Setting

Following his encouragement to Timothy to be a good worker of Christ Jesus, Paul warns Timothy of the perilous times that will come in the last days, when wickedness and deception will abound. To prepare Timothy and the believers for these dangers ahead, Paul reiterates the necessity to endure affliction and to continue in the sound doctrine.

Key Verse

(3:12)

Did You Know...?

1. “Jannes and Jambres” (3:8): “Neither of these men is mentioned in the OT, but according to Jewish tradition they were the Egyptian court magicians who opposed Moses.” [ref]

2. “Antioch, Iconium and Lystra” (3:11): “Three cities in the Roman province of Galatia, which Paul visited on his first and second missionary journeys (Acts 13:14-14:23; 16:1-6). Since Timothy was from Lystra, he would have known firsthand of Paul’s suffering in that region.” [ref]

3. “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (3:15):  “A Jewish boy formally began to study the OT when he was five years old. Timothy was taught at home by his mother and grandmother even before he reached this age” [ref]

4. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (3:16) “translates one Greek word, theopneustia, meaning, literally, “God-breathed.” [ref]

Outline

  • Perilous Times
    (3:1-9)
  • Nature of evil men
    (3:1-5)
  • Works of evil men
    (3:6-9)
  • Imitation of Paul’s Doctrine and Example
    (3:10-12)
  • Increasing Wickedness
    (3:13)
  • Exhortation to Continue in the Sound Doctrine
    (3:14-17)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Do you notice an alternating structure in this passage? Take note of the repetition of “but you…” (10,14), which marks a sharp contrast between two paragraphs. Account for this structure.

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    The first paragraph (1-9) is about the wickedness of men, and the third paragraph (13) speaks of the increase of wickedness. The second and the fourth paragraphs (10-12; 14-17) both begin with the words “but you,” followed by commands to Timothy to continue in what is good. The purpose of this contrasting alternation is to first forewarn Timothy about the wickedness of men and then to remind Timothy not to bow to wickedness but be faithful to the sound doctrine.

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Segment Analysis

  • 3:1-9

    1.

    Why are the times in the last days called “perilous times”?

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    Because of the prevalence of wickedness, the godly will be persecuted and the society at large will be unsafe to live in. In terms of spiritual perils, the increasing influence of sin will deceive many people and cause them to forsake the faith (cf. Mt 24:9-13).

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  • 2a.

    Record the descriptions about the people in the last days. Think about each of these descriptions and give examples, where relevant, to real incidents you have witnessed.

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    Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2-5).

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  • 2b.

    What purpose does it serve for believers to know the perilous times and the wickedness of man in the last days?

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    It is necessary to know that we are living in perilous times so that we can be ready to face persecutions from the ungodly. When we do come across such people in society, we need not be surprised or disheartened, given that this has been prophesied long ago.

    Another reason for understanding wickedness in the last days is to guard ourselves against these sins. The descriptions of men’s wickedness is such an apt description of modern society. Even believers may have been influenced unknowingly and be guilty of some of these sins. It is, therefore, crucial that we constantly examine ourselves, especially given such an exhaustive list by Paul.

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  • 3:1-9

    3.

    “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (4). What kind of lifestyle is this descriptive of? What reminder does this serve in your own life?

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    In this self-centered world, many people have no regard for God nor His commandments. They live according to what their hearts and flesh desire rather than for God’s will. As believers, we must not be conformed to the pattern of this world. It is important to always examine the choices we make and ask whether we are doing things to please God or to please ourselves. If we truly love God, we will deny ourselves in order to carry out God’s will.

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  • 4.

    What does Paul mean by “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (5)? What should true godliness be?

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    True godliness involves the transformation of the whole being, including mind and body (Rom 12:1-2). This is possible only if we submit to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We must let the transforming power of God change us from within into a new creation, rather than be like the hypocrites who only display superficial godliness but have not experienced true conversion.

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  • 5.

    What are the works of these evildoers (6-8)?

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    They creep into households and make captives of gullible women (6). Through their deception, they mislead with their false teachings those who are ignorant.

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  • 6.

    What is the meaning and cause of the serious symptom of “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (7)? How can we guard ourselves from falling into such a state?

