2 Timothy 3:3-5 Commentary

To go directly to that verse

Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
2 Timothy 1:1-18 2 Timothy 2:1-26 2 Timothy 3:1-17 2 Timothy 4:1-22
the Standard
Divide the Word
Difficult Times
Will Come
the Word
Foundation of
Christian Service
Pictures of
Christian Servant
Dangerous Times for
Christian Servant
Commission of
Christian Servant
Unashamed as a
the Gospel
Unashamed as a
Suffer for
the Gospel
Adequate as a
Continue in
the Gospel
Awarded as a
the Gospel
Power of
the Gospel
Perseverance of the Gospel Message Protection of
the Gospel
Proclamation of
the Gospel
Reminder Requirements Resistance Requests
in Ministry
in Ministry
in Ministry
to Fulfill Ministry
& Charge
to Fulfill
to Face
to Finish

Compiled from Jensen's Survey of the NT and Wilkinson's Talk Thru the Bible

2 Timothy 3:3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: astorgoi, aspondoi, diaboloi, akrateis, anemeroi, aphilagathoi

Amplified: [They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good.(Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: without human affection, implacable in hatred, reveling in slander, ungovernable in their passions, savage, not knowing what the love of good is (Westminster Press)

GWT: and lack normal affection for their families. They will refuse to make peace with anyone. They will be slanderous, lack self-control, be brutal, and have no love for what is good. (GWT)

KJV: Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good

NLT: They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: utterly lacking in… normal human affections. They will be men of unscrupulous speech and have no control of themselves. They will be passionate and unprincipled (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, lacking self-control, savage, haters of that which is good 

Young's Literal: without natural affection, implacable, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, not lovers of those who are good,

UNLOVING: astorgoi:

without (destitute) natural affection (feeling)

lack normal affection for their families (GWT)


Unloving (794) (astorgos [word study] from a = without + storge = family love) literally is without family affection or without love for kindred and is frequently used of parent-child relationships. Storge love is instinctive, involves natural affection and is a conditional love. Although the Greek word storge is not used in the NT, it does form part of 3 derivative words - Ro 1:31, Ro 12:10; 2Ti 3:3-see notes Ro 1:31, Ro 12:10; 2Ti 3:3.

If there is no human affection, the family cannot long exist. In the terrible times men will be so set on self that even the closest natural ties will be nothing to them, even willing to "bite the hand that fed them" so to speak!. This is the sort of degradation in the human heart that allows mothers to have abortions or to leave their babies in trash cans. To be astorgos is to be heartless. It is not natural for people to love God or the things and people of God, but it is natural for them to love their own families.

Astorgos was used in secular Greek to describe women who had many love affairs and as a result did not have that nobler love for their husbands which they should have had.

Astorgos described animals who do not love their young. In these perilous times men will be so focused on self love that even the closest ties will mean nothing to them. The natural affection of storge is found even in people without Jesus but in the last days the love of self will override even this natural love of family members.

It is a terrible time when men and women are so focused on self gratification that even the closest ties mean nothing to them. Perhaps Dickens had this thought in mind in his classic epic "A Tale of Two Cities" when he wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". The "best of times" of course is only possible when depraved men & women living in the "worst of times" accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are forever transferred from the city of man to the city of God (cf note Revelation 21:2-note).

Barclay notes that the age of the Roman Empire was "an age in which family love was dying. Never was the life of the child so precarious as at this time. Children were considered a misfortune. When a child was born, it was taken and laid at the father’s feet. If the father lifted it up that meant that he acknowledged it. If he turned away and left it, the child was literally thrown out. There was never a night when there were not thirty or forty abandoned children left in the Roman forum. Even Seneca, great soul as he was, could write: “We kill a mad dog; we slaughter a fierce ox; we plunge the knife into sickly cattle lest they taint the herb; children who are born weakly and deformed we drown.” The natural bonds of human affection had been destroyed." (The Daily Study Bible)

MacArthur explains that

astorgos, a negative adjective form of the verb storge, which commonly was used of family, social, and patriotic love. The noted theologian Benjamin Warfield described it as "that quiet and abiding feeling within us, which, resting on an object as near to us, recognizes that we are closely bound up with it and takes satisfaction in its recognition." It is not natural for people to love God or the things and people of God, but it is natural for them to love their own families. To be astorgos is therefore to be "without natural affection" (KJV). Just as the self-loving person is without common decency, he also is without common affection. He cares nothing for the welfare of those who should be dearest to him. His only interest in them is for what he believes they can do for him. To be unloving is to be heartless. Unloving behavior is reported daily in newspapers and broadcasts. Husbands and wives abusing one another, parents and children abusing one another - often to the point of murder - are so common that they make headlines only if they are particularly brutal or sensational. Tragically, the evangelical church has its share of the unloving and heartless (Ed note: "heartless" is how the NIV translates astorgos) (Bolding added).

Wuest adds this note on astorgos

Benjamin B. Warfield, in his excellent article in The Princeton Theological Review of April 1918, The Terminology of Love in the New Testament , defines it as follows: It designates “that quiet and abiding feeling within us, which, resting on an object as near to us, recognizes that we are closely bound up with it and takes satisfaction in its recognition.” It is a love that is “a natural movement of the soul, something almost like gravitation or some other force of blind nature.” It is the love of parents for children, and children for parents, of husband for wife, and wife for husband. It is a love of obligatoriness, the term being used here, not in its moral sense, but in a natural sense. It is a necessity under the circumstances. This is the binding factor by which any natural or social unit is held together."



unwilling to be at peace with others

bitter haters (BBE)


covenant breakers

implacable (not capable of being appeased)


  • 2Sa 21:1;21:2,3 Ps 15:4; Ezek 17:15;17:16, 17, 18, 19 Ro 1:31
  • 2 Timothy 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Irreconcilable (786) (Aspondos from a = without + sponde = libation or drink offering, truce or an agreement) so literally not pouring out a libation (an act or instance of drinking often ceremoniously). This picture later came to mean “without a truce” because in the ancient world the making of treaties and agreements was accompanied by a pouring out a ceremonial libation. These men are unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party. Like the "Hatfield's and McCoy's", their feuds never end! The thought is not that these men break a truce but that they resist all efforts to reconciliation. They cannot be persuaded to enter into a covenant or agreement. This is the picture of the absolutely irreconcilable person who, being at war, refuses to lay aside their enmity or even to listen to terms of reconciliation. It means "hostility which refuses truce." It is hatred and unforgiveness "set in cement".

