“Having the appearance of godliness”
Today we completed reading Paul’s inspiring – and challenging – letters to Timothy: there are so many lessons we can (and should) take for ourselves from the advice Paul gave him.
“Flee youthful passions”
Paul told him – not just avoid them! The younger generation today are surrounded by “passions”.
They are tempted to experience so many things, but the majority of these hinder – and some destroy – any growth they have made in spiritual ways of thinking and living. Paul sees that
“in the last days … people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control …” (3:1,2).
What a catalogue of godlessness! Surely we are ‘immune’ from being affected by it! But are we? Let us not be overconfident, consider verses 4,5, people will be
“… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power …”
Note Paul’s point – that some (many?) will have “the appearance of godliness”! I have worked with some who I have heard say that it is a pleasant ‘social’ occasion to go to church!
Some, says Paul, as we come to verse 7 are
“always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth”.
Let’s think about the word ‘knowledge’: it is the Greek word, epignosis. Paul, in writing to the Romans said, the Jews
“have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (10:20)
– the Greek word has the sense of ‘discernment’.
We encountered it yesterday; the need for Timothy (and us) to correct our “opponents with gentleness” and then
“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (3:7).
It is not intellectual knowledge – it is heart knowledge. Paul then warns Timothy that
“evil people … will go on from bad to worse” (verse 13).
We try to see the best in every one – but it is getting harder and harder.
Let us take Paul’s advice to Timothy from verse 14 – fully to heart.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed … how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
How precious God’s word should be to us, how foolish to neglect reading it – indeed we must read constantly – and meditate and become increasingly “wise”.