2 Timothy 3:5

Monday, 16 April 2018

…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5

Paul here is referring to the miscreants listed in verses 2-4. In those verses, he gave a lengthy list of people who possess faults which will bring about perilous times. Now, referring to them one final time, he notes that they have “a form of godliness.” The idea here is one of a wearing a mask. They appear one way, but they are actually different behind the mask. Their profession of religion is a show of piety, but it belies the truth of who they are.

Paul says that such people have this form of godliness, but they are “denying its power.” What they do is for show, but there is no sense of the true power of Christ working in them or through them. As one example, we could think of the pervert priests which infect many denominations. They profess Christ in the pulpit, and they wear the robes of a priest (thus looking showy and pious); but the truth of their lives is one which denies the cleansing power of Christ, the effective working of the Holy Spirit, and the life-changing abilities of the word of God. The words they speak may impress the hearer, but there is no power to convert the soul to Christ because they don’t believe the very message they proclaim.

In addition to lacking personal conviction in the word, such people may put forth traditions or extra-biblical church doctrines which are supposed to add to their external appearance of piety, but they add nothing to the truth of Scripture or the glory of God. The procession of church officials carrying crosses on a stick, marching in order through the church, raising hands and proclaiming church-written proclamations ad nauseam, do nothing to convert the soul. They are simply external forms of godliness with no substance behind them.

The same is true with modern teachings within the messianic movements. Leaders and congregants wear traditional Jewish garments, even when not Jewish, they follow traditions of the Jews, even when they have no biblical connection at all, and they utter words and names in Hebrew in order to sound more pious and godly than others, and yet they have departed from accepting the full and finished work of Christ. Instead, they rely on adhering to selected precepts the Law of Moses in order to seem more godly than others. These are the types of things that Paul warned against.

In this, he then directly and poignantly says, “And from such people turn away!” Paul’s words here to Timothy are in the present tense. This shows, without any doubt or need for further controversy, that the “last days” referred to in verse 3:1 are speaking of the entire church age. It is not a point in history where people can claim, “The Lord is near; the signs of the last day are fulfilled in our lifetime.” Rather, they were being seen at the time Paul wrote the epistle. His warning to Timothy, and then to all who would follow in right doctrine, is to turn away from such people. External acts of piety, exclusive “one version of the Bible only clubs,” wearing certain cheesy garments by priests or rabbis in order to appear more godly, adhering to church traditions, and on and on – all of these things have a form of godliness, but they deny its power.

The preacher who preaches from the word of God while in blue jeans can be much more powerful in converting the soul than any such-and-so wearing special clothes and uttering nonsense from tradition could ever produce.

Life application: Stick to the word of God for your doctrine. Don’t get caught up in traditions, showy rituals, or interesting but useless presentations during your church services. Instead, find a church where the word is opened, read from, and then explained. This is where true instruction from God comes, and this is what will open up the power of God in your life.

Heavenly Father, we need You in our lives, but we also need to know what that means. Lead us to churches which actually open the word each week and read from it. And after it being read, it is then explained. Keep us from showy presentations, dead rituals, and leaders who wear certain clothes which look pious, but add nothing to the message of Your word. Without Your word being introduced into our lives, we are not going to have You filling us as we should. Direct us to sound churches with sound doctrine. In this, we will become well-fed, mature followers of You. Amen.

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