2 Timothy 4:1-4
1. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
1. Obtestor igitur ego coram Deo et Iesu Christo, qui judicaturus est vivos et mortuos et vivos et mortuos in apparitione sua et in regno suo;
2. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long -- suffering and doctrine.
2. Praedica sermonem, insta tempestivè, intempestivè; argue, increpa, hortare cum omni lenitate et doctrina.
3. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
3. Nam erit tempus, quum sanam doctrinam non sustinebunt; sed juxta concupiscentias suas coacervabunt sibi doctores, ut qui prurient auribus,
4. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
4. Et a veritate quidem aures avertent, ad fabulas autem convertentur.
Here, as in a very weighty matter, Paul adds a solemn charge, exhibiting to Timothy God as the avenger, and Christ as the judge, if he shall cease to discharge his office of teaching. And, indeed, in like manner as God showed by an inestimable pledge, when he spared not his only -- begotten Son, how great is the care which he has for the Church, so he will not suffer to remain unpunished the negligence of pastors, through whom souls, which he hath redeemed at so costly a price, perish or are exposed as a prey.
Moreover, this earnestness must relate both to the pastor and to the people; to the pastor, that he may not devote himself to the office of teaching merely at his own times and according to his own convenience, but that, shrinking neither from toils nor from annoyances, he may exercise his faculties to the utmost. So far as regards the people, there is constancy and earnestness, when they arouse those who are asleep, when they lay their hands on those who are hurrying in a wrong direction, and when they correct the trivial occupations of the world. To explain more fully in what respects the pastor must "be instant," the Apostle adds --
In short, Paul means that reproofs are founded on doctrine, in order that they may not be justly despised as frivolous. Secondly, he means that keenness is moderated by gentleness; for nothing is more difficult than to set a limit to our zeal, when we have once become warm. Now when we are carried away by impatience, our exertions are altogether fruitless. Our harshness not only exposes us to ridicule, but also irritates the minds of the people. Besides, keen and violent men see generally unable to endure the obstinacy of those with whom they are brought into intercourse, and cannot submit to many annoyances and insults, which nevertheless must be digested, if we are desirous to be useful. Let severity be therefore mingled with this seasoning of gentleness, that it may be known to proceed from a peaceful heart.
First, let us learn from it, that the more extraordinary the eagerness of wicked men to despise the doctrine of Christ, the more zealous should godly ministers be to defend it, and the more strenuous should be their efforts to preserve it entire; and not only so, but also by their diligence to ward off the attacks of Satan. And if ever this ought to have been done, the great ingratitude of men has now rendered it more than necessary; for they who at first receive the gospel warmly, and make a show of some kind of uncommon zeal, afterwards contract dislike, which is by and by followed by loathing; others, from the very outset, either reject it furiously, or, contemptuously lending an ear, treat it with mockery; while others, not suffering the yoke to be laid on their neck, kick at it, and, through hatred of holy discipline, are altogether estranged from Christ and, what is worse, from being friends become open enemies. So far from this being a good reason why we should be discouraged and give way, we ought to fight against such monstrous ingratitude, and even to strive with greater earnestness than if all were gladly embracing Christ offered to them.
Secondly, having been told that men will thus despise and even reject the word of God, we ought not to stand amazed as if it were a new spectacle, when we see actually accomplished that which the Holy Spirit tells us will happen. And indeed, being by nature prone to vanity, it is no new or uncommon timing, if we lend an ear more willingly to fables than to truth.
Lastly, the doctrine of the gospel, being plain and mean in its aspect, is unsatisfactory partly to our pride, and partly to our curiosity. And how few are there who are endued with spiritual taste, so as to relish newness of life and all that relates to it! Yet Paul foretells some greater impiety of one particular age, against which he bids Timothy be early on his guard.
Indeed, this monstrous depravity, which almost constantly prevails among men, deserves that God, and his healthful doctrine, should be either rejected or despised by them, and that they should more gladly embrace falsehood. Accordingly, that false teachers frequently abound, and that they sometimes multiply like a nest of hornets, should be ascribed by us to the righteous vengeance of God. We deserve to be covered and choked by that kind of filth, seeing that the truth of God finds no place in us, or, if it has found entrance, is immediately driven from its possession; and since we are so much addicted to fabulous notions, that we never think that we have too great a multitude of deceivers. Thus what all abomination of Monks is there in Popery! If once godly pastor were to be supported, instead of ten Monks and as many priests, we should presently hear nothing else than complaints about the great expense. 2
The disposition of the world is therefore such that, by "heaping up" with insatiable desire innumerable deceivers, it desires to banish all that belongs to God. Nor is there any other cause of so many errors than that men, of their own accord, choose to be deceived rather than to be properly instructed. And that is the reason why Paul adds the expression,
1 "Car un temps viendra." "For a time will come."
2 "Incontinent on n'orroit autre chose que plaintes de la trop grande despense."
3 "The greater part cannot endure corrections, or threatenings, or even simple doctrine. When we denounce vices, though we do not employ violent language, they think that all is lost. Never was the world so obstinately wicked as it now is, and those who have made a profession of the gospel appear to endeavor, as far as they can, to destroy the grace of God. For we are not speaking about Papists only, who fight furiously against us, but of those who adhere to the Protestant Reformation of the Gospel. We see that they would wish to be like unbridled calves. (They care not about a yoke, or government, or anything of that sort.) Let them be allowed to do what they please, let blasphemies and all licentious conduct be permitted; it is all one, provided that they have no form of ceremony, and that they despise the Pope and idolaters. This is the way in which many who make a profession of the gospel would wish to be governed, but the reason is, that they have "itching ears.'" -- Fr. Ser.