The Patterns of Apostasy
The Conduct of the Corrupt–2 Timothy 3:6-9
Do you remember who Tim Treadwell was? He was called “The Bear Man”. He did so much research and invested so much time in close proximity to grizzly bears, he could literally walk up to them and pet them. He studied them for years. He claimed he had gained their trust. In spite of continual warnings by animal specialists and all the park rangers, in 2003, Tim and his girlfriend Amie, for the first time remained late into the fall season in Katmai National Park–which was one of his two major mistakes.
First–fall is when bears are desperate for food and more unpredictable before hibernation. The second mistake was to think that because he was familiar with bears and could walk up to them, that he was safe in their presence. Fall 2003 is when the entire horror movie was recorded live on camera.
In one of the most gruesome transcripts I have ever read, Tim was attacked, torn to shreds and eaten alive–for over six minutes of conscious terror. His girlfriend Amie tried to beat the bear off with a frying pan. She succeeded momentarily, only to have the bear return and finish Tim. Then, paralyzed with fear standing outside her tent, the bear returned again and killed Amie in the same manner. I didn’t see the movie, but have read that even Hollywood could not reenact the actual gruesome details of their deaths.
I love most animals, but in the mountains, I’m on high alert for bears, mountain lion and moose. In the water, I’m on the look-out for tiger, hammerhead and great white sharks. Most of my caution comes from what I read, and some of my caution is learned from observation of their behavior. They can be subtle, sneaky, lull you into thinking they’re not a threat, then suddenly, attack, do damage, or kill.
A missionary friend wanted to grab a sleeping snake in Africa, thinking it was dead. We argued as I told him not to touch this scary 10-footer. I finally won the debate by pouring a little water on the snake–it was so mad it attacked the tires of a nearby Jeep. The same friend challenged a road-sleeping water buffalo with his car–a dangerous mistake that could’ve turned ugly.
I am grateful that most of you are cautious around animals–especially cats, in Hemet. But this AM, the Lord wants you to grow cautious around some scary creatures in the Church. They’re not animals, but they are animal-like and they are more dangerous to us corporately, and to you personally, than a bear in the wild.
Paul speaks of their scary behavior in 2 Timothy 3:6 to 9. Turn there and follow the outline. Paul just described their scary character in verses 1 to 5, and now to help us identify them in verses 6 to 9, Paul describes their behavioral patterns. In order to protect your own brothers and sisters in Christ, guide your children, maintain a healthy church, and clarify to the lost what a genuine Christian truly is, you need to know the dead patterns of the errant, in order to point to the living truth of Christ.
Read aloud from your outline verses 6 to 9, “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.”
Paul is reminding Timothy (and teaching us) the importance of knowing the dead patterns of the errant, in order to point to the living truth of Christ. We know the character of the corrupt from verses 1 to 5. What is the conduct of the corrupt? Today’s outline follows the acrostic M.O.R.E.–molests, opposes, reasons and end of the dangerous church attender.
#1 The corrupt leader MOLESTS the weak Verses 6 to 7
You identify the apostate leader by uncovering the sheep’s clothing to expose the wolf. You do that by watching how they live. You observe who they target, since many wolves are those who uniquely take advantage of weak, so-called believers. Verse 6, “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
On the heels of verse 5 and the command to avoid men such as these–some bogus believers and deceptive teachers target frail females. Now not all the false teachers target weak women. Paul reminds Timothy in verse 6, “For among them”–some of the false use this technique, so watch for it. Some false prophets specialize in the art of captivating women.
They’re not successful with all the women. Most of the women at FBC are far too sensible to become the dupes of a false teacher. Paul thought very highly of noble women and had high expectations for their gifts and service to Christ. But every age also has its fickle women, both in and outside the church. How do the traitorous men do it?
The false teacher, verse 6, would “enter into households.” Enter carries the idea of stealth–these men are literally creeping in undetected, probably under the pretext of some ministry or some need or answering some question. Do you recall when this first happened? Genesis 3, the serpent crept up to the first woman, Eve, and asked some devious questions.
