2-timothy: The Last Days

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on May 8, 2005

2 Timothy 3:1-9

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The Lord’s Day
Morning

May 8, 2005

II Timothy 3:1-9

“The Last Days”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. If your have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn
with me to II Timothy, chapter three. As we work our way through the letters of
Paul, called the Pastoral Letters, we have most recently been in II Timothy 2,
where Paul speaks of his own suffering serving the interests of the church, as
we were moved as we considered Paul’s words there.

In this passage today, Paul is
reminding Timothy and the Ephesian Christians, and you and me, of the context in
which we live and minister as Christians. You’ll notice that in the very first
verse in this passage, Paul speaks about “the last days.” He is not speaking
about those times which are future from us now, immediately prior to the coming
again of our Lord; he is speaking, of course, these words initially to Timothy,
who has himself been dead for some 1850 years or more; he is speaking these to
Christians who were living in his own time in the first century, and so he is
using the term “the last days” the way it is predominantly used in the New
Testament and in the Old, to refer to the days after the coming of the Messiah.

The “last days” is a term by
which he refers to that whole course of time between the ascension of Christ and
His bodily return in His second coming.
These days are referred to
repeatedly in the Scriptures as the last days, and Paul is speaking to Timothy
about these last days because he wants Timothy (and he wants the Ephesian
Christians, and he wants you and me) to understand the character of those days;
because the character of those days tells us much about the context in which we
live and minister.

In fact, before we read this
passage, if you’d look at verses 1-5, you will see in those words Paul’s
description of precisely the kind of context in which Timothy is going to
minister, and he’s telling Timothy what to expect and what to prepare for. You
might have imagined Timothy to look for the Christian church to go from strength
to strength unhindered, unbothered by internal turmoil and false teaching, and
Paul here reminds him of what he must expect: difficult days, and difficult
people.

Then if you look at verses 6 and
7, Paul reminds Timothy of the importance of our spiritual discernment. If we
are going to live and minister in difficult days, then surely it will require
spiritual discernment. And he gives us an outline of what is required in terms
of spiritual discernment in verses 6 and 7.

And then, finally, thirdly, in
verses 8 and 9 you’ll see the Apostle Paul give a word of encouragement to
Timothy. Though things are dire, though things are difficult, though there are
false prophets troubling the church, yet the Lord’s church will not fail. The
false prophets will not prevail. Indeed, their folly will be obvious to all.
And so those are the three parts of this passage that we’re going to consider
today. Let’s look to God in prayer before we hear His word read and proclaimed.

O Lord, You never fail to help
and govern those whom You are discipling in Your steadfast fear and love through
Jesus Christ. So keep us, we pray, under the protection of Your good providence
even in these difficult days; and by this means of grace, the reading and
proclamation of Your word, show us Yourself and our need, and the Savior.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord we ask it. Amen.

Hear the word of God.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men
will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers,
disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious
gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless,
conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of
godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women
weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never
able to come to the knowle3dge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres
opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind,
rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for
their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be.”

Amen. Thus ends this reading of
God’s holy, inspired and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our
hearts.

Because we live and minister in
dire days, we must simultaneously be discerning and confident that Christ will
build His church. That’s what Paul is saying to Timothy is this passage:
‘Timothy, you are going to live and minister in difficult days–dire days. Don’t
expect it to be easy going. Don’t expect to see the world stay out of the
church. Don’t expect to see the church unhindered by false teaching, even in
her pales. No, you expect difficult days, Timothy; but as you expect that
difficulty, not only make sure that your congregation has the right attitude of
what they are and what they’re about in the kind of circumstance that they’re
in, but you make sure that your congregation is spiritually discerning, so that
that congregation can tell a false prophet from a true preacher of God’s word.
And remember, Timothy: no matter how bad it looks, the gates of hell will not
prevail against Christ’s church. The false prophets’ folly will be uncovered
and revealed. They will not have the last word.’

