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Life and Doctrine

Date: Jun. 18, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Titus 1:1-16

Key Verse: Titus 1:9

“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.”

Congratulations on finishing the book of Hebrews, and welcome now to the study of Titus & 2 Timothy!  If you don’t know where Titus is, just go 2 books backward from the book of Hebrews.  We will be spending the next few weeks of the summer with these 2 letters, along with some special messages in between.  We chose these 2 letters for a couple of reasons.  First, they were short, so by the time the Fall semester and students return we can start a new book at the same time.  Also, as you can see, the theme is “Ministry.” These two letters are instructions from Paul on how to continue his ministry.  Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word ministry?  What is ministry?  What does it mean to minister?  You’ve probably heard the term “the Prime Minister.”  In the UK this office is the head of the government.  In other words, this person is the top public servant.  A minister is a servant, and a ministry is an organization that serves, or a service.  We here at IIT UBF come here to serve students and each other by the grace of God in this ministry.  As we go through this study, I pray we may prepare our hearts and our minds for the upcoming fall ministry, both as a church body, and as the Bible Club, as it transitions to new leadership.

This letter to Titus was written near the end of Paul’s life, perhaps between 62-64 AD.  Paul’s last letter in the Bible is 2nd Timothy, but this was written a little bit before that.  Titus was one of Paul’s converts, he was a Greek, and Paul had taken him to Jerusalem to show that salvation had also come to the Gentiles without circumcision (Gal 2:3).  He was a faithful and beloved companion and helper to Paul throughout his ministry.  Paul had sent him to deliver the severe letter to the Corinthian church, which caused them godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:6-7).  Note that this letter is not the Bible, but it was referenced in 2 Corinthians.  Paul was worried this letter would hurt them, but when Titus gave the good report of their repentance, Paul was comforted and his joy was greater than before.  Titus was also the person to deliver the letter of 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 8:23), and chosen by the church to make a collection for Jerusalem to help with the urgent need there (2 Cor 8:19).  Titus was a very capable leader.  Some time after Paul’s first imprisonment, which is after all of the events in the book of Acts, after his third missionary journey, Paul and Titus preached together in Crete.  There may have been a need for Paul’s presence in Nicopolis, Greece, several hundred miles away, so Paul had to leave, but he left Titus on Crete to finish the work.  This is where our letter begins.

Crete is the 5th largest island on the Mediterranean Sea.  It is 160 miles (260 km) across, and around 300 miles (500 km) south of Greece.  It is home to the oldest civilization in Europe, the Minoan civilization, which existed from 2600 to 1100 BC.  It was named after a mythical King Minos, and a throne room is still intact today.  It was actually quite an advanced civilization for its time, but the civilization ended either by invasion or volcano.  Today it is part of Greece, but in Paul’s time it was under the Roman Empire.  There was already a thriving community of Jews on Crete in the time of Jesus.  On the day of Pentecost, Cretan Jews were present when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem, and they heard the apostles speak in tongues.  It is possible that some Cretan Jews were converted that day, and established a Christian community on Crete when they went back home.  Paul and Titus would arrive more than 30 years later to continue to build the church through the preaching of the gospel.  While Paul had to go, he commissioned Titus to remain and carry out the rest of what needs to be done.  Titus would be his representative.  This letter was written directly to Titus to instruct him on what he needs to do, but it was also intended to be indirectly read by the people on Crete, so that they would know Titus was authorized to organize the churches.  This letter was also like an official document to commission Titus to continue the work in Crete.

Let’s take a look at the introduction of the letter, from v.1-3, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.”  Wow, that was a mouthful!  There’s no period in that sentence!  Usually Paul’s greetings are one to two sentences long (look at the opening verses of 1&2 Timothy, or Ephesians, for example).  The long introduction shows that it was meant to be read by the Cretan churches as well, as there might be people who do not know who Paul was.

Paul begins with his office and title: he is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.  Many people knew who the Twelve apostles were, but Paul was originally known as a persecutor of the church and converted after Jesus ascended to heaven.  But here he is claiming authority as an apostle, equal with those such as Peter, James and John, through whom were passed on the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Today we can affirm that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, because most of the New Testament was written by him (13/27 books).  The purpose of his writing was to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.  Knowledge is important, and knowledge of the truth is even more important.  And one way we can know that we are learning the truth is that we are growing in godliness, that is, we are growing in reverence, respect and sincere devotion toward God.

