The second form of encouragement is that of Timothy’s earlier teaching he had received. This is why Paul tells Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (vv. 14-15).

You know we have a phrase that says misery loves company. Well we can also say that unbelief loves company. People aren’t happy just refusing to believe all by themselves. They want other people to disbelieve along with them. Some of the greatest zealots for missionary effort, through books, magazines, and from the pulpit, are those who would seek to win Christian or nominally Christian people away from any kind of true faith to this kind of empty religion. Such a religion allows you to do what you please and go to hell in your own way, but gives a veneer of religion to keep you from realizing what is happening while you do it.

The second part of this section is the one I’ve already mentioned about having a form of godliness but denying its power. This refers to those who practice the externals of religion, but who show no evidence of being born again. How many people are there like that? Sometimes that even seems to characterize churches.

The interesting thing about these days as Paul describes them to Timothy is that they refer in this case not so much to the secular world as to the secular church. We get this from verse 5, where Paul writes of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Since this cannot be said of the world, which is ungodly, Paul must therefore be talking about people in the church who have a form of godliness—that is, religious people who go through all the rites of religion—but whose lives are characterized by the very kind of things he spells out here. This is the kind of troubling situation Timothy is going to be facing in the future. 

Paul realizes that when his ministry is over, the work to be done in the midst of a very ungodly world is being left in the hands of Timothy. Paul considers the world and sees that it’s ungodly, and he also considers the situation in the church and he sees the difficulties that are present, and how the ungodliness of the world is imposing upon the church. As a result, he observes that the church is becoming increasingly secular and people who used to stand for the faith are dropping away.