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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 4 - Verse 3

Verse 3. For the time will come, etc. Probably referring to the time mentioned in 2 Ti 3:1, seq.

When they will not endure sound doctrine. Greek, healthful doctrine; i.e., doctrine contributing to the health of the soul, or to salvation. At that time they would seek a kind of instruction more conformable to their wishes and feelings.

But after their own lusts. They will seek such kind of preaching as will accord with their carnal desires; or such as will palliate their evil propensities, and deal gently with their vices. Comp. Isa 30:10, "Speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits."

Shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. The word rendered heap episwreuw—does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means to heap up upon, to accumulate; and here to multiply. The word rendered itchingknhyw—also occurs only in this place in the New Testament. It means to rub, to scratch; and then to tickle, and here to feel an itching for something pleasing or gratifying. The image is derived from the desire which we have when there is an itching sensation, to have it rubbed or scratched. Such an uneasiness would these persons have to have, some kind of instruction that would allay their restless and uneasy desires, or would gratify them. In explanation of this passage we may observe,

(1.) that there will be always religious teachers of some kind, and that, in proportion as error and sin abound, they will be multiplied. The apostle here says, that by turning away from Timothy, and from sound instruction, they would not abandon all religious teachers, but would rather increase and multiply them. Men often declaim much against a regular ministry, and call it priestcraft; and yet, if they were to get rid of such a ministry, they would by no means escape from all kinds of religious teachers. The deeper the darkness, and the more gross the errors, and the more prevalent the wickedness of men, the more will a certain kind of religious teachers abound, and the more it will cost to support them. Italy and Spain swarm with priests, and in every heathen nation they constitute a very numerous class of the population. The cheapest ministry on the earth is a well-educated Protestant clergy, and if society wishes to free itself from swarms of preachers, and prophets, and exhorters, it should secure the regular services of an educated and pious ministry.

(2.) In such classes of persons as the apostle here refers to, there is a restless, uneasy desire to have some kind of preachers. They have "itching ears." They will be ready to run after all kinds of public instructors. They will be little pleased with any, and this will be one reason why they will have so many. They are fickle, and unsettled, and never satisfied. desire to hear the truth, and to learn the way of salvation, is a good desire. But this can be better gratified by far under the patient and intelligent labour of a single religious teacher, than by running after many teachers, or than by frequent changes. How much would a child learn if he were constantly running from one school to another?

(3.) Such persons would have teachers according to "their own lusts;" that is, their own tastes, or wishes. They would have those who would coincides with their whims; who would foster every vagary which might enter their imagination; who would countenance every wild project for doing good; who would be the advocates of the errors which they held; and who would be afraid to rebuke their faults. These are the principles on which many persons choose their religious teachers. The true principle should be, to select those who will faithfully declare the truth, and who will not shrink from exposing and denouncing sin, wherever it may be found.

{*} "lusts" "desires"

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