Safeguarding the Church
Sunday October 9, 2016
Key Goals: (Know) To understand the importance of rebuke. (Feel) To develop an appreciation for those who speak truth to us. (Do) To listen and change.
Introduction: I haven’t talked to him in years, though I still keep tabs on him. What a great guy. I loved doing stuff with him. We were very close, but things changed when I had to say something. He had a problem; it was affecting his wife, his kids, his ability to do anything in ministry, and I could see it. I could see the train of his life headed toward a collision. There was no way the trajectory of his life was not going to end badly. I loved him so I had to say something, right? So I did. And I’ll tell you how that went in a moment.
We are in a series called “The Growth Factor” from the book of Titus. Who was Titus? Titus was a co-laborer with the apostle Paul, a fellow missionary committed to going into all the world to share Christ. As a part of their work, Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete to establish and grow the churches Paul had planted there. The letter of Titus is Paul’s instructions to Titus on how to do just that. As we study this book, we are finding the key elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals.
Last week we closed with verse 9 revealing three tasks of elders or leaders of the church:
1. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Elders are the caretakers of the gospel. We are not to make up our own teaching; we are to faithfully pass down what was taught to us. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul told Timothy how to do this: and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2. He must be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. This is both the ability to teach as well as the character to be able to teach.
3. He must be able to rebuke those who contradict it. Our passage this morning focuses in on that last task of church leaders—being able to rebuke people who contradict (or oppose) sound doctrine.
Let’s begin reading in Titus 1:9.
He (a church leader or elder) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Why? 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
When I first read this passage, I wondered what in the world was going on in these churches that Paul would use such strong language. Did you catch the end of verse 16? He says of some of Titus’ church people, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work!” The Greek words for detestable, disobedient and unfit are three of the harshest words Paul could have chosen to call someone:
Detestable—Loathsome, disgusting, abhor
Disobedient—The Jews had four words to describe people who rejected God. They called them: ungodly, uncontrolled, deceitful and also used this word “disobedient.”
Unfit—Worthless or disqualified
Loathsome, disgusting, worthless—this is harsh language, especially coming from the guy who wrote Eph. 5:2, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…” He also wrote I Cor.13:4. “Love is patient, love is kind…” Those words don’t sound very kind. He even wrote in I Timothy 1:5 that “…the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart.” Paul’s sharp language is coming from somewhere. Let me give you some background and I think you will understand his tone.
A background of controversy: It was the apostle Paul who led Titus to Christ. Titus grew up a Greek who had most likely worshipped Zeus. He had no Jewish blood in him at all, so he would have never read any of the Old Testament. David, Moses, and Noah would have all been unfamiliar to him when he came to Christ. In contrast, most of the early believers in Jesus came from Jewish backgrounds and would have large chunks of the Old Testament memorized, especially the laws. This quickly became a problem because some of the Jewish converts to Christianity who loved the Old Testament law taught that in order to be a Christian you had to believe in Jesus and follow the law. They took things that Jesus said like Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” and they said, “See, Jesus never did away with any of the law, he was just fulfilling it.”
The people who taught this were called “judiazers” because they were not inviting people to faith in Jesus as much as they were converting people to a Christianized Judaism. They would tell people who heard about Jesus that they had to put their faith in Jesus and then get circumcised and start following the Old Testament laws like good Jewish people in order to be acceptable to God. In fact, we know that a group of judiazers in the church at Jerusalem specifically wanted Titus to be circumcised, but in Galatians 2:3 we find that the circumcision did not happen because it would have been a perversion of the gospel. Let me read to you what Paul wrote in Galatians 5:2–4 (NLT).
Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
One must either obey the law perfectly (impossible, right?) or place their faith in Christ. The law of the Old Testament had one job, and that was to bring us to Jesus (Gal 3:24-26)—to help us clearly see how flawed and broken we truly are for us to understand how badly we need a Savior.
