In the passage we studied last week, Paul described for Timothy — and for us — what it will be like in these, the last days in which we’re living. Do you remember? The last days are not some far off time in the future, because the last days are today. We’re living in the last days, because the last days began when Christ came into the world and suffered and died on the cross for sinners before rising from the dead. And the last days will continue until he comes again. So, we’re living in the last days. And Paul tells us that there will be terrible times in the last days. And there will be terrible times in the last days because of what people will be like.
And Paul described what people will be like; and his description of them began with people being lovers of themselves. And Paul’s description of them ended with them being lovers of pleasure. Instead of being lovers of God — and we should all love God; the first and greatest commandment is to love him with all of our being — instead of being lovers of God, they are lovers of themselves and their own pleasures.
And Paul added that the people he was describing have a form of godliness, but they deny its power. So, they may appear to be people who are devoted to God, but they haven’t been transformed by the all-powerful Spirit of God. They may appear to be devoted to God, but they don’t have the real thing. And among that group of people, there’s a smaller subset of people who are false teachers, who worm their way into homes and they lead other people away from the truth. So, that’s what we can expect in these, the last days in which we’re living.
Verses 10 to 13
Today’s passage can be divided into two parts: verses 10 to 13 and verses 14 to 17. The first part begins with the words, ‘You, however….’ And the word ‘however’ means he’s drawing a contrast with what has gone before. And the second part begins with the words, ‘But as for you….’ And the word ‘But’ means he’s drawing a contrast with what has gone before. So, in these two parts he’s drawing two contrasts. In the first, he’s drawing a contrast between Timothy and himself on one side and, on the other side, the people in the last days who have a form of godliness, but who deny its power and who worm their way into homes and lead people away from the truth. And by drawing this contrast, Paul is challenging Timothy to follow him instead of following them.
And, of course, it’s important whom we follow, isn’t it? There are some people who will only lead us astray if we follow them, while there are others who will lead us in the right way if we follow them. So, Paul is saying, you know about them and how they will only lead you astray; and you know about me and how I’m the one you should follow. That’s what Paul is saying. And while who we follow is important for all of us, it was vitally important for Timothy, because Paul was in prison and he was due to be executed. And when he and the other apostles departed from this life, it would be up to ministers like Timothy to guard the gospel and to proclaim the gospel. So Paul is saying, you know about them and you know about me. Don’t follow them, but follow me.
And he mentions nine things about himself which Timothy already knows about and which he needs to emulate. And it begins with his teaching. Wherever Paul went, he taught about the Saviour. In his letters, he taught about the Saviour. Ever since Paul met the Risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, the whole of his life had been devoted to teaching people about the Saviour. And Timothy knows about his teaching. He’s been learning from Paul about the Saviour and about God’s will for our salvation. So, he knows these things. And, of course, Paul wants Timothy, not only to know these things, but to teach these things to the people in Ephesus.
Paul also refers to his way of life. Timothy has seen how Paul conducted himself. He has seen how Paul lived and how he endeavoured to walk in the ways of the Lord. Timothy knows how Paul has conducted himself; and now he must follow Paul’s example, so that he need not be ashamed, because, like Paul, he has always tried to do God’s will here on earth.
Paul then refers to his purpose. He doesn’t say here what the purpose of his life was, but we know what it was, don’t we? From the things he did and from what he said we know that his aim in life was to serve God. Paul served God as an apostle of Christ Jesus and he therefore went about teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and planting and building up churches. Timothy knew what Paul’s purpose was and he was to have the same aim in life. He was to make it his aim in life to serve God. And, in particular, he was to serve God as the minister of the church in Ephesus. And all of us should make it our aim in life to serve God. We serve him in different ways, of course, because we all have different callings and gifts. But we’re all to serve him in our own way and we’re to bring glory and honour to him in all we do and say. Our chief end in life, the Catechism says, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Glorify God in what you say and do each day. That’s to be your purpose in life.
Paul then mentions faith, patience and love. Timothy knew all about Paul’s faith and how he trusted in Christ for salvation and how he trusted his Heavenly Father for all things. He knew about Paul’s patience, which perhaps refers here to his willingness not to take shortcuts in the ministry, but to wait patiently, like a farmer, for the fruit of his ministry to appear in God’s good time. And no doubt it also meant he was prepared to put up patiently with opposition. And Timothy also knew about Paul’s love. And it was because of his love for God and his love for other people, that Paul was prepared to put up with all kinds of hardships in the ministry and to keep preaching the good news of the gospel. Timothy knew these things about Paul; and he must follow Paul’s example.
