Protecting the Church from Dangerous People
1. Recognize the context: Literary Context- In verse 8, Paul presented six positive characteristics of a church leader, depicting the blameless life (verses 6-7).
1. hospitable-All Christians should extend hospitality, the gracious reception of a guest or stranger. However, church elders should especially exemplify this trait (1 Tim 3, Rom. 12:13, 1 Pet. 4:9), even to strangers (Heb. 13:2, 3 John 8).
2. loving good-Elders must be people who love good and love doing good.
3. self-controlled-They should also be sensible and balanced in their behavior.
4. upright or righteous-Leaders must portray ethically acceptable behavior and fairness.
5. holy-Elders should be dedicated to God and demonstrate a life characterized by holiness.
6. disciplined-They must be able to control their impulses and desires.
Additionally, in verse 9, Paul stated elders must be devoted to the faithful message of the gospel, which they have received. The reason is twofold. First, they must be able to present sound doctrine and, in doing so, encourage others. Second, they must be able to respond to false teaching.
As the reformer, John Calvin, said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.”
2. Read the Scripture: Titus 1:10-16
10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
Verse 10 explains why the leaders in the church needed to present sound doctrine and to refute false doctrine. There were those within the church at Crete who needed to be rebuked. Therefore, strong leadership was needed for this task.
These troublemakers, who needed correction, were described in three ways. First, they were rebellious, which meant they refused to submit to authority. Here, Paul used the same word he used above to describe how the children of elders must not act (verse 6). Second, they were “empty talkers.” They talked but had nothing meaningful to say. Their words were empty and without value. But not only were their words empty, they were dangerous. Finally, Paul called them deceivers because they were guilty of leading people astray.
Additionally, we know these agitators had a Jewish background from Paul’s reference to the circumcision group. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, confirmed there was a Jewish community on Crete. He also noted that this community had been deceived by scammers in the past (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 17.327). Therefore, scam artists and conmen, who use eloquent words to deceive and gain dishonesty, are not a new phenomenon. They have been around for centuries, and they have been a threat to the church since its inception.
In verse 11, Paul said they must be silenced. This meant denying them the opportunity to spread their deception. Also, their false ideas had to be refuted. It is difficult to know exactly what they were teaching, but it was a distortion of the gospel message. We do know they had impure motives, namely dishonest gain.
The people of Crete had developed a reputation in the ancient world, especially by the time of Paul. Therefore, Paul was able to quote one of their own, who was considered a teacher/philosopher/prophet, Epimenides. In verse 12, Paul acknowledged what he believed about them, an idea shared by others in the ancient world. By agreeing with this statement, Paul was not against all Cretans. He was simply acknowledging the truthfulness of the statement to the extent it was being evidenced by some in the church community.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, pray for your church leaders, that they have the courage to stand up against teachings that are contrary to the gospel, especially as our modern culture attempts to dictate what the church should believe.
Pray for your church, that they be protected from those who have empty and deceptive words, which can lead people astray. Pray that sound doctrine be present in your church body and in the universal church.
To do: (Actions with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.
What specific actions can you take this week to encourage your church leaders?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study the passages mentioned above.