This be constantly knowing
That in the last days
Difficult times will set in
For men shall be fond of themselves
Fond of money
Disobedient to parents
Without natural affection
Haters of that which is good
Besotted with pride
Fond of pleasure rather than having an affection for God
Having a mere outward semblance of piety toward God
But denying the power of the same.
And these be constantly shunning.
-2 Timothy 3:1-5 (Wuest’s translation)
This passage from Paul to Timothy holds a fascinating insight about Paul and the day and times he was living through, as does much of this personal letter to Timothy. The first thing to notice, which is quite apparent in Wuest’s translation, is Paul does not write as if he is living in the last days, although he is writing to Timothy about characters of the above description present in their day as well as in the last days, he is, however, one who is living in constant expectation of the imminent return/revealing of Yeshua.
In spite of having been betrayed by “all those in Asia” (1:15), and the sufferings he had and was enduring, Paul counsels Timothy to teach “trustworthy men who are of such a character as to be capable of teaching others also” (1:1-2). This serious counsel is surely related to Paul’s knowledge that in the last days, a lot of people will be playing the ‘God game’. So while many today are looking at the state of the world and what people are like and what they are doing outside of knowing Yeshua and pointing to their condition as a sign of the ‘last days’, where they should be looking is closer to home, so to speak. For Paul has painted a picture of what it will be like in congregations of ‘believers’ in the last days.
Surprisingly, Paul’s remedy of shunning is not one generally advocated today. Rather the message is to hang in there, be an example, “forsake not fellowship”, etc. However, Paul says shun ἀποτρέπου such people. ἀποτρέπου is ‘active and aggressive’ and means to specifically avoid, to turn away from. Other commentaries on the contextual meaning of ἀποτρέπου:
- “to have nothing to do with, turn away from completely, avoid” (Teknia Greek English Dictionary).
- “But these, who, while pretending to belong to Jesus, lived the degraded life of the heathen, were to be shunned. No communion, no friendly intercourse was possible between the hypocrite and the Christian” (Bible Hub).
- “From such turn away – not only do not imitate them, but have no kind of fellowship with them; they are a dangerous people, and but seldom suspected, because their outside is fair” (Clarke’s Bible Commentary).
- “from such turn away; have no fellowship with them, depart from their communion, withdraw from them, and come out from among them (John Gill’s Bible Commentary).
- “From such turn away – Have no contact with them as if they were Christians; show no countenance to their religion; do not associate with them” (Barne’s Notes on the Bible).
- “Bearing externally the mask—the mere appearance—of piety and of reverence towards God, but abjuring and denying, by their works, its truth and reality. Such persons repel far from you and endure them not (e-Catholic 2000).
- “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (NLT Interlinear).
Paul’s reminders to Timothy reflect what Paul has gone through and how he has conducted himself in light of his dedication to preaching the gospel he was called to preach. Paul’s determination to spread the revelation of God’s grace as “revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1:10) is paramount, and the conduct of Timothy and all believers must also reflect outwardly their real inner commitment, relationship with and love for God, if they have indeed heard and believed the gospel.
The bottom line really is if you see a hypocrite calling themselves Christian – run! Don’t get entangled in conversation or attempt to ‘save’ them from themselves. You have enough to look out for in your own conduct and walk of faith. Uphold, prayer for, and seek out the faithful, whose humble, sacrificial lives and conduct reflect the living Yeshua living in them. A little yeast leavens the whole dough!
Oh, and for all those who say/believe that congregations are full of hypocrites (and some even ‘piously’ count themselves among them), there is nothing pious about counting yourself as one hypocrite among many. If you are one, then turn to God and get right in your relationship with Him and reflect that relationship in your conduct. If you’re hanging out with a bunch of them – run! Get as far away from them as possible! Do not hang out with them! A little yeast leavens the whole dough!
The Lord is coming.