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2 Timothy 3:1-17 (ESV)
3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
To understanding the setting of this passage, this is right before Paul’s ministry will be ended by execution.
He’s writing to his assistant Timothy with whom he had spent many missionary journeys.
He desires to give him one last charge as the time of the Apostles is closing and the time of regular Church ministry is coming to the forefront.
He begins by letting Timothy know that, in the last days, there will be times of difficulty.
I don’t have time to fully explain how this works but you need to understand that Timothy was in “the last days”.
The last days are not some future time of resistance against the Gospel when things get really bad.
The last days are spoken of in the Scriptures as the time since Christ’s death and resurrection.
The admonition that Paul is telling Timothy is for him.
It is not for some future preacher or Church person that needs to know about how things will look right before Christ comes.
No, this admonition has been true of all time.
What will people be like?
people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
This is not the world “out there”.
Paul is warning that there will be people in the Church, who call themselves Christian, who will be like this.
Timothy is warned to avoid such people for their testimony and actions make their profession of Christ a lie.
Indeed, there have always been those who call themselves Christian and deny the power of God by resisting God’s ways.
The story of Scriptures are a people who are called out by God and among those people are those who do not want to hear what God says.
They want to live by sight and not by faith.
They live by bread alone.
They turn to pragmatic ends to make sure they have their best life now.
They call the real preachers of God’s word small-minded and against progress.
Paul even points to Jannes and Jambres who were apparently Hebrew magicians who served in Pharaoh’s court and opposed Moses when God was calling His people out of slavery.
Unlike Moses, they preferred the pleasures of this world to the promise of the world to come.
Paul warns Timothy that there will always be those who will rise up in Churches to say: “God isn’t like that. Stop telling us things we don’t want to hear. Stop telling us we need to change.”
And they will gather teachers who will tell them just what you want to hear.
“God loves you and blesses you just because you are you.”
“Your God is a God of wrath but my God is a God of love.”
Paul tells Timothy to have a long view.
Don’t get discouraged.
The arc of history is on God’s side and the false prophets are always found out by the searching eye of Almighty God and destroyed.
Paul then turns to Timothy in verse 10 and focuses him again on what he knew of Paul’s ministry.
That he was single-mindedly focused on proclaiming the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Jesus Christ.
That he was not smooth-talking or flash-bang but had a simple ministry of consistently bringing the truth of God’s Word to people.
That he was not in it for the acclaim but met persecution at every turn.
Indeed, all who put on the mantle of the servant of Christ will face such persecution.
They will be hated and reviled for the privilege of proclaiming the Word of God.
It is a privilege because the persecution is short-lived and inconsequential compared to the riches of the Gospel but we like Timothy must steel ourselves to what is important.
We must fix our eyes not on what will keep us out of trouble but what will please Christ.
People around us may be deceived and will go from bad to worse.
They’ll insult us and revile us.
They’ll tell us that we believe in fairy tales or an old book.
The Gospel is light and life to us but to them it is the smell of death and idiocy.
What is Timothy to lay hold of in verse 14?
. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
He tells him to remain rooted in what he has firmly believed.
He asks him to remember from whom he learned these things?
And who taught him these things that he is to remain convinced of?
What great person of history helped Timothy to learn the Scriptures?
Was it Jesus?
Was it Paul?
Paul had a part but Paul is not pointing Timothy only to him?
He’s pointing Timothy to the instruction in the Scriptures he received from the time he was a baby?
That’s right, Timothy learned from his mother and his grandmother the Scriptures.
The word “youth” is the word for baby.
Timothy, remember the things you’ve learned since you were a baby.
Parents, you are far and away the most important people in your children’s lives to teach them the Scriptures.
I don’t mean just Bible stories.
I mean the Scriptures.
Your children are disciples and their primary teacher is the parents and, in particular, Mom.
The term for instructing is also called catechesis, which is where we get the idea of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
That is intended for your children.
You see, little Hebrew children like Timothy had a similar form of catechism.
Timothy was trained from his youth by a godly mother and grandmother because his father was Greek.
And he learned the Scriptures that made him wise unto salvation.
We’re here to help you in that task.
We love your kids and are happy to teach them at Sunday School but you need to be training them in the Scriptures.
It is your consistent training in the Word of God that will make them wise unto salvation.
It is your consistent instruction in the Word that will enable them to stand on their own two feet and endure persecution.
You have a ready-made guide for teaching your children in the catechisms.
But you also have the Word of God that you can read to your children every night at dinner.
You have Psalms and Hymns that you can sing the Word of God into your children’s hearts.
