Category Archives: Theology

Colossians: Pray and Keep on Praying

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Colossians 1:3-14

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[b] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[c] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I did not write the lesson on this section in Colossians, but I would love to share some thoughts concerning this passage. I would encourage you to read through the passage above and record your own observations (noting key words, admonitions, tone of voice, connectives, and so on).

The first thing I noticed this time around is Paul’s very friendly and encouraging tone toward the Colossians. It reads quite differently from his letter to the Galatians for example. He also introduces us to a new name, Epaphras. New names immediately pique my interest and result in me following a rabbit trail that takes me hours to get back to my original path. In order not to take you on too many rabbit trails, I’ll simply choose a few ideas from the passage I found interesting (trust me when I say this is very hard to do for me. I’d like to pick apart every. single. verse.).

If we look at this section of the letter very broadly, we would note his common habit of giving thanks and praying for the recipients. It is a beautiful way to start a letter. I find that Paul teaches me about being thankful and how to pray for others simply by the way he writes his letters.

As I mentioned he’s very encouraging toward the Colossian believers, noting their faith and their love (v. 4, 7) which is a result of the hope (v. 5) they have in Christ {hmm…where have I seen those three qualities together before??}. He also comments on the gospel bearing fruit and increasing among them since the day they heard it and understood it (v. 5-6). I find the idea of an inanimate object being able to bear fruit very fascinating. The good news (gospel) which Epaphras spoke to the Colossians continues to produce good things among them.

I would like to look closely at the idea of faith. Webster’s 1828 defines it as “a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared and because He has declared them.” Another way to put it is an “affectionate, practical confidence in the testimony of God” or a “firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word.”

Perhaps it is best to point out that the power of faith depends not on the person who has the faith but on the One in whom the faith is placed. Christ is the object of our faith. Our faith has power because it is on Him, and He does not fail. C.F.D. Moule wrote this:

Regardless, the issue is not just the presence of faith, but a faith that resides in Christ. It gives the thought of reliance going forth to Christ, and reposing on Christ, so as to sink as it were into Him, and find fixture in Him; as the anchor sinks to the floor of the sea, and then into it, that it may be held in it.

To recap, Paul gave thanks for their faith and love because of hope (and this hope does not disappoint because it is also in the person of Christ who has secured glory/heaven for us). One of the ladies I teach with said this, “The validity of faith is not the fervency with which you believe, but the degree to which the object of your faith is true.”

It is in verse 9 when he switches to praying for these people he’s never even met. He asked that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. I couldn’t tell you how this happens, I only know that if he asks for it, it must be something that can happen to any believer. We can know God’s will for our lives. Isn’t that such a comforting thought? I also happen to love that he prays this for them as a father would pray for his own children to know God fully.

Hopefully you had a chance to read my post detailing the background of Colossians. You see, there was a threat of false teaching in Colossae, and those opponents were promising spiritual fullness with things that were not Christ. Paul tells the believers that true spiritual fullness can only be found in Christ alone. Just look at these verses in the letter about fullness or being filled:

1:19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

1:25 …to make the word of God fully known

2:2 …all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2:9 For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have been filled in Him…

4:12 …stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Christ is sufficient. (more on this later!)

Now on to verses 10-11. Paul had spoken of the gospel which was bearing fruit in the lives of the Colossians and now in verse 10 he tells them to walk in a worthy manner, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work…. One of my favorite teachings of Jesus (and which Paul continues) is this idea of the Vine and branches. We abide in the Vine (which is Christ), and He produces fruit in us (fruit of the Spirit for example). I realize this can be a touchy subject since too many people believe they must work really hard to be “good” and accepted by God (or whoever it is they believe they need to work for). I would clarify that it’s not so much that we work for God but that God works in us. {I feel a blog post bubbling to the surface so I had better stop at that.}

In verse 11 Paul tells them their strength comes from God. The words for strengthened and power come from the same word in our English language for dynamiteDunamei means “to make strong, strengthen” and carries the idea of making something strong that is inherently weak. Paul says this power helps us to endure and have patience with joy. Again, this is his prayer for the Colossians and gives me such encouragement knowing this can happen for me as well.

Paul wraps up this section in verses 12-14: we give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in His inheritance, He has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to His Son’s kingdom, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Now those verses are truly packed with some dynamite!

What I learned from this passage is that the words used for delivered and transferred give the idea of military conquest. In Biblical times it was common to take a people who had been defeated, uproot them from their culture and environment, and re-root them somewhere else. That is exactly what God did for us! He broke the bonds of our past life (out of darkness) to assimilate us into a new life with Him (His kingdom of light – see also 1 Pet 2:9). It’s His grace to us, because we don’t deserve a single thing He did in those verses. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred, and redeemed.

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Colossae: Introducing Christ

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book-of-col-cover

Introducing Colossae.

Introducing Christ.

It seems appropriate to begin our study by starting with the background – to look at context, culture, and what was happening in the world.

We learned from Titus that right doctrine rightly applied produces right living. As we make our way through Colossians, we will encounter echoes of this same truth, but from a different angle. Knowledge of God is important. No it’s vital. Your view of God, your understanding of who God is, ultimately is the only thing that matters. Because what you know of Him shapes what you believe and then how you feel and finally how you act.

Fortunately God does not leave us in the dark concerning who He is! He, the eternal Creator, makes Himself known to us, the limited, finite created ones. He reveals Himself to us through His creation, but most presently and intimately through HIS SON.

Ahh, here’s where our letter speaks most loudly! Colossians is said to have a profoundly high view of Christ. Perhaps this is exactly the kind of letter we need to read today. Let us settle in and get reacquainted with Christ, the supreme and sufficient Savior!

Colossians 1:1-2 says,

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Please meet my new friends, the Colossians. Even though Paul is the first character mentioned, then Timothy, I’m actually going to discuss the Colossians first.

Colossae

You may be wondering what is so special about Colossae. To tell you the truth, nothing. It was said to be the least important church of the New Testament. In fact Lightfoot writes, “without doubt Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed.” (Word Comm p. 2) But don’t you just love that Paul wrote to them anyway? The church is still the Church no matter how small. Let us begin with a geography lesson!

Colossae was a city in Phrygia, a Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). It is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Here are two maps to show you where it is:

Here is another view of Colossae:

Bird’s Eye View of Colossae

It was a thriving city in the 5th century B.C. (think Esther and the Persian King Xerxes) but had declined by the time Paul was on the scene because the major trade roads that once carved through Colossae began to bypass the town for the neighboring cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Trade Route

Trade Route that ran between Laodicea and Hierapolis

Another view of the trade route by Hierapolis

It is believed that Colossae was initially made wealthy due to the textile industry, and the city was known for its wool and black and red dyes which came from the nearby chalk deposits (Strabo in Word; MacArthur).

The tri-cities were nestled in the Lycus River Valley, named after the Lycus River which ran through the towns. J.B. Lightfoot writes about the Lycus River and the impressive formations that formed as a result of the river:

Ancient monuments are buried; fertile land is overlaid; river beds choked up and streams diverted; fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone are formed, by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently throughout the ages. Fatal to vegetation, these encrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness. (in Barclay NDSB)

Unfortunately we know only a tiny amount about the ancient city of Colossae due to the fact that it has never been excavated. Here are some images of the land as it stands currently.

Colossae view from the mound

Mount Cadmos

Colossian theater

Colossian theater (notice the “seats”)

Sometime after 61 A.D., a massive earthquake destroyed the tri-city area (according to Eusebius it was 64 A.D. and Tacitus claims it was 61 A.D.).

  • Eusebius is said to have chronicled an earthquake destroying Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Chron. Olymp. 210.4) in the 10th year of Nero [AD 64]. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: “That this city [Colossae] perished by an earthquake, a short time after the date of this epistle, we have the testimony of Eusebius…”
  • Tacitus records the quake in the 7th year of Nero (Nero was Emperor of Rome from AD 54-68, putting the earthquake around AD 61—Annals 14.27. Tacitus recorded that Laodicea was also destroyed in the quake, but was later rebuilt apparently without Roman assistance. Note that Jesus wrote to Laodicea, but Colossae was not mentioned among the letters of Revelation. By this time (AD 96), Colossae in large part no longer existed.  (http://religiouslyincorrect.com/Articles/TriCityAreaEarthquake.shtml)

An interesting fact concerning Colosse is that the Lycus River brought cold water to the city. Here is a view of the Lycus River:

A well-documented fact of Colossian history was that the Lycus river, beginning at Colossae, disappeared underground for about 1/2 mile. In the area where the underground course was believed to run is now a ~30′ deep canyon. It is believed this canyon was formed by collapsing of earth caused by the AD 60 earthquake [102]. This may help explain the existence of cold springs in the area; for if the Lycus flowed several hundred yards beneath the surface, it would have emerged cold. And although the 60 AD earthquake may have rendered the underground Lycus course extinct, it’s clear that underground water activity was not uncommon.

What is most interesting about this Colossian fact can only be realized if you see a map of the area and understand a little bit about the neighboring towns of Hierapolis and Laodicea.

The rivers naturally ran toward the sea which was off to the west. This means that the Lycus River at Colossae ran to Laodicea. Hierapolis, their neighbor to the north, remains famous even today for it’s hot springs.

Hierapolis hot spring

These hot springs would run south to Laodicea where they would mix with the cold water from the Lycus River. This helps explain Jesus’ “neither cold nor hot” remarks about Laodicea, which was sandwiched approximately between its two sister cities (Rev 3:16). Interestingly, the cold water of Colossae was extremely beneficial as a refreshing drink or to help soothe a fever. Likewise the hot water of Hierapolis was used to help relieve sore muscle aches as it had healing properties at such high temperatures. This is why Jesus wanted Laodicea to be either hot (therapeutic benefits) or cold (refreshing benefits) but not lukewarm.

Audience

The majority of the people at Colossae were most likely Gentiles. However Josephus describes a movement from Babylon of about 2,000 Jewish families into the area of Colossae during the days of Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C. – 1st century B.C.; Ant. XII 6.4).

The letter was most likely written to Gentile Christians rather than Jewish believers, and this is evidenced in four ways:

  1. How the author addresses the Jewish legalism that plagued the church (1:12, 21, 24, 27; 2:11-13; 3:5-7);
  2. The scarce allusions to the OT;
  3. A list of Gentile-specific vices; and
  4. A near lack of references to the issue of reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles in the congregation (noting 3:11, 4:11).

The congregation was said to be full of new believers (but honestly, most churches were new if you think about it!), and we might assume that they either were experiencing some uncertainty in their faith due to outside pressures OR were needing more instruction in the truth of the gospel in order to buffer the outside pressure. In other words, they either needed correction or encouragement (or perhaps both). We must not be quick to assume that they had gone astray though because Paul’s tone does not seem to be harsh (as in Galatians for example).

Rome

I mentioned that Colossae was in the region known as Phrygia, a Roman province. Here is a map showing the entirety of the Roman Empire.

With the exception of the orange and yellow, this is how widespread the empire was during Paul’s time. It stretched from England to India. And just to give you an idea of Rome’s dominance, they ruled over this area (give or take a few regions) for 1500 years! To give you an idea of how incredible this is, our country is a little over 240 years old.

The reason Rome is important to our study is that we can know some defining characteristics of the culture in Colossae and the surrounding regions. We will be talking about the Persians sometime in the near future, and like the Persians, the Romans had a lust for power. They had conquest ingrained in their bones. However, unlike the Persians, they did not rule with an iron fist per se. They allowed more freedom under the law, and this resulted in a fairly long lasting sense of peace throughout the empire.

The Romans had a definite philosophy on what made a country great. Naturally they would espouse their views as the “best” way of living. They essentially believed the Roman way was “the way.” Interestingly, there were several factors that made the spread of the gospel much easier during the Roman rule.

  1. Political unity produced economic and political stability as well as encouraging trade between cities and regions.
  2. Military and trade routes meant easy access to large numbers of people.
  3. Greek was the universal language and made communication easier between regions.
  4. The mixing of cultures allowed for easier cross-cultural evangelism.

However, as great as Rome was, there was also a blending of religions. It was very easy to hold 1) syncretistic beliefs during this time because the Romans had so many gods (just like the Greeks) and did not hold to a monotheistic framework. What was one more god going to hurt? I’ll just add Jesus to my repertoire. They were polytheistic and inclusive.

Just imagine what the culture was like for the Colossians. Grab a little of that faith, a little of this one, sprinkle some of that one, and viola, I think I’ve figured out the best concoction to be fully spiritual.

In addition to this, 2) Rome was seen as the great light that had come to be the great salvation. “A lot of people had put their hope in Rome’s ability to take care of them.” (Matt Chandler)

Author and Date

The letter specifically says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…and Timothy our brother…” It would make sense then that the author is Paul, right? Scholars note that just because the letter begins with Paul’s name does not necessarily indicate true authorship. There is evidence that people in the first century wrote letters using Paul’s name to lend credence to their words. I personally think that Paul wrote the letter, HOWEVER some scholars have questioned the Pauline authorship of Colossians. Yet a greater amount of evidence points to Paul as the author.

Let me give you some reasons for both arguments:

Those who question a Pauline authorship believe that the writer’s vocabulary/style and theology are different from that of Paul’s. Let’s talk about style first (from Berkhof):

  1. The style is said to be different from that of the apostle. They believe that some of the word choices are not typical of Paul and that the construction of the letter carries a certain heaviness that feels different from a genuine Pauline letter.
    1. To answer this objection, it is not uncommon for a person’s vocabulary to change over time, especially when dealing with the specific circumstances at Colossae. In addition his choice of “new” words (not used in other letters) is not proof that he did not write the letter. He also uses different words in the letter to the Romans, but no one questions the authenticity of that letter! The difference in his vocabulary is more likely due to his subject matter.
  2. It is believed that the Christology (theology) of this letter is un-Pauline and conflicts with the representation of Paul in his other writings.
    1. To address this objection: There is no reason to believe that Paul could not have more fully developed his view of Christ (Christology). Nothing in his Christology actually conflicts with other Pauline passages on this matter (Rom 8:19-22; 1 Cor 8:6; 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 2:5-11).

Interestingly, “there is no historical evidence that the Pauline authorship of Colossians was ever suspect in the early church” (bible.org). Louis Berkhof also explains that there is “no good reasons to doubt the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. {Marcion and the school of Valentinus recognized it as genuine. And the great witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertulilian repeatedly quote it by name}.” He then lists several early church fathers who attest to Paul’s authorship of Colossians. (http://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Elou_berkhof%5Elou_berkhof.INT_%20026.pdf/at/Introduction%20to%20the%20New%20Testament)

Douglas Moo notes “there are simply too many specific personal claims woven throughout the letter” for this to have been written by anyone other than Paul. (Pillar)

In other words, when the beginning sentence claims it was written by “Paul, an apostle…” the people believed it was from Paul!

