The Expository Files

The The Peril of Sin

2 Timothy 3:1-7  

1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

The apostle Paul wrote these words to young Timothy to inform and instruct him in the perilous times he would observe. These are the conditions of the world Timothy lived in. These are the sins Timothy would need to confront and expose in his preaching of God's Word. These are the sins he would need to avoid in his own behavior. And these are the people he would need to guard against and turn away from (see verse 5).

These conditions continue to be the perils of our society, and each one represents the personal peril of sin every individual needs to recognize (for repentance and forgiveness to become reality). The perilous times are composed of these things.

"For Men will be lovers of themselves"
There were people in Timothy's time and there are people today who are utterly self-centered. They are "lovers of themselves." What they think, what they say and what they do is driven by self-love. That means, nothing that interferes with the pursuit of self is allowed. They do not allow friends, neighbors or society to keep them from the pursuit of self-interests. They do not allow God through His Word, to call them out of the bondage of their sin. They are "lovers of themselves." This is one of the basic vices of human ruin and rebellion against God; this misdirected love that lives for the pursuit of self-interests. Close behind this

"Lovers of money"
In the King James Version there is a single word: "covetous." It means, to be consumed by the desire for more; to make material things the chief object of your affection. In Paul's first letter to Timothy he wrote about this, with these words:

6Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:6-10

Lovers of money are never content; not ready to surrender to God; not appreciative of the sacrifice of Christ or the value of truth. Lovers of money fall into many temptations and snares; they make themselves the victims of many foolish and harmful lusts and pierce themselves through with many sorrows.

Study these things in 2 Timothy 3, linked together. If I am in love with myself and my money, that inordinate love will breed arrogance, pride and result in boasting. Boastful thoughts, giving rise to boastful words will result. Only by responding to the Word of God and accepting the value of the death of Christ, obeying Him wholeheartedly, can one overcome the arrogance of sin.

The American Standard version says, "haughty." This is the peril of thinking more highly of yourself than you should; self-assertive and bold in imposing yourself upon others. Diotrephes was such a man. John said about him, he "loves to have the preeminence among" the brethren, and "does not receive" the apostles (3 Jno. 9). The times are perilous when people love themselves rather than God; they love their money and boast in their vain pride.

To blaspheme is to speak bitterly and abusively. This is not about subtle suggestions that may be insulting, or indirect criticism (not befitting Christians). This is direct, bold and malicious. Often this word is used in the context of rebellion against deity.

"Disobedient To Parents"
I believe it is noteworthy and should get the attention of every child and parent that in two well-known New Testament passages where sin is detailed, there is disobedience to parents. In Romans chapter one, and here in 2 Timothy 3. To defy parental authority is to sin against God; to shun and neglect His plan for domestic order. Paul, when writing to the Ephesians, addressed himself to parents and children: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right," (Eph. 6:1). Parents should establish themselves as the authority, and the children should respect their authority. When that plan is ignored, there is peril.

Ingratitude is always a sign of peril. In human relationships, when you presume on someone's goodness; when you assume no gratitude is necessary, this is a sign of peril in character. God, the Almighty Creator, is deserving of our daily gratitude. We should express to God our gratitude, by our thoughts, our words and our deeds on a daily basis. 1 Thess. 5:18 teaches us what is right in this regard: "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." We are living in perilous times when men are lovers of themselves; lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful and another sign of peril is:

To be holy is to be reverent toward God; to take God seriously; to appreciate and honor Christ by the obedience of your heart; to be deeply impressed by the awe of Deity. So, to be worldly, careless about the Word of God, profane toward Christ and irreverent, is to contribute to your own peril and become a part of the moral peril of our time.

Joseph Addison once said, "The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Imagine the misery of the opposite: nothing to do, nobody to love and nothing to hope for. The personal peril of sin is defined by Paul in this letter to Timothy, and one word is: unloving. The American Standard says, "without natural affection." This is more than just having a cold, distant personality. This is an absence of love, "without natural affection."

Isn't it interesting, that the New American Standard reads, "irreconcilable." Sometimes we hear this word applied to a troubled marriage. It will be observed by one or both parties, that the marriage died and the cause was, "irreconcilable differences." Often this means, not being willing to forgive. Let me ask, what if God took this approach to you? What if God was possessed of no grace or mercy? But it isn't that way. God in His abundant love and mercy has extended His grace toward us in Christ, and He awaits our obedient response. One of the great perils of our time, and it could be one of the personal perils you must confront is, being unforgiving.

