3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
Verse 3:1 has had trouble being understood by various commentaries; nonetheless, it is generally agreed upon as the time preceding the second coming of Jesus. More specifically, our current dispensation which would cease at the Rapture of the Church.
This message presents a sense of urgency. “This know also” is more or less an “addition” sign to the message prior in 2 Timothy. It is a caution for the Church to defend and preserve the purity of truth because the last days are nigh. The word “perilous” is a fitting adjective to describe the troubles that will be faced in the lives of Christians. The word chalepos depicts something that is “hard to bear,” “troublesome,” or “dangerous.”
The warning is not only solely for the sake of truth, but the disregard of truth, regardless of dispensation, degrades the character of the Godly and allows the reprobate to remain blind. In the current Age of Grace we especially see how this plays out in the following verses.
3:2-4 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;
Note that this is our current dispensation in which Paul is speaking. Also notice the stark similarities between the cultures of the world and Paul’s description to Timothy. The very word for “lovers of their own selves” is a culmination of two Greek words: Philos (Friend) and autos (Himself; the same). Denoting someone who is truly infatuated with one’s self.
Paul is an expert writer and teacher and this is exemplified by him preceding all other descriptors with “lovers of their own selves.” One would be hard pressed to find a sin that did not occur because of selfishness, whether that was a sin against another human and or God.
The attribute of covetousness specifically highlights what Paul calls a “love[er] of money” (1 Timothy 6:10). It may be preached more broadly but contextually and etymologically it denotes avarice, someone whose passion to accumulate wealth.
I will present Paul’s listing of “boasters” and “proud” together as he does this elsewhere in his epistles (Romans 1:30). A boaster is a braggart who essentially has an empty hand, for lack of better words. We know that in ourselves, we have nothing to boast about but our weakness. Paul boasted in two things: His weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30) and in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 11:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Truly, these are only one thing however because he boasted in His weakness because it is in his weakness that Christ’s power was magnified. Therefore, all other boasting is considered boasting of arrogance/evil (James 4:16). Being proud is similar in that humanity elevates themselves to a position that only Christ is worthy of. It too is empty and an illusion.
Although all of these point back to humanity’s attitude toward each other, Paul makes a sudden shift when he addresses blasphemers because this is a direct attempt to assault the character of God. This word denotes someone who presents slanderous, reproaches against God in one form or another. It is connected to pride and boasting in that these may be the attributes that originally posture a human’s carnality to rail against God.
Blaspheming is action taken against the Heavenly Father and may indicate one’s willingness to be disobedient to earthly parents as well. These attributes can all be connected and Paul (Or better said, the Holy Spirit) was very meticulous in the way that he presented these to Timothy. In his previous letter to Timothy, Paul makes it clear that family life often is an indicator of one’s spiritual life as well. In fact, maintaining obedient children is a qualification for Christian leadership (1 Timothy 3:5).
Regarding a lack of thankfulness, it would be unjust to classify this as an action taken only against man or only against God. Being unthankful is a cankerous heart posture that will eat away good character. It is the will of God that we give thanks in all circumstances (Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Therefore, I would not deem it wrong to classify thanksgiving as a lifestyle that needs to be practiced and maintained by the work of the Holy Spirit.
As for Paul’s term “unholy” it is fascinating the number of commentaries that point the reader to 1 Timothy 1:9. It is here that Paul discusses God’s intention of giving the Law. It essentially gives a standard that humanity cannot live up to; simultaneously bringing the sinner to realize their need for a Savior by which we can identify as holy and approach the Father. In steps Jesus and His righteous Gospel by which we can accept and be sealed within the Spirit. No longer do we walk by the Law but rather are led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). In the Spirit, we are made righteous or holy (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is our sanctification (2 Timothy 2:21). Apart from His Gospel, this lifestyle and position can be generally identified as “unholy.”