The other twist in this plot is that Timothy is also mentioned as if he were a co-author. Douglas Moo writes,

Timothy, enlisted among Paul’s co-workers at the beginning of the second missionary journey (Acts 16:1–3), became the most important of Paul’s ministry associates. Brother, therefore, is probably intended to suggest Timothy’s close association with Paul in ministry. What role does Timothy play in the composition of this letter? Schweizer and Dunn, among others, suggest that Timothy may have been the actual writer of the letter, with Paul perhaps reading and “signing off” on what Timothy had written. But this may give Timothy more credit than he deserves…. To be sure, Timothy’s inclusion in the prescripts of these other letters can readily be explained in terms of his involvement with those churches. (Pillar NTC)

I agree that we don’t need to make too much of this extra author because we honestly can’t know if he wrote any of the letter. He is mentioned in the greeting in three other letters – Philippians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It’s possible that he was present with Paul and showed the same concern for this little church. I just love that it shows that cycle of missions at work – he’s like Paul’s apprentice.

This letter was written from prison so unfortunately the dating of this letter is also uncertain. To spare you all the details, Paul was either in Ephesus (100 miles away) or Rome (1,200 miles away). An Ephesian imprisonment would mean an earlier date around 52-55 A.D. and a Roman imprisonment would be later around 60-62 A.D. (Moo, Pillar)

There are equally good reasons for both dates. I would say that we can put the date of the letter before 60 A.D. for certain because of that earthquake (remember, it happened sometime after 61 A.D.). “Paul did not refer to this catastrophic event; thus, scholars believe Paul had either not yet heard the news, or that his letters to Colossians and Philemon predated the quake.” (TriCityAreaEarthquake)

And also because if it were much later, then Paul couldn’t have written it (because he was said to be in Rome after 60 A.D. and according to tradition, died in Rome). This line of thinking leans toward an Ephesian imprisonment but does not entirely rule out the Roman imprisonment.

There are four Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Most people group Colossians with Philemon because the greetings in each letter are sent from practically the same people (Phile 23; Col 1:7; 4:12-19). In fact the two letters have eight of the nine names in common. Philemon 12 tells us that Tychicus (who is mentioned in Col 4:7) had Onesimus as his companion on the journey to the Lycus Valley.

Interestingly, though Paul is the author of this letter, there is no evidence that he was ever in Colossae. Paul passed through the region of Phrygia twice, once at the start of his second journey and again at the beginning of his third journey (Acts 16:6, 18:23). However he did not even come close to the city of Colossae the first time, and if he did the second time, he certainly did not found the church there (since he says in Col 2:1 that they had never seen his face before).

It is most likely that his preaching in Ephesus (between 52-55 AD) allowed for others, namely Epaphras, to take the message to the city of Colossae (1:7; 4:12; Acts 19). Many believe that Epaphras was converted at Ephesus under Paul’s teaching and then was trained and prepared to go plant a church in his hometown of Colossae. (https://bible.org/seriespage/background-colossians)

Reason for Letter

As in every letter, it is best to look at the overall picture before plunging into the details. This is why I believe in reading the letter in its entirety when you first begin a bible study of any New Testament letter. One of the first questions I like to ask is: why was this letter written?

It seems that every letter Paul wrote was meant to correct some sort of error and also to offer encouragement for the believers to press on in their circumstances. The letter to the Colossians is no different. Paul addresses a threat of false teaching which sought to “undermine the person and work of Christ and the sufficiency of the salvation believers have in Him.” (bible.org bkgd)

You see how he speaks to the false teaching by expounding on sound teaching (theology) in Col 1 and 2, giving them the resources they would need to fend off these opponents.

He then offers his encouragement to the believers who might have been unsure of their salvation and their Savior. Paul also congratulates them at the beginning of chapter two for their “good order and the firmness of [their] faith.” (2:5)

The letter to the Colossians is best known for its major emphasis on Christology, or the summing up of all things in Christ. Many have questioned whether this high view even jives with the other books of the NT. Can they possibly be wondering if Paul declares too high of view of Christ? I just don’t see how this is a problem!

Perhaps this illustration about me and my sister will help me make my point more clear.

I have a sister who is over three years younger than me. She is taller, has darker, curlier hair, and darker skin. She has the most amazing dark eyes with the darkest eye lashes which everyone always envies about her! She is beautiful and funny and talented. One of my favorite things that everyone asks is, are you two twins? Ha! Yes, I’ll take that compliment. We look similar though I’ve just explained to you how different we are.

My mother, sister, and me

But as different as we are in appearance, we are worlds apart in our interests and preferences. She is a musician, I couldn’t tell you the difference between G and A. She went through a “goth” period with the dark, colorful hair and nails, I have never even dyed my hair (highlights yes..). She loves horror flicks and Halloween, I get scared watching Jurassic Park (The raptor scene!!! it’s terrifying people!).

If someone were to write a letter to her about how to handle a troubling situation, it would sound very different from how a letter to me might sound. The message will ultimately be the same, but you’ll find very distinct emphases because not only are we different people but what would be troubling to her might be different from what would trouble me. Yet at the end of the day, my sister and I aren’t so different. I still need Jesus just like she needs Jesus.

Louis Berkhof writes “the Christology of this letter is in perfect harmony with that of previous Epistles, but there is a difference of emphasis.” Paul emphasizes the significant impact Christ makes not only on the Church but on the whole Cosmos or creation. “All things were created by Him and find the purpose of their existence in Him.” Word Commentary notes that the specific conditions at Colossae necessitated the need for this high view. I would go further to say that WE ALL need this high view of Christ.

Many have said that the letter to the Colossians is the twin letter of Ephesians. Berkhof notes that of the 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 find parallels in Colossians. As you read in the intro, Ephesians focuses on ecclesiology (study of the church) whereas Colossians focuses on Christology.

So now you may ask, what exactly was the Colossian heresy? What was the threat of false teaching? Who was it that was threatening this congregation?

All great questions! This issue is the topic of MUCH debate beginning in the 19th century (interestingly, there was no debate about it before this time). The writers of the Word Commentary note 44 different suggestions among 19th-20th century NT scholars. Just to relieve your angst, I will not be going over all 44 views. Just 20. Aww! I’m teasing…

My personal preference when dealing with unclear passages or issues in a passage is to take a look at how Scripture, and to be more specific, how Paul handles the truth in the letter in order to combat any external pressures. It also just so happens that knowing a little about the culture and history can inform our view as well. I will not go into great detail concerning the WHO because we will deal with the opponents as the passage progresses.

So how does Paul handle these opponents? Well he warns the Colossians to be on their guard (2:8) because these opponents would try to ensnare them “by philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). But he also mentions “human traditions” that are set up against Christ (2:8). Finally there seems to be a Jewish edge to these opponents which you will find in 2:16-19.

In other words, the Colossians were dealing with a combination of philosophy and Jewish tradition. Arnold argues, “The Colossian ‘philosophy’ … represents a combination of Phrygian folk belief, local folk Judaism, and Christianity. The local folk belief has some distinctive Phrygian qualities, but it also has much in common with what we could also describe as magic or ritual power.”65 (Moo, Pillar)

{Remember the tolerance or inclusive nature of the Romans.}

This means that the opponents were not wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing, lurking in and among the church members, but rather were most likely outsiders pressing in on the Colossian church. To be clear, they were still wolves, but not those who had infiltrated the church as we saw in Titus.

In his letter, Paul also uses slogans or catch words of the opponents but turns them on their heads by using different definitions to more accurately reflect the truth. For example he uses the phrase “all the fullness” (2:9), which was likely a catchword used by the opponents (based on studies of word usage in the NT and early Greek writings). Moo notes, “Paul’s use of this ‘fullness’ suggests that the false teachers were claiming to offer a “fullness” of spiritual experience that could not be found through Christ alone.52” (Pillar) So as to highjack and therefore baptize the slogan, Paul applies this title to Jesus and not to whatever “fullness” the opponents were focusing on.

A major criticism Paul makes about the opponents was that they were puffed up with pride (v. 18 “their unspiritual minds puff them up with idle notions”). Apparently they were bragging about their ability to find ultimate spiritual “fulfillment” by means of their own spiritual program of visions and asceticism as well as observance of several Jewish traditions. (Moo, Pillar) Moo writes, “Paul … implies that the main deficiency … the false teachers found in Christ was his inability to provide ultimate spiritual ‘fulfillment.’” (Pillar)

This spiritual program they followed caused them to separate themselves from finding the true source of spiritual power which is Christ alone.

The essence of false teaching was that it was “not according to Christ” (2:8), or to use another phrase from Paul, they were trying to set up anything against Christ. {Christ + _______}

Thus the reason for our title, Christ – sufficient and supreme. Paul teaches the Colossians that they can find all they need in Him. Though the opponents would not teach according to Christ, he would continue to teach “according to Christ.” (I’m keeping this short and precise because you will get into this more as we dive into the particulars.)

Key Themes

Finally to give you some themes or key words to watch for:

  • Wisdom/knowledge/mystery (Christ is where it is found and He makes it available to all His people, not to an elite only)
  • Slavery v. Freedom (Christ has overthrown the powers; victory in Jesus!)
  • Old self v. new self (The Greek word for “old” does not refer to something old in years but to something that is worn out and useless. The old self died with Christ, and the life we now enjoy is a new, divinely given life that is the life of Christ Himself (Gal 2:20). (MacArthur))
  • Already, not-yet (we already have salvation but heaven is not yet) (Paul’s [often discusses] what God has “already” done in Christ [which] is balanced and kept in tension with what has “not yet” happened. Yet Colossians replaces the temporal scheme of “already” and “not yet” with the spatial scheme of “below” and “above” (3:1–4) and teaches a “realized” eschatology. We are already resurrected in Christ. We are already free in Christ. Douglas Moo Pillar Comm)

Final thoughts – Introducing Christ, the only one you need

As we ponder the bigger picture of this letter, I’d like us to consider God’s heart for His people. What kind of God hand picks the most zealous Jewish man to lead His missionary movement? A movement that will largely reach the Gentiles? Think about who Paul was before Christ interrupted his religious tirade against the followers of Christ. He called himself the Hebrew of Hebrews in Phil 3:4-6:

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

If there was anyone who would be considered godly (to have spiritual fullness), it was Paul. One thing that I’ve read over and over again is that the Jews did not proselytize. They did not go out and make disciples of other nations. But Christ chose Saul, later to be known as Paul, to lead His church, becoming the apostle to the Gentiles!

And think about how incredibly suited or qualified he was to be able to preach to the Jews. He knew the Law backwards and front (Napoleon Dynamite reference! BAM!). He was able, from his vast training in the Hebrew culture and Scripture, to explain to the Gentiles (and Jews) how Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Scriptures.

He was also able to see that, as great as the Law was, it could not do what Christ did. (Rom 8:3 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”) How perfect then was it for God to choose Paul who would be able to refute any opponents to the gospel of Christ!

Think about how difficult it must have been for the Colossian believers to come to faith in Christ only to be told that they needed something else, in fact that they needed to become Jewish and/or mystical in their practices. That they needed some extra knowledge that only this philosophy would give them. Or worse, that they couldn’t possibly be God’s chosen people because they were not Jews. How could God choose Gentiles? (said with utter disdain/contempt)

Surely these opponents would have shaken them enough to cause them to question their salvation and their Savior. Are we really qualified to share in the “inheritance of the saints in light” (1:12)? Do we really have forgiveness of our sins (1:14; 2:13-14)? Are we really “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (1:22)? Could these philosophies and human traditions really help us to attain to the Godward life? (1:22-23, 2:8) Can we really have “full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery” (2:2)? How can we, being dead in our sins, be made alive (2:13)?

More importantly, how did the opponents cause them to doubt Christ? Was He really God (1:15, 19; 2:9)? Is He really as important as we’ve been told (1:15-20)? Could Christ really cancel the record of debt against me (2:14)? Or would the law do this (2:8, 17, 23)? Was Christ’s death also for me, a Gentile (2:11-15; 3:11)? Is Christ really supreme? Is He really sufficient?

There is truly nothing new under the sun. Paul and the Colossians had to deal with opponents to the gospel, and we are no different today. What philosophies do we buy into which claim to have the answer to all our spiritual woes? What tried and true traditions are we told to follow in order to be truly godly?

So you’ve tried praying, and you aren’t getting the answers you hoped for… have you tried ______? You don’t like the direction your marriage is heading in…have you tried ______? You are unsure how to handle those unruly children…have you tried ______?

Is Christ not enough?

Scared about the future of the nation? Worried about your job? Anxious about family relationships? Struggling with sin?

Is Christ not enough?

Let Paul paint you a picture of your Savior. The Messiah. The Head of the Church. The risen One! The One who is our Peace. Our Hope of Glory. Our Victory over sin and death! The King on His throne. Christ, who is our Life.

Christ, not enough?!

No, Christ sufficient and supreme!

The only One you need.

Titus: Final Words for the Church

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Titus 3:9-15 –  But (R)avoid foolish (S)controversies, (T)genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for (U)they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, (V)after warning him once and then twice, (W)have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or (X)Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me (Y)at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and (Z)Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn (AA)to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not (AB)be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. (AC)Grace be with you all.

{If you’d rather skip the reading, you can find the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/ajfpe7o}

Don’t you just LOVE the richness of Scripture? The depths of God which no one can possibly know entirely? Myhope is that you have fallen in love with the doctrine of God, not for the sake of knowledge or pride in knowing, but because in it you have found the heart of God and it causes you to fall in love with Him all over again. We love because He first loved us.

And don’t you also love the picture we read of God pouring out the Spirit richly on us? It was foretold long ago by Isaiah and Joel (Is 32:15 “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…”; Is 44:3 “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring…”; Joel 2:28-29 “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…your sons and daughters…old men…young men…servants…”). For it is in the giving of the Spirit through the Son that it is even made possible for us to live holy lives. We respond to the Truth of God (doctrine) by obeying Him (godly living).

We’ve come to the closing at last, and I wonder if your heart is as heavy as mine. Must I say good-bye to Titus? To the Cretans who have wormed their way into my heart? We have one final session with our friends.

First I want to point out that this closing reveals the evidence of mission activity in Crete and the surrounding nations. “There is an assumption in this letter that the life and mission of the new churches on Crete is shared with Christian communities elsewhere. We see how Paul utilizes trained workers from all over to share in the building up of the churches as they send and receive the new workers. Titus played a significant role in the establishment of the churches (Titus 1:5), but he is soon to move on to other work and someone else will take up the task on Crete (Titus 3:12). From the beginning, these new mission churches were to be productive (v. 14) in the wider Christian community and its task in the world.” (Wieland, “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

This is also evidence of God pouring out those He has equipped in order to strengthen the church and spread the light to the world at large. With this in mind, let us begin…

Counterproductive Lives

To be counterproductive means to defeat one’s purpose or to hinder or act against that which you aim to accomplish. In the previous verses we learned that the people were to be devoted to good works (to Jesus) because THOSE things were excellent and profitable, and then Paul says in verse 9:

9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

  • AVOID

Perhaps if Paul were speaking in today’s language, he would tell us, “Avoid it like the plague!” Turn yourself around and get away from it! Shun it. Pretend it’s vomit on the floor and give it a wide berth. In fact this word (periistemi – per-ee-is’-tay-mee) is in the middle voice, and carries the idea of “going around something in order to avoid it.” (Exeg. Comm. https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)  So yes, stay away!

