Home > Christian Authors, Christian living, sanctification > Living in a 2 Timothy 3:5 World (and Thoughts on Thomas Boston)

Living in a 2 Timothy 3:5 World (and Thoughts on Thomas Boston)

June 17, 2020

The last few months have been quite interesting, a time for serious consideration as to what God is doing in this world and in His church.  First came the pandemic, a judgment on the world and also on the church specifically, as churches were closed (and went to online services) for public health consideration.  Even now, though some churches have begun meeting again (with varying levels of social distancing or non-social distancing), many of us are still working from home, and continuing at home on Sunday morning, watching online services.

Among all the noise, ignorance, and politics, I have found especially helpful several articles such as these from Joseph Pipa and others at GPTS, addressing the issue of attending public worship, and God’s judgment on the church:

Corporately, God is refining His church. As Christians, we have repeatedly and rebelliously profaned God’s Holy Day with work and recreation (which God connects with idolatry, Ezek. 20:13-16); because of the virus, many are prohibited from working or playing every day of the week.
Increasingly, the church has substituted entertainment for holy Worship.  God has closed the doors of our churches. God’s people have grown satisfied with having one service on His day; God has removed all services. We have taken lightly the privileges of corporate worship; we are unable to worship corporately.

More recent events are addressed in this article, Pagan America Dressed in Christianity, which provides a good application (it has happened before at other points in history) of 2 Timothy 3:5: having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power — as seen in the rioters, the President, and the evangelical response.

I recently read Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot: God’s Sovereignty in Afflictions, an excellent, easy to read book (republished in modern English) that addresses so well the issue of trials, suffering, and pride versus humility — a very convicting read.  Along with describing how believers should benefit from their trials, Boston pointed also to the proud, the foolish, and unbelieving response of those who do not learn from the trials of life.  From expositions of passages in the wisdom literature – especially Ecclesiastes, also a few from Proverbs — this book is very helpful in explaining God’s Sovereignty in our afflictions, and that God is the Author of our afflictions.

How evangelicals have generally responded to recent events shows the great immaturity of the professed church, which increasingly looks (at best) like the Corinthian church.  It seems that many have identified their faith with politics, and specifically American Republican politics, and are interested in conspiracy theories, denial of the pandemic, and asserting of “my rights!” and the American constitution.  We still have the form, the outward shell of Christianity — but for many, sadly that is all they have, a form of Christian religion but denying its power.  Another bible verse also comes to mind:  Luke 18:8When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?  This is a time like that of the prophets of Israel, who continually prayed and desired for the peoples’ repentance, and for revival to come.  Yet, like Habakkuk, distressed at the evil of his people–instead of revival, God sends judgment.  But when the majority of the visible Church, the outward expression of Christianity (including the evangelical part and many of its leaders), is only a form without the power, one showing great hypocrisy to the watching world, how can genuine heart revival come?  Instead, though God has been very patient — judgment must come.  Of course we do not rejoice in the judgment, but lament – see this post, A Jeremiad.

A sampling of Boston’s observations, for further thought regarding what we’ve seen recently, both among unbelievers as well as in the visible, evangelical church:

The careless sinner is not concerned with discovering the design of Providence in the crook, so he cannot fall in line with it. Instead, he remains unfruitful in the trial, and all of the pains taken by the great Vinedresser on his behalf are lost.

Despite all of their trouble, they do not look or turn to God.
There they are ever suffering and ever sinning—still in the furnace but their dross is not consumed nor are they purified. And such is the condition of those who now cannot submit under the crook.

This is to be in the company of the proud, getting the lot altered by force to the mind. They are like those who, taking themselves to be injured, fight it out with the enemy, win the victory, and then divide the spoil according to their will.

There is no way they can abide the trial, so God takes them off of it, like reprobate silver that is not able to abide it.

