Questions: What kind of men flourish in perilous times? How do they treat godliness? What do they learn? What do they resist? What must we know? What will we suffer? In what can we trust?
“Read More” to pursue answers from Second Timothy.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
This chapter opens on an ominous note, though it follows naturally from Paul’s warning in the last chapter about how to deal with opposition. Here he presumably goes into more detail about the nature of such opposition:
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
My only disagreement with the list is that I don’t see what it has to do with “the last days”; from what I can tell of history, every generation has more than its share of such people! 😦 Well, that’s not quite true; in a traditional society — or a healthy one — such people are marginalized. It is a sign of decadence when such people are not merely tolerated, but celebrated! Nowhere is such decadence on display more than in those who worry about appearing godly instead of being godly:
Huh. What does that that mean, exactly? My best guess is that it means that they are attempting to be godly under their own power, rather than being led by — and submitted to — the Holy Spirt.
Ouch. That strikes awfully close to home. As do they, it turns out:
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Not that they themselves are silly; merely blind:
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Again, this is one of my pet peeves — probably because I am so vulnerable to it: that part of evangelical Christianity that idolizes learning, yet paradoxically fails to submit to the truth. Perhaps like these two:
Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
It is some comfort (albeit cold) to know that such men will invariably fail:
But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all [men], as theirs also was.
It is more encouraging to reflect on Paul’s positive example:
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
And we can trust him not just because of the power of God made manifest in his virtues, but also in his sufferings:
Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of [them] all the Lord delivered me.
And, more soberingly, our own:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Yet, it seems that such is the key difference between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked respond to difficulty by becoming worse, and drowning in a circle of lies:
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
Whereas the righteous are those who persevere in truth and godliness, no matter the cost:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them];
I find it fascinating that he appeals to the certainty and trustworthiness of Timothy’s source. I would assume he’s referring to Paul himself, or those who told him the gospel:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Yet, “scriptures” presumably means the Old Testament. Either he’s implying that those are sufficient to make Timothy “wise unto salvation in Jesus, or he’s already treating the early (proto?) gospels as scripture.
Either way, he’s adamant that we must hold onto — and submit to — Scripture:
All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for
- for reproof
- for correction,
- for instruction in righteousness:
And why do we need all this?
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
This, to me, is the key to understanding Scripture, and why it is so essential we submit to its authority. The temptation is ever present to manufacture spirituality under our own power, and deceive ourselves out of our love for pleasure. The only antidote is to trust that God has moved through righteous men and women of the past (as imperfect and fallen as they were), and that this moving has been recorded in the holy scriptures — and validated by generation upon generation of the faithful.
For the alternative is to trust ourselves, which is the surest road to hell.
God, forgive me for all the ways I’ve pursued the form of godliness, while denying its power. Grant me the grace to submit to the power of your Holy Spirit, as well as to the words of your Holy Scripture. Forgive me for all the times and ways I’ve loved pleasure — and my self — more than you. Train me in the ways of godliness, that I may be fully prepared for all good works you’ve called me to do. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.