Tag Archives: Steven Cole

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:

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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: 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)

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