Then Paul mentions his endurance and his persecutions and his sufferings. So, he was prepared to endure all kinds of troubles and trials in the ministry and opposition from those who do not believe. And he mentions his persecutions and how he suffered for the sake of the gospel. And he mentions his suffering. And in different places in his letters, Paul has listed for us the things he suffered as an apostle. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 11, he wrote:
 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
And he now mentions three places where he was persecuted for the gospel. You can read in Acts 13 about his time in Antioch, where unbelieving Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and had them expelled from the city. You can read in Acts 14 about his time in Iconium, where it tells us that the unbelieving Jews poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against them. And those who did not believe plotted together to stone Paul and Barnabas. And you can also read in Acts 14 about how unbelievers from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra, where they stoned him and left him for dead.
Timothy, you know how this happened to me. But you also know — don’t you? — that the Lord rescued me. Many times Paul was called to suffer for the gospel, but every time the Lord rescued him. He may have been stoned and beaten and whipped and shipwrecked and all the other things he suffered, but again and again God brought him through each trial.
So, Timothy knew all about Paul’s endurance and persecutions and sufferings. He knew all about those things. And he also knew that God is faithful and can be relied upon to help his people who are suffering. And Paul wanted to ensure that Timothy was prepared to follow Paul’s example and to endure all of these things for the sake of the gospel.
And look now at what he says in verse 12. Paul writes:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
The imposters are probably false teachers who pretend to teach the truth, when in fact they’re leading people away from the truth. And therefore they themselves are deceived; and, being deceived, they only deceive other people by teaching them lies.
So, in these, the last days in which we’re living, there will be those who want to live a godly life. They are the Christians, all those who are united with Christ through faith. And just as Christ our Saviour suffered while he was on the earth, so his people will suffer while we remain on the earth. And we know that in countries all around the world, believers are suffering persecution because of their faith in the Saviour. On Wednesday evening, I reported the case of one man in Pakistan who was recently shot and killed because he was a minister of a church. And several members of his family had been killed in 2013 in an attack on a church that killed 127 people. And we regularly hear about believers who are in prison for their faith; and about those who can only meet for worship in secret, because if the authorities find out about them, they’ll come and break up the meeting with force. In some places churches are demolished and, in other places, believers lose their jobs or face other kinds of discrimination from those who do not believe. And even in our own country, we’re seeing a change taking place and an impatience with the things we believe, because what we believe is very different from what an unbelieving world believes. And in our schools and colleges and in our workplaces, and perhaps even in your own home, you may be despised because of your commitment to Christ and to the truth of his word. And because you know this is true, you may be tempted to remain quiet about what you believe, because you know it will only make people angry.
And it will only get worse, won’t it? It will only get worse because, as Paul tells us here, evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse. Left to their own devices, evil people and imposters don’t go from bad to better. No, left to their own devices, and without the power of God in their lives to change them, they only go from bad to worse. And if they go from bad to worse, then things will go from bad to worse for believers.
And Paul is saying to Timothy: You know this. You know this. But he’s challenging, Timothy, isn’t he? He’s challenging Timothy to follow him. Believe what I teach. Live the way I live. Have the same purpose that I have. Have the same faith and patience and love as I have. Be prepared to endure as I’ve endured; and to be persecuted as I’ve been persecuted; and to suffer as I’ve suffered. Follow my example. And why must Timothy follow Paul’s example? Because evil men and imposters will only go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. They will only lead people astray. But you know the truth, Timothy. I’ve passed the true gospel message to you. And you’re to keep it safe and intact. And you’re to teach it and preach it to others so that they will come to know the truth and will trust in the Saviour and receive forgiveness from God and the free gift of eternal life.
You may not be a pastor or preacher like Timothy, but it’s still important whom you follow. The world is full of people with a form of godliness, but who deny its power. The world is full of people who appear to be devoted to God, but who don’t have the real thing. And among them are those who worm their way into homes and who lead people astray from the truth. Instead of following such people, follow Paul. Believe what he teaches about the Saviour. Live the way he lived, doing the will of God. Have the same purpose as he had, which is to serve God every day. Have the same faith and patience and love. And since everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, be prepared to endure all things for Christ and to face persecution for Christ and to suffer all things for Christ. Those who follow the false teachers will be led astray from the Saviour. But those who follow Paul will be led to the Saviour who gives forgiveness and eternal life to all who trust in him.