You have the opportunity every night to pray with your children teaching them how to adore God, how to confess their sins, how to thank Him, and how to pray for His Kingdom.
I beseech you that you would consider this worth your energy and even worth their protestations that you would acquaint your children with the Scriptures.
It’s never too late to start.
Why are the Scriptures so important?
They make us wise unto salvation.
Paul continues in verse 16:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Paul tells Timothy that the entirety of Scripture is breathed out by God.
We’re accustomed to hearing that the Word of God is inspired.
Inspiration is the idea of receiving something for God so Scriptures are, in fact, inspired.
But here the important quality of Scripture is that God has breathed them out.
They are His very Words that we are hearing.
The Word of God that was able to tell Light to come into existence has breathed out the Scriptures for us.
We hold in our hands the very breath of God.
The power of God unto salvation is at our fingertips by His Spirit.
A long-time preacher once spoke to a top level scientist who contributed to worldwide medical advances.
She told him: What I do prolongs people’s lives. What you do prepare people’s lives for eternity.
She had that perspective, beloved, because Christ is the judge the living and the dead.
The Word is God’s great instrument for saving people and transforming saints.
We’ve already heard from Paul that the context of Timothy’s ministry is going to be around people who don’t want to hear God’s Word.
But the task of the preacher is to answer to God for faithfully teaching the Word.
Paul writes that the Word of God is for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Since the Word of God is for teaching, reproof, correction, and training then it is to be used that way.
We are to use the Scriptures in the way they were given by God.
Since God has put this Word into our hands, we need to use it in the way He has given.
The first thing we learn about the Scriptures are that they are for teaching.
Teaching about the truth about God.
To think God’s thoughts after Him.
To see the world not as man sees it but as God teaches it.
The Lord complains: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”
The prophets and priests were condemned for withholding God’s Word from the people.
They perished for not knowing what God had written.
God’s Word is often hard to take.
There are aspects that offend us.
Be prepared that people will be offended but do not dare hide God’s Word from them.
I hesitated to exhort you about your children because many Americans think it’s prying.
Even if the Word tells us that we are to train our children, we don’t want somebody to tell us because, well, it’s hard to hear.
But the preacher can’t shrink back from proclaiming uncomfortable things.
It is God’s means to communicate His truth to them.
One of the things that’s hard for retired Marine Officers like me is to get away from relating my experiences.
I’ve got lots of leadership experience and insights about people I can communicate.
But the preacher is not there to communicate his insights but to teach God’s people what God has said and he dare not deviate from what God thinks is important to relate some story.
If the preacher fails to teach God’s people he starves God’s people for lack of knowledge.
The transformation of our lives depends on the renewing of our minds.
We live in a widespread feel-good world.
But we are told in Romans 12:2 to think Biblically in order to be transformed.
Our minds are so confused and darkened by nature but the Word breaks forth its light so that we might know God, ourselves, and Christ.
Secondly the Word of God is for reproof or Conviction.
The Word is not intended to stop at my mind.
It’s to pass through the mind into my conscience to reprove me.
The Word becomes up close and personal.
Through the Word, God will find me out.
But God is gentle.
God doesn’t expose the truth about me to the whole congregation.
Imagine if during the preaching of God’s Word if God was to flash up on the screen the resistance in our hearts to what God is saying to us.
We’d be like the Psalmist who exclaims “Oh God, if you were to count my iniquities then who could stand before you?”
I’d never appear in the Church again if all the sins that the Word exposes were plain for all to see.
But God does this silently in our consciences as we’re convicted by the hearing of the Word.
It’s sharper than any two-edged sword and breaks through my thoughts and resistances to enter into the darkness of my abiding sin to bring conviction – to bring light into the dark recesses of my heart.
It exposes the secrets and subtle intentions of my heart.
It exposes my excuses and my hypocrisy and lays me bare as needful of a Savior.
However painful it is for us, it is what we most need.
It’s only when our needs are exposed that we look to God to heal us.
Jeremiah condemned the false prophets in Jeremiah 8 for proclaiming “Peace, peace where there is no peace” and for healing the wounds of God’s people lightly.
Instead of exposing their sin the false prophets preached what people wanted to hear – health and wealth and blessing.
No healing could occur because the false prophets refused to use the scalpel of God’s Word and let it do its work of digging in and removing the cancer of sin that the people might turn and be saved.
Jeremiah cries out “Oh, that there would be a balm in Gilead – that there would be a physician that the people might be healed!”
I need to be un-deceived about myself.
I need the Word to expose the lies I tell to myself in my heart.
I need to be craving the Word that someone would bring me the balm of Gilead so that it would deal with my sins.