Irreconcilable describes a person who is implacably hostile or uncompromisingly opposed. It is one who is unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party.

Hendriksen writes that…

"Their feuds never end. In their camp no libation is ever poured out to signify that those who had been at variance with each other have con­sented to a truce"

The breaking of the marriage covenant (see related topic Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage) between husband and wife and the consequent skyrocketing divorce rate is one good example of this sin, because in it's "purest" form, divorce is a resolute refusal to forgive the other party, producing an unforgiveness "set in cement". Both parties refuse to change, no matter how desperate their own situation becomes, and are determined to have their own way regardless of the consequences, even to the point of knowingly destroying their own lives and the lives of their families. They do not forgive and do not want to be forgiven. They are beyond reasoning and inevitably self-destructive. As far as they are concerned, there is no compromise, no reconciliation, no court of appeal.

The only other NT use of aspondos is Ro1:31 where it occurs as one of a list of unrighteous traits characteristic of those who "did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer" and who God therefore "gave… over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper" (see note on Romans 1:28), one of those things being to be "irreconcilable"

Trench adds that aspondos are not those who are only difficult to be reconciled with but are those who are

absolutely irreconcilable; those who will not be atoned, or set at one, who being at war refuse to lay aside their enmity, or to listen to terms of accommodation… (in war aspondos is those who want) "no herald, no flag of truce, as we should now say, being allowed to pass between the parties, no terms of reconcilement listened to; such a war, for example, as that which the Carthaginians in the interval between the first and second Punic Wars waged with their revolted mercenaries. (Trench, R. C. Synonyms of the New Testament. Page 193)

Barclay - Aspondos can mean two things. It can mean that a man is so bitter in his hatred that he will never come to terms with the man with whom he has quarreled. Or it can mean that a man is so dishonorable that he breaks the terms of the agreement he has made. In either case the word describes a certain harshness of mind which separates a man from his fellow-men in unrelenting bitterness. It may be that, since we are only human, we cannot live entirely without differences with our fellow-men, but to perpetuate these differences is one of the worst—and also one of the commonest—of all sins. When we are tempted to do so, we should hear again the voice of our blessed Lord saying on the Cross: “Father, forgive them.” (The Daily Study Bible Online)


devils (literal)

false accusers


men of unscrupulous speech.

Malicious gossips (1228) (diabolos [word study] from dia = through or between and ballo = throw) literally means to "throw between". Thus the intent and the effect of "diabolos" is to falsely accuse and divide people without any reason. One might even say their speech is "diabolical". Whereas the irreconcilable person tends to disregard and neglect others, malicious gossips make a point of speaking slander so as to harm others. Whether to promote their own interests, to express jealousy or hatred, or simply to vent their anger, they take perverse pleasure in damaging reputations and destroying lives. Engulfed and blinded by self-love, malicious gossips do the very work of the Devil, the chief of all slanderers. Like father, like son.

Diabolos - 37x in 34v - NAS = devil(34), malicious gossips(3)

Mt 4:1, 5, 8, 11; 13:39; 25:41; Lk 4:2f, 6, 13; 8:12; John 6:70; 8:44; 13:2; Acts 10:38; 13:10; Eph 4:27; 6:11; 1 Tim 3:6f, 11; 2 Tim 2:26; 3:3; Titus 2:3; Heb 2:14; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8; 1 John 3:8, 10; Jude 1:9; Rev 2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2, 10. .

Someday (and it could be soon)

the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ (will) come, (and) the (Devil, the) accuser of our brethren (will be) thrown down, (the one) who accuses them before our God day and night. (Rev 12:9-note, Re 12:10-note).

Diabolos points out the fact that these individuals are like devils because they imitate the Devil in constantly inventing and throwing evil reports and accusations at others.

The devil's object is to come between and to break up relationships and then to keep this brokenness "alive". The reasons churches split are because of "old diabolos" who uses the envy, jealously and general ungodliness of other members (cp Mt 13:24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, Jude 1:19, 1Co 1:10, 11:18, 19, 12:24, 25) to the point that they cannot not reconcile with one another (See discussion of the importance of Forgiveness in notes on Eph 4:32). Gossip is never relating facts but is coloring the facts with falsehood, innuendo, supposition, etc. Gossip robs others of their name because it insinuates some attitude, motive, action, etc is present in their lives when it may or may not be (See Jesus' stern warning Mt 7:1, 2ff-note)

Application: What do you say to your brother about your other brother in the Lord?

There is a sense in which slander is the most cruel of all sins. If a man's goods are stolen, he can set to and build up his fortunes again; but if his good name is taken away, irreparable damage has been done. It is one thing to start an evil and untrue report on its malicious way; it is entirely another thing to stop it.

Shakespeare aptly described this diabolical trait:

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
“Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.”


  • 1Co 7:5;7:9 2Pe 2:14;2:19, 3:3; Jude 1:16, 18
  • 2 Timothy 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

KJV has "incontinent" (Webster defines it as lacking in control, one who fails to control sexual appetites)

Ungovernable in their passions

Without self control (193) (akrates from a = without + krátos = strength) is literally without strength to resist the solicitations of one's passions and so describes a man who is powerless and/or unable to govern his fleshly appetites. They are void of that inner power of self-government which is the characteristic of the disciplined man. This man has jettisoned inhibitions and shame, does not care about what people think or what happens to them because of what he does. Like a driverless car, he careens haphazardly and crashes into whatever gets in his way. These men reach a stage when, so far from controlling his passions and desires, they are totally in bondage to that life sapping habit or desire which is their "master". The body which God gave them to use for His pleasure, has tragically become a vehicle for their selfish pleasure. Few things are more tragic than a man or woman who can no longer say "no" to self and who have become hopelessly enslaved to their own cravings.

