2 Timothy - Not Unclear - Hope 103.2

2 Timothy – Not Unclear

By Simon ManchesterSunday 15 Dec 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Not Unclear – 2 Timothy 3:1-17

If you were listening as John read chapter 3 verses 1-17 for us,you may have been slightly disappointed because it begins with what is commonly called ‘a vice list’.  That is there are about 18 human qualities that are really ugly.  And as you read or listen to those 18 qualities,there are a couple of reactions that are possible – 1. You may get depressed and just think oh this is terrible,this is so discouraging – the other of course is that you may get a little bit judgmental and think – what dreadful people there are – if only they were like me,if only there were more people like me!  and so there are problems with the vice list.

And then the second half of chapter 3 comes to the famous verses on the Bible that all Scripture is God-breathed,profitable for teaching and you immediately think – oh we are going to get a doctrinal sermon,we are going to get a systematic sermon on how to appreciate the Bible and all that sort of thing so is it possible that as you have heard the reading or as you think about it,you will be a little bit discouraged and you may think it is unappetising. 

Like going to dinner and having something put before you which looks a little bit like a combination of dog food and concrete and you don’t know really quite what to do with it but,let me tell you,that if you go to the home of a good cook,e.g. if you were to be cooked for by my wife,it would taste excellent,whatever it looks like! 

And I don’t need to tell you that the Bible is excellent food whatever the passage looks like and it is impossible for the Bible to be terrible food.  I am asking you will work with me and you will taste and see and it’s just possible that in a few minutes time,you’ll turn around and say ‘that was an absolutely essential small dish of 2 Timothy 3’. Yesterday we went to a wedding reception and we had a 7 course dinner.  I don’t know what more to say about that except it was overwhelming.  Well I can’t promise this will be a 7 course meal but it’s certainly an A-Grade part of 2 Timothy feast.

So here is Paul in prison (chapter 1:8) and he is amazingly still concerned for gospel advance.  Would you be if you were in prison?  Would you be concerned for gospel ministry?  I’m not sure whether I would,I would be concerned for myself I fear but either the Apostle Paul is strangely selfless or he is insanely focused or he is wonderfully faithful.  His concern for gospel progress and so he writes this letter to Timothy,he wants him to teach well,he wants him to battle well,he wants him to finish well,he wants him to be a realist about the world and he wants him to be supremely confident about the Word.

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Now in this section today there are 3 commands.  The first is in verse 1 – it’s the little word “mark” or literally “know this” and then in verse 5 there is another command “have nothing to do” or what we are going to call “avoid” and then down in verse 14 “continue” or “stay with” this particular path.

So we are going to look at those 3 commands briefly this morning. 

Something to know
Something to avoid
Something to continue in

Firstly,Something to know (verse 1) – know this,there will be terrible times in the last days.  The phrase “last days” does not mean the days just before Jesus returns,it certainly doesn’t mean the 21st Century or 22nd Century or something like that – the “last days” is a technical phrase for the days between the Resurrection and the Return.  The last days are the days of the church,the days of the spirit.  The last days have been going for 2,000 years and every century is capable of the evils of chapter 3.  You don’t have to wait for the 21st or the 20th Century; you can get the evils of chapter 3 in every century.

Does that mean that everything just stays evenly the same or are there seasons of greater evil or is there anything to suggest that things will get better or worse?  The Bible’s answer,I think,is there will be continuous opposition to Jesus and the Scriptures.  Don’t keep hoping that one day the Sydney Morning Herald will come around and put “WE LOVE CHRISTIANS” as their heading! Don’t keep waiting that suddenly the news will devote itself to the gospel things.  There is going to be continuous opposition to Jesus until he returns. 

There will be intense periods of persecution or promotion of evil and what we are experiencing today I suggest to you is not that there is necessarily more evil going on but that media development gives us greater coverage,greater awareness,greater reporting and greater presentation of the evil.

So Paul wants Timothy to be a realist about the last days because he says in verse 1 “there will be terrible times”.  The word “terrible” literally means “hard or dangerous” when the two men who are ‘possessed’ in Matthew chapter 8 confronted Jesus,they are described as “violent” – the same word.

Now what does Paul want Timothy to do in the last days where there are terrible,even dangerous times?  And the answer (verse 5) is that he eventually after telling him that he wants him to know about him is that he wants him to turn away.  Now we are going to have to see in a minute what that means.