Interestingly this verb is a present imperative of command calling for a continual attitude that seeks to avoid such useless discussions. (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263). Paul’s command is for them to avoid the foolish (literally moronic from the Greek word moros) controversies, the fights about what God’s Word says. Since we’ve already gone over what Paul meant by “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” let me summarize with this quote:

The second part of the passage warns against useless discussions. The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary and deifying genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what was and was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a man may think himself religious because he discusses religious questions. There is a kind of discussion group which argues simply for the sake of arguing.” (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

As Steven Cole writes, “Truth must be obeyed, not philosophized.” (bible.org “dealing with factious people”) Avoid these things…

In lesson 3 we talked about how Paul was concerned about the believers being led astray by the false teachers, but that he is also concerned about the unity of the church. The NIV says in 1 Tim 1:4b “…Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

Talk about being counterproductive to the advancement of God’s kingdom! AVOID foolish controversies and fights about the law. Why? Because these fights are:

  • Unprofitable, worthless

Paul seems to be going for an emphatic statement here because these two words are very similar in meaning. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, to be unprofitable means that it has no profit for you or others. If you look up the word “unprofitable” it can also mean “useless” (which makes sense because something that brings you no profit is useless or worthless to you)!

Remember Titus 1:10 spoke of “empty talkers” who were like “windbags” and we likened that to idol worship because idols are “empty wind”? They were worthless…

The word worthless is the Greek word

  1. Mataios (mat’-ay-os) and meant being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth (Lexicon)
  2. Some of its uses include a person’s worship that is worthless (James 1:26), useless fasting (extra biblical), foolish thoughts (1 Cor 3:20), futile desire, directed toward worthless things (extra biblical), empty (1 Cor 15:17), futile way of living (1 Pet 1:18), and idols (Acts 14:15, Esther 4:17, Jer 2:5, 8:19; 3 Macc 6:11).

You see the connection between the two words! Unprofitable or useless and worthless (even with the connection to idols).

Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:14-16 “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words;(X) it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.(Y) 16 Avoid godless chatter,(Z) because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Paul tells Titus to avoid controversies and fights about the law because they’re worthless. In 2 Tim 2 he says it’s “of no value.” And we learned that those who were unfit were not able to stand the test, or not approved. This is why in 2 Tim 2, Paul follows up his point with “Do your best to present yourself to God as one APPROVED…[one] who correctly handles the Word…”

1 Tim 6:4-5 is also helpful in its description of those who choose to stir up fights about the Law: “They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words(H) that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth

I guess any one of us could look back on a time when we were not so proud of ourselves in an argument. Perhaps we kept pressing on into the fight, wanting so badly to be right, but only stirring up more and more trouble as we stubbornly refused to give up. This is UNHEALTHY and ROBS people of the Truth. Thus the reason Paul tells them to AVOID these things. They do not profit, are of no value, they are worthless and do not advance the gospel but rather rob people of the truth! Avoid them.

Counterfeit Lives 

Something that is counterfeit means it is an imitation of something valuable or important with the intent to deceive. A counterfeit person is a fraud. A fake. The one who stirs up division is living a counterfeit life of the gospel of Christ.

Paul continues in verse 10-11

 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

  • Stirs up division

To stir up division is the word:

  1. Airetikos (hair-ret-ih-kos) meaning “to cause division, to be factious, a division-maker” (Greek Lexicon)
  2. Only used here in Titus.
  3. Word origin: Started out to mean “to “choose, or to prefer…to take for oneself.” …It had the idea of someone who makes a resolute choice. It then started to mean someone whose choice is obstinate and against the truth. It is used here to mean one who had chosen an idea, … a teaching, a doctrine, a viewpoint, a perspective, a course of behavior that was not acceptable to the church…or the Word of God. …Literally, one who chooses for himself…He will not submit to the Word…or to the leadership.” (MacArthur)
  4. Eventually this word came to mean Heretic!

Don’t be a heretic! Those who would try to cause division. There are so many, even among us, who are divisive or factious (one who chooses for himself). Not thinking of others. You can recognize them as those who want to “start a conversation” about some hot topic (HELLO! “foolish controversy” or “quarrel about the [Word]”!!!). These people have an “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels” (HELLO! They’re just looking to pick a fight with whoever falls for the bait). It’s the same thing we addressed when we learned about the false teachers and deceivers.

They might mask their true motives by trying to get you “on their side” as if they were fighting for some noble cause. They’ll try to get you to believe that the godly thing to do is to “fight” for some issue – for some issue that typically tends to be controversial. But what does it actually accomplish? Almost every time, it’s just going to produce friction. As Paul says, it’s unprofitable and worthless.

To better understand what it meant to “stir up division” sometimes it is best to think about what it would look like in the complete opposite term. Reading from Phil 2:2-4 Paul writes: “ (D)complete my joy by being (E)of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from (F)selfish ambition or (G)conceit, but in (H)humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you(I)look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Not just choosing for yourself. Notice the phrase “of the same mind”, indicating unity and not division. Also note the charge to do nothing out of selfish motives but to walk in humility by treating others as more important than yourself. Paul tells them to look out for others’ interests. Why? You’re much less likely to try to press for your rights and to fight just to prove you are right when you are looking to another person’s interests. It’s asking yourself, “how can I show preference to this person rather than seeking to gain something for myself?” “how can I benefit them rather than advancing myself?”

The person who avoids foolish controversies and quarrels about the law, who chooses unity over division, is the one who aligns himself with Christ. Phil 2:5-8 “(J)Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] (K)who, though he was in (L)the form of God, did not count equality with God (M)a thing to be grasped, but (N)emptied himself, by taking the form of a (O)servant,[b] (P)being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by (Q)becoming obedient to the point of death, (R)even death on a cross.”

Having the mind of Christ who did not choose for Himself but submitted to the will of the Father. Not being divisive.

  • Warning!! 

Now he goes on to address how to handle the “heretic” or divisive person. Notice he doesn’t tell Titus to talk theology with the divisive person. No he says: Warn them once and then twice. Paul likely got his teaching from Jesus which is what you read in your personal study in Matthew 18:15-18 (v. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, (O)tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, (P)let him be to you as [o]a Gentile and [p]a tax collector.”). This word warn (nouthesia) is the same idea as the rebuke we talked about earlier. It is aimed at bringing spiritual understanding and conviction, not just verbal disapproval. It’s a restorative action. Warn.

Paul has strong words for the church to avoid a person who chooses not to heed correction. He tells them “have nothing more to do with him.” He should be to you “as a Gentile and tax collector” OR an OUTSIDER (to quote Jesus). Though that seems harsh, wait until you hear how Paul handled a few other individuals. 1 Cor 5:5 tells us that Paul would “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…” (this man being the one who continued in a disgraceful and public sin). Paul also speaks of handing over two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to Satan to “be taught not to blaspheme” in 1 Tim 1:20.

I can just hear Paul telling Titus, “listen, that person, if he doesn’t listen to you the second time, don’t try to go back to him again. He’ll simply end up being a heavy stone tied around your waist. You don’t need to use up all your energy on the person who doesn’t want to be a healthy member. Let him go and entrust him to God (or perhaps Satan!).”

Maybe you need to hear this today. You can have nothing more to do with the one who stirs up division. That doesn’t mean you can’t still pray for that person. It simply means, you aren’t responsible for what that person does. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself if you’ve already done all that is biblically necessary for correction. Let. It. Go.

As MacArthur says, “the last word on false teachers, shun. The last word on factious people, reject.

Paul says the person who stirs up division and doesn’t listen to correction is:

  • Warped and Sinful

I think of those deceivers back in Titus 1:15 – both their mind and their conscience are defiled. Warped is the word:

  1. Ekstrepho meaning “to turn or twist out; to turn inside out; pervert, corrupt.” Also “to cause to turn aside from what is considered true or morally proper” (Lexicon)
  2. This word was used in medical literature and was translated as “dislocated” (MacArthur) [twisted/distorted]
  3. Only used here in Titus.
  4. This is different from the word we learned about repentance which is also a turning. This turning in Titus is a negative turning! It’s a turning that leads a person away from holiness, away from God.

Let me read to you one commentary on this word: “First, such a person is ‘twisted.’ ‘Twisted’ is the perfect passive of ekstrepho. The perfect tense points to a condition that has been reached with results that continue. It stresses the present state of affairs. In the passive as here, ‘to be perverted,’ points to an unmentioned agent or cause, but something has had a negative impact on the person’s life. The translation of the NET Bible, ‘by sinning,’ suggests that the cause of the perversion is a continual life of sinning, whatever that might be. But since the text literally says ‘and is sinning,’ the sinning could just as well be the product of the perversion, especially when the root problem is a mind that has been twisted by false doctrine which is futile to change one’s life and this is ultimately the issue here. Regardless, the character (‘perverted,’ a state that has been reached) and the conduct (‘is sinning,’ a process that continues) point us to the reasons for rejecting such a person.” (Exegetical Commentary on Titus at https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

To further drive home that point on the continual life of sin: this word for sinful (harmartano) is used in 37 passages, one (illustrates) of which is 1 Tim 5:20 “20 Those who continue in sin(A)rebuke in the presence of all, (B)so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Here is a dislocated distorted twisted perverted inside-out individual.” MacArthur

In our Titus passage, Paul tells Titus, after you’ve rebuked the divisive man and he still doesn’t listen, choosing that continual life of sin, have nothing more to do with him. He’s warped and sinful, but he is also:

  • Selfcondemned

This word is only used in Titus. The ESV translates this as “self-condemned” but “the NET Bible [says] ‘and is conscious of it himself,’ [which] seems to understand… that the twisted person is aware of his true spiritual state. In other words, he knows that in his persistent refusal to abandon his heretical views he is wrong and stands condemned by his own better judgment. However, the Greek term, autokatakritos, ‘self-condemnation,’ may also be understood to mean that the twisted teachers are condemned by their own behavior (as Paul writes in Titus 1:16 ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable disobedient, unfit for any good work.’). (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

By self-condemned, Paul may mean that when such false teachers attack godly church leaders, they expose themselves for what they really are.” (Steven Cole)

Paul also speaks of a person who condemns himself in Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have (A)no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For (B)in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

The one who stirs up division by promoting foolish controversies is self-condemned. He has condemned himself in continuing in his warped and sinful behavior. His stubborn heart has refused to see the One who rightly judges and it is God who in the end will judge this one who has stored up wrath for himself by saying “I don’t need God.” (chosen for himself)

We’ve talked about the counterproductive life, the counterfeit life, now let us investigate the…

Authentic Lives   

Authentic means “having a genuine original or authority, in opposition to that which is false, fictitious, or counterfeit; being what it purports to be; genuine; true.” (Webster’s 1828)

Paul then switches gears for his final greetings:

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 

These men are the ones serving in the trenches and living out the authentic Christian life. These are the ones who are being poured out (like water; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast Ps 22:14) in service to God.

You can learn about Tychicus in 2 Tim 4:9-13 and Apollos, the Alexandrian Jew (mentioned in Acts 18 and 1 Cor 3). We don’t know anything more about Artemas, but we can make a few guesses about Zenas, “the lawyer”. He may have been an expert in Jewish law, or, as his pagan name might suggest, a Roman lawyer. Apparently it was common for lawyers to visit Crete in Roman times because of the famous Law Code of Gortyn dated from 450 B.C. (Wieland, quoting W.A. Lock in Crete and Titus)

Here is a picture of Gortyn and the location of the Law Code. It’s that building on the left:

gortyn-landscape

Here are two pictures of the Law Code written on the walls:

law-of-gortyn2 law-of-gortyn

As for why this section is important, I want you to consider the mission efforts of this team. Paul laid the groundwork for these other workers and then delegated missionaries to go into these areas to continue building on the foundation he laid. Titus, Apollos, and Zenas would be leaving, but Paul made sure that a new pair—Artemas and Tychicus—would remain for the growing community of believers at Crete. It was a sort of “changing of the guard.” Paul requests that Titus join him for the winter in Nicopolis.

See map:

nikopolis-map

One resource said that “Nicopolis was a busy port town on the western coast of Greece. It was actually known for its harsh winters; many travelers from all parts would have been forced to spend the winter there, so that Paul could continue ministry despite the impossibility of travel…” (Quoting Philip Towner in his commentary on Titus https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

Apparently Titus makes it to Nicopolis because Paul writes about him in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:10) which was written after Titus. “Eusebius [father of church history] reflects the tradition that Titus returned to Crete and served as a bishop there until his old age (HE 3.4.6).” (NIGTC Pastoral Epistles by George Knight).

As we reflect on our time with Titus, I wonder about some of the personal moments Titus had in Crete. After he received Paul’s letter, how much time did he have before he had to go to Paul? Did he feel like he could leave Crete, knowing he’d done all he’d been called to do? Would it have been hard for him to leave? What kinds of heartfelt good-byes must he have had with the Christian community? What about the warm welcomes as he greeted the new workers? Did he tell them to take good care of “Mean Ol’ Charlie” and make sure that they keep their eye on “That Sly Fox Ben”? Did he have a special place in his heart for “Sweet Grandma Bea” and for that young, promising leader “Stalwart Mark”?

Did he look back on his time in Crete and know he’d spent his time wisely? Teach us to number our days, Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom! (Ps 90:12) Help us to see the value of using our gifts wherever God plants us.

Finally Paul ends with his closing remarks:

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Last week we discussed the spiritual versus physical and how that relates to good works (devotion). Paul uses the phrase “good work(s)” five times in Titus! Paul wants to make extra sure that they heard him the first time, so he reminds them to be devoted to good works. The reason? So as not to be unfruitful. Authentic lives are evidenced by fruit.

How do we devote ourselves to good works without those works becoming our goal and perhaps an idol? The simple answer is that our devotion is ultimately to God and it is out of our devotion to Him that we do these good works which He Himself has prepared for us in advance.

But let me give you some perspective on the image of being poured out as it relates to good works and our devotion to God. It all starts in the garden..

POURED OUT 

Perfect world. Perfect intimacy between God and man. Eve is deceived. Sin enters. Death enters. God’s perfect justice and holiness responds. Man remains fallen under the first Adam.

But God…

God sought after man. God promised oaths, He initiated covenants. He set up the sacrificial system in order to allow for the atonement of sins. Blood would be poured out as an offering to God. Yet man remained fallen and would go astray time and again. Therefore God would pour out His wrath (Jer 7:20; Ez 7:8; Zeph 3:8) in judgment and in an effort to bring His people back to Him.

But God…

God would stay true to His word. He would show grace and mercy. And when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman to undo the damage done by the deceived woman, born under the law in order to live it out perfectly and to break us free from the curse of the law (Gal 4:4). He who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3) walked among us to show us who God is and how God loves. There would be those who would pour out oil so as to anoint the One who is Grace (Matt 26:12).

But God…

God the Son would reveal His heart as the Servant King by pouring water into a basin and washing the feet of His own disciples who would become His servants in the kingdom (John 13:5).

