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THE FORM WITHOUT THE POWER

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, December 2, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
(II Timothy 3:5).


This passage of Scripture begins with the words,

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (II Timothy 3:1).

The word for “perilous” could be translated as “fierce” or “furious.” I agree with the note on II Timothy 3:1-9 in the Tim LaHaye Study Bible (AMG Publishers, 2000), which says that,

“Last days” in this context refers to the end of the current Church Age. The perilous times that Paul speaks of do not refer to behavior in the world, since the world in many regards has always been this way. Instead, Paul speaks of those characteristics that have infiltrated into the Church from the world. This is one of the major New Testament passages that teach a spreading apostasy throughout the Church in the Last Days (ibid.)

It is most interesting to note that Spurgeon held virtually the same view of this passage of Scripture back in 1889. Spurgeon said,

Certainly, we are assured in verse thirteen that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” There will spring up in the Christian church…a body of faithless men who profess to have faith…men having the form of godliness, but denying the power. We may call these hard times, if we will, but we have hardly yet to come to the border of those truly harder times when it will go hard with the church, and she shall need, even more than today, to cry mightily unto the Lord to keep her alive (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, number 2,088).

Spurgeon said that back in 1889. What he predicted, based on this passage of Scripture, has certainly come true. The churches today are full of people,

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5).

“A form” means “the outward shape or appearance.” Thus, we are told that the churches will have many members who have an outward shape or appearance of godliness without the power (cf. note on II Timothy 3:5 in The MacArthur Study Bible, World Bibles, 1997).

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5).

I am sure that you do not want to be one of those people! Therefore, think deeply about the text. Does it apply to you?

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5).

I. First, what they have.

They have the outward form of Christianity. They have church attendance. Make no mistake about that – thousands attend church every Sunday who have only the outward form, without the reality of Christ. They also talk about religion. This means they have some knowledge about the Bible, some mental learning regarding Christianity, some memorized doctrines, some ability to speak to others about God and Christ.

They may well be able to quote verses of Scripture they have memorized. They may well be able to recite the plan of salvation. They may pray and read the Bible daily. They may know a great deal about Christ. They may be able to speak fluently about His vicarious atonement on the Cross. They may be able to speak of Christ’s Blood and righteousness. They may have a mental understanding of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. And yet, it is still said of them,

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5).

II. Second, how they came to hold this outward form of godliness.

Many of them came by it through heredity. Their parents were Christians and brought them to church. They grew up in the church. They know all about Christianity – outwardly. But they have only the outward form, only the external appearance of being Christians, for they have never experienced the power of Christ in conversion.

Others have come into the church from outside. Perhaps some Christian brought them in. They quickly learned the outward forms. They bought a Bible. They learned to find the right place in the Scriptures when the pastor preached. They learned to sing the hymns. They learned the plan of salvation. They can say the right words, when asked certain obvious questions. But, sadly, they too have only the outward form of Christianity.

They may come to church because they have made friends in it. They may enjoy being in church with their friends. They may like being together with church people. They may enjoy the outward form of “fellowship.” But, sadly, it is also true of them, that they are, in this unconverted state,

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5).

They may have made some sort of “decision.” They may have “rededicated” themselves. They may even have been baptized. And yet it must be said that all they have is

“a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof.”

III. Third, what they do not have.

They do not have conversion to Christ! They do not have the one thing that Christ said they must have! Christ said,

“Except ye be converted…ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

They may well have something else, but they do not have true conversion in Christ Jesus. They may have had an emotional feeling of one sort or another, but they do not have Christ Himself! They may know about Christ, but they have never come to Christ. They may know many doctrines and many Bible verses and many hymns, but Christ still says to them,

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

They may have deceived themselves by thinking that they really do have Christ, but the truth is, they are

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7)

in Christ Jesus. All they are really doing is

“deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).

In the end, such people will undoubtedly fall away, even from the outward form. Then it will be true of them that,

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19).

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
      (II Timothy 3:5)

because they do not have Christ, because they have never come to the Saviour, because they have never been washed clean from their sins by His precious Blood.

IV. Fourth, how this affects them.

They have only a dead, outward form and appearance. They have no life in Christ. They are still

“dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

They have never been

“quickened…together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5).

Thus, they have no inner comfort from Christ. They sometimes comfort themselves, thinking that they are not as evil as others, but this false comfort doesn’t last long. When it is gone, they are troubled inside. From time to time they fear going to Hell. They have no real inner hope of going to Heaven. They have no real joy or peace in Christ Jesus.

What should such a hopeless, lost and bewildered person do? He should take no comfort in his present state! He should hate and despise

“Having [only] a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:15).

He should think about his own sins, recorded in God’s “books” in Heaven. He should be deeply concerned about having those sins washed out of God’s “books” by the Blood of Christ. He should think of the corruption of his own heart. He should not trust his own feeling. He should not trust his own mind, for

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

He should fall on his knees before Jesus, and cry out, with blind Bartimaeus,

“Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).

Without Jesus, all you have is “a form of godliness.” Oh, then, come to Jesus tonight, and say to Him from the depths of your heart,

“Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).

And may God help you to do that very thing tonight!

Lord, now indeed I find
   Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots,
   And melt the heart of stone.
Jesus paid it all,
   All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
   He washed it white as snow.
(“Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1889).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Timothy 3:1-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“In Times Like These” (by Ruth Caye Jones, 1944).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE FORM WITHOUT THE POWER

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”
(II Timothy 3:5).

(II Timothy 3:1)

I.   First, what they have, II Timothy 3:5.

II.  Second, how they came to hold this outward form of
godliness, II Timothy 3:5.

III. Third, what they do not have, Matthew 18:3; John 5:40;
II Timothy 3:7, 13; I John 2:19.

IV.  Fourth, how this affects them, Ephesians 2:1, 5;
Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 10:47.