Itching Ears

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; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 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; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. II Timothy 4:1-5

We find Paul telling Timothy people will seek teachers that will tell them what they want to hear. These people "will not endure sound doctrine". Why? What should be repulsive about sound doctrine? Just prior to this verse we find:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreak-ers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:1-5

"In the last days" we're told such would become predominant. In the first passage, we're told the time was coming when people would have itching ears, seeking to hear what sounds good, but would actually be an abomination.
In II Timothy 3:5 we find the expression, "Having a form of godliness." The message of the itching ear crowd tries to look godly, but its fruit will show the truth.

Paul told Timothy to be instant in season and out of season. I've observed the conditions outlined in 3:1-5 everywhere. I believe we're in the last days. That means we're in the off season for preaching the truth and call of the Gospel. You'll find people saying things to you or about you like, "they're not acting very Christian, a good Christian wouldn't try to tell me how to live," if you're preaching the Gospel. What offends them is God's call to repentance, and a holy standard of living. They want to feel God will not condemn them for living in wickedness, yet want to go on in wickedness. This is the situation that's ripe for the itching ear pleasing preacher. He'll come in at this junction and talk about God and speak soothing words. He'll make them feel a little more religious and yet not condemn them for living wickedly. Ah, truly a form of godliness, but really denying the power of it.

In II Timothy 4:2 we see he was told to preach at all times. We find the characteristics of this Word preaching here. Three predominant characteristics come out:


Just what is 'reprove'? In Webster's Dictionary I found this definition: 'To chide as blameworthy', and 'to censure'. This is real hard preaching. You can see why the itching ear crowd doesn't like this Gospel preaching. The faithful preacher points a finger, he JUDGES. Oh no, the forbidden word!
Now what about the original Greek word the passage translates as 'reprove'? The Greek is 'elencho'. It means: 'to convict'. We find in Vine's Dictionary this: 'the real meaning here is 'exposed' (KJV marg., "discovered");.'


'Rebuke' is defined in Webster's Dictionary: 'To reprehend sharply; to chide; to reprimand.' Going to the Greek we find the word is 'epitimao'. It means 'to set a weight upon, chide' and in Vine's Dictionary we find that it carries the weight of command such as in Christ's rebuking evil spirits, the wind, a fever and even His disciples. In other words, the word can be distilled down to a word that means to condemn with the command to cease. This is definitely unfriendly to the itching ears camp. To rebuke not only means to say you shouldn't do it, but tell them NO!


The third characteristic of Gospel preaching is found in the word 'exhort'. Webster's Dictionary: 'To incite by words or advice; to advise or warn earnestly.' Then going to the Greek we find the word is 'parakaleo'. It's defined in Vine's Dictionary as: ['to call to a person' and denotes: (a) 'to call on, entreat'; see BESEECH; (b) 'to admonish, exhort, to urge' one to pursue some course of conduct].

The characteristics of preaching the Word can be laid out thus:

To condemn ungodly living, to command to cease and then to give direction as to how one should live.
This outline was given to Timothy, a pastor, as instructions in ministering to the fellow Christians who were under his shepherding care.
There were two guidelines that went with these instructions:


"With all longsuffering..." Longsuffering is defined for the Greek in Vine's Dictionary: 'Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God' and 'is associated with hope.'

The minister of the Word reproves, rebukes and exhorts, but not with a disgust of the person or persons being ministered to. He ministers in hope of a fruitful soil. One that wants to go right, but needs guidance and support. He's willing to help in love and doesn't just say, "He failed in the past, so I'm not giving him another chance. Why waste my time?" In the reproving and rebuking sin, it's easy to get caught up in condemnation of evil and forget the touch of mercy. That's why it's enjoined in this passage.

Paul said something previously to Timothy that helps clarify his meaning here:

In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. II Timothy 2:25,26

We teach with meekness the reproving and rebuking and exhorting message, but still teach the message and proclaim the words of truth.


The other guideline was, ". . . and doctrine." Doctrine is to guide the preaching. Doctrine is defined as "teaching" and refers to the authority which is the basis of one's teaching. Look back in II Timothy:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. II Timothy 2:15,16

We see the itching ear clan stays away from the "word of truth". That avoidance goes into more ungodliness. Adhering to the word of truth is the doctrine that is to guide all preaching.
Take a quick look at this exhortation given by Paul to Timothy in his first epistle:

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. I Timothy 4:12-16

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou has learned them; And that from a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. II Timothy 3:14-17

The doctrine is clearly shown to be founded in the Scriptures, which is another word for the Bible. What's more, the Bible supplies all we need to do all good works.


Some people enjoy the Bible plus something. For example: Some like the Bible and psychology. They say you need both to really be able to do all good works. Paul said quite the opposite. In fact, he warned Timothy about that little addition in the final words he wrote to him in his previous epistle:

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. I Timothy 6:20,21

Some call psychology a science and place it as equal or even above the Bible. Modern psychology is actually antagonistic because it says the Bible-based pastor is insufficient to meet the needs of his modern congregation, unless he also has his doctorate in psychology. This contradicts what Paul said in II Timothy 3:14-17, thus calling the Bible faulty. Another interesting thing is the root of 'doctorate', used in the psychology degree, is the same root that forms the word doctrine. You have a doctrine of the holy scriptures and you also have another, different doctrine of psychology. Such additions as this are also the teachings (or doctrines) that some will heap to themselves having itching ears.


Paul said that after being a faithful minister and encountering those of the itching ear disease, we must "endure afflictions". The message Timothy preached wouldn't be appreciated by all. Those who hate this type of message would very likely seek to afflict him. The kind of message he delivered invited attack. In spite of the attacks, he was encouraged to go on with this work of 'evangelism' (preaching the word) and 'make full proof of his ministry'. Timothy was not to cut back in the message, delivering only those things that the itching ear crowd approved of. What's more, wherever Timothy saw God opening a door in his ministry, he was encouraged to take it to the full.

We need to make sure we don't develope scaly patches in our ears. Before you know it, they will start itching. In a humble state of meekness before God, that disease won't adhere. You'll be granted immunity.

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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