II. THE TIME OF APOSTASY
Verses 3 and 4 say, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate healthy teaching, but according to their own lusts they will heap up to themselves teachers tickling the ear, and they will turn away their ear from the truth, and will be turned aside to fables.” The time mentioned in verse 3 refers to the time when the decline of the church becomes worse. At that time many will not tolerate healthy teaching, teaching which is healthy in life and which ministers the supply of life. Instead, they will prefer teachers who tickle the ear. This indicates that those who do not tolerate healthy teaching have an itching ear, an ear which seeks pleasing speaking for its own pleasure. Furthermore, such persons will turn away their ear from the truth and will be turned aside to fables. The itching ear that is turned away is the main factor of the worsening decline in the churches.
Many Christians today do not tolerate the healthy teachings related to God’s economy. When we teach that Christ is the God-man, the One who is the embodiment of God as His expression, some accuse us of blasphemy or heresy. Some have even gone so far as to twist our words concerning Christ as the God-man and, in print, to falsely accuse us of teaching that Christ was neither quite God nor quite man. In The Four Major Steps of Christ I say, “We know that Christ is God incarnated as a man. Christ is the God-man. He is not only a man of God, He is also a God-man. Therefore, the incarnation of Christ simply means the mingling of God with humanity” (p. 6). Twisting our words and grossly misrepresenting us, certain of our opposers have written, “This incarnate deity was neither quite God nor quite man; He was a third thing, a mingled God-man.” We believe that because Christ is true God and true man, He is the God-man. He is the perfect God and a complete man as well. Both His divine nature and His human nature, each being complete, concur in His one Person—without separation, without confusion, and without being changed into a third nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, one Person with two natures, is worthy to receive our worship and praise forever.
Because many Christians today will not tolerate healthy teaching, they heap up teachers to tickle their itching ears. The teachings in the Lord’s recovery are altogether different. Our teachings do not tickle the ear. Instead, they may operate on the ears of those who hear. Unable to bear such an operation, some turn their ears away from the truth.
We have pointed out again and again that in 1 and 2 Timothy truth refers to the reality of the contents of God’s New Testament economy. This reality consists primarily of Christ as the embodiment of God and of the church as the Body of Christ. Instead of listening to proper teachings concerning Christ and the church, many Christians have turned aside to other things.
III. TIMOTHY, THE INOCULATOR
In verse 5 Paul says to Timothy, “But you, be sober in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelist, fully accomplish your ministry.” For Timothy to fully accomplish his ministry was for him to fill up the full measure of his ministry. This ministry denotes the ministry of the Word to minister Christ in all His riches (Eph. 3:8) to both sinners and believers for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). Such a ministry is desperately needed to counter the declining trend, as prophesied in verses 3 and 4.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)