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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on 2 Timothy 3

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The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

CHAPTER 3

2Ti 3:1-17. COMING EVIL DAYS: SIGNS OF EVIL ALREADY: CONTRAST IN THE DOCTRINE AND LIFE OF PAUL, WHICH TIMOTHY SHOULD FOLLOW IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS EARLY TRAINING IN SCRIPTURE.

      1. also--Greek, "but."
      last days--preceding Christ's second coming ( 2Pe 3:3 Jud 1:18 ). "The latter times," 1Ti 4:1, refer to a period not so remote as "the last days," namely, the long days of papal and Greek anti-Christianity.
      perilous--literally, "difficult times," in which it is difficult to know what is to be done: "grievous times."
      shall come--Greek, "shall be imminent"; "shall come unexpectedly" [BENGEL].

      2. men--in the professing Church. Compare the catalogue, Rom 1:29, &c., where much the same sins are attributed to heathen men; it shall be a relapse into virtual heathendom, with all its beast-like propensities, whence the symbol of it is "a beast" ( Rev 13:1, 11, 12, &c. 17:3, 8, 11 ).
      covetous--Translate, "money-loving," a distinct Greek word from that for "covetous" (see on JF & B for Col 3:5). The cognate Greek substantive ( 1Ti 6:10 ) is so translated, "the love of money is a (Greek, not 'the') root of all evil."
      boasters--empty boasters [ALFORD]; boasting of having what they have not.
      proud--overweening: literally, showing themselves above their fellows.
      blasphemous--rather, "evil-speakers," revilers.
      disobedient to parents--The character of the times is even to be gathered especially from the manners of the young [BENGEL].
      unthankful--The obligation to gratitude is next to that of obedience to parents.
      unholy--irreligious [ALFORD]; inobservant of the offices of piety.

      3. truce-breakers--rather as the Greek is translated in Rom 1:31, "implacable."
      false accusers--slanderers ( 1Ti 3:11 Tts 2:3 ).
      incontinent, fierce--at once both soft and hard: incontinently indulging themselves, and inhuman to others.
      despisers, &c.--"no lovers of good" [ALFORD]; the opposite of "a lover of good" ( Tts 1:8 ).

      4. heady--precipitate in action and in passion.
      high-minded--literally, "puffed up" with pride, as with smoke blinding them.
      lovers of pleasure. . . God--Love of pleasure destroys the love and sense of God.

      5. form--outward semblance.
      godliness--piety.
      denying--rather as Greek, "having denied," that is, renounced.
      the power--the living, regenerating, sanctifying influence of it.
      turn away--implying that some of such characters, forerunners of the last days, were already in the Church.

      6. of this sort--Greek, "of these," such as were described ( 2Ti 3:5 ).
      creep into--stealthily.
      laden with sins-- ( Isa 1:4 ); applying to the "silly women" whose consciences are burdened with sins, and so are a ready prey to the false teachers who promise ease of conscience if they will follow them. A bad conscience leads easily to shipwreck of faith ( 1Ti 1:19 ).
      divers lusts--not only animal lusts, but passion for change in doctrine and manner of teaching; the running after fashionable men and fashionable tenets, drawing them in the most opposite directions [ALFORD].

      7. Ever learning--some new point, for mere curiosity, to the disparagement of what they seemed to know before.
      the knowledge--Greek, "the perfect knowledge"; the only safeguard against further novelties. Gnosticism laid hold especially of the female sex [ESTIUS, 1.13.3]: so Roman Jesuitism.

      8. Now--Greek, "But"; it is no wonder there should be now such opponents to the truth, for their prototypes existed in ancient times [ALFORD].
      Jannes. . . Jambres--traditional names of the Egyptian magicians who resisted Moses ( Exd 7:11, 22 ), derived from "the unwritten teaching of the Jews" [THEODORET]. In a point so immaterial as the names, where Scripture had not recorded them, Paul takes the names which general opinion had assigned the magicians. EUSEBIUS [Preparation of the Gospel], quotes from NUMENIUS, "Jannes and Jambres were sacred scribes (a lower order of priests in Egypt) skilled in magic." HILLER interprets "Jannes" from the Abyssinian language a trickster, and "Jambres" a juggler" ( Act 13:8 ).
      resist--"withstand," as before. They did so by trying to rival Moses' miracles. So the false teachers shall exhibit lying wonders in the last days ( Mat 24:24 2Th 2:9 Rev 13:14, 15 ).
      reprobate--incapable of testing the truth ( Rom 1:28 ) [BENGEL]. ALFORD takes passively, "not abiding the test"; rejected on being tested ( Jer 6:30 ).

