2 Timothy 3:1-9
They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:5 NLT
These nine verses pack a powerful punch to the stomach. In them, Paul provides Timothy with a prophetic glimpse into the future state of the world. He refers to this time as the “last days.” By this, Paul meant the days preceding the return of Christ for His bride, the Church. It is a reference to the final days that will lead up to the rapture of the Church. In a sense, the last days are not relegated to a specific length of time, but refer to an era or epoch of time. Paul believed he was living in the last days. He had warned the believers living in Ephesus, “So be careful how you
live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had written, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 NLT). In essence, the last days began with the resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church age. But there is an ever-increasing degree of apostasy and spiritual apathy taking place. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse. And this period of time will climax with the return of Christ for the Church, commonly referred to as the Rapture. In the meantime, the society in which we live will continue to exhibit an increasing apathy toward spiritual things and an ever-growing antagonism toward God. Paul gives Timothy 19 specific characteristics of this age, and it isn’t hard to see that they are alive and well in our day. People will be narcissistic and this self-absorption will be accompanied by an unhealthy love of money, something Paul had
warned Timothy about repeatedly. But not only will people love themselves, they will boast about their own accomplishments, exhibiting a pride and arrogance based on their own self-importance. In reality, they will worship themselves rather than God. They will be abusive to others. Children will reject parental authority. A spirit of dissatisfaction will lead to a growing ungratefulness. Nothing will be considered holy anymore. People will be heartless and callous. They will be unforgiving and quick to slander others with their words. A lack of self-control will permeate society, resulting in brutality and a hatred for what is good and right. People will be quick to betray one another, headstrong, swollen with conceit, and love pleasure more than they love God. But the most damning characteristic of this age will be the pseudo-spirituality that permeates society. Paul says, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT). The last days will be marked by
spirituality, but it will be a sham and a show. There will be all kinds of talk about spiritual things, but those who claim to be religious will reject the one thing that can truly transform their lives and make them godly: The saving work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. People will express belief in Christ, but refuse His deity. They will claim to be Christians, but deny the resurrection. They will say they believe in God, but live as if He doesn’t exist; worshiping pleasure and self instead of Him. Paul warns Timothy to “Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT).
Evidently, Paul believed that these kinds of people existed even in Ephesus and were part of the local body of believers there. These kinds of people prey on the spiritually weak and needy. They show up as teachers, but what they teach denies the truth of God and offers a counterfeit faith. They infiltrate the church, offering up their own opinions as the truth of God. They sound great, but their words are counterfeit and contradictory to Scripture. They present half-truths. They mix a little bit of Scripture with a lot of conjecture, producing a deadly cocktail of
deceptive lies that lead to godlessness, not godliness. These nine verses are a dead-on description of the age in which we live. They describe a world in which self-love is rampant and pseudo-spirituality is ubiquitous. But true godliness is impossible apart from God. Spirituality is the by-product of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be manufactured by man or replicated apart from a relationship with the Spirit of God who indwells those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Fake faith is not saving faith. Religious activity will never make anyone right with God. Going to church will not help anyone get to heaven. Paul wanted Timothy to know that the truth of the Gospel message was going to be increasingly more important as time wore on. Love of money, pleasure and self were going to make it more and more difficult for people to love God. Apart from a recognition of their own sin and their need for a Savior, people would never escape the dead-end trajectory marked by the last days. The truth of God’s Word is the antidote to the difficult days ahead. As bad as things may get, the Good News is still the answer to what ails mankind.
Father, there is no doubt that we are living in the last days. We are surrounded by all the things that Paul lists. And some of us struggle with them in our own lives. Open our eyes and help us to see that the Good News is the answer. Give us courage to teach it, preach it and live it out in our own lives so that the world can see that true spirituality is available only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Help us live out what we say we believe. May we be a refreshing alternative to the characteristics listed in these verses. Amen.
Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men firstname.lastname@example.org