2 Timothy

Appearance of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5)

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2 Timothy 3:1-5 is a quick summary of what godlessness looks like. In the last days, there will be difficult times, not only from the persecution of believers but also corruption from within the church. In this first section of the chapter, from verses 1 to 5, we see a list of morally depraved activities and corruption. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

In the next section, verses 6 to 9, we see a discussion of the behaviour of the false teachers. So, Paul is warning Timothy that he will need to address those claiming to be godly, but their behaviour is in direct contrast to their declaration. Timothy is to stand firm against such practices, and he is also to teach others to do the same.

Firstly, we need to establish that Paul here is talking about those in the church, not those in the world. He is talking about Christ’s followers who claim to be in fellowship with God BUT deny its power. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

You see, a person may outwardly appear to be godly, but they deny the power of salvation practically and habitually. 1 Corinthians 4:20 says, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” In other words, you may speak and teach truth from the word of God about the holiness required by God and the sanctification of the saints, but when it comes to acting out what you speak, you fall far short of it. This could either be publicly or privately. This is why false teachers and believers are so dangerous; they appear to be Christian but are not. Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

The power being denied here is the living, regenerating, and sanctifying influence of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in our life. There is no transformation and fruit produced by the claim they are in Christ. Matthew 3:8 says, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” The power of God is not at work in their lives, claiming and appearing to be godly but denying the transforming power of the work of God in their life. The passage in 2 Timothy 3:5 says, “AVOID SUCH PEOPLE”.

So take a moment to examine yourself first. Do you have the appearance of godliness but deny its power? Are there fruits in your life that are keeping with repentance? Do you talk and teach about God but not practice what you preach and still run after the world? If so, I encourage you to come before Jehovah in repentance and humbly present yourself before God so that His power may rest upon you. Secondly, if you know such people, who claim to be a brother or sister in Christ but continue to live in a worldly manner according to 2 Timothy 3:1-5, then avoid them. Even after knowing the truth, if they continuously walk in disobedience and do not change their ways. 2 Timothy 3:13 says that the evil impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Be no part of it!

I encourage you to continue your faith walk with Christ, seeking only to glorify God. May all your words and deeds please our Lord Jesus Christ. May it be a sacrifice of praise to Him out of love for God and His people, bearing much fruit for His Kingdom. Amen!