2 Timothy 3:1-9: Folly Exposed

Rread: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

After giving Timothy instruction on how to maintain himself in light of heresies, Paul lists 19 vices that Timothy should avoid. Paul says that such things will come in “the last days” – some undetermined time in the future from when Paul was writing the letter to Timothy.  This list seems to be more general list, alluding to no one person in particular. Rather Paul is rattling off all sorts of things to give Timothy the notion that there will be persons abounding in sin, and that he should avoid them. Paul then describes the sort of people, perhaps alluding to two particular individuals: one who lures “weak willed” women, and the woman herself that is loaded down with sin and driven by evil desires. Such people are seeking the “truth” but do not acknowledge it. If they did they would certainly have to turn from their sin. Paul compares them to Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. Jannes and Jambres are the names traditionally associated with the magicians who opposed Moses when Moses went before Pharaoh in Exodus 7. They replicated the power of God by their “secrets”. The word in the Hebrew indicates things done in private, rather than out in the open. In other words, they were performing cheap parlor tricks and Pharaoh was using this in an attempt to discredit Aaron and Moses, even though it was plain to everyone else that they were indeed fakes. Paul is using their “folly” as a warning to Timothy – the ones who are apparently seeking the “truth” do so with as if they were incredulous, but the reality of the matter is they simply refusing to acknowledge the truth because of what it might mean concerning their lifestyles. It will become obvious that this is what they are doing. There were probably people of this sort attempting to lure away people from the church at Ephesus, just as those who taught heresies had messed up the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18).

Knowing genuine people from fake people is not always easy to do at first. Jesus, however, taught that words and deeds reveal true character. He uses the analogy of a tree and its fruit to explain this: A good tree bears good fruit in the same manner a good heart will produce good words and good deeds. The converse is true too: a bad tree bears bad fruit in the same way evil words and deeds flow from an evil heart (Matthew 7:15-23 , Matthew 12:33-37) Sometimes this is not obvious at first, but time usually will tell. Paul teaches the same sort of thing in Galatians 5:19-26. The fruits of the carnal nature are sins, but the fruit of the Spirit, which comes when one believes in Jesus, is good fruit. Those who are redeemed by Jesus have “crucified the flesh” and walk according to the Spirit. Good fruit in words and deeds is not the means to salvation because one is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they are the evidence of faith (James 2:14-26). Paul and Jesus making the argument that those of depraved minds and hearts will have evil words and deeds and those who are Spirit filled will have good words and deeds.

Christians should make an effort to ensure that they are living authentically according to their salvation so they will not be exposed in folly. Likewise, Christians should be wary of people who are of a depraved nature. This does not mean that everyone who sins is beyond help, as Christians still sin even after they are saved. Paul is talking about those who refuse to acknowledge the truth even when it made plain to them. They refuse to acknowledge it for some reason or another, most probably because it will force them to change their behavior. Given time though, their false incredulity will be exposed and their folly will be obvious. These are the sort of people Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid and Christians today would do well to heed these words too.

Lord, help my heart to be pure so my words and deeds will be pure too!

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