We also grow in the hope of eternal life, having a joyful, confident expectation of eternal life.  We can be confident in this hope because of what Paul tells us: that God does not lie, and he has promised to give eternal life before the beginning of time.  That means he has made a promise to grant you eternal life before you were born – that eternal life is not dependent on what you do or who you are, but depends entirely on the grace of God.  And this promise was secured at the time God has appointed.  The promise was fulfilled when God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins, and he rose from the grave to declare our debt is paid, our sins are forgiven and we are declared righteous in God’s sight by faith, justified.  This is the good news that God has proclaimed to all the world.  It is the message of salvation through God our Savior, who commanded and entrusted Paul to preach this word.

Paul now addresses Titus in v.4, “To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”  In verse 3 Paul says “God our Savior,” and in verse 4 he says “Christ Jesus our Savior,” which shows us clearly that Jesus is God our Savior.  He calls Titus, “my true son.”  This shows the intimate relationship Paul had with Titus.  Titus was like a son, whom Paul loved and cherished.  He also says “in our common faith.”  This is the faith of all believers, for all time.  We share the same faith in one God, one Father, one Lord, one Spirit.  Your faith is the same as Abraham’s faith, as Moses’ faith, as Paul’s faith, and as Titus’ faith.  Those who share this same faith on Crete should then accept the authority given to Titus by the apostle Paul.  Paul then ends this introduction with the standard greeting used in almost all of his letters: “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

Let’s continue now in the letter to v.5, which says, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”  Here we see the reason why Paul writes, and the reason for this letter.  The reason Titus was in Crete was so that he might continue the work of putting the church in order.  This includes appointing elders, rebuking false teachers, teach the churches, remind the people and warn divisive people.  All of these would have the effect of putting the church in order to make an effective gospel ministry.  Just a preview, in Ch. 2 Paul talks about how some should live in order to make the gospel attractive, and Ch. 3 he talks about teaching people to devote themselves to doing what is good.  So the end result is an effective gospel ministry.  As we see in v.5, this work was left unfinished.  It didn’t fail after Paul and Titus preached, there was just more work to do.  A gospel ministry takes time and effort.  People were coming to faith, and the number of believers were growing.  They now needed someone to shepherd them, to guide them, feed them, and protect them.  This required the appointment of elders, who would be their teachers.  In this chapter we see the importance of teachers and what they teach.  What they teach is very important, because it could lead either to fruitfulness, or fruitlessness.  The teaching makes a difference between being able to do good, or being unfit for doing anything good.  We will first look at a good teacher, who teaches truth, and leads a good life, and later we will look at a bad teacher, who teaches lies, and ends up destroying everything.

So first, we have the good teacher.  Look at v.6, “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”  I will be using the term elder and teacher interchangeably, because these elders would be the teaching elders in their respective cities and ministries.  An elder is an overseer, a manager of God’s household, and these elders were to teach.  They had to be blameless, and faithful to their wife.  This shows that these elders had to be morally upstanding men.  Now they weren’t sinless or perfect in all that they do, but they were blameless in that they could not be accused or charged publicly of any shameful or gross sin.  Their faithfulness to their wife was also evidence of their moral quality.  Their children were to be believers and also not open to being accused of being wild or disobedient.  Again, their children might not be perfect, but their faith and obedience shows that the elder can and does teach the faith and discipline their children.  It shows that they manage their households well, and suggests that they might also be able to manage God’s household.

The elder should also be disciplined and self controlled.  Verse 7 says, “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” To be overbearing means to be proud and self-important, puffed up and arrogant.  They dominate over others and think that they are superior, they are not humble at all.  In movies, the heroes get angry, get drunk and beat people up, sometimes lie, cheat, steal.  The world values these things and sees them as strengths.  But look at v8, how should an elder be? “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”  This is a real man.  This is real strength: self-control, upright, holy, disciplined.  Hospitable, one who loves good.  This is a man who treats people right.