These men are "without power over self" so that they are slaves to their own passions and lusts. The body which God gave them to use for His pleasure, has become a vehicle for their own pleasure. Few things are more tragic than a man or woman who can no longer say "no" to themselves and thus are hopelessly enslaved to their own cravings.

Paul is saying that in "the last days" anything goes. No rules, no moral absolutes, no restraints of any kind. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes, and woe to the person who dares to question his “lifestyle choices.”

Jesus excoriated the religious leaders who had a "form of godliness" but lacked the power:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (Greek here is the related noun akrasia derived from akrates) (Mt 23:25)

BRUTAL, HATERS OF GOOD: anemeroi aphilagaqoi

  • Ge 49:7; Rev 13:15;13:17 16:6; 17:6
  • Ps 22:6; Isa 53:3; 60:14; Lk 10:16; 16:14; 1Th 4:8; Jas 2:6

Brutal (savage, fierce, untamed, cruel) (434) (anemeros from a = without + hemeros = mild, lame) (found only in this verse in the NT) means literally not mild, not tame, savage, merciless, the very opposite of the gentle. These men have a character and conduct befitting a brute beast and are grossly ruthless or unfeeling. They are like animals in their nature, action and instincts. They are savage (lacking the restraints normal to civilized human beings), cruel, violent like that of wild beasts, who attack enemies and tear them in pieces. These men are not just given to violence now and then; they are in fact, ferocious "savages" who pounce on whoever gets in their way, and have no regard for the rights or feelings of anyone other than themselves. Even a dog may be sorry when he has hurt his master, but these men in their malevolent treatment of others have lost natural human sympathy and feeling. This trait is the opposite of gentleness called for in the manners of the bondservant of the Lord in (2:24).

Genuine godliness has power which produces gentleness and the want of this power makes men rough, harsh and cruel.

Haters of good (865) (aphilagathos from a = without and a combination of phílos = friend + agathos = good which is spiritually beneficial to another = literally loving and practicing what is good) (found only in this verse in the NT) describes men who are hostile to or despisers of all that is good and of good men. These men lack of generous interest in the public good. They have no love of virtue. In their love of self they have become haters of good, hating what should be loved and loving what should be hated! Listen to God's warning through Isaiah to given to faithless Israel but applicable to men such as these

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Is 5:20).

Jesus said that despite the fact that

"the light is come into the world… men loved the darkness rather than the light… and everyone who does evil hates the light (Jn 3:19, 20)

The direct contrast is found in the criteria of "overseers" who are to be "loving what is good" (philagathos) (see note Titus 1:8)

These haters of good don't even want to be in the presence of good things and good people because they have no love for anything spiritually beneficial and the most damaging place for these workers of iniquity is in the walls of the church.

Barclay - There can come a time in a man’s life when the company of good people and the presence of good things is simply an embarrassment. He who feeds his mind on cheap literature can in the end find nothing in the great masterpieces. His mental palate loses its taste. A man has sunk far when he finds even the presence of good people something which he would only wished to avoid. (The Daily Study Bible Online)

2 Timothy 3:4 treacherous, reckless, conceited (RPPN) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: prodotai, propeteis, tetuphomenoi, (RPPN) philedonoi mallon e philotheoi,

Amplified: [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: treacherous, headlong in word and action, inflated with pride, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (Westminster Press)

GWT: They will be traitors. They will be reckless and conceited. They will love pleasure rather than God. (GWT)

KJV: Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Phillips: treacherous, self-willed and conceited, loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God. (Phillips: Touchstone)

NLT: They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: betrayers, headstrong, besotted with pride, fond of pleasure rather than having an affection for God, having a mere outward semblance of piety toward God but denying the power of the same. And these be constantly shunning. 

Young's Literal: traitors, heady, lofty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,

TREACHEROUS: prodotai:

They will betray their friends (NLT)

Betrayers (Wuest)

those who turn against their friends (ICB)

false to their friends (BBE)

Treacherous (4273) (prodotes from prodídomi = to give away, to betray which in turn is from pró = before or forth + dídomi = give) describes men who who betray another’s trust and confidence or are false to an obligation or duty. This is the man who delivers without justification a person into the control of someone else (in the sense of giving forward into another’s hands). It describes one untrue to what should command one’s fidelity or allegiance and even implies readiness to betray trust or confidence. These men betray confidence and trust put in them.

Luke describes the prototypical traitor…

Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (prodotes) (Lk 6:16)

Stephen boldly accused the Jews

Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, Whose betrayers (prodotes) and murderers you have now become. (Acts 7:52).

Treachery comes naturally to a person who possesses the other "qualities" already listed.

Jesus warned the 12 that

“brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name… " (Mt 10:21, 22)

This was written in the times of persecution and if that gangrene gets into the church, your best friend may betray you. Whenever the church has suffered persecution, true believers have been betrayed into the hands of the oppressors, often by members of their own families who value safety and prosperity above devotion. Feigned love and friendship become means of treachery. That is also the time when genuine loyalty proves itself, often at a high price. At this particular time in the ordinary matters of politics one of the curses of Rome was the existence of informers (delatores = one who brings a charge against). Times were so perilous that Tacitus could say: "He who had no foe was betrayed by his friend." There were those who would revenge themselves on an enemy by informing against him.

Barclay - What Paul is thinking of here is more than faithlessness in friendship—although that in all truth is wounding enough—he is thinking of those who to pay back an old score would inform against the Christian to the Roman government.

Barclay goes on to quote Lenin, clearly not a believer, as representative of an attitude of treachery…

Treaties are only for getting breath for a new effort. They exist to be broken as soon as expedient. Peace propaganda is to camouflage war preparations. (The Daily Study Bible Online)

RECKLESS: propeteis:

Reckless - headstrong, heady, rash, such as fall forward, self willed, those who do foolish things without thinking.

The reckless wreck more!

Reckless (4312) (propetes from propípto = fall forward in turn from pró = forward + pípto = fall) is literally falling forward or headlong. It was used to describe one slipping down in bed. Figuratively as used here, it gives a vivid picture of these men marked by or proceeding from undue haste or lack of deliberation or caution. They plunge ahead without forethought in their impetuous deeds. Their behavior is rash, reckless, headlong (without due deliberation, out of control), impetuous, thoughtless and precipitous. Nothing stops them. Rashly they plunge ahead in their wickedness, being reckless or precipitate in their wicked deeds.

They act impetuously without thought for others or care for possible consequences. These men are swept on by passion and impulse to such an extent that they are totally unable to think sensibly. Such people act foolishly and carelessly, completely unconcerned about the consequences for themselves or others. The word headstrong includes their determination to have their own way, regardless of advice to the contrary.

The only other use is by Luke describing a riot in Ephesus and the town clerk's declaration that…

Since then these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. (marked by or proceeding from undue haste or lack of deliberation or caution) (Acts 19:36+)

Vincent writes that propetes means…Precipitate, reckless, headstrong in the pursuit of a bad end under the influence of passion. Only here and Acts 19:36. In Septuagint (LXX) , slack, loose, hence foolish, Pr 10:14, and dividing or parting asunder, as the lips; of one who opens his lips and speaks hastily or thoughtlessly, Pr 13:3. (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 4, Page 311)

Rienecker adds this note describing these men as "ready to precipitate matters by hasty speech or action. It indicates lack of control or quickness, whether good or bad and with respect to action it refers to those who are impulsive, who get carried away (hotheads!) like a bolting horse,; people who make themselves known by their violence, who wreck everything, who take wild chances.

CONCEITED: tetuphomenoi (RPPMPN):

Be puffed up (NLT)

swollen with conceit (NRSV)

high minded (KJV)

swell headed

having been swollen up with pride

Conceited (5187) (tuphoo [typhoo] from tuphos [typhos] = smoke) means literally to literally wrap in smoke or mist and so to becloud. Figuratively it means to be puffed up or conceited. Some secular Greek sources actually use tuphoo to describe one as mentally ill.

Tuphoo is used 4 times in the NT. Jesus uses tuphoo literally to describe a "smoldering (smoking) wick" (Mt 12:20) Paul uses tuphoo twice in first Timothy…

"not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil." (1Ti 3:6)

"If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions" (1 Ti 6:3, 4)

The verb tuphoo means wrapped or enveloped by smoke, so that what is outside one’s circumscribed world of self cannot be seen.

The man who is "swollen with conceit" is really just "filled with smoke" for all his accomplishments will be reduced to nothing more than smoke and ashes one day. (2Pe 3:10-notes)

The perfect tense pictures a person who in the past has come to a state of such pride, and is so puffed up, that his mind as a permanent result is beclouded and besotted with pride and conceit. No one can tell them anything, for they know it all.

Gill says these men are "puffed and swelled up with a vain conceit of themselves, and speaking great swelling words of vanity"

They have a much higher view of themselves than is justified. The Greek word properly means to wrap in smoke & was then used metaphorically for conceit, to picture a badly mistaken view of one’s own importance. The perfect tense pictures their puffed up opinion of themselves as their permanent condition. The idea of conceit differs from the “lovers of self” for the latter trait can be concealed, while the very nature of conceit involves being noticed by others.

Hendricksen comments that…No one can tell them anything, for they “know it all,” so blinded with conceit (see on 1Ti 3:6; 6:4) are they. This blindness, moreover, has a moral, spiritual cause. Its root is in the heart and in the will, for these people are utterly selfish (note how the description in reaching a climax returns to its starting-point: “self-loving”). (Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Page 285. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House)

John Lennon, the former Beatle, exemplified this attitude as shown by the following brash (stupid) statement "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're (BEATLES) more popular than Jesus now. (WOE!)" (Lennon was shot and now knows who is more popular!)

All that John Lennon ever accomplished will be turned into wisps of smoke, but Christianity will continue to flourish until

the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas. Hab 2:14. (See also Nu 14:21 Ps 72:19-note Isa 6:3, 11:9)


loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God. (Phillips)

Lovers of pleasure (5369) (philedonos from phílos = friend or loving + hedone = pleasure from hedos = delight, enjoyment and the related verb hedomai = to have sensual pleasure). Hedone gives us our English word hedonism which is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.

Philedonos is used in a bad sense of what is against God and spiritually destructive to oneself. These men are intent on pleasure, abandoned to (sensual) pleasure and pleasure-loving.

This word describes well the self-absorbed, self-gratifying orbit of the ungodly. Pascal once wrote that in every man's heart is a "God-shaped vacuum," yet men will continue to fill this vacuum with the god called "pleasure."

Christ Himself said of these days,

"Because lawlessness (or iniquity) will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Mt 24:12+.

Americans spend $600.00 on luxuries for every $1.00 they give to missions. More money is spent on tobacco each year than both the U.S. and Canada have spent on missions since the discovery of America!

"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" Haggai 1:4.

The list ends, as it began, with those whose love has become so misdirected that they can only think of their own desires. They love their own pleasures, are wholly controlled by them and are unwilling to make any sacrifice for temporal pleasures.

They put devotion to self-satisfaction above devotion to God. Love for God is not a controlling motive in their lives. The series began with their love of self and ends with a lack of love from God. Their love of self with all its attendant evils shuts out any genuine love for God. (Hiebert)

Related Resources:

