Meditations in Titus: 9: Silence False Teaching
Titus 1:10,11 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain.
These present verses flow on naturally from the one before: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (v.9) The word ‘For’ could be replaced by ‘because’. The elder needs to hold firmly to the word, to the truth, in order that he may stand against those who are described in these two verses, and they will always be around in some form or another.
The people Paul speaks against are first of all rebellious. They are deceived into thinking that they are so special that they alone have the right message and so they stand against the message of the basic gospel passed down from the apostles and prophets. They are users of words, they talk a lot and convince and lead people astray by their many words. And because they are deceived and bring a false message, they are deceivers and will seek to get others to agree to their position in life.
In Paul’s day there was one specific group who opposed them again and again, the circumcision group, the Jews who insisted that the trappings of traditional Judaism should be adhered to. That is what so much of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is all about. Essentially they had a Gospel-plus. They appeared to go along with the Gospel but added to it the need to perform certain Jewish rites. The modern equivalent perhaps are the cults who insist on adding their particulars to the Gospel. I have listened to a Mormon give his testimony and it was almost identical to mine. So I asked was that all there was. He answered yes and so I said, “If that is so my testimony is almost identical to yours and so if you are still on this doorstep in ten minutes time you will prove that it isn’t all there is. You insist I must ALSO believe your book of Mormon. They tried to hedge but ten minutes later, despite my clear testimony, they were still there arguing for the book of Mormon. Beware add-ons!
Paul is very specific about these people and brings a threefold condemnation of them. First, “They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households.” They are not people merely to be pitied; they are causing damage to the faith of whole households. They are undermining the faith of believers. And why? Well, second, “by teaching things they ought not to teach.” Their teaching IS WRONG. Any add-on is wrong. Never say it is not important. The truth is important and anyone who brings a variation of the truth found in the New Testament should be silenced. Third, they are doing, “that for the sake of dishonest gain.” They are wanting you to side with them, they are wanting you to join them, they want you to subscribe to their teaching and subscribe to their group and so often that includes with your finances. It is dishonest gain because it comes from using something which is not the truth and can only lead to harm.
To support what he is saying, Paul appeals to one of the local prophets: “Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” (v.12) Clearly the life on the island before the Gospel came was dissipated and therefore the truth of the gospel had to stand against this way of life. He affirms, “This testimony is true.” (v.13a). Thus he instructs, “Therefore, rebuke them sharply.” (v.13b) i.e. you can’t just leave them; they are causing too much harm . No, you need to correct them “so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” (v.13c,14) Note the positive and negative here. First that they may be re-established and become secure or sound in their faith, founded on the truth and not on deception. Second, two negatives – so they won’t pay attention to the Jewish heresies and they won’t listen to anyone for that matter who rejects the truth and brings some distorted version of it.
Because we live in a sophisticated world the ‘add-ons’ that we hear about may not appear religious but if they detract in any way from the Gospel and the truths of the New Testament they are still add-ons to be rejected. I have in mind the latest craze for ‘mindfulness’ teaching as a means of overcoming stress and anxiety. It is spreading through the religious and secular world and is being embraced by many in the Christian world, essentially a teaching about being aware of the present. Now my point is that inherently if you say you need this you are saying the Gospel and God are not sufficient to deal with daily stress and anxiety and therefore you need some additional practice to help you.
Paul’s teaching was quite clear: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7) While I do not have a problem with the idea of being mindful of the moment, if it is being used to deal with stress and anxiety it means you have a shallow relationship with Jesus and have not been following Paul’s simple and straight forward teaching here. There is no substitute for a prayerful relationship with the Lord whereby He resources you and brings you peace. Beware any forms of add-on. Work on the real thing; it’s all you need.