2 Timothy 3As if our apostle had said "O my son Timothy, be not thou discouraged, neither let any of thy successors be dismayed, at the sects and schisms, at the heresies and blasphemies, at the vice and impiety, which will be found in and among persons in the last days, when certainly know, that perilous times shall come; where, by the last days, understand all the times from Christ's first coming in the flesh, to his second coming to judgment; in the beginning of times several sorts of persons, yea, several sects and parties of men, arose, to whom the following characters did belong; namely, proud, covetous, boasters, and the like.
As the judaizing teachers, who urged the necessity of circumcision, and the observation of the ceremonial law; also the Gnostics, and followers of Simon Magus, have these characters applied to them in those early days; and it were well if the church of Rome, in these latter days, could clear herself of these characters, which are found upon her, as the marks and badges of an apostate church.
Learn hence, 1. That the days we now live in are the last days, and our times the last times.
2. That the last times are, and will be, the worst times, perilous times, full of sin and full of trouble. Old age is the dregs of life, the world draws upon its lees, the dregs are apparent: In the last days perilous times shall come.
Here our apostle reckons up the several sins which would abound in these last days, and make the times perilous: persons professing Christianity shall appear inordinate self-lovers, insatiably covetous, vain-glorious, boasters, proud, despisers of others, blasphemers of God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, by denying the prescience and foreknowledge of the former, the divinity and godhead of the latter.
Learn hence, That sins, especially great sins, seldom go single and alone, but commonly generate and beget one another. Thus here, self-love begets covetousness, covetousness pride, and pride blasphemy. Thus men fall from one sin to another, and proceed from one degree of wickedness to another.
This is the last, but not the least sin of the perilous times: the apostle,
1. Tells us what these men have, a form of godliness; that is, a vain, empty show of piety and religion, which discovers itself in external devotion, in a profession of the Christian faith, in an external show of mortification, in a great zeal for some particular party, or private opinion.
2. What they want, the power of godliness, that is, the truth and sincerity of it, consisting in true love to God and our neighbour.
3. The apostle directs us as to our behaviour towards such men, From these turn away.
Learn hence,1. That a person may go far, and advance high, in an external profession of piety and religion, and yet have no more than a form of godliness.
2. That notwithstanding this, there is such a thing as the internal and inward power of godliness and religion, which few maintain, but most deny.
Learn, 3. That Christians must shun familiarity with such as have the brand of the foregoing infamous sins upon them, and not hold correspondency with such as are the avowed enemies of Christ and his kingdom.
In these words our apostle renders a reason why we should turn away from the forementioned sins and sinners, namely, because these heretical and false teachers before characterized are of an insinuating temper; they vent not their errors openly, but in corners; they creep into houses, and there set upon women with their temptations, who have less ability to detect them: and first upon women, that they may better win their husbands over to compliance with them; and upon silly women, and such as were laden with sins and led way with divers lusts; they make a prey of such women as are weak in their intellectuals, and corrupt and wicked in their morals: which women always pretend to be learned, but are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, and consequently, are an easy prey to seducers, and very capable receptive objects for such deceivers to draw away.
Learn hence, That seducers observe a method in seducing. They begin with women, weak women, and usually wicked and loose women. Carefully ought that sex to resolve, and shun conversing and disputing with them.
Jannes and Jambres were two famous magicians in Egypt, who withstood Moses when he was working miracles before Pharaoh to hinder him from believing; their names are not mentioned in scripture, but taken by St. Paul, either from public tradition, or from some ancient Jewish records. Now, says the apostle, as the magicians resisted Moses, so these heretical seducers resist the truth, making a violent and rancorous opposition against it.
Thence learn, That there have been false teachers in all ages, who have with vehemency opposed the truth, and the professors of it. Neither the members nor the ministers of Christ shall ever want enemies to war with, whilst the seed of the serpent remains in the world.
Observe, 2. The character of these men who resist the truth, they are men of corrupt minds, and reprobate concerning the faith; they have lost all sound judgment, and made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.
A corrupt head, a corrupt heart, and a vicious life, usually attend and accompany one another; loose principles dispose men to loose and licentious practices; such as are latitudinarians in opinion, and oftentimes so in practice too.