But God…

Before He would be glorified as King, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross where God was pleased to crush Him (Phil 2:8; Is 53:10). “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for [them]” (Is 53:12).

But God…

The Father poured out His wrath on the Son and the wrath of God was satisfied. He looked on Him and pardoned me (Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:7).

But God…

Triumphed over death and sin and by His great power He raised Jesus from the grave (1 Cor 15:55-57; Col 2:12). The last Adam made redemption possible for all of fallen man (1 Cor 15:22, 45). Because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, He ascended to the Father as a fragrant aroma where He sits at the right hand of God (Heb 10:10; Eph 5:2; Rom 8:34).

But God…

Did not leave us without a Helper and God poured out His Spirit richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:6) and set His Spirit as a seal over us as a promise of our inheritance that is being kept for us until we take possession of it (Eph 1:11-14). And it is by His Spirit that God washes and renews us and produces good fruit/works as we abide in the Vine (Titus 3:5; John 15:4-5).

But God…

Being rich in mercy and love pours His love and the attributes of His Son into our hearts and we are able to cry Abba, Father (Rom 5:5; Rom 8:29; Gal 4:6)! And we, God’s servants, pour ourselves out as an offering to God in humble gratefulness and devotion to the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Rom 12:1; Phil 2:17).

This is why we do good works. We must bear fruit (in every good work) because this proves the authenticity of our faith. And this is no longer impossible as we walk by the Spirit.

In this letter to Titus, Paul is coming to his close. He wants to drive home the most pressing point: to be devoted to good works. To be fruitful. Not living like those who would cause divisions, whose false doctrine resulted in fruitless living. Avoid the counterproductive, counterfeit life.

With the sending of Artemas and Tychicus, and the exit of Zenas, Apollos, and Titus, we see the beautiful cycle of missions at work. We see God pouring out His servants as offerings to the glory of God! Paul calls on Titus to wrap up his ministry in Crete so that he can join Paul on the next leg of ministry. But the gospel will continue to have its effect in Crete. And those Cretans will learn to devote themselves to good works, grounded in the sound teaching of the Word.

CLOSING – Recap

Looking back over the last 9 lessons, we heard and read one message loud and clear: Right doctrine rightly applied produces right living.

Lesson One: We fell in love with Titus, Paul’s true child in the faith, who would minister to some of the most difficult of people. We learned the significance of the term bondservant as the apostle Paul laid out his mission, motivation, and method of ministry.

Lesson Two: We listened in as Paul gave Titus instructions for Crete – to put things in order by appointing elders who would live upright lives (above reproach), holding fast to sound doctrine. We learned that character matters.

Lesson Three: We discovered that there are those who would be deceptive wolves seeking to destroy the flock but who lived defiled lives, making them unfit for good works. We must watch their motivation, messes, message, master, and methods.

Lesson Four: Along with Titus, we learned that sound doctrine is the framework of core Biblical truths, and that Paul called him to teach it and teach what it looks like lived out.

Lesson Five: We saw what Paul meant by adorning the doctrine of God – to live holy, self-controlled lives in such a way that attracts others to Christ.

Lesson Six: We leaned in as the sisterhood, seeing how the status of women came to viewed in reverent terms, as priestesses who were called to teach what was good and train our sisters in holy living.

Lesson Seven: We discovered the One who is Grace, bringing salvation and redemption for His Bride, His own possession. And we await this One who is coming again, not as the One humbled on the cross but as the One coming for the crown, honored as the King.

Lesson Eight: Paul reminded us what we were and now who we ARE because of Jesus Christ our Savior, the only One worthy of our full devotion.

This Lesson (Nine): We were urged to avoid being divisive and the divisive person but instead to be devoted to good works. We also saw the beautiful cycle of missions at work as we say good-bye to Titus and the people of Crete.

Now we must ask ourselves…so what? We’ve come to the end and we’re sad that it’s over, but we look with great anticipation to what is to come. We too can be beautiful offerings poured out to God as we seek to be used by the Father and to walk in those good works that He’s prepared for us.

WE are the Church, this is the Sisterhood. The One that reaches into the difficult and even daunting places. That reaches the most unlikely people. This kind of church nurtures authentic Christian lives.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our brothers & sisters in Christ.

Poured out as beautiful offerings to the praise of God the Father.

Titus: Physical vs. Spiritual

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Titus 3:3-8 – For (F)we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.But when (G)the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, (H)not because of works done by us in righteousness, but (I)according to his own mercy, by (J)the washing of regeneration and (K)renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he (L)poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that (M)being justified by his grace we might become (N)heirs (O)according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is (P)trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful (Q)to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Paul offers a nice contrast again, following on the heels of the last section of Scripture. In the last lesson, we learned that he wanted the believers to be submissive to authorities and to be ready for good works, displaying their faith in the crooked Cretan world. In this passage he reminds them that they (including himself) too were once depraved and enslaved to their passions. Perhaps this was his way of encouraging them so that they could see their new identity and not despair or be discouraged about their former life or habits. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that we are a new creation. We were slaves to sin, now we belong to Christ. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul also writes about the believer’s former life. We used to be “children of wrath,” and we were dead in our sins. We lived out the passions of our flesh and carried out the desires of our body. It’s just not a pretty sight, folks. But there’s always good news right around the corner.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” There’s that appeared word again (epiphaneo). God’s goodness and love broke through as the light of dawn. And when our Savior appeared, He saved us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

To be certain that no one forgets what their role in salvation is, Paul writes that God saved us not because of works that we do, but He saved us in His mercy. This echoes his teaching in Eph 2:8-9 – it is by grace we have been saved through faith (not of ourselves). As if this weren’t great news already, God also uses the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew us. Regeneration is basically new birth (after all, we were dead in sins and we needed to be made alive again). This Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Christ. I don’t know about you, but the image of the Spirit being poured out sounds abundant, and then he adds the word richly, which just accentuates the lavish abundance even further! The good news just got even better.

As we keep reading, it might feel like we’ve just won the lottery (actually it’s even better than that). First Paul speaks of being justified by His grace. To be justified meant to be pardoned or cleared from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior or by the application of Christ’s atonement to the offender (Webster’s 1828). What it boils down to is that we get something we didn’t deserve. We get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our dead, sinful lives. It’s extravagant grace. And it makes no sense.

So God declares us righteous and then raises us as His heirs. Again, this makes no sense! We become children of the King. This is the hope we have, that He has promised us an inheritance of eternal life (See also 1 John 2:25, Heb 6:17-18, 1 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30, Eph 1:11-14).

He closes with the call to good works again. He presents quite the case for why we should be devoted to good works. It only makes sense given the gravity of all Christ has done for us! They will know we belong to Him by our fruit (good works). The works are simply the evidence of our faith. It reveals our devotion to Him. And these things are excellent (because they bring glory to God) and profitable (because they bring others to God). May we be careful to devote ourselves to good works.

Titus: Who is Grace?

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Titus 2:11-3:2 –  11 For (T)the grace of God (U)has appeared, bringing salvation (V)for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and (W)worldly passions, and (X)to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in (Y)the present age, 13 (Z)waiting for our blessed (AA)hope, the (AB)appearing of the glory of our great (AC)God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 (AD)who gave himself for us to (AE)redeem us from all lawlessness and (AF)to purify for himself (AG)a people for his own possession who are (AH)zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and (AI)rebuke with all authority. (AJ)Let no one disregard you. Remind them (A)to be submissive to rulers and authorities, (B)to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (C)to speak evil of no one, (D)to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and (E)to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Grace Came

 I love the beginning of verse 11 – “for the grace of God has appeared….” Paul says this right after telling the bondservants to “adorn the doctrine of God.” You can follow his train of thought as he masterfully explains that we should live our lives in such a way that reflects our Savior for it was by God’s grace that we are saved! “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The grace of God has appeared, and that grace is Christ. When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son.

Isn’t it just beautiful? I learned that the word appeared is the Greek word epiphaneo meaning clearly known, fully visible. It is a picture of the rising sun as it bursts forth at dawn. Christ is the Light that shines in the darkness! The word grace in the Greek is charis and means the unmerited, merciful, kindness and favor of God. This grace that came was self-motivated (had no other motive but itself), ever-acting (never ending action), stooping (from the Hebrew word for grace, chen, meaning to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior), and pardoning (brings forgiveness).

Grace is Here

Grace came, and it is here to train us. It trains us to put away/deny and to put on/pursue. We are to put away/deny 1) ungodliness (anything contrary to the knowledge, fear, and love of God. and 2) worldly passions (fleshly desires and lusts). We are to put on/pursue 1) self-controlled lives (our inward, bridled strength), 2) upright lives (outward display of our inward character), and 3) godly lives (upward focus).

Grace is Coming Back

As we live out our self-controlled, upright, godly lives, we await a blessed hope! We have the assurance that Christ will return for us. It is an expectant, trusting wait. He came first for the cross in humility, and at His second coming He will come for the crown as the honored King!

The Work of Grace

By God’s grace, He sent His Son who gave Himself for us to redeem us and purify us. This is the work of grace – redemption and sanctification. He redeemed us and purified us for His own possession. We have been set apart for the King. We are reserved for God. We are His possession. We belong to God.

Reminders

Paul finishes this section with some reminders for Titus. He instructs him to teach about submission to authority, and in this case, to rulers. To avoid fights, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. It’s as if he wants the believers to stand out as different from those around them. After all, they are the redeemed who have been set apart for the service of the King. And this King will be coming again! So in the meantime, let them reflect their Savior.

Titus: Woman to Woman

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Titus 2:3-5 – (C)Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, (D)not slanderers (E)or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, (F)pure, (G)working at home, kind, and (H)submissive to their own husbands, (I)that the word of God may not be reviled.

We all have favorite passages in the Bible. Many times we have memorized certain verses or sections in Scripture because those verses inspire, convict, encourage, or challenge us. This is definitely important for us to do, however, I wonder how many of us have forgotten the context surrounding those favorite verses. The verses for this week may fall under that category for many women.

You may have heard about the “Titus 2 woman” – she’s the twin sister of the “Proverbs 31 woman.” Chances are, before this study, most of us had no idea what the other verses in this letter even had to say. We will see how the Titus 2 woman fits into the greater picture of Paul’s message to Titus and the Cretans.

What is the greater picture? It’s simply this: The reality of the gospel is best seen in the transformed lives of His people. This is why Paul writes to Titus and the Cretans, giving the believers practical instructions for the living the Christian life. Perhaps the Cretans wanted to know if the Word of God had credibility. How would the followers of Christ live in the depraved culture of Crete? This was their chance as believers to illustrate with their very lives the power of God to change their hearts.

Women of God, adorn yourselves with the priceless jewels of sound doctrine and holy living so that you may glorify God in all you do, wherever you are.

Below is my lecture on this passage: {or you can skip the reading and watch the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/1aa2211)

One of our greatest challenges as we seek to understand the Scriptures is to 1st admit our own biases (because of faith tradition, experiences, our culture, etc.) and 2nd to make certain that we let God’s Word inform our views rather than letting our views inform how we read the Word. So when we read the Scripture, are we going to believe what it says and allow the Spirit to interrupt our views in order to more accurately align us to the Truth? Or are we going to say, this teaching is too hard and I’m not going to believe in this out-dated, old-fashioned, entirely too conservative view?

God give us wisdom to discern the meaning of your Word. Give us hearts that are humble and submitted to You. May we never seek to be culturally appropriate (PC), discarding biblical accuracy.

This letter to Titus is evidence that Paul saw no mission too difficult for the person of Jesus Christ. He wanted the gospel to spread to the older men and youth, to the older and younger women, and also to the slaves. He knew that the gospel had made a difference in his life, and he knew that it would impact and change forever the lives of those terrible Cretans!

Paul’s “missionary and pastoral concerns are clear. As new churches are established their credibility will depend upon the authenticity of the lives of those who claim to have been transformed by the grace of God (Titus 3:3-7). It is crucial that those recognized as leaders in those churches both exemplify such living for the Christian community and maintain the integrity of the church’s witness in the wider society.” (Wieland in “Grace manifest”).

The concern for character is equally important for the lives of the congregants which is why we have the instructions to all men and women. “None of these groups is urged to remove itself from their social environment. Instead, each is to live within it but in a new way, governed by the realities of grace and salvation into which they have entered.” (Wieland in “Grace manifest”)

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 

Paul uses that word likewise, connecting his instructions for women to those of the men (v. 2). Before we go over the specific words in this verse, let’s get things out into the open, by addressing the issue of women teaching in the church. In 1 Tim. 2:12 Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach nor have authority over a man” but here in Titus 2:3, Paul expects the “older women” to teach the younger women. We already begin to see that this was not a matter of whether women should teach but rather WHO a woman should teach (Kostenberger p. 98).

The prohibition which Paul speaks of is that women should not serve “in church positions that would place them in authority over men, whether by teaching (in a church context) or by ruling over them in an authoritative church position.” (Kostenberger p. 135) Kostenberger goes on to say that that teaching publicly and in positions of authority over men is what’s prohibited not “informal mutual instruction that occurs among all members of the body.” (p. 167)

The reason for the prohibition? Paul “appeals to the created order, the good and perfect world God made, to justify the ban on women teaching men.” He writes that since man is created first, God has given him authority over woman and that this authority was not a result of sin or the fall (p. 177).

We will address this issue more as it relates to our passage, but let’s look at what Paul meant by:

Reverent 

Paul tells these women to be reverent and connects this with not being slanderers or drunkards.

  1. Greek word is hieroprepes (higher-op-re-pace’)
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “reverent, venerable”.
  3. The first part of this word hieros is translated as temple (translated this way *71 of 73 times)
  4. “The more specialized meaning priestlike, resulting from the use of the word in describing the conduct of a priest.”
  5. This word is only used in this verse.

As I mentioned above, the Greek text depicts the role of the older women in “priestly terms” which is highly unusual. (Wieland 344)

When speaking of priests, the Bible uses these phrases:

  1. “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6)
  2. “you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them that they may serve Me as priests” (Ex 28:41)
  3. “the priest shall burn all of it on the altar” (Lev. 1:9) “the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar” (Lev 1:11) SLIDE
  4. “you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as ministers of our God…” Is 61:6
  5. 1 Peter 2:5, 9 says, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

In our verses for today, Paul may be “hinting at an analogy to service performed by women in the temples, indicating that the behavior of Christian women in their households could have the character of service offered to God.” (Wieland, 344)

In other words, the kind of character building that takes place within the home is just as important as the service that happens in the temples. Let’s face it, who in here has ever felt like what you do in the home is not highly valued or appreciated? That it doesn’t seem as important as what someone else does as a minister or missionary?

You can see what a high calling it is then for Paul to encourage these women to be reverent, like priests, whose purpose was to serve God and intercede on behalf of His people. Their work in the home could be seen as service to God, not drudgery.

Slanderers 

Paul also writes to the wives in 1 Tim 3:11 “wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

Other translations translate this word as “gossips”, but I actually prefer the word slanderer because it gives us a much more poignant image.

