For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. (NASB)
Capture the WeakPaul gave a rapid-fire description of how evil people will be in the end times. Then he abruptly says that they are here, now, and to avoid them. Now we see the goals of some of these people that were among them in the past and are still among us today.
While some of the people will simply be outwardly hostile to Christians, these are much more subtle. The devil has many schemes (Eph 6:11 ) and this is just one of them, to sneak into households and capture those who are weak in their faith. I don’t think Paul had in mind only those cults that go door to door proclaiming another gospel, but also those who are in the church pretending to be devoted Christians (Acts 20:29).
The Greek word, enduno, which is translated as enter or make their way is also translated as creep, sneak, and worm their way. All of these describe the way someone “sinks into a garment.” I haven’t sunk into a garment lately but the idea is to wrap it around you. Today, it could be trying to fit into those tight jeans. So these guys are slipping into homes little by little and fitting into the fabric of the family.
According to Paul, they do it by first approaching and gaining the confidence (NLT) or capturing weak women. That’s what the Holy Spirit says through Paul so, ladies, don’t get offended if it seems that Paul is picking on women. Perhaps it is because women are supposed to be more relationally oriented than men that these particular false prophets appeal to them first. Perhaps the devil’s scheme is simply to repeat what worked best in the past when he tricked Eve in the garden. For whatever reason he singled out women, I can guarantee you that the same applies to men. We need to take the warning to heart just as much as women do.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Eph 4:14 NIV)
These schemes are designed to capture us. Paul says that when we are weighed down by sins and are impulsive we are most vulnerable to be captured by these false teachers. The world is full of these kinds of teaching (doctrines). You can find them on talk shows and in advice columns in the newspapers. Christians often circulate them as cleaver stories that sound appealing, especially when attached to a pretty picture, sometimes with Jesus in it. The design of these is to convince us that we really aren’t sinners in need of a Savior. They talk about how worthy we are in an effort to build our self esteem. Instead of teaching people burdened with sin to repent, they excuse the sin or try to convince sinners that they are victims.
They put feeling before obedience to the Word. Acting on feelings are impulses. How many times have you heard that we should follow our hearts? Feelings are huge traps that lead us into sin. There are many love stories that romanticize adultery and divorce making the “forbidden” love noble and right because the lovers have found their soul mates. Once we are captured, it is very difficult to escape the snare Satan has prepared. Affairs are often as hard to break as addictions. As long as we are thinking like the world and not dealing with our sinfulness the way the Bible teaches, we will always appear as weak willed and unable to escape from our sinful impulses.
Have you ever heard of a Bible Study Junky? This is a person who is signed up for multiple Bible studies. There’s one on Sunday before or after the worship service and sermon. Then he goes to Bible Study Fellowship on Monday night. On Tuesday, they attend an online study. There is a mid-week Bible study that the pastor teaches on Wednesday. He also attends a home Bible Study on Thursday. These people find studies to fill most of their time and go to every weekend conference that is anywhere near them.
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. (Heb 5:12 NLT)
You would think that people who spend so much time in the Word would be teaching others. Instead they keep going from class to class, teacher to teacher. They don’t have time to put the Word into practice. There is another problem and that is deep within their hearts. They have not understood that good doctrine must affect behavior. They haven’t learned that their religion must result in good works or it is useless (James 1:27, 2:18). Instead, they don’t have time for good works.Not everyone who attends multiple Bible studies is like this. Godly people tend to spend significant time in the Word, but the difference between the junky and the godly is fruit. If we are abiding in Jesus, then we should be producing fruit (John 15:5). Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit (Matt 7:15-19). If nothing comes from all the Bible studies then it is all a front hiding a sinful heart.
Never Able to Arrive
Why can’t these people arrive at a knowledge of the truth?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." (Jer 17:9-10 ESV)
There is a terrible implication in Paul’s statement that they are always learning but unable to know the truth. It is a heart problem of those who are still not regenerated. The worst-case scenario is that their hearts are still in slavery to the devil’s schemes and haven’t been born from above (John 1:13, 3:3). It is the same problem that condemned the masses who heard Jesus but were unwilling to understand (Matt 13:13-15). It is why the message of the cross is foolishness to many learned people who think they are wise (1 Cor 1:18-21).