      9. they shall proceed no further--Though for a time ( 2Ti 2:16 ) "they shall advance or proceed (English Version, 'increase') unto more ungodliness," yet there is a final limit beyond which they shall not be able to "proceed further" ( Job 38:11 Rev 11:7, 11 ). They themselves shall "wax worse and worse" ( 2Ti 3:13 ), but they shall at last be for ever prevented from seducing others. "Often malice proceeds deeper down, when it cannot extend itself" [BENGEL].
      their folly--literally, "dementation": wise though they think themselves.
      shall be manifest--Greek, "shall be brought forth from concealment into open day" [BENGEL], ( 1Cr 4:5 ).
      as theirs. . . was--as that of those magicians was, when not only could they no longer try to rival Moses in sending boils, but the boils fell upon themselves: so as to the lice ( Exd 8:18 9:11 ).

      10. fully known--literally, "fully followed up" and traced; namely, with a view to following me as thy pattern, so far as I follow Christ; the same Greek as in Luk 1:3, "having had perfect understanding of all things." His pious mother Eunice and grandmother Lois would recommend him to study fully Paul's Christian course as a pattern. He had not been yet the companion of Paul at the time of the apostle's persecutions in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra ( Act 13:50 14:5, 19 ), but is first mentioned as such Act 16:1-3. However, he was "a disciple" already, when introduced to us in Act 16:1-3; and as Paul calls him "my own son in the faith," he must have been converted by the apostle previously; perhaps in the visit to those parts three years before. Hence arose Timothy's knowledge of Paul's persecutions, which were the common talk of the churches in those regions about the time of his conversion. The incidental allusion to them here forms an undesigned coincidence between the history and the Epistle, indicating genuineness [PALEY, Horae Paulinae]. A forger of Epistles from the Acts would never allude to Timothy's knowledge of persecutions, when that knowledge is not expressly mentioned in the history, but is only arrived at by indirect inference; also the omission of Derbe here, in the Epistle, is in minute accordance with the fact that in Derbe no persecution is mentioned in the history, though Derbe and Lystra are commonly mentioned together. The reason why he mentions his persecutions before Timothy became his companion, and not those subsequent, was because Timothy was familiar with the latter as an eye-witness and Paul needed not to remind him of them, but the former Timothy had traced up by seeking the information from others, especially as the date and scene of them was the date and scene of his own conversion.
      doctrine--"teaching."
      manner of life--"conduct," "behavior."
      purpose--The Greek is elsewhere usually used of God's "purpose." But here, as in Act 11:23, of Paul's determined "purpose of heart in cleaving unto the Lord." My set aim, or resolution, in my apostolic function, and in every action is, not my selfish gain, but the glory of God in Christ.
      long-suffering--towards my adversaries, and the false teachers; towards brethren in bearing their infirmities; towards the unconverted, and the lapsed when penitent ( 2Ti 4:2 2Cr 6:6 Gal 5:22 Eph 4:2 Col 3:12 ).
      charity--love to all men.
      patience--"endurance"; patient continuance in well-doing amidst adversities ( 2Ti 3:11 Rom 2:7 ).

      11. afflictions--"sufferings."
      which--Greek, "such as."
      in Antioch--of Pisidia ( Act 13:14, 50, 51 ).
      Iconium-- ( Act 14:1-5 ).
      Lystra-- ( Act 14:6, 19 ).
      what--How grievous.
      out of. . . all. . . Lord delivered me-- ( 2Ti 4:17 Psa 34:17 2Cr 1:10 ). An encouragement to Timothy not to fear persecutions.

