3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
endure (v.3) = to hold one’s self upright or firm against a person or thing
sound doctrine (v.3) = healthful teaching — “sound” is the Greek word from which we get “hygiene” — free from error — it describes the character of the doctrine and also its effect upon the believer — doctrine, here, is preceded by the definite article, so, specifically, Paul’s doctrine — see 1 Timothy 1:10
according to (v.3) — the root meaning is “down,” indicating domination
desires (v.3) = cravings — the desire for personal gratification
itching ears (v.3) = to tickle or scratch — an eagerness to hear. In the Greek, it is obvious this refers to the people, not the teachers as the KJV seems to indicate.
[Itching ears] describes that person who desires to hear for mere gratification, like the Greeks at Athens who spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear, not some new thing, but some newer thing (Acts 17:21). — Wuest, page 157
heap (v.3) = accumulate in piles — an indiscriminate multitude of teachers giving people what they want to hear, not what they need.
turn (v.4) — the words “turn away” carry the idea of “averting.” That is, those who follow these heretics, not only turn away their ears from the truth, but see to it that their ears area always in such a position that they will never come in contact with the truth, like a country windmill whose owner has turned its vanes so that they will not catch the wind. Notice the active voice of the verb “turn away,” and the passive voice of the verb “shall be turned” [later in verse 4]. The first named action is performed by the people themselves, while in the case of the second one, they are acted upon by an outside force. The second occurrence of the word “turn” is from a verb (ektrepo) which means “to turn or twist out.” In a medical sense it means, “to wrench out of its proper place,” as of the limbs. It is used of a dislocated arm, for instance. When people avert their ears from the truth, they lay themselves open to every Satanic influence, and are easily turned aside to error. Instead of being in correct adjustment to the truth, namely, that of seeking it for the purpose of appropriating it, these people have put themselves out of adjustment and have been consequently wrenched out of place. They have become dislocated, put out of joint. Like a dislocated arm which has no freedom of action, they have given themselves over to a delusion which incapacitates them for any independent thinking along religious lines which they might do for themselves. — Wuest, page 157-158.
fables (v.4) = fiction — see 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7
be watchful (v.5) = be stable, be free from credulity, be temperate, be circumspect, be alert
endure afflictions (v.5) = suffer evils, hardships, troubles — given as a sharp, military command
evangelist (v.5) — one who brings good news
fulfill (v.5) = to cause a thing to be show to the full, to carry through to the end, to fully perform
The people in these verses who turn away from the truth reminds me of a group of people who play a game each January to see how long they can go without finding out who won the Super Bowl or what the score was. One participant explained how difficult it is to avoid “The Knowledge.” He has to be aware in advance of where he might see newspapers and avert his eyes. He also shuts himself in his office and avoids talking to people for a day or two after the game.
There are even rules:
Rule 1. The object of the game is to avoid, for as long as possible, learning a) the winner and b) the final score of the Super Bowl. This data is called The Knowledge.
Rule 2. Don’t flee the country. Leaving America means immediate disqualification.
Rule 3. Always play honestly.
Rule 4. If you receive information that might constitute The Knowledge, but you aren’t certain (e.g., if someone might be “messing with you” by telling you a false winner or score), you can opt not to believe the uncertain information and keep playing. However, if it turns out that the uncertain information was correct, the game’s end point is retroactive to when The Knowledge was, in fact, known.
Rule 5. Nobody ever wins. It’s a game you play against yourself, so it always ends in a loss, eventually.
Those who work so hard to avoid spiritual truth never win either.