Titus: Setting Things Straight: From Chaos to Christ

How to Protect Yourself from Spiritual Disease (Titus 1:9-16)
July 15, 2007 Commentary notes compiled by Pastors Scott Thomas (editor), Steve Tompkins and Bill Clem

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. –Titus 1:10 Introduction Hypocrites and insubordinate deceivers were leading entire households astray with false doctrine and self-focused philosophies. This portrays the church today. Many churches are misleading their followers with myths, legalism, religious traditions, and teaching devoid of Jesus. The remedy Paul suggests is to eradicate this false teaching by the qualified elders’ sharp rebuke with the authoritative Scriptures and by pointing the church to sound doctrine. Paul reminds Titus that he left him in Crete to set in order those areas still dangling and in need of biblical reformation. To do this, he would establish elder plurality in the churches so that they might model true Christianity and teach sound doctrine, as well as refute those who live or teach in contradiction to a sound faith. He has just spoken of solid, gospeloriented men being qualified to serve the churches as elders. However, there were other kinds of men in their churches, men that Paul identifies as "insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers." Evidently, these men had another agenda in the churches—whether knowingly or unknowingly—to turn them away from the gospel of grace and the godly behavior that characterizes believers. Removing the diseased teaching from these young churches would be critical to their future spiritual growth and sustained viability.

Allow only qualified spiritual leaders to speak into your life—Titus 1:9-12
The first church had a firmly held, healthy, sound doctrine taught by the Apostles throughout the first century churches after Jesus’ resurrection (v. 9). Titus must set in order the things, which are lacking by ordaining gifted and qualified elders for the church. These elders must be “holding fast the trustworthy word” which Paul taught them, so as to be able by the sound doctrine of that reliable word both to exhort, encourage the faithful, and refute the false teachers. Spiritual leaders must be submissive to authority (1:9-10). They cannot be insubordinate—refusing to line up under other authorities, including Scripture. They are not to be empty talkers—flattering communicators without holding firm to the trustworthy word (v. 9). Their talk is to point people to the person of Jesus and His completed work of redemption for their life. They cannot be deceiving the minds of others with a false gospel. “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). The Book of Titus shows how the gospel embodied results in lining up under others (subordination). Paul is a servant of Christ (1:1). Titus lined up under the authority of Paul (1:4). An elder’s children are to line up under their father’s leadership (1:6). Older woman are to have reverent behavior for the good of the younger women lining up under them (2:3). Young women are to line up under the leadership of their husbands (2:5). Employees are to be submissive to their employers (2:9). The churches in Crete are to line up under

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the authority and corrective teaching of Titus (2:15). Believers are to be submissive to rulers and authorities (3:1) and are to show perfect courtesy to all (3:2). It is cool to be insubordinate in Seattle. Many of us like to talk trash about the President, Corporate America and the ineptness of the local government. All authority must work its way out from under the doubt initially cast upon it. In many ways, this creeps into the church as well. Pastors must work themselves out from under the stereotypes of fraud, deceivers, adulterers, and closed-minded conservative bigots. However, members of the church should be slower to accuse and quicker to see the hearts of their leaders and the truth they proclaim. We are the church of the disillusioned and rebellious anarchists. Spiritual leaders must be serving God with authenticity (1:11b). The Cretans historically had a bad reputation for itinerate "prophets for profit" (Polybius, Livy, Plutarch). Church leaders can receive a respectable wage for their services but are not to take advantage of others. Additionally, their teaching is not to be gospel-plus anything. It is to be the good news of Jesus as our Savior through faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-6). They taught what they ought not to teach." This is translated, "teaching that which is unnecessary." This conveys something of the content of their teaching. They taught "unnecessary" additions to the gospel. They added to what Christ had done; not being satisfied that Jesus' death was enough to effectively atone for our sins and propitiate the just wrath of God. More was needed in their estimation, such as following dietary laws, observing particular feast days, circumcision, and strict Sabbath regulations. Spiritual leaders are to live gospel-centered lifestyles (1:12; 2:12). Paul quotes a seventh century B.C. prophet by the name of Epimenides. Plato and Aristotle lauded him for being a divine prophet. His assessment of the Cretans, applied especially in this case to the "insubordinate men" that were deceiving the churches, Paul considered right on target. "One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true." The message of the first church was the message of Jesus as taught to them and as commanded to teach to others. LIARS (1:12) EVIL BEASTS (1:12) LAZY GLUTTONS (1:12) GRACE OF GOD BRINGING SALVATION (2:11) SELF-CONTROLLED (2:12) UPRIGHT (2:12) GODLY (2:12) The Gospel changes the character of man. God never lies (1:2). An elder with gospelcentered character will be above reproach (1:6) and will hold firmly to the trustworthy word (1:9). False teachers turn from the truth (1:14). Older women will not to be slanderous (2:3). Younger men will demonstrate honest, fruit-bearing character (2:7). Employees will no longer to steal (2:10). Spiritual leaders are to teach a gospel a gospel-centered message (1:14-15). Paul summed up their teaching: "Jewish myths and commands of people who turn away from the truth." This is very evident by the implication in verse 15, that unclean foods and neglecting religious rituals and associating with anything unclean nullifies the merit of Christ for the believer; that Christ is not enough. "Jewish myths and commands of people" were superstitions and ascetic practices passed along as truth, and legalistic commands supposedly to gain righteousness. However, the fact is that these things cause a person to "turn away from the truth," with "truth" being a technical term for the gospel. Here is the

