Impostors for seducers , A.V. Evil men ( πονηροί ). In 2 Timothy 4:18 it is παντὸς ἕργου πονηροῦ . The adjective is applied indifferently to persons and things—evil men, evil servants, evil persons, evil generation, evil spirits, etc., and evil deeds, evil fruits, evil eye, evil works, etc. Satan, the embodiment of evil, is ὁ πονηρός . Impostors ( γόντες ); only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek γόης is a juggler, a cheat, an enchanter. St. Paul still had the Egyptian magicians in his mind. Shall wax worse and worse ( προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ); see above, 2 Timothy 4:9 , note.
Holy Scripture the strength of the man of God.
There is marvellous force in the application to the Christian bishop and evangelist of the title THE MAN OF God When we remember the course of faithful and untiring labour, and patient unflinching suffering, which was run by those to whom alone this title was given in the Old Testament—Moses and Samuel and Elijah, and other prophets of God—we feel at once that the application of this title to the ministers of Christ under the New Testament teaches them with incisive power that the like spirit must be found in them if they are worthy to be classed with the men of God. Evidently the "man of God" must not be afraid of a man that shall die, or a son of man which shall be made as grass; he must not shrink from bearing witness for God before an unbelieving and gainsaying world; he must not be a lover of ease or pleasure, or of the praise of men; he must not be greedy of gain or covetous of reward; he must not be a man of strife and brawls, but a man of love and peace; he must be zealous for God's honour and glory; he must be a staunch upholder of God's truth against errors and false doctrines; and he must be a man of prayer, and very devout towards God; for otherwise how shall he be called a "man of God"? But how shall this unearthly character be maintained? When those perilous times are at their height in which all the natural affections of men seem to be blighted, and all the natural safeguards against the growth of evil seem to be overborne by the floods of ungodliness, when a proud boasting spirit, as empty as it is pretentious, carries men into all kinds of unseemly action, and when religion itself, far from guiding men in holy paths, degenerates into hypocrisy and faction and opposition to that which is good, how shall the man of God maintain his integrity, abide in the true doctrine of God, and hold his own against the teachers of lies, and the seducers of weak and silly souls? God has provided him with an all-sufficient weapon of attack and of defence. In those holy Scriptures which were given by inspiration of God, the man of God finds a spiritual furniture suitable forevery need. By the study of it he acquires fresh wisdom for his task, and by its spirit his own spirit is nourished and refreshed. In the light of its bright truth the pernicious errors of seducers are exposed; by its counsels waverers are established, the weak are strengthened, the crooked are set straight again. Conversant with its heavenly doctrine, the man of God is never at a loss for a word of rebuke, of comfort, or exhortation. And while, on the one hand, he is able to refute every new heresy that arises, by reference to the unchanging Word of God, on the other he daily acquires some new insight into the depths of revelation for his own edification and that of others. He finds that the manifold and many-sided wisdom of the Scriptures is as able to cope with the intellectual difficulties of the nineteenth century as it was with the Gnosticism of the East in the first centuries of Christianity. And so, while some turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables, the man of God finds his faith daily strengthening and increased, and looks forward fearlessly to the time when the folly of the sceptic shall be evident to all men, and the truth of God's Word shall be vindicated before the whole creation at the appearing of Jesus Christ in the glory of his kingdom.
The downward course of seducers.
The apostle connects the persecution with the ways of evil men, while he warns Timothy against them.
I. THEIR DEGENERATE COURSE . "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse."
1 . The persons here described .
(a) They are those in contrast with the men who "would live godly in Christ Jesus."
(b) They are not simply sinners as all men are by nature and practice, but rather wicked men who wear a mask of godliness, yet are full of malice against the saints of God.
2 . They shall go from bad to worse— both in principle and in practice, in the use of their seductive arts and in the gradual depravation of their character. There is nothing to arrest their downward course; there is no grace in the heart; the principles of evil will work with unchecked energy in their natures.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS DEGENERACY . "Deceiving and being deceived."
1 . The method of mental and moral debasement . Let men repeat falsities with sufficient frequency and deliberateness, and they will come by and by to believe them themselves. They begin by deceiving others. They cannot deceive God nor the elect, but by their good words and fair speeches, their lying wonders and their specious arts, they may seduce the simple into error.
