TAKERS, FAKERS AND FORSAKERS
2 TIMOTHY 3:1-9
Jesus had quite a lot to say about false teachers and none of it is good. Someone once said that a lie can circle the globe while truth is still pulling on its pants.
False Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray (Mark 13:22).
There are wolves among the sheep. That doesnít mean that we are all called to be heresy hunters or that we are to begin a Protestant Inquisition. Iíve met Christians who, if you disagree with them about anything at all, will immediately try to brand you as a heretic. They are like the fellow who was stopped by the police for carrying a gun down the street:
"What are you doing?"
"Iím going hunting."
"What are you hunting?"
"I donít know; I havenít seen anything yet."
We havenít been called to be heresy hunters. But there is an opposite danger. It is that we try to be so loving that we accept anyone and anything that comes to us under the label of Christianity.
THE TIME OF FALSE TEACHERS
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. (2 Timothy 3:1).
Paul prefaces all of his remarks on false teachers with a promise regarding the future. It is a promise of that which is to take place in the last days. When we first read of the "last days," we are inclined to think of that period of time just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The Old Testament pictured the last days as that time when the Lord would come.
Now it will come about that in the last days,
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2).
It was the belief of the writers of the New Testament that the last days arrived with the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. It was in this light that Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and pointed to that happenings of his day and described them in terms of the prophecy of the last days.
But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
In the same way, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews begins by speaking of how God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son ( Hebrews 1:1-2).
When Paul speaks to Timothy of what was promised for the "last days," he is not speaking of something that was far removed from Timothy. These warnings will have a direct application to him in his ministry. He will be told to avoid such men as these (3:5), a command that makes no sense if he were to understand the fulfillment of this prophecy as taking place many hundreds and even thousands of years in the future.
That means we also are able to take the truths mentioned in this chapter and apply them to our day. Things may get worse in the future, but already we can say that difficult times have come. Church history bears testimony to this fact. Tertullian called the blood of martyrs the seed of the church.
A PROFILE OF FALSE TEACHERS
For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
We hear a lot these days about the subject of racial profiling. What Paul does here is not racial, but he does give a profile of a false teacher. It is a character profile.
If I had been writing this, I might have told Timothy to be careful lest he find himself picking up any of these characteristics. But Paulís words are stronger than that. He says that Timothy should avoid those who have such characteristics lest he be influenced by them. There is a lesson here about sin. When you company with sin, it is not long before you are partaking of its characteristics. When you put on a white glove while making mudpies, the mud does not become "glovey." And when a believer companies with sin, it is not long before that sin leaves its impression.
Notice also that there are four different times in which we see the word "love" used in this description.
That tells me something of these characteristics. They can be summarized in a single question: What do you love? Jesus said that. He said that the entire Law could be summed up in two commandments: Love God and love others.
1. The Motivation of False Teachers: For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money (3:2).
The false teacher worships at the idol of self. God is not his Lord. He has replaced God with gods of his own making.
a. For men will be lovers of self (3:2).
The Greek word is
Do you remember the appeal to which Satan made in the Garden? Satan told the woman, "God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). She was tempted by the desire to be like God. It is a manifestation of self-love.
b. Lovers of money (3:2).
When one lives life in a sole attempt to please himself, that normally includes a love of money. Our society of late reflects that kind of affection. We are a society obsessed with the gaining of the almighty dollar.
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang (1 Timothy 6:10).
While the passage does not say that money in itself is evil, it does say that the love of money leads to all sorts of evil. It is not long before one who has his attention on money has wandered away from the faith. Why is this? Because money takes the place of that which we ought to be loving. It takes the place of God.
2. The Attitude and Actions of False Teachers: Boastful, arrogant, revilers (3:2).
In keeping with the self-worship of the false teacher, his attitude matches his desire to glorify himself. Have you ever known someone who goes out of his way to give you his resume? Who always looks for a way to turn the conversation to his own accomplishments? That is the attitude of a false teacher.
a. Boastful (3:2).
The boastful man is the one who speaks out of his own accomplishments. By his words, he seeks to call attention to himself and to elevate himself. What is the opposite of a boastful person? You would think that its opposite is found in one who is quietly humble. But I think that there is a better contrast. It is found in the person who calls attention to God and who seeks to elevate the Lord: Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31).
b. Arrogant (3:2).
This describes the one who wants to "outshine" everyone else. He wants everyone to know how good he is and, more often than not, he attempts to do this by trying to put others down.
c. Revilers (3:2).
The Greek word is
3. The Failings in False Teachers.
All but one of the next group qualities are all listed with an
Most of these qualities describe that which is seriously lacking in false teachers.
a. Disobedient to parents (3:2).
The first of these deals with respect for parents. This is a violation of the 5th commandment that calls for honor of father and mother. This quality does not go away when one is grown and moved away from home. A boy who does not obey his parents will grow up into a man who has trouble with authority.
b. Ungrateful (3:2).
The word here is
c. Unholy (3:2).
This describes one who is impious (
d. Unloving (3:3).
The Greek word
e. Irreconcilable (3:3).
Aspondos is used only here in the New Testament. A spondh is a libation, a drink offering that is poured out to reconcile another. The description here is of one who refuses to make amends. He is the fellow with a chip on his shoulder and the woman who refuses to forgive or forget.
f. Malicious gossips (3:3).