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crux of the issue. When someone teaches that there something other than Christ or in addition to Christ, necessary for salvation, that person is a false teacher.

To protect yourself from spiritual disease, accept pastoral correction to your life—Titus 1:13-14
The Cretan distortion of truth upset whole families. Submitting to pastoral correction silences our unorthodox teaching. False teaching must be rebuked by the testimony of the Scriptures (1:13) and not the man-made commands (1:14). The trustworthy word instructs us (if we allow it) in sound (healthy) doctrine and rebukes us when we our thinking is contradictory (1:9). In a familial, loving relationship (1:4; 2:1-10) we receive the corrective, order-causing teaching into our lives so that we may be sound in the faith (1:13). If continual false teaching and wrongful living exists, rebuke is both necessary and commanded to the pastors. “Rebuke” means to bring to the light (to reveal hidden things). This is done by "Preach[ing] the word; be[ing] ready in season and out of season; reprove[ing], rebuk[ing], exhort[ing], with complete patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2). We have fretted over the abuse of authority over the centuries. In spite of occasional abuses, authority rests in the qualified elders to lead God's people in following after Christ and modeling the gospel and disciplining believers. Too much is at stake to neglect the wise, humble, and Christ-honoring use of authority to help the church maintain its testimony of the gospel in the world. For those rebuked and who remain insubordinate, sharp rebuke (1:13) is necessary and misunderstood by casual attendees. To rebuke sharply is a term meaning to cut as with a knife. Rebuke with authority. Rebuke with scripture. Rebuke for repentance. Therefore, as we regularly attend to the proclamation of God's Word, as that Word is opened and applied to our lives; the Word lays those areas needing correction bare. Preaching instructs us in the ways of God and the gospel-centered focus of Christian living. It is sometimes difficult to hear (as well as often difficult to declare!). It sometimes causes pain. Nevertheless, it is a necessary part of our sanctification so that we "may be sound in the faith." Our reception of the corrective teaching is helpful so that as we profess to know God, we do not deny Him by our works nor are we unfit for any good work (1:16). A major theme running through the Book of Titus is the dichotomy between our beliefs and our behavior. Our belief is Jesus—redemption, forgiveness, love, mercy, truth, eternity, salvation, justice and our behavior is often pride, self-centeredness and unbelief. This affects our marriage, our joy, our families, our work, our relationships, and our entire lives.

