The condition of things prevailing in the professing church today as clearly portrayed by the prophetic pea of the Apostle Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy. We are forewarned to be forearmed. A comparison of chapters 3 and 4 with the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, will show that the corruption of Christendom as only second to the pollution of the Gentile world, before the light of the gospel came to man.
And there is this added, “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” The light has come. The truth has been professedly received, but its whole power is denied. The “black list” of chapter 3 is a serious one indeed. There are nineteen characteristics given. And while the expression of some of these may be localized, yet nearly every Christian will find not a few evidenced in his own surroundings.
1. Lovers of their own selves.
2. Covetous (lovers of money).
6. Disobedient to parents.
9. Without natural affection.
10. Truce breakers.
11. False accusers.
14. Despisers of those that are good (not lovers of good).
18. Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.
19. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.
Who can contemplate such a catalogue without sorrow, that the fair name of Christ should be linked with that which is so unlike Him And yet, alas; it is so, and “the form of godliness” is considered a sufficient cloak to cover it all, in so-called Christian lands, and multitudes are satisfied to drift on because after all they are connected with a “Christian” church.
Space will not be available to speak of all the varieties of evil in the category, and perhaps Numbers 1, 2 and 18 are more generally manifest than the others, so I will limit my remarks to these, adding a few words upon part of the 4th chapter in closing.
LOVERS OF SELF
Clearly this is seen on all sides. “Look after the main chance”; “Take care of yourself”, and similar expressions are current. “My welfare,” “my advantage,” “my good,” “my health,” these are prominently before the minds and on the lips of people. How will it benefit me? How will it affect my interests? are the questions asked. And in conversation self-love asserts itself without shame. The pronoun “I,” which English-speaking people write with a capital, is heard in nearly every sentence. All seems to revolve around it as a centre. (It is the central letter of the word sin, too.) Men and women seem impatient while others are telling of their exploits as they are longing to narrate their own. They desire to be the centre of interest to others, because they are this to themselves. Thus the human heart—essentially the same in all—tells itself out in self-occupation, self-adulation and self-ministration.
LOVERS OF MONEY
The golden god is uplifted high today and its votaries are countless. It is said that at the time of one of the great Chicago Exhibitions a storekeeper collected the gods of the heathen from every land possible and exhibited them for the public gaze. Above the hideous forms of many of the debased and debasing conceptions of the deity, at the very top of the case, was seen a coin. The profane description of it was attached, the words being, “The Almighty Dollar the God of the American Nation.” Multitudes who read the words would tacitly agree, and according to the spirit of the age would continue to bow to the false god. Whether it be the dollar or the sovereign, the franc or the mark, it matters not; in every civilized land there is a headlong rush to be rich. “Is there money in it?” is the cry, and if there is, all haste is made to secure the advantage.
LOVERS OF PLEASURES
Probably the love of pleasure is emphatically the characteristic of the present hour. The pains and privations which have been known during the long-drawn-out tragedy of almost universal conflict are cited as the excuse for hurrying after this or that form of excitement and entertainment now that the war-circumstances are passing. And instead of standing aloof the professing churches are leavened, and increasingly seek to cater for the amusement of the masses. Thus instead of the glorious gospel of the happy God which alone can give true peace and joy and satisfaction—“Fancy Balls,” “Amateur Theatricals,” “Dances,” and “Whist Drives,” are advertised as “draws” for the perishing around.
Dark indeed is the picture of the so-named, “Christian World,” which hastens on thoughtlessly to its near approaching doom. Can we look for alteration or improvement? What do we read in verse 13 of our chapter? “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” The Lord has warned us that “As it was in the days of Noah,” and “As it was in the days of Lot,” so shall it be also in “the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26-30). Things will go on as they are until He comes again. He alone can set them right. The lukewarm Laodicean mass which has falsely taken His holy name as its title will be spued out of His mouth and fall beneath His judgment rod.
LOVERS OF GOD
But, amidst the darkness, God in grace carries on His work, and hearts are opened to receive Christ. The love of God makes its way into such and produces responsive love to Himself. “We love Him because He first loved us,” cries the Apostle John (1 John 4:19). Here and there are found those who “set the Lord” before them and seek “to walk so as to please God.”
They may be scorned, and despised by those who love not good; but what matters that? They have the knowledge of sins forgiven—of their relationship with God as their Father, of their present and eternal association with Christ as His co-heirs, of the dwelling in their hearts of the Holy Ghost and of Christ’s ministry on their behalf until His glory is reached and conformity to His image there is conferred., This brings abiding contentment and causes their hearts to well-up in praise. They seek not their rest here, they look for the Saviour’s return. With the Apostle Paul they are lookers for and LOVERS OF CHRIST’S APPEARING (4:8). In the light of “that day” they live, and are willing to be counted the dross of the world, as they wait for His manifestation. Then for their service here” a crown of righteousness” will be bestowed, and His “well done” will more than compensate for all the loss they may have suffered for Him.
How small will all else appear in “that day.” All the glory of man will perish, all the glory of the world will pass away, and—
“Like the base fabric of a dream,
Leave not a wrack behind.”
He that does the will of God will abide for ever.