Most have been somewhere where an announcement over the P.A. system advises that an impending fire-alarm test is about to take place. You waited and waited for it, and finally gave up the idea of ever hearing it. Then just when you seemed convinced that the test might have been cancelled, suddenly a bird-like shrill sound pierces the silence and you jump, almost frantically as though you never had been given any notice ahead of time. Afterwards, you breathe a sigh of relief and your heart rate returns to normal. The warnings in our lifetime come in different forms and from different sources. Some may be ignored for they are only a test, while others are more ominous and should leave us on high alert. Especially when God is the sender of it.
After the death and resurrection of Christ in the 1st century, a middle-age Christian Church leader received a dire prediction of savage and dangerous periods where evil would rise to its highest levels at different times and that it would increase in severity and frequency as the return of Christ approaches. The narrative in 2nd Timothy 3:9 contains a list of evil characteristics that is set against a backdrop which cautions us about false leaders and their effects. These same characteristics are similar in scope for false teachers as they are for unbelievers. Contained on the list is parental disobedience, ungratefulness, unholy, slanderous, brutal and conceited to name only a few from this series. We have all seen a sudden escalation of mayhem and corruption at various points in world history: first century pseudo religions along with cult worship during Nero’s day; the Stalin and Hitler eras; the hippie movement of the sexual revolution that appeared in the sixties, right into our contemporary age where baneful efforts are under-way to either squelch or redefine our Christian heritage and ways to theirs — and always the perpetrators striving to appear good while doing evil. Interesting how this Pauline passage says that those doing evil wish to appear godly; having a form of godliness, but denying its power. The ascendency of this passage is not meant to lead the reader to predict the time of Christ’s return, but instead to describe the utter wickedness of man. Some would suggest that today evil is as bad as it ever has been in our history. That may be so, especially when the fact that all around us evil is growing and those responsible for it are claiming innocence. Bombs being thrown in the name of Allah, physicians cutting into the life of a baby under the guise of a Hippocratic Oath, adoptions being granted to homosexuals and lesbians under the pretense of fairness, and depending where you live these same awful acts are being celebrated as good and proper.
At the time this letter to Timothy was written, Nero was in command. Many Christians were being crucified, burned, or thrown to wild beasts in the coliseum to entertain Rome’s citizens. Extensive evil had been pursued in that day as now is in ours. The injunction to Timothy to avoid such people does not mean for the Believer to go into hiding, but rather to keep from succumbing to their influence. This is good advice, if you wish to remain free from thinking and acting as those who are opponents to Christ. Paul warns Timothy to be on high alert and remain firm in the ways that he has been taught from his infancy that made him wise to salvation. Timothy must consider these matters seriously for he has a great responsibility to shepherd the flock of God. Yet, taking into consideration all of these things, steering clear of evil persons and their influence is only part of the advice that Timothy is given.
In two weeks’ time, part two: “Under the influence of righteousness!”