To protect yourself from spiritual disease, receive the true gospel—Titus 1:10, 15-16
Simply, the Gospel is the 'good news' of God's redemption of humankind. It is a story that has been unfolding since humankind’s rebellious, defiant decision in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed God, and as a result, suffered the consequences. This is what we call 'The Fall.' It was humankind’s fall from a place of close communion with God. It was and is the fall into darkness, misery, and ultimately eternal

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death. Every cause has an effect, and the result of disobedience is death. The Gospel is the story of God redeeming His creation from The Fall. God took Christ, who knew no sin, to represent our sin and to receive the punishment due for our sinfulness through His death on the cross. We were alienated from God by our sins and through Christ’s death, we became the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Humankind continues to attempt to span that gap between man and God. He may convince himself that he has done enough to earn that right to get to God. However, no matter how hard he tries, he falls short of reaching the perfect standard God has demanded. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We must be born again. We cannot rid ourselves of sin’s penalty unless we exercise faith in Christ alone. Grace alone provides salvation. Salvation is ALL of God and NONE of us (1 Cor. 1:30). Judaizers in Crete The churches in Crete were pushing a different message that was poisonous and unhealthy. They were insubordinate to the accepted message of the gospel. Sharp rebuke is the only remedy for teachers of Legalism. It is evident from Acts 2:11, that there were Jews residing in Crete; and it is probable that it was by those who had gone from that island to Jerusalem to attend the feast of the Pentecost, and who had been converted on that occasion, that the gospel was first introduced there. From this epistle, also, it is clear that one of the great dangers to the gospel in the churches of Crete, arose from the efforts of such teachers, and from the plausible arguments which they would use in favor of the Mosaic law (Titus 1:10, 14-16; 3:9). To counteract the effect of their teaching, it was necessary to have ministers of the gospel appointed in every important place, who should be qualified for their work. To make these arrangements, was the great design for which Titus was left there; and to give him full information as to the kind of ministers which was needed this epistle was written." Paul identifies the circumcision party as those most responsible for this false teaching. These were former Jews who joined the Christian church. Their message was that a noncircumcised man could come to Jesus for faith if he was also circumcised as a completed act of faith. This initial act of circumcision was the seal of Abraham's faith in God's promise of possessing the land. It was the indication that Abraham believed God's word. Abraham separated himself unto the Lord and to the Lord's promise. Circumcision is, therefore, a sign of regeneration for the Jews. It was to the born again Jew what water baptism is to the born-again believer in the Church Age, a sign (Genesis 17:6-11; Col. 2:11-13 ; Joshua 5:19; Romans 4:9-13). The Jew is very proud to be a Jew, and rightly so in many respects. However, he may also feel superior to Gentile believers, possibly because Jews were among the earliest believers on Crete, some of them having been in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Jews generally considered themselves better than the Gentiles, and the name “The Circumcision” was borne proudly. Christ has joined the Jew and Gentile; but the Jewish elitists want no part of this. They are not a Grace believer, and they cling to traditions with a grip of steel (Eph. 2:11-22). Religious Jews tried to make the seal valuable in itself. They attached spiritual value to the

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act of circumcision, ignoring the substance. They contended that circumcision was needed for salvation, which led to the formation of a ritualistic religion. Gospel–Plus Message This is a Gospel-Plus message. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (paid in full). Any action, knowledge, rite, diet or ascetic behavior for a better or meritorious standing with God is Gospel-Plus and Paul says that they must shut up (v. 11). We attach legalistic rules to our faith in Jesus and we are miserable. Nobody can live up to the added rules of religion. The results of this false Gospel-Plus teaching are that it is ruining whole households (v. 11). It leads to one of three things: 1) Pride in accomplishing the regulations, 2) Despair that the rules are too stringent and unattainable, or 3) Apathy toward faith because it is a synthetic religion. Jesus plus anything is not attainable. It brings misery and hopelessness. It divides those whose entire faith is in the completed work of Jesus through His death, burial and resurrection. Damaged doctrine damages people. Human goodness cannot buy God’s favor. The unpolluted gospel that God loves us in our imperfection as Christ’s righteousness is applied to us holds the only true hope for humanity. Conclusion For those who have applied the gospel in their lives, legalism has no grip on your life. No amount of good or withholding from doing bad alters the power of the gospel to bring salvation to your life. Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from the law that we cannot uphold and to purify us from all our sin (Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 53:3-6)—for the Jew and for the Greek (Romans 1:16). Next Week: Titus 2:1-15

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