  1. The word in the Greek is diabolos (interlinear) and meant “prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely; metaphorically applied to a person who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him”
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “pertaining to the engagement in slander, to be slanderous”
  3. Now you understand the word “diabolos”. In fact, this word diabolos is used 35 times and 32 of those times this word is translated as “devil”. The other 3 times it is translated as “malicious gossip” or “slanderer” (like here in Titus and 1 Tim)!
  4. The devil is called our adversary, the accuser, the one who slanders.
  5. Webster’s 1828 defines slander as “a false tale or report maliciously uttered and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening her in the esteem of her fellow citizens, defamation; to disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.”

We tend to distance ourselves fairly well from the act of gossip. We know it’s a sin, and we don’t want to be considered a malicious gossip. Yet I wonder how many times we have said something to friend about another person that has left our friend with a lesser view of that individual. Ouch. That’s slander. That’s acting in line with the evil one, our adversary, the one who accuses and slanders. We are called to a higher standard, and we must rise to that height.

Slaves to wine 

This phrase kind of cracks me up. It’s seems to be a nicer way to refer to being drunk. And you know what wine can do to your tongue. It can make it loose and prone to gossip/slander. Maybe this is why Paul pairs these two vices together. Again they were to be “sober-minded” both literally and figuratively.

I don’t believe this phrase needs much explaining. Perhaps these women were tempted to drown their troubles with “much wine.” At least, that was what they were accustomed to before meeting Christ. Paul is instructing them that their behavior now is to be reverent, like a priest, not irreverent like a drunk.

Teaching what is good 

Instead the women were to spend their time teaching what is good. Paul writes to the Philippians, (4:8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (LOVE WHAT IS GOOD) These are the good things. Anything that’s true, honorable, pure, lovely and so on.

As a younger woman, I want you who are older (whether that means one year or 50) to know how valuable you are to the Body of Christ. Never for one minute believe that you have nothing to offer. You have been given the task to teach what is good.

That can look like teaching skills or teaching character. It can be informal or formal. That can look like spending time with a younger woman and sharing your story of how you have walked with Christ over the years. That can mean you open your eyes to discern where younger women may need encouragement or instruction, even correction. It means being a mentor and building intentional relationships with other women.

It means your work here is not complete, and we won’t let you off the hook because we desperately need you.

And to the younger women I say, we need these mature women in our lives! When you feel alone and like life is completely overwhelming because of the juggling act you do of managing the home, working, and raising your children, please know that you weren’t meant to struggle alone. Life was meant to be lived in community.

So don’t sit at home silently struggling because there are so many women who would be eager to walk beside you to encourage and teach you what is good. Besides, they want you to know that they struggle too, and I’m certain they would tell you that those struggles help them realize their need for God.

Just to be clear, I believe every woman has something to offer, whether young or old (er). The point is that we are the sisterhood! We need to be cheering one another on to love and good deeds. We must love one another genuinely and put that love to work by helping and caring for each other.

Now Paul goes on to write specific ways women can teach what is good. He says:

4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,

Here is kingdom work. Here is a priestly task. In this verse contains the simplest command with the most challenging application. This is the area in which the younger generation needs the MOST help.

Before I get into the meaning and application of the words, I do want to be sensitive to those who may not have husbands or children. These are instructions for how to love both husband and children, but you are not forgotten.

Train 

  1. The Greek word (interlinear) is sophronizo meaning “to admonish, to exhort earnestly”
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “to instruct in prudence or behavior that is becoming and shows good judgment; to encourage, advise, urge”
  3. Only used here in Titus
  4. It is in the present tense with continual action

Other translations may use the word “encourage”, but I like the word train because of the implication that this takes place as a continual and intentional teaching. Training up the next generation. However I love that within the training, encouragement also takes place. To encourage means “to give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to embolden; to animate; to inspirit” (Webster’s 1828).

Sometimes all a woman needs is for someone to stir the fire inside. To embolden her. To animate her. To GIVE her courage. Too many times we walk around with bleary, tired eyes and equally tired souls, desperate for someone to tell us, “chin up, this life is hard, but your job as a mom and wife is honorable and is worth fighting for. You’re doing a great job. Don’t give up.”

Perhaps you can encourage this woman by showing her what God says about the importance of her role in her children’s lives. That though she may feel overlooked and underappreciated, she has the affection and attention of her heavenly Father who sees all the work she does and tells her it’s never in vain. Maybe she simply needs to know that when she’s feeling worn out and empty, her God sees and hears and knows how to fill her back up so she can continue pouring Him out to those around her.

Love their husbands 

It was very common for marriages to be arranged during this. So that may explain why Paul instructed the older women to teach the younger to love their husbands. I don’t think that necessarily meant that they were doing a poor job of loving their husbands. It’s more likely that they simply didn’t know them prior to the marriage arrangement (so perhaps weren’t “in love” as we say these days). Regardless of this cultural nuance, Jesus teaches that we should love one another. The love must start in the home, and the teaching must be from the Word.

We all know it feels easier to love others, but not quite as easy to love our husbands and children. What I mean is that we aren’t always as nice to our family as we are to our friends and acquaintances. Perhaps this is Paul’s reminder for them all to take a good hard look at those who are closest to them and to give them the kind of love that they so eagerly give to others.

To the older women, I would say: teach the younger women what it means to love. You have experience under your belt, and the wisdom to know how to apply it. We need women who are willing to say, “here’s why it’s important to love your husband first” and then explain how to do it. Even the act of talking about your love for your husband is enough to encourage a younger woman to love her hubby.

Tell us about the kind things you do for your husband. Tell us what you did when you weren’t feeling the love but made the choice to love anyway. Speak about your husbands in ways that show you respect him so that this models for us how to respect our husbands. Tell us what it means to submit, and show us that it’s really not a dirty word.

Love their children 

As for children in the Greco-Roman era, they were not viewed the same way we view children today. Children were valued as they contributed to the larger society as a whole. A second difference is that children weren’t always raised by their parents. They often used nurses and educators to help train their children. Thirdly, most children grew up in poverty because there was no middle class – only very poor or very rich. And fourth, children in this time were often exposed to extremely violent and socially disruptive experiences. For example they were not sheltered from public executions or torture, and they were often beat as a way to produce self-control and other virtues in the child.

These children did not have what we would call a “happy childhood”. They weren’t given the chance to “just be a kid.” They were expected to work their chores, learn their parents’ trade, and learn moral lessons for the development of their character. And again the goal was for them to be productive members of society first and foremost.

Again I’m not saying that these parents didn’t love their children. On the contrary, they loved them so much that they provided ways to help them advance in their culture. Yet again Paul writes for the women to love their children. The call to love was paramount for Christ’s followers, and it had to start first in the heart and then in the home.

Older women, encourage us to love our kids. To remind us that the time goes by quickly and that we need to cherish the moments rather than wish them away because we’re tired. Show us what you did to love on your kids. Urge us not to waste our time doing too much housework or on too much media or on too much of our selfish past times.

Help us to see the value of quality time with those little ones. Teach us about what you do to balance all the roles you have. Perhaps all we need is to know that we’re not alone when we say we feel inadequate as moms and teach us that God has made us adequate as His servants in all areas He’s given us.

Younger women, let’s have a heart of humility when receiving this instruction. Let’s stay away from comparing our lives to another sister’s life. (I’m better than her. She’s better than me…) Let’s also avoid falling into the guilt pit.

I can tell you this, your adversary, the one who slanders will whisper (or shout) general, accusatory statements (I’m a terrible mother, I’m a bad housewife). He heaps on GUILT with the goal to steal, kill and destroy you.

But your God, the one who transforms and corrects will whisper (or shout) specific, convicting or encouraging statements (I called you to love and gentleness in your speech. What you said today to your son was harsh. You need to go apologize and try that again.) God brings CONVICTION with the goal of your SANCTIFICATION.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet 4:8

Finally Paul says he wants them to teach the women:

5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Self-controlled, pure, kind   

This is a list very similar to the one Paul gave the older men. A list of virtues. Self-controlled, pure, kind. It should not be surprising that some of these are the fruit of the Spirit.[The reality of the gospel] is seen in transformed attitudes and behaviors here and now.” (Wieland, “Grace”)

I remember in my high school years thinking that I needed to try to be self-controlled, pure, kind. And if I wasn’t any of those things, that I needed to try harder. I had gotten it all wrong. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces this fruit in our lives.

It’s also about being disciplined, it’s about self-denial. It’s about choosing a life of holiness and saying no to what is impure. It’s about choosing kindness instead of responding harshly.

Remember the reputation of the Cretans? They were anything but self-controlled, pure or kind. Paul urges the women to live the Spirit-filled life. Their lives are to look different from their culture because God’s Word changes them from the inside out. {contrasted also with the false teachers’ lack of self control}

Working at home 

I wonder how many of you bristle when you hear this phrase simply because you are reading it from the lens of our culture which happens to lean heavily toward feminism and women’s rights. Perhaps some of you honestly thought I was going to tell you that this passage teaches that all women should be stay at home moms. It doesn’t. But there is something to be said of those gnawing feelings in our gut when we encounter a passage like this one that makes us feel a tad uncomfortable.

I had a professor in my Life of Christ class who taught us about the parable of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30). In his encounter with Jesus, this young man had asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him, after discussing the teachings in the Law, that he needed to sell all he had and give it to the poor. You may recall that the man went away sad because he was very rich. After reading the passage, my professor looked up from his podium and said, “if you say to yourself, I’m so glad Jesus didn’t tell me to sell all of my possessions, then perhaps this parable is meant precisely for you.”

I cannot say what you should do, but perhaps God has spoken to you on this subject. Don’t go away sad, like the rich young ruler, but rather hear the words and consider how you can be obedient to His calling, whatever that looks like.

It seems like the appropriate time to address (very briefly) the Biblical teaching of womanhood. I think it is wise to acknowledge that submission to God’s authority (and therefore Scripture’s authority) is counter-cultural. Our culture views the Biblical teaching on men and women as out-dated and even offensive. But our culture should not be our standard. Our culture should not inform our view of men’s and women’s roles. Only God has that authority, and we must allow His Word to penetrate through that lens of culture.

God has created man to have certain roles and women to have other, complimentary roles. While we don’t have time to go into those roles today, Kostenberger explains that “A difference in role or function in no way implies that women are inferior to men. Even the Son submits to the Father (1 Cor. 15:28), and yet He is equal to the Father in essence, dignity, and personhood. It is a modern, democratic, Western notion that diverse functions suggest distinctions in worth between men and women. Paul believed that men and women were equal in personhood, dignity, and value but also taught that women had distinct roles from men.” (Kostenberger, 177)

Women were given the role to be workers at home. That is undisputed. What is disputed is how that looks lived out in everyday life. We will delve into the application of this now.

Paul also writes about the need for young widows to work at home in 1 Tim 5:11-16. He counsels the widows to marry, have children, and “to manage their homes and give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” (v. 14) The reason he said this was that in this case, the young widows had gotten into the habit of “being idle and going from house to house” and had become “busybodies who talk nonsense.” (v. 13)

You can see how this kind of habit would result in a word of correction for these women. Perhaps they were neglecting what needed to be done at home in order to socialize and even gossip. Thus Paul tells them to manage their homes. Not to forget or neglect it.

Now I told you this passage isn’t saying that all women should be stay-at-home-moms. So what does it say? Well, the ESV translates it as “working at home”

NASB says, “workers at home”.

NIV translates it as “to be busy at home”.

NRSV translates it “good managers of the household.”

NLT says, “to work in their homes”.

NIRV writes “take good care of their homes”.

The Message simply says, “keep a good house”.

Living Bible says, “spending their time in their own homes.”

Amplified Bible translates it “makers of a home [where God is honored]”.

So there’s a mixture of management, good housekeeping, and creating a home where God can be honored. We’ve read every major translation, and already it is clear that this passage is VERY UNCLEAR about the meaning of “working at home”!

  1. The Greek word for “workers at home” is oikouros (oy-koo-ros) from the words oikos (house) and ouros (a guard) (interlinear)
  2. It meant “staying at home, domestic” (Lexicon)
  3. Only used in this verse

Once again it’s anyone’s guess as to what Paul was really telling them. I like the idea of being a “guardian” of my home. Yet we can’t really understand this phrase apart from our own preconceived notions of gender roles. When in doubt about a passage such as this one, it is best to consider the whole counsel of God. Where else in Scripture can I gain understanding for this particular verse?

Immediately my thoughts go to Proverbs 31. For some women, this is a bad word! I mean, who could possibly have done ALLLLL of those things? You read these verses this week, perhaps with fresh eyes to see that the Proverbs woman worked both in and out of her home. It wasn’t the case that she was stuck at home, kind of like a prisoner, as some people who have us view the idea of being “workers at home.”

In the home she:

  1. Sought materials to work with her hands (v. 13)
  2. Rises to provide food for her family (v. 15)
  3. Makes clothing and blankets for her family (v. 21, 22)
  4. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (v. 27)

Outside of the home she:

  1. She buys a field and plants a vineyard (v. 16)
  2. She makes a profit from her merchandise (v. 18)
  3. She helps the poor and needy (v. 20)
  4. She makes garments and sashes to sell at the market (v. 24)

She sounds like Superwoman, quite honestly, but this compilation of all the things a virtuous woman does reveals to us that a woman can “look well to the ways of her household” while still working outside of her home.

Other examples of women in the Bible are Abigail (Nabal in 1 Sam 25), the women who supported Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8), Mary/Martha (Luke 10), Lydia (seller of purple goods Acts 16), and Paul lists multiple women who were “fellow workers” with him (Romans 16, Phil 4).

If you are not certain what to do (to work only at home or to work outside of the home), or if you’re not sure whether this passage means for women to keep a clean home, to manage finances or the household, to raise your children, or whatever – Let’s first consider the true intent of this principle. Cultural fads will change, philosophies will go in and out of style, but the true intent of what it means to be “workers at home” will not change.

To be workers at home at its core means the home is where our primary focus should be (secondary next to your relationship to God obviously). The home is primary, so you can ask yourself, am I giving my best energy and attention to my home and if not how should I adjust my time or attention that would redirect my focus where it should be?

Rest assured you can work outside the home and still have your home as your primary focus. Likewise you can stay at home and be focused on everything but your home (children/husband).

Once again though, what would obedience look like for you in this area? How is the Spirit using this passage to convict or encourage your heart today? I’m going to move on now because this term relates very closely to the next phrase.

Submissive to your husband 

  1. To submit (Greek lexicon) hupotasso – meant “to subject oneself, be subjected or subordinated, obey; of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure, with appropriate respect shown to the correct entity (toward a husband)”
  2. Comes from two Greek words hupo (under) and tasso (to arrange/put in place). Tasso refers to an authority structure presently existing that is put in place by God. Also speaking of a person put into a specific position, to put someone over or in charge of someone or something.
  3. This word is “A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.

This word is so FULL of meaning that it’s hard to know where to begin! I want to start, however, with the part of the definition that defines Who puts someone into authority. It is God who places people into authority. Think of the steward whom the creditor left in charge. The money he was given did not belong to the steward, but he was still responsible for what he did with that money.

