Online Bible Commentary
Vices of False Teachers
2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)
In this passage Paul is concluding his teachings in this letter on false teachers. He is writing to Timothy, who is helping the house churches of Ephesus. They have been infiltrated by false teachers, and Timothy has been asked to help remedy this situation.
Paul calls on Timothy to remember the challenges of the “last days” (v.1). The term “last days” refers to the church age. Paul and Timothy were living in the early days of the church age, the first century. This age will come to a conclusion with the return of Christ. “There will be terrible times” during the church age. There were terrible times in the first century, and there are now, but there also are more to follow. The closer we get to the return of Christ, the more terrible the times will become.
The cause of these terrible times is that people are “lovers of themselves” (v. 2). This is why Paul lists this first, prior to his list of vices. We see this in our elections. People tend to vote for candidates that promise the most benefits for themselves, regardless if those benefits are for the good of God.
Paul lists sixteen vices that sprout from people being “lovers of themselves” (vv. 2b-4a). He summarizes the list by defining “lovers of themselves”. These people are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (v. 4b). They are lovers of themselves, rather than lovers of God. They are only looking out for their own best interests. They do not have the mind of Christ. They do not think like Christ, and they do not see the world like Christ. They are only concerned with themselves. They are not concerned with the kingdom of God.
Paul is writing this to Timothy so that he would understand the mindset of the false teachers. The false teachers of Paul’s day, and those of today, were only interested in themselves. They twisted the Gospel to benefit themselves. Their motivation was for financial gain, even though they claimed to be righting a wrong, correcting the teachings of Paul. Paul described the false teachers as men “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1Timothy 5:5). They appealed to the church to follow their teachings, instead of Paul’s, knowing that the church would give to them, instead of to Paul. Their plan worked, as evidenced by Paul’s admission “you know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Timothy 1:15).
The false teachers of today also are motivated by financial gain. They seek the extensive wealth controlled by those of the homosexual movement: homosexuals and their supporters. They have the backing of Hollywood, the arts, humanists, corporate America, and our own federal government. The false teachers of today are those churches that embrace homosexuality, even though the Bible clearly teaches that it is sin.
They are false teachers because they embrace sin. I could site the voluminous verses, both Old and New Testament, that define homosexuality as sin, but, quite frankly, I have done that many times in these commentaries, to the extent of being tired of doing so. Those churches that embrace homosexuality know the Bible, but have chosen to ignore or twist Scripture on that subject. Reminding them is not helpful, because these false teachers are educated on the subject, but instead consciously choose not to follow the teachings of the Lord. They do so to the eternal detriment of themselves, and of those whom they deceive.
False teachers have “a form of godliness but denying its power” (v. 5a). Paul is saying that they follow religious ceremony, “a form of godliness”. It is “a” form of godliness, but not “the” form of godliness, that is taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their religious ceremonies may make people feel good about themselves, but they and their followers are robbed of the power of God. They are deceived by the false teachers and follow a different Gospel, not Paul’s gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul warns Timothy, and all Christians, to “have nothing to do” with false teachers (v. 5b). As in the case of all sin, we are to run from it. If you are a member of such churches, you are complicit in their sin if you continue to be a part of those churches that embrace homosexuality. When you support false teachers with your attendance, or your money, you are contributing to the spread of this false teaching. You are doing the work of Satan, not the work of the Lord. You are a lover of yourself, not God. Read again the sixteen vises of verses two through four. You have taken ownership of those vices.