“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12
This is a verse we may wish was not in the Bible and a brief look at its context is even more disturbing. In this chapter Paul describes for Timothy the source of the persecution and its nature.
The source is not the heathen world as we might easily think. As we read that the persecutors are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (vv 3 & 4) we conclude they must be the heathen of the world. But is that what Paul writes? Following this description of the persecutors of those who live godly lives Paul tells Timothy who they are: “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (v 5). Those who meet the description Paul has given are not the heathen but those who profess godliness. They are both deceived and deceivers (v 13). They are revealed by their attitude and actions toward the truly godly.
The truly godly follow and teach sound Biblical teaching and live without hypocrisy (v 10). Like Paul, they will be on the receiving end of the slander and persecutions of those who prefer religion than an intimate walk with Jesus Christ (v 11).
Paul also reminds Timothy how the imposters became as they are by explaining what Timothy must do if we are not to be an imposter. To sum up verses 15-17, the wise will treat the Bible like we would any other literature. These verses make no sense if people can ascribe whatever meaning they think appropriate to a passage.
The imposters do not treat the Bible like they would any other literature. They may study it (v 7) but because they do not take it in the usual literal sense that the intended readers would ascribe they never come to a knowledge of the truth and neither will they grow in the knowledge and understanding of God (v 9). Paul writes, “From such people turn away” (v5).
If we do not read, meditate on and study the Bible in the normal literal sense we will leave ourselves stagnant and foolish, ignorant and without understanding, at loss now and eternally, uncorrected when in error and not instructed in righteous living being blissfully ignorant of it. There’s more, they will never progress further toward maturity and will remain unequipped to serve Jesus Christ (vv 16, 17).
If we refuse to allow ourselves to be in situations where we might be persecuted by the ungodly we will become just like them. Any neglect of the Bible will also place us with the imposters being ignorant, foolish and all the more easily deceived by them.
To which group do you want to belong? The default position is that of being against Jesus Christ and His godly followers. It will take time, effort and experience to remain walking with the godly (cf. Psalm 1:1-3). It all begins with an act of will and choice to identify with the crucified and risen Christ rather than have a life without Him.