We all know the apostle Paul was a very straightforward man who lived for Christ. He went to different places preaching the Gospel of Christ and strengthening the believers who respond to the message of salvation. He was very commendable, someone we can all imitate, for he tried to imitate Christ.
One of the things that Paul did was to raise up people who would shepherd the church and make sure that no one became deceived. In one of his letters to his beloved mentee Timothy, we read a very powerful command, to "turn away" from some people who have "a form of godliness, but denying its power."
What did he mean by that?
The church should not be naïve. The Lord Jesus Christ has sent us out as "lambs among wolves," and we are to be very careful in our dealings with people. Not all who present themselves as Godly and religious are true – there are many who are false. He warns us,
"Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit."
We read in the Bible that Christ often found Himself being opposed by the religious leaders during His earthly ministry. Church people were the ones who plotted to kill Him (see Mark 3:6; Matthew 12:14; John 11:45:53), church people were the ones who called for His death (see Mark 15:1-5; John 18:28-35) and church leaders were the ones who paid to spread a lie in denial of His resurrection (see Matthew 28:11-15).
Not all religious people are Godly and follow Christ.
Lovers of themselves
Now let's take a look at the people that Paul was referring to when he said those words to Timothy:
"Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, slanderers, unrestrained, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Turn away from such people."
That's a very strong word, but that's true. Paul said the people enumerated above have the "form of Godliness" but don't enjoy God's saving power. These people appear religious but cannot show proof of their salvation, evidence that they are following Christ, and signs that they have renounced their wicked ways and turned to Christ in repentance.
These people love nothing but themselves. We must pray for them, but stay away from them.