      12. Yea, and--an additional consideration for Timothy: if he wishes to live godly in Christ, he must make up his mind to encounter persecution.
      that will, &c.--Greek, "all whose will is to live," &c. So far should persecution be from being a stumbling-block to Timothy, he should consider it a mark of the pious. So the same Greek is used of the same thing, Luk 14:28, 33, "intending (Greek, 'wishing') to build a tower. . . counteth the cost."
      live godly in Christ-- ( Gal 2:20 Phl 1:21 ). There is no godliness (Greek, "piously") or piety out of Christ. The world easily puts up with the mask of a religion which depends on itself, but the piety which derives its vigor directly from Christ is as odious to modern Christians as it was to the ancient Jews [BENGEL].
      shall suffer persecution--and will not decline it ( Gal 5:11 ). BISHOP PEARSON proves the divine origination of Christianity from its success being inexplicable on the supposition of its being of human origin. The nature of its doctrine was no way likely to command success: (1) it condemns all other religions, some established for ages; (2) it enjoins precepts ungrateful to flesh and blood, the mortifying of the flesh, the love of enemies, and the bearing of the cross; (3) it enforces these seemingly unreasonable precepts by promises seemingly incredible; not good things such as afford complacency to our senses, but such as cannot be obtained till after this life, and presuppose what then seemed impossible, the resurrection; (4) it predicts to its followers what would seem sure to keep most of the world from embracing it, persecutions.

      13. Reason why persecutions must be expected, and these becoming worse and worse as the end approaches. The breach between light and darkness, so far from being healed, shall be widened [ALFORD].
      evil men--in contrast to the "godly" ( 2Ti 3:12 ).
      seducers--literally, "conjurers." Magical arts prevailed at Ephesus ( Act 19:19 ), and had been renounced by many Ephesians on embracing Christianity: but now when Paul was writing to Ephesus, symptoms of a return to conjuring tricks appeared: an undesigned coincidence [BURTON]. Probably sorcery will characterize the final apostasy ( Rev 13:15 18:23 22:15 ).
      wax worse--literally, "advance in the direction of worse" (see on JF & B for 2Ti 3:9). Not contradictory to that verse: there the diffusion of the evil was spoken of; here its intensity [ALFORD].
      deceiving, and being deceived--He who has once begun to deceive others, is the less easily able to recover himself from error, and the more easily embraces in turn the errors of others [BENGEL].

      14. But. . . thou--Whatever they may do. Resuming the thread begun at 2Ti 3:10.
      learned--from me and thy mother and grandmother ( 2Ti 1:5 2:2 ).
      assured of--from Scripture ( 2Ti 3:15 ).
      of whom--plural, not singular, in the oldest manuscripts, "from what teachers." Not only from me, but from Lois and Eunice.

      15. from a child--literally, "from an infant." The tender age of the first dawn of reason is that wherein the most lasting impressions of faith may be made.
      holy scriptures--The Old Testament taught by his Jewish mother. An undesigned coincidence with 2Ti 1:5 Act 16:1-3.
      able--in themselves: though through men's own fault they often do not in fact make men savingly alive.
      wise unto salvation--that is, wise unto the attainment of salvation. Contrast "folly" ( 2Ti 3:9 ). Wise also in extending it to others.
      through faith--as the instrument of this wisdom. Each knows divine things only as far as his own experience in himself extends. He who has not faith, has not wisdom or salvation.
      which is in--that is, rests on Christ Jesus.

