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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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