2 Timothy 3
I. The apostle forewarns Timothy what the last days would be, with the
2 Timothy 3:1-9.
II. Prescribes various remedies against them
(2 Timothy 3:10-17),
particularly his own example ("But thou hast fully known my doctrine,"
&c.) and the knowledge of the holy scriptures, which are able to make
us wise unto salvation, and will be the best antidote against the
corruptions of the times we live in. In this chapter Paul tells Timothy
how bad others would be, and therefore how good he should be; and this
use we should make of the badness of others, thereby to engage us to
hold our own integrity so much the firmer.
|Marks of Perilous Times.
||A. D. 66.|
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous,
boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers,
incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than
lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:
from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead
captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also
resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the
9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be
manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
Timothy must not think it strange if there were in the church bad men;
for the net of the gospel was to enclose both good fish and bad,
Jesus Christ had foretold
that there would come seducers, and therefore we must not be offended
at it, nor think the worse of religion or the church for it. Even in
gold ore there will be dross, and a great deal of chaff among the wheat
when it lies on the floor.
I. Timothy must know that in the last days
(2 Timothy 3:1),
in gospel times, there would come perilous times. Though gospel
times were times of reformation in many respects, let him know that
even in gospel times there would be perilous times; not so much on
account of persecution from without as on account of corruptions
within. These would be difficult times, wherein it would be difficult
for a man to keep a good conscience. He does not say, "Perilous times
shall come, for both Jews and Gentiles shall be combined to root out
Christianity;" but "perilous times shall come, for such as have the
form of godliness
(2 Timothy 3:5)
shall be corrupt and wicked, and do a great deal of damage to the
church." Two traitors within the garrison may do more hurt to it than
two thousand besiegers without. Perilous times shall come, for men
shall be wicked. Note,
1. Sin makes the times perilous. When there is a general corruption of
manners, and of the tempers of men, this makes the times dangerous to
live in; for it is hard to keep our integrity in the midst of general
2. The coming of perilous times is an evidence of the truth of
scripture-predictions; if the event in this respect did not answer to
the prophecy, we might be tempted to question the divinity of the
3. We are all concerned to know this, to believe and consider it, that
we may not be surprised when we see the times perilous: This know
II. Paul tells Timothy what would be the occasion of making these times
perilous, or what shall be the marks and signs whereby these times may
2 Timothy 3:2,
1. Self-love will make the times perilous. Who is there who does not
love himself? But this is meant of an irregular sinful self-love. Men
love their carnal selves better than their spiritual selves. Men love
to gratify their own lusts, and make provision for them, more than to
please God and do their duty. Instead of Christian charity, which takes
care for the good of others, they will mind themselves only, and prefer
their own gratification before the church's edification.
2. Covetousness. Observe, Self-love brings in a long train of sins and
mischiefs. When men are lovers of themselves, no good can be expected
from them, as all good may be expected from those who love God with all
their hearts. When covetousness generally prevails, when every man is
for what he can get and for keeping what he has, this makes men
dangerous to one another, and obliges every man to stand on his guard
against his neighbour.
3. Pride and vain-glory. The times are perilous when men, being proud
of themselves, are boasters and blasphemers, boasters before men
whom they despise and look upon with scorn, and blasphemers of God and
of his name. When men do not fear God they will not regard man, and so
4. When children are disobedient to their parents, and break through
the obligations which they lie under to them both in duty and
gratitude, and frequently in interest, having their dependence upon
them and their expectation from them, they make the times perilous; for
what wickedness will those stick at who will be abusive to their own
parents and rebel against them?
