Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

(2 Timothy 3:1-9)

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,
7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.
9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes's and Jambres's folly was also.

Perilous [Difficult NASB] in [2 Timothy 3:1] means “difficult,” “hard to deal with,” or “dangerous.” It is the same Greek word used to describe the demoniac in Matthew 8:28 and translated “exceedingly fierce.” How do we live for Christ in such terrible times? Expect them. The person who is looking for a soon-coming paradise on earth is destined for disappointment. To expect these perilous times is to become not a pessimist but a realist. Note the emphasis on the wrong kind of love. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

QuoteWorthy: A Lost Soul
[A] man may lose his soul far more easily in prosperity than in adversity; and he is on the way to losing his soul when he assesses the value of life by the number of things which he possesses. - William Barclay [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 3:1 - Terrible Times in the Last Days (v. 1)

Standing Firm on Scripture

As people become more and more corrupt in their thinking, attitudes, and actions, we must continue to stand firm on God’s message in the Holy Scriptures. (see 2 Timothy 3:1-17) [ref]

We begin this section by looking at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 in both the New Living Translation and the The Amplified Bible:

New Living Translation
1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

The Amplified Bible
1 But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. 2 For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. 3 [They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. 4 [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. 5 For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them].

And it also behooves us to note the opposite of these negative traits/characteristics:

2 For men will be people should be lovers of self lovers of others, lovers of money eager to share, boastful humble, arrogant modest, revilers pious, disobedient to parents submissive to parents, ungrateful thankful, unholy devout, 3 unloving friendly, irreconcilable peaceable, malicious gossips those who speak the truth in love, without self-control self-controlled, brutal quiet, haters of good benevolent, 4 treacherous dependable, reckless cautious, conceited lowly, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power authentic Christians who embrace the Lord's power to live righteously; Avoid such men as these Draw near to anyone who is like this.

Here we see Paul preparing and fortifying Timothy.

Paul now knows that his own life shall end soon. How much Timothy may have to face is not revealed, nor how long “the last days” until the Lord’s Parousia will continue. The one thing revealed is the grievousness of what is in store. During Paul’s own time errorists had arisen in the churches of his founding, foolish fanatics were disturbing the Christians in the province of Asia where Timothy was stationed. Worse times are impending, within the church and without it. The revelations Paul has received are God’s advance warnings to fortify his ministers and their churches. Paul, approaching his end, is passing these warnings on. [ref]

[Paul] wants to emphasize that opposition to the truth is not a passing situation, but a permanent characteristic of the age. Perhaps he fears that Timothy will be over-optimistic, hoping that if he lies low for a while, the storm will pass. But Paul gives him no such hope. We too should ‘understand this’, and be quite clear about the perils and troubles which will beset us if we stand firm in the truth of the gospel. [ref]

The last days, the age of salvation and the final opposition against God, were "now" for Paul and Timothy, and they are "now" for us as well. The appearance and threat of heresy is as much a part of this concluding stage of history as salvation and the church. Therefore Timothy was to view his trials as "signs of the times," reminders of the presence of the Enemy and the promise of victory. The reminder would keep him on his guard and at work, awaiting the return of Christ. Since we belong to the same epoch of time, we too must keep on serving in the same hope. [ref]

But realize this
"This paragraph opens by signaling a contrast from the previous paragraph ('but'). Although Paul hopes that some false teachers will repent, he does not want to give an unrealistic picture of the situation. While God may grant repentance to some, it is also clear that opposition will continue." [ref]

Rather than mere academic or intellectual knowledge, "realize" (Greek ginōskō) refers to knowledge gained through personal experience. In this context it "means to know as something that affects Timothy and toward which he must assume a personal attitude." [ref]

in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1)
"The last days" began the moment Jesus returned to heaven [ref] [ref], and the "difficult times" associated with them will grow steadily worse until they climax just prior to Jesus' return to earth. "[T]hese conditions have been and will be present throughout the church age. It is simply to say that the characteristics enumerated here will be more intensive and extensive as the end approaches." [ref] "These seasons will come and go, and the last will be worse than the first. They will be seasons of ever-increasing wickedness (Matthew 24:12; Luke 18:8), which will culminate in the climax of wickedness, the revelation of 'the man of lawlessness' (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; cf. Matthew 24; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:1-38)." [ref]

The sorry state of society [ref] [ref] that Paul describes presents a very unpleasant picture "of mass corruption, of a breakdown of law and tradition" [ref] -- one that will also engulf the Christian Church in the form of professing (= false) Christians in general [ref] and false teachers in particular. [ref] [ref] [ref]



The word “day” is commonplace. But it is also a surprising key to the uniqueness of the Bible’s view of time. And it is a key to help us see how freely and purposefully God intervenes in history.

The Hebrew term. The word yôm is the Hebrew term that best communicates the OT concept of time. Yôm is translated “day,” “time,” or “year” and can express either a point in time or a period of time (e.g., “during those days”). Specifically, yôm can stand for (1) the daylight hours, (2) a twenty-four-hour period, (3) an undetermined period of time encompassing months or years or even centuries, and (4) a particular point in time. In the plural, yôm may mean years rather than days.

The word is theologically important in at least three ways. First, yôm is linked with the Bible’s unique concept of time, which has become that of the Western world through our Judeo/Christian heritage. In the ancient Near East, however, the myths that provided a framework for life envisioned time as a cycle. There was a repeated yearly cycle, and life’s meaning was sought in the repeated rounds of the seasons, marked by winter’s death and spring’s rebirth.

The Hebrew concept, expressed in the OT, is a dramatic contrast to that of the surrounding nations. In Scripture, time is not viewed as a cycle but as a line, springing from a definite beginning (Creation) and moving toward a divinely revealed and purposed end. Scripture sees the meaning of the universe and of our lives as outside the repetitive patterns that mark human experience. The meaning of it all is in the sweep of a history that had a definite beginning and will have a promised end.

Second, we find a distinct relationship between time (history) and God. God, the Ancient of Days, stands outside time. He existed before it; he is both creator and shaper of time’s flow.

Third, the phrase “the day of the Lord” or “that day” is often used by the prophets to indicate a period of time during which God personally intervenes in history to carry out some specific aspect of his plan.

The seven days of creation
Because of the range of meanings given yôm, one cannot argue from the word alone to the nature of the seven days of creation mentioned in Genesis. However, many do build an argument for seven literal days on the use of “evening” and “morning” to define yôm.

Theories about the seven days include: (1) a gap theory, which proposes an original creation, ruined by Satan, and a literal seven-day process setting it to rights; (2) the hypothesis of an indefinite age, depending on the figurative use of “day” to represent geologic eras; (3) a day-age theory, which supposes each day represents a period of twenty-four hours in which new additions to creation were initiated, followed by millennia before the next creative day arrives; (4) the idea of a creation in situ, with the Creation having taken place only several thousand years ago in seven literal days but with a “false history” built into the earth at that time; (5) a revelatory-day theory, according to which Moses was told about each stage of creation on seven successive literal days; and (6) a revelatory-device idea, which says that the human author chose to organize his material by the use of “days.”

