When a door to door salesperson comes to your door, what do you usually do? Do you shut them down immediately and have them move on? Or maybe you pretend not to be home? Or do you end up buying everything they are selling because it sounds like a great deal or you just don’t want to say no? Typically, I don’t want to shut people down or I don’t really know how to nicely do that, so even though I don’t ever buy anything in the end, I do know how to say no thank you, I will listen to the whole spiel and look at all the catalogs, or let you give me quote for landscaping, whatever it may be. Typically my children are turning feral at this time, but I’ll be smiling and listening to it all. So if you are a salesperson, I’m a great person to practice with because I will listen and ask further questions, but I won’t buy anything. Unless you’re a neighborhood kid, then I’ll buy whatever you’ve got.
Now this is the kind of situation I imagine in my head whenever I read about the false teachers in 1 and 2 Timothy going around from house to house, and deceiving certain women. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying at all that door to door salespeople are false teachers trying to deceive. But I just imagine these men, these false teachers, going around and trying to find those who are home, and maybe more vulnerable, who will entertain all of their ideas and teachings even if they are not of sound, healthy doctrine. And when they do find those people, the teachings can further take hold and spread to others.
In our passage today, 2 Timothy 3, we see this problem of the false teachers continuing on in the churches of Ephesus. If you’re just jumping into Dwell with us today, I’d encourage you to go back and read 1 Timothy as well to get the full context of this crazy situation of the false teachers in Ephesus. Paul, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, when he is writing 2 Timothy, he is in prison in Rome, shortly before he was martyred, and his main concern is the future of the gospel. He wants to see the gospel continuing to go forward in these places where he helped plant and establish churches and beyond. Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son, someone Paul has discipled, has been left in charge of the Ephesian church including dealing with the issues that have arisen within the church. So in todays chapter, we see Paul continuing to address the false teachers, and also charge Timothy once again to stand firm.
Now when we read parts of the passage, I think we in our day and age can very much relate to what was going on in Ephesus. Paul says in verses 1-5, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Sounds like our culture today, right? When Paul says the “last days” he is talking about the era between Jesus’ first and second coming, so all of these things were actually happening at that time in Ephesus. They were living in the the “last days.” And we see these things very much happening today. We are living in the last days. Sometimes I think we can get bogged down with thinking about society and our world today as getting worse and worse, but reality is, these things are not new. They were happening thousands of years ago, just as they are today. To me, although grim, that’s a comforting fact, because we’ve seen the Gospel go forth despite all these things happening in the world back then, and we can be confident that the Gospel will continue to go forth in our day and age.
But it takes people, like Timothy, like you and me, to stand firm. In verse 5 when Paul continues on to say “have nothing to do with such people” he’s not talking about sinners in general, because we see Jesus hung out with sinners, but he’s talking specifically about people within the church who are living this way - the kind of people who are worming their way into the homes of women and deceiving them, having the appearance of godliness, but really not at all living out Truth. It’s a within the church issue, which blows my mind! Against those people, we are to have nothing to do with, and we need to hold fast to Truth and correcting those who are teaching falsehoods. Sometimes the falsehoods at first seem innocent, they might be small cultural values that just creep in to the church masked as biblical values, but they really aren’t.
Paul also tells Timothy that Christians can expect persecution, using his own experiences to highlight that. Persecution comes with the territory so we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. But in the midst of persecutions, against all opposition - even opposition from within the church at times, and against all cultural tides that are sweeping and seemingly endless, Paul says in verses 14-15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”
I love that phrase “But as for you.” Paul is saying to Timothy and I think to all of us, “in no way will you look like the world or like these deceivers who just pretend to be godly. You are to continue on in the Truth, no matter the pushback, no matter the persecution, hold fast to what you know is true and stay the course.” That is how the gospel will continue on. “But as for you.”
And how do we do that? How do we stand firm? Through knowing and reading our Scripture. If we can fall back on His Word over and over again, the false teachings will be exposed, because we will know the difference between Truth and falsehoods. And we can use these Truths to correct the course of those who have been deceived or those who are doing the deceiving. For as verse 16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” His Word equips us for His work.
So as you go today, just like Timothy, I hope you would hear the same charge to you: But as for you, continue in what you have learned, keep digging into Scripture, holding onto those Truths, and through His Scripture would God thoroughly equip you for every good work He has for you.