However, Paul is addressing people in the church. Certainly some have never been born again but think they are Christians. However, the second scenario would be people who have been born again but still have sin in their lives that they are unwilling to confess and remove. They hear the same word over and over again but never apply it to their lives because they would then have to change.
These are the ones that study a passage on forgiveness such as Eph 4:32 which says to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven us. The preceding verses speak of getting rid of bitterness and other sins that accompany unforgiveness. Their response is to say that they have forgiven others but they won’t forget; they are really waiting for a time when they can get revenge. Even though they hear the truth, they are unwilling to apply it.
Jannes and Jambres
The names of these two men are found only in extra-biblical literature. The Roman author and naturalist from the first century spoke of Moses and Jannes as magicians. The Pythagorean philosopher Numenius (2nd century A.D.) speaks of Jannes and Jambres as Egyptian hierogrammateis, or sacred scribes. These names are not recorded elsewhere in the Bible. The reference to the magicians is in Ex 7:11-19 when Pharaoh summoned his magicians and they performed the same miracles as Aaron and Moses. They turned their staffs into snakes, turned water to blood, and brought frogs from the Nile. Note that they were not able to get rid of the frogs. (The people who are like them can cause problems but never have godly solutions.) Their abilities stopped when they couldn’t produce gnats from the dust of the earth. At that point they acknowledged that Moses’ miracles were from God.
How do these two magicians relate to people who take others captive, who have the appearance of godliness but deny its power?
Oppose the Truth
And the Lord said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' … Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, 'I will persuade him … I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the Lord said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' (1 Kings 22:20-22 KJV)
Jannes and Jambres had no more power to do miracles and oppose the truth than what God let them do. Just as the Lord allowed a lying spirit deceive Ahab through the false prophets, anyone who opposes the truth can only do it as God allows. The interesting thing is that the prophet Micaiah told Ahab exactly what was going on but Ahab still believed the false prophets (1 Kings 22:15-23). The Lord allows these people to deceive, performing miracles, and predicting the future to test his people to show whether or not they will obey what He has clearly commanded (Deut 13:1-4). He also allows it to happen to punish those who will not repent.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper. (Rom 1:28 NASU)
Just as Jannes and Jambres didn’t want to acknowledge God, people who oppose the truth have depraved minds. They appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to admit that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible and that we are accountable to Him. The magicians didn’t want to be accountable to God. They didn’t want any higher power than themselves. They were top dogs in Egypt. When we want what we want more than we want to be pleasing to God, He allows deception to come to us in various forms to reveal what is in our hearts (2 Tim 4:3). In essence, God lets us do sinful things that will eventually destroy us because we want sin more than righteousness (Rom 1:24-32).
The word for rejected is adokimos. It means unapproved, rejected and by implication worthless. The King James uses the word reprobate. We think of reprobate as an immoral person of the worst kind. However, when this word was used and defined in Calvinism, it was a person who was not elected but destined for hell. The modern languages of the Bible aren’t as striking, but in essence they are saying the same thing. They are rejected regarding faith; they have not and will not receive the gift of faith so they will not be saved.
Jewish traditions state that Jannes and Jambres both became proselytes and joined the exodus from Egypt. However the same tradition teaches that they were the ones who encouraged Aaron to make the golden calf. Whether it is true or not, the pattern is exactly what Paul is teaching about those who oppose the truth. They often mix in and appear to be believers but when an opportunity arises, they will be deceivers.
Folly Is Obvious
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:14 KJV)
It took four miracles performed by Aaron and Moses before these men admitted that they were God’s doing (Ex 8:19). From our perspective, it is obvious what was going on. People who are in tune with God’s Word will always be able to see the folly of these false prophets. However, not every Christian is in the Word often enough to be discerning. They are also people who have a sinful bent that keeps them from seeing the folly. That is why they are susceptible to being dragged away and enticed by men like Jannes and Jambres.
If we are captured by these, then we can only blame ourselves. We get what we crave or lust after. It ends up in sin, but we also have the promise that when we wake up and turn back to the truth, when we confess our sin, we will be cleansed from our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We will then be able to have fellowship with the Lord and with other believers. We don’t need to be captured and we don’t need to stay captive.
 NT:1746 in the sense of sinking into a garment (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 JANNES AND JAMBRES International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.
 NT:96 adokimos Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
 JANNES AND JAMBRES Traditions: from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.