No one knows for sure how long the creation days were, but there is no doubt that the Bible does teach a special creation by God and that he is the author of all things in the universe.

“The day of the Lord,” “that day”
The theologically significant phrases “the day of the LORD” and “that day” occur often in the Prophets. They usually identify events that take place at history’s end (Isa 7:18–25). The key to understanding the phrases is to note that they always identify a span of time during which God personally intervenes in history, directly or indirectly, to accomplish some specific aspect of his plan.

What events do OT prophets most often link to these phrases?

Briefly, the day of the Lord is seen as a day of terror, during which Israel would be invaded and purged with an awful destruction. Amos warned those of his day who hoped God would intervene soon: “Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness and not light” (Am 5:18). Zephaniah adds, “The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior will be there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Zep 1:14–15). The dark terror of divine judgment was to be poured out on unbelieving Israel (Isa 22; Jer 30:1–17; Joel 1–2; Am 5; Zep 1) and on the unbelieving peoples of the world (Eze 38–39; Zec 14).

But judgment is not the only aspect of that day. When God intervenes in history, he will also deliver the remnant of Israel, bring about a national conversion, forgive sins, and restore his people to the land promised Abraham (Isa 10:27; Jer 30:19–31:40; Mic 4; Zec 13).

And what will be the outcome of the day of the LORD? “The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa 2:17).

The Greek term. The Greek word hēmera is used to indicate literal days and may also be extended to indicate indeterminate periods of time. Naturally, the Gospels use the word “day” in the OT sense of “that day” to indicate eschatological judgment and the return of Jesus (cf. Mt 7:22; Mk 13:32; Lk 17:31).

When using the word “day” in an eschatological sense, the Epistles tend to identify particular aspects of the end time. Thus, the writers speak of the day of wrath (Ro 2:5; Rev 6:17), the day of judgment (2 Pe 2:9; 3:7), the day of redemption (Eph 4:30), the day of the Lord (1 Th 5:2; 2 Pe 3:10), the day of Christ (Php 1:6, 10; 2:16), the great day of God (Rev 16:14), and the day God visits his people (1 Pe 2:12).

“The last days”
A number of passages in the NT seem to suggest that the writer and readers were then living in the “last days” (e.g., Ac 2:17–18; 3:24; 2 Ti 3:1; Heb 1:2; 2 Pe 3:3; 1 Jn 2:18). What do the writers mean?

The concept that we live in history’s final day is not to say that the eschatological period that marks history’s end has come. Instead, the writers view history as a process that will culminate in “that day,” and they view this present age as the final moment before the intended climax. John sees principles of evil at work now that will be given full reign in the end period (1 Jn 2:18). A hostility to truth will prevail at history’s end and is incipient in this age as well (2 Ti 3:1–13). The distinctive difference between these days and the day of the Lord, in which God’s purposes are drawn together and brought to their conclusion, is this: our age, which began with the resurrection of Jesus, is the last great historical epoch before God’s final intervention.

The term “day” in both Testaments is used in the literal twenty-four-hour sense and in other senses as well. The way in which the word is used in the OT introduces us to a distinctive concept of time and history -- a concept that has been adopted by Western culture and thus seems less striking than it is. According to the Bible, history had a beginning and moves toward an end.

The Bible uses the phrase “that day” to identify a time when God personally intervenes in history. History’s end is the ultimate “day of the Lord,” when with wondrous power God will punish evil and fulfill all his promises. But “that day” can also identify other periods in which God personally intervenes to accomplish some aspect of his plan.

Our present age is also a day. It is the last day (age) before the time of the end. As Peter reminds us, we live in a temporary universe, one that is about to be destroyed. How shall we then live? We need to “live holy and godly lives, as [we] look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promises we are looking forward to a new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pe 3:11–13).

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]


Expression used by OT prophets (as early as the eighth-century B.C. prophet Amos) to signify a time in which God actively intervenes in history, primarily for judgment. Thus “the day of the Lord” is also called “the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zep 2:2 KJV).

Sometimes “the day of the Lord” is used in the OT to speak of a past judgment (Lam 2:22). More often an impending future judgment is in view (Jl 2:1–11). Ultimately, though, the term refers to climactic future judgment of the world (Jl 3:14–21; Mal 4:5). Often prophecy of a near-future event and an end-time prophecy are merged, the immediate judgment being a preview of the final day of the Lord. The prophecy of Isaiah against Babylon is an example (Is 13:5–10). Jesus combined events described there with other prophecies to explain his second coming (Mk 13:24–37). Another example is Joel’s prophecy of the day of the Lord (Jl 1:15–2:11). Though the prophet initially spoke of God’s judgment on Israel by a locust plague, that judgment prompted further pronouncements about a final day of the Lord far beyond Joel’s time (Jl 2:31; 3:14–17). That day of the Lord extended even beyond the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost predicted by Joel’s prophecy (Jl 2:28–32; Acts 2:16–21; Rv 6:12, 13). The NT uses the term exclusively to mean the end time.

The final day of the Lord is characterized in the Bible as a day of gloom, darkness, and judgment. Associated with God’s judgment is language depicting changes in nature, especially a darkening of the sun, moon, and stars (Is 13:10; Jl 2:31; 3:15; Mt 24:29; Rv 6:12). Nations will be judged for their rebellion against God’s anointed people and king (Jl 3:19; cf. Ps 2). Israel is counseled not to be eager for that day, because it will also include judgment on the chosen nation (Am 5:18–20). But the prophets promise that a believing “remnant” will be saved by looking to the Messiah they once rejected (Jl 2:32; Zec 12:10).

Following the judgment, the future day of the Lord will be a time of prosperity, restoration, and blessing for Israel (Jl 3:18–21).

The more explicit NT expressions -- “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8), “the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14), and “the day of Christ” (Phil 1:10; 2:16) -- are more personal and more positive. They point to final events related to Christian believers, who will not experience the wrath of God (1 Thes 5:9).

When the day of the Lord comes, the earth will be renewed and purified through a judgment of fire (2 Pt 3:10–13). In the Book of Revelation the final purging seems to come after the millennium -- that is, the 1,000-year reign of Christ (Rv 21:1).

Evangelical scholars differ about the beginning point of the day of the Lord in relation to other prophesied future events. Various views suggest it will start: (1) at the beginning of a seven-year period preceding Christ’s coming to earth, when a “man of lawlessness” is to be revealed and make a covenant with Israel (2 Thes 2:3; cf. Dn 9:27); (2) following an “abomination of desolation,” in which the “man of lawlessness” will pose as God (Mt 24:15 KJV; 2 Thes 2:4) at the middle of the seven-year period; or (3) later in the seven years at the outpouring of God’s wrath (Rv 16:1).

