II Timothy 3:1-7 This know also, that in the last days perilous times
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
There shall be perilous times in the last days. Paul then tells why there will be perilous times: because men will be lovers of self, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, etc. The last days are not to be placed in the future only. They had already begun at the time Paul wrote this epistle, for after describing the men of these perilous times he tells Timothy “from such turn away” (verse 5). The perilous times were evident then, and they are evident now.
Who are these men Paul has described? If their description ended with verse four, I suppose they could be likened to the worst that society has to offer. However, in verse five, Paul says that they have “a form of godliness,” and a form of godliness can only be found in the church-world. These men, then, are Christians who have shied away from the work of the cross and are still under the dominion of their flesh nature. All of these ugly traits listed by Paul exist in human nature. They are in everyone. The majority of Christians are not experiencing a change of nature. Therefore those flesh-nature traits are still there. Many people are able to discipline themselves, thereby covering them over so they are not readily seen. Nevertheless, those traits are still there.
It has been commonly taught that when a person receives Jesus Christ as his Savior and becomes a Christians he has been born again, the old things are passed away and all things have become new, referring to II Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. The Scripture is true, but to say that it is true experimentally at the moment one becomes a Christian is not true. When a person becomes a Christian, he is then positioned so that all things can become new and old things can pass away. Already, at that point, there is some newness, but to say that old things have passed away and all things have become new is incorrect. But as many as received him, to them gave He power (the right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. John 1:12. Receiving Jesus Christ as Savior gives you the right to become; you now have the right to begin experiencing the process of change that causes all things to become new.
The term “born again” is commonly used in reference to someone receiving Jesus as Savior and becoming a Christian. That is tragic, because it hinders many Christians from becoming what God wants them to be. One is not “born again” at that point, merely the process of being born again has begun. The term “born again” comes from the third chapter of John. The literal translation of the Greek, however, is “born from above.” So “born again” means to be born of God, which involves a change of nature. If you have been born again (past tense), then your human nature has been replaced by the Divine nature of God. So if you are progressing spiritually, as you should be, then you are being born again. And if you are being born again, then you are experiencing the work of the cross, the death of your flesh nature.
The men Paul speaks of in our text are those who have a form of godliness, because their flesh nature is not passing away. They are still being influenced and controlled by their self-nature, instead of the Divine nature of the Lord. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t receive Jesus as Savior, but they didn’t exercise their right to become sons of God by denying self, taking up their cross, and following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. By saving their flesh life they will not obtain the Divine life. Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. Matthew 16:24-25.
Perilous times come to the Church because so many Christians are not experiencing the death of their flesh nature. Some spurn the work of the cross. They are the ones Paul spoke of in the third chapter of Philippians. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is there belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. Philippians 3:18-19. Others want to experience a change of nature but do not know how, and they don’t have ministers that are able to teach them. And many Christians don’t believe that they can experience a change of nature. It seems that those who are really being born again are very few in number.
Many Christians seem to think in absolutes. Either a person is saved or he isn’t, and that is true to an extent. But everything is not black or white, this or that. There are also in-betweens. When a person repents and receives forgiveness for his sins, he is no longer guilty of the things he had done and said that were sinful; in that sense, he is saved. But his sinful nature has not been changed, and in that sense his salvation is not complete. After a person repents, receives Jesus Christ as Savior, and becomes a Christian, then the process of saving him from his old nature begins. You are not saved completely, you are not born again completely, until you have been delivered from your sin nature. Paul spoke of salvation in a past, present, and future tense. (God) who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us. II Corinthians 1:10. Do you see it? Paul said he was delivered, is being delivered, and will be delivered. That doesn’t mean you can’t know that you are saved, but it does mean that it could be a tragic mistake to assume it is complete when it isn’t.
Multitudes of Christians are being taught that at the moment of becoming a Christian they were sealed; nothing could now keep them out of heaven. They are now God’s chosen. Consequently, many of them never become what God really wants them to be. They don’t experience the death of their self-life and the inflow of the Divine nature. For this reason they create rules and regulations, standards of measurement, whereby they can claim an acceptance by God. If they are diligent to abide by their religious standards, then they are obeying God and doing the will of the Lord. However, no matter how rigid a religious life one has, if there isn’t a progressive change of nature, he has a form of godliness, but is denying the power. And underneath all that religiosity, the apron of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), are the works of the flesh. Ultimately, obeying God and doing the will of the Lord is not the doing of works. Obeying God and doing His will is submitting to the work of the cross so that He can come forth in your life and do His works through you. It is not what you do for the Lord that counts; it is what he does through you that makes the difference. Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. I wish I could say that this description did not refer to any of God’s people, but I can’t. The human heart is desperately wicked. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. That is true even after a person becomes a Christian. But it doesn’t have to continue to be true. We can change; we can become partakers of His Divine nature (II Peter 1:4).
In the last days perilous times will come to those who love self and will not submit to the work of the cross. The last days are not just the last days of a time period. The last days of a person's life, for example, are the days of adulthood, days of maturity. Your last days spiritually are the days when you should be spiritually mature. So there will be perilous times in your last days if you are not maturing spiritually as you should be. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? I Peter 4:17.
Copyright © 2003 by Henry DuBose