Here is the most important quality an elder should have.  Can we all please read v.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.”  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message.  He isn’t swayed back and forth by every new teaching, or every new fad.  He clings to the trustworthy message, as it has been taught.  The message is the simple gospel, and he trusts in it, as it has been taught by the apostles.  He doesn’t add to it, or take away from it, but trusts how it is presented by the apostles.  He doesn’t mix it with anything else.  And what does he do with the message?  He encourages others by it, and refutes those who oppose it.  The elder teaches with sound doctrine.  That’s why the elder is a teacher, and what he teaches is of paramount importance.  The elder must teach with sound doctrine.  Doctrine simply means teaching.  It needs to be sound, that means the teaching needs to be pure, healthy, not mixed with pollutants.  Today we have all of the teachings of the apostles and the true prophets of God in our hands.  We have the word of God, which all testify about Jesus.  When we rightly study and learn what is says, we grow in godliness.  When it is mixed with error, it becomes destructive.  2 Tim 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  The word of God must be properly taught, which is why it is important to appoint good elders, and what they teach is also important.  If sound doctrine is taught, if the word of God is taught correctly, it results in the holy and upright life the elder exemplifies.

In order to see more clearly what sound doctrine looks like, it is useful to see what false doctrine looks like.  Now we will look at examples of bad teachers, who teach lies.  Look at v.10, “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.”  The circumcision group refers to the Judaizers, who were the group that gave Paul the most trouble.  This was the group of people who required that a man be circumcised, or else he cannot be saved.  Paul says that they must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain (v. 11).  This is how bad their teaching was – whole families would turn away from the faith.  Whole families would come back under bondage.  They were teaching things they should not be teaching.  Has someone ever tried to say to you, “don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s a pagan holiday.”  Imagine what that would do to a household if enforced.  False teachings include adding requirements to salvation, or taking away Christian liberties, and putting people under bondage.

Other examples of false teaching are those teaching things they ought not to teach for dishonest gain.  An example of false teaching many of you might know is the prosperity gospel.  A false teacher might say, “Send me a seed offering of $2017, because it’s the year $2017, and God will give you 30, 60 or a 100 times what was sown.”  They twist the word of God out of context, or give it a meaning that was not intended.  An example of false teaching that is not so obvious are those that omit or take out the word of God and replace it with humanistic principles.  I recently read about a Youth teaching package that you can buy from a certain ministry, and it sounds biblical, but there really is no biblical content at all.  On the surface, it looks like it is based on the word of God.  It is packaged very nicely and has all kinds of flashy material, and produced at a high quality.  But when you open up the lessons for your kids, it teaches them everything but the gospel, everything but the Bible.  The children learn “Love your neighbor,” “Be kind to others,” “Share,” “Use your talents for good.”  One commenter said their children could pick this up on PBS kids.  They’re teaching Bible concepts, but not the Bible.  They teach Bible stories, but will not ask younger children to look something up in the Bible.  On top of this they are charging subscription rates of several hundred dollars a year.  If any teaching leaves out the gospel, leaves out sin, the need to be forgiven and how God came to save us from our sins, then they are teaching law.

Paul goes on to describe these false teachers in v.12, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’”  Ouch.  Sounds like a harsh statement, but Paul is quoting from an actual Cretan poet named Epimenides, who lived in the 6th century BC.  It was well known in that region, that Cretans had a reputation for being dishonest and also greedy for money.  I first heard the term in a cartoon I watched when I was a kid: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The Shredder, who was the main villain in the cartoon, referred to the Turtles as “Cretans.”  “You Cretans!”  The poet was a pagan, but Paul considered his words prophetic, as it describes the false teachers.  They were always liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons.  Not sometimes, always.

What was Titus to do about these false teachers?  Paul continues in v.13-14, “This saying is true.  (Ouch again).  Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.”  Paul instructs Titus to rebuke the false teachers sharply.  Why?  Because they are always liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons.  If they were humble, gentle and mild false teachers, I’m sure Titus could deal with them gently.  But because they were so hard-hearted, a harsh rebuke was required to maintain the health of the ministry.  If they could be shaken from their false teaching, then they can be sound in the faith by paying no attention to Jewish myths or human commands.  Again, to be sound means to be free from the mixture of error. Their faith will be purified.  Some of the Jewish myths denied Jesus’ humanity, saying that he was just a spirit and walked around in a projection of a human.  Other myths denied Jesus’ deity, saying he was just a man, perhaps a good teacher, but he was not the Son of God.  Jesus is both God and man, to deny either is a false teaching.

Another myth you’ve probably heard of in our day is the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  It is clearly a work of fiction, but writing realistically.  The story is that Jesus had a secret love child with Mary Magdalene and their descendants became the kings of Europe.  People who don’t know better, like my unbelieving friends, have tried to argue this with me.  Then there are the false teachings of merely human commands – like the children’s program that provided a lot of flash, but no biblical substance.  There is a chance that when these types of teachers are sharply rebuked, they still will not repent.  But if the church sees that these false teachers are denounced, they can begin to pay no attention to them, and purify their faith.

