Today’s passage from 2 Timothy 3 finds us right where we live—in the “last days.” These will be times with a problem, as well as, a pathway.
The problem—as Paul describes it from his prison cell to the younger Timothy—is that the time between Jesus’ ascension and return (Acts 2.3-4; Heb 1.1-2) will be filled with “difficulty,” and people characterized as “lovers of self” (:2), not lovers of God (:4). The eighteen descriptions of the people of these times pretty much matches our own day. Ironically, these people will be found not just outside the church, but also inside. But, there is a pathway.
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy includes his teaching and way of life (:10). This we know from the collection of books we call the New Testament. Also, Timothy is to … continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquitted with the sacred writings … (:14-15). These sacred writings we know call the Old Testament.
Finally, we read Paul’s summary of his prescribed pathway to Timothy. It’s a description of the whole Bible—the testimony of the Apostles (New Testament) and the sacred writings (Old Testament). All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped in every good work (:16-17).
Having described the problem of these last days, Paul’s last days pathway for Timothy involves continuing in the gospel, as described in the whole Bible—what will become both testaments!
Courage for living comes from continuing in the gospel in the last days. True for Timothy, true for us. And that’s a good word in these days we live in.
Here’s a few questions to discuss with others:
- The first part of 2 Timothy 3 (verses 1-9) describes the nature, people and result of difficulty in the last days. How would you describe the main trajectory of this time? What’s the central problem Timothy will face?
- Verses 10-17 describe how Timothy will continue in the gospel in the last days. Paul notes two reasons (verses 10-13 and 14-17). What are they? How do his reasons correspond with what we call the Old Testament and New Testament?
- How do we, likewise, continue in the gospel? What does it look like in the way we think, the way we spend our time, the way we interact with others?
- How does it give you courage for your life? What does this passage make you want to go home and do?