2 Timothy 3:7, has always been a passage that scared me. In the past I have wrongly attributed Paul’s description to the teachers. But he is not describing them. He is describing the women who are following them.
Regardless, the description, “always learning but never able to come the knowledge of the truth”, should still cause us a great deal of discomfort if not abject terror. The word that is translated “knowledge” here is ἐπίγνωσις (epignōsis). This word plays a prominent role in 2 Peter 1:3 – 10. In that passage it is translated “true knowledge” in verses 3 and 8 and seems to have a similar force in verse 2. The sense is that this is a clear understanding of truth. A recognition of what God is revealing in the text. Those who are the disciples of the impostors are not able to recognize the truth.
This is not the first time we have seen this reality in the Scripture. Jesus rebukes the Jews in John 5:39 – 47, because they have completely missed the point of the Word. They did not recognize the truth. James tells us in James 1:22 – 25, that if we are not applying the Word, doing, obeying, applying it to our lives, it has no effect on our lives. Essentially, we are not recognizing the truth.
I have encountered people enmeshed in the teachings of impostors. They were committed and could recite nearly by rote convoluted and complicated systems of “thought” that was the teaching of the impostors they followed. They were so deeply engaged in the false teaching that they were unable to state what the text of the Bible said. They read and interacted through the lens of the system they had learned. In many cases completely distorting the plain meaning of the text or else significantly redefining words in the text from any supportable historical or contextual meaning.
Some of these impostors are with us today.
The deeply troubling truth is that none of us are immune from slipping into error of this kind. Which is really Paul’s point is it not?
He has laid out the danger. He has described the evil men and impostors. He next gives us an example to follow and tells us how to build the firewall against the conflagration of error that he warned the elders from Ephesus would come from among their own number in Acts 20:30; which warning he is repeating to his beloved son here.
We will dive into those remedies for error in the next posts.