The "last days" referred to in this passage include the time after Jesus' resurrection when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 2) to the time of His return in the future. Paul stated 23 characteristics of people during this difficult time. I will not go into definitions of each characteristic, but I encourage you to look up ones you do not understand by using the great Greek tools at http://greattreasures.org. You have to sign in, but you can click on any of the words, and the Greek definition appears in a box below it. It is very cool!
I want to comment on one of the characteristics: "Always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (3:7). This "knowledge" is epignosis and is the same word we learned about in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. It is a true knowledge "expressing a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him"(Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: Volume 2, p. 301). This implies that the truth has produced an intimacy with God and has affected his or her entire life and will be manifested in godly behavior.
Paul's exhorted Timothy to have nothing to do with these types of people. He had already instructed Timothy to be kind to everyone (2:24) and to gently correct those in opposition (2:25). Therefore, having "nothing to do with them" probably meant staying clear of them in a ministerial capacity. This exhortation goes right along with Paul's exhortation to separate from "vessels of dishonor" in the previous chapter.
These 23 characteristics in 3:1-9 can be contrasted with Paul's characteristics in 3:10-14. Paul taught correct doctrine, practiced what he preached, lived his life with purpose, and was willing to suffer. We should follow these types of spiritual leaders and imitate their faith!
In his thoughts about the leadership characteristics of Paul, Warren Wiersbe writes:
I wonder how Paul would match up with today’s concept of a Christian leader. He would probably fail miserably. If he applied for service with a modern mission board, would he be accepted? He had a prison record; he had a physical affliction; he stirred up problems in just about every place he visited. He was poor, and he did not cater to the rich. Yet God used him, and we are being blessed today because Paul was faithful.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 2 Ti 3:11-12, p. 251)
Write out the characteristics of ungodly people versus godly people. How do you avoid the pitfalls of ungodliness? How do you discern ungodly leadership? How do you nurture godliness in your life? Do you follow the teaching in the Word? How is your conduct? Do you have a purpose in life that honors God? Are you continuing to be challenged in your faith and believing God for big things? Are you steadfastly persevering in the midst of persecution and suffering?
What is your "I will" statement from today's reading?
Lord, give us discernment to detect false teachers and to steer clear of them. Lead us to godly leaders whom we can imitate. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.