Paul’s Epistle to Titus (2)

Tom Wilson, Levin, New Zealand

Part 2 of 3 of the series Paul's Epistle to Titus

False Teachers, 1. 10-16

The need for a teaching gift among the elders in Crete was clear. There were different factions in error among the believers, the worst being a Judaic group teaching circumcision for Gentile believers cf. Acts 11. 2. It seems that this was accompanied by other ideas Paul described as "fables", v. 14.

False teachers were not a small minority; there were "many", said Paul. Nor were they sincerely wrong, because the apostle called them "unruly", the thought being that they actually refused to obey the truth. Whole families were being turned aside by them. Their motives were self-seeking, with financial gain uppermost in their minds, v. 11; cf. v. 7.

Characterized. The moral demands of discipleship had little or no place in the teachings of these men. This would appeal to many Cretans whose base character was a byword in the region. Paul quoted Epimenides, one of their own fifth-century prophets, in passing judgement-wisely, because he could not then be accused of prejudice. He merely added, "This witness is true".

The wonder is that so many people on the island had received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. This is a reminder that God in His grace often chooses the weak so that the glory for their transformed lives is His alone. Paul was adamant that the national weakness ought not to appear among the believers, which would be the case if they followed false teachers and their ideas.

Countered. In verses 13 and 14 we read how the false teachers were to be silenced. They were to be sharply rebuked in the hope that they might forsake their erroneous beliefs. "Unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" they might be, but Paul's desire was "that they may be sound (healthy) in the faith". The word "convince" in verse 9 may correctly be rendered "convict", expressing the idea that those in error should come to recognize and deeply feel their wrong as a prelude to repentance.

By "the faith" Paul meant the truth embodied in the gospel. To be "sound in the faith" was to renounce "the commandments of men, that turn from the truth". The false teachers were to be confronted with the truth.

We should be warned that, enjoying as we do the privilege of open ministry, we are responsible to ensure that the word is soundly ministered; those who abuse the privilege must be sharply rebuked-still.

Condemned. Finally in this section, Paul looked at the character, v. 15 and behaviour, v. 16 of the false teachers. Some have misinterpreted verse 15 as meaning that God is not concerned about moral character. But that teaching, antinomianism, was not taught by Paul, cf. Rom. 3. 31; 8. 4. The point he was making here was that if people separate themselves from the pure word of God, Ps. 12. 6; 119. 140, they lose the ability to make moral judgements, then-mind and conscience become defiled. Such people are "disqualified by their impurity from performing any morally good deed" (Hiebert).

We should heed the warning which verse 16 brings to us. False teachers may, indeed often do, imitate true believers. Yet they stand condemned by their works. In departing from the truth, they deny the Lord. Paul said of those at Crete, that they were abominable, disobedient and reprobate. Hard words, but true-no less true today than when they were written. "They profess that they know God,'* said Paul-deception, the stock in trade of many false teachers. Like counterfeit money, they have the appearance of the real thing but in fact they are totally worthless in terms of spiritual value.

Sound Doctrine, 2. 1-15

Chapter 2 is concerned, as verse 1 tells us, with "the things which become sound doctrine". Except for the synopsis in verses 11 to 14, conduct, not doctrinal facts, is to the fore-things which "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things", v. 10. In this, true believers are distinct from those who merely profess to know God, 1.16. The contrast is emphasized by the opening conjunction "But". "In works they deny Him . . . But speak thou (that is, to true believers) the things which become sound doctrine".

Different groups within the assemblies are now referred to:

Older Men, v. 2. The word here indicates age, not office as "elders" in 1. 5. Older men are addressed first as a mark of respect. Four qualities are listed: sober, grave (dignified or reverent), temperate, sound (healthy) in faith, love and patience. "Sound" here refers to character, not teaching as in the previous verse. These senior men are to be self-controlled, steadfast and godly-mature and strong in the faith.

Older Women, v. 3. Similarly ("likewise"), in behaviour they are to become "what is sacred" (Newberry). They are to avoid malicious gossip and, not unrelated, indulging in excess of wine. They are to be responsible for the training of younger women. It is significant that this was not to be Titus' responsibility.

Younger Women, w. 4, 5. Seven domestic qualities are listed here. The home is the natural environment for sisters and, indeed, for women in general. Feminist groups in our day tend to stigmatize women who regard their vocation as one of caring for their homes, husbands and children. Such pressure can only be from those who are unaware of, or indifferent to the mind of God as revealed in the scriptures. Godly sisters regard their trust in the home as a sacred responsibility, and how important their role is in these days! King Lemuel put it well: "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies", Prov. 31. 10. Without these qualities and this influence, says Paul, the word of God-presumably in reference to the Gospel-is discredited.

Young Men, v. 6. There is a simple, direct statement here: "be sober minded". There is a natural tendency among young men to lack restraint, to be rash. But the Christian young man is to eschew that weakness; he is to be "sensible", as the Greek word can be rendered, or as one paraphrase puts it, "behaving carefully, taking life seriously".

Titus an Example, w. 7, 8. The life of Titus has to be consistent with his teaching-to inspire all groups, not just the young men referred to in the previous verse. He has to be a pattern to follow, pure in doctrine, sincere in outlook, sound in what he says. Although exposed to people who want to condemn him, they can find nothing amiss. How like the Lord! Even one of the criminals crucified with Him had to confess, "We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss (not one thing out of place-Newberryy Luke 23. 41. We may well ask ourselves whether this is true of us; surely the standard set for Titus applies to all who would serve Him well?

Bondslaves, vv. 9, 10. Early churches had many slaves in their number. Although set free from sin's bondage by the grace of God, they were to remain subject to their masters, in everything seeking to please them. There was to be no talking back, theft or untrustworthiness. In their sphere they were to be like Titus in his, "a pattern of good works", a living testimony to the God of their salvation. We do not have slavery in our culture but surely all who work for an employer can take these words to heart? The same principles apply. Every one of us in our sphere must surely sense the call to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things".