Summary: 2 Timothy 3:1-9 shows us how to identify false teachers.


In the Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland, Alice wanders through a frustrating world of tardy rabbits, singing flowers, and one curious-talking cat. Her visit with the cat begins as she continues down a mysterious darkened trail and stops at a large tree. The tree is covered with signs that point in every possible direction: “Up,” “Down,” “Yonder,” “Back,” “This Way,” and “That Way.” Poor Alice looks more confused than ever and asks herself, “Now let’s see. Where was I? I wonder which way I ought to go?”

Just then, Alice hears a melodic voice that seems to be drifting down from the trees. She looks all around and finally observes two ghostly eyes and a wide toothy grin floating amongst the boughs of the great tree.

The grinning teeth inquire of Alice, “Lose something?”

“N-n-no, I was just…” stammers Alice in reply.

Suddenly, a pink-striped feline body emerges from the branches.

“Oh, you’re a cat!”

“A Cheshire cat,” he responds.

“I just want to ask which way I ought to go,” asks Alice.

“Well that depends on where you want to get to,” says the cat.

“Well, it really doesn’t matter,” answers Alice.

“Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go,” says the enigmatic cat just before vanishing into the woods again.

The Cheshire cat is the perfect picture of a false teacher. He pretends to be knowledgeable and able to offer help. But when it comes to pointing you in the right direction, his promise of hope quickly disappears.

The Apostle Paul was in a prison cell in Rome. He was on death row awaiting execution. But rather than think about his impending death, his mind was preoccupied with the gospel and how to get the good news to as many people as possible. Paul also understood that he lived in perilous times. Moreover, his young assistant, Timothy, whom he had left in Ephesus was facing problems with false teachers who were promoting their false teaching. Timothy was cautious and timid, while the false teachers were certain and bold.

With this background, Paul wanted to sketch the contemporary scene and help Timothy understand how to identify false teachers. Armed with this knowledge, Timothy was to continue serving God with faithfulness and commitment.


Let’s read 2 Timothy 3:1-9:

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9)


2 Timothy 3:1-9 shows us how to identify false teachers.

Let’s use the following outline:

1. False Teachers Can Be Identified by Their Lives (3:1-5)

2. False Teachers Can Be Identified by Their Ministry (3:6-9)

I. False Teachers Can Be Identified by Their Lives (3:1-5)

First, false teachers can be identified by their lives.

Paul now turned his attention in his Second Letter to Timothy to the godless character of people in the last days. He wrote in verse 1, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.”

What did Paul mean by using the expression “last days”? The New Testament authors considered themselves to be living in the “last days.” For example, Peter explained the events that took place on the Day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel 2:28, as we read in Acts 2:16-17a, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.’ ” The author of Hebrews declared that “long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). Thus, Paul’s mention of the “last days” refers to the time beginning with Christ’s first advent and consummated at his second advent (cf. 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18).

I became a Christian on Easter Sunday in 1976. The 1970s were filled with “last days” expectations of Jesus’ imminent return. The bestselling nonfiction of the 1970s was Hal Lindsey’s book titled The Late Great Planet Earth. The book asserted that we were living in the “end times” or “last days” and that Jesus might return by 1988, within one forty-year generation of Israel becoming a modern nation. Other popular books predicted that we were living in the “last days” and that Jesus would soon return. Well, it is now 2022 and Jesus has not returned a second time. While there was a miscalculation about the 1980s as the time of Jesus’ second advent, the fact is that we were—and still are—living in the last days. The last days, as Scripture teaches, began with the first advent of Jesus Christ and will conclude with his second advent. So let us be prepared for the return of Jesus, whenever that may be.

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