Stan challenged me to say a little something about the passage I posted earlier this evening. So, here go a few thoughts, perhaps even somewhat of a summary of our conversation …
This passage was one of many that I heard read in church today. I think the thing that struck me the most about it was how descriptive the first part is of the world today. However, it’s not as if our world as we know it now is necessarily worse than it was at any other point in time since sin entered the world. Consider the days before the Flood. Genesis 6:5 tells us, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I’m always struck by that last part – only evil continually.
Anyway … aside from the big list of various sins that will characterize the last days, the part where Paul writes that people will be “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” stands out at me. I see that all the time at school. I’m surrounded by bright people who have been blessed with the skills necessary to learn, but all that learning is in vain without knowing Christ, not to mention that there is something seriously wrong when there is a lack of acknowledgement of the source of those gifts. Paul seems to contrast this perpetual learning that lacks knowledge of the truth down in verses 16-17 when he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Where math textbooks will fail, God’s Word prevails.
I’m reminded of Ephesians 2 –
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
This life Christ gave to the believers in the Ephesians church is available to all those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
Stan feared that I posted the passage from 2 Timothy because I was despairing in the world around us. I’m not. Rather, I’m thankful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for my sins and yours. I’m thankful for what Paul writes later in Ephesians 2 –
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Another reason that the 2 Timothy passage has an air of despair in the bit about suffering. I’ve been exposed to a lot of Scripture lately that addresses the issue of suffering and realizing the stark contrast between the world’s attitude toward suffering and Christ’s attitude toward suffering. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Paul follows in Christ’s footsteps, not despairing in his suffering, but rather seeing God’s purpose for it. At the end of Colossians 1, Paul writes:
24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
(can I bold-italic that entire passage?)
In our flesh, we have a me-me-me attitude, and from that perspective, suffering is terrible; it stinks. But Paul rejoices that he is able to suffer for Christ’s sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Paul follows in Christ’s footsteps and is a minister of His word not only to several churches 2000 years ago, but to us today through what has been captured in God’s Word, which is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”