Rebels, Deceivers And Dissenters

A Study In Titus 1:10-16. (TNIV)

Are there some people in your church/ministry community who seem to just cause trouble? It is all too common in our day, and the Bible is full of them too! 

As someone once said, ‘where two or three are gathered together, there’s bound to be trouble!’ Paul has laid out to Titus the nature of the task he’s been assigned to in Crete ‘… put in order what was left unfinished’ (v. 3), and he has identified the character qualities of those who should be called to be involved in it – people who will ‘encourage…by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it’. 

Now Paul describes something of the true nature of those he is going to be working among—he is spelling out the source of that opposition. We don’t preach Christ in a vacuum! 

It means, ‘rebellious…talkers…deceivers’ (v. 10)—anyone who rejects the gracious revelation of Christ is actually in rebellion even if it doesn’t look like it on the outside—‘mere talkers’ is matailogos, literally; ‘words empty of truth’. There can be some very impressive oratory, but if it doesn’t translate into reality, it is counterfeit (1 Cor 13:1-2 ‘resounding gongs’ or ‘clanging cymbals’). 

C.S. Lewis made the astute comment in ‘The Ascent of Man’ that any other doctrine or belief system that did not depend on Christ alone was ‘like potent adjectives floating around in a nounless void’ (adapted). We can have all the great aspirations (e.g. ‘fulfil your destiny’/’be the best version of you’), but it’s just hot air without the presence of Christ who alone can give authenticity to our humanity—remember we were created to be in the image and likeness of God—or as my dad used to say ‘the presence of God is imperative for our humanity’.

It means, ‘especially of the circumcision group’ (v. 10). These were Jewish believers who had not fully accepted the sufficiency of Christ and, therefore, the freedom He could offer and were still trying to impose human regulations under the guise of orthodoxy. 

The book of Hebrews explains how all the legitimate features of OT Judaism have been ‘perfected’ in Christ—so to revert to legalism is to blatantly insult Him. Heb 10:29 ‘How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished and who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?’

It means, ‘must be silenced’ (v. 11)—this sounds harsh but literally means ‘to put something into the mouth’ like putting a bit into a horse’s mouth—if it is allowed to continue, it can destroy whole families or ‘households’ which can mean house churches; and the real motive is monetary gain or popularity. ‘one of their own prophets’ (v. 12)—you just have to listen to any culture to find it condemns itself—we are being bombarded in the current election campaign by so many empty promises and blatant grandstanding. 

It is little wonder that there is so much disillusionment among voters. Prof. Blaiklock identifies this prophet as Epimenides, who coined the phrase Kretizein pros Kreta meaning: ‘to lie to a liar’. (Jude 10-16; ‘these people are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires, they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage’.) 

It means, ‘evil brutes, lazy gluttons’ (v. 12)—Paul (like Jesus) is not afraid to expose the true nature of these people (Matt 23:13-36; Rom 3:9-18 ‘we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin’) ‘Rebuke…sharply…sound in the faith’ (v. 13)—the prime goal was not just condemnation, but restoration. 

Dr. Alan Redpath had some prominent members of his congregation leave the church because they disagreed with his preaching truth, and he called them ‘blessed subtractions’! ‘pay no attention to Jewish myths’

(v. 14)—if the church’s faith is not ‘sound’, (litérally ‘healthy’) then they will be vulnerable to any false teaching that appears attractive—a current example of this is the blatantly unbiblical ‘health, wealth and prosperity’ teaching.  

‘To the pure…all…pure’ (v. 15)—Paul applies Jesus’ own teaching (Mark 7:15 ‘Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them’)—it is only when Jesus fully cleanses us that we truly understand the truth (Matt 5:8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God’). Jesus, being totally pure, could touch a leper and not be contaminated. In fact, his purity would remove the corruption of leprosy. 

We generally underestimate the power of grace, mercy, and purity—we think it is weak or passive—in fact, it is powerful, and anything else (e.g. anger, cynicism) is weak; it is always much easier to be negative, sarcastic than it is to be gracious.

‘(Remember Psa 1:1 ‘Blessed is the one who does not… sit in the company of mockers. But whose delight is in the law of the Lord’) claim to know God, but…deny him’ (v. 16). The mere verbal profession is insufficient—the fruit will declare what is the true corrupting nature of these false teachers (1 John 2:4 ‘whoever says “I know him” but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person’.)

Verse 16, means, ‘detestable…disobedient…unfit’ —strong language ‘detestable’ is literally, ‘Abominable’ and ‘unfit’ – adokimoi, or rejected after testing—we are constantly being tested!

(Jer 9:7, says ‘this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘See, I will refine and test them for what else can I do because of the sin of my people’; and James 1:3, says, ‘you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance’). The churches in (Rev 2-3), were fully refined and tested by the Lord Jesus, which exposed sin and affirmed faith.

‘Remember, everyone has to meet Jesus face to face at some point!’

Key Prayer:

• Lord, help us to be brutally honest about our own sinful, self-centred nature 

• Lord, help us to discern the difference in knowing the scriptures only as knowledge (John 5:39-40) and really knowing you personally through the scriptures

• Lord, help us to ‘rebuke sharply’ where it is needed but only always in love (1 Cor 13:4-7) and to bring about ‘soundness’ in others.

– (Written for New Life Aus, by Peter Thomas, 20 April 2022)

– TNIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)