“Perilous times will come” – II Timothy 3:1-17 contains a warning of difficult times. The first century church did not live in an idealized world, nor do we! Early Christians faced immorality, internal and external doctrinal errors, and a hostile environment that was pagan and secular. Paul warns Timothy in this chapter of even more difficult times to come. We can learn much from their experiences.
“Men will be lovers of themselves” – The characteristics of wicked men are described. Heart-sins are described (lovers of self, of pleasure; not lovers of family or of God; covetous, proud, unthankful, unholy, heady, etc.). The Christian needs a defense and a weapon that will pierce and guard his heart.
“Having a form of godliness” – Difficult times will be made more difficult by the work of evil and false teachers. These professors of religion had a form of godliness (some of the externals seem to be present) but they deny the power of true religion (verse 5). False teachers often do their work privately and underhandedly. They look for prospects who are weak and prey on their weakness. These teachers are in sharp contrast with the teaching and character of the true teacher presented later in this chapter. The false teacher’s true character will be revealed in due time, as was the character of the opponents of Moses.
“You have carefully followed my doctrine” – The combination of wicked hearts encouraged by perverted teachers led some to persecute God’s servants. Paul’s own experience (vs. 10-13) is evidence of this fact. He was a genuine disciple in doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, and patience. Verse eleven (and much of the book of Acts) shows the many persecutions he endured. Yet out of all those trials God delivered Paul. He becomes, then, a pattern of endurance to help every Christian endure in faithful service in the times in which we live!
In some ways there are the best of times, in other ways, the worst of times, to paraphrase Charles Dickens. We have great potential, great opportunities, and great visions of work to be done. But, we also have adversaries on every hand. What is the path we should follow?
“You continue in the things which you have learned” – Verses 14 through 17 give us the answer to our questions. The way to deal with our current situation is by the use of the Power of God as revealed in His holy scriptures. Timothy is instructed to take specific actions; we must follow these same actions in the twenty-first century. These actions are as follows:
Continue in the things we have learned – verse 14. The scriptures we have learned, which have given us assurance, are from an unchanging God. Times may change, evil may take on a new face, but God is the same. We have an unchanging Christ in a changing, and ever-degenerating world. He is the anchor of our hope, and the anchor of our soul. We must proceed with confidence in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit as we face whatever the world brings against us. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31.
“From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” – Faithful teachers have illustrated the trustworthiness of our faith. Timothy had seen the fruit of faith in his mother and grandmother. They had instilled the teachings of the Old Covenant into young Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15) and he had therefore been prepared to receive the gospel preached by Paul and others. The knowledge of the scriptures made Timothy “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (verse 15).
“Holy Scriptures” (verse 15) are literally “sacred writings”. These are not the words of a newspaper, novel, or even that of a well-written essay. They partake of the nature of the One who gave them.
“Wise for salvation through faith” – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” v. 16. The “sacred writings” of the Old and New Testaments were designed for our spiritual well-being. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Jesus encouraged (John 5:39) the reading of the Old Testament which would point people to Him.
“That the man of God may be complete” – Since the Holy Scriptures are divine in origin, they are profitable for every task the teacher has. The scriptures are all that is needed for the “perfect” (complete, fully furnished) teacher to effectively do his work. Every Christian “man of God” (verse 17) longs for a complete guidebook for all his work. The Holy Scriptures supply that need. The scriptures equip us for doctrine, righteous living, and for reproof and correction.
“The Last Days”, “The Christian Age, “The Gospel Age” all refer to the time in which we live. Our need for guidance in a wicked world has not changed. We need not despair, God has met our needs in the blessings promised in the scriptures.
L.O. Sanderson has well-stated the great value of the scriptures in the chorus of his song “The Precious Book Divine”:
“Holy Bible, book divine!
Precious Treasure, thou art mine.
Lamp to my feet and a light to my way
To guide me safely home.”
By Carl Witty