Or for a modern day example, we can say that God has given us children and we are in authority over them though we are still only His stewards (because they still belong to Him at the end of the day). The parent-child structure is one that exists because it was placed there by God. The word hupotasso carries a sense of responsibility for the individuals under our care and not the negative connotation of oppression or misuse of power by an overlord.

What I love about this last definition is that it is a voluntary attitude that has as its goal the relief of a burden. I also liked that it is a cooperative action and does not give the impression that you are butting heads or fighting against one another.

Charles Spurgeon wrote this to the wife in his congregation: “Don’t you try to be the head; but you be the neck, then you can turn the head whichever way you like.”  🙂 !! (in autobiography)

Now I know this too is a hot topic and perhaps this term makes you cringe so much that you can’t see straight to listen any further. Remember the Biblical teaching is that man was created first and therefore was given authority by God over a woman (Kostenberger, 174). I would think now is the appropriate time to show you the cross reference for this term.

It is found in Genesis 3:16: 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for {against} your husband, and he shall rule over you.

When I read this verse, my first reaction was, how in the world does this relate to submission? Then I remembered what I had learned long ago about the curse. Some scholars believe when it says “your desire shall be for your husband” that it is referring to the desire to be in control over your husband (to usurp the natural order). This is why you have a footnote in your bible that says the word “for” can be translated as “against”. “Your desire shall be against your husband.” God follows up this statement with “he shall rule over you.”

Now if part of the woman’s curse is the desire to have power over her husband, you can see why so many women bristle at the thought of submission. The natural order is for the man to rule over the woman and the woman, after the fall, says, “uhhh no thanks, I’ve got this.”

But if we think of submission in the context of a loving, Christ-centered relationship in which your goal is to cooperate and help carry a burden, the idea of submitting isn’t so bad. If we know this is the “ordered structure” that God put into place, we can trust that there’s a reason for it. However I understand that not every woman has a loving, Christ-centered relationship with her husband. Some men truly are like the harsh overlords who want to rule over their wives with iron fists. This is also their struggle after the fall.

Now going back to working at home combined with the idea of submission (cooperation, relieving a burden). A Biblical view of this would be:

God has given each woman the gift of womanhood. You aren’t meant to be like a man. You were created as a woman. It’s GOOD that you were created this way. You can celebrate your femininity and not see it as a thing to be rid of or free from. Nor do you need to try to grasp the role God gave to man.

I liken this teaching on men’s and women’s roles to that of the roles God gives to His church. God has given each member spiritual gifts in order to serve His body. Paul is very clear that all members are important and serve a special purpose. Just because someone is given a certain role does not mean that their role is more valuable than your role. Role or function in no way implies inferiority or superiority of the members.

Likewise we should not be jealous of someone’s gifting, seeking to take on that role we haven’t been given. We can be content that the Gift-Giver has generously given us the task we are meant to live out.

Men can be men. Women can be women. And it’s beautiful.

God designed a woman to care for the home in a way that takes the pressure off of the man (relieving a burden). It’s being a steward or a good manager, assuming responsibility for that part of your lives together. You’re working in cooperation with that husband of yours and in the meantime creating an environment that is nurturing and God-honoring.

I realize there are women who do not ever marry, and to them I would say, you’re still managing a home! And to the single mom, I salute you. You’re doing so many extra jobs while still creating a loving/safe home for your kids. To manage a home is a special calling for us, one that many women don’t feel very qualified or even good at doing.

It’s no wonder Paul tells the older women to train the younger ones to be workers at home. Yes, please, do tell. 🙂

Word of God not be reviled 

Wieland writes, “The behavior of the younger women in their households is to be such ‘that the word of God may not be discredited’…. Though the world they inhabit may be characterized by [evil and selfishness] (Titus 3:3) members of the emerging Christian communities…” were to live above reproach.

To wrap up this section, Paul notes that the whole purpose – the very reason – for the older women teaching the younger women was that the Word of God would not be reviled. NIV uses the word malign, RSV says discredit. NASB says dishonored. NLT uses the phrase bring shame. Once again let’s look at the Greek and discover the other places where this word is used:

  1. Greek word blasphemeo (blas-fay-meh’-o) in Lexicon meant “to demean through speech; an especially sensitive matter in an honor-shame oriented society; to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns.”
  2. If you go to the word of origin (blasphemos) and break up this word you get blap’-to (to hurt, harm, injure) and pheme (fay’-may) (meaning fame, report)

This word is used in a number of passages in which the religious leaders accused Jesus of speaking blasphemy, mostly in relation to His claims of deity (Matt 9:3, 26:65, Mk 2:7, Jn 10:36). It is also the word used when people insulted Jesus on the cross (Matt 27:39, Mk 15:29, Lk 23:39). The main verse that relates to our Titus passage are found in Romans 2:24, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

It’s as if Paul has need to address the very same problems in every town where he preached the gospel. These Jews in Rome, who claimed to know God and His Law, did not DO God’s law. You might say they didn’t practice what they preached. And this is why the Gentiles who didn’t follow God’s Law were speaking blasphemy/shame/reviling/maligning God’s name. It’s the age old question, “why would I follow your God if you act like every other person in the world?”

The real question is, what difference does the Word of God make in your life? And the real answer is, it should make your life dramatically different from the world. The real reason? Because this Word comes from the Father, it is God-breathed, and His Spirit changes us from the inside out so that we resemble God and not the world.

So you want to make sure the Word of God is not blasphemed. Okay. Live. It. Out. How? You’ve got to be in it to know what it says. And you must be submitting to the Spirit who uses the Word to transform our lives. No longer following the flesh but walking by the Spirit. Finally, women teach, train, encourage one other with the Word of God.

The idea of women mentoring women is a thing of beauty. We saw how Jesus elevated the status of women in our first “interrupted” series. Now as we read Paul’s letter to Titus, we are beginning to see how the status of women came to be viewed in reverent terms. The older women are like the priests who served in the temple and they are now called to train the younger women as their priestly apprentices, serving God.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our sisters in Christ.

How does this process start? With God’s Word. His Word pricks our hearts and emboldens us to live it out! Many of you may feel a quickening in your spirit even today telling you that you can be a mentor to a sister.

Be reverent. Okay, what’s one way that I can do that?

Love your husband. Okay, what’s one way I can love my husband today?

Love your children. Okay, how can I tangibly show my kids love today?

Be kind. Okay, what kind thing can I do today?

It’s not rocket science. It’s daily making the choice to be reverent. To love your husband, your children. To be kind. Even when your flesh is screaming just the opposite response. It’s not putting the confidence in the flesh. It’s putting the confidence in the Spirit, submitting to His leading, and following in obedience when that still-small voice says, “here’s the way, walk in it…”

Let’s take a good hard look at this passage and decide to believe what it says. To take God at His word when He says that He will use His Word, through the Spirit, to transform our lives. Older women, are you teaching/talking/conversing the younger women? Younger women, are you listening to those who can give you wise guidance? Ladies, we are the sisterhood. Let us care for one another.

Titus: Adorning the Doctrine of God

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Titus 2:2, 6, 9-10 – Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, (B)sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Likewise, urge (J)the younger men to be self-controlled. (P)Bondservants[b] are to be submissive to their own masters (Q)in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, (R)but showing all good faith, (S)so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to teach this lesson due to the fact that I didn’t feel at all qualified to speak on this subject. In all reality, I didn’t feel qualified to teach any of this. But true to His nature, the Spirit speaks and reveals, teaching me as I teach others. Here’s what I learned about adorning the doctrine of God.

Older Men

I have decided long ago that I would never label who was an “older” man or “older” woman. From what I gather, men over 60 were considered “older men” on the island of Crete. I’m not sure how they determined this, but at least I didn’t come up with this number!

Paul exhorts the older men with six commands –

  • be sober-minded (calm, even, level-headed, reserved, temperate in the use of alcohol, free of selfish excess, mental alertness, vigilance)
  • be dignified (proper, reverent, respectful and respectable, honorable, above reproach, worthy of respect, noble, faithful)
  • be self-controlled (able to curb desire/impulses, disciplined, composed, sober-minded, prudent, sensible; emphasis on the application of the mind)
  • be sound in faith (steadfast in truth/Word, free from error, unwavering trust in God, pertaining to your relationship with God, under the influence of the Spirit, guided by truth)
  • be sound in love (firm love/affection, gentle, pertaining to love for God and others)
  • be sound in steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, hold firm in trials, dedicated/faithful, connected with trials/persecutions)

Sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what these qualities do NOT look like –

  • sober-minded is NOT anxious/worried, high-stress, easily subverted by adversity, turbulent, lacking self-control, in bondage to sin
  • dignified is NOT unrefined, undignified/unbecoming, an embarrassment socially or in character
  • self-controlled is NOT out of control in mind/body, never able to say “no”, living only for pleasure, a “train wreck”
  • sound in faith is NOT unsure, doubting, questioning truth, walking in error, “tossed about”
  • sound in love is NOT harsh, unloving, hateful
  • sound in steadfastness is NOT giving up easily, buckling under affliction or pressure

I’m always curious about why Paul chooses certain qualities over others when giving a command to certain people. In this case, he chose these qualities just for older men. Why? As far as I can tell, these men are the role models in the society and must be an example of good character. Perhaps he lists these qualities to challenge the men who have trouble in these areas (being tempted to lose control or to be harsh rather than loving). Maybe their culture was one that had those kinds of temptations more so than other places. We cannot know for certain, but what we can know is that he wanted them to exhibit these qualities.

Younger Men

As for the younger men, Paul only gives Titus one command for them: urge them to be self-controlled. There it is again! Self-control. The image I was taught about the discipline of self-control is that of a race horse. The race horse has great strength, but it is bridled strength. It has the ability in its strength to run fast, but it remains submissive to its Master. Self-control, then, is not to be thought of weak but rather as bridled strength.

The believers at Crete were to look and act differently than their culture. I cannot help but think of the contrast between what the male believers should act like and what the false teachers acted like. Paul calls out the false teachers over and over again for their inability to curb their sinful appetites (problem of self-control). The people of Crete in general had a problem with self-control (liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons). Paul reminded them they all needed the Spirit’s work in their lives.

Bondservants

Most translations use the word bondservant in this passage, but this word is not one we use or have a concept of today. Other translations use the word slave. We definitely have a strong, negative connotation for that word in our culture. So what do we make of this section and this word in Scripture? It was helpful for me to see that Paul (Romans 1:1), James (James 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), Timothy (Phil 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1) all referred to themselves as a bondservant or slave of Christ. Other sources talk of the bondservant as being one who makes the choice to willingly submit to and stay with their master. Still others believe that the term slave is more appropriate, because it carries the idea of one who is not his own, one who belongs to someone else.

There are mixed views on slavery during the Roman times because slaves were treated differently depending on the master. Some masters were good and treated their slaves well, but just as there were horrendous slave masters in our country, many masters in Rome were harsh and unjust. Some sources said that roughly half of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. Paul makes no commentary on the issue of slavery – whether it is right or wrong. Rather, he addresses the attitude and actions of those who found themselves in the situation of slavery (he expounds on this in 1 Cor 7:20-24 and 1 Pet 2:18). He also speaks to the slave master, Philemon, to be gracious to his runaway slave, Onesimus, when he returns to him. The issue was how these slaves would represent Christ who had made them slaves to God, freeing them from their enslavement to sin. It was about submission and obedience – both in action and in attitude. 

Paul writes that he wants the slaves to adorn the doctrine of God by being submissive and not being argumentative and so on. The word adorn is the Greek word kosmeo, where we get our word cosmetics. It meant to arrange jewels to best display their beauty. It was to make something attractive or to give credit to the object in view. The fact that Paul even mentions slaves in this letter showed everyone they had value and that their lives mattered. What is more, the way they lived their lives mattered greatly. They were to be “well-pleasing”, they should not argue or steal, they should submit. Above all, they should do these things even when their master was out of sight because as believers they had a Master who saw everything they did. Their good behavior was an adornment to display the beauty of the doctrines of God. Perhaps their good behavior would attract others to Christ.

Bridging Contexts

Whether you are an older man, younger man, or slave, your behavior should reflect the Master. This is true for the women as well. Right living matters. It matters for every person! Am I making Christ look attractive by the way I live? Would others be drawn to Christ by how I live? Does my life give credit or glory to my Master? 

Titus: Right Doctrine, Right Living

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Titus 2: 1, 7-8

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Show yourself in all respects to be model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, older women, and younger men. Here are the verses spoken specifically for Titus. Laura gave a talk on this passage, and I again am sharing what I learned from this passage and from her lecture.

Challenge #1: Titus 2:1 (“But as for you…”)

Where may God be calling you to be set apart from the world? But as for you ______. This statement comes on the heels of what Paul said about the false teachers and serves as a major contrast. But as for you, Titus, you are to be set apart from them, teaching sound doctrine. 2 Tim 2:21 says:

…anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I love the image of the object that has been set apart (holy) and is useful for the Master. It is ready to be used for good works in the hands of the Master.

Challenge #2: (“…teach”)

Are you using opportunities to casually and comfortably talk/dialogue with others about the truth of Christ “along the way”?

The word “teach” is not the word kerusso (which means preach, or is a formal way of teaching) but rather is the word laleo meaning to “speak, converse, disclose your thoughts.” It is an informal teaching, implying that you talk about your faith as you walk along the way, engaging people outside of formal settings. Deut 11:19 tells us:

19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Teaching can be simply sharing life and doesn’t have to be anything formal (although that is good too!).

Challenge #3: (“…what accords with…”)

Is there a truth of God’s Word that you know but are not living out in proper alignment/harmonious fit in your daily life? Do your actions reflect your beliefs?

This phrase was Paul’s way of telling Titus to teach what it looks like to LIVE OUT sound doctrine. It’s not enough to teach sound doctrine, but he must also show what it looks like in everyday life. In fact the word “accord” from the Latin means “at its heart” or the “core”. The idea is that the doctrine and the application of it are intertwined (like a cord) and cannot be separated.

James 1:22 tells us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only…” and in Luke 11:28 Jesus tells the woman, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!

A bold way to put this is that people don’t have to wonder what we believe because they see us living it out.

Challenge #4: (“…sound doctrine.”)

Do you have beliefs that you need to more properly align with the essential doctrine of God’s word?

A lot of people turn their nose up at the word doctrine because it sounds scholarly or uppity. Doctrine is not something to be afraid of because it is simply a framework, a belief system, a structure of teaching of essential or core theological truths of Scripture (there are all sorts of doctrines, but in this case, we’re speaking of the doctrine of Scripture). Primary or core doctrines are those which are non-negotiable. Secondary doctrines vary among believers, and some of those include baptism, end times, organization of the church, role of elders/deacons/pastors, and gifts of the Spirit. It would be wise for anyone to read the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (some of which are Scripture, the Trinity, Satan, fallen man, Jesus Christ, salvation through Christ, eternal security).

In Amos 7:7-8, God speaks of the plumb line (or standard) by which they were to use as they built their walls. Our plumb line is the Word of God and we build from that as our starting point and standard. If our beliefs do not align to this plumb line, we must ask ourselves how to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:2) so as to be transformed.