Strong’s Concordance interestingly addresses “without natural affection” as being “unsociable,” “inhuman,” and or “unloving.” This has a deeper root than simply being rude or uncaring, but this lack of regard for human life characterizes this attribute. All of the following attributes in verse 3 and 4 depict the attitudes and actions of people without natural affection.
The word “trucebreakers” may be incorrectly understood and is a concept technically foreign to us, yet practically relevant. Contemporarily, the reader may see this as a promise breaker. However, contextually this is someone who cannot be persuaded to enter into an agreement or not trustworthy to deal with. These are people who cannot even get to the point of violating an agreement, although that would be relevant to this variety of people as well.
“False accusers” would better fit into the category of people who are liars, slanderers, and this word is commonly associated with Satan. The Greek word, diabolos, often is a direct, metaporchial reference and name for Satan in particular contexts. A false accuser usually is depicted as someone who is contrary to God’s causes and will.
In a modern setting, incontinent refers to someone who lacks control over their urination and defecation processes. Spiritually, Paul maintains a similar connotation. An incontinent person is someone who lacks self-control and is moved by carnality and passion. This possibly could be paralleled with the following attribute “fierce.” This is because in its most basic definition, fierce depicts something that is “not tame” and carnal. It appears to take the term “incontinent” and show what happens when it is allowed to progress. These people’s actions evolve into savagery.
Being “despisers of those that are good” refers to ignoble people who are opposed to the goodness practiced by righteous people. These are the people that Paul addresses when urging Timothy to fight for the purity of truth within the Church.
Traitors are not something uncommon within the Christian life. In fact, Jesus himself was betrayed by a traitor, someone who gives a friend into enemy hands (Matthew 27:3-4). Paul makes a note of traitors, not to make Christians such as Timothy mistrustful, but as an encouragement to walk circumspectly/cautiously (Ephesians 5:15). Even if we fall victim to a traitor, we are to not repay evil for evil and to entrust justice into God’s hands. It is a difficult standard to live up to; nonetheless, it is the will of God (Romans 12:17-21).
The word “heady” holds a similar flavor and connotation to the previously discussed term, “incontinent.” It is someone who is rash, quick to action, and essentially- Reckless.
The term “high minded” is literally rendered from the Greek as “to wrap in a mist.” This term denotes the seasoned prideful, boastful human. They are literally blinded by their own pride and conceit that their every action is conducted in selfishness. Another term that is strongly connected to a high minded person is narcissistic.
“Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” Biblically is defined by John in 1 John 2:15-16 when he teaches,
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
This type of person is pursuing worldly desires first over the desires and intentions of God for their lives. The verse does not say that they do not regard God, but rather regard the things of the world more than God.
3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
In this verse, Paul addresses “religious people.” It is interesting that opponents to Paul’s unadulterated Gospel were either all religious or philosophical. They had a form or shape of godliness based on the rudiments of the world and of the religious system of a past dispensation, but had no understanding of true Godly power. We know this power intimately as the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s living Word.
The teachings of such people need to be avoided, especially living in these last days if we are to maintain the purity of the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Turning away does not mean to associate but ignore what they say, it means “to shun” or “mark and avoid” (Romans 16:17-19). But these things cannot be avoided if the Church does not know the true shape of Godliness. This will be the emphasis of Paul in later verses as he addresses the authority of Scripture over the believer (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
3:6-7 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Obviously, Paul was speaking by word of experience as he had seen the power and tactics of wickedness. The early Church, which was still learning the true form of Godliness had allowed the deceiver to creep into the church and deceive. Nothing has changed in a contemporary setting, especially with Biblical illiteracy so high and many things competing for the hearts and souls of humanity.
In this specific context within the Ephesians church that Timothy led, it would appear that Satan was having success seducing women away from their Godly calling and carnal lusts. Note that “religious people” seduced them. Let this be a caution to blindly following religious people and not the authority of God laid out in Scripture.
These women were learning things but nothing of any substance. They were in direct conflict with the will of God that would have them be saved and come unto the knowledge of truth (1 Timothy 2:4).