Boston’s outlook is not at all negative, but The Crook in the Lot explores both sides: those who humble themselves under God’s mighty hand, who learn from their afflictions, as well as those who instead continue in pride, showing themselves as among those who divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:19).  His many exhortations and reminders to believers are of great encouragement, and accurately describe how life actually happens: the various types of trials (including long continuing ones, shorter more intense ones, some due to lex talionis) and the ‘partial lifting up’ that may occur — the removal of some particular difficulties (see this previous post), though a partial lifting, sometimes bringing other problems instead.  The full and final lifting up will not occur in this life, and so we wait patiently for the next life.

will nothing please you but two heavens—one here and another hereafter? God has secured one heaven for the saints, one place where they will get all their will, wishes, and desires. There will be no weight on them there to hold them down. This is in the other world. But must you have it both here and there or you cannot accept it?

Do not expect the lifting up to follow immediately upon your humbling. No, you are not to merely lie under the mighty hand, but lie still, waiting for the due time. Humbling work is a long work; the Israelites had forty years of it in the wilderness.

And whatever accomplishment of the promise happens here, it is not the essence of the promise, but a sample or a pledge. … The unmixed blessing is reserved for the other world, but this world will be a wilderness to the end, and there will be crying intermixed with the most joyful songs.

  1. Gerry
    June 17, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Amen.

    And what we observe now will become more widespread and intense.

    It is the fulfillment, I think, of 1Tim 4:1 (doctrines of demons), 2Thess 2:3 (the falling away).

    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (2 Tim 3:1-3).

    “American Exceptionalism”?

    Yes, perhaps, but not in the sense intended by the phrase.

    Gerry

    • June 17, 2020 at 9:21 am

      Thanks. I also think that Daniel 12 verses 4 and 10 are becoming more clear in our day.

  2. June 18, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Many interesting points. And although we probably differ politically, I totally agree that “American Christianity” — which self-righteously seems to implicitly believe that the U.S.A. is somehow God’s “favorite” and sort of implicitly equates the U.S. Constitution with the Bible [did I paint an accurate picture?] — is totally wrong, and it seems to put those of us who would hold to such it in the camp of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. The U.S.A. is my beloved country, but may I “hate” it in regard to Jesus and His Kingdom… visible and invisible.

    Whatever illusions, lies, confusion, etc. come before our eyes and ears via any and all sources; which comes to us “truth” and/or “news”… it may be impossible (and maybe more and more) to pick out fact from fiction in order to determine who or what to trust., but thankfully we know we can ALWAYS trust everything in the Bible as the only absolute solid Truth from God… and from only which we know about Jesus and the Gospel.

    • June 18, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      Yes, the identification of Christianity with politics and with the actions of a specific political party, is a big part of the problem.
      Regarding your last sentence, that “we can ALWAYS trust everything in the Bible …” –
      having the form of Christianity and denying its power, means that a lot of people can say that they always trust everything in the Bible. But they are lacking the biblical application of what the Bible says: a biblical Christian worldview, lacking wisdom and discernment. There is a ‘disconnect’ between what the Bible teaches, and how they actually live their lives, and how they view what is happening in the world. It is this state of things, 2 Timothy 3:5, that has people applauding empty symbolic gestures such as the photo-op mentioned in the Founders.org article I linked above, rather than seeing it as a serious affront against God, as blasphemous against the Holy God who is sovereignly in control, the God who hates such wicked acts.

      • June 18, 2020 at 5:39 pm

        Yes, powerless Christianity is an oxymoron.
        And you’re right, just saying I believe the Bible and if it’s in the Bible then it is true and I believe it isn’t the same thing as following the Jesus of the Bible and trusting your life and soul to what the Bible says… on the other hand, no Christian is perfect and God designed it that way on this earth.
        As far as what is happening in the world, is there anything going on that hasn’t always gone on? May my sincere prayer always be, “even so come, Lord Jesus” … may God please make it so in me.

  3. June 18, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    Just read that Founders.org article you mentioned. Good article.

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