  • Lovers of pleasure - Edward Payson
  • This pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking,and pleasure-inventing age - John Angell James - Excerpt: A taste for worldly amusements will inevitably prove,wherever it is indulged--a powerful obstacle to growth in grace.
  • Is God opposed to pleasure?
  • What does the Bible say about self-gratification / self-pleasure?
  • Is God a cosmic killjoy?
  • Live in Luxury And Pleasure - Trench's Synonyms of the NT
  • What is Christian hedonism?
  • What is Christian hedonism? - John Piper (Another Article)
  • Charles Buck Dictionary Pleasure
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Pleasure
  • 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica Pleasure
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Pleasure
  • McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Pleasure
  • King James Dictionary Pleasure -  The gratification of the senses or of the mind agreeable sensations or emotions the excitement, relish or happiness produced by enjoyment or the expectation of good opposed to pain. We receive pleasure from the indulgence of appetite from the view of a beautiful landscape from the harmony of sounds from agreeable society from the expectation of seeing an absent friend from the prospect of gain or success of any kind. Pleasure, bodily and mental, carnal and spiritual, constitutes the whole of positive happiness, as pain constitutes the whole of misery. Pleasure is properly positive excitement of the passions or the mind but we give the name also to the absence of excitement, when that excitement is painful as when we cease to labor, or repose after fatigue, or when the mind is tranquilized after anxiety or agitation. Pleasure is susceptible of increase to any degree but the word when unqualified, expresses less excitement or happiness than delight or joy.
  • Vines' Expository Dictionary Pleasure
  • Webster's 1829 Dictionary - Pleasure

    (1):(n.) Amusement; sport; diversion; self-indulgence; frivolous or dissipating enjoyment; hence, sensual gratification; - opposed to labor, service, duty, self-denial, etc.

    (2):(n.) What the will dictates or prefers as gratifying or satisfying; hence, will; choice; wish; purpose.

    (3):(n.) That which pleases; a favor; a gratification.

    (4):(v. t.) To give or afford pleasure to; to please; to gratify.

    (5):(v. i.) To take pleasure; to seek pursue pleasure; as, to go pleasuring.

    (6):(n.) The gratification of the senses or of the mind; agreeable sensations or emotions; the excitement, relish, or happiness produced by the expectation or the enjoyment of something good, delightful, or satisfying; - opposed to pain, sorrow, etc.

INSTEAD OF LOVERS OF GOD: para mallon e philotheoi:

  • Ro 16:18; Php 3:18;3:19 1Ti 5:6; 2Pe 2:13;2:15 Jude 4 Jude 19
  • 2 Timothy 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Antidote refers to a remedy for counteracting a poison or disease. A remedy or other agent used to neutralize or counteract the effects of a poison. An agent that relieves or counteracts. Beloved, the sure antidote for the poison of the love of pleasure is the love of God! This idea is closely related to the principle of an expulsive power of a new affection. MARK IT DOWN - When God is our all in all (Col 3:11+, 1 Cor 15:28), we are much less likely to be ensnared by the "by and by," "the here and now," the passing lusts of the world (1 Jn 2:17+). 

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all
When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Worthy is Your name


Lovers of God (5377) (philotheos from phílos = friend or loving + Theós = God) In other words, the true God has no place at all in the thinking and living of a false teacher or of anyone who is self-centered. They ignore the claims of God and live their life in pursuit of selfish aims that gratify the flesh.

Hiebert says that "They love their own pleasures and are wholly controlled by them. They are willing to make any sacrifice for temporal pleasures but are unwilling to give up anything because of their love for God. They put devotion to self-satisfaction above de­votion to God. Love for God is not a controlling motive in their lives. The series began with their love of self and ends with their lack of love for God. Their love of self with all its attendant evils shuts out any genuine love for God." ( 2 Timothy Commentary)

Jesus told Nicodemus “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world (cf Jn 8:12), and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19+)

2 Timothy 3:5 holding (continually) (PAPMPN) to a form of godliness, although they have denied (RMPMPN) its power; Avoid (shun continually) (2SPMM) such men as these. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: echontes (PAPMPN) morphosin eusebeias ten de dunamin autes ernemenoi; (RMPMPN) kai toutous apotrepou. (2SPMM)

Amplified: For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: They will maintain the outward form of religion, but they will deny its power. Avoid such people (Westminster Press)

GWT: They will appear to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them. Stay away from such people. (GWT)

KJV: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

NJB: They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it. Keep away from people like that.

NLT: They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: They will maintain a facade of "religion", but their conduct will deny its validity. You must keep clear of people like this. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: having a mere outward semblance of piety toward God but denying the power of the same. And these be constantly shunning. 

Young's Literal: having a form of piety, and its power having denied; and from these be turning away,

HOLDING TO A FORM (outward appearance): echontes (PAPMPN) morphosin:

  • Isa 29:13; 48:1,2; 58:1, 2 ,3; Eze 33:30;33:31, 32 Mt 7:15; 23:27; 28 Ro 2:20, 21, 22, 23, 24; 1Ti 5:8; Titus 1:16
  • 2 Timothy 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


See 2 excellent sermons on this topic Formalism by Ryle, Form of Godliness w/o the Power by Spurgeon )

They will maintain a facade of religion (Phillips)

They will appear to have a godly life (GWT)

They will keep up a make-believe of piety and yet exclude its power (Weymouth)

Though they keep up a form of religion, they will have nothing to do with it as a force (Moffatt)

It is important to see here that the flesh can put on a show of godliness while in fact being utterly devoid of true spirituality! This is a frightening thought! Mark it well that these men are not self-acknowledged pagans but rather professed adherents of Christianity. Their form of godliness is a shell which looks at first glance as if it corresponds to the essence, but there is a lack of genuine substance. Jude describes men like this as "mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts...ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit." (Jude 1:18, 19+)

Holding (2192) (echo) means to have, hold, possess and in the present tense means this is their lifestyle, their habitual practice. The present tense describes this "spiritual masquerade" as their lifestyle! They are "spiritual counterfeits," "Christian charlatans!"

Form (3446) (morphosis) refers to outward shape and appearance, such as that of a silhouette, which is an outline or shadow of something. Morphosis as used in this verse refers to the mere outward resemblance, as distinguished from the essential reality. Like the unbelieving scribes and Pharisees, lovers of self are concerned only about the outward form, about

“the outside of the cup and of the dish,” while “inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (Mt 23:25)

Isaiah's OT description of faithless Israel fits these charlatans who "draw near with their words and honor (God) with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from (Him) and their reverence for (Him) consists of tradition learned by rote." (Isa 29:13)

These men are like those Jesus warned about

who come… in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (see note Matthew 7:15), who (like the Pharisees) "are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Mt 23:27) and "outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Mt 23:28)

These men go through all the correct movements and maintain all the external forms of religion; but they know nothing of the dynamic power of the Spirit-filled, supernaturally energized Christ life which transforms sinners into saints. (Related - Progressive Sanctification)

These men "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Cor 11:15) and teachers of His Word, but they are really servants of Satan, who is "is a liar, and the father of lies" and they as his children are purveyors of lies - like father, like son! (Jn 8:44) Satan’s most dangerous attacks against God’s people come not from without but from within the church by means of false teachers who pretend to speak for God. Beware of those who preach godliness without actually practicing it.