Jude warned of a similar creeping in Jude 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Here in Jude, they turned the free gift of salvation into a license to sin, and as a result deny the Lordship of Christ in the process.
Paul reminds Timothy, a favorite target of certain false teachers is verse 6, “weak women [who are] weighed down with sins.” These men worm their way into households, literally homes, dwelling, family—in order to captivate. The meaning of the Greek word captivate is to take captive, like a Roman soldier taking a person prisoner with a spear.
But to describe these women, Paul uses a Greek word difficult to translate. Weak is probably weak-minded women, weak-natured women, silly women or softies. These are women who are easy marks for false prophets. Why do these false teachers target women? Is it because the false teachers know that this particular brand of women is easier to mislead than men? Is it that the apostate attenders reason this way–once we have the women on our side, the men will come of their own accord (like what Satan did with Eve first, then Adam)?
By methods either fair or foul, the false teachers sneak into family units. What is going on? Many have speculated, maybe they visit when their husbands are not at home in order to peddle their errant doctrines. In the context here, possibly their doctrine teaches an easy way out for all those bothered by sin or worried about everlasting punishment. Paul will say in chapter 4 that their teaching will make people feel good, tickle their ears, and appeal to the flesh. These false teachers peddle strange doctrines and in these last days it will get worse.
What kind of women would be duped by a false teacher? Paul tells us by using three participial phrases. These weak-minded women are further described in verse 6b as, 1) “weighed down with sins”, 2) “led on by various impulses”, and verse 7, 3) “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
First These particular weak women are “weighed down with sins.” They’re weak in truth, weak in character, and they feel the heavy weight of their sin and the guilt it brings. And just as wrong doctrine leads to wrong living, so their wrong living easily leads to embracing wrong doctrine. These women are most likely afraid of the consequences of their sins, but are not necessarily ashamed of their sins, like a true believer is.
Because of that, these weak women are especially vulnerable to being religiously seduced by false teachers. Just as Eve was the first target, so Satan continues to target women as his initial captives. The statistics are clear–cults are often spawned by women, and women are the most numerous adherents.
Second These weak women are also “led on by various impulses” (or desires). Paul doesn’t tell us exactly what these evil incentives are. Paul does tell Timothy these women are literally moved to pursue evil emotions. The Greek word “led” means to move, to compel. Plus the Greek word various means many-colored and diverse. They battle with many different kinds of bad, weak and improper emotions.
Plus, Paul adds these are “impulses”–literally desires, evil emotions, and crazes seeking to be satisfied. These women are motivated by many different fleshly emotions. One commentator says, “Perhaps the desire to find an easy way out of their guilt; the desire to gain recognition, the lust to be ‘well-informed;’ the passion to satisfy their curiosity; the ego of needing the attention of a prominent man, all fuels their various impulse desires.
Third These weak-minded women are “always learning.” They appear to be hungry disciples, taking it all in with rapt attention, as they admiringly listen to their licentious teachers. But their unwillingness to openly confess then repent of their sin and their unwillingness to resist the evil promptings of their fallen nature results in their being “never able to arrive at the acknowledgment of the truth” as revealed in the Gospel.
The Greek word for knowledge describes a deep understanding, intimate comprehension, and doctrinal discernment–not merely awareness of factual truths. It is the “knowledge of the truth” that God wants all of His children to have. “The knowledge of the truth” is salvation in Christ. First Timothy 2:4 reminds you God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Reflecting that divine love, Paul already told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:25 that believers should even seek the salvation of those who are “in opposition” to the Gospel, hoping that “perhaps God [would] grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” But some will never get there—why?
One commentator suggests, “If they have been reared in the Church, they are especially susceptible to ideas that purport to be Christian. But their ignorance of Scripture and their sinful living make them utterly undiscerning and defenseless against unbiblical and ungodly principles.” They are “continually learning” about everything except “the knowledge of the truth.”
So what do many of the fake embrace? They embrace legalism. Legalism only requires outward performance, making it very attractive. Many are glad to find a way of salvation that promises to make them right with God simply by adhering to certain outward forms and conforming to certain behavioral standards. So they miss God’s genuine salvation of truth and transformation.