Concerning the future day of the Lord as it is prophesied in the Scriptures, one should note: (1) biblical passages mentioning the impressive celestial signs of that day (Is 13:10; Jl 2:31; 3:15; Mt 24:29; Rv 6:12); (2) the sequence of the judgments that focus on seals, trumpets, and bowls in the Book of Revelation; (3) the relationship of the wrath of Revelation 6:16 to the series of “seal” judgments; and (4) the revelation of the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [ref]


The concept of the “last days” derives from the OT. The term and its variations (e.g., “latter days,” “day to come,” “that day”) were used to refer to a period of time in the future (Num 24:14; Deut 31:29), or to an eschatological period—a period before the end of history (Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1). The “last days” were characterized by wickedness and unfaithfulness to God, and consequently, judgment (Jer 7:1–15); however, they were also characterized by restoration (Ezek 11:14–21; Zech 10:6–12). The disciples perceived a relationship between the “last days” and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For this reason, they asked Jesus about restoring the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6). The NT writers applied the term “last days” and it variations to the second coming of Christ. In doing so, they identified Jesus Christ with Yahweh of the OT.

- Faithlife Study Bible [ref]

If society is doomed to degeneration, what should believers do as they live in the "last days"? Paul offered advice in several of his letters:

  • Romans 13:11-14 -- Keep close to the Lord.
  • 2 Cor. 11:13-15 -- Avoid those masquerading as servants of God.
  • Ephesians 5:11 -- Have nothing to do with evildoers and their wicked deeds; instead, expose them. Believers need not allow evil to continue unchecked, but should actively work against it.
  • Ephesians 5:18 -- Redeem the time.
  • Colossians 4:2, 5 -- Believers are to pray, be watchful, be thankful, and be wise in the way they act toward unbelievers, making the most of every opportunity to share the gospel.
  • 2 Thes. 3:6-15 -- Church members who are lazy and idle must be warned. Christians should not be sitting around waiting for the Lord to return, but should continue working in the ministry.
- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

difficult times (2 Timothy 3:1)
=> times of difficulty - ESV | perilous times - NKJV | distressing times - NRSV | terrible times - NIV

"Difficult" (Greek chalepos) "[pertains] to that which causes trouble and hardship, with an implication of violence -- ‘troublous, distressful, violent.’" [ref] It could be translated "fierce" or "furious." [ref] As one commentator explains well: "It is the normal Greek word for difficult, but it has certain usage's which explain its meaning here. It is used in Matt 8:28 to describe the two Gergesene demoniacs who met Jesus among the tombs.* They were violent and dangerous. It is used in Plutarch to describe what we would call an ugly wound. It is used by ancient writers on astrology to describe what we would call a threatening conjunction of the heavenly bodies. There is the idea of menace and of danger in this word. In the last days there would come times which would menace the very existence of the Christian Church and of goodness itself, a kind of last tremendous assault of evil before its final defeat. [ref] (*This suggests that the violence of the last times will be energized by demons (1 Tim. 4:1). [ref])

The basic idea of "times" (Greek kairos) is "a definite, specific season" [ref] -- in this case seasons (plural). It has "to do with epochs, rather than clock or calendar time." [ref]

"Difficult times" refers to "seasons of trial when it will be hard to keep the path of duty." [ref] The last days will include "dangerous or perilous times for the faith and the existence of the church, harmful for Christians, with a nuance of violence and aggressiveness that befits calamities." [ref] Those days "will be both painful and perilous, hard to endure and hard to cope with." [ref]

The times are difficult because of the type of people living in them: "the world is full of these vicious people, the church is surrounded by them, often invaded by them, and has a hard time of it because of them." [ref] Again: "It is important to grasp that it is men who are responsible for the menacing seasons which the church has to bear, fallen men, evil men, men whose nature is perverted, whose behaviour is self-centred and godless, whose mind is hostile to God and his law (cf. Rom. 8:7), and who spread evil, heresy and dead religion in the church." [ref]

What Paul wants Timothy "to understand about the last days is not that they are uniformly, continuously evil, but that they will include ‘perilous seasons’ (AV). Church history confirms that this has been so. As the vessel of the Christian church put out to sea, it was not to expect a smooth untroubled passage; it has been buffeted by storms and tempests and even hurricanes." [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:2 - Characteristics of the Ungodly (vv. 2-5)

In 2 Timothy 3:2-4

the apostle employs no fewer than nineteen expressions by which to describe the wicked men who are responsible for the ‘times of stress’. It might perhaps be a little tedious to analyse the portrait too minutely and to define each term separately. But notice at once the first and the last phrases used [in 2 Timothy 3:2-4]. The first says that they are ‘lovers of self’ (philautoi) and the last [2 Timothy 3:4] that they are not, as they should be, ‘lovers of God’ (philotheoi). Indeed four of the nineteen expressions are compounded with ‘love’ (phil-), suggesting that what is fundamentally wrong with these people is that their love is misdirected. Instead of being first and foremost ‘lovers of God’, they are ‘lovers of self’, ‘lovers of money’ (NEB: ‘men will love nothing but money and self’) and ‘lovers of pleasure’ [2 Timothy 3:4]. [ref]

men will be (2 Timothy 3:2)
"[Men] is generic, referring to both men and women." [ref]

lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy (2 Timothy 3:2)
lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:2)

"Love of self is the basic sin, from which all others flow. The moment a man makes his own will the centre of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible. The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement but the obliteration of self." [ref]

"The true centre of life is changed. Self has taken the place of God, so all sense of the duty to others, whether man or God, disappears." [ref]

While a degree of self-interest is good and healthy, "[t]he selfishness which is condemned, is that regard to our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others; which makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion." [ref

As one commentator notes well: "The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart. God commands us to love Him supremely, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:34–40); but if we love ourselves supremely, we will not love God or our neighbors. In this universe there is God, and there are people and things. We should worship God, love people, and use things. But if we start worshiping ourselves, we will ignore God and start loving things and using people. This is the formula for a miserable life; yet it characterizes many people today. The worldwide craving for things is just one evidence that people’s hearts have turned away from God." [ref]

lovers of money (2 Timothy 3:2)
Twice Paul has previously warned Timothy about this particular sin (1 Timothy 3:3; 6:10).

boastful (2 Timothy 3:2)
=> proud - ESV

"[I]nevitably those who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves [= boastful] look down with contempt upon others [= arrogant] and speak evil of them [= revilers]." [ref]

