Yesterday I chose to go back and finish talking about Romans 1 from a couple of weeks ago. At the time I felt led to move on to other Scriptures, and I see now why. The next section of 2 Timothy parallels the end of Romans 1 (see The Reality of God’s Wrath).
You will note the list of those we are to avoid in the letter to Timothy is quite similar to the list from yesterday: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:29-32)
Paul begins the third chapter as a reminder: “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; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim 3:1-5)
Ray Stedman said: “As we look back through human history during these last 2,000 years we can see how true that is. Again and again in our Western world we have had periods of relative peace and prosperity, only to have them interrupted by these terrible times of stress and agony that repeatedly come into human affairs. So these words are not necessarily a prediction of the last days for the church, rather, they are a recognition of the cycle of days like this that will keep coming. And, of course, one of them is going to be the last one.”
Paul says that the primary cause of these repetitive cycles of stress and danger is the hypocritical lives of “professed Christians” who outwardly look pious, religious, committed and devoted, but are actually unchanged inside and have no power to overcome evil in their lives. Those who have a “form of godliness” are those who make an outward display of religion, but there is no power behind their religion, as evidenced in the fact that their lives are unchanged. As commentator Charles Ellicott wrote, “These, by claiming the title of Christians, wearing before men the uniform of Christ, but by their lives dishonouring His name, did the gravest injury to the holy Christian cause”. Even noticing no transformation in a life, only the Lord knows what’s truly in someone’s heart — we can’t know if another genuinely knows Christ; we can only be sure about ourselves.
The apostle’s first concern are those who are “lovers of self”, which is the basic sin of humanity. Self love is the vilest form of idolatry as it worships the creation, depriving God of the worship due to His name as Creator; and places oneself on the throne. Those who are “lovers of self” “have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity” because they truly elevate themselves above the One, true God. They have a “reprobate mind” and are the people upon whom the wrath of God rests (Rom 1:18). The Greek word translated “reprobate” in the New Testament is adokimos, which means literally “something that is rejected, disqualified, or failed a test, to be cast away”.
These “lovers of self” are “professing Christians” who have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit, and we know this because of the visual fruit – they are still lovers of self. In today’s “me society” folks are solely focused on their rights, needs, and views, without a concern on the Lord’s point of view. Out of being “lovers of self” flows all the other things in the list.
The first and primary expression of it is in being “lovers of money”, which indulges our first idol – ourselves. Instead of using money as the Scriptures exhort us to — to meet the needs of others — we oftentimes merely plan to use it to increase our own possessions, to add to our own enjoyment in life, focused on “me”. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:10)
Out of this grows the next word “boastful” about what we or the church has accomplished. Are we pointing to ourselves or to the Lord Jesus Christ? Just after “boastful” is “arrogant” because proud people are arrogant, with a secret contempt for others. “Arrogance” regards ourselves above others, in direct disobedience to God’s Word. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This is the attitude frequently displayed in the form of a self-righteousness; the same attitude of scornful cynicism revealed by the Pharisees in our Lord’s day.
“Revilers” is the next term, which describes a person who uses words to damage, control, or insult someone’s character or reputation (a verbal abuser). Revilers give themselves permission to misuse the gift of speech while justifying their ongoing sin. Verbal abusers blame their victims. The foul-mouthed blame bad company (Eph 5:4; 1 Cor 15:33). Slanderers and blasphemers either don’t believe in God or have reduced Him in their minds to an entity they can feel comfortable with (Ps 14:1; Zeph 3:5).
People who revile God have no fear of the Lord and will face His wrath one day (Prov 1:7). We are even warned against reviling angelic majesties: “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed” (Jude 1:10). These are all manifestations of an unhealthy, unwholesome, unchristian spirit within the Christian church. Pray to ask the Lord show if there is self idolatry within you of which you need to repent.