|Volume 24 Number 5 May 2022
Are you excited about today? Excited about its opportunities? Its possibilities? Do you have confidence today in what God can do? Confidence in His peace? His joy? What about your future? Do you think it’s bright? Do you think it gets brighter once you pass from this temporal world?
What about your past? Are you comfortable with it? Can you accept it? If you have trouble with today, your future or your past, why not take Jesus’ words in John 10:10 to heart? He’s promised an abundant life, and His promises never fail. Today, how will your actions and attitudes show that you believe Jesus’ promise?
Worse and the Word
In Paul’s last letter, he warned of conditions in the latter days. Before proceeding, the caveat must be established that the last days have been ongoing since the day of Pentecost following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Peter, pressed to explain the apostles’ behavior of speaking in unstudied languages, explained that it was the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s passage, where Peter began by saying, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days…’” (Acts 2:16-17 NKJV). Following the Patriarchal and Mosaic eras came the Christian era. After that, there will be no more (2 Peter 3:10-12). Thus, these days in which we are amenable to Christ are the last days (Hebrews 1:1-4).
Paul said that those last days would be characterized by compounded sinfulness. To paraphrase and comment (for the reader can read the passage for himself), 2 Timothy 3:1-4 indicates a love for everything unholy, beginning with a love of self, proceeding to a love of money, intensified by a prideful disregard for even the most basic and tender of authorities (parents). Further, people will be bull-headed and love their lustful pleasures instead of their God. They will even feign righteousness (v. 5) and lead people away with a remarkably stubborn resistance to truth (vs. 6-8). There will be a limitation or a point beyond the extent of God’s “longsuffering” (v. 9; cf. 2 Peter 3:9), but a lot of damage will be done along the way.
Contrasting such hedonism, Timothy was careful to follow Paul’s “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions” (vs. 10-11). Affirming that all who desire to live godly will suffer (v. 12), Paul warned, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (v. 13).
That is a bleak picture for the Christian era. One would think that the blessed Savior of the world Who was revealed in due time (Titus 1:3) would herald hope for a better class of people. Perhaps people would be appreciative and change their behavior.
It is true that a lot of people would, and there are great blessings as Christians let their lights shine (Matthew 5:16). Paul’s warning, though, in 2 Timothy 3, smacks of an older, wiser mentor warning a student against pie-in-the-sky optimism and dousing him with a dose of reality. Pessimism is unnecessary. Optimism can be good. Realism seems to be the mood for which Paul aimed in this – as we know it – penultimate chapter of his inspired penmanship.
The realism is offset, however, with a reality of a positive sort. It is not a shallow pep talk that followed, nor an empty cliché – “everything’s going to be OK.” No, it is a grounding in the one thing that overcomes all the evil in the world.
In the face of all that evil, Paul reminded the young disciple, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Paul pointed Timothy to the living and powerful Word (Hebrews 4:12).
Timothy had likely learned the Old Testament Scriptures early from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). When Christianity came to fulfill that Old Mosaic Law, Timothy was converted and became a sacrificial and a willing worker (Acts 16:1-5). He became quite the beloved companion of Paul (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 6; Acts 17:14-15; 18:5).
To conclude what came to be known (with chapter and verse divisions) as Chapter Three, Paul proceeded with one of the greatest statements (if not the greatest) of Scripture about itself. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul pivoted to speaking prophetically of the completed New Testament as well as the Old in verses 16-17 for this reason: All of the completed revelation is needed to make a man “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Old Testament Scriptures pointed sufficiently toward salvation in Christ (v. 15), so much so that Jesus used them to prove Himself (Luke 24:27). Yet, to make a man complete, all revelation is required.
The overriding point, at any rate, is that the Word of God conquers. Things may be bad in the world, but the Word of God triumphs. All evils may reign for a time (1 John 5:19), but their glory will end (2 Timothy 3:9). Lusts will lead men astray, but “he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). The glory of man passes like the flower of the field, but the Word of God endures (Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but real is the knowledge (beyond wishful thinking – the certainty) that God’s Word prevails, as do, by extension, those who follow it (1 John 2:17).