Paul continues to describe the false teachers to the end of the chapter – please look first at v.15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and their consciences are corrupted.”  Who are the pure?  The pure can only be pure by being cleansed by faith in Jesus’ blood.  To the faithful, the pure, all things are pure.  We have liberties as a Christian – not liberties to sin, but religious liberties.  All food is cleansed and allowed for us to eat.  We do not regard one day as holier than another, in fact, all days are holy now in Christ, so we can be free to remember Christ’s birth on Christmas, celebrate his death on Easter, we are free whether to partake or not on the Passover.  We worship on Sunday, though every day is a Sabbath because we rest from our works and from the Law, but we come together Sunday because we want to spend at least one day a week together singing, praying and devoting ourselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  Wow.  Nothing is pure.  Those who are corrupted are those who have mixed something in with their faith.  But notice also who is grouped together with the corrupt: it is the unbeliever.  To the corrupt and unbeliever alike, nothing is pure.

Nothing is pure in their eyes.  When Jesus was near his death, Mary poured an expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair, but Judas objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:1-8) While Jesus saw Mary’s pure faith, Judas looked at the act as a wasteful sin.  Similarly, when we add requirements to our salvation, we cannot have peace.  We are always judging ourselves or others by that requirement.  We might say, “Oh, that person ate pork, what a sinner.”  Or we might think, “Oh no, were these real bacon bits?”  Our consciences are tormented by putting ourselves in bondage to what God has set us free.  This includes human commands like abstaining from certain meats, or forbidding someone to marry.  Marriage is a God-given gift, and not wanting to marry is a rare gift.  Forbidding someone to marry when they don’t have that “I don’t mind being not married gift,” binds and corrupts their consciences.  But for those false teachers that made these rules, nothing is pure.  Paul says, “In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupt.”  This means the whole person is corrupt.  The mind, and the conscience, which is the heart, is corrupt.  Both their head knowledge and their heart knowledge is corrupt.

Paul concludes in v.16, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.  They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”  Paul calls the false teachers hypocrites.  They claim to know God, but by their actions, they actually rejected what God has commanded.  By holding to the traditions and ideas of men, they have elevated themselves above God.  In the end, they are unfit for doing anything good.  Unfit.  They cannot do anything good.  They have no understanding of what pleases God.  Their life eventually goes in the direction of being overbearing, quick tempered, given to drunkenness, violent, or pursuing dishonest gain.  They surely cannot become one who is hospitable, loves what is good, self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  Even if false teachers achieve many of the good qualities, one quality they will never have is holiness, which comes from God.  False doctrine never leads to doing anything good.

Sound doctrine makes a big difference.  It leads to sound faith  Sound doctrine is pure.  It leads to godliness, and you are built up in faith, hope, love and truth.  Sound doctrine encourages, and also enables us to refute those who oppose the gospel.  Sound doctrine builds up your love and devotion to God.  It builds up your awe and respect of God.  False doctrine builds up your devotion to someone else, or yourself.  This is the essence of sound doctrine, in v.2-3 “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through preaching.”  Preaching the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  We need good teachers.  We need good elders.  We also need the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will give us discernment.

Sound doctrine is the key to a pure and holy life.  We may not all be elders, but we are all still called to be teachers.  We are all still called to live holy and pure lives.  We might be teachers to our spouses, to our children, or to students, even to ourselves.  We are all called to make disciples of every nation.  Our elders are important.  Please pray for Sh. Bob, P. Ron, Msn. Daniel, Dan, myself to have wisdom, discernment and teach sound doctrine.  But sound doctrine is important for all of us.  It can be easy to point the finger at false teachers, but we also should watch ourselves.  Life and doctrine go hand in hand.  Does your life resemble that of the elder?  Disciplined, upright, holy, blameless?  Are you growing in godliness and in the hope of salvation?  How is your doctrine, your understanding of the Bible?  Is it pure, and sound, as it is taught in the Bible?  Learn to read it and study it properly.  Watch out for false teachers.  1 Tim 4:16 says, “Watch your life and your doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  Sound doctrine results in a sound life.  Persevere in this, and you will save both yourself and your hearers.  Through sound doctrine may we live sound lives so that we may have an effective gospel ministry.

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