A Church Planter’s Reflections on Titus: Titus 1:10-16 ‘Dealing with False Teachers’
“10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Titus 1:10-16
Titus met with opposition to gospel ministry and so will we. Recently, I’ve met quite a few adherents to the New Age movement and those who align themselves with various groups which reject the Bible and Christ. Naperville seems to be fertile soil for rejecting biblical authority and for relying on one’s own understanding and mystical experiences. At one of our discussion groups, I was told that it is absurd to trust the Bible and that my views as a Christian are more in line with the medieval age then 2015.
Paul wanted Titus to be ready and know that these persons would be out there and how to deal with them so as to watch over and protect the church from false teaching. Sometimes they needed to silenced (1:11) or rebuked sharply (1:13). So far I have not had to silence or rebuke anyone in a community group setting, but in a different setting I have had to tell an individual, who was espousing heretical views, to refrain from interrupting me while I taught. On another occasion a couple Mormons joined one of our events and one of the first statements out of their mouths was, ‘Mormons are Christians.’ By God’s grace, I was able to rebuke/correct that understanding for the group of people attending my presentation. (Offended by the assertion that I would claim Mormons are not Christians? See this link here to understand why I believe it is not accurate or helpful to claim Mormons are Christians). I’m sure that in future I’ll have to continue the difficult task of rebuking/silencing those would lead our church into myths or legalism (1:14). I pray that God gives me the courage to do and that our leaders might also be discerning.
In verse 15 it sounds like Paul is correcting a legalistic/mythic understanding of the false teachers (perhaps they were teaching that certain foods/actions were impure/sinful). This passage teaches us that “everything is pure for the pure” (the pure referring to those who are Christians). Such a fact gives us freedom as church planters to engage in activities that moralists might deem inappropriate (like smoking a cigar, or having a drink). Although we’re not free to engage in sin, we need not fear the opinions of man or self-imposed legalistic rules. We are pure, and this is because Jesus has made us pure! But those outside the Christian faith, religious or non-religious, are impure and even their attempt at good works are considered unfit. It is also worth noting that this reference to “good works” here in verse 15 is the beginning of an important theme in Titus, that of doing good works.
This passage reminds me as a church planter to be on my guard against false teaching and false teachers. There are false teachers out there and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some people will want to lead Christians away from a pure devotion to Christ. I pray that God gives us courage and wisdom to protect our congregation from false teachers and ask that you would pray for us in this too.
This passage also shows the importance of knowing our city’s culture. Paul here quotes from a well-known poet to make his point about the opponents of Titus and the church. By using this reference, Paul was better able to communicate truth to the believers in Crete.