on 2-timothy 4 :3
For the time will come - There is a time coming to the Church when men will not hear the practical truths of the Gospel, when they will prefer speculative opinions, which either do no good to the soul, or corrupt and destroy it, to that wholesome doctrine of "deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow me," which Jesus Christ has left in his Church.
But after their own lusts - For these they will follow, and hate those preachers and that doctrine by which they are opposed.
Shall they heap to themselves teachers - They will add one teacher to another, run and gad about after all, to find out those who insist not on the necessity of bearing the cross, of being crucified to the world, and of having the mind that was in Jesus. In this disposition interested men often find their account; they set up for teachers, "and widen and strew with flowers the way, down to eternal ruin," taking care to soothe the passions and flatter the vices of a trifling, superficial people.
Having itching ears - Endless curiosity, an insatiable desire of variety; and they get their ears tickled with the language and accent of the person, abandoning the good and faithful preacher for the fine speaker.
on 2-timothy 4 :3
For the time will come ... - Probably referring to the time mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1, following.
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; compare Isaiah 30:10. "Speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits."
Shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears - The word rendered "heap" - ἐπισωρεύω episōreuō - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means "to heap up upon, to accumulate;" and here "to multiply." The word rendered "itching" - κνήθω knēthō - 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. People often declaim much against a regular ministry, and call it "priest-craft;" 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 pagan 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. A 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 labor of a single religious teacher, than by running after many teachers, or than by frequent changes. How much would a child learn if he was 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 coincide 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.
on 2-timothy 4 :3
4:3 For they will heap up teachers - Therefore thou hast need of all longsuffering. According to their own desires - Smooth as they can wish. Having itching ears - Fond of novelty and variety, which the number of new teachers, as well as their empty, soft, or philosophical discourses, pleased. Such teachers, and such hearers, seldom are much concerned with what is strict or to the purpose. Heap to themselves - Not enduring sound doctrine, they will reject the sound preachers, and gather together all that suit their own taste. Probably they send out one another as teachers, and so are never at a loss for numbers.