October 2016

Joseph: Family Dynamics

Family Dynamics Sermon Notes

Family Dynamics

Genesis 37

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday October 30th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand how God uses dysfunction in our lives. (Feel) Feel power to live differently within our family dynamics. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

Introduction: This morning begins an epic adventure through the last 25 chapters of the book of Genesis, with an open challenge to live differently. Turn to Genesis 37. As you are turning there, let me place us in time. The basic outline of the book of Genesis is easy to remember; we only have to keep in mind four major events and four key people. Genesis 1-11 depicts four great events: Creation, Fall, Flood, Tower of Babel. Genesis 12-50 describes four men of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.[1] Interestingly, the story of Joseph is by far the largest section in the entire book. God uses five times more space to describe Joseph’s story than he does to tell us about the creation of the world. In fact, Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There must be something in this man’s life that God wants us to know.

You may already know the end of Joseph’s life. You may know that he will become Pharaoh’s right-hand man, wealthy and powerful. But let us keep in mind all the way through this adventure that Joseph did not know how his story would end. All Joseph had was the present and his God. For Joseph to get to the end of his story, he had to go through betrayal by his own brothers, being sold into slavery, and being tempted with sexual sin. When he resisted, he was falsely accused, thrown into prison, given false hope, then forgotten for years. Through all of those circumstances, the only constant in Joseph’s life was that he lived differently. Specifically this morning, we will find that he lived differently within a dysfunctional family.

 

A Frenetic Family: Let’s read through Genesis 37:1–11.[2]   Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Our adventure starts when Joseph is 17 years old. We are told he is a “boy” and that he is working with the four sons of Bilhah and Zilpah[3], all of whom would have been men, and technically his half brothers. You see, Joseph grew up in a seriously messed up family. Joseph’s father, Jacob, had four wives. Each of them was known to scheme and manipulate Jacob for his affections.[4] Jacob was actually tricked into marrying his first wife, Leah. Bilhah and Zilpah were slaves given to Jacob as wives to produce children. And then there was the beautiful Rachel, the love of Jacob’s life. From those wives, 12 sons and one daughter were born. These 12 sons eventually became the 12 tribes of Israel. Imagine growing up in a house with four mothers, one little brother, 10 half brothers (all of them older, which had to be fun) and one half sister. Here is where it gets dicey. Jacob played favorites and everybody knew it.[5] Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife; her firstborn, Joseph, was Jacob’s favorite son. With that dynamic brewing, there is bound to be trouble, and there was.

 

Joseph came in from working with his half brothersAnd Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. The 17 year old ‘boy’ brings a bad report of the men. The Hebrew word “bad” is usually translated “evil” or “wicked.” So Joseph did not come home and tell his dad that the guys were doing a “bad” job shepherding the flock. They had done something wicked or evil and Joseph told on them. This is our first glimpse that Joseph lived differently. Whatever it was his brothers were doing, Joseph wasn’t.

 

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. For 11 men in the family, this is a painful verse. It was not Joseph’s fault, but when the 17 year old favorite son of the favorite wife brings bad reports about the others, you can feel the storm clouds on the horizon. This family was a disaster waiting to happen; there is no way that Joseph will escape being the lightning rod. (Parents, take note this morning on the dangers of favoritism.) Because of his love, Jacob makes Joseph a robe of many colors. Now I am going to mess up something for you here. In Hebrew,ket-honet passim,” Joseph’s robe was actually “a coat of extended length,” literally, a coat that extends to the hands and feet (passim). We are not told if it was colorful or not. Sorry. The idea of a “coat of many colors” is actually an ancient mistranslation.[6] Men who worked for a living wore short robes with short sleeves. Long robes were for rulers and the very wealthy. Typically a robe like this would be given to the firstborn son, which would have been Reuben (Leah’s son). By giving Joseph this robe, Jacob sent a strong message to his other sons: Joseph is my firstborn; he will inherit.

 

4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Literally the brothers could not speak “shalom” to Joseph. Shalom is the Hebrew greeting and prayer for “peace and wellness.” In a family that plays favorites, there is rarely shalom.

 

A Dreamer of Dreams: 5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: (Can’t you almost hear the brothers groaning?)   7Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 

The Hebrew words Joseph used in describing his dream left no mistake that in his dream Joseph was a “king” and his brothers were going to “bow down” and worship. The Bible does not tell us if Joseph was arrogant, but let me point out some obvious facts. He was 17. He wore the coat. He was dreaming about ruling over everyone. So, either he was arrogant, terribly naive or just 17. Regardless, his brothers hated him for it. 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

Through these dreams, God was giving Joseph a glimpse into his plans for him. That is the purpose of God’s revelations: to help us see God’s purposes, plans, and design for our lives. Remember, there was no Bible for Joseph to read. How would Joseph know that God loved him, that God had a plan for his life, that he needed to put his faith in God? We have 66 books of the Bible to help us know that. All Joseph had were two fading dreams, but we will soon find that it was enough for him to live differently.

 

A Victim of Violence: One day, all of Joseph’s half brothers were tending the flocks. Jacob sent Joseph to check on them and bring him back word as to how they are doing. So Joseph left and found his brothers in a place called Dothan. Skip down to verse 18. They (Joseph’s half brothers) saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. (This phrase is dripping with hateful sarcasm; the Hebrew is literally “lord of dreams.”) 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.

Reuben, the true firstborn, stops the bloodshed with a plan to have his brothers throw Joseph in a pit, intending to secretly come back and rescue him. It is good to note that not all the brothers were bloodthirsty. 23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore (again the robe of “passim” or long sleeves). 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. The pit was almost certainly a dry well or cistern, which, in that area would have been deep and virtually impossible to escape. Even if he did escape, he was stripped of his clothes. 25Then they sat down to eat. (What? These guys throw their kid brother, stripped naked, in a well and then eat. Nice.) And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

 

What kind of money can you get for a little brother? About 20 shekels—the going rate for a slave and equal to about two years’ wages of a healthy free man. Today’s modern equivalent value could be as high as $50,000. Can you imagine being Joseph? 17 years old and your brothers violently strip you of your clothes, throw you in a pit, and then they eat lunch! Don’t think Joseph was not scared out of his mind either. Listen to these same brothers five chapters from now when they are confronted with what they have done. Then (the brothers) said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen.” (Genesis 42:21) They saw his pain. Joseph begged his brothers not to sell him. He pleaded with them for compassion. His soul was “distressed.” The word distress comes from the root word for enemy; the idea is intense pain or affliction caused by someone who hates you. Maybe for the first time, Joseph realized how much they had hated him all along. They pulled him from the pit, naked, and sold him, knowing full well that he would be a slave for the rest of his life. This section of the passage ends with the sad words: They took Joseph to Egypt.

 

Let me highlight some thoughts from Joseph’s life so far:

1. God’s gifts often come in strange packages. Joseph was a gift to his family and brothers, but they had no idea. He came as a strange package. Because we are not God, it is virtually impossible for us to see who or what pieces in our lives are God’s gifts. The brothers hated Joseph and yet it will be Joseph that rescues them and their children from starvation. The very brother they could not speak “shalom” to will bring “shalom” to their lives. Let us live differently. Romans 12:18 says …so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. There is not one of us here who does not have some dysfunction in our family, friends and work. Don’t hate. Speak shalom to your family. We saw this morning where hate leads. Let’s live differently. Let us forgive when we are wronged and love our enemies even when we are hated. Jesus himself asked the question, “If we love only those that love us, how are we different?” (Matt 5:46)

2. God’s gifts help prepare us for the road ahead. Those dreams Joseph had, we have detailed descriptions of them almost 3,500 years later. Do you think that Joseph clung to those dreams? I imagine Joseph being dragged naked through the desert on the way to Egypt thinking to himself, how did my life end up here? Joseph will need a big God and a deep faith to get him through. God gave Joseph those dreams to build his faith—faith Joseph would need in the future. Today, God has given you his Word. This Word—every story, truth and paragraph—is a gift to help prepare you for the road ahead. Study every chapter. You don’t know what you are going to face, but by studying God’s word you will know how to face it. Don’t miss a week as we study Joseph’s life. It will build your faith and help you to live differently.

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy.  Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently. 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 37 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 37 from memory. Did you miss anything?

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him go from being the favored son to a slave. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          Playing favorites can create a painful experience. Have you ever experienced or felt favoritism? Discuss how one might overcome the residual anger or lack of “shalom” that comes from favoritism.

4.          How does knowing that Joseph’s family was “dysfunctional” give you hope?

5.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

[1] This very basic outline largely comes from the “Walk Thru The Bible” Old Testament material.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[3] The sons of these two wives were: Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.

[4] See Genesis 30:1-22 for all of the salacious details.

[5] In fact, Genesis 30 tells us that Jacob “hated” Leah his wife, which is why God blessed her with children. Bilhah and Zilpah were actually Leah’s slaves given to Jacob by Leah to produce more children. Rachel is the only wife that we are told Jacob actually “loved.” Genesis 29:30 …and he loved Rachel more than Leah…

[6] John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 227.

The Growth Factor: The Power of Good Works

The Power of Good Works Sermon Notes

The Power of Good Works
Titus 3:1-11
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Sunday October 23rd, 2016
Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the power of good works. (Feel) To realize the transformational power of good works. (Do) To look for opportunities to do good.

Introduction: We are in the middle of a political season like I have never seen in my lifetime. Every day I turn on the news and there is another political scandal. What is a believer to do? Who do we vote for? How do we make an impact? We are in a series called “The Growth Factor,” exploring the book of Titus and looking for elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals. Our passage this morning is going to bridge the gap between spiritual growth and spiritual impact. Open your Bibles to Titus 3 and let’s read the passage together.

Titus 3:1–11  
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,    2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 

We need to begin with verse 8 because the apostle Paul wants Titus, his protégé sent to Crete, to “insist” on some things. Literally, he wants Titus to promote the teachings in this passage forcefully. Today’s message is not just a sermon. If we are going to study this passage the way it is intended, we need to realize that the material is not a suggestion, recommendation, or even good advice; these are marching orders. Verse 8 says, I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. What are our marching orders? That we who believe in God may be careful to devote ourselves to good works. The idea is for believers to be constantly thinking about how they can engage in good works which are excellent and profitable for people. 

Background: Why is Paul pushing Titus so hard on this? Let’s remember for a moment to whom and where Paul is writing. He is writing to a pastor who lives and teaches in Crete. We know the reputation of Cretans—they were known for being rough morally. During this time period, Crete was controlled by the Romans; they had their hands full as the Cretans were fiercely independent. The only thing that Romans hated more than rebellious colonies like Crete were religious sects that refused to worship the emperor, like Christians. So imagine the reputation of these little churches. Christians were seen as rebellious subversive sects bent on undermining Rome, and in some ways they were right. The Christians refused to worship the emperor. They met weekly in secret private meetings. Christians would help the sick and dying during plagues when Rome demanded quarantines. Christians followed and worshipped Jesus who was viewed by Rome as an executed criminal. As Christianity grew, the leaders of Rome were wondering what should be done with these Christians. 

Bringing it Forward: As I look at our world today, we are in a similar place. Our culture does not know what to do with committed Christ followers. We don’t believe in gay marriage, but we proclaim Christ’s love for the people who hate us for it. We oppose abortion, but we build crisis pregnancy centers for women in crisis pregnancies. We speak against lawlessness when it comes to borders, but if a hungry refugee came to our door we would feed him. These kinds of actions are seriously politically incorrect. Christianity has always been a little subversive because our allegiance is to Christ first! We love and follow Jesus with all of our hearts and we submit our lives first and foremost to the authority of Scripture. Paul’s instruction to Titus is simple: because of our allegiance to Christ, believers will always be viewed as subversive—but we can overwhelm that reputation by constantly engaging in good works, becoming light in the darkness. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14–16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Growth factor #6: churches and individuals who grow are continually looking to engage in good works. How does Paul teach Titus to do this? Look back at verse 1. Paul begins by laying out the lifestyle of a church or person who is thinking about “good works.” Paul is giving Titus glimpses of how people who are light act:

1. They are submissive. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient… As we study Scripture we will find that blind, unquestioning obedience to the state in opposition to God’s law is never required (Acts 5:29). But Christians are “to be subject” (that reflects attitude) and “to be obedient” (actions) to the government that God has placed over us.  Submission does not mean “pushover” it means we are, as much as is possible, to be positively and actively engaged with our authorities. This is why Calvary prays for our leaders every Memorial Day. 

2. They are ready. …to be ready for every good work… The Greek word ready has the idea of “making ready” and “being ready.” Good works are not an afterthought. If the church wants to grow and flourish, she must to be prepared for opportunities to do good. There is a lady in our church who keeps a frozen meal in her freezer “just in case.” She understands this verse and how to be ready for every good work. 

3. They are courteous. …to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. I want us to catch this, especially in the age of social media. A key part of being “light” or doing good works is watching our tongues. Look at verse 2, speak evil of no one. That includes our parents, our exes, our former bosses, our spouse, and it also includes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If this verse is a verse about anything, it reveals to us how believers are to engage in political dialogue with the world. Before we post anything on social media, it should pass the Titus 3:2 test.
Will this post harm someone’s reputation?
Will this post start a quarrel?
Is this post gentle?
Is this post perfectly courteous toward all people?

4. They are humble. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. One of the key reasons that believers need to be so courteous and gentle, especially when we are dealing with unbelievers, is because we were once there. We must not forget that without the grace of God we would be right where they are, and in fact we used to be right where they are. Look at verse 4. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

These are such humbling verses. Jesus appeared and saved us. How can we be arrogant? We were not saved by our works of righteousness; it was Jesus’ mercy that saved us. Look at how God-centered our salvation is as it is described in these verses: 
Our Savior appeared
he saved us
not because of anything we had done
according to his mercy
by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit
who Jesus poured out
This verse is a powerful theological reminder that God is at the center of our salvation. We don’t deserve it and we didn’t earn it; in his mercy, God did it all.

The humility expressed in verses like these is so easy to forget when our passions are aroused. We are in a political season where idea is clashing against idea; it is tempting to buy into a worldly agenda driven by our cultural prejudices and the political voices we choose to listen to. When we see political elites tucked up in their ivory towers, we want to shoot them down. It is tempting to allow the world to shape our interactions. If they hurt us, we go after them. If they dredge up dirt and scandal, we will too. Except our allegiance isn’t to a political party. We are Christ’s, saved not by our works but his. We identify with him, and our interactions with the world and any national political party should have Jesus’ fingerprints all over them. We are Christ’s; he has a political action plan that is not of this world. 

Look at verse 9 and see how strongly Paul warns Titus to watch how believers interact. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. There is no end to the controversies that believers could argue about. But Paul takes a hard stance as he guides Titus. If a person stirs up division, warn him twice then have nothing to do with him. Why? Because our mission is not to win quarrels, it is to share Christ with a lost world through our love and good works. So we can lose an argument or two and we do not need to fret or worry about the political disaster if one candidate gets elected, specifically because of verse 7: so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Because we are believers we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life. In other words, we have an inheritance waiting for us—an inheritance of eternal life. The promise of eternal life should inform our actions here. It frees us to obey Christ completely because even when the wrong politician takes power, the believer can press on knowing that this world is not our home. 

Listen to the writer of Hebrews—he sums up our passage so well. Hebrews 13:14–16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. 15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. 

How do we practically engage in good works? Let me leave you with four “Impacting Action Steps”:

  1. Act submissively. All authority is God-derived. When we obey the laws, we obey God. Let us communicate to the world around us that good citizenship in heaven begins here on earth.
  2. Think proactively. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is still true. If our good works truly are “excellent and profitable” to all people, let them communicate loudly. We need to be thinking and planning ahead. People around us will experience crisis; let’s be ready to help.
  3. Communicate graciously. Words are still powerful weapons for change, but let’s make sure our words reflect our true allegiance to Christ—that means husbands and wives speaking courteously to one another; it means our political speech must be gracious. How can we lovingly pursue people for Christ while we alienate them with our communication? 
  4. Live hopefully. Your inheritance is not the winner of this next political election. Your inheritance is the riches of knowing your God for all of eternity—streets of gold, gates of pearl and the presence of the very King himself. 

So let us press on regardless of what is going on around us, and let them see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. That is how we will make an impact!



© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

The Growth Factor: Safeguarding the Church

Safeguarding the Church Sermon Notes

Safeguarding the Church

Titus 1:10-16

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.”[3]

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.”[4] 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

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 471.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 474.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1169.