Bible Study
The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy
(4) Godlessness in the Last Days
II Tim. 2:22-3:9


In our last lesson we heard how Paul had reminded Timothy and us that in a large house there are various kinds of articles. Some are made of gold or silver and are used for noble people and high purposes. Others are made of wood or clay. Today they would be made of plastic. They are used to hold garbage and trash. Paul writes that we must cleanse ourselves from all kinds of wickedness if we are to be vessels of honor used for noble purposes by the Master, and prepared to do good works. In our study passage today we find out how we can become a gold or silver vessel, and how far most people in our day are from bringing honor and praise to God.

Read II Tim. 2:22-3:9

1. Flee and pursue

A. In describing to Timothy how he can become a gold or silver vessel in God's house, Paul writes that he must flee and pursue. He must run away from some things and run after other things. People like Hymenaeus and Philetus ran away from the truth and ran after lies, including godless chatter and their own theories about the resurrection. Paul admonishes Timothy to turn away from wickedness - "the evil desires of youth". We older Christians also have evil desires though they may be different sins than when we were young. Paul called on Timothy to pursue or run after the fruit of the Spirit - "righteousness, faith, love and peace". In pursuing the good, he will be in the company of others who "call on the Lord out of a pure heart". They are the ones on the true Foundation. The Lord knows they are His because they not only confess His name, but they turn away from wickedness. II Tim. 2:19; I Tim. 6:11 This is a simple but clear message to all of us.

B. One of the ways that Timothy was to flee evil and pursue good, was to stay away from "foolish and stupid arguments". Probably the false teachers and Gnostics enjoyed getting the Christians into arguments that were foolish and stupid and only succeeded in producing quarrels. Quarreling has a tendency to end up in anger and fighting. It is almost always unproductive. In fact, it may be counter-productive - causing people to turn away from God instead of to Him. Paul gives a straightforward principle for all God's people: "The Lord's servant must not quarrel". There are many things the Lord's servant must not do, and that is one of them. The Holy Spirit, always careful to give the positive as well as the negative, adds: "He must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful". Even when there are people entering into foolish and stupid arguments with us, God's servant must be kind. Those who are arguing need to be taught the truth, but they will never receive it if the Lord's servant is angry and resentful. It is more important for us to speak the truth in love, than to win an argument. Eph. 4:15

2. Gentle instruction
A. God's servant must not argue with the opposition, but gently instruct those who oppose him. I think this is where things fall apart. A biting, harsh tongue does not gently instruct. I think that many of us lose our opportunities because we go about it the wrong way. Humility and gentleness go a long way in softening a heart to receive the truth. We must remember that their only hope is in repentance, which will lead them to knowledge of the truth. Paul writes that it should be our hope and prayer that God will grant them repentance. They have to do the repenting, but maybe they can't unless God allows them to. Some people, like Esau, may go beyond the point where they can repent. Heb. 12:17 God who knows their hearts also knows whether they can still repent.

B. The problem is that they need to come to their senses. They need to wake up and recognize their foolishness and the danger they are in. They are already in the trap of the devil. He has taken them captive to do his will. This is not just some mistake they have made or a little sin in their lives. They are already the devil's captives, and instead of doing God's will, they are doing the devil's will. How many Christians think they are doing God's will when actually they are doing the devil's will because they have gone into his trap and now are his captives? Their only hope is gentle instruction from God's servant who is speaking the truth in love, calling them to repentance. It is only after repentance that they can come to the knowledge of the truth instead of believing lies.

3. What do we love most?
A. Paul gives Timothy several warnings about the last days. I Tim. 4:1 Here he writes: "There will be terrible times in the last days." We can see that times are turning more and more terrible. It's interesting that Paul uses the words "lovers" and "love" 6 times in these 3 verses, and that to describe people without love or with distorted love for the wrong things and people. Let's examine what he writes about love. First, "people will be lovers of themselves." Interestingly, that is the very thing that the humanists are teaching today - that we must love ourselves. And false teachers even twist God's Word to try to prove that He is teaching that: "Love your neighbor as yourself". And yet here Paul clearly teaches that it is one of the great sins of the end times. When you love yourself, you put yourself first, Then mistreatment or neglect or even persecution of others follows. In fact, all the love distortions that follow in Paul's list originate with this one. Jesus said, "Humble yourself; deny yourself." In Born Crucified, L. E. Maxwell reminds us that we are to die to self not love self. Gal. 5:24

B. The second love Paul mentions is "lovers of money". There is certainly plenty of evidence of that in our society today. In fact, honesty and integrity have been abandoned in our governments, in business, and even in the church, because of the love and obsession for money. How many CEOs are now being caught who have embezzled millions of dollars? Paul had given Timothy a severe warning in his first letter about the love of money. I Tim. 6:10 Those who love money pierce themselves through with grief and wander from the faith if they were ever Christians. The third love Paul mentions is "without love". Even though they have been cited as lovers, they are actually without love. The love of self and money leads to crooked and sinful preoccupations and would be more accurately described with the words "lust" and "self-indulgence". As for the real love for God and others - it's missing.