The word used here is
g. Without self-control (3:3).
Akraths is the negated form of kratos which describes "power and might." The man without God may think that he life is powerful, but the reality is that it is devoid of real power. He is unable to accomplish anything in life that has any lasting impact.
h. Brutal (3:3).
Anhmeros might possibly be where we derive our word "animal." It is the negated form of hmeros, "to tame."
i. Haters of good (3:3).
Afilagaqos is made up of the alpha privative plus filos (love) plus agaqos (good). It describes those who have no love for good. John 3:19 says that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
4. The Mania of False Teachers.
False teachers often exhibit a traitorous recklessness that is destructive to themselves as well as to everyone around them.
a. Treacherous (3:4).
Luke 6:16 uses this same word (
b. Reckless (3:4).
Propeths is a compound word made up of pro ("forward") and piptw, ("to fall"). It describes a headlong style of living that is fraught with recklessness.
c. Conceited (3:4).
Tufowis literally "to wrap or encloud in smoke." We have a similar figure of speech in English when we speak of "blowing smoke." In this case, it describes one who is out, not only to fool others, but even to fool himself with his attitude of pride.
It is bad enough that false teachers are out to fool others, but they also come to the point where they begin to deceive themselves.
5. The Spirituality of False Teachers.
These last two qualities bring us full circle to point to false teachers and their relationship to the Lord.
a. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (3:4).
Filhdonoi mallon h filoqeoi: Pleasure-lovers rather than God-lovers. This list began with those who were lovers of self. It ends by pointing out that all of this is in contrast with being a lover of God. You cannot do both. Either you will love God and recognize Him as God or else you will love yourself and attempt to elevate yourself to that position.
With this description, one would think that we are describing idol-worshipers and pagans. But these sorts of people are to be found in religious circles. This is pointed out in the next clause.
b. Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power (3:5).
One can hold to a form of godliness and piety without having the truth of Godís power. This is the danger. It is of a fake Christianity. It may have all of the trappings. But there is no life.
Do you know any people who are characterized by these qualities? Paul says that you will and, to make matters worse, they will be found coming into the church. Indeed, they originally come from WITHIN the church.
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.
Do you see it? False teachers are often teachers who started out as true teachers. But they did not remain. Something happened. They drifted away from the truth. The Jehovahís Witnesses were like that. Do you know where they started? With a Presbyterian Bible teacher! But they left the truth. This is why it is so important that you hold your Bible teachers accountable to the Word.
THE CAPTIVATION OF FALSE TEACHERS
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6-7).
In the previous verses we have seen that character of those who are to be avoided. Now we are introduced to their tactics.
What they ARE
What they DO
Not only do we see these people coming into the church, we see them coming in and leading others astray. They are described as particularly dangerous to households and to "weak women." The false teachers we are describing are men. Their targets are women. They seek to captivate in the same way that the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden.
Notice that their target is weak women weighed down with sins. There is a principle here. It is that sin makes you vulnerable to more sin. Guilt separates you from grace. Is all guilt wrong? No. But it is if you do not repent and return to the Lord.
AN EXAMPLE OF FALSE TEACHERS
And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith.9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. (2 Timothy 3:8-9).
Paul reminds us of some other false teachers. They were the Egyptian priests who opposed Moses in the courts of the Pharaoh. He came into Egypt with the message of God that the people of God were to be released. He demonstrated the power of God, casting down his staff to the ground so that it became a serpent.
Do you remember what happened? These two magicians cast down their rods and they also became serpents. And that is not all. They were able to reproduce some of the other miracles. When Moses turned the water into blood, they were also able to take water and turn it into blood (Exodus 7:22). Next Moses brought up a plague of frogs and the magicians were also able to produce more frogs (Exodus 8:7).
To be fair, there was a limit to their power. When the third plague was brought forth, the magicians attempted to reproduce it -- a plague of gnats -- and they were not able.
And the magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast.
There is an important lesson here. It is that false teachers are sometimes able to do some very impressive things. These particular pagan priests were able to duplicate some very real miracles. That was not a sign of their truthfulness. It was a sign that they were working for Satan.
There are some false teachers in the church today who claim all sorts of power and signs and wonders. Some of them may even be able to prove certain claims and, by so doing, are able to lead silly women captive.
How can you tell the difference between the true and the phony? The answer is seen at the end of verse 8. It is in what they say as regards to the faith. The Scriptures are the final test of truth. They are to be the standard of measure for teachers and for those who are taught.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
In closing, I want you to see that there is a promise regarding heresy. It is that heresies will not last. They have no staying power.
But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. (2 Timothy 3:9).
Though falsehood may become fashionable for a time, its true nature will soon be obvious to all. There is something about falsehood that begins to look silly in the cold light of day. And on the other hand, truth endures. It stands the test of time. In the end it is vindicated.
False teachers are characterized by a discernable powerlessness. Remember the story of John the Baptist? He was in prison and he was beginning to have doubts. There were doubts about himself and there were even doubts about Jesus. He sent his disciples to Jesus, asking about these doubts.
Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples,
And Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me." (Matthew 11:2-6).
Do you see what Jesus does? He points to His power. There is a lesson here for us. Wherever Jesus is, things will be happening. If nothing is happening, then it is because Jesus isnít there.