Acts 20:28+Be on guard (present imperative = command to be continually watching out! Only possible as one depends on the Holy Spirit to obey) for yourselves (NOTICE - LOOK IN THE MIRROR FIRST BEFORE YOU LOOK OUT FOR OTHERS! - heed the instruction in Acts 20:32+) and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you (A PROPHECY SURE TO COME TO PASS!), not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise (NOTE THIS IS AN "INSIDE" JOB - cf the "creepers" in Jude 1:4+), speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert (present imperative = command to be continually on high alert! Only possible as one depends on the Holy Spirit to obey), remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears."

OF GODLINESS: eusebeias:

Godliness (2150) (eusebeia [word study] from = well + sébomai = worship. Sebomai is in turn derived from "seb" which refers to sacred awe or reverence exhibited especially in actions) is literally "well worship" which reflects an attitude to live with a sense of God's presence and a desire motivated by love (~obedience Jn 14:15) to be pleasing to Him in all things we say, do and think ultimately to the glory of God. Eusebeia describes reverence or awe that is well directed.

Eusebeia - 15x in 15v - Acts 3:12; 1 Tim 2:2; 3:16; 4:7f; 6:3, 5f, 11; 2 Tim 3:5; Titus 1:1; 2 Pet 1:3, 6f; 3:11. godliness(14), piety(1).

Eusébeia is that piety which is characterized by a Godward attitude and does that which is well–pleasing to Him. Eusebeia is “true religion” or “true worship” and describes the person who gives God His rightful place by worshiping Him properly. Genuine worship is more than relevant programs or catchy choruses — it reflects right reverence for God (godliness). Eusébeia does not imply an inward, inherent holiness but is more accurately an externalized piety.

Wuest adds that eusebeia is "a holy reverence or respect for God, piety towards God. The word does not refer to a person’s character as such, but to his attitude towards God." (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)

There is no effective spiritual ministry apart from personal godliness, since ministry is the overflow of a godly life. True godliness is seen in action. If our faith in Christ is not producing a corresponding visible renovation of lifestyle, we are not experiencing genuine godliness.

Calvin comments on these religious fakes:

"such is the amazing audacity and wickedness of hypocrites, that, even in excusing the grossest crimes, they are excessively impudent, after having once learned falsely to shelter themselves under the name of God. In ancient times, how many crimes abounded in the life of the Pharisees? And yet, as if they had been pure from every stain, they enjoyed a reputation of eminent holiness."

C H Spurgeon writes that a form of godliness

is, first of all, attention to the ordinances of religion. These, so far as they are Scriptural, are few and simple. There is baptism, wherein, in figure, the believer is buried with Christ, that he may rise into newness of life; and there is the Lord’s Supper, wherein, in type and emblem, he feeds upon Christ, and sustains the life which came to him by fellowship with Christ’s death. Those who have obeyed the Lord in these two ordinances have exhibited in their own persons the form of godliness. That form is every way instructive to others, and impressive to the man himself. Every baptized person, and every communicant at the Lord’s table, should be godly and gracious; but neither baptism nor the communion will secure this. Where there is not the life of God in the soul, neither holiness nor godliness follows upon the ordinances; and thus we may have around us baptized worldlings, and men who go from the table of the Lord to drink the cup of devils. It is sad that it should be so. Such persons are guilty of presumption, falsehood, sacrilege, and blasphemy. Ah me! We sit beside such every Sabbath-day!

The form of godliness involves attendance with the assemblies of God’s people. Those who have professed Christ are accustomed to come together at certain times for worship, and, in their assemblies, they join in common prayer and common praise. They listen to the testimony of God by his servants whom he calls to preach his Word with power. They also associate together in church fellowship for purposes of mutual help and discipline. This is a very proper form, full of blessing both to the church and to the world, when it does not die down into mere form. A man may go to heaven alone, but he will do better if he travels thither with Mr. Greatheart, and Father Honest, and Christiana, and the children. Christ’s people are called sheep for one reason, that they love to go in flocks. Dogs do very well separately, but sheep do best in company. The sheep of Christ love to be together in the same pasture, and to follow in a flock the footsteps of the good Shepherd. Those who constantly associate in worship, unite in church-fellowship, and work together for sacred purposes, have the form of godliness, and a very useful and proper form it is. Alas! it is of no value without the power.

Some go further than public worship, for they use a great deal of religious talk. They freely speak of the things of God in Christian company. They can defend the doctrines of Scripture, they can plead for its precepts, and they can narrate the experience of a believer. They are fondest of talking of what is doing in the church: the tattle of the streets of Jerusalem is very pleasant to them. They flavour their speech with godly phrases when they are in company that will relish it. I do not censure them; on the contrary, I wish there were more of holy talk among professors. I wish we could revive the old habit, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” Holy conversation causes the heart to glow, and gives to us a foretaste of the fellowship of the glorified. But there may be a savor of religion about a man’s conversation, and yet it may be a borrowed flavour, like hot sauces used to disguise the staleness of ancient meat. That religion which comes from the lips outward, but does not well up from the deep fountains of the heart, is not that living water which will spring up unto eternal life. Tongue-godliness is an abomination if the heart be destitute of grace. (Click to read Spurgeon's entire sermon devoted to "A Form of Godliness")

A mere form of godliness joined to an unholy heart is of no value to God.

The swan, although its feathers are as white as snow, yet its skin is black.

God will not accept that 'external morality' which conceals 'internal impurity'. There must be a pure heart as well as a clean life.

