2 Timothy 3:1-9
Life in the Local Church
A sign of the Times
Good Morning! Turn with me, if you would, to 2 Timothy chapter 3. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, or if you know someone who would read and does not have one, please grab one from our back table there.
We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy titles, Life in the Local Church. One of the biggest themes we have seen from Paul in these writings, in these two letters is confronting false teachers and protecting the congregation from false teaching.
That’s going to be the main bulk of what we are looking at this morning as well. Paul has been building to this over what we have looked at the last few weeks. He has been warning and teaching Timothy, and the church at Ephesus and I want to review a little bit of that before we really dive in here this evening.
As we look back at chapter 2 of this letter, we see that Paul has repeatedly given warnings about quarrelling over words and similar ideas. He has done in verses 14, 16, 23 & 24. With that repetition, I think we might want to pay attention.
In verse 15, Paul tells us to present ourselves to God. He is showing us that God is who we will stand before. God is the one whose opinion and judgment matter, not mans opinions and judgment. He also challenges us and commands us in this verse to Rightly handle the Word of truth.
2 timothy 2:19, Paul encourages us and promises us that what God says will come to pass when he tells us that Gods Firm foundation will stand steady. A Mighty Fortress is our God, as Martin Luther sings.
2 Timothy 2:22, Paul tells us to flee our youthful passions. We are to repent from and run quickly away from our sins and our temptations. We are instead to pursue with that same passion and intensity righteousness.
In verse 24, he tells us that we are to be kind to everyone, no matter who and especially our opponents. And one of the reasons being that, as Paul shows us in verse 25, we should desire that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.
That’s where Paul has been, writing to Timothy and where we will pick up today, with Paul continuing and looking at false teachers. These weeks passage we will be looking at is 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells Timothy:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
May God Bless the reading of his Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.
So, Paul left off with some encouragement at the end of chapter 2, that God grants repentance leading to the knowledge of Truth and we are working our way, trying spread the good news of the Gospel and living a righteous life instead of a life of son.
But Paul says here, understand this… know this, this is truth. Things are not going to automatically be all hunky dory. It wont all be so easy as it can sometimes seem to be.
A common false teaching that’s out there right now is “If we are nice to them, they will be saved.” It goes right along the lines of “It doesn’t matter what we do to get them through the door, as long as they come to church.” You see churches around that do these massive giveaways in order to get people through the doors. Or they sing secular songs and put on, basically concerts as their worship. They have the smoke machines, and lasers and the like. In those things, there is no Gospel.
With no Gospel, there is no salvation. Things are not going to be as easy as we want them to go. There is a reason that Jesus warns against the easy path and the wide gate (Matthew 7)
And so, understand that in the last days, there will be difficulties. When the Bible says last days, it is referring to the entirety of time from Christs first coming, which finished with his ascension, and goes all the way through until his second coming that we are still waiting on. These times will be difficult.
These things we are going to look at, they were happening in Paul and Timothy’s time, and they are happening today. As the preacher says over and over in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. In verses 2-5, Paul lists a long number of things that mark people of the last days. This is specifically in context of False teachers and those who listen to and follow false teachers, but it’s also a pretty general description of the culture around us, including those within the church, that call themselves and maybe even think themselves Christians but truly are not.
This is as true in Timothy’s day as it is today. Paul is telling Timothy, when you go out and you believe and you share the truth and you live the truth, this is what you can expect to encounter. This is what we can look around and expect to find when we deal with people outside of the forgiveness of Christ.
And I’m just going to touch on a few of these attributes, we are not going to go in depth into each of the 18 characteristics that Paul’s lists here. Again, I want you to see what Paul is talking about here. These are prevalent in the days of the early church and in the Ephesian church.