But this is the world you live in,says the Apostle Paul to Timothy and to you and me.  You and I live in a world which is potentially hard,dangerous and even violent for keen Christianity.  And all his talk of being a soldier and of taking your share of suffering starts to make sense when you realize what human beings are really like.  So I hope as the passage was read,like me,you look at the list and you think to yourself – you know I am capable of all of that – I know what I am like – I know what my heart is like a little – I am thankful that I don’t know much about my heart but I think I am pretty well capable of everything in chapter 3 verses 1-5.

And that’s why the Bible is so wonderful because it is not naïve about us.  It doesn’t paint us in superficial ways.  It doesn’t do what a lot of the churches are doing today – they are making extravagant claims about how wonderful people are and how amazing we are and how gifted we are and how great we are and how godly we are.  The Bible is much more realistic.

And the list begins with that ‘people will be lovers of self’ and it finishes with ‘not lovers of God’.  Lovers of self not of God and in between there are about 16 terrible qualities.  You realise the list is very clever because some of the words that are in the list are very searching.

For example,the word for “proud” is the word “to appear above” – isn’t that a clever definition of “proud”? – You appear to be above.

Or “disobedient to parents” the word is “unpersuadable” – well we know what it’s like to be children and we know what it’s like to have children and we know what it’s like to see children – unpersuadable is a very good word.

Or the word “conceited” comes from the word “to be wrapped in smoke” so there is either something quite sort of devilish about it or it’s a kind of a smoke and mirrors pretence.

Or the word for “unforgiving” literally says “that you want no truce” – you do not want to be reconciled.

And so this is what human beings are like,says Paul.  Timothy is not being told this so he will look out his window and we are not being told this so we will look out the doors of the church and we will see a very naughty world out there and we will say to ourselves – “gee I’m glad I am not like that”.  Listen carefully – Timothy is being told about the world because the tidal wave of the world is entering the church.  How do we know this is true? – look at verse 5 – “having a form of godliness but denying its power”.  You see these are religious people – it’s perfectly possible to stay religious and you’ve got a varnish of religion and underneath absolute rust of unbelief.  It’s possible to put on an Anglican coat and play a game which fools most people but not God and hopefully not yourself. 

That’s what Paul is talking about here. So he is talking about a world where it’s perfectly OK to go to church as long as nobody actually gets in the road of what you want to do and makes things different.  And friends,if you don’t know that experience in your own heart,you are very different from me and many.

You will see also in chapter 3 verses 6-9 that there are some religious tricksters,swindlers,magicians,con-men and the play religion for their own interests.  And again we know this is perfectly real in the world today.

So the list in 2 Timothy 3 is a different list from the Romans 1 list which is a list of qualities of the pagans – this is a list of defectors,this is a list of religious pretenders and the problem,the issue you see is that when the world is in the church without the transforming work of God so that people are playing a game called “can you see my religious coat?”. 

But underneath of course there is just human nature and no super nature,well then what are the consequences? – The Lord is not honoured or known or served or loved,the world is not affected in the slightest because we really are just playing their game with a different coat.  The church is nothing but a dangerous façade and the pastor has to make a decision.

Either he is going to go with this or he is going to attack it with the Scriptures.  And that’s a difficult issue for Timothy because he is a young pastor and he has to work out there are some very strong but ungodly people in my church – will I play the game that keeps them happy or will I say the things that require their conversion?  That’s the decision.

So the first point here where Paul says “mark this or know this” is that he wants Timothy to know what the last days are like so that he can see what’s happening to the church and when people in the church are strong but unconverted and influential but they are untransformed and they’ve got the form but not the power of God,Timothy has got to make a decision and that leads us to our second point this morning –

Something to avoid (verse 5) have nothing to do with them.  What does that mean?  When I read this verse,you know,I couldn’t work out why Paul was saying this.  Can you imagine somebody writing and saying –

Dear Minister,dear people at St Thomas’,there are some awful people in the word,they are just dreadful and you must have nothing to do with them,you must stay safely in your small groups.

Does that sound like Jesus?  Does that sound like Paul?  Are we meant to leave the bad world and stay in our little rabbit holes?

Well I checked a number of commentaries on this and what do they make of the phrase “have nothing to do with them”.  You know so many of the commentaries didn’t know what to say because they thought – I don’t want to make a big thing of telling believers to turn away from the world,that seems crazy but I don’t want to cut the text out of my Bible because it’s there so I think we will just talk about something else!