"The braggart [= boastful man] is a swaggering creature, who tries to bluster his way into power and eminence." [ref] He is an "empty pretender" [ref], "'[making] more of himself' than the reality justifies, 'ascribing to himself either more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all'; who 'promises what he cannot perform.'" [ref] In 1 John 2:16 the boaster thinks he can shape his own life apart from God, and in James 4:16 he thinks he controls the future. [ref]

arrogant (2 Timothy 3:2)
=> proud - HCSB/NIV

The arrogant person "is the one who with pride, arrogance and foolish presumption brags of his position, power and wealth and despises others." [ref] "Originally used in a good sense in Greek literature for truly superior persons, this word soon took on the bad connotation that it always has in the NT: 'with an overweening estimate of one's means or merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt, haughty' (Thayer, p. 641)." [ref] "[T]he sin of the man who is arrogant is in his heart. He might even seem to be humble; but in his secret heart there is contempt for everyone else. He nourishes an all-consuming, all-pervading pride; and in his heart there is a little altar where he bows down before himself." [ref]

revilers (2 Timothy 3:2)
=> abusive - ESV/ISV/NRSV/NIV | blasphemers - HCSB/NET

"These twin qualities of the braggart[/boaster] and the arrogant man inevitably result in love of insult (blasphemia). Blasphemia is the word which is transliterated into English as blasphemy. In English we usually associate it with insult against God, but in Greek it means insult against man and God alike. Pride always begets insult. It begets disregard of God, thinking that it does not need him and that it knows better than he. It begets a contempt of men which can issue in hurting actions and in wounding words. The Jewish Rabbis ranked high in the list of sins what they called the sin of insult. The insult which comes from anger is bad but it is forgivable, for it is launched in the heat of the moment; but the cold insult which comes from arrogant pride is an ugly and an unforgivable thing." [ref]



Today we are likely to think of blasphemy as swearing. But there is more to blasphemy than the casual curse.

The OT concept of blasphemy

Several Hebrew words are translated “blasphemy” in both the NIV and the NASB. In Lev 24:11, 16 the word is nâqab, “to utter a curse against.” In a number of passages the Hebrew word is gâdaph, “to revile” (Nu 15:30; 2 Ki 19:6, 22; Ps 44:16; Isa 37:6, 23; Eze 20:27). But the word that is closest to the meaning of the NT term and captures the fullest meaning of the concept of blasphemy is nâ'ats, “to spurn or treat with contempt.”

In the OT, God is viewed with awe, not only because of his power but also because that power is exercised in the world of people. God has committed himself to keep covenant with Israel and has thus become the focus of his people’s lives. He is to be counted on, respected, and obeyed. All this is reflected in the commandment “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11, NASB). In essence, in the OT to blaspheme is to speak of God with contempt or to act in ways that show one views him as irrelevant to the issues of life.

The NT concept of blasphemy

The Greek words are blasphēmeō (verb), “to slander” or “to speak lightly of the sacred”; blasphēmia (noun), “slanderous, abusive, and damaging speech”; and blasphēmos, “slanderous.”

In the NT, blasphemy indicates a hostile attitude toward God that is expressed directly or indirectly in contemptuous or slanderous ways. The verb is found some thirty-five times of the fifty-nine occurrences of the word group. What we call swearing may be categorized as blasphemy in that it treats God’s name contemptuously or lightly. But the hostility implied in the NT use of the word shows us that, biblically, blasphemy is far more than a casual curse.

It is striking that one cause of the contempt in which unbelievers may hold the Lord is the actions of those who claim to believe. The Gentiles blasphemed God’s name because of the hypocrisy they saw in the Jews (Ro 2:24). How important it is, then, that our lives honor the Lord so that we elicit praise, rather than contempt, for him.

The charge that Jesus committed blasphemy
In reading the Gospels, we make the startling discovery that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day accused him of blasphemy (Mt 26:65; Mk 2:7; 14:64; Lk 5:21; Jn 10:33). This is because Jesus claimed rights and powers that belong to God alone and, as the leaders would not acknowledge Jesus to be the Son of God, he was charged with this religious crime.

Blasphemy as the “unforgivable sin”
Jesus once warned those who observed his miracles and heard his teaching -- and who then dared charge him with being in league with Satan -- that they were treading on the edge of an unforgivable sin. “All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them,” Jesus said, “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mk 3:28, 29; cf. Mt 12:31; Lk 10:12).

Jesus had appeared as a human being, his essential deity disguised. But he had performed miraculous signs by the Spirit’s power, and these signs gave unmistakable evidence that God was present and active in him. The unforgivable sin needs to be understood in this historical context. Those who charged that Jesus was in league with Satan rejected, consciously and willfully, the God who met them in Christ and in his words and the acts empowered by the Spirit.

Many people believe that the unforgivable sin is limited to the time of Jesus and to the unique events of that era. But an attitude that disregards the reality of God and leans toward contempt for his power and his presence is a dangerous one. It is a real danger for all who have not come to know him as a living reality through Jesus Christ. [More info]

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

disobedient to parents (2 Timothy 3:2)
"[Disobedient] to parents, whom God has placed over their children, whose very flesh and blood the children are, from whom the children receive countless benefactions." [ref] "The oldest Greek laws disfranchised the man who struck his parents; to strike a father was in Roman law as bad as murder; in the Jewish law honour for father and mother comes high in the list of the Ten Commandments. It is the sign of a supremely decadent civilization when youth loses all respect for age and fails to recognize the unpayable debt and the basic duty it owes to those who gave it life." [ref]


['Disobedient to parents', 'ungrateful', 'unholy', 'unloving', and 'irreconcilable'] may conveniently be grouped together. For they seem to refer to family life, and especially to the attitude which some young people adopt towards their parents. The Greek words are all negative in form and begin with the prefix a-, like our English words beginning un- or dis-, as if to stress the tragic absence of qualities which nature alone would lead one to expect. The first two are ‘disobedient to their parents’, whom Scripture says children are to honour and -- at least during their minority -- obey, and ‘ungrateful’, devoid of even an elementary appreciation. The next word is translated ‘unholy’ (anosioi), for hosios normally means ‘devout’ or ‘pious’ towards God. But like the similar adjective eusebēs (‘reverent’) it was sometimes used in classical Greek of filial respect. The context suggests that this may be the allusion here. ‘Inhuman’ (astorgoi) is rendered by JBP ‘utterly lacking in … normal human affections’ and by RSV in Romans 1:31 ‘heartless’, because it is part of the natural, created order that parents and children should love each other. The last word of this group of five is ‘implacable’ (aspondoi) and is translated by AG ‘irreconcilable’. It describes a situation in which people (maybe the reference is still primarily to young people) are so much in revolt that they are not even willing to come to the conference table to negotiate. In an ideal society the relationship of children to their parents should be marked by obedience, gratitude, respect, affection and reasonableness. In ‘times of stress’ all five are lacking.

- John Stott [ref]

ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:2)
They "think they have a right to the services of all men, yet feel no obligation, and consequently no gratitude." [ref]

"Men will be thankless (acharistos). They will refuse to recognize the debt they owe both to God and to men. The strange characteristic of ingratitude is that it is the most hurting of all sins because it is the blindest. ... It is the sign of a man of honour that he pays his debts; and for every man there is a debt to God and there are debts to his fellow-men, which he must remember and repay." [ref]

unholy (2 Timothy 3:2)
This "describes the person who has no fellowship with God and so is living a merely 'secular' life." [ref]

"Holiness is a matter of inner purity (see on 1 Tim 2:8; Tit 1:8), so unholy is probably a broad description of vile thoughts and motives (1 Tim 1:9)." [ref]

"Men will refuse to recognize even the ultimate decencies of life. The Greek word is that men will become anosios. Anosios does not so much mean that men will break the written laws; it means that they will offend against the unwritten laws which are part and parcel of the essence of life. ... The man who is anosios offends against the fundamental decencies of life." [ref]



Lists of virtues and vices appear in all the Pauline letters except 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and Philemon. They are by no means unique to the Pauline corpus since similar lists are found in other writings, and in some cases those in the Pauline letters appear to be adaptations to a greater or lesser extent of these.

The ways the lists are used in the Pauline letters fall into essentially five categories: to depict the depravity of unbelievers, to encourage believers to avoid vices and practice virtues, to expose or denounce the failures of false teachers, to describe what is required of church leaders and to advise a young pastor.

To Depict the Depravity of Unbelievers
The list of vices in Romans 1:29–31 is used to depict the depravity of those (Gentiles) who suppress God’s truth. In 1 Corinthians 5:9–11 Paul, when seeking to correct a misunderstanding arising from his “previous letter,” lists various types of immoral people. He had not meant that his readers should dissociate themselves from all such immoral persons, but only from Christians who lived immorally.

To Encourage Believers to Avoid the Vices and Practice the Virtues
This is the predominant use made of the lists in the Pauline letters. In Romans 13:13 Paul lists those things which believers must lay aside as they seek to live honorably as people of the new day. Various types of wrongdoers are listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 to warn the Corinthians (some of whom were defrauding one another and taking one another to court) that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 Paul lists a variety of moral failures he feared he might still find among the Corinthians when he paid his third visit. In Galatians 5:19–23 Paul reminds his readers that freedom from the Law was no excuse to gratify the desires of the flesh (listed in Gal 5:19–21); it should lead rather to the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit (listed in Gal 5:22–23). The lists of virtues and vices found in the Prison letters (Eph 4:25–32; 5:3–5; Phil 4:8–9; Col 3:5, 8, 12) all function as incentives to urge the readers to have done with the vices listed, and to practice the virtues. Several lists are included in Titus as part of the behavioral instructions to be passed on to various groups within the Christian community on Crete: the older women (Tit 2:3–5); the younger men, for whom Titus is to be a model (Tit 2:6–8); and slaves (Tit 2:9–10). Titus 3:1–3 includes virtues to be pursued by all believers, as well as vices to be shunned which were a part of their behavior before they were saved.

To Expose/Denounce the Failure of the False Teachers
Twice in 1 Timothy lists are included in advice about dealing with false teachers: In 1 Timothy 1:3–11, Timothy is told to curb the activities of certain false teachers who were ignorant of the fact that the Law is not intended for the innocent but the lawless, an illustrative list of whose characteristics is then given (1 Tim 1:9–10); and in 1 Timothy 6:4–5 a list of the vices of the false teachers themselves is provided.

To Describe What Is Required of Church Leaders
In 1 Timothy 6:11 there is a list of the virtues which Timothy, as a servant of God, should pursue, and 2 Timothy 2:22–25 lists the vices which he is to avoid and other virtues which he is to pursue. The virtues required of, and the vices to be avoided by, those appointed as bishops, deacons, elders are set out in 1 Timothy 3:2–7, 8–13; and Titus 1:6–8 respectively.

To Advise a Young Pastor
A list of vices is used to warn Timothy of the behavior he will encounter in the last times (2 Tim 3:2–5), and a list of virtues is included to remind him of the way in which his mentor, Paul, conducted his life (2 Tim 3:10).

- C. G. Kruse [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


2 TIMOTHY 3:3 - Characteristics of the Ungodly (vv. 2-5)

unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good (2 Timothy 3:3)
unloving (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> heartless - ESV | unfeeling - ISV | inhuman - NRSV | without love - NIV

This pertains "to a lack of love or affection for close associates or family -- ‘without normal human affection, without love for others.’" [ref] Hence: "dog-eat-dog" (The Message); "without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman)" (AMP). It is a bond "which is common to every class of animals; consequently, men without it are worse than brutes." [ref]

"In place of the natural love that God has put into men and women and families, today we have a good deal of unnatural love which God has condemned (see Rom. 1:18–27; 1 Cor. 6:9–10). It is confusion, and God will judge it (Rom. 1:28–32)." [ref]

irreconcilable (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> unappeasable - ESV | uncooperative - ISV | unforgiving - NKJV/NIV | implacable - NRSV

This refers to "those who are bound by no promise, held by no engagement, obliged by no oath; persons who readily promise any thing, because they never intend to perform." [ref]

"Their feuds never end. In their camp no libation is ever poured out to signify that those who had been at variance with each other have consented to a truce." [ref]

In a word, they are unforgiving. "Unforgiving people cannot allow for other people's mistakes or weaknesses. They are unyielding, unrelenting, and often are filled with extreme bitterness and anger over their own hurts. They simply refuse to forgive, even if presented with the opportunity. Eventually, they become unable to forgive, even when they might acknowledge the need to do so." [ref]

malicious gossips (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> slanderous - ESV/ISV/NIV | slanderers - HCSB/NRSV/NET

"This in Greek is diaboloi, which contains the root word for 'devil.'" [ref]

This refers to "one who excites contentions and quarrels" [ref], and it "may include the two thoughts 'slanderers' and 'setters at variance,' promoting quarrels in the hope that they may gain from them." [ref] They "[strive] ever to ruin the characters of others." [ref]

without self-control (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> degenerate - ISV | profligates - NRSV

"They have never learned to control themselves; hence, are unrestrained, 'uninhibited,' thoroughly lacking in self-control, devoid of power to check their own drives and impulses." [ref] It is very possible that this person "would like to do what is right but finds temptation too strong for him. He is weak and easily led." [ref]

brutal (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> brutes - NRSV | savage - NET

This word (Greek anēmeros) pertains "to fierceness, in the sense of being wild and untamed -- ‘fierce, vicious, untamed.’" [ref] "They are insensitive and crude, even savage and cruel." [ref] The Christian faith "produces gentleness; the want of it makes men rough, harsh, cruel." [ref

haters of good (2 Timothy 3:3)
=> not loving good - ESV | without love for what is good - HCSB | hateful of what is good - ISV | despisers of good - NKJV | not lovers of the good - NIV | opposed to what is good - NET