In Ephesus, some apostate leaders are traveling from home to home teaching nefarious doctrines to spiritually weak women so they’d embrace these truths and influence others. As a result, they’re showing themselves to be adversaries of God and enemies of the truth.
And–don’t be naive and think, “Oh, I am so glad this doesn’t occur today. True pseudo-Christian false teachers don’t go door-to-door, impacting women with error. But what has happened is even worse–false teachers don’t come to your door, but they show up easily in your living room through your TV and other media vehicles. Every false teacher on TV is kept in business primarily by women donors. They seem distant and safe because they’re so wacky, but they’re as dangerous as a wild grizzly.
Back then and today, these men are used by the enemy to eat people alive—to destroy. But worse than the TV false teacher are the subtle ones who flourish in churches. Paul had already warned the Ephesus elders in Acts 20:29, “I know that after my departure savage wolves [grizzly bears] will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Let’s be knowing the dead patterns of the errant, in order to point to the living truth of Christ. These wolves don’t announce themselves as false teachers, but they expose their false heart when . . .
#2 The corrupt leader OPPOSES truth tellers Verse 8a
“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.” Who are Jannes and Jambres? Surprisingly, neither are mentioned in Exodus nor found anywhere else in the Old Testament Scripture. The best answer is that they were among the magicians in Pharaoh’s court–the same ones who duplicated many of the miracles the Lord performed through Moses. Do you recall that amazing event?
When Moses first appeared before the Pharaoh in Exodus 7 and 8, Moses stated God’s demand that Pharaoh release His Hebrew slaves. Moses presented his credentials by telling Aaron to cast his rod on the ground. When he did so, the rod became a serpent. The magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate this miracle by satanic power and by their secret arts. But you love it, cause Aaron’s serpent immediately swallowed up the Egyptians’ serpents.
The next day, Moses confronted Pharaoh again–this time by the banks of the Nile. Moses turned the water to blood, and again the magicians duplicated the miracle with their enchantments. Once again, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. In the next confrontation, Moses smote the land of Egypt with frogs. The magicians did the same—and Pharaoh hardened his heart again.
The next plague fell without warning–the dust of the land became lice, which swarmed everywhere. This time, the magicians were unable to duplicate the miracle and confessed to Pharaoh that they detected “the finger of God” in it. Paul viewed the Ephesus false teachers as just like the magicians of Egypt–they are ministers of Satan.
As a trained rabbi, Paul probably took these names from Jewish tradition. And through divine inspiration, the apostle named these two who took the lead in opposing Moses and deceiving the pharaoh.–they “withstood Moses.” Because Jannes means “he who seduces” and Jambres “he who makes rebellion,” they are probably symbolic names assigned to them later.
Jewish tradition states that both these men pretended to convert to Judaism in order to subvert Moses’ divine assignment to liberate Israel from Egypt. All this led to making and worshiping the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the Law from God. And both of them were slaughtered by the Levites, along with all the other idolaters in Exodus 32. They were pretenders, hypocrites, making them very dangerous.
Just as those two men opposed Moses, the false teachers in Ephesus also oppose the truth of the Gospel and God’s truth tellers. The word translated opposed means to set oneself against, to resist. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed God’s representative, Moses–so these false leaders oppose the truth of God’s Word and oppose Paul and Timothy. Why do they oppose God’s Word and God’s men? Two reasons–they M, molest, and they O, oppose. For what R, reason?
First The REASON for their opposition?
Verse 8b says, “men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.” The first reason is, they are men of depraved mind. These guys are twisted in the head. The Greek word behind depraved mind is a perfect passive participle, indicating these false teachers are in an established, continuous and unalterable condition of bad head. They can’t think straight, they can’t think biblically, they can’t think righteously.
Paul described these reprobates this way in Romans 1:28 and 32, “They did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper . . . 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Their mind is defiled. The very brain given to them in order to receive and reflect on spiritual realities has become thoroughly and permanently warped. You will get common sense answers, secular answers, popular answers, but not accurate, biblical answers from these men. That is why they’re opposed to truth and are guilty of molesting others with error.