As the Word exposes our need and unmasks our hypocrisy, we see clearly our need of the Savior.
We experience the joy of being made clean by His Word as we turn from the sin that the Word exposes in us.
Thirdly, the Word of God is for correction.
We often think of being reproved and corrected as the same thing.
When we were corrected by teachers as children we were being told we were wrong.
But that’s not the language here.
The Greek term was used to speak of the restoration of a city.
It carries with it the idea of improvement.
This word was used in the medical world of Paul’s day for healing or correcting a limb that had been wounded or destroyed.
The wonderful thing about God’s word is that it doesn’t stop at reproving us and exposing our sin but when it’s done telling us what it wrong it starts to heal what is wrong!
It does the work of straightening that which is crooked.
It comes to us with saving, healing life-transforming power.
The Word deconstructs us but it is then a hospital as God’s people come to the Word and call on the Savior, the Great Physician, to heal us by His Word of grace.
Men will often resist going to the doctor’s office because they fear being told there is something wrong with them.
The Church is the same way.
I don’t want to be under the Word as it tells me something about me that I don’t want to hear.
I desire affirmation.
I desire those who will stroke my self-esteem.
I desire being told that I’m OK and that there’s nothing in my heart that needs to change.
But Paul is saying that if you never want to hear what’s wrong with you then you can never hear now or in all eternity that Jesus heals.
As we place our lives under the ministry of God’s Word, God pours into our lives the transforming grace of His truth.
He wants to pour into our lives the characteristics of Christ to make us more and more like our Savior.
Finally, Paul writes that the Word of God is for training in righteousness or equipping us.
The ministry of the Word equips us for every day of the week.
As the Word transforms our mind, penetrates our heart, cleanses us and heals us, it equips us for our work throughout the week to live for His glory.
We live for His glory by His Spirit because He’s taught us something by His Word.
And so as we sit under the Word week in and week out, what is happening to us?
We’re in a classroom learning from the Great Teacher telling us about the world He has created and Who He is.
We’re in a hospital room where the great Physician is telling us what is wrong with us uncovering our secret, spiritual sicknesses.
The Word is engaged in surgery where the bile of our lives is cut out by the scalpel of our Great Physician by the Holy Spirit.
We’re made well by the Word as it administers the healing, corrective therapy of our Savior.
We’re in an equipping place, a training ground, where the Word strengthens weary arms and weak knees and strengthens us to go out into the world with hope.
We who came in crippled and wounded by the world are able to walk out into the world to live to the praise and glory of God.
We may be walking with a limp but we’re standing!
The Word is not something that equips us for a short period of time but for all eternity.
When we come before the Word we should not be expecting something short term.
We should be expectant for something that will transform us for all eternity.
God’s doing something incremental in us by His Word which effects will be to our everlasting good.
Beloved, I know there are many cares in this world.
There are many important things to consider.
Some of us must return to the normal day-in and day-out of life.
Some of our favorite sports teams are about to kick into high gear.
There are many things that we can occupy our thoughts and energies upon.
There are many leisure activities with which we can fill our day.
But the Word of God is not just another on a list of priorities.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not simply another program that we somehow have to cram into our schedules after they’re filled with other more-important activities.
We can deceive ourselves and be convinced that God is satisfied with whatever we give Him.
But the Word of God tells us how it really is.
The Word of God doesn’t lie to us because God is afraid to offend you.
He tells you plainly who you are.
He knows the number of hairs on your head not because He counted them but because He’s known you from all eternity.
There isn’t an inch of ground you’ll walk or drive over this week outside of His control.
And that God loved you so much, in spite of your hidden sins and hypocrisies, that He was not content to leave you as He found you.
He’s not content to let you think you know what’s best for you.
He sent His one and only Son to die on a Cross to rescue you from thinking that you were the center of the universe when, in reality, you were a slave to your passions.
Remember the love of Christ.
Remember that the Kingdom of God is among you.
Remember that this world is cursed by the Fall but that Christ has redeemed you from the Curse.
And so pursue the things of God because you have been purchased with a price.
Make the study of God’s Word your meat and drink.
Let it dwell in you richly.
Teach it to your children in the hope that God has given you promises in the Gospel in their baptism.
Spend time with your children and show them, by your priorities, that Christ is your only Master.
The Word of God is not God’s long wooden spoon to make you feel horrible about your failures and sins.
It’s God’s instrument to expose what He already knows about you so that true healing may occur.
It’s God’s means of equipping you that you might walk by the power of the Spirit into a lost and dying world that desperately needs the Gospel.
Let us pray.