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An Exposition of Second Timothy: 2 Timothy 3: 10-17

By Edward Dennett

      The walk of Paul is a close approximation to that of Christ, and it is on this account that he is often led of the Holy Ghost to refer to himself as an example to others. This is the case here. He has been depicting the moral corruptions that will mark the perilous times of the last days; and then, mindful of the difficulties of those who may desire to be faithful to the Lord, as exemplified in Timothy, he exhibits himself as a pattern to all who may be found in these circumstances: "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me." vv. 10, 11.

      It is of great importance to observe that "my doctrine," or teaching, comes first. His teaching was the truth committed to his trust; and we thus learn that nothing will preserve the saints in a time of abounding error but the possession of divine truth, and also that a walk according to God -- for "manner of life," or conduct, comes next in the list -- can only flow out from a knowledge of the truth. (Compare Col. 1: 9, 10.) Nothing either edifies or sanctifies but the truth (see John 17: 17-19) ; and it lies therefore at the basis of all steadfastness; and it forms, at the same time, a walk worthy of the Lord. Thereon follows "purpose." He will not say "fidelity," for the Lord alone pronounces judgment upon the faithfulness of His servants; but he says "purpose," because, through grace, it was the one desire of his heart to follow the Lord in all circumstances and at all costs. (See Phil. 3: 9-11.)

      Besides this, he can mention faith, for confidence in God distinguished this devoted servant in all his trials. It was this alone that sustained him amid the corruption that seemed to be flowing in from every quarter; and it was this alone also that enabled him to be "long-suffering" in the midst of all that was taking place, and even toward the adversaries of the truth; to exhibit divine "love" in the presence of the evil, even though the more he loved the less he was loved; and also to be 94 patient," to endure as knowing, in spite of all appearances, what would be the final issue of the conflict.

      But there was more to be added. Such teaching and such a life, in the face of the enemy's power, could not escape trials and sorrows; and hence the Apostle recalls to Timothy's mind the "persecutions" and "afflictions" which he had undergone in his service at the places with which Timothy was conversant. (Compare Acts 16: 1, 2, with Acts 13 and 14.) If, however, he recounts his sulterings in his service and testimony, it is but to magnify the Lord's faithfulness; for he adds, "But out of them all the Lord delivered me." There might have been persecutions; but while, like the psalmist, he had to say, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous," he could also unite in his testimony, "But the LORD delivereth him out of them all" Ps. 34: 19).

      The experience of the Apostle was to be no uncommon one; for he says, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." v. 12. It will be perceived that it is not said that all Christians, nor that all who live godly, but it is all that will live godly in Christ Jesus who must be persecuted. Stress is to be laid upon the word "will," for it means that there is a real desire, purpose of heart, even, to live in this manner; and also upon "in Christ Jesus," because it shows that it is the life in which Christ Himself is both magnified and displayed. Those then whose hearts are set, through divine grace, to follow Christ fully, like Caleb of old, to own no authority but His over the heart and conscience, to have no guide but Himself and His Word, and thus to be apart from all that dishonours His name, cannot, in the difficult times of which the Apostle speaks, escape persecutions. If any who call themselves Christians do avoid the hostility of the world or the enmity of Satan, they can only do so at the expense of faithfulness to Christ. May this truly sink deeply into our hearts!

      In contrast with those who will live godly in Christ Jesus, and as giving force to what he has just said, as well as to cast Timothy more completely upon the divine safeguards for such a perilous path, the Apostle says, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." v. 13. These evil men and seducers, it should be well noted, are not men of the world, but those who are inside the professing church, claiming to be Christians, having a form of godliness if they deny the power thereof. This fact once more shows that there is no hope for Christianity, in its public form, in this world -- that there is no prospect of its recovery or purification - but that, on the other hand, it will go from bad to worse until, as we learn elsewhere, assuming its final phase of Laodicea, it Will be spued out of the Lord's mouth as a nauseous and abhorrent thing.

      The power of the enemy is seen in the fact that, while these evil men will deceive, they will themselves be deceived, a foreshadowing of those in the future, after the Church is caught away to be with the Lord, on whom God will send "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." What an immense comfort to remember, while gazing on such a picture, that the Lord will deliver all His faithful ones out of all the afflictions and persecutions which they may have to suffer!

      In the next place, Paul points Timothy to the source of all guidance and strength for his own path, and he thereby teaches how believers in all ages may be fortified and preserved, both from evil and from the power of the enemy, in a difficult day. "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." vv. 14, 15.

      This significant instruction demands the most careful attention. It will at once be observed that the apostolic communications are put on a level with the written Word, the Old Testament scriptures, with which Timothy had been acquainted from a child. (See chapter 1: 5.) These communications have since been committed to writing, and are now found in the epistles of the New Testament; but at that time they were conveyed to the Church through inspired men, such as the Apostle Paul. And it is of the utmost moment to observe that Paul claims for them divine authority, and can thus exhort his child in the faith to continue in the things he had learned and believed, knowing, as he did, from whom he had learned them; that is, in his case, from the Apostle.

