Scripture: This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. Titus 1:13-14 ESV
Observation: In this letter to his young protege Titus, Paul begins with his usual greeting that includes a preamble of the salvific work of the Father and Son. Next, Paul reminds Titus of his mission assignment on the Isle of Crete: to build up this fledgling church with the appointment of godly elders.
Paul devotes the rest of chapter 1 to the qualifications of an elder and the challenges they will face with those who contradict the one true Gospel. Like Paul’s letter to Timothy, here he profiles an elder as one above reproach: hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, and a trustworthy teacher of Scripture—trained to rebuke those who contradict it. He then contrasts a godly leader to those of the circumcision party (who have distorted salvation by grace through faith in Christ with add-ons from the Mosaic law). Furthermore, these “deceivers” are setting an ungodly example by their lies and lazy behavior.
Takeaway: Paul commands Titus to sharply rebuke those who mar the Gospel through their false teachings and ungodly behavior, “that they may be sound in the faith” (above verse). The word “sharply” does not mean curtly but pointedly without prevaricating. As much as we might like to bury heretics with our reproofs, we should first give them every opportunity to make a course correction and get on board with growing Christ’s kingdom. Sadly, the historic church has more often done the opposite: martyring those falsely accused of heresy while its leaders “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (verse 16).
For you and me, regardless of whether we are pastors, elders, or laity, we would do well to become students of Scripture, but, more importantly, to submit to the Word of God, that it might transform our lives in line with Christ’s Gospel. Then we will earn the right to correct others who speak out of turn and who are not walking the talk. And, God willing, in due time, as we exercise grace and humility in our interactions with false teachers, they too will become “sound in the faith.”
Prayer: Father God, we confess that all of us have some element of heresy and hypocrisy in what we profess to believe. Would you please help us dig into your Word and apply it to our lives that we might become sound in the faith and help others who espouse false teachings to make a course correction and do so as well? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling