– Such people have no self-discipline. Contrary to what the Holy Spirit brings (power, love, and self-control [remember, the same type of supernatural self-control that kept Christ on the cross]), humanity is incapable of disciplining self and choosing the good and right.
- Brutal– Savage, violent. These people are, in Donald Guthrie’s words, “the antithesis of what is civilized.” They devolve into that which is sub-human, becoming “brute beasts.”
- Not loving good– these people cannot abide that which is good, right, true, and beautiful but love the opposite of these things. They would be those who call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20).
- Treacherous– this one, like “proud” above, is a noun (only two of these are nouns). These are “traitors,” who betray those near to them (I think of Jesus saying that men will betray one another [Mt. 24:10], and who Himself was betrayed by Judas, a member of His inner circle [Mt. 10:2-4]).
- Reckless– rash and thoughtless with respect to one’s words and actions. These folks give full vent, full license, to their foolish whims and passions.
- Swollen with conceit– these are puffed up, prideful people who have a sense of “unwarranted self-importance” (D. Guthrie).
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– Since they are lovers of self, they love things that make them feel good. They love sensual pleasures (not just sexual, but of every sort) more than they love God. They are more concerned with pleasurable experience and avoiding pain than they are with disciplining themselves for godliness. And thus, they reject the path of the cross and the sufferings of the Christian life.
- Having an appearance of godliness, but denying its power– Like Pharisees, they might have a good reputation for behavior, but what they hold to is a dead religion, an empty shell of spirituality. Guthrie says, “They have no conception of the gospel as a regenerating force.” They pay lip-service to true spirituality but scoff at what makes it powerful (the Gospel, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit)!
In the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), Paul sets out the requirements for elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Here, and in a couple of other places, he sets up almost “anti-elders.” These people stand against everything that the elders and leaders within the church are supposed to stand for. They represent regression with respect to godliness and serve as “anti-examples” to the church, whereas elders represent progress with respect to godliness and are examples to the flock (see 1 Tim. 4:12). Rather than take advantage of the flock for personal gain, they join Christ Jesus in sacrificing and suffering for the good of others. The picture of humanity, here, is not a rosy one. But this is exactly what Jesus died to deliver us from. So if you see that your life is characterized by one or more of these, I would invite you to repent as the Holy Spirit convicts you and trust the obedient life and imputed righteousness of Jesus!