      And Timothy's safety amid surrounding corruptions was to be found in continuing in what he had already received. As another has said, "Security rests upon the certainty of the immediate origin of the doctrine which he had received; and upon the Scriptures, received as authentic and inspired documents, which announced the will, the acts, the counsels, and even the nature of God. We abide in that which we have learned, because we know from whom we learned it. The principle is simple and very important. We advance in divine knowledge; but, so far as we are taught of God, we never give up for new opinions that Which we have learned from an immediately divine source, knowing that it is so."

      The Apostle indeed guards Timothy, and all, from two common and pressing dangers: first, from the snare of resting our confidence, of having the foundation of our faith, in anything short of the divine Word; and, second, from being decoyed from off this foundation by Pretended developments, or by the progress of modern thought. We are to abide in that which we have received from the Word of God, and thus to refuse to be carried about with divers and strange doctrines; and for this reason we are to accept nothing short of God's own Word - no human opinions, however venerated, or however commended by the sanctity of their authors -- as the basis of our beliefs. The Apostle John in like manner writes to the babes of the family of God: "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning" (1 John 2: 24). And there never was a day when this lesson was more needed. Confronted as we are on the one side by a boastful and superstitious religion which grounds its claims, traditions, and practices upon the writings of men, and on the other by a daring infidelity which appeals from the Scriptures to human reasonings, we learn that our only safety lies in cleaving to the sure and infallible Word; and that, resting in it, we shall be impregnable against the attacks both of the one and the other. To continue therefore in what we have learned from the Scriptures is our blessed resource in the perilous times in which our lot is cast.

      Coming to details, it will be perceived that the Apostle refers Timothy to two things - the means of preservation from the attacks of the enemy; namely, by continuing in the things he had been certified of by the Apostle; and, second, the certainty and the consequent enjoyment of salvation through the written Word, and faith which is in Christ Jesus. We are always most courageous in the presence of difficulties or enemies when in the personal enjoyment of salvation, and on this account the two things are here combined. (Compare John 20: 21; Eph. 6: 17.)

      The introduction of the Word of God leads the Apostle to state the character and uses of all Scripture. He says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (or, "every good work"). vv. 16, 17. All or every scripture is then divinely inspired, given by the operation of the Holy Ghost through human vessels as a revelation of the divine mind (see 2 Peter 1: 21), and the Apostle in another place claims this inspiration for the words in which he delivered his message: "Which things also we speak," he says, "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which [in those which] the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1 Cor. 2: 13). It is not only therefore that the Scriptures contain, but they also are the truth; and they are thus absolutely infallible and, as such, have attached to them God's authority because they are the expression of His own mind. They are therefore to be received, unquestioningly received, as the voice of the living God to our souls; and thus the only proper attitude to be taken up when they are read is that of Samuel, who said, "Speak, for thy servant heareth."

      The uses of the Scriptures are next given. First and foremost they are "profitable" for teaching, being, as we have seen, the revelation of God's mind for His people; also for "reproof," or conviction, for, inasmuch as they are the divine standard, the character of our conduct or actions is at once discerned by their application; for "correction," since they not only convict of sin and failure, but they also point out the right path for God's people; for "instruction in righteousness," because they contain precepts and exhortations applicable to all the relationships and responsibilities, whether toward God, one another, or toward men in general, in which the believer can possibly be found. The Word of God is thus the only, and the all-sufficient, source of instruction for His people.

      Finally, the object of a true knowledge of the Scriptures is added; it is "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Attention to the extra force of the words "perfect" and "thoroughly furnished" will guide us into the Apostle's meaning. The former -- found only in this place -- might be rendered "complete," "suitable," or "exactly fitted"; the latter, used only twice, might be given as "fully equipped."

      In chapter 2, as we have seen, it is said that if a man shall purge himself out from among the vessels to dishonour he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, "prepared unto all good works." If now these two passages are combined, their teaching will be the more clearly seen. The preparation unto every good work then, in chapter 2, refers rather to the requisite personal state for service; while that in the scripture before us points out that divine knowledge, and divine knowledge gleaned from the Scriptures is also necessary to make the man of God suitable for service, to furnish or equip him for every good work.

      In chapter 2 we learn that the vessel must be sanctified, and in chapter 3 that, so far from being empty, it must be filled with the knowledge of the Word of God, if it would be in a condition to be used in the Master's service. If therefore the man of God would be "complete," he must resort to the Scriptures, and, as Timothy was exhorted in the first epistle, "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all"; for the only weapon that can be used in service and conflict is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

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See Also:
   2 Timothy 1: 1-5
   2 Timothy 1: 6,7
   2 Timothy 1: 8-11
   2 Timothy 1: 12-18
   2 Timothy 2: 1-7
   2 Timothy 2: 8-13
   2 Timothy 2: 14-19
   2 Timothy 2: 20-26
   2 Timothy 3: 1-9
   2 Timothy 3: 10-17
   2 Timothy 4: 1-8
   2 Timothy 4: 9-22


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