2 TIMOTHY 3:4 - Characteristics of the Ungodly (vv. 2-5)

treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4)
treacherous (2 Timothy 3:4)
=> traitors - HCSB/ISV/NKJV

This word (Greek prodotēs) is defined as: "one who delivers without justification a person into the control of someone else -- ‘betrayer, one who betrays.’" [ref] In a word, traitor: "Those who deliver up to an enemy the person who has put his life in their hands." [ref] "In some cases, betrayal of another might enhance a person's standing or enrich him or her; at other times, the betrayal could be a vengeful act." [ref] Such people "cannot be trusted. Neither friendship nor partnership makes any difference to them; they lie and break their promises whenever doing so helps them get their own way." [ref]

reckless (2 Timothy 3:4)
=> headstrong - NKJV | rash - NIV

"Such people act foolishly and carelessly, completely unconcerned about the consequences for themselves or others. The word headstrong includes their determination to have their own way, regardless of advice to the contrary." [ref] While Paul never condemned honest adventure, he did condemn "foolish endeavor." [ref]

Today "we surely live in a reckless age, whether you look at the speed of travel, the waste of money, or the carelessness of human lives." [ref]

conceited (2 Timothy 3:4)
=> swollen with conceit - ESV/NRSV | haughty - NKJV

To be "conceited" (Greek tuphoō) is "to be so arrogant as to be practically demented -- ‘to be insanely arrogant, to be extremely proud, to be very arrogant.’" [ref] Such people "are full of themselves, and empty of all good" [ref], with "an exaggerated opinion of their importance, intelligence, wit, appearance, etc." [ref] They will never willingly seek advice (they "know it all" [ref]) and will flatly, even violently, refuse it if it is offered.

lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4)
This phrase describes well "[t]he self-absorbed, self-gratifying orbit of the ungodly." [ref] They have "put self in the place of God as the center of their affections." [ref] The god whom they love and serve is "pleasure, sensual gratification." [ref]

"No one can deny that we live in a pleasure-mad world; but these pleasures too often are just shallow entertainment and escape; they are not enrichment and true enjoyment." [ref] One source describes well the hypnotic pull of pleasure:

Why is it so tempting to "love pleasure rather than God"?

• Pleasure is something we can control; God cannot be controlled. Most pleasures can be obtained easily; love for God requires effort and sometimes sacrifice.

• Pleasure benefits us now; the benefits of loving God are often in the future.

• Pleasure has a narcotic effect; it takes our minds off ourselves and our problems. Love for God reminds us of our needs and our responsibilities.

• Pleasure cooperates with pride. It makes us feel good when we look good in the eyes of others. To love God we must lay aside our pride and our accomplishments. [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Banishing the False
Some "seekers of truth" avoid the Christian message because its focus on sin is too negative, too guilt-inducing. But the fact of the matter is that Christianity holds the key to breaking free from sin's bondage, while the trendy alternatives only deny that the problem exists. - Philip H. Towner [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:5 - Characteristics of the Ungodly (vv. 2-5)

holding to a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5)
=> having the appearance of godliness - ESV | holding to an outward form of godliness - NRSV | They will maintain the outward appearance of religion - NET

"This may include (a) having a correct creed; (b) a form of worship and external expressions of religion." [ref] This "suggests an outward appearance of religion, not true Christian faith; for they have never experienced the power of God in their lives. Form without force. Religion without reality." [ref]

Today this very much describes the so-called "evangelical" leaders who profess to believe and teach the true Gospel yet simultaneously believe and teach the absolute heresy known as the prosperity gospel. (For more info on this wildly popular poison, see: The Prosperity Gospel & Called To Be Rich?)

its power (2 Timothy 3:5)
Meaning: "its living and renewing influence over the heart and life" [ref]; "the living, regenerating, sanctifying influence of it." [ref]

"These last-day humanists will have a pseudo-religion, but will deny its power -- that is, its supernatural aspects (creation, miracles, second coming, heaven, hell, regeneration). This description would apply specifically to religious humanists, to the liberal theologians who dominate the mainline denominations, to modernists, and to most New Age cultists." [ref]

"Particularly deceitful and dangerous are those religious hypocrites who have a form of godliness but deny the power of God. Every generation has those who regard theology and religion as either philosophy or history, but deny God’s ability to intervene in the affairs of men." [ref]

Paul's list should indict every believer, for we all fall short of God's glory. And so rather than "asking ourselves if we have enough of these ungodly tendencies to qualify [as a heretic], we should view any one of them as an indication of the need to seek God's forgiveness and power for change. Above all, we must not turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior simply because 'it's just human nature.' Christ came to renew human nature, and genuine life in the Spirit [= our obedience] is the demonstration that this renewal is under way." [ref]

Avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:5)
Meaning: "From such turn away - not only do not imitate them, but have no kind of fellowship with them; they are a dangerous people." [ref] It could very well mean that these fasle teachers were to be excommunicated -- that is, banished from the Church. "Although there may appear to be a contradiction between this and the exhortation in [2 Timothy 2:24–26], the point in [2 Timothy 2:24–26] is to seek the repentance of such people. In [2 Timothy 3:5], however, Paul envisions those who remain obstinate and states clearly that there comes a time when such people must be excluded from Christian fellowship." [ref]

This "injunction shews that these corruptions of the Gospel were not merely contemplated as about to arise in the future, but as already a present danger," which is clearly brought out in the next verse. [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:6 - The Ungodly False Teachers (vv. 6-9)

Some background info:

  • Here Paul focuses "on the specific situation in Ephesus. It was from the increasingly large group in society who displayed the preceding characteristics that the false teachers had emerged to plague the church. Their methods were insidious." [ref] These false prophets "specialize in the art of captivating women. They are not successful with all the women, of course. Many women are far too sensible to become the dupes of false prophets. Paul thought very highly of such noble women and made good use of their talents. But every age also has its fickle women, and these are found both in the church and outside of it." [ref]
  • "Because of their cultural background, women in the Ephesian church had no formal religious training. They enjoyed their new freedom to study Christian truths, but their eagerness to learn made them a target for false teachers. At this time in history, there were almost no opportunities for women to be employed. Also, the church at Ephesus had a significantly large group of widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16). Thus, there were many women who may not have been fully occupied during the day. They became targets for the false teachers." [ref]
  • "The fact that Paul described 'silly ["weak-willed," NIV] women' does not suggest that all women are like this, or that men are not vulnerable to the wiles of false teachers. In Paul’s day, women were especially susceptible to this kind of experience since they had a low status in society. Whether men or women, people who fall for this false religious system have the same characteristics." [ref]
  • "Because women were usually uneducated, they were more susceptible than men to false teaching (see comment on 1 Tim 2:11–12). Women’s penchant for switching religions was ridiculed by satirists like Juvenal and offended conservative Romans. Women reportedly converted to Christianity, Judaism, and the cults of Isis, Serapis and other deities far more readily than men; and in the second century A.D. women were attracted to many heretical movements. Because they were less educated in traditional religion and had less social standing to lose, they more quickly changed religiously, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. The false teachers had to get into the homes because they had less access to the women in public (due to married women’s partial segregation in Greek society). After they had gained access to a household, their male or female convert within the household could supply financial and other help to them. Greek and Roman men often thought of women as easily swayed by passion and emotion; many may have been, because of their lack of education and cultural reinforcement. But Paul here addresses particular, not all, women." [ref]

enter into households and captivate (2 Timothy 3:6)
"By trickery, stealth, under false pretences, these insinuate themselves into the homes of people." [ref]

