Paul continues on in his letter to young Titus. In most translations, this passage is still under the heading of “Qualifications for Elders.” Check my last post for the first passage in this section.
Paul has already described the positive qualities of elders in the church, but now he is describing some troubling trends in the church. Paul is warning Titus and the church at Crete of false teachers who had made their way into the church. These false teachers came from the “circumcision party” – a group of Jewish Christians who taught that believers must be circumcised. The flaw in their theology is obvious. Paul contrasts these false teachers over against the positive qualifications of elders shown in verses 5-9. The false teachers are “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers,” but the elders are to be above reproach, upright, holy, and disciplined.
False teachers were rampant in the Cretan church, and Paul did not mess around with them. He commanded Titus to silence them because of their selfishness. Titus is to rebuke these false teachers sharply, but not simply for the sake of rebuking. The purpose in Titus’ rebuke of these people is so that they may be sound in the faith. His primary concern is not to cause division, but to edify the church. As the church, we must be careful in our rebukes, so that we are always doing all we can to build up the church. We seek unity in the body, but we must be sharp in our rebuke of false teachers.
False teachers can be avoided in the church by following the biblical qualifications for elders. False teachers have always been a problem in the church, and they still are. Churches must stand up for the biblical office of eldership in the church, and stand firm on the qualifications listed in the Bible. We don’t mess around with false teachers. This is not a church issue, but a gospel issue. We need to realize that the gospel is on the line. False teachers lead people astray from the orthodox theology that must be taught in the church. The entire church must be on guard against the false teachers, and elders must be especially aware of their presence.
We may not be dealing with the “circumcision party” or Jewish mystics in 2017, but we are dealing with the prosperity gospel, legalism, and antinomianism – all of which are rampant in our modern American church scene. We have sacrificed the gospel on the altar of popularity and fame.
I plead with you, as elders and laypeople: Hold fast to the truth of the gospel found in the Bible. Silence false teachers when you see them, just Paul instructed Timothy to do. Stand in the gap for the church against the popular beliefs of the world. They are destructive and of the devil. Those who teach these false teachers have not changed since Paul wrote this letter, for “they claim to know God, but deny him by their works.” Be careful. Watch for wolves. More importantly, make sure your church is hiring and training up elders who are men that uphold the biblical qualifications for elders, and you will avoid these false teachers.
Soli Deo Gloria