2 . The retribution that follows upon deception is self-deception . Such deceivers have become sincere in their error, because they have blinded their spiritual eyesight; but now they see truth as error, and error as truth.—T.C.
"But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come." They were in the first days of the Christian era; the times foretold were to be in the last days of that era. There is an intended indefiniteness about the days; nothing is said about their commencement, or about the period over which they are to extend. They are to embrace distinct times, but all characterized by grievousness. From what follows we may infer that the grievousness of the times will consist in the prevalence of moral evil, and in the strange coexistence of moral evil with Christian forms. There will be difficulty in knowing how to act, and also in acting according to knowledge in the face of strong, quasi-Christian solidarities of evil. From a source of revelation open to him, the apostle was able to write with certainty regarding the coming of grievous times in the last days. There is not excluded the ultimate triumph of religion in this world which is taught elsewhere.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEN IN THE GRIEVOUS TIMES . "For men shall be lovers of self." "Such men as the apostle here describes there have been at all times, and the apostle does not say that they will be then such for the first time, nor that all men without exception shall be such, but he describes the moral spiritual physiognomy of the times which he beholds approaching." We are not to include in this first part of the description all who are influenced by self-love; for it is only right before God that we should be influenced by an intelligent regard to our interest. The persons intended are the selfish— a word which was only brought in by the Puritan divines toward the middle of the seventeenth century. They are those who exclude God from the central place to which he is entitled in their life. They are those who exclude others from the place of interest to which they are entitled. They thus put self in a false position—make it the beginning and end of all their thoughts and actions. They properly take the place of pre-eminence in the apostle's list; for all classes of sinners are after the selfish type, i . e . put forward self in some way or other that does not accord with eternal truth. In the grievous times will be large developments of selfishness. "Lovers of money." From similarity of composition in the Greek words, the apostle passes on from lovers of self to lovers of money. Under this head are not to be included all seekers of money; for it is right to seek money for good ends. Neither are there to be included all who seek money for selfish ends. But we are to think rather of the avaricious , i . e . those who seek to retain money in a selfish way. They look upon it as that which will make them self-sufficient in the future; and therefore they grudge to spend it even on present necessity. The times will be grievous when the avaricious increase. "Boastful." Derived from a word signifying "a wandering about," this word designated first the vagabond mountebanks, conjuors, quacksalvers, or exorcists, "full of empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats which they could accomplish." Men do not need to go about crying up, advertising, that which is of great value. What men generally boast of is some external advantage which is of little consequence in comparison with the moral worth which should be associated with it. The times will be grievous when the gift is exalted above the moral use to which it is put. "Haughty." The haughty are literally, in the Greek, those who show themselves above their fellows . In the glass of their own minds, they behold themselves standing along with others; and the comparison they make is in their own favour. Their estimate is false in respect of the importance attached to that in which they pride themselves, and in respect of the importance attached to that for which they despise others. Birth is an advantage, but not the only advantage, nor the greatest advantage, and must be taken along with service and character. In the grievous times there will be a great amount of pride. "Railers." The word is "blasphemers," but it would be inconsistent with holding the form of godliness to think of blasphemers in the usual sense in English. It is better, therefore, to think of those who use evil words to each other, i . e . words of contempt, or words of bitterness. There is to be a large development of evil speaking in the grievous times. "Disobedient to parents." Selfishness is early to show itself in the form of self-will. The young generation are to show impatience of being ruled by their parents, which is sure to grow into impatience in respect of all rightful rule. In the grievous times there is to be a large development of lawlessness, beginning in the family circle. "Unthankful." Those who are allowed to have their own way in early life are not likely to grow up to show gratitude to parents for what they have sacrificed for them, nor are they likely to show gratitude in the ordinary intercourse of life, nor can we think of them showing gratitude to God for his mercies. Ingratitude is to be a striking feature of the grievous times. "Unholy." There are certain sanctities which are everlasting, which are anterior to all law and custom, which belong to the Divine constitution of things, e . g . the sanctities of the marriage bond. The unholy are those who have no reverence or love in their hearts for these everlasting sanctities. In the grievous times the most sacred bonds are to be disregarded. "Without natural affection." Affection is that which sweetens life. In the grievous times affection is to die out, even for those for whom nature specially claims affection. Parents will act unnaturally toward their children. "Implacable." The word supposes a state of variance. In the grievous times men are not to come to terms with those who have given them offence, but are to pursue them with all the might of their vengeance. "Slanderers." They are not to be content with pouring