As a result of their depraved mind, these men have been found worthy of disapproval–Paul says “rejected in regard to the faith.” The objective sense of rejecting the faith is reprobate, condemned as worthless, unfit, disqualified, utterly rejected. Because they had rejected the faith, they were themselves rejected by God in regards to the saving faith of salvation in Christ.
Rejected is used in Greek of metals that did not pass the test of purity and were discarded. Rejected is also used of counterfeits. So get this–Paul is describing individuals in the church who claimed to be Christians, but were not. They rejected the true faith, and God rejected them from the true faith. How do you know if you are in the faith or rejected in regard to the faith?
The apostle admonished the local church in Corinth and all Christians apart of the truth in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Is Christ in you?
The scariest part about the false teachers is they don’t announce, “I am a false teacher.” They also don’t say, “Watch out for what I teach, because my mind is depraved.” More often they present themselves as safe and cuddly teddy bears, but when it comes to the truth and your faith, they’re grizzlies who will slowly eat you alive.
These men are terrorists in our midst. But be encouraged, they will eventually be exposed and come to an end. How do I know? Verse 9, MORE–they M, molest, they O, oppose, for R, a reason, leading to the E, end.
Second The END their opposition?
Verse 9, “But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” Paul assures Timothy, despite the great damage they cause the church, such men “will not make further progress.” In other words, they can seriously harm the church and can prevent many unsaved from becoming saved. But they cannot rob Christ’s true children of their salvation.
Jesus Himself assures us in Matthew 16:18, “The gates of Hades shall not overpower” His church, and John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Until the Lord returns, Mark 13:22 “false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.”
But they will not make further progress in their evil schemes. The enemies of the faith continue to advance, they increase in ungodliness. Their teaching spreads like gangrene in make-believers and can rip a church to shreds. But there is good news–since its birth, though there’s been the most savage attacks, the Church has never been destroyed.
Throughout history, the Church has been so fiercely persecuted believers have feared, not only for their own lives, but for the very existence of the Church. But God has a boundary that prohibits the work of Satan, not only in the Church but in the world. Satan is on a divine tether that he can neither break, nor lengthen.
The point is, God always has been and continues to be in control of persecution, suffering, difficulty and the impact of false teachers. Sooner or later, the folly of false leaders becomes obvious to all of God’s people, as did the folly of Jannes and Jambres in ancient Israel. Make certain you learn the dead patterns of the errant, in order to point to the living truth of Christ.
TAKE HOME What should our behavior be in response to their false behavior?
1. Love God’s WORD
This is God’s love letter to you—don’t leave it unopened. Your soul desperately needs God’s Word and you desperately need to remain intimate with Christ. Love His Word. Read it, study it, meditate on it and listen to it every day.
2. Stand up for those who TEACH the truth
The best way to fight the errant is to stand up, speak up, and defend those who accurately teach God’s Word–the author’s intended meaning; resulting in sound doctrine. Speak up for them–do not be intimidated to share what the Bible says about truth, about sin, about life. If you love His Word, you will stand up for His Word.
3. Practice LIVING biblically
Don’t just be those who hear the word, be a doer. Don’t be part of the crowd that hears Jesus say, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” Write out everything you do, every relationship you have, and seek to live it under God’s Word. You are here to make disciples–intentional relationships for the purpose of growth. And that only occurs when you teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded in every area of their life.
4. Submit to Christ as your LORD
John MacArthur says, “You cannot claim Christ as Lord if your allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including yourself.” Is there anyone you love more than Christ? Is there anything you give more to than Christ? Is there anything you love more than Christ? Is Christ your first love? If not, turn to Christ in repentance and faith today.
5. Build up the WEAK, don’t take advantage of them
The weak in our midst are not there for us to abuse, but for us to strengthen by our instruction and example. First Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
6. Loving Christ means loving the TRUTH
If you love Christ, you will love His truth. If you don’t love His truth, it is an indicator your heart has wandered or your heart was never His. Turn to Christ–love His truth. Learn it, live it and loudly proclaim it in this age of error–for His glory. Let’s pray.