There's something Rotten in the Church.
Paul wrote to Titus instructing him to appoint elders – leaders. These men had to know God's faithful Word and be able to encourage in sound doctrine and particularly be able to refute those that oppose. Why was it essential that the elders be so adept in handling God's Word? grounded in sound doctrine? - because there were many false teachers around. The church was 30 years old yet it was assailed by false teachers. If that was the case when the wood was green, how much more now that it is dry! Today the church is still plagued and riddled with false doctrine. A particular problem then were those of the circumcision, Judaizers, those who insisted on the keeping of ceremonial requirements, keeping the law. Still today a large section of the church is taken in by legalists, yes even the evangelical church. Paul always uses extremely strong language in regard to such men. No diplomacy here – but it is the truth. We are church family, as Christians we think that we should speak well of each other – listen to the description Paul gives [OHP1] – this is the church! So much for diplomatic and gracious language! There was something rotten in the church that needed to be addressed. What was it? (Tit 1:10, 14) – Judaism! Legalism – those who sought to impose outward requirements and rites for salvation, for right relationship with God. Paul has not one good word to say about such and some of the strongest language in the NT is used against them. It was a problem in the early church – from very early on , an incident some 15-16 years after the resurrection is described in (Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”) - and may I say that it is one of the most difficult errors to deal with in the church today. The most difficult spiritual opposition that you find in the church is not from without, from the satanists, atheists – it comes from within, from religious (Tit 1:16 "profess to know God"). Legalism is hard to deal with because it sounds so pious and righteous – particularly dangerous to immature, zealous believers, they want to please God and are susceptible to this teaching that exhorts them to great effort to win God's approval. But it is in fact diametrically opposed to the Gospel. What did Paul and Barnabas do when legalists came? (Acts 15:2 Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.) - they debated, refuted (cf. v.9). Scripture makes clear that by the Law no man is made righteous (Psalm 143:2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous. Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified; Tit 3:10-12 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”) Faith and Law are mutually exclusive, incompatible – it's either one or the other. No one can keep the Law – circumcision became such an issue that Paul and Barnabas went to the church officials in Jerusalem. Peter said: (Acts 15:9-11 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”). Salvation, righteousness is by faith alone, by grace alone. Legalism upsets whole families – it should not be taught (Tit 1:11). It is man made requirements (Tit 1:14). Elders are necessary because of the great amount of worthless spiritual peddlers, talking empty rubbish, heresy; who deceive people, leading them astray. Here, as in Timothy, where there is mention of appointing elders, it is in the context of heresy. From very early days the church was under assault by false teachers - people who spread error - there were may of them. Men who used religion to their own advantage, to get a following, make a livelihood - and they are not confined to the first century! Elders are a protection to the flock from such men.
The Nature of Legalists: Calls them rebels, empty talkers, deceivers – these words describe and expose their heart.
Rebels (Tit 1:10) Rebels:they want their own way they are not submitted to God's God's way of salvation is by faith alone, by grace alone, by Jesus' righteousness – what He has done, not what we have done. God said that Jesus' work was sufficient, but these men had their own way, not God's – they said that you had to be circumcised as well. They were not submitted to God's way, so they are rebellious - not submitting to Christ’s lordship; they seek to promote themselves and their own teaching. This unruly type was particularly characteristic of Crete – and still today men want to do it "my way" – because there is reason for pride – the Gospel 's genius is that there is no place for pride
Empty talkers (Tit 1:10) Empty talkers: (talking idly, worthless words, evil talkers - i.e. using impressive language with little or no solid content of truth) they were religionists – it was religion, not life – mere words and philosophy, no reality, no power, no ability to set free from the power of sin (cf. Colossians 2:21-23 why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.) - religion – it doesn't work!
Deceivers (Tit 1:10) The message they spread is worthless, without real substance. But people are fooled by it - they deceive people, corrupting their thinking, filling their minds with what is not true, leading them astray. Particularly dangerous, as Paul knew from his experience with the Galatian church, were Jewish legalists who taught the necessity of coming back under Judaistic law, that a man had to be circumcised in order to be saved. This was a lie that corrupted many earnest believers. Paul advocates strong and unequivocal action to put an immediate stop to this corruption. False teaching is dangerous because, not only are those holding to it in error, but they they also corrupt others, fooling them into believing a lie! They influence others, deceiving others, ruining whole households (Tit 1:11)
Greedy motives (Tit 1:11) Their motive in teaching these things is not pure - it is out of self-interest - to make money. There is much money to be made out of religion - if one man can get a large following, all supporting him and giving generously because they are giving to God, it is possible to extort large amounts. Today we see many "big name" preachers, healers, who have gained vast wealth by their tele-evangelism and large crusades and mega-churches. And, as in Paul’s day, the message they are preaching is, in most cases, worthless. Heresies of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copland, Yongi Cho, Kenneth Hagin, Rodney Howard-Brown et al. Bringing under the legalism of tithing [vision from God that never came about, building fund that disappeared].
