Some insinuate themselves into households and captivate weak women who are overwhelmed with sins and led by various passions. Such women are always seeking instruction yet never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Moreover, just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, these people—who have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith—also oppose the truth. However, they will not go much further, for their foolishness will be evident to everyone, just like it was with Jannes and Jambres. – 2 Timothy 3:6-9
Paul next describes many of the teachers in these churches and ministries. When he says they “insinuate themselves into households” in Greek, it is actually “the households” with a definite article (v. 6). This means these homes were well-known. He probably referred to the house churches where people gathered for worship. . These were typically the homes of wealthy church members (cf. Col 4:15, Rom 16:5, Acts 16:40).
Observation Question: What are the characteristics of these false teachers (2 Timothy 3:6-9)?
- False teachers are deceptive.
Paul says they “insinuate” their way into homes, or it can be translated as “creep” or “worm” (v. 6). These teachers are crafty, like the serpent in the garden. Often, they are great communicators and very charismatic; however, their intentions are not godly.
Be careful of the deceptive influence of false teachers. There is a reason that crowds often follow them.
- False teachers seek to “gain control” over people.
“Captivate weak women” can also be translated as “gain control over gullible women” (N.I.V.). Be careful when you see too much power given to a spiritual leader. These teachers often gain control over people’s money, marriages, and future. As seen in cults, spiritual abuse is common.
Remember Jesus said he came to serve and not be served. Servant leadership should be the model in our churches (Matt 20:25-28). Be careful of abusive ministries and ministers.
- False teachers often focus their attacks on women.
This mirrors Satan’s initial temptation of Eve and God’s prophecy of Satan’s continued enmity with women (Gen 3:15). Often, most cult members are women, and many times, these women are abused mentally, spiritually, and physically.
- False teachers prey on people’s problems promising quick solutions.
Paul says these women “are overwhelmed with sins and led along by various passions” (v. 6). The false teacher’s prey on these women’s vulnerabilities—promising healing, restoration of their family, financial prosperity, etc. In an attempt to heal their hurts and meet their felt needs, these women are led into captivity.
- False teachers prey on those who are always searching for new truth.
Paul describes these victims as “Such women are always seeking instruction, yet never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (v. 7). Often, you will find cult followers jumping from one perceived truth to another. They have tried this and that. They have a desire to know the truth but have not entirely accepted the message of the Bible. Therefore, they are vulnerable to teachers that say they have found “new revelation.”
- False teachers oppose the truth and instigate rebellion against God and godly leaders.
In verse 8, Paul says, “And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people—who have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith—also oppose the truth.” The names Jannes and Jambres are never mentioned in the Old Testament. However, according to tradition, the sorcerers opposed Moses when he went to Pharaoh’s court. They went with Israel to Mt. Sinai and instigated worshipping the golden calves. John MacArthur shares,
Jewish tradition holds that they pretended to convert to Judaism to subvert Moses’ divine assignment to liberate Israel from Egypt, that they led in making and worshipping the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law from God, and that the Levites slaughtered them along with the other idolaters (See Ex. 32). That possibility is consistent with Paul’s warning about false leaders who corrupt the church from inside. Just as those two men opposed Moses in his teaching and leading ancient Israel, these men in Ephesus also opposed the truth of the Gospel. 
In the same way, false teachers often accuse and oppose godly teachers and create rebellion in churches and ministries.
- False teachers often perform false and lying miracles.
This is implied that Paul refers to the two sorcerers that mimicked the miracles Moses performed. They turned their staffs into serpents, turned water into blood, and brought forth frogs. However, when it came to the miracle of the gnats and the subsequent miracles, the magicians failed to imitate them (Ex. 8:16–19). Similarly, false teachers often deceive through lying miracles that fall woefully short of God’s glory. Consider the following verses,
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time.
- Matthew 24:24-25
The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing because they found no place in their hearts for the truth to be saved.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
Jesus and Paul said signs and wonders would follow false teachers in the last days, and they perform these miracles to “deceive.” Even now, we have all kinds of phenomena happening in the church with no biblical support: stigmata (people experiencing marks of the crucifixion), statues and paintings with tears of blood, floating gold dust during services, people gaining gold teeth, people barking like dogs and roaring like lions, etc.
If we reject Scripture as our rule and standard of faith and practice (2 Tim 3:17), then we can accept anything and be led astray. This is what many have done in the church, and they accept things that have no affirmation in Scripture, making themselves and those they teach vulnerable to deception.
- False teachers are unregenerate and therefore have unregenerate thinking.
Paul says these men “have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith—also oppose the truth” (v. 8). MacArthur gives telling insight about the word “disqualified”—also translated “rejected”:
Adokimos (Rejected) was used of metals that did not pass the purity test and were discarded. The word also was used for counterfeits of various sorts. The fact that the men were rejected regarding the faith clarifies that Paul was speaking of individuals within the church who claimed to be Christians but were not.
False teachers are not born again, just as those who have a form of godliness but deny the power. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they are either deceived about their salvation or are intentionally deceiving others for their gain.
Since they are not born again, they cannot truly understand Scripture. Paul said the natural man could not understand the things of God for they are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14). Therefore, these false teachers can only pervert true doctrine. They deny the inerrancy of Scripture; they deny the creation of the world through God’s spoken word; they deny the deity of Christ; they deny a literal resurrection and the miracles of Scripture. They accept and teach revelation outside of Scripture—denying Scripture’s sufficiency. They are men and women of depraved thinking.
- False teachers will eventually be exposed.
Paul says, “But they will not go much further, for their foolishness will be obvious to everyone, just like it was with Jannes and Jambres” (v. 9).
They can only hide their hypocrisy for a while because false teaching provides no power to live a holy life; therefore, they will eventually be exposed. It is widespread, too, at some point, to hear how these teachers’ embezzled money, had multiple affairs, committed spiritual abuse, etc. Like Jannes and Jambres, their inability to produce the actual works of God—a holy life, lasting freedom for their followers, etc.—eventually becomes clear to everyone.
In Matthew 7:16-17, Christ said, “You will recognise them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”
Paul’s comments about them not getting “very far” probably refer to their false teaching, not just the false teachers. Their error does not get very far. John Stott said,
An error may spread and be popular for a time. Nevertheless, it ‘will not get very far. In the end, it is bound to be exposed, and the truth is sure to be vindicated. This is a clear lesson of church history. Numerous heresies have arisen, and some have seemed likely to triumph. However, today they are primarily of antiquarian interest. God has preserved His truth in the church. 
In these last days, false teachers and false teaching will be familiar. We must be aware of this.
Application Question: What experience/exposure do you have with cults, false teachers, and false teachings? What are some of the common dangers you have noticed?
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 249). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 106). Chicago: Moody Press.
- MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2120). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
- Hughes, R. K., & Chapel, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 225). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 119). Chicago: Moody Press.
- Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 91). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.