Sin and Knowledge of Truth

“Burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

- 2 Timothy 3:6–7

The religious life, role, and instruction of women is a prominent theme in the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Tim., Titus), which tells us that the problems facing Timothy and Titus involved some of the women in their churches. Paul has to make explicit the biblical teaching that only men may be ordained as elders in the church (1 Tim. 2:8–15) because certain women were taking upon them- selves the prerogative to lead. He must also give instructions for caring for older widows and tell young widows to remarry (5:9–16), for it seems that the propagators of error were taking advantage of those women whose husbands had died. Similarly, the apostle instructs older women in the church to disciple the younger women (Titus 2:3–5), as sound teaching could prevent the false teachers’ message from taking root in the hearts of the young ladies.

Paul in today’s passage indicates that many of the followers of the false teachers in the Ephesian church were women. Those corrupt men he describes in 2 Timothy 3:1–5 were sneaking into households and stealing away “weak” or as may also be rendered, “foolish” women (vv. 6–7). This is probably a reference to the fact that the early church often met in the homes of individuals, especially those belonging to wealthy women. Many commentators believe that the heretics were able to gain a hearing in these households because there were not many outlets for women of high social status in the first century. Women on the lower rungs of the social ladder tended to be uneducated and were busy all day with the household chores. on the other hand, wealthy women had an opportunity to be educated and led a life of relative leisure because of their many servants. For those women who were theologically naive, spending time with the false teachers was attractive because it gave them something to do. Indeed, Scripture is clear that idleness can beget trouble (Eccl. 9:10; 2 Thess. 3:10–12).

The women who had been enticed thought they were learning much that was good. Ironically, however, Paul says that they were deceived, unable to discover and understand the real truth of the gospel that sets people free from a sin-burdened conscience (2 Tim. 3:6–7).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry admonishes us: “A foolish head and a filthy heart make persons an easy prey to seducers.” If we would be discerning men and women, we must cultivate a pure heart and a wise mind through the study and application of Scripture. Meditating on things that are not true, good, or beautiful makes us unable to recognize those things that are. Spend time this month meditating on a few chapters of the book of Proverbs that you might learn to be wise.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 11:16
Proverbs 13:14
2 Corinthians 11:14
Hebrews 5:14

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