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    The reason that these women can never come to the knowledge of truth is that they have no genuine desire to obey the sound doctrine. They have been loaded down with sins and led way by various lusts. Their learning is superficial and is completely futile.

    Therefore, if we want to understand the truth and not be deceived by false doctrines, we must first examine whether we have the motivation to obey God. If we still want to indulge in our sins and lusts and have no intention to submit to God, our superficial diligence in studying God’s word will not bring us any closer to His will.

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  • 3:10-12

    7.

    Through what ways has Timothy learned from Paul (10-11)? Elaborate on each aspect.

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    1. Doctrine—Paul imparted the knowledge of the truth, either verbally or through writing.

    2. Manner of life—Paul taught Timothy by personal example.

    3. Purpose—Paul’s life has a clear goal, which is to allow God’s will to be accomplished through him, and he has given his whole life for this very purpose.

    4. Faith—Paul knows whom he has believed and has committed himself to Jesus Christ.

    5. Longsuffering—Paul has demonstrated great patience by lifting the weak, correcting those who opposed, and restoring those who sinned.

    6. Love—The sincere and deep love for all men has been Paul’s motivation in all his work.

    7. Perseverance, persecutions, afflictions—Paul has gone through constant and various hardships during his ministry. He carries the death of Jesus Christ in his body (2Cor 4:8-10), sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

    8. The Lord’s deliverance—Paul uses himself as a living testimony of God’s grace and deliverance, assuring Timothy that God will be his ever-present help through his afflictions.

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  • 8.

    Based on what Timothy has learned from Paul, what are the various ways through which we should nurture younger workers today?

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    1. Teach, exhort, and remind them through words.

    2. Be an example in our lives, with genuine faith and love in Christ Jesus, practicing what we preach.

    3. Bring them along in the ministry to demonstrate how to serve and handle difficulties.

    4. Give them the opportunity to serve and experience or witness for themselves the grace of God.

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  • 9.

    What is the cost of living godly lives? Are you ready to pay the cost?

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    If we determine to live godly lives, we must be ready to suffer persecution. Persecution, in one form or another, is guaranteed. It is a matter of when, not if.

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  • 10.

    What does Paul ask Timothy to anticipate? What should Timothy do in response?

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    Evil men and impostors will grow worse, deceiving and being deceived (13). But Timothy must continue in the things which he has learned and been assured of (14).

    This passage reminds us that we should not be surprised or disheartened, thinking God is not looking when we suffer persecution for living godly lives or if we see more and more evil men arising. Wickedness will continue to increase. But even so, we ought to continue to hold firm to our beliefs.

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  • 11.

    What is the origin of the Scriptures?

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    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (literally “God-breathed”) (16). In other words, the Scriptures were written under God’s direction and guidance, and they are not from the writers’ own will (cf. 2Pet 1:20- 21). Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of life and Adam became a living being (Gen 2:7), He has breathed into the Scriptures and made the Scriptures His living word.

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  • 12.

    What are the purposes of the Scriptures? How do the Scriptures accomplish these purposes?

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    1. The Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (15). The Scriptures testify about Christ (Jn 5:39). Through the Scriptures, we can come to the knowledge of the Savior and put our faith in Him for salvation.

    2. The Scriptures make the man of God complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (17). The Scriptures accomplish this purpose through doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (16). The Scriptures reveal to us God’s will, rebuke us when we have sinned, show us where we are wrong, and guide us unto the right path. So through learning and applying the Scriptures, we can be transformed into clean and useful vessels of God, equipped for every good work.

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  • 13.

    Why does Paul write about the Holy Scriptures in this context? What can we learn from this about the importance of learning and living by the Scriptures?

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    In commanding Timothy to continue in the faith, Paul reminds Timothy that from childhood Timothy has known the Holy Scriptures. While wickedness will increase, Timothy must not depart from the sound doctrine as revealed through the Scriptures, which are able to make him wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus and make him complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    In these perilous times, when sins continue to increase and false teachings abound, it is necessary for every servant of God to remain true to the teachings of the Scriptures, which are inspired by God. Then our faith will not be shaken, but we will keep our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. We will not fall prey to the increasing wickedness of the world, but we will be complete and equipped for every good work.

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