5. Unthankfulness and unholiness make the times perilous, and these two
commonly go together. What is the reason that men are unholy and
without the fear of God, but that they are unthankful for the mercies
of God? Ingratitude and impiety go together; for call a man
ungrateful, and you can call him by no worse name. Unthankful, and
impure, defiled with fleshly lusts, which is an instance of great
ingratitude to that God who has provided so well for the support of the
body; we abuse his gifts, if we make them the food and fuel of our
6. The times are perilous when men will not be held by the bonds either
of nature or common honesty, when they are without natural
affection, and truce-breakers,
2 Timothy 3:3.
There is a natural affection due to all. Wherever there is the human
nature, there should be humanity towards those of the same nature, but
especially between relations. Times are perilous when children are
disobedient to their parents
(2 Timothy 3:2)
and when parents are without natural affection to their children,
2 Timothy 3:3.
See what a corruption of nature sin is, how it deprives men even of
that which nature has implanted in them for the support of their own
kind; for the natural affection of parents to their children is that
which contributes very much to the keeping up of mankind upon the
earth. And those who will not be bound by natural affection, no marvel
that they will not be bound by the most solemn leagues and covenants.
They are truce-breakers, that make no conscience of the
engagements they have laid themselves under.
7. The times are perilous when men are false accusers one of
another, diaboloi--devils one to another, having
no regard to the good name of others, or to the religious obligations
of an oath, but thinking themselves at liberty to say and do what they
8. When men have no government of themselves and their own appetites:
not of their own appetites, for they are incontinent; not of
their own passions, for they are fierce; when they have no rule
over their own spirits, and therefore are like a city that is broken
down, and has no walls; they are soon fired, upon the least
9. When that which is good and ought to be honoured is generally
despised and looked upon with contempt. It is the pride of persecutors
that they look with contempt upon good people, though they are more
excellent than their neighbours.
10. When men are generally treacherous, wilful, and haughty, the times
(2 Timothy 3:4)--
when men are traitors, heady, high-minded. Our Saviour has
foretold that the brother shall betray the brother to death and the
father the child
and those are the worst sort of traitors: those who delivered up their
Bibles to persecutors were called traditores, for they betrayed
the trust committed to them. When men are petulant and puffed up,
behaving scornfully to all about them, and when this temper generally
prevails, then the times are perilous.
11. When men are generally lovers of pleasure more than lovers of
God. When there are more epicures than true Christians, then the
times are bad indeed. God is to be loved above all. That is a carnal
mind, and is full of enmity against him, which prefers any thing before
him, especially such a sordid thing as carnal pleasure is.
12. When, notwithstanding all this, they have the form of
(2 Timothy 3:5),
are called by the Christian name, baptized into the Christian faith,
and make a show of religion; but, how plausible soever their form of
godliness is, they deny the power of it. When they take upon them the
form which should and would bring along with it the power thereof, they
will put asunder what God hath joined together: they will assume the
form of godliness, to take away their reproach; but they will not
submit to the power of it, to take away their sin. Observe here,
(1.) Men may be very bad and wicked under a profession of religion;
they may be lovers of themselves, &c., yet have a form of godliness.
(2.) A form of godliness is a very different thing from the power of
it; men may have the one and be wholly destitute of the other; yea,
they deny it, at least practically in their lives.
(3.) From such good Christians must withdraw themselves.
III. Here Paul warns Timothy to take heed of certain seducers, not only
that he might not be drawn away by them himself, but that he might arm
those who were under his charge against their seduction.
1. He shows how industrious they were to make proselytes
(2 Timothy 3:6):
they applied themselves to particular persons, visited them in their
houses, not daring to appear openly; for those that do evil hate the
They were not forced into houses, as good Christians often were by
persecution; but they of choice crept into houses, to insinuate
themselves into the affections and good opinion of people, and so to
draw them over to their party. And see what sort of people those were
that they gained, and made proselytes of; they were such as were weak,
silly women; and such as were wicked, laden with sins, and
led away with divers lusts. A foolish head and a filthy heart make
persons, especially women, an easy prey to seducers.