But that I think is that they have not seen the point of what the Apostle Paul is saying,that’s why he can call on Timothy to have nothing to do with church ministry or church policy which looks Christian but is pagan which has the form of godliness but denies the power.  Friends,is that irrelevant to us?

I was in a supermarket not long ago buying some things and I saw a couple there who were very fond of each other and very cuddly and I realized they were very young and I realized from the absence of rings that they were not married and I could see them collecting their groceries and it imagined in my mind that they would be heading back to their flat to have a very happy life together and the Pharisee in me rose up as I looked at them and I thought ‘you’re not married,you shouldn’t be living together,you don’t care about Jesus,you don’t come to my church,you don’t put money in my offertory’ and it started to sort of snowball from there!

And I stopped myself at that point and I thought to myself honestly – Simon Manchester is there any real difference between you and them?  You are not just turning up at church because you are paid to?  Is it possible that you are just doing Christian work because it’s your job?  What’s the difference?  Are you not going to go home and eat the same sort of food and watch the same sort of TV and listen to the same sort of radio in the car?  What is the big difference between you Simon Manchester and this couple in the supermarket?  And it disturbed me deeply as I tried to work out whether there is any sign of transformation in my life? 

Is that not a good question for us to ask?  Is it possible that the world has just come into the church and we are basically just singing a song and then playing a game which is called “normal paganism”?  It’s worth asking.

Is there not great pressure on many churches to produce churches that promote the love of self and the love of money and the love of pleasure?  Is it not possible to have churches which are basically very big on these things? 

Don’t we know people in churches who snooze during the Mission Report but get incredibly animated when there is talk of money? 

Do we not know Christians who get quite disinterested in the Mission but get incredibly excited when there is thought of how to make and rake in more money?  Or pastors who have worked out how to make a fairly lucrative job out of their ministry.  The world invades the church.

Isn’t there some pressure to create churches that don’t promise discipleship now and glory later but glory now and glory later which is just a lovely thought,isn’t it?  Glory now and glory later!

Friends when the world is in the church,the pastor is going to be strangely comfortable and strangely successful.  The congregation will be strangely comfortable and strangely successful and he will make sure that he never rocks the boat.  There is a decision to be made,isn’t there?

And you can imagine this in some of the churches,especially the Baptist Churches where the pastors can be thrown out very quickly if the Elders don’t like them.  We in the Anglican Church have a slowly more secure tenure and we get to stay here until we are insane,heretical or immoral and some Anglican Churches don’t even notice when all three have taken place!

But what do you do when you are a Baptist Pastor,for example,and your Elders say to you – “dear Mr Pastor,remember we pay your bills,don’t rock our boat.  Make sure you don’t say anything that rebukes us or corrects us.  We certainly don’t want to be trained.  We would just like to be told that we are pretty good and we are on our way to heaven.  We’d like it to glory now and glory in the future”.

Now please don’t get me wrong,I’m not suggesting that a pastor should get up and aggravate his people just to aggravate his people.  But if you are going to open the Bible,there’s going to be times where you are aggravating your people and there are going to be times where you are comforting your people because that’s the way the Bible works – it corrects,it rebukes,it teaches,it trains,it comforts etc.

So the pressure is on for young Timothy to make a choice in the face of very strong worldliness.  He can play the cards which will keep him in the work suffering free and that of course is what the magicians in Pharaoh’s Palace did (verses 6-9).  Pharaoh had his paid magicians or his paid performers and the Apostle Paul says there are still people whose ministry is capable of being just like a trickster and they work their way into people’s homes and they work their way into people’s lives and they take advantage of fairly vulnerable people,what he literally calls “little women” and he captures and he has power.

And that,says the Apostle Paul,is the model (verse 5) to avoid.  Well that is a very big call because it’s a very attractive model to be comfortable,successful and well paid.  But the Apostle Paul says (verses 10-13) ‘this is the model I want you to follow’.  I want you to remember,says Paul,my model and this is how is went.

My life,my purpose,my faith,my patience,my love,my endurance,my persecutions and my sufferings.  It is possible that Timothy saw the day that rocks were thrown at the Apostle Paul and he was dragged out of the town as if dead.  And the young Timothy must have said to himself – gee I’m at a fork,I’m at the crossroads,I’ve got a model to follow,will I go with the really successful easy model or will I go with the model of the Apostle Paul?