You see, those are the things
that Paul is saying today to you and to me, and I want to look at those things
in three parts today.

I. The character of the people/circumstances of the
Last Days

First, I want to look at the
context of our life and ministry. And Paul describes it in verses 1-5. What are
we to expect? What are we to prepare for, in terms of the context of our life
and ministry? And Paul speaks to Timothy about the character and circumstances
of the last day, and the character of people in the last day. Listen again to
his words: “Realize this–that in the last days difficult times will come.”

Now, you understand that Paul is
not simply speaking to Timothy about how it is going to be in the world around
him. True enough, that as society looks more and more like this, society more
and more has little chance of survival. When a society looks like the
description that Paul gives us in verses 2-5, you can be sure that collapse is
on the way, unless there is revival and reformation.

But Paul’s concern is not so much
to turn Timothy’s eyes out there to the pagan Greco-Roman world around him, nor
is his concern to turn our eyes out there as to what is happening in the larger
society and culture: his concern is to say that these things are encroaching
even on the life of the church. You’ll notice, for instance, in verse 6, Paul,
after describing these horrible characteristics of the people that Timothy is
going to confront in the course of his ministry, will say, “For among them”–the
people that he’s just described in verses 2-5–“For among them are those who
enter into households….”

In other words, Paul is talking
about false teaching that is encroaching on the church, in this passage! He’s
telling Timothy that he is going to live and minister in a context when this
kind of gross, immoral behavior characterizes false teachers and the teaching
which they are trying to sneak in to the Christian church. Paul is trying to
build a ministry mindset, a life mindset, in Timothy and in his congregation,
and in you and me–to not expect life and ministry in the Christian church in our
world and culture to be easy, but, rather, to be difficult; not to be safe, but,
rather, to be dangerous. We’re being called to warfare, not to ease and rest,
and entertainment and relaxation!

Paul is developing a ministry
mindset in Timothy that says, ‘Timothy, you’re at war, and the war isn’t just
out there. It’s being brought to you. It’s being sneaked into the very
churches, and therefore your people need to be aware that there’s a war going
on, a war for their souls. There are people that are trying to delude them with
false teaching, there are people that are trying to give them just enough truth
mixed with error to deceive them; and, Timothy, you need to be aware that
ministry in the last days will be difficult, and the character of many, even
within the church, Timothy, will be one of the greatest difficulties.’

And then you get this list of
characteristics in verses 2-5. Now, you may have already counted them. Paul
gives eighteen characteristics there in verses 2-5 of the kind of people and
teaching that is being intruded upon the Christian church in Timothy’s day and
in our day. And, you know, we could spend a whole sermon just looking at those
eighteen characteristics. They are richly suggestive. For instance, just look at
the one word–that these people are characterized by being irreconcilable.
They are people that are not given to forgiveness. They don’t have the spirit of
mercy that characterizes a person who has encountered the mercy of God. If God
has saved you by grace, if God has shown you your sins, and then shown you your
Savior, and He’s shown His mercy to you in Jesus Christ, one of the first things
that happens is that you tend to be a merciful person because of the mercy that
God has shown you, and Paul characterizes these people as being strangers to
mercy in their own experience. They don’t know how to forgive. They don’t know
how to show mercy, because they’ve never really encountered the saving mercy of
God in Jesus Christ.

We could explore each one of
these, and it would be rich for our own benefit, but I want to draw your
attention to just a few of these descriptions. (By the way, most of these
phrases here are just one word in Paul’s original letter. This whole passage
reminds you so much, doesn’t it, of the end of Romans, chapter one?)

In fact, there are many words
that are found in both of those lists–that dire list that Paul gives at the end
of Romans, chapter one, but let me draw your attention to just a few things.

First of all, notice the very
first thing that Paul says about these: They will be “lovers of self.”