First, the first one we will touch on and the first one Paul mentions, is that people will be lovers of self. This might be easy to picture for the young generation today. This is the Selfie generation, right? But, again, this not new to today. And you know who these people are that are lovers of self. Those who tend to only talk about themselves. They have a talent of making every conversation about them. No matter what you are going through, no matter how bad or how good you are doing, they’ve been worse than your worst and better than your best. Their worship tends to be focus on them and what they are doing and who they are instead of who God is and what God has done. They insert themselves into every story in the Bible, making it about them instead of about Jesus. We all know these people.
Now, sometimes, we can fall into one or more of those categories. Sometimes we give in to the temptation to be the center of the universe. That’s why we should constantly be testing even our emotions, attitudes and desires against scripture.
Paul next warns against those who are lovers of money. We looked at this some back in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 9 & 10. Paul wrote then, but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
One of the fastest spreading false teachings spreading throughout the world today is the Prosperity Gospel, or Health and Wealth Gospel. It stems from greed at its core, from the love of money. And its teaching, in essence is that God wants every single one of his children to be wealthy and to be healthy. No debt, no struggles, no sicknesses, no cancers, some even go so far as to say no death. It’s a promise for God to fulfill all our world desires. And its from Satan. They also claim that God won’t give it to you unless you ask for it, or even demand it. And if he doesn’t give it to you, if you don’t get that promotion, if your marriage fails, if he doesn’t heal or whatever, it means that you didn’t pray hard enough, or sincerely enough or have enough faith, or any number of other things that put the fault directly on you. This is evil and its false teaching from the pits of hell. Most ministries and preachers you see on TV fall into this category. If you need to “sow a seed of faith,” Its almost certainly in this category.
One of the main problems is that it takes all power away from God, did you notice that? And it puts it directly on you. Its because of your faith and your actions and your prayers that God will finally be able to do what he wanted to do for you. No. God is sovereign and does what he wants, when he wants, whatever he wants, regardless of anything about us. And this comes from the love of money. All sorts of evil come from the love of money.
Paul warns us about these people who are unappeasable. This is a big one we see in society today. If you and I disagree on something, we can stay in disagreement. We can respect each other, we can *gasp* tolerate each other and we can either agree to disagree and goon with our lives or we can be friends who differ on an issue.
But what have we seen more and more recently around us? No, we can’t disagree with each other! You will be poked, prodded, shamed, yelled out, jailed, publicly ridiculed, threatened with violence and legislated into agreeing. And then, even if you end up agreeing with them, its still not enough. They take another step to the side and say, “Nope, that’s not the line anymore, here is the new line.”
I want to share just one high profile, recent example. Chick-Fil-A had come under fire a number of years ago because their owner at the time, who has since passed away, said that he supports the biblical view of marriage. The company would donate to charities which included some that held to a biblical view of marriage as well. This past November, I think it was, they announced they would no longer be donating to those biblical charities, but to broader charities including those who support or affirm the LGBTQ lifestyle. Problem solved, right? Wrong. As Pastor Gabe Hughes writes: This new strategy Chick-Fil-A is following has never worked. Almost every business that has caved to the rage mob has suffered for it- Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the NFL, the Boy Scouts, etc. After Chick-Fil-A announced changes in giving, GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) came out the very next day and said it wasn’t enough. You must bow before their sex gods, beg for mercy and fly their flag, then maybe they’ll forgive you and not until you meet them on their terms.
The very definition of unappeasable.
Paul also points out those who are disobedient to their parents. What I specifically want to point out with this, just as in Romans 1, in the last part of the chapter where Paul lists out a number of sins, that included in these lists of sins is being disobedient to your parents. My point is not to stand up here and tell you all to obey your parents. You are all out from under your parent’s authority as adults. My point is that we all have sins that we dismiss as unimportant, or minor or whatever. We read through these lists and its so easy to dismiss this sin as not important or valid or whatever. But one we start doing that, we cannot be appeased, and we continue to take steps to dismiss more and more sins. Gods Word is perfect and sufficient. What he calls sin is sin, no matter the time, the culture, the society or the feelings of us. We don’t get to pick and choose which sins matter. The wages of each and every sin is death. This does not mean that we are the Old Testament nation of Israel and we are still holding to the civil punishments for these sins. When one disobeys his parents, we are not going to stone him to death, but it means that its still a sin.
