Titus 1:10-16: Refutation
August 19, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Paul is asking Titus to straighten out what was left unfinished in Crete. This, we have seen, means first of all that he needs to appoint elders to help with this task. This team of gospel-driven leaders will need to encourage and also correct. What is it that they will need to correct? Paul in this passage lists some of the things that they face that need to be corrected. As he does, Paul introduces a key term in the book of Titus: doing what is “good.” But as we read that – and it will be repeated throughout the book – we need to do so carefully within the context of the book as a whole.
The key text that illumines this context is Titus 2:11-14:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
As you read those words, note carefully how Paul is teaching that it is the gospel (the grace of God) that “teaches us” to say no to ungodliness, and yes to godly lives, and become “eager to do what is good.”
So the task of this team of elders will be to teach the gospel in such a way that it shows people that because of what Christ has done for them, they now are enabled and desirous of living “good” lives.
Clearly, such a correction and encouragement was needed among the Christians in Crete.
So in our passage today, Paul talks about the things that needed to be corrected. There are, he says, “many rebellious people” and they are “full of meaningless talk and deception.” There is clearly a doctrinal problem that has led to a division problem (“the circumcision group”). These people must simply be “silenced.” Their ideas must be refuted and shown to be fallacious.
In one of Paul’s most famous – and least politically correct – statements, he even quotes from one the Cretans’ pagan prophets approvingly: “‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” And Paul simply says, “This saying is true.”
What was Titus to do, and what was he to encourage the elders as a team to do? “Rebuke them sharply.”
Such words strike us as unkind or insensitive, but there are certain situations and certain ideas that simply must be refuted – and that strongly. We would not be surprised to hear someone strongly rebuke another person if that other person was espousing clear racism. Nor should we be surprised to hear someone refuting with strength another person if they are a self-confessed Christian and they are teaching heresy that is damnable. As Paul puts it, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.”
Therefore, let us be willing to receive correction as needed from godly elders and pastors. And let us encourage our leaders to lead with love and kindness, and also – when faced with a Cretan kind of obstinate heresy – be willing to utter a strong, godly rebuke.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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