I’ve probably read the third chapter of 2 Timothy a dozen times in the last week. I keep returning to it, hoping that I will understand Paul’s message to Timothy more clearly than the previous times I read it. I set down tonight to try and breakdown Paul’s commands, his affirmations, and his warnings, but I had to stop with his first command. It’s located in verse five, directly following a long list of characteristics that Paul says people will practice in the last days. They are as follows:
- Men will love many things that are ungodly
- They will love themselves
- They will love money
- They will be boastful
- They will be arrogant
- They will speak evil against God
- They will be disobedient to their parents
- They will ungrateful
- They will be unholy
- They will be unloving
- They will be irreconcilable
- They will be malicious gossips
- They will be without self-control
- They will be brutal
- They will hate that which is good
- They will be treacherous
- They will be reckless
- They will be conceited
- They will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
- They will have the appearance of godliness, but they will deny the power of God
It is after this that Paul offers Timothy his first command: “avoid such men as these.”
This command hits me hard because I (at one time or another) been guilty of each of these sins. Furthermore, there have been times in my life where I continually lived in such ways. Paul’s command to Timothy assumes that he does not live like this. It assumes that his life is one marked by godliness. In the second part of this chapter (verses 10-17), Paul praises Timothy for his faithfulness and encourages him to remember that he receives such faithfulness through the Word of God and sound teaching.
Chapter three is a strong contrast between the ungodly individual and Timothy. This same contrast must be existent in our lives if we hope to “avoid such men.” In the book of Ezekiel, God tells how the angels of the Lord separated the faithful from the unfaithful by placing a blot of ink of the foreheads of the faithful. Scripture continually testifies that separation requires distinction.
When I glance over the list, I have to come to the realization that I cannot “avoid such men” if I myself am one of those men. There is not enough distinction between my life and their lives. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit has reveled this to me.
Your insight and confession are right to the point. Indeed, who measures up? Thankfully, we are saved by grace not measure.
The issue of separation applies to both individual Christians and to the Body of Christ as a whole. Being in the world but not of the world is hard, but without the support of a church that is also in the world but not of it, it is even more difficult. I mention this because the churches of our day are very worldly — in the world and of it.
You might also be interested in http://www.pilgrim-platform.org/1Corinthians/intro.htm
Keep up the good work.