The power of godliness must work within, or else God will not accept our offering.

There is no value to man or to God in a religion which is a dead form.

Sad is that man's plight who wears the name of Christian but has never been quickened by the Holy Spirit.

There is no use in a mere formal religion. If your religion is without spiritual life, what is the use of it? Could you ride home on a dead horse? Would you hunt with dead dogs?

Is false religion any better?

In the depth of winter, can you warm yourself before a 'painted fire'?

Could you dine off the 'picture of a feast' when you are hungry?

There must be vitality and substantiality, or else the form is utterly worthless; and worse than worthless, for it may flatter you into deadly self conceit.

How shameful will such a fruitless, lifeless professor be in eternity, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed! What shame and everlasting contempt will await him when his falsehood shall be detected, and his baseness shall fill all holy minds with horror!

What will be the hell of the false professor! "Having a form of godliness but denying its power."

Related Resources:

ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE DENIED ITS POWER: en de dunamin autes ernemenoi (RMPMPN):

Reject the power (NRSV)

Repudiated its power (NET)

Denied (720) (arneomai [word study]) means they have refused to have anything to do with godliness. The word always involves more than an act of the mind. It means putting into practice. Paul chooses a strong word here which implies that they know and yet decisively reject the truth.

The perfect tense indicates they are in a permanent state of denial - simply stated they are not believing, born again "spiritual" men! At some point in the past they denied the power of a godly life and still continue to do so by the way they live. Their ungodly thinking and teaching is manifest in ungodly living (and lying). They are like those deceivers in Crete who Paul said

profess (continually) to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed. (see note Titus 1:16)

A true relationship with God is not a matter of knowledge and profession alone, but of knowledge and practice (obedience) of what is known.

Denied its power - The corollary statement can therefore be made that a godly life is a powerful ("power filled") life - in word, in way, in witness. It is powerful not because of anything intrinsic to the individual's flesh but because of the indwelling Spirit (cp Jn 6:63, 15:5, Ro 8:9-note, Ro 8:13-note)

Power (1411) (dunamis [word study] - words derived from the stem duna— all have the basic meaning of “being able,” of “capacity” in virtue of an ability & is root for our English "dynamic") is a key word in the NT being found some 121 times in the NASB most often in the Gospels and especially by Dr. Luke and in the Revelation.

Dunamis refers to power residing in something because of its nature and referring to that which overcomes resistance. For example, Paul uses "dunamis" in (Ro 1:16-note) to describe the power (dunamis) of God in His gospel which produces in salvation (Note: This truth "takes the pressure off" of us to "convert" others! Such conversion can only be by the supernatural Gospel. We do however have the privileged charge to speak forth the Gospel to a world dead in trespasses and sins!). Only the Holy Spirit makes profession of faith a reality and faith without the works and fruit of the Spirit is dead (Jas 2:17-note). These men lack this saving and sanctifying power and thus fail to

"bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance" (Mt 3:8).

How can you discern these men? (See Spurgeon's pithy discussion of this somewhat "taboo" topic!) Just watch their life (but remember you are not their judge but you are called to discern good from evil) and ask those who know them best what they are really like. These men have denied the transforming power of God's grace and the enabling "power" (2Ti 1:7-note) of the Spirit of holiness…

Who is at work in (genuine believers), both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Php 2:13-note).

These men are dangerous, deceptive teachers who have a ''pseudo-godliness'' and present a persuasive (Col 2:4-note) , but empty (Col 2:8-note), worthless, deceptive and damning message that fails to free their listeners from bondage to Sin, Self & Satan and unto the liberty and freedom found only in Christ (Acts 26:18, Jas 1:22-note, Jas 1:25-note, La 2:14)

All believers wrestle with the challenge of getting knowledge in our heads down that tortuous path to the place where performance occurs. True godliness is seen in action. If our belief in Christ is not producing a corresponding visible renovation of lifestyle, we are not experiencing genuine godliness.

The KJV Bible Commentary has this stinging rebuke for the modern church

Most Christians and churches are powerless in the community. They only appear to be godly. Inwardly they are impotent because of sin. (Dobson, E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible Commentary: Nelson)

Hendricksen comments that…

These people lack spiritual dynamite (dunamis or dynamis). They have no love for God, nor for his revelation in Jesus Christ, nor for his people. Hence, since they are not Spirit-filled men, it is not surprising that they lack power. (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. Vol. 4: New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Page 285. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House)

Paul explains that the source of a believer's power for godliness is

the word of the cross (which) is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved (see Present Tense Salvation) it is the power (dunamis) of God. (1Cor 1:18).

Why is the word of the Cross "power"? When you let the Cross have its effect upon you then you will experience the power of God released in your life and it will be manifest as godliness. When one denies the word of the Cross the result is a "form" without substance, a "Christianity" without Christ, a godliness without God and a spirituality without the Spirit. The word of the Cross puts the natural life (in the flesh) to death because it calls for us to deny self. This process was described by Jesus as the primary requirement for true discipleship:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Lk 9:23, cf Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34).

John the Baptist explained the correct order

He (Christ) must (continually) increase, but I must (continually) decrease. (Jn 3:30 - note)

So until one is willing to say "Yes" to Jesus and then to say "No" to what the cross calls us to deny, we cannot enter into that quality and quantity of eternal life that is available to us now in the power of God. We must say "No" to all the risings of the flesh within us in order that we might lay hold of the supply of power and life and vitality which enables us to walk with God in righteousness, truth and godliness.