Now, my friends, if ever there was a narcissistic age, if ever there was an age
that was self-preoccupied and thought God and the world exist for our own
personal benefit, it’s ours! But, you know, the sad thing is that there are
people who, in the name of Jesus Christ, are preaching the message of sinful
self-love in the churches. They’re teaching the churches that God exists for our
satisfaction and our pleasure, and for our accomplishments. And we see Paul
speaking, warning Timothy, that there will be people proclaiming the love of
self in the churches, and we see it in our own day and time.

And then he goes on, doesn’t
he? They will be “lovers of money.”
Well, where are we, friends, nineteen
hundred and forty years or so after Paul writes these words and Timothy reads
them to his congregation? And where are we?

We have seen in the last decade
an exponential growth of the false doctrine of “the prosperity gospel.” It’s
all over the place…all over the place in the evangelical church! The two
largest congregations of professing Christians in America today are both solidly
committed to the prosperity gospel of health and wealth: ‘God doesn’t want you
to be ever unhealthy, ever unhappy, ever unwealthy. If you only have enough
faith, you’ll have everything you want.’ One man advertises a book, How to
Be Rich and Have Everything You Ever Wanted
. That’s the Christian gospel?
Oh, no, my friends! But thousands upon thousands–more than are gathered in
faithful Bible-believing churches on a given Lord’s Day morning–thousands upon
thousands in the United States of America and in our own state, and in our own
county, and in our own city have bought into that false doctrine because they
are lovers of money. But it doesn’t stop there.

Notice the next phrase I want
to draw your attention to: “Disobedient to parents.”
That one is one of the
phrases that Paul mentions at the end of Romans. Now you may think, ‘That seems
fairly trivial in comparison to these other horrible things that Paul piles up
about the dire circumstances of the last days.’ But think about it, my
friends.

Disobedience to parents is
indicative…it’s symptomatic of a larger rejection of proper spiritual
authority; and if there is anything in our culture, it is a rejection of proper
respect for proper authority. And if you can reject the authority of your
parents God has given you to be the spiritual authority in your experience while
you are under their roof, under their tutelage, then you can reject the
authority of everybody else in society that has been divinely put there for the
sake of order, and structure and well-being. We live in a culture that says, ‘Do
it your own way! Do what you want to do! Don’t defer to authority: resist
authority, challenge authority, suspect authority, question authority!’ And
here the Apostle Paul is saying there are some that will intrude that message
even in the church.

It’s true in our own day and age.
We see it. There are people who say, ‘Christianity isn’t about obedience, do
what you want to do. It’s all about freedom.’

And then he goes on. Look at
this phrase: “…Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
If that
doesn’t characterize the culture that we live in, I don’t know what does. But
again, think about that in the Christian life. So, often God, even in professing
Christian churches, has been molded into our image so that He is the greatest
means to our greatest end, which is our own personal happiness, our own personal
satisfaction, our own pleasure. In other words, God is the best way to get what
I really want, even though what I really want is not God. And it’s completely
upside down from biblical Christianity, in which our end is God; our goal is
God’s glory; the thing we want to do in this life and the life to come is
glorify and enjoy God. We’ll seek first that kingdom and its righteousness, and
we’ll let the Lord handle everything else. And the message we hear in church
after church today teaches that God exists for our pleasure.

And then you have this next
phrase juxtaposed to it: “…Holding to a form of godliness.”
Now, you’re
thinking, ‘How in the world can those things which are piled up in verses 2-4 be
combined with somebody professing to be godly?’ Well, they were in Paul’s day,
and they are now.

You know, if you turn on the
television at any given time during the week, eighty percent of what you see
purporting to be Christianity will fall precisely into the categories that Paul
is speaking about here. Nineteen hundred and fifty years ago, my friends, Paul
was already talking about this: we will live and minister in the last days.
Now what does this mean?

First of all, it means that as
Christians we need to know what we’re in the middle of —we need to know the kind
of fight we’re in.

