Theme: Continue in What You Have Learned
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to continue in those things we have learned from Scripture, in order to live a holy life.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:1-17
In the third part of this first section (vv. 1-9) we see how these people with only a mere form of godliness nevertheless display a great zeal. As Paul writes in verses 6-9,
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
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.
I think as Paul reflected on that he may have wondered how Timothy is going to stand his ground against this, and how the church is going to be strong with these kinds of problems from within. But the answer to all this is the one that Paul himself gives at the beginning of verse 14, where he tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned. Isn’t it interesting that he tells him to continue? Here he is faced with this great threat, this great undermining of true religion, this great outburst of immorality, this propagandizing effort of unbelievers. Yet he does not say to Timothy, as we might expect, that a difficult situation like this calls for the utmost ingenuity on Timothy’s part. He does not tell Timothy to find out what people are thinking, and then try to focus on those things, even if it means adjusting the gospel’s message to reach them. He doesn’t tell Timothy to develop new methods to counter the threats and take advantage of the opportunities that come. Of course, Paul does nothing of the sort. Instead, he tells Timothy to continue in what he is doing and in what he has been taught. The worst thing Timothy could do is change his thinking and approach because of the problems that are present and will get worse.
Not only does Paul give Timothy these instructions about how to handle the problems when they come, but he also gives him encouragements to carry on. We need these encouragements in our service of the Lord as well. One piece of encouragement Paul gives is from his own life. In verses 10 and the first part of 11 Paul writes, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” Paul’s life is one of stark contrast with the people he described at the beginning of this chapter, those who are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and other things that are to be avoided. In verse 11, after mentioning the persecutions Paul endured in various places, he then said that the Lord delivered him from all these things.
But it is not only Timothy who needed this encouragement; we need it, too. We live in a world that always wants to press something new upon us to get us to distract us from the gospel, or to change the gospel from what God says it is. It wants us to turn away from what we’ve been taught. When this kind of temptation comes, we need to remember that others have gone before us and remained faithful to the Lord by his grace.
In my own experience, I think that if there was one thing that got me through seminary it was the example of the godly men whom God had placed in my life before I went. And I am sure many others could give a similar testimony to the blessing of having a godly role model or influence, particularly during challenging or difficult experiences when there might be a temptation to compromise our beliefs or conduct in some way.
This is what Paul is talking about. He wants us to remember those who have gone before us when we’re threatened to give up or when there is pressure to compromise our Christian convictions. The world will look glamorous at times, but if you look below the surface of its glamour you will find that it is missing the peace, contentment, and joy that can only come by being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In response to the troubling situation in the church that faces Timothy, what might we have expected Paul to say to him? Instead, what does Paul tell Timothy to do?
What is the first piece of encouragement Paul gives to Timothy? Why is this encouraging?
Application: Who has been a godly influence in your life? Thank the Lord for them, and then encourage them by telling them how they have been a blessing to you.
Key Point: The world will look glamorous at times, but if you look below the surface of its glamour you will find that it is missing the peace, contentment, and joy that can only come by being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.