The apostle Paul outlined for Timothy some traits that would characterize men “in the last days” and warned that, because of such men, those days would be a time of stress and peril. Men would be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it” (2 Tim. 3:1–5).

No one can say whether we are living in the last days or not. But this we know: Paul’s description is a graphic picture of men who are making the headlines today.

In light of conditions that existed when Paul wrote to Timothy—conditions that, though they repeat themselves in every generation, seem unusually prevalent today—it is interesting and instructive to see what Paul’s advice to Timothy was. He did not tell Timothy to go and hide. Nor did he tell him to become “involved” with these people. First of all Paul said, “Avoid such people.” This was not to be a sanctimonious separation from needy sinners but a recognition of the fact that there are men who are totally dedicated to evil and that reaching them with the Gospel is a matter of sticking to one’s calling and to the source of one’s message.

Paul told Timothy the going would be rough, involving persecution for Christ’s sake: “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v. 12).

He told him things would get worse: “Evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived” (v. 13).

Then, despite the catalogue of evil and the men who devote themselves to its accomplishment, despite the fact ...

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