"Captivate" (Greek aichmalōtizō) is a figurative extension of a military term (meaning "to take captive in war"). Here it means "to gain complete control over, either by force or deception -- ‘to get control of.’" [ref]

weak women (2 Timothy 3:6)
The false teachers went after "those they knew were vulnerable and gullible." [ref]

"It is amazing how gullible some women are with religious charlatans who pose as exponents of 'new thought.'" [ref]

"[A] propounder of novel opinions often gains a hearing through having first attracted the attention of women." [ref] This is due to a number of qualities inherent in women -- qualities that are actually good in themselves but which become a weakness when brought under the influence of a false teacher [ref]:

  • women are eager to spread the word to family and friends, particularly when they have discovered something that appears beneficial
  • women are quick to help the less fortunate, particularly when someone is suffering for a supposedly good cause
  • women are social networkers by nature and quick to encourage others
  • women are quick to see a universal need, particularly when an alledged universal solution is at hand

That said, we should be quick to remember that Paul's "concern was not for women in general, but for certain women who were being targeted by the false teachers in Ephesus." [ref]

weighed down with sins (2 Timothy 3:6)
"Weighed down" (Greek sōreuō) literally refers to "heaping up," and here means "to be engaged intensively and extensively in some activity -- ‘to be given over to doing, to be fully engaged in.’" [ref] These women are "given over to" and "fully engaged in" their sins.

"Once more Paul connected false teaching with moral deficiency. Their carnality and immaturity rendered them easy targets for the false teachers (cf. Ephesians 4:14)." [ref] They "are probably afraid of the consequences of their sins, but are not necessarily ashamed of them." [ref]

These women are "laden with sins; and so they readily give an ear to any impostor who will promise them ease of conscience; they seek peace in spiritual dissipation." [ref] [ref]

led on by various impulses (2 Timothy 3:6)
"Impulses" (Greek epithumia) refers to a strong "desire to have what belongs to someone else and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong -- ‘to covet, to lust, evil desires, lust, desire.’" [ref] This would include "passions and desires such as pride, vanity, the love of novelty, or a susceptibility to flattery, so as to make them an easy prey to deceivers."  [ref


Sometimes the past can overwhelm us. Guilt and bad memories can cripple us as we follow Christ. If we don't find complete forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, we may run into these four pitfalls:

  1. We may be attracted to self-help schemes and doctrines that will make us feel better temporarily but not deal with our real problem.
  2. We may dredge up past memories and the shame that went with them; our guilty feelings would then render us both ineffective in Christian service and lacking in confidence.
  3. We may allow low self-respect to make us feel powerless, causing our sinful desires to take control.
  4. We may reject the central teaching of salvation -- that our sins are forgiven and forgotten -- and instead dwell on and attempt to solve our sin problem without Christ's help.
- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:7 - The Ungodly False Teachers (vv. 6-9)

always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7)
These women's

failure to distinguish between the false teaching and the true gospel and respond to the latter was not for lack of trying to learn. Always learning may depict these women as religious aficionados, ever eager to take up the latest spiritual fad. Or it may emphasize the futility of their search for truth: no matter how hard they tried, their hearts were veiled to the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). Probably both elements are present. Sin and lack of discernment neutralized their ability to apprehend God's truth. The importance of the mind, of human decision, in the salvation process surfaces in Paul's term for that process here: literally "to come to the knowledge of the truth." These women may have been victimized by ruthless impostors, but their refusal to come to terms with their own sin made them easy targets and willing victims. [ref]

As other commentators point out:

  • always learning: "always with some new point absorbing them, which seems to them the most important, to the depreciation of what they held and seemed to know before" [ref]; "This is the precise emphasis of modern 'intellectual' educators. They say there is no absolute truth. They also contend that we must continually be searching for truth, but can never really find ultimate truth and should never make such a claim." [ref]
  • the knowledge: "the decisive and stable apprehension, in which they might be grounded and settled against further novelties" [ref] This type of knowledge is "not merely an intellectual understanding of the truth, but a heart submission and appropriation of the same, resulting in salvation." [ref] It is a profoundly sad reality that "[n]othing is more common than for persons to be very busy and active in religion, and even to 'learn' many things about it, who still remain strangers to the saving power of the gospel." [ref
  • These women find "the real gospel truth ... unpalatable. Yet they are avid for learning. The fancied wisdom of 'new truth,' odd and pretentious inner wisdom and all the stock-in-trade of spurious religionists, attract them. So they are ever learning and never learn anything real in the way of truth." [ref]
  • These women were ever learning "[f]rom their false teachers, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, because that teaching never leads to the truth; for, although there was a form of godliness, which gave [the false teachers] a sort of authority to teach, yet, as they denied the power of godliness, they never could bring their votaries to the knowledge of the saving power of Christianity." [ref]
  • "Out of a so-called 'openness to learn' they evidently embraced as a fad whatever new heresy came along. Their problem was that they could not recognize the truth when they saw it." [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 3:8 - The Ungodly False Teachers (vv. 6-9)

Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8)

"[T]hese are believed to be traditional names of the Egyptian magicians mentioned in Exodus 7:11, 22." [ref]

Here Paul "draws a historical parallel between Jannes and Jambres who had opposed Moses centuries previously and ‘these men’ (the false teachers of his own day) who also oppose the truth. Jannes and Jambres were magicians; the false teachers also were ‘impostors’ and ‘deceivers’ [2 Timothy 3:13]. Perhaps they too went in for magic of some kind, for when the Ephesians who had ‘practised magic arts’ were converted, they had brought their books and publicly burned them (Acts 19:18, 19)." [ref]

Here is a good place to take note of one facet of the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the Bible:

Where did Paul get the names “Jannes and Jambres”? From Jewish tradition; from the same source from which Stephen had obtained certain items of his address. This tradition preserved a number of correct facts that were not embodied in the Old Testament record. Certain sections of the genealogies recorded in Matthew and in Luke were obtained from this source. This question presents no difficulty. But this should be added: the Holy Spirit governed the New Testament writers and Stephen (who was filled with the Holy Spirit, Acts 6:5, 8, 15) so that they took only facts from this source and no fictions.