Next, similar, but different to being lovers of self, false teachers and those who follow them tend to be swollen with conceit. Not only is it all about them, but they are never wrong. They cannot be corrected. They either will ignore and pretend not to hear, or they will stomp off in a huff or they will attack when corrected.
Again, this is one where we all tend to react wrongly. None of us is comfortable being corrected. None of us wants to be wrong. And so, we search ourselves. If some one offers up correction, we look at it and see if there is anything to it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But the worst thing to do is dismiss it out of hand. Now, the more gentle and loving the correction is offered, the easier it is to hear and the easier it is to acknowledge what needs to be corrected. This means that when we correct someone, we should strive to do so in a gentle and living manner. However, even if someone comes at you in a hostile and angry manner, take time to look at the actual criticism and see if there is anything that you can take from it.
Lastly, for me one of the biggest and most condemning of these characteristics, Paul mentions those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. What a person portrays on the outside, or what they say, does not always indicate who they actually are. Many people, easiest to see in those who are in public spotlight, claim to be Christians, or claim the teachings of Jesus, they have an appearance of godliness. But when you listen to what they actually believe, and when you watch how they actually live, they deny the power of God, of His Word and of living a godly lifestyle. This happens from people from all walks. Right now, its super easy to see in politicians from each side of the aisle. We see it in religious leaders unfortunately all to often. When churches deny that Jesus, during his earthly ministry was not God, they are denying his power no matter what form of Godliness they are putting on.
We see in our families, coworkers and neighbors. In polling in recent years, 90% of Americans say that they believe in God, regardless of what their definition is. 90% of Americans hold to a form of Godliness. In similar polling, somewhere just north of 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Not all of this 75% actually believe in what the Bible says needs to be believed in order to be a Christian.
America, with its history of rebelling against authority and building up the idea if rugged individualism, pick yourself up with your bootstraps, doesn’t lend itself to Biblical Christianity too easily. Let me explain. Typical, historic American ideals are to not depend on anyone else, to do everything for yourself, that no one can tell you what to do, that you are your own authority. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, says that you CAN’T do it on your own. It says that God is the ultimate authority. It says that you have to depend on Jesus for your salvation.
So many today, in our country are clothing themselves in their own righteousness, trusting in their own form of godliness as opposed to staying biblically true and being clothed in Christs righteousness and trusting in God’s godliness.
At the end of this list of characteristics and attributes, Paul says what should have been going through all of our minds, Avoid these people! It does not bring any good. It does not honor good to break bread and fellowship with such people.
Again, this is not talking about someone who sins once, who gives in to temptation or is in the midst of progressing in their sanctification, growing in spiritual maturity. This is not about having differences of opinions about secondary, non-Gospel issues. This is for those who continually, stubbornly, actively hold to false teaching and spread that false teaching, driving heresy and division through Christs church.
He also knows from scripture, such as we looked at last week, such as what Paul writes about first in 1 Corinthians 5:2, to break fellowship with someone who is in unrepentant sexual sin, to kick them out of the church. Later, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, we see Paul saying that once one has repented and been forgiven, they are to be received back into fellowship.
If we break fellowship, if we refuse to worship with someone, if we are to avoid some one for the reasons we look at here today, the idea is that we are continuing to pray that God would grant them the repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth. And if they do, like the father welcomes the prodigal son with open arms, we also welcome them back with open arms. That is the end goal, but until then, we are called to protect the church, to protect the congregation in total and to protect those who are still learning and growing and susceptible to false teaching, we are to protect them from these divisive, untrue, influences.
Paul then shows the effects, very practically and specifically to the church in Ephesus, of these false teachers spreading through the congregation. We see this in verses 6 & 7. In the Ephesian church at that time, the false teachers around were particularly able to deceive and to distract the women in the church. Paul was not just writing about esoteric, theoretical problems that might pop up someday, somewhere. This was having a specific, quantifiable effect. This is not just things that we are learning so that we have head knowledge, but this is real life.