Paul’s command to Titus in our passage this morning is found in verses 10-11. Titus was to silence all the insubordinate people who would pervert the gospel, but not because Paul was a hater! Look at the end of verse 11. Why silence false teachers? “…they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” That word “upsetting” literally means “to turn over one’s faith;” it can also mean “to overthrow, subvert or destroy.” So let’s piece together what was happening here. Since Paul left Crete, many people took the gospel they received and perverted it in such a way that the faith of entire families was being subverted, destroyed or overthrown. Verse 14 references “Jewish myths;” these false teachers were making up Old Testament stories to sell their viewpoint. Look why they are doing it too—verse 11 says for “shameful gain.” They were teaching this so they could make money which, according to verse 12, would be just like an unregenerate Cretan.
What is Titus to do? Verse 13 is the hub of this entire passage and the core of our growth factor this morning. What is Titus to do? “…rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” The Greek word translated rebuke is “eλέγχω” (el-lang-kho). The word was closely associated with the discipline and education process of parenting. Parents must teach children what is right and what is wrong, but then they must discipline their child when they choose wrong in order for them to choose right. That is the idea behind this word: to rebuke is “to show someone their sin and to summon them to repentance.”
Here is the growth factor #4: growing churches and believers understand the importance of rebuke. This is not a popular concept in our culture. We highly value our privacy and our self-determination. If you were to create a motto for America today it might be, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” But people who desire to grow spiritually understand how important it is to have people who will honestly and lovingly call us on our sin. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
This is already uncomfortable but is going to go one step further. Look at verse 13 again because Titus is about to rebuke them “sharply.” Again, the word used here comes from the word “to cut.” The idea is a very sharp blade that cuts cleanly and purposefully “with exactness and resolve.” Why? Why sharply? So that “they may be sound in the faith!” People who desire spiritual “soundness” (the word literally means healthy), people who want to be spiritually “healthy,” surround themselves with people who understand the power and helpfulness of rebuke. It is uncomfortable, it can be painful, it is never fun, but it may be the most important part of being in a community of believers.
A personal rebuke: It was 2004. I was the head of Calvary Schools, and a father (with whom I am dear friends to this day) asked to meet with me. After several minutes of small talk, he looked me in the eye and smiled. He then told me multiple things that we had done over the last several months that had improved the culture of the school. He said, “I love you for making that happen.” I smiled and he smiled. Then he turned serious and said, “We’re still broken.” My smile left as he went on, “You are still trying to change kids’ hearts by making better rules. Paul’s rules will never change a kid’s heart, only Jesus will.” I was rebuked. Straight up rebuked. I had become more worried about the behavior of the students than I was about their relationship with Jesus. It was a powerful moment in my life for two reasons. 1. Remember last week when we looked at all the godly qualities listed in Titus 1:5-9? We said when those qualities are present it gives one a platform to speak from. This man had a platform. 2. His rebuke was simple and sharp like a surgeon with a scalpel—he pointed out my failure and called me to change. That was it. No complaining or judgmentalism. It was simple, sharp, and loving.
Let me wrap up by going back to those three words we looked at a few moments ago: detestable, disobedient, and unfit. Just like Cretans, all of our lives are still messy. Every one of us has detestable and disobedient areas in our lives, areas that we may not see, and we all need a Titus. If we are going to be healthy spiritually, if we truly desire to get rid of the detestable disobedience in our lives, we are going to need help! This is the very reason we look for opportunities to break the church down into small groups (community groups, Equipping U, women’s and men’s Bible study, Man2Man etc.)
How did that conversation with my friend go? It went ok. He listened; I was careful but clear. He owned his sin, but not really. It was more like he admitted to it. I wish this was a “happy ending” story, but it isn’t. His spiritual life is not healthy nor is his marriage. His kids are struggling. His church life? Non-existent.
Let me end by asking you these questions: Men, are you developing any relationships with a small group or another guy who will speak truth to you? Ladies, do you have anyone in your life who will really tell you the truth—not what you want to hear? If you are married, have you ever sat down with your spouse and asked them if they see anything in your life that you need to change? Students, you are in the process of making some big life decisions. Are you isolating yourself from or surrounding yourself with wise people who know you well, who will rebuke you when you need it?
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
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 All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
 Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 471.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 474.
 Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1169.