Summary: Within the assembly, watch for: 1) Relationships with false teachers (Titus 3:9), 2) With factious people (Titus 3:10–11), 3) With fellow servants (Titus 3:12–13), and 4) With faithful friends (Titus 3:14–15).
Ahead of the announcement of the new leader of the Federal Conservative Party last night, the party’s interim leader Rona Ambrose took to the stage for one final farewell — and to send some words of advice to whomever replaces her. “Bedrock conservative values are more important than any policy proposals shared during the campaign, Ambrose said.“ When we rally around those values and speak with one voice there is no limit to what we can achieve together,” she said. The winner should also take heed of the advice former leader Stephen Harper gave caucus when she replaced him, she added. “The measure of a good leader is also how they treat their opponents in defeat.” (http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/andrew-scheer-is-the-new-leader-of-the-conservative-party-of-canada)
How we treat others is a great concern to God. As we loving care for our co-ministers, look out for our fellow servants, deal with difficult people and protect against those who seek to undermine the Christian faith, how we deal with these people speaks volumes. It not only is a barometer to Church health but has very practical implications in how we reach the lost. The most effective and God designed program for reaching the lost is not a rally, public event, book or video program. It is calling believers to live in such a way that shows that our God saves sinners from sin. Such testimony is built on sanctified relationships. In chapter 1 of the book of Titus has dealt with the relationship of believers in the church with the Lord of the church, as exemplified by its leadership. Chapter 2 introduced believers’ relationships with each other, and the first half of chapter 3 deals with the relationship of believers with the unregenerate society in which they live. In Titus 3:9-15, the end of the letter, Paul gives what might be called “The last word on relationships,” in which he concludes by distinguishing true relationships between Christians with false ones.
When a person has an important conversation or correspondence with a friend or counselor, the most personal, and sometimes the most urgent, concerns are mentioned last. That seems to be true in this epistle. In his closing words, Paul mentions four distinct and important categories of personal relationships within the church that are of special importance: 1) Relationships with false teachers (Titus 3:9), 2) With factious people (Titus 3:10–11), 3) With fellow servants (Titus 3:12–13), and 4) With faithful friends (Titus 3:14–15).
In order to have an effective witness, Christians must distinguish true relationships against those with:
1) False Teachers (Titus 3:9)
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (ESV)
Believers on the island of Crete had been overexposed to a large number of men who claimed to represent the Lord, to be His servants, and to teach His Word. In reality, however, they were spiritually corrupt and were enemies of the Lord, His Word, and His church. Those men had generated so much confusion that Paul had admonished Titus to “set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city … [who would hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that [they] may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict,” namely, the “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (1:5, 9–11).
Therefore, Titus’ first instruction here was to “avoid foolish controversies”. “Avoid/Shun” translates a form of the verb periistemi, which in the mid middle voice, as here, means “to turn oneself around, to purposely turn away from something or someone.” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE IMPERATIVE, meaning “to continue to keep aloof from or avoid” (Utley, R. J. (2000). Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy (Vol. Volume 9, p. 128). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).
Titus, the other elders, and the congregations on Crete were to turn the other way from morally and spiritually destructive false teachers, who not only corrupted the churches but, by their sinful and sordid lifestyles, were a great hindrance to the credibility of the gospel. The effect of false teaching is explained in several New Testament passages. It unsettles the soul (Acts 15:24), shipwrecks faith (1 Tim. 1:19), leads to blasphemy (v. 20) and to the ruin of the hearers (2 Tim. 2:14), produces ungodliness (v. 16), and spreads “like gangrene” (v. 17). The basic reason given for such avoidance is the essential unprofitableness and uselessness of the false teaching (Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, p. 230). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
In this single verse Paul mentions four specific categories of errors these false teachers were espousing: foolish controversies and genealogies, dissensions/strife and quarrels/disputes about the Law. Foolish is from moros, from which in English is the word moron, and controversies is from zetesis, which has the basic sense of searching or investigating but came to be used for discussion or debate, especially that which was controversial and contentious.