      16. All scripture--Greek, "Every Scripture," that is, Scripture in its every part. However, English Version is sustained, though the Greek article be wanting, by the technical use of the term "Scripture" being so well known as not to need the article (compare Greek, Eph 3:15 2:21 ). The Greek is never used of writings in general, but only of the sacred Scriptures. The position of the two Greek adjectives closely united by "and," forbids our taking the one as an epithet, the other as predicated and translated as ALFORD and ELLICOTT. "Every Scripture given by inspiration of God is also profitable." Vulgate and the best manuscripts, favor English Version. Clearly the adjectives are so closely connected that as surely as one is a predicate, the other must be so too. ALFORD admits his translation to be harsh, though legitimate. It is better with English Version to take it in a construction legitimate, and at the same time not harsh. The Greek, "God-inspired," is found nowhere else. Most of the New Testament books were written when Paul wrote this his latest Epistle: so he includes in the clause "All Scripture is God-inspired," not only the Old Testament, in which alone Timothy was taught when a child ( 2Ti 3:15 ), but the New Testament books according as they were recognized in the churches which had men gifted with "discerning of spirits," and so able to distinguish really inspired utterances, persons, and so their writings from spurious. Paul means, "All Scripture is God-inspired and therefore useful"; because we see no utility in any words or portion of it, it does not follow it is not God-inspired. It is useful, because God-inspired; not God-inspired, because useful. One reason for the article not being before the Greek, "Scripture," may be that, if it had, it might be supposed that it limited the sense to the hiera grammata, "Holy Scriptures" ( 2Ti 3:15 ) of the Old Testament, whereas here the assertion is more general: "all Scripture" (compare Greek, 2Pe 1:20 ). The translation, "all Scripture that is God-inspired is also useful," would imply that there is some Scripture which is not God-inspired. But this would exclude the appropriated sense of the word "Scripture"; and who would need to be told that "all divine Scripture is useful ('profitable')?" Hbr 4:13 would, in ALFORD'S view, have to be rendered, "All naked things are also open to the eyes of Him," &c.: so also 1Ti 4:4, which would be absurd [TREGELLES, Remarks on the Prophetic Visions of the Book of Daniel]. Knapp well defines inspiration, "An extraordinary divine agency upon teachers while giving instruction, whether oral or written, by which they were taught how and what they should speak or write" (compare 2Sa 23:1 Act 4:25 2Pe 1:21 ). The inspiration gives the divine sanction to all the words of Scripture, though those words be the utterances of the individual writer, and only in special cases revealed directly by God ( 1Cr 2:13 ). Inspiration is here predicated of the writings, "all Scripture," not of the persons. The question is not how God has done it; it is as to the word, not the men who wrote it. What we must believe is that He has done it, and that all the sacred writings are every where inspired, though not all alike matter of special revelation: and that even the very words are stamped with divine sanction, as Jesus used them (for example in the temptation and Jhn 10:34, 35 ), for deciding all questions of doctrine and practice. There are degrees of revelation in Scripture, but not of inspiration. The sacred writers did not even always know the full significancy of their own God-inspired words ( 1Pe 1:10, 11, 12 ). Verbal inspiration does not mean mechanical dictation, but all "Scripture is (so) inspired by God," that everything in it, its narratives, prophecies, citations, the whole--ideas, phrases, and words--are such as He saw fit to be there. The present condition of the text is no ground for concluding against the original text being inspired, but is a reason why we should use all critical diligence to restore the original inspired text. Again, inspiration may be accompanied by revelation or not, but it is as much needed for writing known doctrines or facts authoritatively, as for communicating new truths [TREGELLES]. The omission here of the substantive verb is,' I think, designed to mark that, not only the Scripture then existing, but what was still to be written till the canon should be completed, is included as God-inspired. The Old Testament law was the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; so it is appropriately said to be "able to make wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ": the term wisdom being appropriated to a knowledge of the relations between the Old and New Testaments, and opposed to the pretended wisdom of the false teachers ( 1Ti 1:7, 8 ).
      doctrine--Greek, "teaching," that is, teaching the ignorant dogmatic truths which they cannot otherwise know. He so uses the Old Testament, Rom 1:17.
      reproof--"refutation," convicting the erring of their error. Including polemical divinity. As an example of this use of the Old Testament, compare Gal 3:6, 13, 16. "Doctrine and reproof" comprehend the speculative parts of divinity. Next follow the practical: Scripture is profitable for: (1) correction (Greek, "setting one right"; compare an example, 1Cr 10:1-10 ) and instruction (Greek, "disciplining," as a father does his child, see on JF & B for 2Ti 2:25; Eph 6:4 Hbr 12:5, 11, or "training" by instruction, warning, example, kindnesses, promises, and chastisements; compare an example, 1Cr 5:13 ). Thus the whole science of theology is complete in Scripture. Since Paul is speaking of Scripture in general and in the notion of it, the only general reason why, in order to perfecting the godly ( 2Ti 3:17 ), it should extend to every department of revealed truth, must be that it was intended to be the complete and sufficient rule in all things touching perfection. See Article VI, Common Prayer Book.
      in--Greek, "instruction which is in righteousness," as contrasted with the "instruction" in worldly rudiments ( Col 2:20, 22 ).

      17. man of God--(See on JF & B for 1Ti 6:11).
      perfect, throughly furnished--Greek, "thoroughly perfected," and so "perfect." The man of God is perfectly accoutred out of Scripture for his work, whether he be a minister (compare 2Ti 4:2 ) or a spiritual layman. No oral tradition is needed to be added.

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