Challenge #5: (Titus 2:7 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model…)

Consider your “way” or the path you are on. Is it the one that Jesus would travel? When others see your life, is it one that would point them to the ways of Jesus in all things? Are you setting a pattern for others that is safe to follow?

The word “show” has the connotation of taking the whole apart so that all the pieces are in full view. It is a matter of complete transparency. To be a “model” simply means being a type, an example, or a pattern. The idea is that a person would set a healthy or safe example for others to follow. This person would have a reliable track record of consistent actions and behaviors that would be Christ-honoring. This is the concept of discipleship at its finest.

Paul told the churches to imitate him as he modeled Christ (1 Cor 11:1), with the idea that he would eventually step out of the way for them to imitate Christ (2 Tim 1:13, 1 Cor 4:16-17). In Hebrews 13:7 we are encouraged to “remember your leaders…imitate their faith.”

Proverbs 3:6 says,

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

A Model of…

Integrity: meaning incorruptibility. To teach pure (incorruptible) doctrine and to do it with pure (incorruptible) motives.

Dignity: meaning reverence, respect, majesty, and/or sanctity. To teach in a respectable nor irreverent way. This word carries with it a sense of gravity or weight, meaning to give great respect for that which is worthy of great respect. To keep weighty/serious that which is weighty/serious.

Sound speech: meaning does not deviate from the truth (not even a slight deviation).

So that…

So that an opponent may be put to shame. Opponent can mean enemy, and in this case it is one who has a hostile hatred toward the cross as in Phil 3:18. Christians are a perfect target for the enemy which is why we need to live above reproach, being a model of all these good things. They will have no ammunition to use on those who walk the straight path.

 

Titus: Beware the Deceivers

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Titus 1:10-16

Below you will find the entirety of my talk as well as a link to watch/listen (if you aren’t interested in reading!).

Let’s talk about who these “deceivers” were and what they might have been doing. We are going to watch for 5 characteristics of false teachers:

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

Titus 1:10 reads:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

Paul does some serious trash-talking in these verses. We get a glimpse of the fire in his bones as he unloads on these people. I imagine him here as the redeemed yet angry version of the Saul of Tarsus that everyone feared!

Interestingly, Paul does not even refer to these individuals as teachers, which tells me this could have been anyone! For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll still refer to them as “false teachers” because Paul uses the same or similar language in his other letters when speaking of false teachers. And also because they were teaching” things they ought not to teach (v. 11). However, I do want you to keep your radar up when it comes to being on guard against these deceivers because they could be anyone.

When we read a text in Scripture, we tend to identify with the “good guys”. Do we not? For instance, we feel for the man who was beaten and left to die on the road and we LOVE the good Samaritan. We likely never see ourselves as the religious men who passed by unmoved by the plight of the broken man. Another example is that we see ourselves as one of the disciples but hardly ever identify ourselves as a Pharisee.

Though it might make you uncomfortable, I want us all to consider 2 things: first, in what ways have we been like the deceivers? And two, how should we be on our guard against such people?

To begin, we’ll break down each of those descriptions, first technically (speaking of the words themselves in the Greek language) and then we’ll expand on the meaning of the words.

Insubordinate/rebellious people

In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Anupotaxtos meant “pertaining to refusing submission to authority, undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious”

  1. Here in v. 10 used of spoiled children
  2. Also used in 1 Tim 1:9 of flagrant law-breakers.

This one is not difficult to understand. But it does leave some room for imagination. How exactly were these men rebelling or being insubordinate? So were these rebellious men initially a part of the church that Paul started but later had trouble submitting to Titus’ authority? The Greek indicates that they were acting like spoiled children which begs the question, were they used to getting their way and then started acting up when Titus began to organize the church as it was intended to be?

Regardless of the details, Paul’s concern is for the unity of the church. So if you have any who are trying to disrupt it by refusing to follow the authority that is in place, you have a problem that needs to be handled quickly.

Idle or “empty” talkers

  1. In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Mataiologos means “an idle talker, windbag
  2. In interlinear bible – meant “one who utters empty senseless things”
  3. You may have heard the word Logos before. “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.” John 1:1
  4. This word is only used in Titus 1:10
  5. Similar word (mataiologia) (same root) found in 1 Tim 1:6 “empty, fruitless talk; turn to fruitless discussion”

This description struck me the most as I read this passage. I really love how both the Hebrew and Greek often paint word pictures for us. As you read those words, you imagine what an empty talker is like. It’s rather like an oxymoron. Full of words but the words are empty.

A funny (or rather cute) example of this would be how a one-year-old speaks to his family. I’ll never forget my youngest son rambling on and on as if he were carrying on a complete conversation, but to us, he said absolutely nothing that made sense. His words were empty, senseless.

A more serious example would be the person who talks for five straight minutes but never actually says anything. You have heard the statement, “he’s just full of hot air.”

They are senseless, fruitless windbags. The imagery of a windbag is both sobering and comical. What is the point of catching the wind? What good would a windbag do you?

Just as these deceivers were speaking empty words, Isaiah 41:29 speaks of the emptiness of worshiping idols. He says

Behold, they are all a delusion; /   their works are nothing; /   their metal images are empty wind.

So if idols were delusions which produced nothing, what does that say about those who worshiped them? The false teachers were no better than an idol worshipper. JESUS plus anything equals nothing. Vanity. Emptiness. Windbags.

In contrast I think of a person whose words are filled with meaning. Colossians 4:6 tells us

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

And also Ephesians 4:29,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I wonder if we’ve ever considered the source of our words. Those words which are gracious and full of meaning likely originate from the Holy One! Think about what the Scriptures say about God’s words. Isaiah 55:10-11 says,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Can you picture that?! God’s word goes out and does return to Him void. Talk about words that are FULL of meaning. They accomplish exactly what He sent them out to do. They are never empty, senseless, fruitless. No windbags here.

In contrast, when our words are empty, when they tear down their hearers, consider the source of those words. Perhaps they come from the evil one. This is the case that both Jesus and Paul make on several occasions. We will come back to this briefly later on.

To wrap up this section on empty talkers, I want us all to consider the importance of our words. Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:36-37 said,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Will our words be empty? Or will they give life and grace to those who hear? Will they build up or tear down? Will they be a fruit-bearing product of the Vine? Or a windbag that has its source in the deceiver?

That brings me to my next point on the false teachers! They are…

Deceivers

  1. Phrenapates In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) “deceiver, misleader”; also “seducer”
  2. Again this word is only used in Titus 1:10
  3. A similar word phrenapatao is found in Gal 6:3 and meant to “mislead concerning the truth, deceive (oneself).”
  4. Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines the word deceive this way: “To mislead the mind; to cause to err; to cause to believe what is false, or disbelieve what is true; to impose on; to delude.”

There’s something very sinister about a person who purposefully and knowingly leads someone away from truth and toward destruction. However there’s also something terribly tragic about the person who deceives even himself.

I already began the discussion about the evil one being involved in the words we speak. We all know how the evil one deceived Eve in the garden (Gen 3:4-5; 2 Cor 11:3). Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan deceives the whole world. There are over 40 passages that refer to Satan as a deceiver or to his deceitful work. (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/4123-Satan-as-deceiver)

Jesus had a heated discussion with the Pharisees in John 8 concerning their origins with Abraham and His origin with God the Father. They make several accusations about Him, but He responds with this in v. 44:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies.

You want to know where the false teachers get their insubordination? Their empty words? Their deception? They got it from their father, the devil, the father of lies.

We read the passage in 2 Cor 11:13-14 which refers to the false teachers as

deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ [who get this from Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light]

Jesus spoke of false prophets as those who would come in sheep’s clothing though they are actually hungry wolves (Matt 7:15).

The Pharisees are rather like those insubordinate, spoiled children Paul speaks of to Titus. Jesus disrupted the way of life they were used to living and that life involved deceiving people and weighing them down with empty and useless words/rules. Perhaps these false teachers in Crete were some of the old faction of Pharisees who just wouldn’t let go of their idols.

On that note, let’s talk about…

The Circumcision party

The term “circumcision party” is mentioned three times in the NT – Acts 11:2 (against Peter), Gal 2:12 (with James), and here in Titus 1:10. This was a legitimate religious faction.

Thinking back to Pentecost, we know that there were Jewish brothers from Crete who were present and had heard the message of the resurrection. But there were also Jews on the island who held to their man-made traditions. These are the “circumcision party” or the Judaizers.

John MacArthur (Bible Handbook) writes,

The younger elder [Titus] was already familiar with Judaizers, false teachers in the church, who among other things insisted that all Christians, Gentile as well as Jew, were bound by the Mosaic law. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas years earlier to the Council of Jerusalem where that heresy was the subject (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1-5). (p. 451)

If you aren’t quite familiar with what happened at this council, let’s turn there to clarify. Acts 15:1, 13, 19 says,

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” [much debate v. 2-12] 13 After they finished speaking, James replied,…

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,…”

After this the council sent Paul and Barnabas as well as Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas to all the Gentile churches with the full details. Later in Gal 2:1-5 we learn that Paul had taken Titus with him on his missionary journey where they were pressured by “false brothers” to have Titus, a Greek man, circumcised.

 For Paul this [circumcision party and their message] was an alarming development because it undercut the core message of the gospel; if salvation could not be attained without embracing Judaism, then the death of Christ was insufficient. (Archeological Bible footnote)

Once again I’ll repeat the equation. JESUS plus ANYTHING equals NOTHING. Thus the reason Paul takes no time to correct these deceivers as they crop up.

Moving on to the next verse, Paul writes,

11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 

You can imagine why Paul tells Titus that they must be silenced! This word is epistomizo and meant to “bridle or stop up the mouth” (interlinear). Not only were they teaching for their own personal gain, but they were teaching things which were not truth and in so doing were upsetting entire families within the church.

The word for upsetting is

  1. Anatrepo and can be translated as “to overthrow, overturn, destroy, and subvert” (interlinear).
  2. The Greek Lexicon says it meant “to jeopardize someone’s inner well-being, upset, ruin”.

This meaning is even more ominous than to simply upset someone. The goal is their destruction or ruin. Paul’s concern, therefore, was for the truth to win out and for the church not to be harmed or divided.

The text does not specify exactly what these false teachers were teaching, but they were teaching things which they “ought not to teach”. We might assume that this is at least part of the reason for Paul writing about certain doctrinal truths to Titus. We can also assume the false teachers had fallen away from these truths.

Not only were these deceivers teaching false doctrine but they were also doing it for some sort of “shameful gain”. {Remember the Cretans had no problem with greed or shameful gain.}

The emphasis is their motivation. They taught from selfish motives. It was not for the benefit of those who hear. Or even because they loved God and wanted others to know about Him.

In stark contrast to these false teachers, Paul is very intentional about pointing out how he preached the gospel to people. In 2 Cor 2:17a he writes,

17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

In 1 Cor 9:18 Paul tells the people that he presented the gospel “free of charge”. In all of his teaching on the Body of Christ, Paul encourages believers to do nothing from selfish ambition but to consider others above ourselves and for us to use our gifts for the edification of the Church, the Body (Phil 2:3; Eph 4; 1 Cor 12:7, 14:3; 1 Thess 5:11).

These guys were bad news! In fact, one of their own people, Epimenides of Crete (according to tradition), said this about the Cretans:

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons… (v.12b)

Epimenides was a poet and philosopher in the 6th century B.C. who was native to Crete. He was held in high esteem by the Cretans and was credited with several predictions that were in fact later fulfilled. (Arch. Bible footnote).

Cretans were known for their immoral living. Liars. Evil beasts. Lazy gluttons. They are believed to come from the ancient Minoan civilization which undoubtedly involved worship of multiple deities. (from Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology by Ilse Schoep  “The Minoan ‘Palace-Temple’ Reconsidered: A Critical Assessment of the Spatial Concentration of Political, Religious and Economic Power in Bronze Age Crete”)

LIARs

During the Roman times the Cretans likely worshiped the common Greek gods, including Zeus and Hera. (from Wieland, 346) Zeus was known for his ability to deceive and apparently Cretans followed after their idol because they too were known for their ability to

deceive but also [had a] proclivity to be deceived. Josephus tells of Crete’s Jewish community being hoodwinked by a pretender to Herod’s throne.

In fact the nations surrounding Crete began using the Greek term kretizo (“Crete-ise”) because of the island’s reputation for deceit and cunning. (Wieland in “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

Dishonesty in public life continued under Roman rule. In fact, Mark Antony attempted to wrest Crete from Rome with a forged document and between the time of 20-70 A.D. no less than five governors were recalled to Rome to face corruption charges. (Wieland, 345-46)

The term “evil beasts” was rather ironic for this people group who enjoyed the reputation of being “free of wild animals.” (Wieland, 347 quoting 1st century Pliny and Plutarch) The irony was that the beastly characteristics were exhibited not by animals but by the people, including their practice of herding the young men into groups like cattle.

Finally the term “lazy gluttons” is rather telling as Paul exposes the false teachers’ motivation for deceiving others was their own appetites. Lazy gluttons engorge themselves on food and have no self-control to reign in their appetite.

Paul continues,

13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 

Rebuke sharply

Paul instructs Titus to rebuke these men SHARPLY. This word is apotomos and meant to be “severe, rigorous.” Even abrupt and curt. The word rebuke is elegcho and meant to “reprehend severely, to chide, admonish, reprove, to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation” with the idea of bringing conviction.

This word for rebuke is the same word used in John 16:8 of the Holy Spirit’s work,

And when he comes, he will convict (elegchō) the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

Paul has in mind that Titus’ rebuke would convince them of their sin in order that they might repent and be sound in the faith.

To be sound in the faith

The word sound carries with it the idea of being well and in good health. Those who are sound in the faith, who speak sound words, sound teaching, sound doctrine will be speaking healthy words. They would be speaking Truth to their hearers because those words will be grounded in the Word of God.

Jesus said this of His words in John 6:63:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Healthy words are words that speak truth but in love. They are words that encourage and don’t condemn. Healthy words do not ask something of you that would be unhealthy for your spirit or your body. Sound words are healthy words.

We could probably all think of “false teachers” in our culture today who have spoken lies to thousands of people and have committed all kinds of spiritual abuses. They are unhealthy people acting in unhealthy ways and feeding off of already broken lives. A SHARP rebuke is what’s in order for these people. Not soft, marshmallow, indulgent comments of agreement or even apathetic leniency.

Here is another great way to think of this: J. C. Ryle was a champion for the truth in the Church of England during the 19th century. In Warnings to the Churches (p. 110, ch. 5 “Controversy in Religion”), he wrote about how difficult yet necessary controversy in the church is. Then he added,

But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.

After acknowledging that many would view what he writes as exceedingly distasteful, he states (p. 111),

Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin. (from Steven Cole at bible.org)

The key is being sound in the faith, with both feet firmly planted in the Word of God. You can bet that every false teacher out there has stepped one or both feet out of the Word and into something else. Be on your guard.