contempt and bitterness on one another in ordinary evil speaking, but they are to attack one another with falsehoods. Thus the diabolic character is to be developed in the grievous times. "Without self-control." With self-will uncurbed in early life, it is not to be wondered at that the men of the grievous times are to be men who have lost self-control. "Fierce." In the grievous times there will be loss of self-control, proceeding to deeds of violence. "No lovers of good." In keeping with the personal reference before and after, we prefer to translate, "no lovers of good men." With evil so active in them, the presence of good men will be burdensome to them. They are therefore likely to make the times grievous to the good, by unjustly treating them. "Traitors." Fidelity is the sacred bond that joins friend to friend. In the grievous times friend will be often found betraying friend. "Headstrong." In the grievous times men will go to daring lengths. "Puffed up." The explanation of their daringness is, that they have no right sense of their own position before God—their insignificance, impotence, and responsibility. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Men will be daring especially in sensual gratification. Pleasure will he preferred to God. "Holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof." The remarkable thing is that the men who have been described (we do not need to think of the characteristics being all combined) should hold a form of godliness. The relation of the form of godliness to the men who make the grievous times, is that it conceals their true character. It is self throughout, in a more or less hateful form, and therefore the real power of godliness is denied. But it does not appear so nakedly and hatefully to be self where there is a form of acknowledging God. The relation of the form of godliness to the grievous times is, that it allows evil to work more insidiously. It is not so difficult to meet pure heathenism as it is to meet a Christianity that has become heathenish. Advice . "From these also turn away." Paul would have things put on a basis of reality. Between Timothy and such men there could be no sympathy. Why keep up a semblance of fellowship? Both for them and for him it was better that the line of demarcation should be drawn, and that all further intercourse should proceed on the footing that they did not belong to the same Christian society.
II. THE MEN OF THE GRIEVOUS TIMES ANTICIPATED . "For of these." The apostle follows up his description of the men of the evil times by the advice to turn away from them, as though they were already present. The explanation he gives is that there were forerunners of them, men of the same spiritual kith. Characteristics .
1 . Influence with women .
2 . Withstanding the truth .
III. CONTRAST IN TIMOTHY .
1 . Timothy reminded of his conduct at a former period , which was a following of Paul as his guiding star .
(1) A leading up to sufferings . "But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, long suffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings." The period referred to is Timothy's early ministry . He then acted as assistant to Paul, and what Paul gratefully calls to mind was his close following of him as a disciple. He not only followed him so as to be familiar with details, but followed him so as to direct his course by what he saw in him. The great lines of his teaching, the great lines of his conduct, Timothy made his own. The special purpose of his life (ruling so many details), which was to spread the gospel of Christ, was also after Paul. So, too, was his disposition towards Christ, viz. faith, especially in his power to make his gospel to tell upon men. So, too, was his disposition toward opponents, viz. his long suffering with their bitter opposition. So, too, was his disposition toward those in whose interest he laboured, viz. love for their souls. So, too, was his disposition under all the adverse conditions of his ministry, as appointed for him, viz. patience. This forms a point of transition to past troublous times when Paul was persecuted, and persecuted so as to be a sufferer in many ways. Even to the apostle's persecutions and sufferings Timothy's following extended; i . e . he thoroughly appreciated the fidelity which led to them and brave bearing under them. They may have had to do with his joining the apostle, and determined his own relation to persecutions and sufferings.
2 . Timothy forewarned .
3 . Timothy incited to present duty founded on past early training .
(a) Name . "The sacred writings." The name is suggestive, in the first place, of a written revelation, which has the advantage over oral tradition (the form of revelation which obtained for the first two or three thousand years) in that it does not lie so open to the action of prejudice. Men may come with all manner of prejudices to it, but it is there to witness for itself to every unprejudiced mind. The name is suggestive, in the second place, of many writers being employed in the communication of Divine truth, which is much better than one with his particular idiosyncrasy entering into his writings, inasmuch as all classes of minds can be thus suited, and if they are not attracted by one mode of stating the truth, they may be attracted by another. The name is suggestive, in the third place, of writings connected with religion, such as there do not seem to have been in connection with the religions of Greece and Rome. The Bible can be employed for the instruction of children, inasmuch as it is truly a child's book as well as a man's book. What is needed, at the first stage at least, is truth in the concrete form; and this is to be found in the Bible, which, with some things hard to be understood, has yet many a simple statement and story that is fitted to fill the child's imagination and to touch the child's heart. Eunice had only the Old Testament Scriptures to draw upon: the Christian parent has now an immense advantage, in the addition of the New Testament, and especially of the four Gospels, and in the greater facilities which a printed Bible gives him for getting Bible images and lessons into the mind of the child.