We talked about Victory in Europe
Day before the service this morning. Think of the paratroopers that were shot in
behind the German lines on D-Day. If their commanders had said to them, ‘Now,
look. As we drop you in behind enemy lines today, make sure, whatever you do,
that you remember that you’re business men and you’ve got a product to sell.’
Or worse, what if their commander had said, ‘Look, you’re going in behind enemy
lines, but here’s the most important thing: have a little fun! You know, life’s
too short not to have a little fun.’ My friends, if those men had gone into
battle thinking of themselves as business men with a product to sell, or think
of themselves as consumers of entertainment, they would have been in dire
peril! Now, they were in dire peril going in as military men, but if they had
gone into that circumstance without realizing who they were and the
circumstances they were going into, they would have been in mortal peril! A
greater peril than they were actually put in! But because they knew who they
were and the circumstances that they were going into, they could appropriately
take seriously the gravity of their situation. And Paul is saying that to you
and to me. He’s saying, ‘Realize what you’re getting into. You are in the
middle of a fight!’

You know, for a hundred years
now, the Christian church is being told in America that we need to think more
like a business. We need to think about ourselves as a business: we’ve got a
product (the gospel); we’ve got consumers (customers, unsaved people out there);
we need to give the gospel out like a product.

And then, there are others who
say, ‘No, we need to approximate our entertainment culture, because people want
to be entertained. They’ve got a hard life, and so we need to appropriate some
of the modes, the media and entertainment culture, in order to draw people to
Christ.

And here’s the Apostle Paul
saying, ‘Here’s how I want the church to think: you’re an army! And you’re in
the middle of mortal conflict! This is deadly serious stuff. People are being
picked off like flies!’ He’s warning us, my friends, telling us the kind of
attitude we need to have, the sobriety with which we need to approach this
Christian life. We Presbyterians like a good laugh. We enjoy laughing with one
another, and that’s good, and that’s appropriate. But when we come together to
worship God, we come together in deadly earnest; joyful, but sober because
there’s a war going on, and the war is being brought to bear in our own hearts
and lives. We’re here to equip men and women, and boys and girls, to love the
Lord Jesus Christ and be ready to even lay down their lives for the gospel.

You know, every minister here
wants you to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings. Every minister in this
congregation, every elder, wants the blessings of God to be poured out on you
and on your family; but every minister and ever elder here, committed to
discipling you, also knows that you are being thrown into a fight as a
Christian. And it is our job to equip you to trust in the Lord all the way to
the very end, and even to die well. One day…one day, I will give an account
for how I have equipped you or not to die well–to die, to go to your grave
resting and trusting on Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the
gospel, and persevering in that faith. And my job is not done in your life until
you have gone all the way to the end in faithfulness. It’s a war, my friends!
And that’s why we’re serious about it–not because we’re stuffy sticks in the
mud. Because it’s dangerous stuff that you’re getting into!

And think of how our hymns
used to remind us of this. The Christian church has lost so much of this
today.
But take your hymnal out and turn with me to No. 573, Am I a
Soldier of the Cross?…
great hymn from the pen of Isaac Watts, almost three
hundred years old, and he asks some really good questions: “Am I a soldier of
the cross, a follower of the Lamb? Shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to
speak His name?”

You see, we’re not out for
military conquest, we’re not out to establish a theocracy, we’re not out to
oppress every unbeliever that we can find. We’re involved in a grand conspiracy
of blessing: we want to bless the nation, but it’s a war. It’s a fight, and
we’re soldiers in that fight.

And we ask the question (look at
stanza two), “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease?”

And then he asks, in verse
three–look at the second phrase of verse three: “Is this vile world a friend to
grace, to help me on to God?” He’s reminding you again of the context in which
you are. This world is not going to help you in the walk of grace! It’s not
going to help you in the walk of holiness! It’s not going to help you in your
walk with Christ! It’s not a friend to you. You’re in a war, you’re in a
conflict, and the songs in this whole section…by the way, this is why you need
to own a hymnal, have it at home, read it, study it, sing it, and memorize some
of it.

Turn to the very next hymn, 574.
This hymn is about one thousand three hundred years old. It was written by
Andrew of Crete. And again, he’s asking Christians a question:

“Christian, do
you see them, on the holy ground,

How the powers
of darkness rage thy steps around?

Christian, up
and smite them, counting gain but loss,

in the
strength that cometh by the holy cross.

“Christian, do
you feel them, how they work within,

Striving,
tempting, luring, goading into sin?

Christian,
never tremble; never be downcast;

Gird thee for
the battle, watch and pray, and fast.”

And then on the very next page, 575, Wesley’s glorious
hymn, Soldiers of Christ, Arise, “… and put your armor on.” You know,
our Bible School children this summer will be thinking bout that the whole week
long, what it means to put on the whole armor of God. This is not some cutesy
little thing, this is deadly serious. And as little children who sing I’m In
the Lord’s Army
with the Kipps, the three-year olds….you know what you
need to do? You need to explain to them as they grow up that that is not just
something that’s cute to you, to see them singing I’m in the Lord’s Army,
but that they really are. And when they rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone as
He’s offered in the gospel, they’re in the Lord’s army–they’re enlisted!
They’re His disciples, they’re His followers, and their job is–until their last
breath goes out of their body–to serve as His faithful follower.

These great hymns remind us of this. On 576,
Awake! My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve
The Son of God Goes Forth to War;
or, 581, Fight the Good Fight. All
these hymns remind us that we’re in a war, we’re in a battle. You see, Paul’s
message to Timothy is not just that it’s a jungle out there; it’s a jungle in
here, Timothy. You’re going to live and minister in difficult times.

You see, the church is not in a
condition of ease and rest. We’re not in a condition where V-E Day has yet been
accomplished. E-Day has begun! The spiritual V-E day is not yet. We’re the
church militant, not the church triumphant, and therefore we need to think of
ourselves not as a business or as entertainment, but as a family, a body, a
kingdom, an army–that’s what we are.

And not only that, Paul tells you point-blank
what he wants you to do, in verse 5: “Avoid such men as these.” He just tells
you, here’s the application. There are these kinds of people proclaiming
themselves to be Christians and teachers of the Christian truth in the
churches, Avoid them. Have nothing to do with them.

You remember the story of John–John the
Apostle, John the beloved disciple, who, when he found himself in the bath-house
in a city in Asia Minor, and he heard that the false teacher, Cerinthus, was
also in that same bath-house, he fled from the bath-house saying, “Surely the
roof will come in because of this heretic Cerinthus here!” He avoided him! And
my friends, you need to avoid false teaching. It’s not to be toyed with; it’s
not to be played with. You’ve got to be discerning, and you’ve got to avoid it.

II. The tactics of those who
desire to infiltrate the Church.

That leads us to the second point
that I want you to see in verses 6 and 7, because here Paul’s going to remind us
of the importance of spiritual discernment. He’s telling Timothy about the
tactics of those who are desiring to infiltrate the church, and he’s telling
Timothy and that congregation at Ephesus, and he’s telling you and me as
Christians today that we must be aware of the methods of deceptive teachers.
And he says this: “For among them are those who enter into households and
captivate weak women weighed down with sins….” —(and I would get this text on
Mother’s Day!).

But, you understand the Apostle
Paul is not making a derisive, demeaning remark about women here. Remember how
he began this book. Do you remember how he began this book? He takes Timothy
by the lapels, and he says, ‘Timothy, I want you to know something. I knew your
grandmother and I knew your mother, and I know that the faith that’s in you was
in them first. They were godly women. They were wise women. They were
consecrated women. Timothy, you’ve got a lot to live up to, because you’ve
heard the truth from the lap of your grandmother and your mother.’ This is a
man who loved godly women; this is a man who loved strong, biblical women.
Paul’s not slagging women in this passage.

What’s he doing then? He’s
doing two things.

First of all, Paul is actually
telling you the tactic that was being used by these false prophets.
They
were literally going into homes of (especially the wealthy, middle, upper-class)
women of that Greco-Roman culture who had been introduced to faith in Christ
through the preaching of faithful teachers like Timothy and Titus and Paul. They
were actually going into their homes. They were actually going into their homes
while their husbands were away, and they were tickling their ears with false
teaching. They were making disciples out of them. They were bringing them into
the fold of this false teaching.

Now, it’s interesting that that
very thing is one of the ways that Christianity spread in the Greco-Roman world.
Christians had the opportunity to preach the word to women who were at home
managing household affairs, and the gospel spread through households in that
very way. But the false teachers had figured that technique out, and they were
now using it for devious ends: they were sneaking in bringing division, bringing
their false teaching. So Paul is telling you this for one reason because this
was precisely what the false teachers are doing. He’s warning another pastor,
‘Watch this, Timothy. They’re going to try and do this in your own church.’ (By
the way, my friends, I’ve told you this story before. I’ve see this happen.
I’ve seen it happen.)

But secondly, he’s telling you
this for another reason, and that is because he wants you to look at the
leverage, at the things that the false prophets try and hook into in the lives
of these people.

Look at the five things
that Paul tells you here
–first in verse 6: He tells you that the false
teachers will try and take advantage of a lack of spiritual discernment, a lack
of biblical truth and knowledge.
You say, ‘Well, where does that come
from?’ Well, look–what does he call these women? They are “weak willed” or
“weak minded.” Their minds, their hearts, their wills have not been sufficiently
formed by biblical truth so that they are spiritually discerning, and therefore
they are easy targets. My friends, if your mind has not been formed and shaped
by the truth of the word of God, you’re an easy target.

And Paul says, ‘Timothy, look.
That’s the first thing they do. They go to people who haven’t really grasped the
truth that you’ve been teaching Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, in prayer meetings,
in groups all over the city. They haven’t really grasped it. So they go
for those, and they grab them, they hook them.’

Secondly, notice what he says:
These people are unstable in their sense of purpose and direction in life.

You say, ‘Well, where does that come from?’ Well, look what it says about them.
They’re led on by various impulses. They’re not led by a sense of principle that
has been derived from God’s word. They don’t understand that the chief end of
man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That’s what I’m here for.

No, they’re led on by various
impulses. Their sense of purpose and direction in life is not derived from the
word of God, it’s from whatever they feel drawn to at a particular time. And
Paul says the false prophets are using that.

Thirdly, look at what he
says: He says these people have guilty consciences.
They’ve got sin in
their life that has not been dealt with. You say, ‘Where does that come from?’
Look at what he says: They are “weighed down with sins.” And not only are they
objectively weighed down with sins, they’re subjectively weighed down with
sins. In other words, they have a desire to get out from under that guilt
complex, but they really have not fully understood the glory and the provision
of God in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin, for the breaking of its
penalty and power. And so they’re weighed down with sins, and they’re looking
for a way to get out from under that guilt complex.

And then, notice that these
are people that take in everything, and they don’t properly question it.

They’re not like the Bereans. The Bereans hear Paul teach, and they say, ‘Paul,
that’s great. We’re going to go check our Bibles and we’ll get back with you.’
No, these people, they take it in. Look at what it says: “…Always learning
and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

There are a lot of people that
will quote the motto Semper Reformanda (which means “always reforming”)
today in the church, and they very often mean that to say that we need to stop
believing something that the Christian church has always believed. And when they
use that motto that way, I always think of II Timothy 3:7–“…always learning,
but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.”

Now Paul says, ‘Look, Timothy, at
those five things that the false prophets will get ahold of, and they’ll draw
someone away.’ You see, that false prophet’s going to say, ‘I’m going to get you
to God. I’m going to get you to God better than the preacher can. I’m going to
get you to God, and it’s not going to be through the Bible. It’s not going to
be Truth with a capital “T”–that’s for fundamentalist preachers. It’s not going
to be through Jesus. It’s not going to be through the cross. It’s not going to
involve a life of obedience, of taking up our cross and dying daily. No, I’ve
got a better way to God.’

Now you say to me, ‘Well, that’s
all fine and well, preacher, but this thing happened nineteen hundred and fifty
years ago! What Paul is describing in verses 1-7 does not happen today!’…Want
to bet?

About three years ago many of you
heard that a very famous and controversial actress had been led to faith in
Christ through Bible studies that she was attending. Her chauffeur went on a
web site and said that he had led her to Jesus Christ, and then suddenly things
went very quiet for a number of years and we didn’t hear much.

Well, just a few weeks ago her
biography was released, and a few days ago she did an interview about her
Christian profession of faith. And here is what she said: “When we talk about
God, the Almighty, or Sophia, or the greater power or whatever…”–now, let me
just stop right there. We’re already down the road in a direction we don’t want
to go!–she goes on to say this: she had been turned off by the Jesus that she
had been taught in these fundamentalist Bible studies, but, she says, “…then I
read Elaine Pagels, I read The Gnostic Gospels, and it really impressed
me. In fact, I read it when I was first feeling God. And then I read her book,
Beyond Belief, which is a book that came out recently, and it had a lot
of references to the early Christians and to The Gnostic Gospels, and so
I read the originals. In fact, I got the whole Nag Hammadi Library and
started reading. And then I began to realize, ‘I’m on the right path now.’”

Gnosticism! Twenty-first century America! A woman
starts off in a Bible-believing church’s Bible study–ends up in ancient
Gnosticism! The Apostle Paul was nineteen hundred and fifty years ahead of
time, my friends. This is precisely what he’s warning Timothy, and precisely
what he’s warning you and me.

III. A word of assurance (but not
of complacency) regarding the designs of the impious.

There’s one last thing I want you
to see, in verses 8 and 9, and that is this: false prophets will not win. No
matter how bad it gets, the false prophets will not win. “Though men see the
church by schisms rent asunder and by heresies distressed”, yet Christ will
build His church. Christ is made the sure foundation, the church will not
perish. The false prophets will not prevail. Their deeds, their teaching, their
lies will be uncovered. They will fail. This is vital for Timothy to
know. It’s vital for you and me to know.

Again, just in the last five
years a very famous evangelical radio station owner has declared that the church
is so corrupt now that Christians who really believe the Bible need to leave
their local churches, because the church is completely corrupt. The church age
has ended, the church is completely corrupted by false teaching, so you need to
leave your local churches and you just need to huddle informally in small groups
and listen to his radio programs.

And what’s Paul saying to
Timothy? ‘Timothy, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to build His church, and the
gates of hell are not going to prevail against it. No matter how bad it looks
around you, Timothy, the Lord’s church will stand.’

What’s the whole point of the
Book of Revelation? We win! Christ is building His church despite these false
teachers, but we must recognize, my friends, we’re in a war. And we need to be
spiritually discerning, and that means lapping up every drop of the means of
grace: the word read, the word taught, the word preached, the prayers of the
saints, baptism, the Lord’s Supper. God has given these things to us to grow us
up, to give us spiritual discernment, to stand; and so we shall, if we stand in
Him, resting and trusting in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.

Lord, we ask now that You
would cause us to stand in the commitments which we first made when we professed
faith in Jesus Christ. We pray that by Your Holy Spirit, by Your all-sufficient
merit and mercy, You would keep us faithful and cause us to persevere to the
end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Congregational Hymn: O Jesus,
I Have Promised
]

The grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be
with you all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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