Hopefully we have expressed our passion to you for the Word of God in such a way that you also see the necessity for it in your lives. We are not aiming to stuff you with a bunch of knowledge from God’s Word as if you were the next Thanksgiving turkey. What good is knowledge for knowledge’s sake? The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. We believe that the Bible is God’s holy Word and has the power to change our lives, making us look and act more like our Savior.

How can we have Christ without His doctrines? We must LOVE the doctrine of God our Savior! (Spurgeon “Adorning the Gospel”) Sound doctrine rightly applied produces holy living.

Paul continues that he wants Titus to rebuke them so that they would be sound in the faith…

14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

Before discussing myths and commands of men, let’s first address what we should be devoted to. To be sound in the faith requires one to be firmly planted in the truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Jesus told His disciples in John 8:31,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

And later in John 17:17 he prayed to the Father,

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Paul tells us in Col. 3:16,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Paul also warns in 2 Tim 2:15,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

These men were doing anything but handling the truth correctly. They were TURNING AWAY from the truth. Now let us look at what Paul meant by…

Jewish myths

Paul also uses the phrase in 1 Tim 1:3-4 saying,

…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (NIV)

Paul states that the problem with these myths is that they promote controversial speculations and don’t actually advance God’s work at all. I think of that image of EMPTY windbags. Myths and speculations are empty and senseless, of little value.

The footnote in my Arch Bible for this verse 1 Tim 1:4 says:

’Myths’ may refer to mythical stories built upon OT history (‘genealogies’) that later developed into intricate Gnostic philosophical systems.

One of the most popular groups of false teachers in Paul’s day were those who called themselves the Gnostics.

From Arch Bible article “The Gnostics and Their Scriptures”:

From the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God. Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god. In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity. The Gnositc Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s ‘true’ divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.

You can see how this myth about God would promote all kinds of controversial conversations among the church!

So let me translate this for you in today’s terms. Stay away from the person who wants to argue and debate about the latest hot topic of religion. They’ll give you all sorts of opinions and rants but nothing will be grounded in the Word and the motive will be to either stir you up in anger or tear you down in your beliefs. Most importantly it does nothing to advance the gospel. It’s just a bunch of empty speculation resulting in ZERO fruit/good works.

The Commands of People

Jesus speaks to the problem of following human tradition in Mark 7:6-9, 13 (NIV):

[v. 1-5 disciples eating with unwashed hands and Pharisees question Jesus] He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [Jesus’ example of their lack of obedience to God’s original intent v. 10-12] 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The Jewish teachers of the law had added so many “commands” to the actual Law that they became more important than the Law itself. They would often set aside the true intent of the Law just to abide by their own traditions.

Originally their motives were simply to be extra careful to observe all that was written in the book of the Law. Remember when the serpent asked Eve what God had told her about the trees of the garden in Gen 3? She told it that God had said not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden AND not to touch it. We know God didn’t add that extra command, not to touch. But this is an example of what the rabbis did to the Law. They called it building a “fence around the Torah”. They added extra measures to the Law in order to keep themselves and others from disobeying it. If they couldn’t even touch the fruit, then they certainly couldn’t eat it. (Michael Heiss)

Because these men wanted to understand the Scripture and know how it applied to their lives, the rabbi’s came up with a way to interpret the Scripture known as midrash. Midrash is an exegetical process or technique the rabbis used to creatively explain the meaning of the Scripture which made use of certain interpretive tools such as etymology (word origin), wordplay (prophets using puns), catchwords (words that grab your attention), analogy, and so on. They sought knowledge of the Scripture by using logical inferences, combinations of different passages (cross references), and the like.  (Sound familiar? We do this too!) The

“main purpose of Jewish scriptural interpretation was to make Scripture comprehensible and applicable to particular communities.” (p. 99 Joel Green in The World of the New Testament)

However, the rabbinic interpretation was often raised to the same level as Scripture, and you can see how this kind of elevation of the “commands of men” resulted in all sorts of doctrinal issues. You can also imagine the kind of religious atmosphere Paul and Titus were dealing with. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 23:2-4,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

Please note that Jesus does not fault these religious leaders for having too much knowledge but rather that all the knowledge never made an impact on their hearts. Those facts didn’t travel from the head to the heart to become actions. Thus they became hypocrites, whose knowledge of the Word made no difference in their lives.

Be wary of the person who completely discards the pursuit of the knowledge of God’s Word. Os Guiness writes in Dining with the Devil,

Today theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement at the popular level. Discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually nonexistent. Instead, methodology is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology.” (p. 26)

He continues on to explain that worship and discipleship are often subordinate to evangelism, and all three to that of entertainment which he calls “the Achilles’ heel of evangelicalism.” (p. 27) Guiness further describes the trouble of offering milk and never meat to a growing congregation:

‘all things to all people’ means it is perfectly legitimate to convey the gospel in cartoons to a non-literary generation incapable of rising above MTV and USA Today. But five years later, if the new disciples are truly won to Christ, they will be reading and understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans and not simply the Gospel According to Peanuts.” (p. 28-29)

Keep in mind that one of the spiritual gifts God gives to His Church is knowledge which often goes along with discernment. (1 Cor 12:8) If it were a bad thing, why would He give it for the benefit of His Church? Like any gift, it can be misused or abused, but it is not in and of itself a bad thing.

How can a believer live a holy life apart from knowing what the Holy God prescribes for His children? His Word is meant to be studied for it contains direction for our lives.

Neither let us make knowledge the end point nor forsake the study of God’s Word.

Too many people are afraid of knowledge and claim “we don’t want to fall into legalism.” However, this kind of thinking is just another form of legalism (excessive adherence to law or formula). Rather than adhering to a strict following of the law of God, these people follow a strict law of correct practice (orthopraxy) divorced from orthodoxy (correct belief). It leads to a faith devoid of doctrine which is ultimately ignorant and misinformed.

The Cretan deceivers had strayed from God’s Word and had been following Jewish myths and the commands of men, elevating their knowledge above the Scripture. Not only that, but as Jesus said, they likely required the people to follow these myths and commands as well, though they themselves were unwilling to live what they preached.

Do we ever place burdens on other people that we ourselves do not even require of ourselves? Or taking this a step further, do we project our perfectionism onto another, expecting an impossible standard that we ourselves cannot even attain to?

Now for our last verses: v. 15-16. 

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 defiled16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

DEFILED

  1. Interlinear – miaino (me-ah’-ee-no) meaning “to dye with another colour, to stain; to defile, pollute, sully, contaminate, soil; to defile with sins
  2. Greek lexicon – to cause the purity of something to be violated by immoral behavior; refers to the mind of the faithless in v. 15

Note in Lexicon:

The primary sense ‘to stain’ (as of dye) prepares the way for the transforming sense of causing defilement through socially or cultically unacceptable behavior. It is well to keep in mind…that in the Greco-Roman world [to have a harmonious relationship with the gods and nature, all people were expected to observe certain moral and ritual laws]. Individuals were subordinate to interests of the community and violations of standard moral and ceremonial expectations could jeopardize the delicate balance between an entire populace and its deities.

In other words, you were obligated to maintain moral or ritual purity for the sake of the community so as not to “offend the gods”!

In light of this cultural custom, one way to think of verse 15 is in the context of food laws and ritual purity.

Purity in the NT

Footnote from ESV:

To the pure, all things are pure echoes Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:39-41 (39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.) and Paul’s earlier writing in Rom 14:20 (20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.).”

Another way to think of this verse is in the context of morality and holy living in general.

Both mind and conscience are defiled. A great example of this can be found in John’s gospel. John 18:28 tells us,

Then they [chief priests and Pharisees] led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Did you catch the irony? They didn’t want to “defile” themselves by going into the Gentile man’s headquarters because they wouldn’t be qualified to eat the Passover according to their man made traditions. Yet they were already defiled by their sin and blind to their crime of handing over Jesus, an innocent man.

Both their mind and conscience were completed stained or tainted by their own appetites and agendas, and they would view their own behavior as pure and religiously motivated and justified as a result of their completely twisted concept of morality.

Profess to know God

Verse 16 tells us the false teachers professed to know God. I want to recall a passage from 1 John 2:3-6 which referred to knowing God:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandmentsWhoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The one who knows God will do what He says. The one who keeps God’s Word walks the same way Jesus walked. So how did these men of Crete measure up?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes about this false knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble (godless chatter NIV) and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Remember what I said about the Gnostic heresy? They claimed to have a “special knowledge” about God. These false teachers professed to KNOW God, perhaps claiming this special knowledge of the Gnostics OR claiming their heritage as Jews meant that they automatically knew God. They professed to know God, but their hearts were far from Him (From Jesus’ words in Mark 7: *Isaiah 29:13 “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…”).

DENY Him by their works

While their words appeared to express a love or knowledge for God, Paul says their works tell another (TRUER) story. Matt 7:15-19

15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus also addresses the fruit concept in Matt 12:33-37 (the tree is known by its fruit.” v. 33). In both passages He connects words with works/fruit. Those who love Him obey Him and walk like Him because as they ABIDE in the Vine, they begin to look and act more like the Vinedresser who faithfully produces fruit (good works) in the lives of His image-bearers.

James writes at length on the importance of faith and works working together. In fact he makes the bold statement that faith without works is DEAD (James 2:26).

The false teachers said “yes we know God” with their words but in all that they did, Paul says they denied God.

Peter also speaking about false teachers says this: 2 Pet 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people… who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Similar to Paul’s theme of denying God by living immorally, Jude writes this v. 4,

For certain people have crept in unnoticed … ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

John puts it way more harshly in 1 John 2:22,

Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichristdenying the Father and the Son.

As we think about this term to deny, I want to take you to Isaiah 59:12-15:

12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
    and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
    and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
    conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

14 Justice is turned back,
    and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
    and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites in that day, but you can see how his words applied very much to those false teachers at Crete, and even to those walking among us today.

I can’t help but think of these sobering (serious?) words from Jesus (paraphrase), “if you acknowledge Me, I’ll acknowledge you before the Father. If you deny Me, I’ll deny you.” Matthew 10:32-33

Without sound doctrine, we are just another deceiver – defiled, detestable, disobedient. Unfit for good works.

Unfit for good works

  1. Greek lexicon – word is adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) and meant “not standing the test, unqualified, worthless
  2. Interlinear bible – “not approved (properly used of metals and coins); unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate”

Let me put it this way : 2 Tim 2:15 tells us we must be diligent to present ourselves as workmen APPROVED to God who accurately handle the Word. And remember what Job said after all of his horrific trials, “when He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold“ (Job 23:10).

The refining process for silver involved the metal worker heating the silver to its melting point, skimming off the dross/impurities, and ending his labor once he saw his reflection in the pure silver. When we, like the precious metal, have gone through the affliction, we come forth qualified, approved, as those who have stood the test. They are fit for good works.

To tie this all together, remember God has created us for good works (Eph 2:10) but these works are a privilege and a gift for those who have stood the test and have been approved.

This is exactly opposite of the false teachers. They are unfit. Not approved. Unproved. Did not stand the test. Not ready for good works.

Characteristics of False Teachers 

In closing let me take just a moment to summarize some characteristics of false teachers. (From bible.org Steven J. Cole – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

To expound on this last characteristic, I wanted to read to you from Steven Cole’s article on false teachers. He writes:

Arius (d. 336), was a heretic who denied the deity of Christ and was the forerunner of the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. He gained a huge following. But the courageous Athanasius battled against him. Parker Williamson describes Arius:

‘Here was a bright, energetic, attractive fellow, the kind of citizen whom any Rotary Club would welcome. Singing sea chanties in dockside pubs and teaching Bible stories to the Wednesday night faithful, this was an immensely popular man. His story reminds us that heresy does not bludgeon us into belief. We are seduced.’ (Standing Firm: Reclaiming the Chastain Faith in Times of Controversy [Lenoir, North Carolina: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 31, cited by John Piper, “Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth,” on DesiringGod.org)

So to recognize false teachers, watch their motives, their message, their master, and their methods.

What does this mean for us? Know your Truth people! The Truth sets you free from all the false doctrine the world contains. (John 8:32) This is no war against flesh and blood. Those deceivers/false teachers are not the enemy. The evil one is our enemy. {KATNISS! “Remember who the real enemy is”}

Therefore put on the whole armor of God so you can stand against the devil’s schemes! (Eph 6:11) Fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the gospel, take up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and finally keep that sword sharp. Then just pray pray pray. (Eph 6:14-18)

As for what we must do to guard against false teachers, Paul tells us, “Keep your eye on them and turn away from them.” (Rom 16:17) The noun related to the verb “keep your eye on” is used in Ezekiel 3:17 (LXX) to refer to the watchman on the wall. His job was to keep his eye peeled for the enemy and to sound the alarm when he saw them coming so that they could prepare for battle. Since these false teachers often disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15) or as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15), you have to be discerning to spot them.

Paul also says, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” Or, in Jesus words (Matt. 10:16, ESV), “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Our focus should be on being wise in the Scriptures. Knowing the truth will equip you to refute the errors of false teachers.” (From bible.org – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

Finally, watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim 4:16 (NIV)

titus-bkgd

Click on the picture for the link or see the link below:

http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/c45ad67

Theology Thursday: On God’s Wrath and Love

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Today’s lesson brought to you by the letter W. Wrath. Sounds like just the topic for Sesame Street…or not.

My last post was about Christ transferring His righteousness to us through the work He did on the cross. I thought it only appropriate to dig into the issue of God’s wrath against sin. Exciting, I know.

Truly, it is a perplexing subject because we want to think of God as the loving Father, not capable of what seems like the antithesis of love. Wrath. Is it really the opposite of Love? I’d like to propose that it isn’t. Here’s why…

…the supreme object of that love is himself. And because he loves himself supremely he cannot suffer what belongs to the integrity of his character and glory to be compromised or curtailed. That is the reason for the propitiation. God appeases his own holy wrath in the cross of Christ in order that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory. ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to show his righteousness…that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus’ (Rom 3:25-26). [This comes from John Murray Redemption Accomplished and Applied]

Murray’s point is that propitiation (the “covering” of sin with the effect of “cleansing and forgiveness” before the Lord) does not “detract from the love and mercy of God.” He’s combating the complaint that many people make against God, namely that to offer Christ up as the propitiation for our sins is too wrathful and does not display His love or mercy. Murray says that is completely opposite of God’s reason for sending Christ. It was out of love for Himself (to defend His holiness against sin and be just in dealing with sin) from which the sacrifice of Jesus stems. He has wrath against sin because of His utter holiness, and if He did not deal justly with it, He would not be the God we know. “The wrath of God is the inevitable reaction of the divine holiness against sin.”

In summing it all up, yes, of course He sent Christ because He loves us, but it also remains to be said that He loved us so much that He remained true to His holiness by dealing justly with sin. Think about it, what kind of God would He be if He did not handle sin sinlessly? I know I wouldn’t want to serve a God who is flippant with sin because then what does that say about His character (among other things that we won’t even go into right now)?

Did you ever think that God’s wrath could have everything to do with His love for us? What a crazy concept.

Just some food for thought. Enjoy 🙂