2 Timothy 3:14-4:5


2 Timothy is Paul's final word to Timothy. From chapter 4:9 to 22 we have Paul's final personal words and greetings. In the text before us we have Paul's last instructions and final charge. Every pastor ought study these words carefully. In these words God tells the pastor how he should conduct his ministry. And the laymen should hear a sermon on this text so that they know what to expect of their pastor. The work of a pastor would be more pleasant if people would seriously consider what God expects of the pastor.

In the words previous to our text, 3:1-9, Paul describes the character and conduct of people in the last days. Read these verses first. They describe much of what we are witnessing in the world today. It is not a pleasant picture.

Then, in verses 10-12, Paul tells Timothy how and in what respects he has been a model for Timothy. There is utter contrast between verses 12 and 13. In the NASB these verses read as follows: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." This is where our text begins.

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,

"But as for you" is emphatic. Paul is emphatically implying that Timothy is not an evil man or an impostor. He has confidence in that fact.

Not only has Timothy learned but he is also convinced of the truth of what he has learned. That is very important. Not all learning is of conviction. Timothy did not learn only from Paul, but also from Lois and Eunice.

Kretzmann: Timothy was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Paul was a teacher sent from God.

That is true, of course, but his teaching came also from his mother and grandmother.

Guthrie: The Christian leader must stand firm on what he knows of the truth . . . The character of teachers closely reflects the character of what is taught . . . . He may rest assured that he has not himself been deceived.
Lenski: Here the main point is the fact that the source of these things makes them reliable and assured. . . . Timothy learned these things from his mother and his grandmother, but the next clause brings out the fact that not these beloved person, but 'the sacred letters' were the authority that made Timothy so certain of 'these things.'

2 Timothy 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

"And you remember that . . . "

Rienecker: The Jewish parents' duty was to teach their children the law when in their fifth year.

"The holy Scriptures" is "the sacred writings." This is the name of the Old Testament Scriptures. This passage is very clear on the doctrine of the means of grace. Unmistakably the Scriptures are able to make a person wise. For what purpose? For the purpose of salvation. How does that come to a person? Through faith. This is in exclusive particle. It eliminates the works and worthiness of a person. What kind of faith? The faith in Christ Jesus. The Old Testament clearly contains Gospel. the Old Testament makes people wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Kretzmann: Timothy's grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, had taken special care to have the boy learn these writings, as was the custom among the faithful Jews in those days . . . . The apostle expressed himself in such a manner as to imply that Timothy -- and every true Christian -- use the Gospel continually. The words 'to make wise' is a grand expression.

That is true. Note that Paul says "your salvation and that of others." John 5:39 is a good and clear parallel passage on this verse. By the way, one never hears today of Jews who give their children conviction from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah Who is to come. For the truly believing Jew at Christ's time this caused no difficulty at all.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

The Revised Version of 1901 translated these words: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable." RSV lists this as an alternate reading in a footnote. the NEB reads: "Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth." But all our versions have essentially what is found in NKJV: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God."

This means that Scripture interprets Scripture. by that principle this phrase must mean both Testaments. for example, in John 14-16 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and teach them all truth. Look at 2 Peter 1:19-21. One would have to deny Scripture itself to limit this expression to the Old Testament.

"God-breathed" is the correct translation.

Rienecker: The rabbinical teaching was that the Spirit of God rested on and in the prophets and spoke through them so that their words did not come from themselves, but from the mouth of God and they spoke and wrote in the Holy Spirit. The early church was in entire agreement with this view.

"God-breathed" describes Scripture as to its nature. "Useful" describes its purpose.

In the early 1970s some in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod tried to obscure this by saying that the "therefore" should be changed to "namely." They did this in an attempt to deny the inspiration of Scripture. According to them the Bible is inspired only as to its purpose, not as to its nature. Their whole doctrine of Scripture turned on the translation of this one small word

"For the purpose" should really be read with each noun. "For the purpose of teaching; for the purpose of showing what is wrong; for the purpose of setting people straight; for the purpose of training in right living." The first and last of these four lean toward the Gospel, the second and third lean toward the Law.

There can be no righteousness of life until the individual knows the righteousness of faith, the imputed righteousness of God by faith.

Kretzmann: God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of the intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself . . . . Because false doctrine persists in rearing it head, therefore it is necessary that the Christian, and especially the teacher, be able to point out the falseness of all claims of that kinds, from clear texts of the Bible itself.
Formula of Concord, Tappert 506,14: In order to preserve the pure doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting, and God-pleasing concord within the church, it is essential not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine correctly, but also to accuse the adversaries who teach otherwise, 1 Timothy 3:9; Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:24; 3:16.
Lock: A different purpose, to give men hope, is ascribed to Scripture in Romans 15:4. Here stress is only laid on such as affect the teacher's task in face of misleading teaching.
Lenski is worth reading here. He was a stalwart defender of the doctrine of inspiration.

2 Timothy 3:17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This is the intended purpose. It goes back to all four of the nouns in the previous verse. "Equipped" is variously translated: "complete, ready, adequate, fully qualified, efficient, capable."

Who is meant by "the man of God?" Some feel that only the pastor is meant. but the expression occurs in Paul only twice, see 1 Timothy 6:11, and "man" does not necessarily mean "man." It can and often does mean "person." Contextually here this expression must mean every Christian. The Scriptures equip every Christian, not only the pastors.

Lenski: There is nothing wanting in the Christian's outfit for work, in his equipment for what God expects him to do . . . The value of Paul's famous sentence is beyond question.

We think here of clear parallel passages such as Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 1:3; John 15:5.