An heretical head and an upright heart are incompatible; a good conscience and a true faith, like Hippocrate's twins, live and die together.
Here our apostle encourages Timothy, and in him all the succeeding ministers of the gospel, to the end of the world, against all the discouragements which either he or they might meet with from the impostors and seducers of the times, by assuring them of the issue and event of these trials;
first, That God will put a bar in their way, that they proceed no farther in their hypocritical and juggling practices.
Learn thence, That heretics and seducers are limited and bounded by God: They cannot do all the mischief they would, and they shall not do all they can.
Secondly, That God would make their folly and madness manifest to their own confusion: Their folly shall be discovered, and then abhorred, as was the folly and madness of Jannes and Jambres.
Learn, That God will, in his own time, by the preaching of the word, discover false teachers and their delusions to the world.
A special mean is here propounded, how Timothy and his successors may be preserved from the seduction of false teachers, namely, by setting before themselves the example of the great apostle St. Paul; we are more easily led by precedents than by precepts; therefore the apostle propounds his own example as a pattern; Thou hast fully known my doctrine, my manner of life and conversation, my purpose to adhere to, my faith in Christ, my long-suffering and patience in undergoing persecution for him at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, and how God was graciously pleased to deliver me out of all.
Learn hence, 1. That younger ministers ought especially to observe the doctrine and conversation of the elder, the pious way and walking of the graver ministers, and must follow them. Aged Paul propounds his virtues to young Timothy for imitation; Thou hast fully known my doctrine and manner of life; my doctrine to be sound and sincere, my life to be holy and unblameable.
Learn, 2. That it is both lawful and laudable, at sometimes, and upon some occasions, to mention both the graces which God hath wrought in us, and also the sufferings and persecutions which we endure and undergo for him; Thou knowest what persecutions I endured at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.
Learn, 3. That always opposition, and often persecution, attends the preaching of the gospel wherever it goes. St. Paul went to Antioch, from Antioch to Iconium, from Iconium to Lystra, preaching the gospel; but pesecution followed him hard at the heels wherever he went. But observe how the goodness of God accompanied him too; Out of them all the Lord delivered me; not only our dangers, but our deliverances also, must be recorded and observed.
Observe, farther, How the apostle argues, from his own persecutions in particular, to all the godly's persecutions in general; Yea, and all that will live godlily in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution;
Mark, Not this or that godly man, but all, every one without exception; the better the men, the sooner persecuted; the devil shoots his arrow at the whitest and fairest mark.
Again, all that will, he doth not say, All that wish well to godliness, but All that will, all that are absolutely resolved so to do.
And farther, if he will live, if he can or will keep his godliness in his heart, and not discover it in his life, he may escape hatred and persecution: but if he will live religiously, let him look for persecution.
Observe, farther, It is said, He that will live godlily, and not civilly, but living godlily, exposes to the world's scorn and hatred; In a word, his godliness in Christ Jesus, that is, such godliness as is exerted in the virtue, strength, and power of Christ Jesus particularly.
Godliness in Christ Jesus is real and true godliness; 'tis exact godliness, 'tis an active godliness, 'tis a prevailing godliness, it is a world condemning godliness; such godliness cannot escape the world's hatred.
Learn, That all those that shew forth the power of religion in an holy conversation, must certainly look for persecution.
Our apostle having acquainted us, in the former verse, with the condition of the godly, that they must expect and prepare for persecution; he lets us in this verse understand the miserable condition of the wicked, that they wax worse and worse; their proficiency is mere apostasy, they actively deceive others, and are passively deceived themselves, by the devil, that lying spirit, that grand imposter.
Learn hence, That the prosperous estate of wicked men is much more dangerous and miserable than the afflicted, persecuted conditon of the godly; the good by persecution grow better, but the wicked by living easy wax worse and worse.
Several arguments are here made use of, by St. Paul, to press Timothy to the duty of perseverance in the doctrine of Christ, contained in the holy scriptures; the first is drawn from the authority of the person from whom he had received that doctrine, to wit, St. Paul himself, an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ.