And I want to point out what Paul says, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. These who are deceived by the false teachers, always reading always studying. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But read what he is saying. Always learning, never arriving at the knowledge if the truth. Always looking for something, never satisfied. For these people, the Bible is not enough. They feel that they need to have God speak personally to them, and to reveal truth that they are not able to find is Gods revelation that is the Holy Bible.
I don’t like to name names of this sort of thing because I don’t like to give false teachers this much publicity, but as a part of shepherding and protecting the flock, I am seeing the need to do this. I’m sorry if some of you have this book at home, but one huge, clear example of this is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This is a popular devotional book primarily focused towards women. Here’s the thing. In the introduction, Sarah Young says that reading the bible was not enough for her. She was chasing the experiences and the feelings of a personal presence of God. She wrote the book by listening for God to talk to her and them writing down the words of God. She claims divine inspiration that is only attritable to the books of the Bible and she rejects the sufficiency and completeness of the Bible itself. She also writes it from the perspective of Jesus, meaning she is putting her writings, her words, that she thinks are Gods words, putting them in Jesus mouth.
And this is one of the most popular “Christian” books sold in the last number of years and has a whole lot of spin offs as well. But its heresy. It needs to be avoided and its claiming that the Bible isn’t enough and that it is the very Words of God.
We will get more into this in the next few weeks, as Paul writes more about the scriptures, but let’s be really clear here this morning. Quite simply, the Bible is sufficient. It is complete. God did not forget to reveal something to us then. The Bible is his complete revelation and his complete Word. Nothing else is needed.
Now, as we read through these warnings and the negative things that are going in Ephesus and seeing how they are playing out today as well, it can look dark and gloomy. But there is always good news that breaks through the bad. Yes, false teacher will come. They will sway many. They will go against the truth and they will add to Gods word and they will deny Gods word.
Paul shows us the same thing happened with Jannes and Jambres. These were two of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court as they were opposing Moses. Paul is equating these two false magicians to the false teachers that we will encounter today.
But, Gods Word, the truth of God himself will ultimately prevail. On the Gospel, on the Word of God, as Jesus sys in Matthew 16:18, I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
I like the way Ligon Duncan sums up this passage as he writes:
‘Timothy, you are going to live and minister in difficult days–dire days. Don’t expect it to be easy going. Don’t expect to see the world stay out of the church. Don’t expect to see the church unhindered by false teaching, even in her pales. No, you expect difficult days, Timothy; but as you expect that difficulty, not only make sure that your congregation has the right attitude of what they are and what they’re about in the kind of circumstance that they’re in, but you make sure that your congregation is spiritually discerning, so that that congregation can tell a false prophet from a true preacher of God’s word. And remember, Timothy: no matter how bad it looks, the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. The false prophets’ folly will be uncovered and revealed. They will not have the last word.’
The folly of these false teachers and those whom they have deceived and follow them, their folly will end up becoming known to all. They will be exposed publicly eventually. Sometimes that will happen here and now. Sometimes that won’t happen until the end, when we are standing before God and he is separating the sheep from the goats. At that point, as Paul writes multiple times, every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess Jesus is LORD.
No one will be able to put on a form of godliness, but instead all will see the glory and the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word. By then, it will be too late to change minds. That’s why we pray for their repentance here and now, while there is still a chance for these false teachers and unbelievers to come to the knowledge of truth.
There are not many truths. There is not knowledge of various truths of your own truth. There is just truth. Gods Truth. Trust in that truth. Serve that truth and choose that now.
I can’t say it any better than the Word of God itself does, Joshua 24:14 & 15, he says:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Now, one of the ways that we honor and serve Jesus Christ is by remembering him and doing what he told us to do. We do this on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.
There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.
So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.
Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.