TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:1-9
Today, we turn our attention to verse six which reads: “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.” This verse begins with the connecting word “for,” indicating that we must look back at the previous verse in order to fully understand what verse six is saying. As you recall, on last week, we talked about those people in the church who appear to have righteous and holy lives, but who inwardly are filled with sin and self. Often and unfortunately, these people who just have a form of godliness gain leadership positions in the church or in a local congregation. They then use their influence to deceive and lead astray others in the body of Christ. These are the people who are doing the “creeping” spoken of in verse six.
Back in the second century AD, one of the early church fathers by the name of Irenaeus reported the actions of a heretic by the name of Marcus. This heretic practiced magic and tried to get Christians to get involved in the practice of magic. Irenaeus reported that Marcus devoted “himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth.” Marcus told these women that by his spells and incantations he could enable them to prophesy. In one particular instance, a woman protested that she has never done so and could not do so. Marcus told her, “Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee, and thou shalt prophesy.” The woman, thrilled to the heart, did so and was deluded into thinking that she could prophesy. Irenaeus said the woman ‘then made the effort to reward Marcus, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he had collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him.’
In our passage today, Paul warns Timothy to be extra careful of such false teachers. A closer look at verse six tells us why this warning is necessary. It is necessary because these false teachers will “creep” into the body of Christ. The Greek word translated “creep” is “enduno.” It has been translated: to craftily sneak, to work their way into, to go secretly, to worm into, or to insinuate. In other words, many of these false teachers who only have a form of godliness will not walk into the front door of the church. They will not stand up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and preach their false doctrine. Rather, they will slowly start to influence the church members outside of the church. They will invite or accept an invitation to dinner with one of the families in the church and begin to little-by-little influence this person or a small group of people to adopt their way of thinking.
The word “enduno” comes from the Greek word used to describe a sunset. You’ve seen the sun go down many times, but in reality, you can’t say that you’ve actually seen the sun move. From our perspective, the sun moves so slowly that it is hardly perceptible. That is how these heretics will infiltrate a church. It will happen slowly. And the church will be like the proverbial frog being boiled to death. It happens so slowly that it doesn’t know what is happening until it is dead. Peter talked about this in his epistle when he said, “There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (privately, not publicly) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them…”
Now, once these false teachers sneak into the church, what do they do? Our passage tells us that they “take captive” — they conquer or captivate God’s people with their false teachings. In his fine work on the Pastoral Epistles, Dr. Philip H. Towner stated: “First, false teachers prey on people who are vulnerable. They tend to pick off the spiritual stragglers. In this case, they had found success in certain homes or certain kinds of homes where vulnerable people lived. And in this case they captivated certain women. It was probably a very strategic move on the part of the false teachers to target these women: their position within households (perhaps as matrons) likely made them women of some means, who could support the movement. But the problem was not that they were women; rather, it was the kind of people they were: weak-willed, loaded down with sins, swayed by all kinds of evil desires. This description explains the susceptibility of these victims and crosses the centuries to speak freshly to us. The time element suggests that the sins that loaded down (or overwhelmed) these women were accumulations from the past that continued to determine behavior in the present. Unconfessed sin forms a barrier in our relationship with God, and it renders the decision-making faculty (the conscience) ineffective. Such ‘baggage’ weakens the resolve not to sin and gives strength to the desires of our sinful nature.”
Other commentators have noted that just as Eve was Satan’s first target, women today are often the target of Satan’s deceptions. Cults are not only often spawned by women, but women are the most numerous and devout adherents.
Now, none of this is said to disparage women altogether. Men can and have been led astray by false teachers. However, in the first-century culture to which Paul was writing, many women remained at home while their husbands were out working. False teachers apparently used this as an opportunity to influence the women of the church while their husbands were away. They likely felt that if they could get the woman to buy into their false teaching, then she would do the work of influencing her husband and thus the entire family. Marketers do the same thing today. They target little children in their advertising material, knowing that in many cases, if they can get the children to want something, the children will do the work of convincing the parents to buy it for them.
As Dr. Towner stated, many of these women were young believers and likely still struggled with some sin and/or guilt from their past lives. They were babes in the faith and easily influenced by someone who appeared to be knowledgeable about spiritual things. They were susceptible to the false doctrine of those who only had a form of godliness.
How about you, dear friend — men and women, alike? As you listen today, do you see the signs of someone trying to influence you with false doctrine in your life? You may not have a false teacher coming to visit your home. But maybe you’ve been reading their books, watching them on TV, or following them on the internet. They seem to be harmless, but little by little they are leading you away from the true counsel of God.
Men, women, and children, is there sin in your life that you are holding on to that could make you susceptible to false teaching? The devil wants you to believe that you can be a Christian and continue in that sin that you are holding on to. Have you fallen prey to this false teaching?
Husbands and fathers, you have a responsibility as the priest of your home to protect your family from false doctrine. Are you fulfilling that responsibility?
The command for those who are faced with false doctrine from people who only have a form of godliness remains the same: “from such turn away.”