And the Apostle Paul says ‘follow my model’.  And of course if you do follow that model,is it going to lead to popularity?  Not at all,but it will with God.  If you follow the model of worldliness and baptising people’s ungodliness,will it lead to trouble and persecution? Probably not.  But you won’t be trouble-free for long.

So there is something to know about the world,especially when it invades the church and there is something to avoid,i.e. the model which is going to basically be harmless and faithless.

Thirdly and lastly,Something to Do (verse 14).  Continue,but continue in what you have learned.  You are going to have to turn your mind Timothy from the world which you see on your television and the stuff that comes to you from strong ungodly people and you are going to have to put your mind,your memory on my model,and if you’re not in the 1st Century but you are in the 21st Century,you’ll have to read it in the New Testament and you’ll have to put your mind on the Scriptures,deliberately in order to be a useful pastor.

And so these famous verses about “all Scripture being inspired by God” – they do deserve a couple of sermons on their own – they are normally lifted out of the passage and then they are just preached on out of the passage but I want you to notice why they are here. 

They are here for one main reason and that is they are to provide for Timothy and they are to provide for you and me – listen to this! a solution to the ministry under pressure,a solution to the church being compromised and a solution to the world in the dark.  Can you believe that?  Do you see now why the Apostle Paul finishes up by talking about the greatness of the Scriptures inspired by God,they are,and they are able to bring a person to salvation,able to help a believer to serve well and the effect of this,says the Apostle Paul,is that you Timothy are going to be strengthen,the church is going to be helped and the unbeliever is going to be challenged and changed.

Well friends,I don’t know of any other solution for those things.  I just don’t know how to be strong myself without the Bible and I don’t know how to bless and help you without the Bible and I don’t know how to have anything to say to the unbelievers without the Bible and I am so thankful for the Bible.  It points people to Jesus and then it helps them to follow Jesus. And Timothy is to put his mind on the word.

Well let me just quickly say as we close – the Bible is from God,it’s literally expired by God,it’s breathed out by God and the breath of God,the spirit of God is what drove the writers,and so you have this double authorship of the Bible,God breathing and prompting his people to write.

Inspired doesn’t mean that we like bits and we don’t like bits.  This bit is inspired,this bit is not – it’s all expired from cover to cover.  It’s able to lead to salvation so if there’s a person here today and you are not a believer and you would like to be a believer,just read John’s gospel.  You’ll find out within a page or two,how to be a believer,how to have eternal life.  It’s a wonderful gift from God.

And it’s also able to equip you for service so that you don’t just become a child of God but you become a man of God or a woman of God. 

It’s useful for teaching – I need to learn
It’s useful for rebuking – I need to be stopped in my tracks
It’s useful for correcting – I need to be steered in the right direction
It’s useful for equipping – I need to know how to be a useful servant

And Timothy,says Paul,you have had a long link with the Bible,you heard it from your Mum,you heard it from your Grandmother and I helped you also.

You may be interested to know if you can follow this,that when Paul talks about “all Scripture” and you say to yourself “Oh he must be talking about the Old Testament” that in 1 Timothy 5:18 he also uses the word “Scripture” and he quotes two bits of Scripture and you’ll be interested to know that in 1 Timothy the two quotes – one comes from Deuteronomy (OT) and one comes from Luke’s Gospel (NT).  So by the time the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Timothy chapter 5 and was talking Scripture,it was already wider than the Old Testament.

We can have pretty good confidence that here as he talks about the Scripture being inspired by God that it’s widened out from the Old to the New Testament.

So this is what he says to Timothy “know the days,watch the invasion into the church,know what to avoid the model which baptizes ungodliness and continue in what you have learned because if you do,you will be helped,your people will be helped and the lost will be helped.

Let’s pray – Father we are so thankful to you for this portion of your Word this morning.  We ask as you look on us and you see us so clearly,you can see anything which is godly,you can see everything which is ungodly,you can see what we are like in the pulpit as well as in the pew.  We ask that you would look in mercy and power on this local church and the churches that meet around this city and around this country and even around your world.

We pray that your wonderful Word would point many to Jesus for salvation and would point many Christians in the way of service. We ask,our Father,that this Word would have it’s full effect in our lives,that pastors would be faithful,that Congregations would be true and that people who are lost and cut off from Christ would be found.

So we thank you for this section and ask that you would hear our prayer for the influence of the Bible and the glory of your Name – Amen.