(b) Property . "Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." They form a directory to salvation, containing all the information and pleading with the soul which are necessary. To one inexperienced in the ways of the world it is a great advantage to have a friend at hand, able on every occasion to give a sound advice, to expose fallacies, to put forward weighty considerations. Inexperienced in the ways of the world we certainly are, liable to be deceived by appearances, to be buoyed up with false hopes. In giving us the Scriptures, God acts the part of a friend, giving us the best advice, opening our eyes to reality, so that, with all our inexperience, it is as though we possessed boundless stores of wisdom. They are able to make wise unto salvation, but they may not; for there are some who make themselves wiser than God's Word, and think they know better about things than God does, and so perish by being wise in their own conceits and refusing to be guided.
(c) Condition of efficiency . "Through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The Scriptures cannot do more than make us wise unto salvation; they are not to be put in the place of Christ, whose connection with salvation is more than that of a directory—is of the most intimate nature, who is really the efficient Cause of salvation, the Receptacle of salvation; and they only do their work when they bring us up to Christ, and also induce in us that state of mind which is here called faith, which instrumentally appropriates the salvation which is in him.
IV. SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE .
1 . Ground of sufficiency . "Every Scripture inspired of God." According to this translation the inspiration of Scripture is taught, not explicitly but implicitly. We are to regard it as taken for granted that Scripture is God-breathed . Inspiration extends to every part of Scripture. This is a doctrine of vital importance to the Church. Its bearing is that there is not only the absence of error, but the presence of positive perfection in relation to the whole want of man under the present order of things. The Divine influence, however operating, is guarantee that in Scripture, in its manifoldness, we have all fundamentally that needs to be said to man on the subject of religion, and in the form that is best fitted to have deep and lasting effect upon his spiritual nature as a whole. The difference is very perceptible in the post-apostolic literature. "Even where we recognize a lofty flight of the spirit as in the Ignatian Epistles, the inspiration repeatedly is merely a religious enthusiasm, a subjective romance, showing itself in an almost revelling desire for martyrdom, moving and even infectious; so that many who read an Ignatian Epistle for the first time feel themselves doubtless more excited and stirred than by a Pauline one; but this very feature proves that it is not really inspired; for the Spirit who founded the Church does not tolerate the extolling of one isolated tendency in the soul, and cannot bear such subjective partiality of view, be it ever so strong, ever so apparently admirable."
2 . Fourfold use . "Is also profitable." In reading the Scriptures what we are to seek above all things is that the truth contained in them may be brought into contact with our minds for our profit. "For teaching." There is first a revealing power in the Bible. It teaches us much that we could not otherwise have known. It supplies us with what is necessary not only for a correct, but a lofty, conception of God. It acquaints us with our fallen state, and with God's dealings with us for our salvation. "For reproof." The reproving power of the Bible results from its great revealing power, along with the state in which it finds us. The light it sheds is not for our justification, but for our being convicted of departures both from truth and righteousness. "For correction." The corrective power of the Bible starts from our being convicted as out of the straight path. By proper directions, admonitions, warnings, encouragements, it brings us back into the straight path. "For instruction which is in righteousness." The disciplinary power of the Bible is specified as being within the sphere of righteousness. In the lofty demands it makes—the loftier the further we advance—it gives us the spiritual drill which makes for right habits.
3 . Completeness aimed at . "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." The man of God is man according to the Divine idea. Many excellences go to make the complete man, intellectual, emotional, practical. God desires to see the complete man; and he has given the Bible for that end. The completeness thought of is that of man as a worker, producing good thoughts, good words, good actions. God desires to see the completely furnished worker, and he has given the Bible for that end. It is true that we come very far short of the Divine ideal of our humanity; the reason will be found to be that we neglect the help provided for us. We do not consult God, but our own prejudiced thoughts. Let us go back to the Bible, to be convicted of our error, and corrected, and severely exercised toward the complete man.—R.F.