Defiled mind (Tit 1:15 read) - These men were empty talk, they spoke of strict purity but they were defiled. They contaminated the church because it was full of innocent believers – gullible – to them everything was pure, unsuspecting that error might be spoken in church. But these men were defiled – to them even the pure (like the Law of God) was defiled because their minds and conscience was defiled. They took the law and turned it into a set of human rules – this is what Judaism has done – made a satanic religion out of God given precepts. This is what legalists do in the church – they defile it. Take pure innocent believers and twist their innocent hearts so that they think that they have to keep a certain set of standards to please God. We don't rely on ourselves pleasing God but on Jesus having already pleased God. The pure are innocent and unsuspecting of evil. But one who is corrupt and defiled, unclean; sees the dirt and the innuendo because that is where he lives. The clean, however, are unsuspecting since they have no motive that is impure. Cleanness, purity, are associated with believers - the two are intrinsically linked. On the other hand the defiled, sin-stained, are not believers – the false religionists are so polluted in their thinking and conscience that they cannot conceive the existence of a pure motive - to them, nothing is clean - they suspect ulterior motive in the purest of deeds. Their whole mind is polluted, corrupt, defiled (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-3 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.). The clean and the defiled are worlds apart - there is no comprehension one of the other’s motives and actions - there can be no fellowship, no understanding, between them; they are utterly different (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 Do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.). Those regenerated, who believe, will embrace purity, what is clean, and will separate themselves from their former unclean associations.
Hypocrites (Tit 1:16) These men profess to know God but their actions prove otherwise – they are play acting, they are hypocrites! - they put on a show of knowing God but their lives don’t match their profession. They are written off in the strongest possible language: "They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed." They profess to be Christians, to know God, but their deeds deny what their mouths say. If we don’t live according to what we say we believe, then we do not really believe it at all. Our actions must be consistent with our Christian faith. We cannot claim to be a Christian and still remain impure (Tit 1:15;). The legalists tut, tut about all the moral failures of others and say people should be doing this and that. But, you know, when you look at their lives, the failure of their religion is evident – where is the Christian love, they tend to be the most uncharitable, mean and ungenerous people you have ever met. No self-giving, no self-sacrifice on behalf of others – their lives betray their lack of faith – Pharisees upset by Jesus doing good. Faith will be seen in action. The one who has been saved by grace and that he has received what he doesn't deserve, will overflow with gratitude and praise to his Saviour. You know, some Christians never open their mouth in public thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Their ingratitude shows that don't know the God they profess. Those whose lives do not match their profession of godliness are soundly condemned - just as Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Note the emphasis on "works" (two times) - it is intended that our faith result in good works - if this is not the case, our faith is vain, useless, mere empty profession and philosophy. Legalists are hypocrites – they pretend to be righteous and impose strict requirements on others but do not keep them themselves – only Jesus can!
Detestable (Tit 1:16) They are abominable - try making that sound "nice"! It is an expression of disgust at their hypocrisy. Paul’s meaning is unequivocal! These words cannot be made to mean anything less than strong and expressing outrage. Those who rely on their own efforts, rather than Christ's finished work, have spurned God's gracious gift – they say "No thanks, I'll do it myself." They are thus detestable to God – spurning His love and free gift, saying that their way is better.
Disobedient (Tit 1:16) They are disobedient – because they are not following God's way of salvation by grace but their own efforts, disobeying the way of faith and doing it by the way of law. Great irony, the pharisaic law-keeper is actually disobedient!
Worthless (Tit 1:16) Worthless – unable to do any good deed because they are relying on their own filthy rags rather than the garment of righteousness that God has given. Their rules have no power to restrain the flesh. Their religion is empty, vain, powerless, ineffective, worthless. They are incapable of any good deed. Only God is good – we have to have His life in order to be good.