2. He shows how far they were from coming to the knowledge of the
truth, though they pretended to be ever learning,
2 Timothy 3:7.
In one sense we must all be ever learning, that is, growing in
knowledge, following on to know the Lord, pressing forward; but these
were sceptics, giddy and unstable, who were forward to imbibe every new
notion, under pretence of advancement in knowledge, but never came to a
right understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus.
3. He foretels the certain stop that should be put to their progress
(2 Timothy 3:8,9),
comparing them to the Egyptian magicians who withstood Moses, and who
are here named, Jannes and Jambres; though the names are not to
be met with in the story of the Old Testament, yet they are found in
some old Jewish writers. When Moses came with a divine command to fetch
Israel out of Egypt, these magicians opposed him. Thus those heretics
resisted the truth and like them were men of corrupt
minds, men who had their understandings perverted, biassed and
prejudiced against the truth, and reprobate concerning the
faith, or very far from being true Christians; but they shall
proceed no further, or not much further, as some read it. Observe,
(1.) Seducers seek for corners, and love obscurity; for they are afraid
to appear in public, and therefore creep into houses. Further, They
attack those who are the least able to defend themselves, silly and
(2.) Seducers in all ages are much alike. Their characters are the
same--namely, Men of corrupt minds, &c.; their conduct is much
the same--they resist the truth, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses;
and they will be alike in their disappointment.
(3.) Those who resist the truth are guilty of folly, yea, of egregious
folly; for magna est veritas, et prævalebit--Great is the
truth, and shall prevail.
(4.) Though the spirit of error may be let loose for a time, God has it
in a chain. Satan can deceive the nations and the churches no further
and no longer than God will permit him: Their folly shall be
manifest, it shall appear that they are imposters, and every man
shall abandon them.
|Marks of Perilous Times; Excellence of the Scriptures.
||A. D. 66.|
10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life,
purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at
Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of
them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and
hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures,
which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith
which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto
all good works.
Here the apostle, to confirm Timothy in that way wherein he walked,
I. Sets before him his own example, which Timothy had been an
eye-witness of, having long attended Paul
(2 Timothy 3:10):
Thou hast fully known my doctrine. The more fully we know the
doctrine of Christ and the apostles, the more closely we shall cleave
to it; the reason why many sit loose to it is because they do not fully
know it. Christ's apostles had no enemies but those who did not know
them, or not know them fully; those who knew them best loved and
honoured them the most. Now what is it that Timothy had so fully known
1. The doctrine that he preached. Paul kept back nothing from his
hearers, but declared to them the whole counsel of God
so that if it were not their own fault they might fully know it.
Timothy had a great advantage in being trained up under such a tutor,
and being apprised of the doctrine he preached.
2. He had fully known his conversation: Thou hast fully know my
doctrine, and manner of life; his manner of life was of a piece
with his doctrine, and did not contradict it. He did not pull down by
his living what he built up by his preaching. Those ministers are
likely to do good, and leave lasting fruits of their labours, whose
manner of life agrees with their doctrine; as, on the contrary, those
cannot expect to profit the people at all that preach well and live
3. Timothy fully knew what was the great thing that Paul had in view,
both in his preaching and in his conversation: "Thou hast known my
purpose, what I drive at, how far it is from any worldly, carnal,
secular design, and how sincerely I aim at the glory of God and the
good of the souls of men."
4. Timothy fully knew Paul's good character, which he might gather from
his doctrine, manner of life, and purpose; for he gave proofs of his
faith (that is, of his integrity and fidelity, or his faith in
Christ, his faith concerning another world, by which Paul lived), his
long-suffering towards the churches to which he preached and
over which he presided, his charity towards all men, and his
patience. These were graces that Paul was eminent for, and
Timothy knew it.
5. He knew that he had suffered ill for doing well
(2 Timothy 3:11):
"Thou hast fully known the persecutions and afflictions that came
unto me" (he mentions those only which happened to him while
Timothy was with him, at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra); "and
therefore let it be no surprise to thee if thou suffer hard things, it
is no more than I have endured before."
