Summary: God requires church leaders to correct those whose teaching does not align with the gospel.
It seems that many congregations will tolerate unbiblical preaching as long as the pastor is not rude or mean or sharp with them. Most pastors lose their jobs pretty quickly if they cannot figure out how to preach nicely to the church.
So our passage this morning shocks us. Paul tells a young pastor that part of the work of shepherding the church includes the sharp rebuke. Let’s hear the Apostle’s strong admonition, then see what God would teach us from it.
[Read Titus 1.10-16. Pray.]
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, calling October 31, “Halloween,” traces back to at least the 16th century as a Scottish variant of the full title, “All-Hallows-Even,” or the evening before All Hallows Day. In fact, into the early 1900s, the word was still spelled, “Hallowe’en.”
The idea of setting aside November 1 to remember all the saints who have gone before us (known and unknown) originated much sooner. Pope Gregory the Third, in the mid-700s, instituted the festival of All-Saints, in the memory “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”
In spite of those interesting ideas about Halloween, those in our tradition usually remember October 31 for a different reason. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 disagreements with the teaching and practice of the Roman Catholic Church, the end result of which was the Protestant Reformation.
I give you that history lesson because I like church history and think it is interesting. But also so that you will remember, every October 31, that Protestants believe the church is built on the Word of God. The Spirit uses primarily the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures both for making followers of Christ and for ordering the life of his people.
Clearly that was the situation on Crete. The Apostle Paul and his young trainee, Titus, engaged in an evangelistic ministry that saw many people profess faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, the culture in which the church was born was not very conducive to Christianity; in fact, the island of Crete was known for its immorality. So how does a young pastor disciple new converts whose lives are a mess? How does he teach new believers to adorn the doctrine of God (which they now professed to believe) with a life lived to the glory of God (which was not yet happening)?
Last week we began to see God’s answer. First, in verse 5, Paul says to Titus, I left you on Crete bring order to the church—it is the pastor’s ministry to direct the church. Then Paul reminds Titus to ordain other godly men to help him, elders, whose lives had been transformed by grace sufficiently that they were examples to follow. This is the work of discipling, not simply telling others what they ought to do, but sharing our lives as imitators of Jesus. The elders especially are those of whom we can confidently say, follow his example as he follows Christ.
So the pastor in partnership with the elders are, first, to direct the church, then, second, to disciple the believers, then third, they are to instruct in Biblical doctrine: Titus 1.9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught [holding Biblical convictions], so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine [practicing Biblical counseling] and also to rebuke those who contradict it [engaging in Biblical confrontation].” The text we are studying this morning (verses 10-16) expands on that last phrase, the work of Biblical confrontation, the elders’ duty to rebuke those who contradict the trustworthy word of God. Since those of us in the church must support our elders, I worded their three responsibilities in terms of our response to them.
1. We Must Accept the Elders’ Ministry of Silencing Unhealthy Teaching (Titus 1.10-11)
Paul sounds angry as he refuses any tolerance for those who disagree. Just as in our day, I expect some in Titus’ congregation would probably think this too severe a reaction on the part of the pastor. But he treats this so seriously because false teaching damages God’s people.
FitzSimons Allison entitled his book defending historic Christian doctrines, The Cruelty of Heresy. He chose that title because, as he explains, “We are susceptible to heretical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart. It is astonishing how little attention has been given to these two aspects of heresy: its cruelty and its pandering to sin” (17).