I have no record of the source, but I read somewhere, this description of slander: A verdict of "guilty," given without evidence, in the absence of the accused, behind closed doors, without defense or appeal, by a prejudiced judge, and serving no good purpose. The New English Bible makes this strong, with the expression "scandal-mongers." This is about people who have no personal veracity; they are not sincere; they are quick to spin a story and supply missing details from their own imagination. It is a peril of our time, and a sin against God.

"Without Self-control"
The King James uses the word "incontinent." This is the personal peril of thinking and living without good restraint. Uncontrolled. This is the realistic condition of many in our society. And you may detect this in your life, upon careful self-examination.

The King James and the American Standard version use the word "fierce." This describes the person who is wild, harsh, rude and bold in their manner. Again, as you go through the list in 2 Timothy 3, think of these things not just as individual sins, but a composite; an ugly composite of bad character. The people who love themselves, love money, boast, are proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control and brutal are the people who are the peril of our time, and a peril to their own lives.

"Despisers of good"
In the New American Standard, "haters of good." This is strong language. Good has been revealed by God and His Son, perfectly illustrated by Christ. Good is available. Through the gospel, we can be participants in the highest good, leaving that which is bad and embracing what is morally and spiritually good. Yet there are some who put themselves in peril by hating what is good.

In one translation, The New Testament in Basic English, this is translated with this phrase, "false to their friends." This is about one who betrays trust; willing to break a promise; willing to turn on you, for their own perceived gain. Those who do this, contribute to the moral peril of society and stand guilty before God.

This kind of person is given to bold assertions of their own self-interests; recklessly filled with pride.

Swollen with self-importance. These are people who are convinced of their own superiority, and they campaign to advance their own cause. Then Paul wrote to Timothy about another peril:

"Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God"
Our society today places excessive emphasis on pleasure; having fun, with a variety of forms of entertainment and recreation some illegal; some sinful; some questionable; some legitimate, if kept in good balance and perspective.

The problem addressed by the apostle writing to Timothy is, not just putting pleasure above God but in pursuit of pleasure, excluding God! Loving pleasure rather than loving God. Preferring pleasure with such abandoned passion, pleasure eventually becomes your God; and the real God is rejected.

It is not the argument of this verse, nor the argument of the Bible anywhere, that all pleasure is corrupt or ill-advised. God has supplied every human need for our enjoyment. His moral law is for our pleasure. Jesus was sent, that we might be pleased to have the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of heaven. We can faithfully apply the law of God to our lives, be reverent, diligent in service and morally pure and enjoy, without compromise, the pleasures God has supplied for our need.

But when the pursuit of carnal pleasure becomes our obsession, that pursuit becomes our personal peril. When we reach a point, where we prefer pleasure over God and we reject God to have a good time we are overtaken by the tragedy of serving the devil, and setting ourselves up for eternal remorse.

"Having a form of godliness"
Concentrate on that word "form." In this context, the word means the outward appearance or form of something. This is about the external, not the internal! Externally, there is the appearance of religion, "a form of godliness." Internally, there is an absence of real godliness! They have the form, but not the substance of godliness. They claim devotion to God. They may have some appearance of that devotion, but internally there is no real reverence for God; rather, a pursuit of self-interests.

What should the response of Christians be, to those who have a form of godliness, but deny divine power in their conduct? How should God's people respond to the kind of people described in this passage? These are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. The question: How should God's people respond to these kind of people?

Look at the last phrase in verse 5 for Paul's answer: "And from such people turn away!" I would hope, we would naturally be repelled from people who live like this; that we would not seek association with them; that we should have no interests in their fellowship. Paul makes it plain: "And from such people turn away."

Then, in verses 6 & 7, Paul goes further to describe the kind of people who live in personal peril: "For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Stop and think about the kind of people, the kind of men, who would do what Paul describes. Creeping into households; making captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts. And notice he describes both the victims and the perpetuators as "always learning," but "never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Unable to come to the knowledge of the truth, because of their corrupt, self-centered heart.

What would Paul want Timothy to do about such conditions? What would Paul have Timothy do, in view of the peril of these sins? Look into the next chapter of 2 Timothy. In chapter 4:2, there is a single phrase showing what Timothy needed to do, in perilous times: "Preach the Word!" The only remedy is the Word of God. The only message that can well inform people of their sin, then offer forgiveness, is the Word of God, the gospel of Christ.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 11.5; May, 2004