6. He knew what care God had taken of him: Notwithstanding out of
them all the Lord delivered me; as he never failed his cause, so
his God never failed him. Thou hast fully known my afflictions.
When we know the afflictions of good people but in part, they are a
temptation to us to decline that cause which they suffer for; when we
know only the hardships they undergo for Christ, we may be ready to
say, "We will renounce that cause that is likely to cost us so dear in
the owning of it;" but when we fully know the afflictions, not
only how they suffer, but how they are supported and comforted under
their sufferings, then, instead of being discouraged, we shall be
animated by them, especially considering that we are told before that
we must count upon such things
(2 Timothy 3:12):
All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution: not always alike; at that time those who professed the
faith of Christ were more exposed to persecution than at other times;
but at all times, more or less, those who will live godly in Christ
Jesus shall suffer persecution. They must expect to be despised, and
that their religion will stand in the way of their preferment; those
who will live godly must expect it, especially those who will live
godly in Christ Jesus, that is, according to the strict rules of
the Christian religion, those who will wear the livery and bear the
name of the crucified Redeemer. All who will show their religion in
their conversation, who will not only be godly, but live godly, let
them expect persecution, especially when they are resolute in it.
(1.) The apostle's life was very exemplary for three things: for his
doctrine, which was according to the will of God; for his
life, which was agreeable to his doctrine; and for his
persecutions and sufferings.
(2.) Though his life was a life of great usefulness, yet it was a life
of great sufferings; and none, I believe, came nearer to their great
Master for eminent services and great sufferings than Paul: he suffered
almost in every place; the Holy Ghost witnessed that bonds and
afflictions did abide him,
Here he mentions his persecutions and afflictions at Antioch, at
Iconium, at Lystra, besides what he suffered elsewhere.
(3.) The apostle mentions the Lord's delivering him out of them all,
for Timothy's and our encouragement under sufferings.
(4.) We have the practice and treatment of true Christians: they live
godly in Jesus Christ--this is their practice; and they shall suffer
persecution--this is the usage they must expect in this world.
II. He warns Timothy of the fatal end of seducers, as a reason why he
should stick closely to the truth as it is in Jesus: But evil men
and seducers shall wax worse and worse, &c.,
2 Timothy 3:13.
Observe, As good men, by the grace of God, grow better and better, so
bad men, through the subtlety of Satan and the power of their own
corruptions, grow worse and worse. The way of sin is down-hill; for
such proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Those who deceive others do but deceive themselves; those who draw
others into error run themselves into more and more mistakes, and they
will find it so at last, to their cost.
III. He directs him to keep close to a good education, and particularly
to what he had learned out of the holy scriptures
(2 Timothy 3:14,15):
Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. Note, It is
not enough to learn that which is good, but we must continue in it, and
persevere in it unto the end. Then are we Christ's disciples indeed,
We should not be any more children, tossed to and fro, and carried
about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning
craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it is a
good thing that the heart be established with grace,
And for this reason we should continue in the things we have learned
from the holy scriptures; not that we ought to continue in any errors
and mistakes which we may have been led into, in the time of our
childhood and youth (for these, upon an impartial enquiry and full
conviction, we should forsake); but this makes nothing against our
continuing in those things which the holy scriptures plainly assert,
and which he that runs may read. If Timothy would adhere to the truth
as he had been taught it, this would arm him against the snares and
insinuations of seducers. Observe, Timothy must continue in the
things which he had learned and had been assured of.
1. It is a great happiness to know the certainty of the things wherein
we have been instructed
not only to know what the truths are, but to know that they are of
undoubted certainty. What we have learned we must labour to be more and
more assured of, that, being grounded in the truth, we may be guarded
against error, for certainty in religion is of great importance and
(1.) "That thou hast had good teachers. Consider of whom thou hast
learned them; not of evil men and seducers, but good men, who had
themselves experienced the power of the truths they taught thee, and
been ready to suffer for them, and thereby would give the fullest
evidence of their belief of these truths."
