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Author: Ron Graham

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Lovers of Self
—2Timothy 3:1-17

A verse by verse study in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine chapter 3 verses 1-17, looking at those who are "lovers of self" and those who are "lovers of God".

1 Lovers of Self

  2Timothy 3:1-3 

¶“1Let this be understood: In the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to their parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, savage, not lovers of good” (2Timothy 3:1-3).

 Verse 1, The Last Days  

The "last days" (2Timothy 3:1) are not some unique period of special wickedness exclusively in our time or our near future. If for Paul the last days were 2000 years away in the future, they would not have much relevance to Timothy and his brethren at Ephesus. The last days began in New Testament times. Notice the expression, "in these last days" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The author of Hebrews believed that the last days had already begun.

We also live in the last days, and we can expect "difficult times" to come our way. It has been like that down through history since Paul and Timothy’s day. Starting with the crucifixion of Christ, one storm of evil after another has plagued our planet. It is like that today, It will be like that through the future until Jesus comes to put an end to it all

 Verse 2, Lovers of Self and Wealth 

This chapter mentions "lovers" five times: "lovers of themselves", "lovers of money," "lovers of pleasure", "lovers of God", "lovers of good". The first three are what they love. The last two are what they don't love.

If the reverse were true, and men and women were lovers of God and what is good, and not lovers of themselves and their money and pleasures, what a different and beautiful world it would be.

So whilst we rightly condemn the evil that Paul describes, we need to consider our need of Jesus our Saviour. Only Jesus can lift us out of the bog we've fallen into, even if we think we are only akle-deep in it.. But we cannot be saved from it while we love being in it. When Paul describes these lovers of themselves, he implies that we should test ourselves to ensure we are in the faith and out of the pit.

 Verses 2-3, The Love of Money 

Among the lovers Paul mentions, there are lovers of money. Money can buy power, prestige, and property. No wonder people love it. But money cannot buy salvation. Indeed, if you fall in love with it, you will reap corruption. In his first letter to Timothy Paul quoted this maxim: "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1Timothy 6:10).

2 Lovers of Pleasure

  2Timothy 3:4-9  

¶“4[People will be] traitorous, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” (2 Timothy 3:4-5).

¶“6They are the sort of people who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various lusts, 7who are ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2Timothy 3:6-7).

¶“8In the same way that Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men resist the truth. They are corrupt of mind and not qualified for the faith. 9But they will not progress much further. For like those two [Jannes and Jambres] their folly will be plain to everyone” (2Timothy 3:8-9).

 Verses 4-5, A Form of Godliness  

Paul says that these lovers of pleasure will have a form of godliness but deny its power. Their denial is not public but in their hearts. They profess morality but they practise evil. They have an outward form of piety for people to see, while hidden from view is their lustful pursuit of sinful pleasures. In short, they are hypocrites. Paul expects Timothy to see through them and turn away from them.

 Verses 6-7, Corrupt Men, Vulnerable Women  

A most common form of corruption is men seeking pleasure by exploiting and seducing women who feel deprived of it. Whether this happens in the the home, or in workplace, it is is most reprehensible because of the damage it causes to the sanctity and society of those honourable places.

Paul says that the vulnerable women that he has in mind are ever learning but never able to know the truth. They are ever learning in the sense that, having once been caught in a trap, they could know better how to avoid it next time. But they don't apply the lesson. So the error is repeated and the truth is not realised.

 Verses 8-9, Jannes and Jambres  

We are not told in scripture who these two persons were who opposed Moses and whose folly became evident to all. The Egyptian Pharaoh’s chief magicians are a good fit. Indeed, Jewish tradition gives the names Jamnes and Jambres to the two chief magicians who withstood Moses and Aaron in Exodus 7. The spelling of the names differs between Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English.

In Pharaoh’s presence, at Moses’s word, Aaron threw down his rod and it became a serpent. The magicians, at Pharaoh’s command, did the same. Then Aaron’s serpent swallowed all their rods and made the magicians look quite foolish.

3 Lovers of God

  2Timothy 3:10-17  

¶“10You, however, have carefully observed my teaching, my manner of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my perseverance, 11my persecutions, and the afflictions that came upon me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12Indeed, all who desire to lead pious lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3:10-13).

¶“14But as for you, continue in the things you have learned and surely believed, since you know from whom you have learned them. 15From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2Timothy 3:14-15).

¶“16All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:16-17 cf Hebrews 4:12–16).

 Verses 10-13, Paul’s Example  

Paul is no hypocrite. His teaching and his conduct match. His mindset is composed of his purpose, faith, patience, love, and perseverance. He cites as an example the severe persecutions and afflictions that he suffered in towns of Pisidia. Paul bore his troubles well. But it was the Lord who rescued him.

Paul warns that all who follow Christ Jesus will be persecuted. He cites his own case to encourage the persecuted. They can endure persecution and expect the Lord to rescue them.

Paul believed that, until Jesus returns, evil men and impostors will dominate the world more and more. But the Lord will look after his own. These evil people are said to deceive and be deceived. They believe their own lies. That is a kind of insanity. And today, as much as ever, we have to deal with that insanity all around us.

 Verses 14-17, The Word of God and the Man of God  

Timothy was a child when he learned the gospel. But he is a child no more, and Paul writes to Timothy the man of God. He commends the scriptures to Timothy. Timothy has known them from childhood, and now, as a man of God, he is dedicated to the scriptures that can make him wise unto salvation, and completely equipped for God’s work.

Paul says that the scriptures are profitable for instruction, conviction, correction, and training. If you want to learn about heavenly things; if you want more proof to convince you; if you want to be told the truth and give up error; if you want to be well trained for ministry and godliness; then go prayerfully to the scriptures. Test what others teach you by searching the scriptures to see whether those things are so.

The scriptures, if you take them to heart, will make you a lover of God and of good. The scriptures will not make you a lover of self, a lover of money, nor a lover of pleasure. The scriptures will make you a man or woman of God.

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