Verses 14 to 17
So, Paul drew a contrast in the first part of today’s passage between Timothy and himself on one side and, on the other side, those who have a form of godliness, but who deny its power, and who worm their way into homes and lead people astray. In the second part of today’s passage, he draws a contrast between Timothy and the evil men and imposters he mentioned in verse 13 who go from bad to worse and who deceive and who are themselves deceived. So, they are deceived. They don’t know the truth. They don’t know the truth about Jesus Christ and our salvation. But what does Timothy know? He knows the Holy Scriptures. Do you see that in verse 15? He’s known the Holy Scriptures from infancy. And Paul refers in verse 14 to those from whom he learned it. He doesn’t refer to these people by name, but presumably Paul has in mind Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. because Paul mentioned them back in verse 5 of chapter 1, where he referred to their faith in Christ. And, of course, there would have been other people who taught Timothy the Holy Scriptures, including Paul himself.
And now Paul wants Timothy to continue in what he has learned. That’s in verse 14. So, evil men and imposters are deceived. But you, Timothy, you know the truth. And you must continue to in. Remain in it. Abide in it. Don’t deviate from it. And Paul adds that Timothy has become convinced of it. So, a child grows up in a Christian home. Her parents read her Bible stories and tell her about the Saviour. They bring her to church where she again hears the same good news about Christ. She learns the Holy Scriptures, absorbing all the Bible stories and what it says about salvation. And as she grows up and continues to hear these things, and as the Holy Spirit works in her heart, she becomes convinced that everything she has heard and read for herself in the Bible is true. She’s learned it and she’s convinced it’s true. Perhaps something similar happened to Timothy. And Paul wants him to continue in what he has learned from the Scriptures and has become convinced of.
And why should he continue in it? Why should he continue to know and believe the Scriptures? The answer is in the second half of verse 15 where Paul tells Timothy — and us — that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. We learn from the Bible what we need to know and to do in order to receive salvation. They tell us about Christ the Saviour. They tell us that he gave up his life to pay for our sins and he shed his blood to cleanse us. They tell us he was raised from the dead and he promises forgiveness and eternal life to everyone who repents and believes in him.
Of course, when Paul wrote these words about the Holy Scriptures, he was referring to the Old Testament. He was referring to the Old Testament, because the New Testament hadn’t yet been written. But even in the Old Testament God revealed that he was going to send the Saviour into the world to suffer and die in place of his people and for their salvation. It’s all there in the Old Testament and it’s all there in the New Testament too.
And we know the Scriptures are true, because they have come from God. That is, they are God-breathed. Do you see that in verse 16? It is God-breathed. It is breathed out by God. It’s a fitting image, isn’t it? When we speak, we breathe out so that if you put your hand over your mouth when you’re speaking, you can feel your breath against your skin. And by saying that the Scriptures are God-breathed, Paul is saying that he speaks to us by his word. It comes from him and it’s his word to us.
And notice that he says that all Scripture is God-breathed. There are some false teachers who say that only parts of the Bible are from God and the rest of it has been made up by humans. But Paul makes clear for us that all of it is from God: every word, every verse, every chapter and every book is from God. It’s all from God. And since it’s all from God, we ought to receive it and believe it and obey it, because it is the word of God. If it were only the word of a man, we could ignore it. But since it’s the word of God, since it’s breathed out by him, then we must accept it.
And it’s useful. Do you see that? It’s useful. God uses his word to teach us. He uses his word to rebuke us. He uses his word to correct us. He uses his word to train us. So, he uses his word to teach us the truth; and by his word he comes to us and teaches us about himself and about what he has done to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life in his presence. He uses his word to rebuke us when we go astray; and by his word he comes to us to convict us of our sin. And he uses his word to correct us; and by his word he comes to us and he says to us that this is the way we should go. And he uses his word to train us in righteousness; and by his word he comes to us and he teaches us the right way to live. Every time we open the Bible and read it, God is speaking to us.
And since the Holy Scriptures are so useful, then the man of God is thoroughly equipped for every good work. The phrase ‘man of God’ is a title in the Bible which is applied to men like Moses and Samuel and David and Elijah and Elisha. They were all prophets, or we might say preachers, sent by God to declare God’s word to God’s people. And so, every preacher, sent by God to minister to his people, is thoroughly equipped for the work. And they are thoroughly equipped for the work because they have the Holy Scriptures which are useful for teaching and for rebuking and for correcting and for training the people and they make us wise for salvation.
And this is why so much of our services on Sunday are taken up with the reading and preaching of God’s word. That’s why we study God’s word at the midweek. That’s why we teach the Bible at every opportunity. That’s why we should read it and study it at home in private and with our families. That’s why we must always rely on the Bible to guide us in what we do as a church. In these, the last days in which we’re living, there are many who will lead us astray. But God has given us the Holy Scriptures, which is his word to us. And he comes to you in his word and he speaks to you and he tells you everything you need to know for salvation.