(2.) "Knowing especially the firm foundation upon which thou hast
built, namely, that of the scripture
(2 Timothy 3:15):
That from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures."
2. Those who would acquaint themselves with the things of God, and be
assured of them, must know the holy scriptures, for these are the
summary of divine revelation.
3. It is a great happiness to know the holy scriptures from our
childhood; and children should betimes get the knowledge of the
scriptures. The age of children is the learning age; and those who
would get true learning must get it out of the scriptures.
4. The scriptures we are to know are the holy scriptures; they come
from the holy God, were delivered by holy men, contain holy precepts,
treat of holy things, and were designed to make us holy and to lead us
in the way of holiness to happiness; being called the holy
scriptures, they are by this distinguished from profane writings of
all sorts, and from those that only treat morality, and common justice
and honesty, but do not meddle with holiness. If we would know the holy
scriptures, we must read and search them daily, as the noble Bereans
They must not lie by us neglected, and seldom or never looked into. Now
(1.) What is the excellency of the scripture. It is given by
inspiration of God
(2 Timothy 3:16),
and therefore is his word. It is a divine revelation, which we may
depend upon as infallibly true. The same Spirit that breathed reason
into us breathes revelation among us: For the prophecy came not in
old time by the will of man, but holy men spoke as they were moved or
carried forth by the Holy Ghost,
2 Peter 1:21.
The prophets and apostles did not speak from themselves, but what they
received of the Lord that they delivered unto us. That the scripture
was given by inspiration of God appears from the majesty of its
style,--from the truth, purity, and sublimity, of the doctrines
contained in it,--from the harmony of its several parts,--from its
power and efficacy on the minds of multitudes that converse with
it,--from the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to things
beyond all human foresight,--and from the uncontrollable miracles that
were wrought in proof of its divine original: God also bearing them
witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and
gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will,
(2.) What use it will be of to us.
[1.] It is able to make us wise to salvation; that is, it is a
sure guide in our way to eternal life. Note, Those are wise indeed who
are wise to salvation. The scriptures are able to make us truly wise,
wise for our souls and another world. "To make thee wise to salvation
through faith." Observe, The scriptures will make us wise to
salvation, if they be mixed with faith, and not otherwise,
For, if we do not believe their truth and goodness, they will do us no
[2.] It is profitable to us for all the purposes of the
Christian life, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness. It answers all the ends of divine
revelation. It instructs us in that which is true, reproves us for that
which is amiss, directs us in that which is good. It is of use to all,
for we all need to be instructed, corrected, and reproved: it is of
special use to ministers, who are to give instruction, correction, and
reproof; and whence can they fetch it better than from the scripture?
[3.] That the man of God may be perfect,
2 Timothy 3:17.
The Christian, the minister, is the man of God. That which finishes a
man of God in this world is the scripture. By it we are thoroughly
furnished for every good work. There is that in the scripture which
suits every case. Whatever duty we have to do, whatever service is
required from us, we may find enough in the scriptures to furnish us
(3.) On the whole we here see,
[1.] That the scripture has various uses, and answers divers ends and
purposes: It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction of all errors in judgment and practice, and for
instruction in righteousness.
[2.] The scripture is a perfect rule of faith and practice, and was
designed for the man of God, the minister as well as the Christian who
is devoted to God, for it is profitable for doctrine, &c.
[3.] If we consult the scripture, which was given by inspiration of
God, and follow its directions, we shall be made men of God,
perfect, and thoroughly furnished to every good work.
[4.] There is no occasion for the writings of the philosopher, nor for
rabbinical fables, nor popish legends, nor unwritten traditions, to
make us perfect men of God, since the scripture answers all these ends
and purposes. O that we may love our Bibles more, and keep closer to
them than ever! and then shall we find the benefit and advantage
designed thereby, and shall at last attain the happiness therein
promised and assured to us.