Summary: When we come against those who come after us, sometimes we should ignore them, and other times we must speak succinctly to them.
Every morning an older woman would go out on her porch, raise her arms to the sky and yell, “Praise the Lord!” An atheist bought the house next door to her and quickly became irritated with these expressions of exaltation. After putting up with it for about a week, he couldn’t take it anymore. The next morning after she shouted, “Praise the Lord,” the man yelled back, “There is no Lord.” This went on every day for quite some time. Then one cold, wintry day she went out on her porch, raised her hands to the sky and said, “Help me Lord, I have no more money, its cold, and I have no food.”
The next morning she went outside and found three bags of food on her porch. She quickly raised her hands and cried out, “Praise the Lord!” Just then the atheist stepped out from behind the bushes laughing and said, “There is no Lord…I bought those groceries with my money!” The woman immediately dropped to her knees and exclaimed, “Praise the Lord! You sent me groceries…and you made the Devil pay for them!”
As we continue in our teaching from the Book of Titus, today we come to the end of chapter one. We spent the last two weeks going over the qualifications for Elders and concluded last Sunday with what is perhaps their most important role from verse 9: “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.” Elders must be glued to God’s Word, in order, as someone has said, to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Just as this wise woman responded to her nagging neighbor, Elders are to deal directly with the disgruntled.
When we come against those who come after us, sometimes we should ignore them, and other times we must speak succinctly to them. Titus 1:10-16 will help us know what to do. First, we need to know who they are. Second, we must know how to respond. And third, we must remember the ultimate solution.
We’re going to follow this simple outline.
A Detailed Description – who they are (10-12)
A Prevailing Prescription – what to do (13-14)
A Commitment to Conversion – the ultimate solution (15-16)
1. A Detailed Description (10-12). Paul wastes no time describing those whom the Elders are to deal with in verses 10-12: “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. Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’” The word “for” links verse 9 to verse 10. The reason Elders are to be men of the Book is because there are “many” who are not. This is a widespread problem today and not just something that was isolated to the island of Crete. Let’s look at this 9-part description phrase-by-phrase to see who it is that must be silenced.
Rebellious people. This word refers to those who were literally “uncontrolled,” and unwilling to submit to authority. It’s also translated as “unruly” and “insubordinate.” This is the same word that is used to describe rebellious children in verse 6. Jude characterizes uncontrollable people in 1:6 who “reject authority.” The apostle John describes a devious man in his third letter: “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church” (3 John 6). Another example of a rebellious man is Alexander the metalworker, whom Paul referred to in 2 Timothy 4:14 as one who did a “great deal of harm.”
Mere talkers. The New Living Translation provides this paraphrase, “they engage in useless talk.” Jay Vernon McGee refers to them as “empty chatterers.” Do you know of anyone who talks but doesn’t really say anything? Mere talkers were very common in Crete and are also common in most churches. This reminds me of the character called, “Talkative” in Pilgrim’s Progress. As Christian and Faithful are walking along, Talkative comes up and engages them in dialog. Faithful is enjoying the conversation but notices that Christian is quiet and walking several feet away. While Faithful likes Talkative; Christian is more perceptive when he says, “This with whom you’re so impressed will beguile with his tongue twenty people who don’t know him.”
Faithful eventually sees that Talkative is full of words but empty in his heart. Christian advises that the best way to be rid of him is to begin a serious discussion about spiritual matters. Sure enough, Talkative doesn’t want to talk about what’s really important and says goodbye. Christian is pleased with Faithful’s straightforward style and says something that sounds a lot like Paul’s teaching to Titus: “It was a good thing you talked to him plainly as you did…I wish everyone would deal with them as you’ve done. Then they would either be made to conform to religion, or the Fellowship of the Saints would be too hot to remain” (John Bunyan, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Part 1, Section V: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/bunyan/pp05.htm).