Our clergy retreat this week has me behind on my notes. So I just published two chapters and will now finish up 2 Timothy.
What the last two chapter focuses on is a blanket bad news about "progress" (the secular gospel) followed by a promise of persecution (not on church advertisements); not the sort of thing that makes church pews swell!
I contend that every age and era is under the dominion of sin and death and that the Prince of this World (satan) is always at odds with God. So the list of behaviors in distressing times (2 Tim 3:1-9) are certainly common features of life today, but probably no less so in other times and places. Two of the phrases "lover of themselves" and "lovers of pleasure" are placed in juxtaposition to lovers of God. This is a key concept. It is the subtlety of evil: the idolatrous mis-focus on a not-God. To be "ungrateful, inhuman, unholy" is the only option for those who think there is no God, how so? Without God, humanity is just another animal (hence the animal rights assertions). Man is a naked ape, here by the accidents of nature. To Whom would such entities feel gratitude and to what would they be sanctified?
The chapter looks also at religious fakes, those who mislead the simple and use the ministry for self serving purposes. 3:10 to 4:8 provide a positive model (Paul) of the way of faithfulness. At its core is a willingness to suffer, even suffer greatly, for the sake of Christ. A crucified King who says 'pick up your cross and follow me' is less appealing than the more popular model in America. Here, salvation is often a commodity, "an out of this world chance for bliss" and, keeping with the American love of a good deal, we are told, "The price is right, FREE! All you got to do is believe!" So one's middle class comfort (the lovers of pleasure thing again) is never at risk, just believe in Him and enjoy the good life, and then be secure in life everlasting!!!!
Paul is no stranger to the idea of grace, but he certainly does not paint a picture of believing that neglects the challenging nitty-gritty details of the faithfulness in faith. all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Pity (godliness) (in Greek "eusebius") was a Roman virtue, connected to respect of the family father and the civic virtues. Paul shifts its meaning and places it in relation to Jesus. When one believes in Jesus, the center of life shifts--it is not merely an intellectual act, but an act of the heart and soul as well. This is why Paul is being poured out as a libation, his faith is a self gift to Jesus. Ours must be as well.
Do we live in a time when "people will not put up with sound doctrine but having itchy ears they will accumulate teachers to suit their own desires" in a word-----YES!!! and it only gets worse. I do not know if we are going to see the end of the world in our lifetime. I do know that the church and world fit the horrible warnings of this letter more completely today than ever before in my lifetime. It is not a pleasant thing to preach, and it does not have much marketing appeal. But it is the God breathed Word (2 Timothy 3:16); a message from God to us. Perhaps our response to this warning will itself be part of God's decision if today we are living in the very last days, or if the tensions of the end times will be extended a bit longer?