2 Timothy 3: Discernment of godly and ungodly things

Following my previous post on 2 Timothy 1, Paul continues to show us what it means to be the light in the midst of darkness – especially in modern times. He continues to paint the contrast in the behaviors and attitudes between followers of Christ and unbelievers. He shows us what it means to be set apart for God.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

To sum up the first 4 verses, the key characteristic that Paul warns us of here is becoming self-serving and placing our desires in things of the flesh and the world. As Christians, striving for true and godly humility will shape our perspectives on our own and God’s identity, setting us apart from the people described in these verses.

In verse 4, Paul specifically draws a dichotomy between loving God and loving the flesh — there is a clear choice to be made and we cannot have both. Placing our desires within earthly pleasure is a direct obstruction towards us loving God. Paul reminds us to not be distracted by material things when it comes to making godly decisions. We should position ourselves to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit rather than spend our energy and efforts pursuing temporary gratification from this world.

having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Building on the characteristics and behaviors listed in the first four verses of this chapter, Paul warns us of the challenge to discern these people from true followers of Jesus. In fact, it is emphasized here that, on a superficial level, these evil people may seem ‘godly’ in some way and that we should not be drawn to it. We must pray for God’s wisdom and a spirit of discernment.

The world we live in constantly puts our moral compass in flux where the concept of righteousness is challenged and distorted. It is stated throughout the Bible that the enemy’s agenda simply consists of three things: to kill, to steal and to destroy. The inundation of different viewpoints in the world we live in creates an atmosphere of confusion – especially surrounding Christians – which is conducive to loss of faith and trust in God.

12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

As reiterated several times throughout Paul’s letters to the churches, those who are true followers of Jesus will be persecuted. This truth is frankly one that no believer wants to hear. Furthermore, this idea presents yet a greater conviction and challenge as it means that if we are not being persecuted, we have not set ourselves apart and can very well be simply “having a form of godliness but denying its power”.

In such times of chaos and confusion, God has given us the best frame of reference and guidance – His Word. We are to keep ourselves and believers around us accountable by God’s scripture:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Sparknotes version:

  • The end-times will be confusing and chaotic
  • We must discern between true and superficial followers of Christ (and avoid the latter)
  • We must act on this discernment or we will be no different from these superficial followers
  • Use the scripture to keep ourselves accountable and to navigate through confusion

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