Ray Pritchard writes that…

In the last days, as men turn away from God, paradoxically, they will become more religious, not less. Religion will become more popular as we approach the end times because people will seek some refuge in a world that increasingly has lost its way. They will ask the right questions, but will follow the wrong answers. It will be religion for religion’s sake, not religion for the sake of knowing Christ. They will join the church (or some other religious organization), they will be baptized, attend the services, sing and pray and give and go through the motions, but their hearts will not be in it. They will deny the very power they profess to believe. In particular, they will embrace a kind of postmodern religion that allows them to do anything, believe anything, endorse anything, live any way they choose as long as it makes them happy. They will say things like, “We don’t need to be bound by the outdated rules of the Bible. Those were written 2,000 years ago and don’t apply to us today.” That’s not far-fetched. You can say things like that today and be elected a bishop in some denominations. (2 Timothy 3: Perilous Times)

Their denial of the power of a godly lifestyle is like a factory without power. George Sweeting illustrates this principle in the following story…

Imagine, if you will, a brand-new factory filled with the finest modern equipment—everything that is needed to manufacture quality products. Then suppose a visitor enters the factory and comments on the beauty of the machines but wonders why the machines are not running. No one is sure, he is told, "Why not oil the machines?" the man suggests. They do. But still nothing happens. A little later another visitor comes in and comments on the splendid layout of the facilities. But there is no action. "I think you need some drapes and a few pictures on the wall," he says. So these are added. The place looks better, but still none of the equipment moves. Other suggestions follow one by one—stained glass windows, an organ, even a steeple, but nothing works. The machinery still remains idle. Finally, someone asks, "Did anyone turn on the power?" Turn on the power? Of course, that's it! Sure enough, when the master control panels are switched on, the machines begin to roll. Soon the materials are fashioned and processed and the factory begins to produce. "How simple," you say. You are absolutely right. But what the power was to that factory, the Holy Spirit is in the life of each believer. Just as the factory must have power to produce, so we need the Holy Spirit and the power He gives to live successfully in the Christian life. (Great Quotes & Illustrations)

In short, these men lack the power source because they are not genuine believers.

AND (continually) AVOID SUCH MEN AS THESE: kai toutous apotrepou (2SPMM):

  • 2Ti 2:16;2:23 Ro 16:17; 18 Eph 4:14; 2Th 3:6; 14 Titus 3:10; 2Jn 1:10, 11, 1:12
  • 2 Timothy 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Have nothing to do with them (NIV)

be constantly shunning (Wuest)

keep clear of people like this (Phillips)

from these be turning away (Young's Literal)

Avoid (665) (apotrepho from apo = separation + trépo + turn) means to purposely avoid or turn away from so as to produce separation or distance between. These men are to be shunned (deliberately, habitually avoided) even with horror!.

Timothy is commanded (imperative mood) to continually (present tense) turn himself (middle voice is reflexive) from these men. This does not mean you are not to (agape) love them but it does mean you don't live with them or associate with them because the more you associate with them, the more you will become like them. Regardless of how convincing a false idea may appear or how sincere a false teacher may seem to be, we are to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck, as it were, and make ourselves avoid such men as these. These are hypocrites who can mislead weaker brethren. They are wolves amongst the flock.

Earlier Paul had commanded Timothy to..

Avoid (present imperative) worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness (see notes on 2Ti 2:16, 17) and to "refuse (present imperative) foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. (2Ti 2:23-note)

Paul gave a similar warning to the saints at Rome warning…

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (see notes on Romans 16:17-18)

To the Ephesians Paul stated that…

we are no longer (implies that it was actual and frequent among the Christians of Paul’s day) to be children (nepios = that which does not talk = infant, little child, the opposite of mature), tossed here and there by waves (kludonizomai), and carried about (periphero) by every wind of doctrine (didaskalia), by the trickery (kubeia = skill in manipulating the dice ~ those who by ingenious arguments) of men, by craftiness (panourgia) in deceitful scheming (methodeia) (Eph 4:14-note)

Paul instructed Titus to…

Reject (paraiteomai = Present imperative means to make it your habit to refuse association with) a factious (hairetikos) man after a first and second warning (Titus 3:10-note)

John writes that

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2Jn1:10, 11)

Thus we can see that we are to have no part to do with men such as these.

Ray Pritchard explains it this way…

“Have nothing to do with them” (2Ti 3:5). That’s clear, isn’t it? It’s also judgmental, narrow-minded, rude, unkind, unfair (in the eyes of many people), and a host of other things that are not Politically Correct today. But the word of the Lord remains. We are to have nothing to do with religious people who do not believe the Bible and do not accept its authority over every area of life, including sexual morality. Such people are religious but lost. (2 Timothy 3: Perilous Times)

John MacArthur has some helpful guidelines to enable us to identify these men that we might turn ourselves away from them (the following are paraphrased)

(1). Creed: Is the whole of Scripture, the basis for everything he believes and does, or does he use certain "favorite" Bible passages selectively?

(2). Conduct (lifestyle): Godly belief always produces godly living. (v10 where teaching precedes but is followed by conduct)

(3). Converts/Disciples: If his devotees are weak, confused, or unconcerned about doctrine, & if their living does not reflect biblical standards, the leader himself almost certainly is not godly, because godly leaders will not be satisfied with ungodly converts. And ungodly men will not long dwell in the presence of a teacher who does "not shrink from declaring… the whole purpose of God" [Acts 20:27].

Christ-honoring, Scripture-loving, God-glorifying teachers will produce spiritual "offspring" in the same mold.

John Wesley: THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN (Excerpt from sermon):

"I did go thus for many years, as many of this place can testify; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavoring, after a steady seriousness of behavior, at all times, and in all places: and God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do his will in all things; to please him who had called me to “fight the good fight,” and to “lay hold on eternal life.” Yet my own conscience beareth me witness, in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian.''

Matthew Henry comments that

"Timothy must not think it strange if there were in the church bad men; for the net of the gospel was to enclose both good fish and bad, [Mt13:47, 48] Jesus Christ had foretold [Mt24:14]) that there would come seducers, and therefore we must not be offended at it, nor think the worse of religion or the church for it. Even in gold ore there will be dross, and a great deal of chaff among the wheat when it lies on the floor… Sin makes the times perilous. When there is a general corruption of manners, and of the tempers of men, this makes the times dangerous to live in; for it is hard to keep our integrity in the midst of general corruption. The coming of perilous times is an evidence of the truth of scripture-predictions; if the event in this respect did not answer to the prophecy, we might be tempted to question the divinity of the Bible. We are all concerned to know this, to believe and consider it, that we may not be surprised when we see the times perilous"