Additional information is given about these sorcerers in Jewish tradition, but whether it is correct or not does not concern us, for Paul did not use it, he recorded only the names. This shows the working of divine inspiration. We should not confuse this with revelation and say that the Spirit gave these names to Paul by direct revelation. In thousands of matters (take the genealogies) the knowledge of these was obtained in the natural way, but inspiration controlled the amount of information to be used, the manner of using it, and guarded against using anything wrong or mistaken. [ref]



Two of Pharaoh’s magicians, who opposed Moses and tried to show that they were as effective as he at working miracles (Ex 7–9). Jewish legend regarded Jannes and Jambres (somewhat improbably) as sons of Balaam, the Midianite prophet of Numbers 22–24. Curiously, the Exodus chapters do not identify them by name. The only biblical reference to them appears in the NT. The apostle Paul saw similarity between Jannes and Jambres and the false teachers of debased intellect who were enemies of the truth in his day (2 Tm 3:6–8).

Much speculation has arisen about the two names. They are apparently Semitic, but their precise derivation is unclear. They are referred to in the Qumran documents and in late Jewish, pagan, and early Christian literature. Variations include “Yohanneh and his brother” (Qumran), “Yohane and Mamre” (Babylonian Talmud), and “Mambres” (the translation in most Latin and some Greek manuscripts of 2 Tm 3:8). The names appear also in the writings of Pliny (first century AD) and of Apuleius and Numenius (both second century), though both names are not always cited.

Origen, an Alexandrian church father, twice referred to an apocryphal work entitled The Book of Jannes and Jambres, suggesting that it was the source of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy. A Latin church document called the Gelasian Decree (fifth or sixth century?) mentions Penitence of Jannes and Jambres, possibly the work mentioned by Origen.

- Tyndale Bible Dictionary [ref]

opposed Moses ... oppose the truth ( 2 Timothy 3:8)
Paul's point is "that [Jannes and Jambres] resisted Moses by attempting to imitate his miracles, thus neutralizing the evidence that he was sent from God. In like manner, the persons here referred to opposed the progress of the gospel by setting up a similar claim to that of the apostles; by pretending to have as much authority as they had; and by thus neutralizing the claims of the true [Christian] religion, and leading off weak-minded persons from the truth. This is often the most dangerous kind of opposition that is made to [the Christian] religion."  [ref]

these (men) also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith (2 Timothy 3:8)
These false teachers have corrupt minds, counterfeit faith, and they oppose the truth. As one commentator explains, they:

  • have corrupt minds -- they are depraved, perverted, and debased. Corrupt minds can lead only to corrupt words and actions.
  • have counterfeit faith -- their "faith" in God is faked; thus their teaching is false. It may be a "form of godliness," but its power, if any, is demonic.
  • oppose the truth -- they are not merely mistaken in their teaching; they are actively opposing God's truth. They are, in a fundamental spiritual way, "in denial" about reality, unable to even perceive the truth about God or themselves. [ref]

Put simply, "Satan is an imitator; what God does, Satan counterfeits. The religious leaders in the last days will have a counterfeit faith, and their purpose is to promote a lie and resist the truth of God’s Word. They deny the authority of the Bible and substitute human wisdom and philosophy. In their attempt to be 'modern,' they deny the reality of sin and people’s need for salvation. 'Reprobate' is the word Paul used to describe them. This means 'tested and found counterfeit.'" [ref]

rejected in regard to the faith (2 Timothy 3:8)
"They had renounced their trust (pistin) in Christ." RWP

"in respect to the Christian faith, or the doctrines of religion, their views could not be approved, and they were not to be regarded as true teachers of religion."  [ref


2 TIMOTHY 3:9 - The Ungodly False Teachers (vv. 6-9)

they will not make further progress (2 Timothy 3:9)
Why? "[B]ecause the hollowness of their pretensions is speedily disclosed." [ref]

Ultimately they will be defeated and their teaching will become extinct. [ref] "The apostle here may be understood as declaring a general truth in regard to error. It often is so plausible at first, that it seems to be true. It wins the hearts of many persons, and leads them astray. It flatters them personally, or it flatters them with the hope of a better state of things in the church and the world. But the time will always come when men will see the folly of it. Error will advance only to a certain point, when it will be “seen” to be falsehood and folly, and when the world will arise and cast it off. In some cases, this point may be slower in being reached than in others; but there “is” a point, beyond which error will not go."  [ref

their folly (2 Timothy 3:9)
Meaning: their "unintelligent and senseless method of proselytizing and upholding their opinions -- and indeed folly of those opinions themselves" [ref]

will be obvious to all (2 Timothy 3:9)
"Truth must prevail in the end, and imposture cannot permanently deceive." [ref]

As one commentator notes well:

The Christian leader will never lack his opponents. There will always be those who have their own twisted ideas of the Christian faith, and who wish to win others to their mistaken beliefs. But of one thing Paul was sure -- the days of the deceivers were numbered. Their falsity would be demonstrated and they would receive their appropriate reward.

The history of the Christian Church teaches us that falsity cannot live. It may flourish for a time, but when it is exposed to the light of truth it is bound to shrivel and die. There is only one test for falsity -- "You will know them by their fruits." The best way to overcome and to banish the false is to live in such a way that the loveliness and the graciousness of the truth is plain for all to see. The defeat of error depends not on skill in controversy but in the demonstration in life of the more excellent way. [ref]

just as Jannes's and Jambres's folly was also (2 Timothy 3:9)
"Paul’s encouraging message is that, as the truth of God prevailed against the tricks of the magicians of Egypt, even so the Gospel will triumph over every kind of error that may arise." [ref]


Wherever people accept the truth of God and begin practicing it, counterfeits soon surface. That’s what Paul found at Ephesus, and what he warns Timothy about (2 Tim. 3:8–9).

He mentions two characters, Jannes and Jambres, whose names mean “he who seduces” and “he who is rebellious.” Neither name is in the Old Testament, but Jewish legend held that these were the names of two Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses’ demand of Pharaoh to free the Israelites. They tried to duplicate the miracles of Moses in an attempt to discredit him. But God showed that Moses’ authority was more powerful (Ex. 7:11–12, 22).

Paul faced a similar experience at Ephesus. For two years he taught the message of Christ there, in a culture heavily steeped in pagan idolatry and occultism. God confirmed his teaching through powerful miracles and the release of many from evil spirits. But local exorcists attempted to duplicate the miracles. Their scheme backfired, however, to the benefit of the gospel (Acts 19:8–20).

Counterfeits to the truth of Christ abound today, as Paul predicted they would. If we effectively communicate the gospel to friends and coworkers, we can virtually count on the fact that competing systems and worldviews will soon appear. That’s why we must “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of,” basing our lives and our witness on the firm foundation of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:14–17).

- The Word in Life Study Bible [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. ( | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe