When we read 2 Timothy 4, it is easy to think that this statement to Timothy was written about unbelievers. But, think about it… the apostle Paul is prophesying of a time in which Christians will not endure sound doctrine. The developments that Paul is speaking of are sad developments that happen in the church!
In this period spoken of by the Bible, members of church will not want to hear biblical teaching but will want to hear things taught that line up with their own desires. Notice what is driving the type of teaching: their own desires – not God’s but their own. To get teaching that lines up with their own desires requires a change in the doctrine since solid biblical teaching focuses on God’s will and not our own. The Bible says that they will “heap up” (“episoreuo”: obtain a multitude of) these type of teachers. This is the only place in Scripture that this word is used.
As we study this, we can conclude a couple of things:
The process of seeking these type of teachers requires time.
To obtain a multitude of them must mean there are a bunch of them available.
So, we can infer that instead of spending the time that they could be studying the truth of God’s Word they are using that time to look for and listen to teachers that speak what they want to hear. We can also infer that these teachers are readily available and easy to access. The Scripture also tells us that these teachers teach fables or myths. Now, in this reference, a myth is not equal to a story, but is:
mýthos – a myth; a false account, yet posing to be the truth; a fabrication (fable) which subverts (replaces) what is actually true.
So, these teachers are not reading Aesop’s fables instead of the Bible but they are giving a false account – not based upon solid biblical interpretation that is be put forward as the truth. Now, the passages in 2 Timothy are not speaking of some day…..we are in the days spoken of by Paul to Timothy! Today, many Christians describe their devotional life as being the sum total of listening to praise music and listening to preachers on podcasts or online or for the older generation, on television. These activities cannot be mistaken for a devotional life. None of these activities can replace the reading of the Word and prayer!
“Pastor, I’m not a reader.” Condition yourself to be one. Learn to read! Strengthen that area of life! Otherwise, you are going to live on regurgitated revelation that may be and sometimes will be corrupted by bias. Some of what you hear will be purposely tailored to fit what you want to hear. How can you recognize the errors? You must know the Word yourself! Ask yourself a question: Why do I like certain speakers? Is it because they step on my toes and teach me the truth even though my flesh doesn’t want to hear it? Or, is it because their teaching lines up with my wants?
So, the first lesson needed to learn to avoid deception is to recognize the flesh’s propensity to look for those who validate its desires. Second lesson: there is no replacement for my own study of the Word and a lively prayer life. Now, read what else Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3. In these passages, Paul reinforces the essential nature of the Word of God but he also reminds Timothy that he has been able to see how Paul’s life mirrored his doctrine. Timothy witnessed Paul’s faith, his love, his patience, his purpose. Timothy saw the persecutions and afflictions Paul endured for the gospel. Then Paul said “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” (Verse 14)
We grow in God through relational sharing and submission with Jesus. We also grow in God through relational sharing and submission with our spiritual father(s). Lesson three is you imitate your spiritual father. This is the one God has spoken to you about. He probably didn’t speak to you about the teachers but he should have your father.
So to recap:
Lesson one: recognize my flesh’s desire to find teachers that validate its desires.
Lesson two: there is no replacement for reading the Word and a vital prayer life.
Lesson three: find your spiritual father and learn through relational teaching that can be verified in an observable life.
2 Timothy 4:1-4
2 Timothy 3:10-17
1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NLT)
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