C. The fourth love mentioned is "not lovers of the good". We could say "Lovers of evil". These people of the end times have no inclination toward or love of the good. They love and long for evil, rather than good. The fifth love mentioned is: "lovers of pleasure". How true this is of our times! The "pleasure" of movies, TV, Internet, pornography, clubs, bars, drinking and drugs is occupying more and more time in people's lives and causing them to become more and more filled with evil. The seriousness of this is that these pleasures, even the innocent ones, begin to replace God in people's lives. That's why Paul goes on to the 6the love: "rather than lovers of God". How is it possible to replace God with pleasure? We go to pleasure for comfort, for joy, for fun, for relief from pain, worry and fear, and even for direction in what we think, say or do. How many people get their advice and ideas from the TV now instead of from God's Word? Soon we find ourselves becoming imitators of the world instead of "imitators of God". Eph. 5:1

4. Having a form of godliness without God
A. Paul has made it clear that people of the end times will have no love for God, for others or for good.  They will be lovers of themselves, of money and of pleasure. What a picture of today's world! Besides loving the wrong things and people, they are "boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy". They will be the opposite of what God calls us to be in His Word. We are to be humble, kind, obedient and respectful, thankful and holy. I Thess. 5:14-18 Besides that list, there is a second list: "unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited". Once again these are opposites of what God wants: forgiving, not gossipers, having self-control, gentle, faithful, patient, humble. Gal. 5:22-23

B. The words Paul uses are very strong and indicate demon-inspired attitudes such as we are seeing in the terrorists and bombers who self-destruct. The amazing thing is that they have "a form of godliness". With all these evil attitudes and ways, they are putting on a hypocritical form of being godly, while denying its power. They appear to be godly while having no connection with God and His power. They have a form of godliness without God. What an apt description of the Palestinians in Israel, the Muslims in Sudan, and the Hindus in India. They are supposedly very religious, but at the same time they think nothing of killing hundreds and thousands of people. In the Sudan 3 million people have been murdered in the last few years - most of them Christians. They were killed by Muslims who "pray" 5 times a day! Paul's succinct warning ends his list: "Have nothing to do with them." And yet the Pope and others want us to join them in a great worldwide religion!

5. Counterfeits and opposers of the truth
A. These who have only a form of godliness without really knowing God are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women. I think this is a good picture of how TV evangelists gain entrance to the home and get foolish women - and men - to believe in them and send them money. It is also the tactic of the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses who work their way into people's homes with their form of godliness that doesn't include knowing God Himself. Why are these women - and men - so easily won over? They are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires. Their hearts are not in the right place. They love the wrong things. "They are always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth". They learn about all kind of things - most of which are untrue and unholy. They seem unable to gain the simple truth from God's Word.

B. Paul characterizes these wicked, false teachers by comparing them to Jannes and Jambres, Pharoah's magicians. (see Exod. 7 & 8)  They seemed to be able to do the miracles Moses did, but they were actually an imitation or counterfeit of the truth. They used soul power or demonic power to produce something that looked like God's work, but it wasn't. What a powerful description of what is happening today! They were opposing the truth while imitating it. This is what today's false teachers - or magicians - do. Though they seem to be godly, they are denying God and His power while supposedly healing the sick and raising the dead. But what is God's view of them? He says they are men of "depraved minds". That means that their minds are evil while they put on their show of being holy. And as far as the faith - the truth of God - is concerned, they are rejected.  God wants no part of them, and so we should have nothing to do with them either. (v. 5) Paul writes that they will be found out as Pharoah's magicians were. They could get way with their deceit for awhile, but eventually their folly will be clear to everyone.


We must learn in these last days to discern the difference between truth and error. As we see more and more people becoming lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of evil and lovers of pleasure, we must do what Paul told Timothy to do: "Flee the evil desires of this world". We must learn to discern the presence or tendency toward evil in our own lives, and have nothing to do with those things or those people. We must be wise and discerning about those who appear to have a form of godliness and yet don't love or follow God. If God rejects them, then we must, also.

(c) 2003 Juanita Simpson

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