How to Deal with them: Paul is scathing in his description of those who promulgate false teaching, he calls for firm and uncompromising action against them. He knows the mortal danger they possess against the pure church that holds to the truth. They are not to be given an inch, they are defiled. They are detestable, disobedient, worthless for any good deed! Strong words! We tend to be so gentle and nice. The early church had a clearer understanding of the implications of what they were dealing with. If such an attitude had been maintained perhaps the church may not have become so corrupted.
Silence them (Tit 1:11) - Paul doesn’t say tolerate them, understand them, gently show them their error or correct them - as would be our approach today. No, he says: "MUZZLE THEM!" - they must be silenced! - immediately and continually! - because it is not just a matter of them being in error, it is the effect that they have on others. They destroy them whole families and churches with their teaching. False teaching is a powerful evil with devastating effects! We tend to think each is entitled to his own opinion and belief, his own interpretation - but if they start teaching, promulgating their ideas, they must be silenced in no uncertain terms. We may think that its just ideas, doctrines, theories, but it is through them that whole churches are corrupted (cf. 2 Timothy 2:18 who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Matthew 13:33; 16:6,12 He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.). We need church leaders who silence such heresy before it takes root and multiplies like leaven - before whole families and churches are ruined. Paul directs Titus to silence false teachers - he does not have a good word to say for them - unlike today's "sympathetic" humanists.
Reprove them harshly (Tit 1:13) - Those who promulgate what is not true must be rebuked - Paul commands for this action to be continually applied. This is consistently how he says false reaching should be dealt with - yet it is seldom practiced in the church despite the multitude of false ideas going the rounds. They are to be rebuked severely (ἀποτόμως = severely, sharply). Urgent, unequivocal and firm action is required - yet we live with it, tolerate it, seek to understand and show compassion for our weaker brother. No wonder heresy spreads like gangrene. Sharp action is required as soon as it is detected - it is easier to excise a foreign body from a limb as soon as it lodges, than to deal with an infected or gangrenous limb - then it can only be dealt with with pain and harm to the whole body [breast lump]. To be healthy in the faith requires harsh reproof – the motive is restoring to true faith but a firm hand is required [very easy to give Hannah her way – what kind of person would she grow up into? - selfish, rebellious, lacking discipline – just like a Cretan!] (cf. Hebrews 12:5-14 have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.) The motive behind the sharp rebuke is to turn them away from such error so that they may be sound in the faith. In order to accomplish the restorative work harsh measures and strong leadership from men sound in doctrine is required (cf. Tit 1:9). They are to be refuted (Tit 1:9); muzzled (Tit 1:11); and severely rebuked (Tit 1:13). Church discipline must be exercised by mature leaders in order to maintain the church healthy in the faith. Man made commands and human tradition and myths turn men away from the truth. Guard the truth at all costs. Be vigilant and zealous for its sake. It is of supreme value - do not allow it to be corrupted or adulterated. [John Lang preaching shouldn't listen to rock music, date, have mortgage – legalism of Bill Hybels – elders had to go and tell him that it's not right].
Ignore their teaching (Tit 1:14) - The reason for such drastic and firm action is the inveterate and corrupt nature inherent in man. The problem is that the source of their teaching is from man, not from God. In giving attention to tradition, myths and mere man made rules, they have turned away from the truth. We are to pay no attention to their commands, the rules of those who reject the truth. The truth is Jesus! - that He alone is righteous. Judaism, legalistic religion, is myths – there is no truth there, they are stories of men. Why base you life on a fairy tale?! Don't try to understand them, hear their point of view – reject it outright as false. Adam and Eve fell when they listened to a lie – they got convinced by the devil's clever talk. Don't listen to legalists who say: you must do this or that. They sound so convincing, don't pay any attention lest you be swayed.
Legalism is contrary to the Gospel. The Good News is that God has given us His righteousness. The question is: are we relying on our own righteousness or Jesus, our deeds or His, - no room for pride in Gospel – if I do something who gets the glory, If Jesus' life in me does it how can I take any credit for it? ?preaching lawlessness, that you can do what you like? That is to misunderstand grace (cf. Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.) No book of Paul's places greater emphasis on good deeds than Titus. But Paul did not meet the situation of lawlessness in Crete with laws, but with grace. The righteousness had to come from within rather than being imposed. It had to be the work of Jesus not an external reform. How many Christians try to reform the evils in our society by pushing for moral laws etc.? They don't understand the genius of the Gospel nor its power. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. There was a flood of evil in Crete (and in our day) – the wall of the dam has broken down – I can go there with a bulldozer and then use a shovel. That is what Christians are doing – the power of God is in the Gospel and we use human weakness of man-made rules! - trying to patch things up with the law.