Continue in the things which thou hast learned; that is, from me, and by me as an authorized apostle. All the servants of God, but especially the ministers of God, must continue constant in the faith, and steadfast in the truth received.
The second argument of Timothy's adhering to the doctrine of the scriptures, is drawn from his long acquaintance with the scriptures, even from his childhood, yea, from his infancy: From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, &c. And the argument lies thus, "Thou, O Timothy, hast learnt the scriptures from thy infancy; now what a shame would it be for thee, who hast been taught so early the true religion, to turn from it and forsake it; from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, from a suckling, as the word signifies."
From whence learn, That it is the duty of parents to instruct their children betimes in the holy and good word of God; we read before of the care that Timothy's mother and grandmother took in that matter,
Observe, 2. The title given to the word of God, - the holy scriptures; they are holy in their author, holy in their matter, holy in their penman, holy in their end and design, which is to make us holy, Joh 16:17. The word of God is not only pure but purifying, not only clean but cleansing.
Observe, 3. the high commendation given of the word, It is able to make thee wise unto salvation; no knowledge can bring us to salvation without the knowledge of the holy scriptures; the philosophers will teach you moral wisdom, but not a word of salvation by a Redeemer, without whom our salvation is impossible; it is here added, -wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Learn, thence, that the holy scriptures, though they instruct us in the way of salvation, yet cannot save us without faith in Christ Jesus.
Our apostle closes this chapter with an exhortation to Timothy to persevere in his study of the holy scriptues, by an argument drawn,
1. From the dignity and authority of the scriptures; 2. From their utility; 3. From their perfection.
1. From their dignity and authority,They are given by the inspiration of God: that is, they are not the contrivance of any man's wit and fancy, but a revelation of the mind and will of God; and those that wrote them were excited to it, and assisted in it, by the Spirit of God; no part of scripture had either angels or men for its author, but every part of scripture is divinely inspired or breathed by God, both for matter and order, style and words.
A second argument is drawn from the utility and sufficiency of the holy scriptures; they are profitable for doctrine and instruction, teaching us what to know and believe in order to salvation, concerning God, and Christ, and ourselves, &c. for reproof of error, and confutation of false doctrines, for correction of sin and evil manners, for instruction in righteousness, directing us how to lead a holy and righteous life, according to the will of God.
A third argument is taken from the perfection of them; they are able to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works; that is, to make the ministers of Christ complete in knowledge, faith, and holiness, every way fitted for their work and duty, as Christians, and as ministers.
Observe here, 1. That the scriptures of the Old Testament, and not of the New, must be the scriptures here intended, they being the only scriptures which Timothy had known from a child; that was before the scriptures of the new Testament were written.
Observe, 2. That the apostle doth not say that these scriptures were of themselves sufficient to make Timothy wise unto salvation, but only that with faith in Christ Jesus they were sufficient for that end; much more then must the scriptures both of the Old and New Testament together, when accompanied with faith in Jesus Christ, be sufficent for that end.
Observe, 3. That the scriptures are a perfect, plain, and sufficient rule, in all things necessary to salvation.
1. They are a perfect rule; because the writers of them were inspired, and consequently their writings are infallible.
2. They are a plain rule; otherwise they would be no rule at all, of no more use to direct our faith and practice than a sun-dial in a dark room is to tell us the hour of the day. A rule that is not plain, whatever it may be in itself, is of no use to us till it is made plain.
3. They are a sufficient rule; they are able to make the man of God perfect, and wise to salvation. Here the church of Rome distinguishes, and says, the scriptures are sufficient to salvation, but not to instruction, to whom one of the martyrs replied, "If so, God send me the salvation and you the instruction."
It is conceived by some that this was the last epistle that ever St. Paul wrote; if so, this is the last charge that ever he gave, and concerns us the more to attend to the solemnity of it. The chapter before us is St. Paul's Cygnea Cantio, his last and sweetest song; by a spiritual sagacity he saw his end approaching, and the time of his martyrdom to be at hand; he therefore, like a dying man, adjures TImothy in a most awful and tremendous manner, to preach the word with all diligence and care, which he had so highly extolled in the foregoing chapter, as being able to make all persons wise unto salvation.
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