2 Timothy 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:

There is no break of thought from chapter 3. "I solemnly charge," these are Paul's final words of instruction to Timothy and they are serious. "In the presence of God and Christ Jesus Who is about to judge living and dead" are strong words. Timothy is to do his work in view of the final judgment. At all times he is to be conscious of what Christ might say. May it be "well done" and not "depart from Me."

Christ's appearing will be for all people. They will either be accepted or rejected. His Kingdom is only for His own. It denotes His eternal reign over them. On this verse look at 1 Timothy 5:21. The words are very similar.

Guthrie: Such future glories could not fail to inspire Timothy to present fortitude.
Lenski: Paul turns to the crown that he himself has almost attained. . . . Paul is not passing into the shadow, but into the glory . . . . This is Paul's last most earnest and solemn testimony to Timothy . . . . Paul intensifies his testimony to the utmost. . . . What glory it will be for Timothy and for Paul to be acknowledged by Christ at his epiphany!
Kretzmann: The office with the greatest responsibilities in the world is that of a Christian pastor . . . . While Christ's life, ministry, suffering, and death was according to His humiliation, the exercise of His office as Judge of the world will be in the form of the exalted Son of Man, of the great King of kings and Lord of lords.

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction.

Note five aorist imperative verb forms. Probably the best explanation is that each denotes deliberate and forthright action.

The first is "herald the Word." This appears on the seal of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. "Word" here surely includes both Law and Gospel.

The next imperative: "Stick to it whether you or your hearers feel like it or not."

The next is "Convict of sin."

Rienecker: It is so to rebuke another, with such effectual telling of the victorious arms of the truth, as to bring one, if not always a confession, yet at least to a conviction of sin.

"The convict" and "to rebuke" are closely related. The fact that we have these synonyms makes clear the fact that pastor must call sin to the attention of their hearers.

"To exhort" means giving spiritual advice wherever necessary.

How is the pastor to do these five things? First he is to be patient, waiting for the repentance of the sinner. He is to do it "with all kinds of, all sorts of, patience and teaching." There are many applications of patience and teaching.

Guthrie: The five exhortations contained in this verse are as applicable to all Christian ministers as to Timothy . . . . Paraphrased: 'Be at your task whether men will listen or not.' . . . To rebuke without instruction is to leave the root cause of error untouched.

Look at Acts 20:31 on this verse.

Kretzmann: All other considerations are secondary in comparison with that one great necessity that the Word, the one Word of eternal truth, be preached. . . The preaching of the Word of God's grace must always remain the foremost function of the Christian preacher and pastor.
Lock: St. Paul's treatment of the offender at Corinth is a good illustration of this combination, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

"For" is an explanation. This is a new paragraph. Verses 3 and 4 show why verse 2 is necessary. There is not doubting that the time will come.

"Sound" doctrine is "healthy" doctrine. Biblical teaching is healthy. All others, so far as salvation and Christian living are concerned, are unhealthy.

"Will not put up with" is "will not endure." This means, practically, that they will reject.

"Will gather around" means that apostates run from one teacher to another. This tells us two things: their teachers cannot teach anything, and, they themselves have no convictions.

"Itching ears" is very descriptive. NASB has: "wanting to have their ears tickled."

Rienecker: It is used figuratively of curiosity that looks for interesting and spicy bits of information. This itching is relieved by the messages of the new teachers.
Guthrie: The apostle is looking ahead to times even less favorable than his own . . . These future conditions were already present in germ.
Lenski: Paul is speaking of a condition that will appear in the churches. Some churches will do what he here foretells; we have them today.

That is true. Look about you. Churches ever want new doctrines: ordination of women, approval of homosexuality, liberation theology, a new hermeneutic, social gospel, etc, etc.

Bengel: Variety delights those who have itching ears.
Kretzmann: People do not care for wholesome doctrine . . . They are impatient with the 'old-time' religion . . . Not satisfied with one strange preacher, they will be on the lookout for many, as the notion strikes them. They run from one church, from one evangelist, from one exhorter to another.

This verse and the next do not paint a pretty picture.

2 Timothy 4:4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Notice the contrast: "from the Truth, to the myths." Contextually, "myths" are all those false doctrines which only mislead people. Sinful human nature would rather have chaff than wheat, temporal enjoyment than eternal security, false doctrine than true doctrine. Underlying this verse is the viciousness of the nature of fallen human beings. And people, despite all their supposed synergism, cannot ever pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This verse is speaking about the deliberate refusal to hear the truth, Law and Gospel.

Guthrie called it a "wandering into counterfeits with no awareness that truth has been left behind." On foolish human inventions Lenski notes 1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7; Titus 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16.

Bengel: Man's ear does not brook teachers who oppose the lusts of the heart.
Kretzmann: Their ears lose the ability to enjoy proper instruction; they are so absolutely lost in the maze of their various errors that they are unable to find their way back to the truth.

Do not be surprised by such things. Paul foretold it.

2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Our text ends as it began. Look at 3:14. Another emphatic "you." There should be a contrast with the preceding. This time, however, the imperative is present tense: "Keep on being sober," which implies that he already is sober. "Sober" implies being free from excitement about novelties, self-controlled, vigilant. Consider also coolness and presence of mind.

Lenski: 'Be sober' denotes the clarity of mind and of sound judgment that is not blinded and carried away by follies, fables, and morbid opinions.

"Suffer evil, do the work of an evangelist, carry your ministry through to the end." Suffering heads the list. The word for "evangelist" here is a general one. It means "one who preaches the Gospel."

The final clause needs no explanation. When the times are the worst we must put forth the most strenuous efforts.

These are Paul's final admonitions to Timothy.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 109-113. Used with permission.

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