Preach the Word: The Antidote to False Doctrine Part 2–the Crisis of False Doctrine

In a previous blog, I discussed the context of Paul’s call to action for Timothy and every pastor:  “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Today’s focus is the crisis mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. 

The crisis Paul warns Timothy about involves an existential, eternally consequential threat for the church of Ephesus:  false doctrine in the church. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back or think: poor, poor Timothy! I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that.  Take heed, the crisis of false doctrine isn’t limited to Timothy’s church. It’s present in every church, everywhere, all day, every day, 365 days of the year!

The Crisis of They and Their

Let’s review a few concepts in 2 Timothy 4:3.  Notice the pronouns of “they” and “their” in this verse.  Who is this? “They” and “their” refer to members of the Ephesus church.  These are people who undoubtedly attended, participated in, gave offering to, and gave lip service to church.  But notice that these church members couldn’t possibly be Christians because of their actions and desires.  Why do I say this?

The Crisis of Unsound Doctrine

First, “they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3).  The phrase “sound doctrine” doesn’t refer to specific church doctrines such as justification or sanctification but rather the purpose and intended outcome of what’s said.  The Greek word for “sound” —hugiainōrelates to the idea of physical and spiritual health; of being well in body and corrupted in spirit.  1     The idea of “doctrine”–didaskaliarelates to learning and teaching. 2     Taken together, the impending crisis occurs because some church members will eventually have problems with both hearing and adhering to accurate, Biblical instruction and truth.
Sure, they’ll listen to accurate and practical Bible teaching but only for a while.  They’ll tolerate hearing and living sound doctrine but not for long.   In this setting, I can imagine conversations along the lines of “This Bible talk about heaven, hell, sin, salvation, righteous living, compassion, and prayer is okay but let’s not overdo it shall we? Terms like justification, sanctification, and eternal security are too confusing and I don’t have time to study or learn about this.  Can’t we just keep it simple and ambiguous so I don’t have to think about accepting or rejecting the Word of God? Can you give me a quick summary about this Jesus stuff so I can
sound like I know what I’m talking about or sound like I actually believe what I’m talking about?”  God forbid.

The Crisis of Tickled Ears

Next, the time will come when church members want “to have their ears tickled.”  Some translations  say “Itchy ears.” The crisis of false doctrine occurs when a church suffers from spiritual deficit disorder:  “the short attention spans or low tolerance for all things Godly, all things holy, and all things righteous.”  Notice that the crisis isn’t that they can’t listen to sound doctrine, it’s that they want to pick and choose what they hear.


The Crisis of Desires

Paul also reminds Timothy about the “desires” of those who don’t want to hear sound doctrine.  As Wiersbe suggests “Ephesus would not be the easiest place to pastor a church. (Are there any “easy places”? I doubt it.) The city was devoted to the worship of Diana, the patroness of the sexual instinct. Her lascivious images helped promote sexual immorality of all kinds (see Acts 19).  3

The Crisis of Myths

Paul points out another crisis in 2 Timothy 4:4 which reads “and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”  This reminds us that unbelievers’ rejection of sound doctrine leads to a descending plunge into spiritual darkness. Litfin puts it this way:  “For error to flourish both sides of the transaction must cooperate. This is the sixth time Paul used ‘truth’ in this epistle…(He referred to truth five times in 1 Tim[othy]…and twice in Titus. Obviously he was concerned about the dangers of heresies diverting people from God’s truth.”  4We also Paul’s focus on Godly truth in 1Thessalonians 2:10-13 as he admonished Christians to be effective in their walk and witness and Galatians 3:1 as he questions how believers can be so easily deceived.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Much like Timothy, we must acknowledge that churches have an ever-growing crisis.  It’s a battle involving false doctrine rather than sound doctrine. Being a church member doesn’t automatically make us a member of Christ’s church. Going to a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian and neither does attendance equal salvation.   


We face a crisis of feeling rather than footing; a crisis of fad rather than faith; a crisis of convenience rather than conviction.  It’s a crisis involving fake news of Satan, the master deceiver, compared to the good news of the Gospel. Beware of the crisis!


The next blog will address the Charge stated in 2 Timothy 4:1.

Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 73. Print.
Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 23. Print.
3  Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Print.
4  Litfin, A. Duane. “2 Timothy.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 758. Print.

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