In 2 Timothy 3:1–9, the apostle Paul warns Timothy of increasing moral deterioration that will afflict humanity in the latter days. He describes such godless people as “lovers of themselves” (verse 2) and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (verse 4). They put themselves on the central throne of their affections in the place of God. Paul has false teachers and their devotees in mind when he elaborates: “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (verses 6–7).
The women Paul mentions are easy targets for false teachers because they are vulnerable—“burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires” (2 Timothy 3:6, NLT). The weight of guilt from unrepented sin impairs one’s judgment, leaving a person susceptible to temptation and further bondage to sin (Psalm 31:10; 32:3–4). In this weakened state, one loses the ability to discern truth and make upright decisions. These women, wanting to appear wise and well-educated, became ardent disciples of the counterfeit teachers. They were always learning whatever new doctrine the false teachers promoted, but in doing so, they were never able to understand God’s truth.
In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, he gave a similar warning against false teachers: “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, NLT). The inclination to follow deceitful teachings is not unique to women nor to the end times. Since the early days of the church, both men and women have been “always learning” the latest faddish teachings and self-pleasing doctrines. Paul stresses that the tendency will increase as we draw closer to the end times (2 Thessalonians 2:3–9; 2 Timothy 3:1).
On 2 Timothy 3:7, Warren Wiersbe writes, “These false religious leaders take advantage of the problems people have, and promise them quick and easy solutions. They ‘worm their way in’ and soon control people’s lives. It is not long before these leaders grab their followers’ loyalty, money, and service. And their ‘converts’ are worse off than they were before. They still have their problems, but they have been duped into thinking that all is well” (Wiersbe, W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, Victor Books, 1996, p. 250).
Always learning is a fitting description of people who continually search for other people’s advice. Paul tells Timothy, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3, NLT). These types of people mainly want self-satisfying experiences and feel-good sensations rather than serious truth.
People who look for truth in the wrong places will never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 7:24–29; 8:16–17; 1 Timothy 6:7–10). Instead, they will fall prey to spiritual swindlers and pseudo-Christian charlatans controlled by deceiving spirits. No matter how much time, devotion, or money they sink into their misguided studies, they will be “always learning” but never passing the test of truth. Only those who are born of God’s Spirit can comprehend spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only by believing the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ and entering a relationship with Him do we come to the soul-satisfying knowledge of truth (John 4:7–14; 8:31–32; 14:6; 16:12–15; 18:37–38; 1 John 5:20; 1 Timothy 2:3–6; Colossians 2:2–3; 1 Corinthians 10:3–4).